5

BLOG QUESTION

“What will or can the Warriors do to address the lack of defense—worst in the NBA in terms of points scored by opponents? Is this a coaching issue or personnel issue? Or both?” – commish, danville

The most sure way of addressing poor defense is bringing in good defenders. The problem is, it is so rare to find a guy who can defend with consistent tenacity AND be capable on offense. The fact is, defense is such a hard thing to do well, it’s tough to find guys who can be adept on defense and score.
So, the Warriors are going to have to do it the hard way, which is make poor defenders better — via individual development and by masking defensive weaknesses with the scheme.
This is the hardest way to become a better defensive team. It doesn’t happen overnight, or even in a season. It takes time, patience, dedication, great coaching, chemistry, etc.
From my view, the Warriors have already taken step one, that’s becoming more athletic. The trade helped them drastically in this department, so now they have the tools to be better defensively. Another thing they have done, which I think was the right move, was identify what type of defensive team they want to be. The Warriors have properly determined where do they want to rest their defensive hat — creating turnovers and forcing opponents to shoot low field goal percentages.
The Warriors aren’t going to be a team that holds you to 90 points or fewer, because it requires a couple excellent man-to-man defenders, someone who can protect the basket and a slower pace. The Warriors defensive philosophy, ideally, is disruption. They want you to turn the ball over, they want you to take bad shots, they want the ball to end up in the wrong hands, things like that.
Now, obviously, they haven’t perfected their philosophy. While they are currently first in steals (8.77) and turnovers forced (17.79) per game, they are 22nd in field goal percentage defense. But because their scheme is so heavily reliant on chemistry and knowledge of the system, it’s going to take awhile. Right now, you have guys routinely out of place, rotation breakdowns, lack if hustling, poorly timed gambling, etc. Injuries and the trade haven’t allowed for cohesiveness and understanding to develop.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about. Under Montgomery, Monta Ellis made a contribution to the Warriors by pressing full court. He was a defensive specialist who harrassed opposing point guards and disrupted opposing offenses. Because of Richardson’s injuries, Ellis has been forced into a more prominent role on offense. They NEED him to score, to be a force on offense. So he can’t expend as much energy on defense or risk picking up fouls by applying.
You can say the same for Pietrus and Barnes, players who when this roster is healthy will be called upon for defense first. They have been too integral to the offense to yank them for poor defense.
A lot of things have to happen for the Warriors to become good at the type of defense they want to play. And guess what? They won’t happen this year.

4

All-Star Door Cracked, Baron Can’t Walk Through

So Steve Nash has had to pull out from the All-Star game because of injuries. Allen Iverson isn’t playing tonight and may pull out of the game also. That potentially leaves two spots that need to be replaced.
But, of course, Baron can’t take advantage because he’s getting cut open. Arthroscopic surgery on left knee will shelve Baron for an extended period (my guess is he won’t be back until the middle of March at best, and then he’ll be hobbled).
That’s just how this season has gone. No chance of a last-ditch All-Star bid. No chance of this team getting healthy anytime soon. And, it looks, no chance of playoffs this season.

5

These Indiana Boys Aren’t Clutch!

In the last two games, the two key imports from Indiana have made some completely bonehead decisions.
First, on Friday, All Harrington pulls up from halfcourt with three seconds left — totally oblivious to time and situation. Fortunately, the game was tied and went into overtime, where the Warriors won.
Sunday, they weren’t as fortunate. Down one inside of 10 seconds, the ball found its way to Stephen Jackson. He held onto the ball until the final second, only to airball a well-defended fade-away.
Everyone knows when you’re down you go right away. When you’re ahead or tied, you wait. What’s more, Jackson was 6-for-18 from the field. He has to know that he’s not feeling it (which is understandable given his situation), stop trying to be a hero and get the ball to Monta Ellis, who was getting to the rack all day.
With the injuries and the ground they have to make up, the Warriors can’t afford unforced errors to cost them games.

1

Allen Iverson’s Ankle Healing

I talked to the NBA writer from the Denver Post today (Marc Spears), he updated me on Iverson’s ankle. Apparently, Iverson’s ankle is feeling better, But he’ll be a game-time decision for Monday’s game against the Warriors in Denver.
Monday’s game will let us know the chances of Iverson making an All-Star appearance. If he can’t play, chances are he’s out. If he can play, but it doesn’t feel good, he may still pull himself out of the All-Star Game and use the time off to rest his ankle. He’s loving Denver so much, he may be willing to pass up on an All-Star Game to come through for the Nuggets.
If Iverson does pass up Las Vegas, commissioner Stern would name his replacement. That could mean Baron Davis will get an invite.
There aren’t too many snubs left. As far as guards go, if Stern wanted to go that route, there’s pretty much Baron and Ray Allen.
Of course, Stern could shift gears and pick a big man, such as the Clippers’ Elton Brand. But that would leave Steve Nash as the only point guard on the roster (though Kobe or T-Mac could run point). There’s certainly no way Suns coach Mike D’Antoni, the West All-Stars coach, is going to play his currently injured star point guard for 35 minutes.
Baron makes the most sense. But before Stern can make that call, Iverson has to make his.

1

Funniest Thing From Sunday

Watching Sarunas Jasikevicius matchup with Speedy Claxton. I mean, talk about the hair vs. the tortoise. Is there a more contrasting point guard pair than that?
There was one play where Sarunas got down in his defense stance with Speedy dribbling the ball at the top of the key. Sarunas had barely turned around by the time Speedy converted his layup.
That said, Saruas is having another solid outing. With just under 10 minutes left, he’s got 12 points and five assists in just 11 minutes of action.

4

Amaechi Reaction

The outing of former NBA player John Amaechi has caused quite a stir in the NBA. He’s the first former NBA baller to admit he was gay, which is provoking various responses from people around the league – from idiotic to surprisingly thoughtful. The following is several quotes about the topic.

Philadelphia 76ers forward Shavlik Randolph: “I accept anybody. I don’t judge anybody. As a Christian, I don’t judge anybody. Just as long as you don’t bring your gayness on me, I’m fine. From what I’ve heard from other people, he seems to be a great guy. I would accept him as a teammate, but I don’t necessarily agree with his lifestyle.”

Houston Rockets star Tracy McGrady, who played with Amaechi in Orlando:“To each his own. That’s his own sexual preference. I had no problem with it when I played with him. You kind of had a sense. It didn’t bother me. As long as a guy is producing on the basketball court I don’t care what he is. … I have no problem with it. He is what he is. If he wants to come out and let everybody know his sexual (preference), it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care. I wouldn’t have cared then. If he would have come out when I was his teammate, I wouldn’t have cared. If he was producing on the basketball court and was kept it professional, I would have had no problem with it.”

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers:
“Hell, I was Coach of the Year the year John Amaechi started for me at the power forward spot (1999-00), so he was great for me. He was great on our team. I was just talking to someone, and that was one of the stronger locker rooms I’ve ever had with Darrell Armstrong and all those guys. They all got along, so I didn’t think it was an issue.
“I don’t know if anyone knew anyway, to be honest. I didn’t know. I think people talked about it obviously. Everyone thought maybe. I could care less though. It was brought up to me, and you look at it and say, `So what? Can he rebound. Can he shoot? Can he defend?’”

“John Amaechi when I was coaching him was a great kid. He did as much charity work as anybody in our city, and he’s still doing it. To me, I wish that’s what we focused on. Unfortunately we’re talking about his sexual orientation, which I really could give a flying flip about.”

Philadelphia 76ers center Steven Hunter:
“I don’t know what people do in their personal lives. Nowadays, it’s proven that people can live double lives. I watch a lot of TV so you see a lot of sick, perverted stuff about married men running around with gay guys and all types of foolishness. But if you’re gay, you’re gay. You’ve got just as much rights as anybody else. I don’t have a problem with people’s sexuality or nothing like that.”

“If he was my teammate, as long as he didn’t make any advances toward me or anything like that, I’m fine with it. I don’t have any problem with gay people. I don’t think it’s any of my business. As long as he comes to work every day with a professional attitude and left his sexuality outside the locker room, I definitely wouldn’t have any problem with it. I wouldn’t want to know. As long as he came to play basketball like a man and conduct himself like a good person, I’d be fine with it.”

Philadelphia 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks:
“I take people as they are. You are who you are, whatever that is. I don’t have no judgment on it at all. I think people take people for who they are. I certainly would. I would think players would do the same thing, take people for who they are. Who am I to pass judgment on anyone? People can be who they want to be. It’s not up to me to pass judgment on anyone.”

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James:
“We’re like family and you take showers with each other. We’re on the bus together and we talk about a lot of things and if you’re not trustworthy, like admitting you’re gay, you can’t be trusted. It’s a trust factor.”

“With teammates you have to be trustworthy, and if you’re gay and you’re not admitting that you are, then you are not trustworthy. So that’s like the number one thing as teammates . . . we all trust each other. You’ve heard of the in-room locker room code. What happens in the locker room stays there. It’s a trust factor.”

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Donyell Marshall, a teammate of Amaechi’s in Utah:“You have to be a strong-willed person to be able to play any sport [and openly acknowledge you're gay]. We’re in the locker room joking and laughing with each other and if something like that would slip, I don’t think they’d be able to go through that day in and day out.”

New York Knicks coach Isiah Thomas:
“Sports has always been a testing ground for what society will or won’t accept. We accept and we embrace diversity. If we’re not tolerant, we’ll become tolerant.
“If it’s in my locker room, we won’t have a problem with it. I can’t speak for somebody else’s locker room, but if it’s in mine, we won’t have a problem. I’ll make damn sure there’s no problem.”

Toronto Raptors coach Sam Mitchell, as told to the Toronto Sun:
“It shouldn’t be about tolerance. It should be about respect. People should treat people as human beings. I wouldn’t use the word tolerance. Are people supposed to tolerate me because I’m Black? Or are they supposed to treat me with respect because I’m a human being? I grew up in an area of this country (Georgia) where people didn’t like you because of the color of your skin. I can’t change the color of my skin any more than someone else can change who or what they are.”

NBA Commissioner David Stern:
“We have a very diverse league. The question at the NBA is always ‘Have you got game?’ That’s it, end of inquiry.”

Orlando Magic forward Pat Garrity:
“They would have teammates that would accept them for being a good person and a good teammate, and there would be people who would give him a hard time about it. I think that’s true if you’re playing basketball or in an office job. That’s just how the world is right now.”

New York center Eddy Curry:
“Oh, my goodness. No comment. I don’t even … no comment.”

5

STAY ON THE SHOOTERS! – Part 4

Ben Gordon is a known shooter. He had just nailed a 3-pointer from the right wing about a minute earlier. So when he gets the ball at the top of the key, what does Stephen Jackson do? Not put a hand up.
Gordon nailed it, of course.
So when Gordon was left all alone from the left wing with the game on the line (why is it that, knowing a three beats you, the Warriors didn’t assign someone to face guard a shooter like Gordon), you know you gasped in utter helplessness. You just knew it was going in. You just knew victory was going to be snatched from your team because someone lost focus and wandered from the most dangerous shooter on the court.
The Warriors dodged a bullet on that one.