Month: March 2014

LGW: Golden State Warriors Playoff Race: It’s Tight In The West

(Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

(Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Golden State Warriors are often underrated, and they are fine with that. The Warriors have an underdog mentality, and they’ve been able to come back in several games because of their resiliency.

Last season, the Warriors shocked the nation when they made the playoffs as the sixth seed, when they proceeded to beat the Denver Nuggets in the first round, and when they came within a couple games of earning a trip to the Western Conference Finals.

The Warriors entered this season with targets on their backs. They weren’t going to sneak up on anyone this year.

Stephen Curry has seen this firsthand this season, as opponents know how dangerous he can be and sometimes send a double team at him right when he crosses halfcourt.

Despite some injuries and minor setbacks, the Warriors have positioned themselves to potentially snag the fifth seed in the super competitive Western Conference. They are a confident group, and they are mentally prepared to fight for their spot in the playoffs.

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle perfectly described this season for the Warriors as an “emotional roller coaster.”

That’s where Warriors fans are right now, wondering if this is a miracle team or a mirage. Could go either way, right?
If you’re looking for a limo ride to the NBA Finals, you’ve got the wrong team, the wrong conference, the wrong century and the wrong transportation. This will be a roller-coaster ride.

Read quotes from Andrew Bogut and Mark Jackson about their push to the playoffs in the rest of this article on Let’s Go Warriors.

LGW: Golden State Warriors Roster: Steve Blake and Jermaine O’Neal The New and Improved Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry

(Photo: Rocky Widner/Getty Images and Kelley L Cox/USA Today)

(Photo: Rocky Widner/Getty Images and Kelley L Cox/USA Today)

Steve Blake and Jermaine O’Neal have filled a deep void, on and off the court, for the Golden State Warriors this season.

When the Warriors were unable to re-sign Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry in the offseason, they lost two players who were the heart-and-soul of the Warriors’ bench last season. Jack and Landry were also a huge part of the Warriors’ miraculous playoff run.

In Jack, they lost a backup point guard who averaged 12.9 points and 5.6 assists per game and who could run the offense, which allowed Stephen Curry to play off the ball. He also was a significant part of the Warriors’ team chemistry last season.

In Landry, they lost a backup power forward who averaged 10.8 points and 6.0 rebounds per game. They also lost someone who was that low-post threat that added another dimension to their offense and that they severely lacked for a long period of time this season.

After a short and ineffective stint of Toney Douglas and Marreese Speights taking over their roles, the Warriors are finally getting production from a backup point guard, Blake, and a backup big, O’Neal.

The Warriors’ signing of O’Neal in the offseason was an under-the-radar type of move that many ignored or even criticized. Many said he was too old and too fragile to contribute anything to the Warriors.

When the Warriors traded for Blake, many Warriors fans saw potential in the trade but focused too much on the loss of Kent Bazemore.

Now that O’Neal is healthy and Blake is starting to settle into his new team, Warriors fans are finally starting to see the benefits of signing a proven veteran like O’Neal and trading for a hard-working, smart point guard like Blake.

When glancing at these two players’ stats for this season, they aren’t necessarily jaw-dropping or as good as Jack and Landry’s from last season. O’Neal is averaging 7.6 points and 5.4 rebounds per game this season, and Blake is averaging 8.0 points and 6.4 assists.

However, their contributions and their effect on this team are much greater than any stat can show.

Read about O’Neal and Blake’s specific contributions to the Warriors this season and the rest of the article on Let’s Go Warriors.

San Francisco Giants: Position Battle Updates

Feb 26, 2014; Scottsdale, AZ, USA; Francisco Giants pitcher Jose Casilla (72) stands with his teammates during opening ceremonies at Scottsdale Stadium prior to their exhibition game with the Oakland Athletics. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

Going into Spring Training for the San Francisco Giants, there were about four or five open spots on their 25-man roster.

The position battles that have to be worked out in Spring Training are for two, possibly three, spots in the bullpen, a backup infielder spot, and a fifth outfielder spot.

Here are some updates on each position battle:

LGW: Golden State Warriors Passing: Best in the NBA?

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Are the Golden State Warriors the best passing team in the NBA?

Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle recently asked Mark Jackson, Andrew Bogut, Jermaine O’Neal, and Steve Blake that question, and they all had similar answers.

Coach Mark Jackson, past master of the assist, answered my true-false question with, “I would probably say, off the top of my head, true, because we have playmakers and good to very good to excellent passers.
Bogut answered “true,” with a caveat: “I think we are (the best passing team), but our hindrance is turnovers. … The asterisk you would put next to that is we’ve got to limit our turnovers to be the best passing team in the league.”
Steve Blake answered the T-F question, “Quite possibly. … That’s a big part of what we do. We’ve got certain guys we need to be aggressive at times and just go one-on-one. But at the right moments, guys are making really good passes.”
So enjoy it while you’ve got it, Warriors fans, because as O’Neal said, “It’s rare in professional sports that you get a team that likes each other and is very unselfish. Basketball can really become a very individualized sport within a team system. You see that a lot on some teams, but for us it’s about making the extra play, making the extra pass.”

Ostler brings up an excellent point in the article that O’Neal touched upon also. The Warriors’ excellent passing could be partially attributed to their elite team chemistry.

They all want to win badly, and that brings them closer to together. That underdog mentality and that never-say-die attitude breeds excellent team chemistry, which can take a team far.

So what makes the Warriors such a good passing team?

Well, first of all, all five of their starters are arguably elite passers, for their position.

Stephen Curry is a creative, crafty passer who can pass well with either hand, Klay Thompson is a great passer out of pick-and-rolls, Andre Iguodala is also a creative passer who creates plays and can drive-and-kick, David Lee has great anticipation of what his teammate is going to do and when and how he should pass the ball to them, and Bogut, for a center, also has great timing and anticipation as a passer.

Read more about the Warriors’ passing and check out some advanced passing stats in the rest of the article at Let’s Go Warriors.

LGW: Golden State Warriors Bench Playing As A Unit And Making An Impact

(Photo: Kelley L Cox / USA Today)

(Photo: Kelley L Cox / USA Today)

Since the All-Star break, the Golden State Warriors have gone 7-2. Part of the reason for the Warriors’ recent resurgence into playoff relevance is their bench play.

After being heavily criticized for most of the season, the bench has been consistently productive and effective at maintaining or increasing leads in a game when the starters go to the bench.

Much of this recent success by the bench can be attributed to Steve Blake. This was the perfect trade for the Warriors, because he can help the Warriors in so many ways.

Off the court, he’s a great teammate, he works extremely hard, and he brings a toughness to the Warriors.

On the court, he is an experienced point guard who can run an offense, create plays for his teammates, knock down threes, play defense, and can play off the ball too.

Based on Blake’s recent production, Stephen Curry has gotten more rest. Curry appreciates Blake’s production immensely, according to Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group.

Backup point guard Steve Blake has 21 assists and one turnover over the past five games, and his strong play has allowed Stephen Curry to rest more often.
“My minutes are down, and I’ve been able to try to be more efficient, which is helpful,” Curry said.

Another reason why the Warriors have had such great bench production recently is because Mark Jackson has been playing Blake, Jordan Crawford, Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, and Jermaine O’Neal together.

Read the rest of the article on Let’s Go Warriors.

Could Screening Of ‘300: Rise Of An Empire’ Provide Golden State Warriors With An Athenian Push?

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

The Golden State Warriors prepared for their final push into the playoffs in an unlikely place. It wasn’t on the court during practice. It wasn’t during their recent 4-2 road trip. It was in a movie theater.

Harrison  Barnes at a screening of "300: Rise Of An Empire" Thursday night in Oakland. (Courtesy photo)

Harrison Barnes at a screening of “300: Rise Of An Empire” Thursday night in Oakland. (Courtesy photo)

Harrison Barnes, Jermaine O’Neal, Draymond Green and Festus Ezeli went to an advanced screening of 300: Rise Of An Empire in Oakland last night. The movie opens up in theaters nationwide today. You can learn more about the film at their Facebook or Twitter page.

OK, so maybe the Warriors didn’t physically prepare for the last six weeks of the season by sitting in a dark movie theater, but perhaps they gained some inspiration for their push to the playoffs.

The protagonist in the movie, Themistokles, is an inspiring, passionate leader who leads the Athenians into battle to protect their loved ones and their homeland of Greece.

At one point in the movie, he brings his troops together in order to inspire some confidence before a battle where the Athenians are greatly overmatched.

Themistokles says to his soldiers, more poetically than I can say, to not fight for a cause but rather for the man next to them.

The Warriors don’t find themselves in bloody battles, but they surely do play for each other and play as a team. Much like the Athenians, they have a truly unique team chemistry, bonded and united in “battle.”

Whether they are battling on the court or going to see a movie together, this Warriors team truly enjoys being around each other. In fact, the newest Warrior, Steve Blake, said he has always been impressed with how close the Warriors players are on and off the court.

Many of the Warriors players also share an underdog mentality, one of the reasons why this group gets along with each other so well. They’re a confident group, yet they’re often underestimated, just like the Athenians were.

Because of this never-say-die attitude, the Warriors constantly have to prove themselves. O’Neal reminded his teammates of this during a game against the Toronto Raptors on Dec. 3.

The Warriors were down by 17 at the half and were down by as many as 27 points during the third quarter. O’Neal felt the team needed a wake-up call. He passionately preached to his teammates at halftime about how this was the kind of game where they could make a statement.

He said that if they wanted to show that they’re an elite team in the NBA, they had to play like one. O’Neal channeled some of Themistokles’ ferocity when he told his teammates that they had to “dispose of the teams we’re supposed to dispose of and then grind like hell against the teams that are top-echelon-type teams.”

Unlike last season when the Warriors were able to sneak up on some of their opponents, the Warriors have had to play this season with hypothetical targets on their backs. The Warriors deserve to win, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have to fight for it.

The Warriors undoubtedly have passion. They have the heart, the character, the loyalty, and the teamwork that great teams possess. They are the underdogs that rise to the occasion. They are the comeback kids. They are like the Athenians that don’t give up and that fight until the very end.

As metaphorical as this sounds, a simple outing to the movie theater between four teammates sheds some light on the Warriors’ impressive team chemistry, their determination, and their underdog mentality.

The roar of the soliders in the movie might not motivate them quite as much as the roar of the crowd at Oracle at any given home game. The viciousness displayed by the Persians in the movie isn’t completely comparable to the viciousness of an Andrew Bogut block. The visual effects, the cinematography, and the overall beauty of the film might not be the same kind of beauty as a Curry three.

Instead of screaming “This is Sparta!” before going into battle, they rally around the slogan of “We Are Warriors.”

It might be far-fetched to compare the Warriors to the Athenians … but the Warriors are warriors. They possess the same tenacity, fighting spirit, and underdog mentality that Barnes, Green, O’Neal, and Ezeli witnessed from the Athenians in 300: Rise Of An Empire. Just with a little less gore and bloodshed.

Rally the troops and come root for the underdogs, because this Warriors team could make a statement in the final stretch of this season … in the movie theater and on the court.