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2010-2011 NBA Chats: Warriors Coach Keith Smart, Self-destruction, and Flex Offense

The Warriors might be the ugliest 7-4 team in the NBA. With a sputtering offense, Eric Perdiguerra and Brian Chung weigh on what we should expect from this team this early in the season. And what is the Flex Offense?

Welcome back to the NBA Chats with Eric Perdiguerra and Brian Chung. In our second week, Eric and I will discuss hot topics in the NBA, like why the Miami Heat are sputtering, OR whatever we really want to talk about, like which concession stand at the Oracle has the best garlic fries. Given the nature of our incredibly short attention spans while reading on the Internet in addition to most likely reading this during your short 5-10 minute work breaks, we only have time to get to one or two topics per week.

For those that don't know who we are, here are some brief bios once again:

Eric Perdiguerra is a streetwear designer, dj, and, most importantly, fanatic of bay area sports. He's so dedicated to the Warriors, he even owns an Antawn Jamison thunderbolt Warriors jersey.

I am Brian Chung and I wish the Warriors had a center as dominant as Alton Lister was, at the very least.

This week we are talking about the recent offensive inconsistencies the Warriors experienced on their first road trip of the season. In light of the struggles they faced on the road -- blowing leads and getting blown out, we weigh in on whether this Warriors team is fake or for real. The Warriors are currently sitting at 7-4, one of their best starts in almost two decades, but we discuss whether we should really be excited or not. And is this Flex offense really working?

E: So what did you think of the New York Knicks game?

B: ANNOYING ... yet awesome. I wish they wouldn't tease fans with a 19 point lead. A win is a win, but stop toying with my emotions!!

E: I agree. It is the NBA. You have many things to learn as you progress. LIke how to win when your star is hurt, how to win on the road, how to come from behind, how to win a close game, how to maintain a big lead or close out the game early. And the cliche: in the NBA, everybody makes a run, so they have to learn how to weather the storm.

B: That's true. I keep forgetting that the Warriors are still learning and that a year ago, they probably would have lost by like 15-20 once the New York Knicks made their run.

E: Can't lose sight of the fact they are progressing in terms of the things on that list, which is the most exciting part.

B: Totally. Thanks for tempering my expectations and being the voice of sports reason.

E: I think it was mostly the way of Don Nelson's offense. They had no structure or system, so they played their style of basketball and if they won, they won. No real way to adjust. They were just purely dependent on the level of talent they have, and if they were hot or cold on a given night.

B: That's a super good point. What's weird is that their offense can look super systematized last night, like when they built that 19 point lead. And I was like 'Holy sh*t, this is like the Lakers!' By that, I meant during that short stretch in the 3rd quarter, the Warriors were getting into the lane and making easy dump passes to Biedrins and Lee for layups. It was effortless and they looked like they could do whatever they wanted. They were just moving the ball better. And then all of a sudden they just turned back into... the Warriors pumpkin from being the Lakers' chariot they were seconds ago. They just stopped running plays.

E: HAHA. And when there's a system, you depend on guys really playing their roles. So the level of talent can vary, but you can still get results.

B: True. Like players don't end up doing crazy stuff they shouldn't be doing, such as Dre Biedrins bringing the ball up the floor.

E: Exactly!

B: Which is why i commend Biedrins for trying not to get fouled. Smart must have talked him into minimizing his mistakes, free throws, by telling him to shoot in a way to avoid fouls. Like a couple nights ago against, what was it ... the Jazz? Dorell Wright went baseline for the layup and dumped it to Biedrins who instead of going up strong to finish, tried to finesse a swooping layup to avoid taking fouls...being slightly facetious here.

E: Haha. One can only imagine a world where Biedrins was good at free throws, although its not a bad thing to rack up fouls on an opposing front line. But you're right, it's up to Smart to adjust the system according to what's going on in the game.

B: So does this mean he's a great coach? Or a more strategic coach than "Tha Don" (Nelson).


B: Sorry, great coach was going too far, but maybe better than expected.

E: Haha. It wasn't commentary, its just what he needs to do as the coach. I'm not sure yet if Smart's good at it, but so far so good. It's why people always talk about coaches getting players to buy into the system.

B: True. I'm still trying to figure out what their system is. They say its that flex system, which is a series of reads and screens. But I don't know if i actually see that much movement. Or if there is it's in spurts. Take last night's game against the Bucks, there was little movement whatsoever and I don't think I actually remember a time where they passed the ball more than two times in a possession.

I guess it's definitely better than last season. Maybe I'm just not looking close enough. Do you see it?

E: Naw, I feel you. I'm just trying to give Smart the benefit. It takes time to fully integrate a system and then even more time to master it, so to speak. The Oracle wasn't renovated in a day.

B: Haha, The Oracle looks like it hasn't been renovated in decades. But I guess that's part of it's charm. You are again the voice of reason. I should be ecstatic that they're 7-4. I guess I've been conditioned to think that any day now that the Warriors are gonna self-implode. There will be a mutiny and Monta Ellis will play Amistad. I guess Curry said it best this week: "There's no doubt that we're tougher," point guard Stephen Curry said. "You saw how we played last year, and we wouldn't have won a game like this. We would have probably just lied down and died, but this is a different team."

E: Haha. I can't deny I am pretty impressed. 7-4, including a 5 game road trip? Might be the most optimistic 7-4 in the league. The more games they play, they can better gauge how the system works for them and where they need improvement. Or well, replacement even.

B: Hmm, any replacements come to mind? By replacement, if you were Keith Smart, who do you think deserves more minutes. I think Tom Abdenour should be replaced. He didn't bother looking to see if a missing tooth was actually IN Lee's arm? C'mon!

B: Yeah, from listening to the Mac and Murph interview Smart (thanks for suggesting by the way, it was awesome), it seems like he's got a good repertoire with his players and seems like there is some accountability and leadership. Like when Smart talked about Dorell Wright stepping up when the Warriors started imploding against the Knicks. Did you think it was a little odd that Dorell Wright got respect from teammates because Smart said he played with 1) a superstar in Dwayne Wade 2) Won a championship with the Heat his rookie season. I'm glad he stepped up in that huddle versus the Knicks, but with that said, does that mean DJ Mbenga could garner respect from teammates since he played with Kobe? AND won two championship titles?

E: It was at the very least a little unexpected Dorrell was the one to step up. But I guess i'm more relieved than surprised. Young teams definitely need vocal leaders to bring in the reins. I would hope it would be Monta or David Lee but if Dorrell can contribute vocally, that can only be a positive thing. DJ Mbenga on the other hand haha uhmm I don't know about that.

B: Maybe Mbenga can rally the guys on the bench on how to cheer more enthusiastically? There's a reason why they brought him to the New Orleans Hornets, right?

B: I came across some interesting pieces, one from a fan over at Golden State of Mind that tries to break down the flex offense. And the second article from (via Golden State of Mind) on why Chicago should run the flex based off personnel. Both pieces do an interesting job of describing how it can work and why it can't, namely requiring shooters that can hit mid-range shots and guys that can run the pick and roll. I'm not an expert on the "Flex offense" (beyond my fluency it from 9th grade "Freshmen Basketball) but supposedly Coach Keith Smart wants to run some adaptation of coach Jerry Sloan's "Flex" in Utah. So two questions come to mind: 1) are our Warriors actually running a flex system or some combination or Nellie Ball and "Flex" and 2) do the Warriors have the personnel to actually do that. Again, from my limited knowledge having played in some sort of a "Flex" system about 15 years ago today, it seems like a continuous series of screens: screen-away, back-cuts, down-screen, etc. It seems it needs people with a relatively high basketball IQ to be able to read defenses and adapt but it also seems like it needs players with a high-skill set. With the way the offense has sputtered -- just to throw this out there -- I'm not sure the Warriors quite get it yet or that we actually have people that can run it effectively however Smart is designing it.

E: Haha naw I feel you. Losing David Lee in the middle of a road trip was terribly unfortunate. To an infection from a cut he got from Wilson Chandler's broken tooth no doubt? That's a lil disgusting. Lee definitely seems like an integral part of Smart's system, at the very least his ability to screen and roll and rebound, is vital to the success of it. You have to give a bit of credit to their improvement on defense too, taking advantage of their speed and ability to jump the passing lanes. But whether the system works remains to be seen. I'll say that on the times that they've looked good, they ran the pick and roll from both sides of the court, moved the ball well, and opened it up for everyone to get involved. While the times when they were difficult to watch, they seemed like the thunderbolt Warriors as opposed to the new span Warriors - not moving the ball around, lackadaisical on defense, and giving up offensive rebounds. Nature of the beast, when their winning its working, when they are losing, its cuz they don't have a full grasp of the system yet.

B: I like how you coined that era as "Thunderbolt Warriors." Crappy jerseys, crappy everything else. You're right, without David Lee, they looked way out of sync, not just on defense. It kind of sucked that he finally looked like he was getting his pick and pop with Curry and Ellis going. I'm extremely excited, or at least surprised at their incredible start. But is Biedrins really the right guy for this Flex system? Or is any other big man? He's a great hustle guy and him and Lee make a pretty great rebounding duo. But he's terrible at finishing with any kind of traffic in front of him. Brandan Wright seems light years ahead of Biedrins offensively and has a nice touch around the basket either hand. Too bad he's such a defensive liability.

I just wish there was more movement, but maybe that's hard when you got two guards that really do their best with the ball in their hands.