6

Don’t Be Too Alarmed

It’s not as bad as last night’s drubbing looked, but not as good as many expected. The Warriors will be all right. They won’t be winning 50 games, they probably won’t make the playoffs, but they won’t get humiliated every night as they did Tuesday.
Last night can be explained.
* The Warriors ran up against one of the teams they match-up poorly against. Utah, San Antonio and the Clippers (with Elton Brand) are tough on the Warriors. Utah is especially tough because of its style of play. The Jazz is to Golden State what Golden State is to Dallas. The Warriors just have to tip their cap and be thankful they get two games against the Jazz out of the way early.
*The Warriors were overcome by their own emotions and excitement. This was most evident in their terrible execution on defense. I don’t think they made a proper rotation all night, and they left their feet to block a shot every chance they could. That will get better as they calm down and they season progresses. They won’t be San Antonio, but they won’t allow the likes of Ronnie Brewer to pick them apart.
*The offense will get better. It won’t be as potent or as sure as last season, but they were so out of sync and helter skelter last night. All they did was make one pass and run a pick-and-roll. Each player took turns trying to get to the basket or hoisting up threes. Very little post-ups. The transition game died after a hot start. That won’t be the norm, especially when Stephen Jackson returns. Still, expect more cold streaks and off nights because they have one last guy who can get you 20 in a variety of ways.
So, no need to be scared the Warriors are returning to their losing ways. But, as last night proved, don’t expect them to jump into the Western Conference elite this season.

2

Doing Too Much

The Warriors went waaaay overboard with their pregame introductions Tuesday. The video was cool. The fire was borderline. But the reserves coming out of the crowd one at a time? The starters being exalted on some platform like the Justice League? Seriously.
My man Brett Yamaguchi is in charge of the entertainment. And he does one of the better jobs in the league. To be sure, Monday’s introductions were entertaining. They got the crowd hype. But you woulda thought they won a championship.
I’d hate to see what they do when they win a title. They’re going to have to bring the Stones in this piece!

0

Open practice recap

Didn’t get to blog from the Warriors’ open practice on Sunday night because of more pressing concerns (hello, Andris Biedrins; good-bye, contract extension), but if you weren’t one of the 6,000 or so on hand at Oracle Arena (according to the team’s estimate), here’s a recap of what you missed:

** There weren’t as many cutting comments from Don Nelson, who was wearing a microphone that broadcast over the public-address system, as there were last year. (Somewhere last night, Zarko Cabarkapa shuddered reflexively, as though reliving a bad experience.) Maybe that was because someone forgot to put out the lozenges that are usually in the little built-in trays in the scorer’s table at Oracle Arena. Nelson reached into the tray for some throat relief but came up empty, much to his chagrin.

Stephen Jackson was also mic’d up — at least until he picked up a technical foul during the scrimmage portion of the practice and then yanked the microphone off.

** The identities of the top performers during the scrimmage were hardly surprising: Baron Davis and Monta Ellis. Playing for the blue team (the starting unit), they combined to score 62 points in a 92-91 win, getting to the cup almost at will.

** Al Harrington wore a pair of gray sweatpants to provide a little more padding in case he fell on his bruised tailbone. The only problem: the sweat began to wick and show through from the waistband down in a somewhat embarrassing pattern.

** The capper to the evening, of course, was the center-court hazing of the newbies. Kelenna Azubuike tried to teach the steps for Soulja Boy’s “Crank That” to a quintet composed of the four rookies — Marco Belinelli, Stephane Lasme, Kosta Perovic and Brandan Wright — plus second-year center Patrick O’Bryant. (Apparently, POB’s duck-duck-goose game from last season was not enough to get him off the hook.)

The results were just one step short of a trainwreck:

This prompted Harrington to try and step in, with three young volunteers from the crowd, for more remedial training. As the results weren’t much better, maybe they should have just shown this on the overhead screen instead:

Afterwards, Belinelli could only shake his head in bemusement: “In Italy, it’s not like this.”

Biedrins tried to be diplomatic: “The Europeans are my buddies, but they didn’t do so good. But it was a lot of fun, and at least they tried. That was the best part.”

For his part, Harrington wanted nothing to do with his pupils.

“They should all be fined. That’s the worst rookie orientation I have ever been around,” said Harrington, who’s entering his 10th NBA season. “Everybody gets an F. I give Las a D, because he tried, but all the rest of them get Fs.”

– Geoff Lepper

2

No contract extension for Biedrins

This just in from Bill Duffy, Andris Biedrins’ agent: There will be no contract extension this month given to the Warriors’ starting center.

The two sides began far apart — more than $10 million in total value over five years — and never got close to making a deal. Biedrins thus will become a restricted free agent this summer, with the Warriors retaining the all-important right to match any offer sheet he signs.

“I think just philosophically, they’re taking a different position than they have in the past,” Duffy said, referring to similar extensions given in recent years to Mike Dunleavy, Troy Murphy and Jason Richardson. “And we’re taking a very aggressive opinion of where Andris should be.”

Because the Warriors have matching rights, they didn’t feel the urgency to lock up Biedrins now – even though his value could shoot up past the $12 million per year mark.

“Not too many 21-year-olds with his kind of skill set, attitude, size and work ethic are walking down the street,” Duffy said. “You don’t replace the big guy in the middle that easily.”

More to come later…

– Geoff Lepper

4

2007-08 Predictions

I think I’m picking Phoenix to win it all. This is the year they finally get past San Antonio and into the NBA Finals, where they run circles around the East’s representative, Boston. Raja Bell neutralizes Ray Allen, Amare Stoudemire offsets Kevin Garnett, and Steve Nash is way too much for Rajon Rondo.

To recap, the winners:
West Finals – Phoenix d. San Antonio in 7
East Finals – Boston d. Cleveland in 6
NBA Finals – Phoenix d. Boston in 6

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As for postseason awards:
Most Valuable Player – LeBron James

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Rookie Of the Year – Kevin Durant
Sixth Man of the Year – Leandro Barbosa
Most Improved Player – Kelenna Azubuike
Coach Of the Year – Stan Van Gundy
Defensive Player Of the Year – Tyson Chandler
Executive Of the Year – Danny Ainge

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As for All-NBA:
First Team
G Steve Nash
G Kobe Bryant
F LeBron James
F Tim Duncan
C Yao Ming

Second Team
G Baron Davis
G Tracy McGrady
F Kevin Garnett
F Carmelo Anthony
C Amare Stoudemire

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Third Team
G Chris Paul
G Gilbert Arenas
F Dirk Nowitzki
F Chris Bosh
C Dwight Howard

Now, what I really want to know now is your predections. Who meets in the conference finals? Who wins the Finals? Who wins the postseason awards? Who is your All-NBA squad? Let’s see it.

2

Warriors 110, Clippers 103

What is it about playing the Clippers in L.A. that leads to no rest for members of the Warriors?

The Staples Center is where Kelenna Azubuike played all 48 minutes on Jan. 17 — Trading Day — as the depleted Warriors fell to the Clips, 115-109.

And it was also where Monta Ellis played 48 minutes (well, if we round up) on Friday as the Warriors held off the Clippers in their exhibition finale. The game was most notable for the fact that Golden State got through pretty much unscathed from a health perspective, although there was a scare with Ellis in the final minute.

After knocking down his last bucket of the evening, an 18-footer from left of the top of the key with 33 seconds to go, Ellis landed on the foot of Clippers forward Corey Maggette and turned his left ankle.

Ellis jumped around on his good leg for one possession before leaving the game and heading immediately to the locker room, but the injury did not appear to be serious. He was not icing it when media entered the locker room, walked normally to the bus and said it was no problem.

Ellis, who turned 22 on Friday, finished with 27 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, five steals and six turnovers. He played point the whole way and looked in control for much of the evening, such as when he patiently waited for Patrick O’Bryant to come free on a pick-and-roll and whipped him a pass for a dunk.

Also, he went to his left on Clipper defenders a couple of times — including one for a dunk over Chris Kaman — to show he’s getting better at using his off hand.

Other thoughts while waiting for air-traffic controllers to let us leave LAX:

** Even though it’s only preseason, the result had to be an embarrassment for the Clippers, who were missing Ruben Patterson but got 27 minutes or more from Sam Cassell, Cuttino Mobley, Maggette and Kaman. Losing despite your starters facing primarily backups from a team that only won 12 road games last season? Awful.

** Kosta Perovic showed some nice range on his jumper, and was quick to fire when his man left him to double elsewhere, but he still seems a little flustered in traffic. It was good showing, but I would still expect him to be the first player shipped out to the D-League.

** It was another tough night for Marco Belinelli, who went 3-for-11 (0-for-4 on 3s) and it showed in his body language: Head down, reaching in for churlish fouls. Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson have been trying to feed him open shots whenever they can — Baron’s always looking to find him for trailing 3s on the break — and I think one big game, in the mold of that famous summer league debut, would do wonders for his confidence.

** Al Harrington joked about needing “a diaper” after falling and bruising the left side of his posterior (the right side had already taken a beating from a fall in Seattle on Tuesday), but the funniest sight of the night came in the second quarter, when Clippers guard Dan Dickau was called for a blocking foul after getting run over by Austin Croshere.

Dickau got up and immediately started jawing with referee Eli Roe, but teammate Paul Davis grabbed him by the back of the shirt to prevent any more serious confrontation. It looked like someone walking one of those little “yippy” dogs that strain at the end of the leash and bark at your ankle.

Sadly, however, the yipping worked. Roe and fellow refs Michael Smith and Ed Malloy called an astonishing eight offensive fouls (I believe all of them were charges, but I can’t be totally certain an illegal screen or something didn’t sneak in there) in the second half. Just ridiculous. I thought we were getting rid of that scourge of the game, the “defender” who throws himself in an offensive player’s path at the last second to draw a “charge.” Apparently not.

– Geoff Lepper

0

No Nellie in exhibition finale

Fresh news from today’s Warriors shootaround at Loyola Marymount University:

Don Nelson will not coach tonight’s exhibition finale. In order to avoid what happened in the same situation last year — having handed the reigns over to Larry Riley, Nelson jumped in at the end of a tight game and took control — Nelson will be sitting in the stands.

“I can’t do it,” Nelson said of sitting on the bench as a passive observer.

Riley will be in the stands with Nelson, while Keith Smart gets a chance to coach a limited squad: Matt Barnes is absent with the team’s OK, but he’ll be joined on the DNP list by Kelenna Azubuike, Andris Biedrins, Baron Davis, Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson.

“There’s no reason to risk it,” Nelson said. (Too bad for the Bulls that Scott Skiles didn’t get that memo.)

“I might play,” quipped Smart, who was still trying to figure out how to best deploy his troops as the bus headed back for the team hotel.

“I don’t know yet,” Smart said when asked whom he might start. “But we’ll definitely have five.”

– Geoff Lepper