Here at Golden Gate Sports, we’re going to start a weekly post answering fans’ questions about the Golden State Warriors. I asked Warriors fans over Twitter what questions they had, and I chose the best ones to answer in this first edition of the Warriors Mailbag.
This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.
It’s official. The Golden State Warriors, the sixth seed in the Western Conference, and the Los Angeles Clippers, the third seed, will face each other in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
To start out the preview of this matchup, let’s just say that the Warriors and the Clippers do not like each other, on and off the court. It seems like almost every time they play each other, there’s some type of scuffle and usually several technical fouls given out.
In addition, much of this tension has carried over to their relationships off the court. Most teams attend chapel with their opponent before each game, but the Warriors and Clippers refuse to attend chapel together.
Although their dislike for each other started just a couple seasons ago, there is certainly a rivalry between these two teams. This is why this first round matchup will be so entertaining.
It’s almost like it was meant to be. Both these teams have risen from pretenders to contenders in the past few seasons, and they both believe that they’re better than the other team. They also both play exciting brands of basketball, and whenever they play each other, the games are incredibly competitive, physical, and entertaining.
The Warriors and the Clippers faced each other four times during the regular season. Their first two contests were fairly close, and the next two contests were blowouts. They split the games 2-2.
Let’s take a look at some of the factors that could decide which team wins this playoff series.
One of the key factors to this series is that the Warriors will be without Andrew Bogut, who is out indefinitely with a fractured rib. The Warriors will struggle without Bogut for several reasons.
First of all, Bogut is the Warriors’ defensive anchor and rim protector. He doesn’t just block shots, he changes shots, changes how offenses attack the rim, and he defends the weak side extremely well. He also sets great screens on offense. These simple explanations don’t fully explain how important he is to the Warriors, offensively and defensively, as a whole.
Second, without Bogut, the Warriors will have trouble containing the Clippers’ size. Blake Griffin is a beast and is having an MVP-type of year. DeAndre Jordan isn’t a huge offensive threat, but his athleticism can really hurt the Warriors’ frontcourt.
It will be difficult for the Warriors to win the frontcourt matchup with the Clippers, but they could win the backcourt matchup.
Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson make up one of the best backcourts in the NBA. The Clippers will most likely send multiple defenders at Curry to try to force him into turnovers and bad shots.
Chris Paul defends Curry well and forces him to turn the ball over a lot, so this could be a tough matchup for Curry. They have played against each other so much during the NBA season and they work out together in the offseason, but these two often bring out the best in each other.
Curry has been playing at a whole other superstar level recently though, and it seems like no one will be able to stop him.
In terms of defense, the Warriors’ perimeter defense is one of their strengths. Andre Iguodala, Thompson, and even Curry at times, to a lesser extent though, are all great defenders and can lock down or contain whoever they’re guarding.
The Warriors could have difficulty with defense in the frontcourt though. Even if they decide to start Draymond Green at power forward, to guard Griffin, or Jermaine O’Neal at center, to guard Jordan, they will still face some trouble defensively, given the Clippers’ size and athleticism.
In order to limit the Clippers’ frontcourt offensively, the Warriors might want to employ the hack-a-Jordan philosophy. Jordan is shooting 42.8 percent on free throws, and the Clippers, as a team, shoot 73 percent on free throws, which is 26th in the NBA.
Griffin has improved as a free throw shooter, but in the right situation, the Warriors might want to foul him too. They need to be careful though, because Griffin does a lot of “flopping,” and the Warriors, especially Green, can’t afford to get into foul trouble.
The Warriors also need to be active on the boards. The Clippers give up 43.7 rebounds per game, which is 25th in the NBA, so the Warriors need to take advantage of that.
On offense though, the Warriors could benefit greatly from going small and playing Green at power forward and Lee at center. Warriors fans are well aware of Lee’s defensive deficiencies, but offensively, he could succeed in a smaller lineup.
As a center, Lee thrives because he’s able to utilize his quickness against slower, bigger centers. Also, as a center, he doesn’t have to fight for space in the paint, which he often has to do with whoever is playing center for the Warriors.
Lee needs space to work in the paint and in post-ups in order to be effective. This is why he plays so well alongside Curry and Thompson. The Splash Brothers space the floor, and the Lee is able to work inside the paint and around the rim.
The Warriors will certainly face some tough matchups in the starting lineup, but the Clippers might also have an edge in terms of their bench and coaching. The Clippers have Jamal Crawford, Darren Collison, Danny Granger, Matt Barnes, Glen Davis, Hedo Turkoglu, and others all coming off the bench. That is an extremely deep bench with lots of different players who could hurt the Warriors.
The Warriors have had a fairly inconsistent bench this season. Steve Blake, Jordan Crawford, Harrison Barnes, and Marreesse Speights will be called upon for significant contributions off the bench, and they will have to step up big if the Warriors want to pull off the upset.
In terms of coaching, the Clippers might win the coaching category too. Although Mark Jackson led the Warriors to the Western Conference semifinals, Doc Rivers has won a championship. He has more experience, and he’s a defensive mastermind.
Jackson knows how to motivate his team and could out-coach Rivers in that sense, but it’s yet another challenge the Warriors will have to face.
With all this being said, the Warriors have more heart than possibly any team in the NBA. They will not give up, they will give their best, and they will put up a fight. They won’t go down easy, so don’t expect this series to be over quickly.
Prediction: Clippers win in 7
This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.
In the past couple weeks, much of the discussion about the Golden State Warriors has been about Mark Jackson. Many Warriors fans want Jackson to be fired, because they believe the Warriors haven’t lived up to expectations. They have classified the 2013-14 season as disappointing, despite the Warriors’ 46-29 record.
Does this mean Jackson’s future with the Warriors is in trouble? Not exactly…
On the court, his allocation of minutes, his play-calling, his rotations, and his decision-making have all been criticized this season, some of it warranted and some of it not.
Off the court though, Coach Jackson is one of the best motivators in the NBA, and often, motivating players can be the hardest task of all for a coach.
Coach Jackson isn’t a Gregg Popovich type of coach. Popovich is a master of both play-calling and motivating his players. However, Coach Jackson is still learning and developing as a coach. This is his third year of coaching in the NBA, and even though he could improve in certain areas, he’s not by any means a bad coach.
Tim Kawakami brings up a good point that Coach Jackson could use another top assistant coach, besides Pete Myers. Last season, Michael Malone, now the head coach of the Sacramento Kings, was Jackson’s top assistant, and many fans have discussed how much his absence this season has affected Jackson.
Despite the rumors that Jackson and Malone would go for weeks at a time without speaking to each other, Malone was known as the X’s and O’s coach for the Warriors. He drew up the plays in timeouts and in close-game situations, and many people believe that’s a skill that Jackson lacks.
Malone was also the “defensive coordinator” of the Warriors. However, in Malone’s absence, the Warriors rank fourth in the NBA in opponent field goal percentage at 43.6 this season after ranking fourth last year too. The Warriors haven’t seen a decline in their defense since Malone left, so Jackson has to be given credit for that.
In addition to the drama associated with the Malone situation, Jackson had trouble with another assistant coach, Brian Scalabrine, this season. About a week or so ago, it was reported that Jackson forced a reassignment of Scalabrine to the Warriors’ D-League affiliate, the Santa Cruz Warriors. This isn’t huge news because Scalabrine was the fourth assistant coach, but it does further the drama about Jackson’s “strained” relationship with the front office.
Jackson has one year left on his contract, and there hasn’t seemed to be any talks between Jackson and management about a contract extension.
In fact, there have been other rumors that Jackson might leave the Warriors after this season to coach the New York Knicks. Of course, this is all speculative at this point.
Also fueling the rumors of tension between Jackson and the front office, Joe Lacob hasn’t spoken out in support of Jackson since the Scalabrine reassignment.
However, Bob Myers showed support for Jackson yesterday in an interview with KNBR. Here are some quotes from the interview:
GM Bob Myers told KNBR was an internal decision to only have Mark Jackson address the “dysfunction” report so there’d be 1 voice, 1 message.
— Diamond Leung (@diamond83) April 2, 2014
myers, on scal reassignment: “mark’s not a vindictive guy…he’s not out to hurt anyone. but mark was involved in the transition.”
— jacob greenberg (@jacobjbg) April 2, 2014
“we all have a good relationship with mark. i’m sitting next to him on the bus. joe sits next to him. things get blown out of proportion.”
— jacob greenberg (@jacobjbg) April 2, 2014
“We have one of the best locker rooms, in my opinion, in the whole league,” said Lee, the ninth-year pro who played his first five seasons with the Knicks. “I’ve been on teams that had awful chemistry and the coaching staff is constantly arguing with players and vice versa, and there has been none of that here. The word ‘dysfunction’ (which has been used in the media to describe the Warriors) is one that we’ve been laughing about, almost making a joke out of it, like are you serious?
“We trust Coach Jackson. We trust each other as teammates. There’s not a whole lot else you can worry about. Our chemistry is great. I think that we have a chance to do special things this year, so I’m just not going to let this bother me. We believe in Coach.”
Jermaine O’Neal has also been vocal about the situation, and he told Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Gourp that he might even consider coming back for a 19th year in the NBA just so he can play for Coach Jackson again.
“It’s a couple reasons why I will come back,” O’Neal said Saturday. “This fan base, this organization is first class, and obviously my teammates are great, as well.
“But the No. 1 reason that I will come back and play another year is because of Coach Jackson. I’m absolutely, 100 percent positive about that. He makes it easy to come in this gym every day, and there’s not a lot of coaches that do that.”
O’Neal also said that all the criticism of Jackson and the discussion about firing him is “ridiculous.”
Fans set high, yet somewhat unfair expectations for the Warriors this season. The Warriors are currently 17 games above .500, which is nothing to complain about.
Fans expected the Warriors to contend for a championship this season, but they seem to forget that it takes a few years for young teams, like the Oklahoma City Thunder for example, to grow and develop into title contenders. These unfair expectations have unfortunately fallen on the shoulders of Jackson.
Jackson isn’t the best coach in the NBA. However, for both the Warriors and Jackson, becoming an elite team or an elite coach is a long process. Jackson can improve on some of his rotations and play-calling, but he is a significant reason why the Warriors have the impressive record that they have.
Jackson has been the perfect coach to get the Warriors out of the dirty doldrums of dysfunction, but is he the right coach to get the Warriors a championship? Only time will tell. As of now, Jackson shouldn’t be fired, especially since the Warriors’ best player, and face of the franchise, is a diehard supporter.
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.
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.
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.
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, 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.