3

I Feel Sorry for Derek Fisher

I talked with D-Fish before and after Saturday’s win over Utah. He was his usually smiling, friendly self. Our conversation was continuously interrupted by well-greeters and familiar faces. Being that D-Fish is the prototypical nice guy, he sincerely entertained everyone.
But past the veneer of warmth, through the façade of contentment, I could see that D-Fish isn’t happy. He wouldn’t ever say anything to ruffle feathers of his team, which is doing so well. But after a couple years of covering Fisher, I know what he really covets.
The reason he left the Lakers, the reason he came to the Warriors (other than the blow-everyone-else-out-of-the-water contract the Warriors offered), was because he wants to be a starting point guard. Now that he already has three championship rings, Fisher’s main remaining goal is to be the No. 1 floor general for an NBA team. He wants to be what Baron Davis is with the Warriors, what Deron Williams is with Utah – not just the undisputed starting point guard, but a major factor, a key cog.
He at least wants the opportunity to show he can do it, a chance he almost assuredly doesn’t feel like he got with the Warriors and a chance he won’t get as long as Deron Williams is in Utah.
Fisher doesn’t see himself as a back-up point guard, but a starter. Since his days at the top of his game are winding down, he needs his opportunity now. So don’t be surprised if Fisher gets traded again.
I don’t think Fisher is the type to demand a trade, at least not publicly. But he may be desperate enough that I could see him or his agent requesting a move to a better situation for him. There are some teams that can use an upgrade at point guard, an improvement you can argue Fisher could provide.
Cleveland (Eric Snow), the Lakers (Smush Parker), Memphis (Damon Stoudemire/Chuck Atkins), Houston (Rafer Alston) and Miami (Gary Payton/Jason Williams) all perhaps would be better with Fisher at the point. Cleveland is probably the best fit. The Lakers would be a great fit, too, because they need a point guard who can hit the open shot (though I don’t think a return to the triangle, where the PG spots up, is what Fisher has in mind). Memphis would be good because they play at a slower tempo, where Fisher is best, and he has a relationship with Jerry West. Houston and Miami, where Fisher would be a glorified role player, might be too similar to the Lakers situation he fled.
Honestly, I feel kind of bad for Fisher. Even though I think he overrates himself a tad (as does just about every player; they have to have extreme confidence), I think he is a starting point guard. He’s not an elite starting point guard, such as Nash or Chauncey Billups. But he’s second (Tony Parker, Kirk Hinrich) or third tier (Andre Miller, Luke Ridnour), which is good enough to be a starter.
I feel bad for him because he’s actually being penalized for being a nice guy. The fact is, he probably wouldn’t have the audacity to demand a trade, especially considering he’s on a winning team and playing for a Hall of Fame coach. Even if he does, if Utah doesn’t want to trade him, that’s perhaps end of discussion, because Fisher is not going to milk an injury or pout or talk through the media.
But other guys around the league, the latest unhappy back-up is Earl Watson, have no problem voicing their displeasure and usually get what they want in the end.
If Fisher were to request a trade, however politely, and it got out, he’d probably look like the bad guy, which I’m not sure he could tolerate. If he bites his tongue and remains professional, he’s once again stuck behind a superior talent at point guard, playing the part of consummate teammate and supersub, missing out on his ever-shrinking window to fulfill his dream.
While it all has to be put in millions-of-dollars perspective, I do feel bad for the guy.

3

STAY ON THE SHOOTERS!

One of the most frustrating things about watching the Warriors play is their propensity for leaving known shooters wide open. I’m so tired of seeing players so out of position they have to haul tail to just to get a hand up. What’s worse is they allow themselves to get sucked into the paint, where they don’t even defend the basket.
It happened all game long against Phoenix. They kept leaving Raja Bell open even though he was clearly on fire. It happened against San Antonio. There was a drive late in the game, when the Warriors had a chance to put it away, where Tony Parker drove to the basket and Mike Dunleavy left Brent Barry — a known 3-pointer shooter — to chase Parker. What did Parker do? Kick it out to Barry, who hit a 3-pointer.
It’s not just Dunleavy. They all do it. Baron. J-Rich. They all lose focus, scattering around trying to get steals and blocks, leaving their man all alone to set their feet, lick their fingertips, practice their form, calm down with a few deep breaths, shave, and wait for the kick out pass.
If you’re guarding a shooter, especially with the game on the line, why not face guard your man? Let the guys defending less-capable shooters help out. Don’t let a team back in the game by giving them open looks at the three.

1

Solution to Free Throw Woes

I’ve figured out the cure. Well, that’s too far. How about this. I’ve figured out a new tactic for the Warriors to try in their efforts to MAKE SOME FREE THROWS! It’s really quite simple, but hard to pull off. It’s a tactic often applied in other sports.
Be quiet.
The Warriors have tried everything else. As my colleague, Geoff Lepper, aptly pointed out in today’s paper, Nelson has tried everything from a shooting to monetary wagers, trying to simulate game pressure. As a result, the Warriors are shooting even worse from the free throw line than last year.
So how about taking the pressure off? Maybe if everyone, including Nelson, stopped talking about it, the pressure would lessen. Maybe if everyone, including Nelson, accepted the fact that this is a poor free throw shooting team, the noose of that is expectations will loosen.
Free throw shooting is such a mental task. Sound technique and repetition helps, but it comes down to mental fortitude and focus. You can have text book form, but if your head is jacked up, you’re going to be a 60 percent shooter. You can have some hideous stroke, but if your focus and will is strong enough, you’ll be OK.
In the case of the Warriors, the players are often defeated before they get to the free throw line. The pressure is obviously buckling them. It is most evident in Jason Richardson. You can see the doubt in his stance, in his motion.
So maybe the answer is to avoid the topic, let the free throws be the elephant in the room. It’s just one of those mental parts of the game that is left up to the player. It works that way in golf when someone is struggling with their putter. The more it’s talked about, the more they struggle. See Greg Norman. And Phil Mickelson. The same is true with place kickers. Ever since Mike Vanderjagt, who was once automatic, missed that field goal in the playoffs, he hasn’t been the same. The more it became an issue, the worst he got. Remember Chuck Knoblauch’s throwing problems? A Gold Glove second baseman had to be moved to the outfield because scrutiny and pressure paralyzed him mentally. He couldn’t even throw to first. Do I need to bring up Rick Ankiel? Or Mackey Sasser?
I know it’s hard thing to do. One of the most frustrating thing in basketball is watching players, especially guards, miss free throws. It seems so easy, so wasteful. But maybe if no one booed, if Nelson stopped expressing his frustration in it, if the players stopped fretting over it, the pressure will ease up, helping them to shoot better.
If Chris Mullin ever gets tired of watching cats brick free throws, he’ll just have to ship ‘em out. The best way to improve the team’s free throw shooting is to bring in some good free throw shooters.
You see Dallas cut Vanderjagt today.

0

Barnes is a Beast

This is the Matt Barnes I remember. This Barnes looks more like the do-it-all super-sub who was key off the bench with the Clippers, the Kings and his first stint in Philly.
This is exactly the kind of player the Warriors needed last season off the bench — someone with size, athleticism, skills, versatility. He’s what Zarko Cabarkapa would be if he rebounded and defended. Even more, he’s mild-mannered, unassuming and not really into personal glory. He’s the perfect role player who has the tools to star for you hear and there, like he’s doing tonight.
When I heard they signed Barnes, I knew it would be a good move if he got the opportunity. Fortunately for the Warriors, injuries have forced Barnes into the lineup.
But it makes you wonder, watching Barnes put up 17 in the third quarter Saturday, what was Philadelphia thinking by not playing him?

0

Monta Does It Again!

Carmelo Anthony, why didn’t you try to block it?! Marcus Camby, why did you take pictures?!
Both jumped, and I thought they were going to try to block Monta Ellis’ jam. But both thought better of trying to go for the block. Smart for them, but I wish they did try to block it, because Monta’s dunk would’ve been even sweeter had they gotten in the way. All it needed was some arms in there, get the foul to go with it.
I jumped out of my seat when Ellis took off and powered it home with the right hand. I could tell (based on the facial he served up on Leandro Barbosa) from the way he accelerated past Earl Boykins that he was going for the dunk. I didn’t realize it until the replay that he took off from the DOTTED LINE. Dang! He’s so quick with his leaps, I think this might be a regular occurrence.

0

I Was Wrong About Andris

When you go to ESPN.com’s NBA stats page, they have the headshots of six statistical leaders. There’s Carmelo Anthony, who leads the league in scoring, and Dwight Howard, the NBA’s rebound leader. You see Steve Nash’s grin in the assists category, Emeka Okafor in blocks and Ron Artest in steals. In the last category, field goal percentage, is a face most NBA fans wouldn’t recognize, under which is a name most NBA fans couldn’t pronounce.
Andris Biedrins.
I am ready and happy to acknowledge how wrong I was about Biedrins. I always thought Biedrins had some talent, but he was so raw, I figured he would turnout to be just a nice role player some day. But this guy has improved exponentially and is really turning out to be a force.
He catches everything. He’s a phenomenal finisher and I can no longer underestimate how much of a difference his hustle makes.
Biedrins’ skillset is not impressive to the eye, which I clearly let influence my opinion. While it may be ugly, his game is productive and still growing. He’s doing up-and-unders, taking guys off the dribble, finishing in traffic. He’s on the road to becoming a pretty solid player. Maybe not a star, but a legitimate starting center.
I certainly didn’t see that coming.

3

Monta Lives Up to His Word

Since early last season, I had been daring Monta Ellis to dunk on someone. I questioned him after almost every game about when his poster shot was coming. I playfully chided him every time I thought he missed an opportunity to make his emphatic debut as an explosive NBA guard.
Each time, in his calm and confident manner, he told me to be patient. It was coming.
I waited all last season to witness these hops he proclaimed to have, but it never came. I never doubted he could do it. I’ve seen him get up. He’s so quick with his leap, he was bound to catch someone slipping. But I gave up. I had yet to get on him about it this year.
But after the Toronto game, when he weaved through the traffic for a nice two-handed dunk, he reminded me of last year’s request. Though my desire wasn’t appeased, I gave him the nod. But after reviewing the dunk on DVR, I had to rescind my approval. I told him that didn’t qualify as dunking on someone because he blew by the first defender and double-clutched in midair to escape the on-coming shot blocker. By the time he got to the rim, there was no one there. So I told him that didn’t count. He looked at me with a bit of surprise. He shot me a smirk and nodded his head and said, ‘OK. OK.’
Then he went and posterized Leandro Barbosa.
That was nasty. That was cruel and unusual punishment. That was exactly what I needed to see to believe some of the high school tales he’s shared.
I knew he was going to try to dunk it because he didn’t throw the lob to Mickael Pietrus, who was open on the right. I could tell he had sized up Barbosa, realized he was in a bit of a zone and seized the opportunity. Unbelievable.
It was so nasty, the Suns players were talking about it in their locker room. Raja Bell shook his head in amazement and blamed Barbosa for trying to jump even though he was under the rim.
Suffice to say, Ellis proved his point. When I saw him after the game, he didn’t say anything. Just shot a stare and an expression my way, as if to say, “Now what!”