1

Congrats Monta!

The Warriors youngster was named the league’s Most Improved Player, edging out Sacramento’s Kevin Martin by three votes. He certainly deserves it more than Martin, or Deron Williams, who finished a distant third.
The only disappointing result of the voting was that my guy finished FIFTH! Andris Biedrins gets no love, huh?
Don’t look now, but Ellis’ career is following the same pattern of Gilbert Arenas. Expected to be a first round pick but falls to second … snatched up by the Warriors … inexplicably rides the bench until the season is lost, then plays really well when he gets the chance … comes in the following year playing like a future star … dominates in the rookie game … wins Most Improved Player Award (Gilbert won in 2002-03) … signs as a free agent with Washington … the Warriors better keep that last part from happening

1

Home Sweet Home, They Hope

The Warriors still haven’t played well yet. Jason Richardson hasn’t showed up, at least not the scorer we’re used to. Mickael Pietrus has been non-existent. Baron and Harrington weren’t very good in Game 2.
The Warriors still haven’t put a complete game together like they did the final month of the season.
That sounds like a good thing, if you think they will get it together at home. That’s cause for concern if you’re that the intensity of playoff basketball will prevent them from playing at that high level.
Certainly, their love of the jump shot hurt them in Game 2. They were in the bonus several times and failed to get to the basket. They weren’t getting any calls, but they still needed to keep pushing the agenda.
At Oracle, their jumpers had better be falling. If they are, Dallas doesn’t stand a chance. If they don’t, Dallas will almost assuredly get that one win in Oakland they need.
Will Pietrus’ corner shot fall? Will Richardson’s shot come back? Will Al return to being a 3-point marksman? Will their fastbreak return?
Oracle, here they come.

3

Most Improved Winner a Warrior?

The league will announce the winner of the Most Improved Player Award on Thursday. The timing of it might be a good sign for the Warriors, because it means they will be home for the announcement.
The league likes to, if they can, schedule the announcement so the player can receive the reward in front of his home crowd. If it was Kevin Martin, why wait? That could’ve been the first award they announced?
It could be Deron Williams, who will also be at home. But you still have to like Monta Ellis’ and Andris’ Biedrins chances. I am thinking Monta will get the award if a Warrior gets it.

2

Nellie’s Up to Something

It is quite comical hearing Don Nelson take the high road. It sounds like genuine humility, but you just know he’s pulling some kind of Jedi mind trick on the Mavericks. You just know it’s some master scheme he’s concocted to make him look like a hero, win or lose.

Saturday after practice, he was talking about how the Warriors ARE just happy to be in the playoffs, which is exactly the opposite of the we-aren’t-satisfied-with-just-being-here cliche.
“What’s wrong with just being happy to be here? We’re very happy to be here. We haven’t been here for 13 years – think about that!”

Then, he minimized his participation in the coaching duel with Avery Johnson. Though everybody in Dallas knows he’s in Avery’s head, Nellie came with the “What? I ain’t doing nothing.” defense.
“You know I’m only playing eight guys and they’ve played real well together. We’re just going to keep doing what we’ve been doing. We can’t do anything about it anyway. That’s what we are, that’s what we’ve got. We’re bringing that to the party.”
In pre-game interviews before Game 1, he added that “(Avery) knows what I’m going to do, I don’t know what he’s going to do.”
Isn’t that just genius? If Johnson out maneuvers him, the excuse is already planted. If he doesn’t, Avery looks inferior because he’s got the textbook and still flunked the test.

After Game 1, when the Warriors upset the Mavericks, Nelson totally dodged credit for it, saying the Warriors were simply lucky. And he dismissed any idea that his defensive scheme had something to do with Dirk’s struggles in Game 1. Someone asked flat out if it was the Warriors style of defense that gives Nowitzki’s problems. His answer:
“Not really. I just think he had a bad night. Just missed some shots.”

Then Tuesday he dropped this unsolicited modesty bomb:
“I will add that it will be a bounce back game for the Mavericks. And we’ve got a better chance to get hit with lightning than to win the game tomorrow.”
(Side note: Nellie might be actually be right, with the way the lightning was hitting around here last night. I saw some bolts I’ve never seen in Cali. I’ve never seen lightning strike and the night sky light up with blue light.)

When have you ever heard a coach say his team has no chance of winning? You just know that’s some kind of ploy. Knowing Nellie, the NBA’s version of Criss Angel, it sounds more like trickery than sincerity. At least that’s how Dirk takes it:
“I listened to one of his interviews yesterday and he’s still full of it …”

4

Shrieking Dirk?

I am a Dirk fan. He’s my MVP. He didn’t look like an MVP in Game 1. But that’s cool. A bad game is no indictment. What was reason for pause was how he sounded in Monday’s practice. I don’t talk to Dirk a lot, so I don’t know if he’s usually this way. But he sounded so defeated, so uncertain. He didn’t speak with the swagger of an MVP, didn’t exude the confidence of one of the best players in the league.
I was expecting him to say something like, “We’re not worried about it” and “It’s just one game” and “We know we’re the better team” and “It’s just a matter of playing our game.”
Instead, I heard words like hope. I heard a sense of panic and worry.
Here are some excerpts from Monday’s interview with Dirk. I included a paraphrase of the question so you can understand the context. Read between the lines. Do you hear an MVP?

Can you stop the Ws defense from shutting your team down?
“We’ve got to execute against their run-and-jump defense. They’ve basically got five smalls out there. They’re switching on everything, they’re active on defense, they’re reaching a lot, they’re all over the place.”

Since their crowding you, why not drive to the basket?
“I tried, but against a small lineup as soon as I put it on the floor they were really coming in from all angles. So I don’t know if this is going to be my series where I’m going to take them off the dribble. They’re really all over me as soon I put the ball down.”

So, you’re going to have to be a facilitator, huh?
“It looks like it a little bit. They’re really, really running at me hard. They’re fronting me in the post, front and back of me sometimes. If I have it, everybody’s on alert. As soon as I put it down, they’re coming. So, yeah, just find my teammates when they’re open, and move the ball, and just be active out there and be a threat. Hopefully we can win that way.”

Like I said, it could be just his natural demeanor. I guess we’ll see in Game 2.

1

Blog Question

“Although the Warriors have had recent, stunning success with “small ball”, one of the biggest reasons we are in the playoffs was the play of Andris Biedrins for the majority of the season. In fact I don’t remember him missing a game, but I could be wrong. Why is he playing so little now? Is there something we don’t know?” — commish, danville

He is not playing much now because its match-up time. It’s about what you can exploit, creating an advantage. Biedrins isn’t a match-up guy. If he has the ball against a smaller player, he has no decisive advantage. Nor does he if he’s going against a bigger player. He’s a toll player — he takes a toll on you over the course of the game with his intangibles.
With Biedrins on the court, that’s one less position the Warriors have an advantage. That’s one less position Dallas doesn’t have to worry so much about.
Also, Biedrins doesn’t spread the floor, which is vital for a perimeter-oriented team. Somehow, a good team finds a way to get the ball inside. You want to work inside out. Since the Warriors don’t have a post they can dump it down to, they need to get inside by penetrating and cutting. So you need a way to open up driving lanes, create opportunities to get to the basket.
If the Warriors do post up, it’s most likely with a guard, predominantly Baron. Because Baron will need room and passing lanes, Nellie pushes the other four players out on the perimeter. If Biedrins is in the game, he’s not a factor from the perimeter, so it’s counterproductive for him to be on the floor.
If Dallas plays its centers, you might see more of Biedrins. But small ball will still take priority because its the Warriors most explosive lineup and the one where they have the most match-up advantages.

2

Relieved Richardson

The happiest guy in the Warriors locker room was Jason Richardson.
In his playoff debut, playing in front of the largest viewing audience in his NBA career, Richardson kind of bombed.
He finished with 13 points (5-for-12 FGs), six rebounds and four turnovers with no assists. He redeemed himself late – knocking down some huge shots, coming up with timely rebounds, and getting what was perhaps the block of the season; which has been his M.O. of late – but he was far from happy about his performance.
Which is why he’s so happy he didn’t cost his team a victory.
“Maaaaan,” Richardson told me as he shook his head in disgust, while flashing a grin of relief. “But we got the win. That’s all that matters.”
Better hope he got that out of his system. The Warriors can’t win with Richardson playing like that. Dallas is going to shift to fourth gear. The Warriors will need to go up another notch, which means they need J-Rich back.
You’ve got to feel good about his chances of rebounding. He’s done it all season, and this dude has so much fight in him. That fourth-quarter block told it all. After coughing up another turnover, he hustled back and pinned Devin Harris’ layup to the glass like a Clean Air bumper sticker on a Volkswagon bug.
Now, if the Warriors get anything from Ellis, who was visibly shook out there, that would be gravy. But I expect him to struggle tonight, too. He might need a home game to gain some comfortability and relax a bit. Though he looked fine today after practice when he was drawing laughs with his dancing. He was doing some shuffle with his feet, before walking off and pointing like he was a background dancer for Sexual Chocolate.
Unlike with Ellis, the Warriors can’t afford another poor outing from Richardson. In fact, they may need a big game from him since Dallas will assuredly be focused on stopping Baron.