With a litany of new personel both on and off the court, can the Golden State Warriors truly see a turnaround during this lockout-shortened 2011-12 NBA season?
It's been said that any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts. Such is the case with the Golden State Warriors.
There have been lots and lots of changes with the W's already, accompanied with lots and lots of lip service as well. Jerry West. Bob Myers. Rick Welts. Mark Jackson. These are some of the important additions the Warriors have made, all of which come with a similar type of message:
It's time for a regime change; a mindset reboot. We're all about winning. Skating by is no longer good enough. Accountability. Defense. Defense. Defense. Redefine the Franchise.
Joe Lacob and Peter Guber have (on paper) put together a proverbial dream team of front office talent and expertise, but on the hardwood, there still seems to be a disconnect between what their product should or could be doing and what that product actually produces.
With an incredibly short preseason and training camp, a (literally) brand new head coach and new set of assistants, a large group of new players coming in, a few old players trying to remember how to play the game they get paid to play (Biedrins), and a contract made with season ticket holders to somehow increase accountability. From where I stand, the Warriors have themselves a good old-fashioned uphill battle ahead of them this season on and off the court,
Let's start with the DeAndre Jordan fiasco, shall we? The team barely consults Jerry West, uses up their one time amnesty on Charlie Bell to free up cash for their RFA offer sheet (just the offer) which gets matched by the Clippers, and the W's are left out in the wind. And to top it all off, when they couldn't get Jordan, they settled for Kwame Brown. Yes, this Kwame Brown. Not the greatest start to their new season by Lacob and Co. to say the least.
Don't get me wrong; there is a lot of upside with this group, not unlike the 49ers this year. The difference between the two is that new NFL head coach Jim Harbaugh has coached and been successful elsewhere, while Mark Jackson has been thrown into the NBA deep end, where it's either sink or swim. That doesn't necessarily mean he can't pull himself a Harbaugh and lead the Warriors to the promise land, but I just don't see it happening that way. (I mean, come on, how many of you thought Harbaugh = playoff lock in his first season?)
Jackson was known as a player for his defense, and now as a coach, wants to keep it that way. Jax is stepping into a world where "Nellie Ball" reigned supreme; giving the fanbase it's only taste of the playoffs in recent memory. And with a roster filled with shooters and scorers in Monta Ellis, Dorrell Wright and Stpehen Curry, it might take a while to turn them all into a bunch of Shane Battier's and Grant Hill's, which seems to be a large part of Jackson's game plan. To make defense the sharp end of the stick so to speak.
Guys like Ekpe Udoh and rookie Jeremy Tyler could prove to be solid defenders and rebounding automatons down the line, but are still progressing. David Lee is a solid option when he isn't taking a mental vacation during a game, and hopefully will respond much better than he did to Keith Smart, which was almost not at all. And can Kwame Brown actually be productive? All I can do is pray.
As for Andris Biedrins, well, I'll withhold any comment before I actually see him play, because I do have more than just charcoal in my heart and would like to think the 2010-11 season was just a year-long lapse in talent and confidence.
Let us not forget Klay Thompson, the W's first round pick and only other true shooting guard on the squad aside from Monta. Where does he stand to fit into all of this? The W's brought in Brandon Rush for some extra guard depth off the bench, and could be hanging on to guys like Dominic McGuire and Ish Smith. There are also rookies Chris Wright and Edwin Ubiles to consider.
I'd love to imagine that throwing up some photos around the stadium of the W's 1975 Championship team and writing new buzzwords on the walls of the weight room will equate to more wins, but it won't. What will equate to more wins is the team coming together, playing under a singular mindset and progressing forward as a unit. And that right there is where I find hope.
Mark Jackson knows how to bring people together. He helps run the True Love Worship Center International; a multicultural, non-denominational church the he and his wife run twice a week in Van Nuys, CA. He also was a true leader and motivator on the basketball court as well, and we all know his way with words. If the players buy in, and Jackson and his squad of talented assistant coaches get these guys ready, they could have a legitimate shot at a playoff berth this season. But, like I said before, it will most definitely be an uphill battle.
Monta is going to get his. Steph is going to get his. Dorell is going to drain some long balls. But can they keep it up when they are putting in just as much effort (hopefully) on the defensive side of the ball amidst a tiresome schedule?
Luckily, one of the W's most important strengths this season is youth. The Warriors are one of the youngest teams in the league (only Kwame will be older than 30 this season), and with this wacky, compressed schedule, young legs will come in handy, especially on defense.
They'll have some tough tests early in the schedule, but if they get off to a hot start and build up some confidence, It could mean all the difference this year. But it will take more than youth to make a deep run this season. It will take a complete effort from top to bottom on this roster. It also will also weigh heavily on how Jax does on the sideline. Will the Warriors be able to build continuity in such a short time? Will they have enough depth to hang around down the stretch and hopefully into the playoffs? We'll have to wait and see.
I believe that If the Warriors do not make some solid improvement this season, they'll at least be headed in the right direction (which could be in San Francisco playing next to the Giants). I feel a brighter dawn is coming for Warriors fans, it just might take a little more time.
For more on the Warriors, head over to Golden State of Mind.