Jermaine O’Neal

Golden State Warriors: Looking Ahead To The Final 6 Weeks

Mar 5, 2014; Boston, MA, USA; Golden State Warriors small forward Andre Iguodala (9) and point guard Stephen Curry (30) celebrate during the second half of a game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

The Golden State Warriors have a lot to prove in the final six weeks of the season. During this final stretch, they will have to fight for a playoff seed, they will have to fight through fatigue, and they will have to find some consistency and momentum going into the playoffs.

This season, as usual, the Western Conference is the more competitive conference, so it will be even tougher than usual for the Warriors to make the playoffs and gain a top-four seed.

There are four teams who will most likely be battling for the last three spots in the Western Conference standings: the Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, Phoenix Suns, and Memphis Grizzlies.

All four of these teams are currently within three games of each other, so the fight for a playoff spot will most likely come down to the last day of the season.

The Warriors have 13 of their last 20 games at home, which they need to take advantage of, given the tight playoff race.

There are some key matchups coming up in the final six weeks of the season for the Warriors. Next week, the Warriors face three quality teams who are all playoff contenders. They face the Suns at home on March 9th, the Mavericks at home on March 11th, and the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on March 12th.

The Warriors need to think of those first two games as must-wins, because of the proximity to both of those teams in the standings. The Warriors have had luck against the Clippers this season too, so if they can win all three of those games, that would certainly help their playoff chances.

The Warriors also have a tough back-to-back at the beginning of April. They face the Mavericks in Dallas on April 1st and the San Antonio Spurs in San Antonio on April 2nd. Again, the Warriors need to beat Dallas, because they’ll be fighting for seeding.

Jan 28, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Golden State Warriors forward David Lee (10) celebrates with center Andrew Bogut (12) against the Toronto Raptors at the Air Canada Centre. The Warriors beat the Raptors 114-102. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

The Spurs beat the Warriors in the Western Conference semifinals last season, so the Warriors would like to make a statement to the Spurs in that game by beating them on the second game of a back-to-back on the road.

In the final six weeks, the Warriors also face the Portland Trail Blazers, who are currently the fifth seed (one seed ahead of the Warriors), in Portland twice. Those games are big matchups as well.

The Warriors have a favorable schedule for the final stretch of the season, given the amount of home games they have, but they need to improve in several areas in order to make a strong push into the playoffs.

First of all, the Warriors offense needs to improve. The Warriors’ defense has been stellar, if not elite, all season. However, despite having many offensive weapons, their offense can become quite stagnant at times.

The Warriors can become complacent on offense and settle for isolation post-ups, which can be effective at times but also eliminates any beneficial ball movement, which is one of their strengths.

Their ball movement is what fuels their up-tempo offense. When they push the fast break, get in transition, and get shots before the opposing team’s defense can set up, the Warriors offense flows much better. Once they get into that rhythm, it’s hard to stop them.

When they settle for isolation post-ups, it slows down the game. The Warriors need to play at a fast pace and force the other team to play at their speed in order to be effective.

Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and the Warriors’ frontcourt of David Lee and Andrew Bogut are all great passers, so the Warriors need to take advantage of this more.

On offense, the Warriors also need to limit their turnovers, because this messes with their rhythm too.

The Warriors can also find more ways to integrate Iguodala and Bogut into the offense. Iguodala has said that his hamstring still bothers him on offense, but he needs to find ways to be more aggressive and contribute offensively.

Bogut can also contribute more than just on tip-ins and putback dunks. This would take some scoring pressure off of Curry, Lee, and Klay Thompson.

Feb 22, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors guard Steve Blake (25) celebrates after a play against the Brooklyn Nets during the fourth quarter at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors defeated the Brooklyn Nets 93-86. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Second, the Warriors need consistent production from the bench. The reserves were a significant reason why the Warriors were able to pull out a win against the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. They allowed the starters to rest more than usual, and they out-scored the Pacers’ bench 34-11.

Harrison Barnes is starting to find his groove as a reserve, Jermaine O’Neal has been a beast on the boards and on blocks and he’s a valuable, veteran presence in the locker room, Jordan Crawford is finding ways to score and contribute, Draymond Green is doing a little bit of everything, and Steve Blake has been the perfect fit for this bench unit.

The Warriors have a lot of great pieces on the bench, so it’s just a matter of finding the right mix of players to play at the right time. Blake will certainly help in this area, because he is the type of player that makes the players around him better.

Third, another reason why the Warriors need consistent production from the bench is to preserve their health. The Warriors have had a bad history with injuries, and they need to make sure they monitor Curry and Bogut’s minutes.

Lastly, given all these areas, the Warriors need to find some consistency, in all these areas. Consistency is what breeds elite, championship contending teams, just look at a team like the Spurs. They’re the model for consistency and quality.

The Warriors’ defense has been pretty consistent, so they need to maintain that. They need to find a consistent rhythm on offense though.

If their bench can contribute offensively on a regular basis, this would give the Warriors an edge in many of their games. If the bench plays well, the starters get more rest, which will only benefit them when the playoffs start.

Consistency is key for the Warriors. If they can establish some consistency, they will ride some momentum into the playoffs.

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Jermaine O’Neal: A Hunter Pence-Type Leader for the Golden State Warriors

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

All San Francisco Giants fans remember the speech. Hunter Pence gathered his teammates around him in the dugout before Game 3 of the Giants’ 2012 NLDS series against the Cincinnati Reds. The Giants were down 0-2 to the Reds and were facing the first of many potential elimination games to come. He told his teammates that he wanted one more day with them. He told them to never give up, to play for each other, to win each moment. He spoke with intensity and fierce passion.

Oct 11, 2012; Cincinnati, OH, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (center) huddles with his team prior to the game five of the 2012 NLDS against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Frank Victores-USA TODAY Sports

Reverend Pence motivated his team and led them to victory in Game 3 and eventually to their second World Series title in three seasons. This speech was a defining moment for the Giants in 2012. He motivated his teammates to play with that “never say die” attitude that made them even closer as a team and made them even more powerful.

Jermaine O’Neal has shown this same passion and intensity on this Golden State Warriors team. Every time he steps on the court, he plays tough, he fights, and he pumps up his teammates. The Warriors certainly needed his passion in Tuesday’s game.

On Tuesday, the Warriors took on the Toronto Raptors and got seriously out-played in the first half of the game. They were down by 17 at the half and were down by as many as 27 points during the third quarter. At halftime, O’Neal delivered a Pence-esque speech to get his teammates fired up.

“Jermaine O’Neal gave one of the realest halftime speeches I have ever heard,” Klay Thompson said. “He said we’ll see what we’re made of in the second half.”

O’Neal explained to the team that if they wanted to show that they’re an elite team, they had to play like one. O’Neal told his teammates what they had to do to prove that they are a championship-calibur team.

“I told the team at the half, we’re going to see what we’re made of these next 24 minutes… if we’re talking about doing something special–if we’re talking about being a playoff team, being eighth, seventh, sixthseed, then whatever that was, that’s good enough…

“But if we’re talking about winning a championship, then we need to bring it every single night, dispose of the teams we’re supposed to dispose of and then grind like hell against the teams that are top-echelon-type teams.”

Nov 27, 2013; Dallas, TX, USA; Golden State Warriors center Jermaine O

O’Neal’s speech might end up having the same effect on the Warriors that Pence’s speech had on the Giants. The Warriors could look back on O’Neal’s speech as the defining moment for when they went from hoping to be a great team to understanding the responsibility it takes to be a great team.

It seems like O’Neal delivered the speech with the same passion that Pence had when he gave his speech. O’Neal stood up and confronted his teammates when it mattered. He reminded them what kind of team they are. The Warriors are fighters, and they have that same “never say die” attitude that the Giants had. The Warriors are building this “never give up” identity by winning a game like the Raptors game.

The Raptors game clearly didn’t have the same stakes that the Giants’ NLDS game against the Reds had, but it could prove to be a pivotal moment for the Warriors this season. The stakes might not have been as high, but according to Mark Jackson, this game against the Raptors was the biggest game of his coaching tenure so far. He said it was a big statement win because they easily could’ve given up and moved onto the next game.

This type of win will do a lot for the Warriors’ team chemistry, and it builds character. O’Neal is showing this Warriors team how to be tough and resilient. He’s showing them that not every game is going to be won easily and how they need to grind out wins sometimes. As O’Neal said, great teams find ways to win games where they’re getting blown out or they’re undermanned. If the Warriors continue to play this style, they will become a legitimate title contender.

Both Pence and O’Neal are so valuable to their respective teams for reasons much more than their contributions on the field or on the court. They are the ultimate motivators and preachers. They lead their teams with their dedication, passion, and toughness. Pence inspired his team when they needed him the most, and O’Neal is doing the same thing by being just the motivational leader that the Warriors need.

Golden State Warriors: Can They Survive In The Wild, Wild West?

October 24, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12), shooting guard Andre Iguodala (9), and point guard Stephen Curry (30) look on during the fourth quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at Oracle Arena. The Trail Blazers defeated the Warriors 90-74. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

October 24, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut (12), shooting guard Andre Iguodala (9), and point guard Stephen Curry (30) look on during the fourth quarter against the Portland Trail Blazers at Oracle Arena. The Trail Blazers defeated the Warriors 90-74. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

In recent history, the NBA’s Western Conference has been superior to the Eastern Conference. The West is usually much more competitive and talented up and down the conference. This year is no different, and, if anything, the West is even more competitive. For example, there are four teams in the Western Conference that are outside of the top eight that are right around .500. In the Eastern Conference, the fourth-best team is the Boston Celtics, who have an 8-12 record.

The Golden State Warriors finally seem like a legitimate contender in the Western Conference, but with this intense competition in the West, can they survive? After so many years of mediocrity and pure dysfunction, the Warriors have a versatile roster this season, they play stellar defense, and they have established an identity and a winning culture. All of this suggests that the Warriors will be a successful team in the Western Conference. They currently have an 11-8 record, which doesn’t seem that impressive or good enough to survive in the West. However, their record doesn’t tell the whole story.

First of all, the Warriors have had one of the toughest schedules in the NBA so far this season. They have played the most road games in the Western Conference, and they’ve played the fewest games against Eastern Conference teams. After completing a four-game road trip, the Warriors played one game at home Tuesday night before heading out for a three-game road trip. The Warriors are getting tested early with their tough schedule. Therefore, their record doesn’t exactly show how good this Warriors team is.

Second, the Warriors are loaded with talent, and their record doesn’t show that either. This is arguably one of the best rosters the Warriors have ever had. They are loaded, and they can boast the fact that they have six proven starters. In the starting lineup, they have a future superstar in Stephen Curry, they have a shooter and an excellent defender in Klay Thompson, they have a versatile, complete player in Andre Iguodala, they have a consistent double-double machine in David Lee, and they have a fiery, passionate defensive anchor in Andrew Bogut.

Nov 2, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson (11) high fives power forward David Lee (10) after scoring a three point basket against the Sacramento Kings during the second quarter at Oracle Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The addition of Iguodala has made them a legitimate title contender. His versatility is extremely valuable to this team, and his presence elevates them to an elite level. He can rebound, he can pass, he can run the offense, he can push the ball in transition, and he has a high basketball IQ. His defense is the most valuable aspect of his game though. Before his injury, the Warriors were fourth in the NBA with a 96.5 defensive rating. Since then, they have a defensive rating of 106.8. The Warriors need Iguodala healthy to stay competitive in the West.

Speaking of health, the Warriors need Andrew Bogut and Stephen Curry to stay healthy in order to survive in the Western Conference. Those two have been labeled as “injury-prone,” but, for the most part, they have been relatively healthy this year. Bogut has only missed one game this season, for a suspension, and Curry missed three games with a bone bruise on his left ankle and a concussion. Bogut and Curry need to each play at least 65-70 games for the Warriors to stay competitive.

The Warriors also have a fairly deep roster. With Iguodala starting, Harrison Barnes is coming off the bench now. This automatically makes the bench stronger. He’s started to adapt to the role of sixth man, and he’s really starting to excel. He is that perfect spark off the bench for the Warriors.

Before he got injured, Toney Douglas had some solid performances also. He brings his tenacious defense to the bench. Also, Draymond Green has improved significantly from last season. He lost about 15-20 pounds in the offseason, which has improved his endurance, agility, and his three-point shooting. He has been extremely valuable off the bench this season. Nemanja Nedovic started off the season slowly, but his confidence has grown a lot and he’s shown how fearless he can be. He’s out-played Kent Bazemore, so he’s been the primary backup point guard in Douglas’ absence.

Jermaine O’Neal has also been invaluable to the Warriors. On the court, he’s a stellar defender, and he can post up and pull up from mid-range. Off the court, he’s even more valuable. He provides veteran leadership, and he’s become quite the motivator. O’Neal’s toughness and passion are contagious in the Warriors’ locker room, and his presence makes the Warriors have better team chemistry.

The Warriors have a strong roster, and they’ve proven they can compete against the best teams in the West. They have matched up well with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Los Angeles Clippers this season, and they hung tough in their playoff series against the San Antonio Spurs last season. It might still be tough for the Warriors to get into the top four of the Western Conference, but they are more than capable of surviving and staying competitive in the West.

LGW: How Will the Warriors Deal with Jermaine O’Neal’s Injury?

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The Golden State Warriors beat the Utah Jazz 102-88 Saturday night, but, unfortunately, they suffered a loss in that game as well. An MRI revealed that backup center Jermaine O’Neal suffered a bruised right knee and a minor strain in his right groin during the game. This season, O’Neal has averaged 5.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks. Although O’Neal’s stat line this season doesn’t look overly impressive, he’s contributed to this Warriors team in many ways.

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

Golden State Warriors: Evaluating the Bench Play So Far

Oct 30, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors small forward Draymond Green (23) celebrates with center Jermaine O

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

The Golden State Warriors are expected to be one of the best teams in the Western Conference this season. They have six proven starters and have one of the deepest rosters in the NBA. Despite all these impressive qualities, the Warriors’ bench has been disappointing so far this season.

Even though the Warriors have a deep roster and have such a powerful starting lineup, the bench hasn’t come together as a cohesive unit yet. To be fair, there are many new faces coming off of that bench this year, such as Toney Douglas, Marreese Speights, Ognjen Kuzmic, Jermaine O’Neal and Nemanja Nedovic.

In addition to these newcomers, the Warriors’ reserves also include Kent Bazemore and Draymond Green. They will also have Harrison Barnes coming off the bench soon and once Festus Ezeli returns from injury, he will come off the bench as well. The Warriors certainly have talent coming off the bench, but the reserves haven’t shown yet that they can play cohesively together.

“I’ve been very disappointed in the way that those guys have closed out ballgames,” Mark Jackson said about his bench. “They’ve had opportunities to play extended minutes and they haven’t made statements with their play.”

The bench has really struggled in a few specific areas. Generally, the reserves have struggled on the offensive side. Defensively, they are actually quite impressive.

The first thing the bench is lacking is someone who can create their own shot. This is the area where the Warriors miss Jarrett Jack the most. With the shot clock winding down and a broken play, Jack was able to make something out of nothing and create his own shot. No one on the Warriors’ bench has shown they can do that this season. Once Barnes comes back though, he will most likely help in that category.

Second, the bench needs a proven floor general. They need another ball handler and someone who can initiate the offense. Douglas, Nedovic and Bazemore haven’t proven that they can run the offense smoothly and create opportunities for their teammates if a play breaks down. Unless one of those players proves that they can consistently do that, Jackson might have to keep one of the starters in with the reserves at all times. To ensure the offense continues to run smoothly, Jackson would have to leave in a playmaker like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson or Andre Iguodala.

Lastly, the Warriors’ bench is lacking a serious low-post threat. This is the area that the Warriors miss Carl Landry the most. Landry was a threat from mid-range and on the low block. He could back down his opponent and attack the rim. The Warriors have tried to run plays with O’Neal and Speights on the low block, but they haven’t been successful. O’Neal is not quick enough anymore to be a consistent low-post threat, and Speights is more successful as a mid-range jump shooter off of a pick-and-pop, for example.

It’s hard not to speculate how successful this Warriors bench would be if they had been able to keep both Jack and Landry and have Barnes as a reserve too. However bad the Warriors’ bench can look at times, there are several reasons why it’s too early to panic about the bench play so far.

Mar 11, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors small forward Harrison Barnes (40) drives in against the New York Knicks during the third quarter at Oracle Arena. The Golden State Warriors defeated the New York Knicks 92-63. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

First of all, this Warriors team and the bench, specifically, need some time to adjust. There are so many new players and they’ve only been playing together for a couple months now. They’re just now getting a sense of what the rotation will be like throughout the season. Soon the reserves will have a better idea about when they will usually come into a game and who they will be playing with. This comfort will certainly help them play more cohesively.

Second, Barnes hasn’t played yet in the regular season. His presence and his play will significantly improve the Warriors’ bench. He can create his own shot, as mentioned before, and he can provide that much-needed spark off the bench. He will be the offensive focal point for the Warriors’ second unit, which will allow the bench to thrive and will help Barnes’ development as a player.

Even if the bench still struggles once Barnes is back, Jackson can continue to play one of his starters with the reserves. So far, he’s played Thompson and Iguodala with the reserves, which has usually produced better results since it gives the bench that much-needed playmaker. With Barnes and another starter playing with the reserves, the offense would flow much more smoothly.

Also, Ezeli’s return will greatly help the bench too. His presence won’t necessarily have the same impact that Barnes’ presence will have, but Ezeli allows Jackson to rest Kuzmic and O’Neal more. It also will give the Warriors another big man off the bench who can rebound and defend.

The Warriors’ bench has clearly struggled so far this season. Having Barnes play with the reserves will vastly improve the Warriors’ bench, especially on offense where the bench has struggled the most. Although the bench has been disappointing so far compared to last season’s dynamic duo off the bench, Jack and Landry, there is no need for concern just yet. The Warriors will find a way to adjust, and the bench will continue to evolve into a useful weapon for this young, contending team.

Have the Warriors Addressed All Their Needs So Far This Offseason?

Marreese-Speights-Toney-Douglas-and-Jermaine-ONeal-will-round-out-the-Golden-State-bench.-Getty-Images

This article was originally published on Let’s Go Warriors.

The Golden State Warriors went into the offseason with two main priorities: re-signing Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. Since that didn’t happen, it appeared as if the Warriors would have a weaker roster going into next season. However, based on the moves the Warriors have made so far in the offseason, they have more than made up for their losses.

With the departure of Jack, the Warriors had to fill the role of backup point guard, so they drafted Nemanja Nedovic with the 30th pick in this year’s NBA Draft. In addition, Kent Bazemore has started to develop his ball handling and decision-making skills in order to get more minutes as a backup point guard.

They also signed free agent Toney Douglas, who will most likely play the majority of the minutes as the backup point guard. Although Nedovic and Bazemore are a little unproven, Douglas is a solid backup point guard who can defend extremely well and will more than adequately relieve Stephen Curry of some minutes. Even though Jack was a valuable asset to the team last season, the Warriors made up for his loss with other players who collectively bring similar, or better, skills.

The Warriors signed Marreese Speights to fill Landry’s former role of backup power forward. Speights is 6’10” and 245 pounds, and he can play both power forward and center. Speights is also only 25 years old, and by signing a three-year contract, he will play with the Warriors while he is in his prime. Speights can shoot the mid-range shot, but he lacks some efficiency closer to the basket. He isn’t quite the scorer that Landry was, but he’s a better rebounder and shot blocker. Speights is a quality addition to this Warriors team.

The Warriors also needed to fill the backup center role, since Festus Ezeli is out with his right knee injury and Andris Biedrins was traded. In order to address this need, the Warriors signed Jermaine O’Neal. O’Neal is listed at 6’11” and 255 pounds, and he’s a fantastic shot blocker. O’Neal is a 17-year NBA veteran and six-time All-Star, and he has played in 90 postseason games in his career. O’Neal has experienced a lot of trouble with injuries in the past few years, but he will bring size, defense, and veteran leadership to this team.

One criticism for the Warriors the past few years has been there lack of athleticism. Harrison Barnes certainly improved that aspect, but this team, and any team really, could always use more athleticism. The Warriors addressed this need and more when they signed Andre Iguodala. He brings athleticism, a great work ethic, speed, an ability to excel in the open court, elite defense, playoff experience, and veteran leadership. Iguodala is the complete package. He’s extremely versatile, and his presence alone makes this Warriors team a serious contender to be a top-four team in the Western Conference.

With all these additions, the Warriors also strengthened their bench, which they needed to do with Jack and Landry leaving. The addition of Iguodala also probably means that Barnes will now have to come off the bench, which will only strengthen their reserve unit as well. The Warriors have done a great job this offseason in addressing all their needs.

Golden State Warriors: Are They Championship Contenders?

This article was originally published on Golden Gate Sports.

May 16, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry (30, left) and power forward David Lee (10, right) react after game six of the second round of the 2013 NBA Playoffs against the San Antonio Spurs at Oracle Arena. The Spurs defeated the Warriors 94-82. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden State Warriors had a breakout 2012-2013 season. The Warriors defied expectations and captivated many basketball fans around the nation with their stellar, exciting play.

After their incredible playoff run last year, are the Warriors championship contenders now? They’re certainly close to becoming one of the superior teams in the Western Conference, but they’re not quite a championship contender yet.

One of the reasons why is because of the immense amount of talent in the Western Conference. The Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, and Houston Rockets are among the elite teams in the Western Conference, and some of them could very well contend for a championship. Out of all those foes, it will be tough for the Warriors to even become one of the top-four teams in the Western Conference.

Even if the Warriors are able to become Western Conference Champions, it will still be a long road to their first championship since 1975. Outside of the Western Conference, some of the biggest championship contenders are the Miami Heat, the Chicago Bulls, and the Indiana Pacers.

Even though the Warriors aren’t quite as established and experienced as some of the previously mentioned teams, the Warriors could certainly become a top-four team in the Western Conference this season. Here are some reasons why the Warriors are close to becoming contenders: