I’m in San Antonio, and I just saw something that looked to be desperation, but I’m not sure.
It was the start of the fourth quarter. The Warriors were up 86-80. Guess who emerged from the bench: Baron Davis, Al Harrington, Kelenna Azubuike and Marco Belinelli. That’s at least three starters playing the fourth quarter of a preseason game.
It gets worse. Guess who took the floor for San Antonio:
Francisco Elson, Anthony Lever-Pedroza, Keith Langford, Matt Bonner and Ime Udoka.
Should we be worried that the Warriors are going hard against the Spurs C team and still coming up short? Should it bother Warriors fans that Nellie is so desperate to see something positive that he’s keeping key players in much longer with hopes they show him something?
“Nobody was really good enough at all phases of the game to get a high grade. Azubuike was probably the most solid for us on both ends of the floor.”
The Warriors, despite big minutes from several of their best players (Kelenna played 39 minutes, Baron played 30, Harrington 32 and Belinelli 29), lost to a Spurs team that was without Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Bruce Bowen and Brent Barry. Even Greg Popovich sat this one out, watching from a seat in the stands, about a dozen rows behind the Spurs bench. Sure, the Warriors were without Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis, but that’s hardly an equal trade.
There are two preseason games left and the Warriors appear out of sync and unsituated. The shooting guard and power forward positions are still undecided (though Azubuike is likely to start at the 2) and they have yet to nail down any pattern of rotation. Several players — such as Stephen Jackson, Matt Barnes, and Al Harrington — have been sporadic in their play.
With two preseason games left, the Warriors should be in rhythm. Nelson went deep into the game trying to find that rhythm, but instead watched his squad get torched by Darius Washington, who likely won’t make the Spurs’ roster.
Matt Barnes said they do have that rhythm in practice, but for some reason, it’s not showing up in the games. They certainly should be in stride now, ready to hit the ground running. Uh, they’re not.
“We need to sit down and look at some film and see what we need to work on,” Stephen Jackson said. “We definitely need to get better on defense for sure … and just focus on the other things we need to work on and move forward as we get closer to the season.”
Are you worried?
Archive for October, 2007
I’m in San Antonio, and I just saw something that looked to be desperation, but I’m not sure.
Barring injury, Baron Davis and Andris Biedrins will be on the floor at 7:40 p.m. on Oct. 30 to face the Utah Jazz in the Warriors’ season opener.
Everything else is anyone’s guess.
Actually, it’s only one guy’s guess that matters, as Don Nelson made clear once again Monday night. Prior to the Warriors’ game against Zalgiris Kaunas, Nelson told reporters that he’s going to experiment with Al Harrington as a sixth man and that Monta Ellis will go back to being a combo guard, instead of becoming a pure point guard due to a lack of practice at the latter spot. (As of Monday, Ellis is now expected to miss at least another week before he begins drill work, let alone full practices, which means he’ll get one or two more exhibition games, at most.)
There’s going to be much more on this in tomorrow’s paper (we can’t give EVERYTHING away), but here’s the story in a nutshell…
Ellis hasn’t made enough progress towards being a full-time backup for Baron, in Nelson’s opinion, so he’ll split time at both guard spots again. And because Nelson wants to pair Ellis with Davis (BD will be picking up the opposing shooting guard, avoiding a mismatch for Ellis), that means Ellis may start alongside him. That would make an odd man out of Kelenna Azubuike, who has worked tirelessly in pursuit of Jason Richardson’s old spot.
As for Harrington, Nelson said he first pondered the notion of Al-as-sixth-man during the Dallas series, when Harrington went from being the starting power forward to completely out of the rotation in the space of three games.
“I think this is something that, when he was out there smoking his cigars, he was thinking about it in Hawaii,” Harrington joked.
Harrington has experience at the role; he finished second behind Antawn Jamison in the NBA’s Sixth Man Award voting in 2003-04, when he averaged 13.3 points and 6.4 rebounds per game for the Indiana Pacers.
Nelson said he’ll consider Matt Barnes, Mickael Pietrus and Austin Croshere as his starting power forward, but let’s be honest. If the coach is willing to bench the two guys whom he considered far and away his best training-camp performers, then almost nobody can be sure of their role on this team. Unless you’re BD or Andris.
– Geoff Lepper
The Warriors made their first cut-down of the season on Saturday, waiving rookie small forward Carlos Powell. Powell, a training-camp invitee whose contract was not guaranteed for 2007-08, was one of only two healthy players who appeared in neither exhibition game in Hawaii (rookie center Kosta Perovic was the other).
Powell, who played in the most games in school history (132) during four years at South Carolina, caught the Warriors’ eye during two seasons in Portugal and New Zealand, and impressed as a member of their summer-league team. But despite his fearsome dunking ability, Powell wasn’t able to overcome the glut of talent the Warriors have at the 3 (Stephen Jackson, Matt Barnes, Mickael Pietrus, plus Al Harrington if they go big or Kelenna Azubuike if they go small).
“We’re just loaded at that spot,” Warriors coach Don Nelson said.
Said Harrington: “I think he had a great camp. I wish he could have got on the court. Hopefully, somebody will have seen something to where he can get another job. I think he’s talented enough that he will play in this league.”
– Geoff Lepper
Thursday’s exhibition game ended too late to get any details into Friday’s paper, so here’s an update from the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu:
** Despite playing the entire first quarter without a true point guard (Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes splitting ball-handling duties in the half-court), the Warriors still did well enough to score 30 points. The Jackson-as-point guard experiment was not spectacular, notwithstanding his on-the-money alley oop to leading scorer Kelenna Azubuike (22 points) in transition. The Warriors were able to succeed in that period because they hit 13 of 22 shots, and that’s something that’s really stood out in these two games — everyone on this roster has the ability to hit open jump shots. Yes, the Warriors will rely on the fast break to help fuel their offense, but their half-court game is infinitely more varied this season because of that all-around shooting ability. And that’s a very good thing.
** Center Patrick O’Bryant continued to play outstanding ball, this time in the place of injured starter Andris Biedrins. What was most impressive was that O’Bryant showed off a completely different facet of his game than he did Tuesday. This time, O’Bryant featured his offensive game (10 points on 5-for-6 shooting), most notably his ability to post up defenders and then find cutting teammates for easy layups (leading to four assists). If he can do that with regularity in the regular season, he will make a fairly compelling case for a place in the rotation.
** Barnes was joking before the game about being “in midseason form” with all his assorted bumps and bruises, and he added another one with 8:20 remaining in the third quarter, when he knocked knees with ex-Warrior guard Derek Fisher. Barnes got to his feet rubbing his left knee and lower thigh, then hobbled off to the bench and did not return.
** Mickael Pietrus, who like Barnes was looking to avenge a poor performance on Tuesday, did so for 2 1/2 quarters (17 points, four rebounds), but then had to leave after twisting his back at the 5:59 mark while defending a Bryant 3-pointer. It was officially diagnosed as a strained back, and he also did not return.
** Pietrus was replaced by rookie Stephane Lasme, but that only lasted a couple of minutes before Lasme joined the injury parade with a sprained left ankle.
** Rookie Brandan Wright started at power forward and performed adequately. He wasn’t terrific — things started poorly when Ronny Turiaf spun him like a top for an easy three-point play 57 seconds into the game — but he wasn’t terrible, either. Nelson said pregame that both Wright and Kosta Perovic will probably bounce between the D-League and the Warriors. Given how Perovic has looked in scrimmages, you’d have to give the edge to Wright in terms of who’s more likely to stay in Oakland.
** Wright was the target of some of Don Nelson’s verbal ire, but it was nothing compared to the tongue-lashings administered to Marco Belinelli, who is still struggling in assimilating the playbook but managed to score 18 points on 7-for-16 shooting. He also finally got on the floor for the first time with his idol, Kobe Bryant. Belinelli wound up picking up Bryant a couple times, and even forced a turnover on one of Bryant’s more reckless drives.
** Speaking of Bryant, Lakers coach Phil Jackson had to admit pregame that his star has been “distracted, obviously,” by owner Jerry Buss’ admission that he’s willing to listen to trade offers for his lone remaining superstar. Bryant had another bizarre performance in which he constantly broke down the Warriors’ defense only to dish off to teammates who often couldn’t convert. It wasn’t necessarily Bryant’s way of telling Buss, “Go fetch me some better teammates,” but sitting courtside, it sure seemed like it.
** The way Barnes kept attacking Lakers rookie Coby Karl, you would have thought Coby’s dad, Nuggets coach George, had cut Barnes loose at some point in his NBA travels.
** Lakers camp is not a bad gig for the referees, either. Jim Clark, Gary Zielinski and Tommy Nunez Jr. worked both games here and enjoyed a mostly free day off in Honolulu on Wednesday on David Stern’s tab.
– Geoff Lepper
UPDATE: Ah, the dangers of reporting from shootaround. After being told that Baron felt a little sore after Tuesday’s game and was not a big fan of the floor at the Stan Sheriff Center, Nelson decided to give him Thursday night’s game off.
In his place, the Warriors will give Stephen Jackson what he said is his first career start at the point.
“Gotta have those track shoes on,” Jackson announced to the locker room when told of the change.
“I’m not going to play (Davis) in every preseason game . . . I want to see Jack at the point anyway,” Nelson said. “I’m so strong at the (shooting guard) and (small forward) positions, that’s another option I have if Baron goes out. It’s an experiment.”
Matt Barnes will start at small forward.
Honolulu update from shootaround Thursday afternoon: Rookie Brandan Wright is slated to make his professional debut tonight. Don Nelson said he was going to start Wright in place of Al Harrington at the power forward position so he could see how Wright fared with the first team.
“It’s been a lot buildup,” Wright said. “I’m happy to get going on the court. It’s just like being a baby again: You’ve got to crawl before you can walk.”
Patrick O’Bryant will open at center in place of Andris Biedrins, who’s being held out with a sprained big toe on his left foot. The other three spots remain the same: Baron Davis, Kelenna Azubuike and Stephen Jackson.
Nelson said he also is planning on getting three other rookies who did not appear in Tuesday’s game — forwards Stephane Lasme and Carlos Powell and center Kosta Perovic — in tonight’s contest. Monta Ellis remains out with a sprained neck.
– Geoff Lepper
I know it’s early, but I’m going to stake my claim now. I’ve been touting this dude since the first time I saw him play. He will be a complete player. Physically, he’s a force. He can also shoot, rebound, defend, drive and create on his own. The only thing I haven’t seen from him yet, which I would expect is coming based on his skill set, is his ability to create for others, which the Warriors don’t need that as much from him with Baron and Jackson on the roster. I think he’s the next Jason Richardson, but more skilled with ball-handling and not as good in the post. He’s a good guy, he works hard and he’s humble.
The 2008 MIP is none other than Kelenna Azubuike.
See, he’s already got the ladies all over him.
More hijacking. The Warriors’ exhibition debut Tuesday night ended too late to get anything in the paper, so here’s some quick thoughts from the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu:
** You remember that scene in “Rocky” where Apollo Creed’s trainer watches Rocky busting the ribs on sides of beef and realizes this guy really means business? That’s what Kelenna Azubuike’s first-quarter performance was like: 14 points, 5-for-6 shooting, 2-for-2 from deep, five rebounds. He finished with a game-high 27 points, flinging himself into the lane several times in the fourth quarter when the Warriors had no other offensive options, and nine boards. Marco Belinelli suddenly has an uphill battle on his hands. “It was a hell of a showing for a first game,” Stephen Jackson said. “A lot of people were saying, ‘What are we going to do about (losing) J-Rich?’ I think Buke answered that.”
** Of course, Azubuike wasn’t the only thing hopping in that first quarter. With all five starters in, the Warriors just ran the Lakers off the floor, 41-20. Not only did Golden State shoot 15-for-23 in the quarter, but it forced Kobe Bryant into four turnovers and no points. Ridiculous. “It was so easy, those first minutes, we thought that our season only ended a couple of days ago, because everybody already knew what to do, where to pass the ball, where to help each other (defensively),” Andris Biedrins said. “It was a really good feeling.”
** Who are you and what have you done with Patrick O’Bryant? The 7-footer wearing uniform No. 26 bore no resemblance to the O’Bryant of last season. This year’s model more than held his own against young Lakers big man Andrew Bynum and starting center Chris Mihm, finishing with 12 rebounds and three blocks. Coach Don Nelson, who challenged O’Bryant to prove himself in preseason games, said: “That’s the best I’ve ever seen him play.”
** Troy Hudson’s definitely seems 100 percent healthy, if the way he was hounding rookie Javaris Crittenton is any indication. And, oh yeah, he looked pretty good on that game-winning 20-footer.
** At 32, Austin Croshere may be the oldest Warrior under contract for this season, but still has some spring in those legs, as witnessed by a brutal third-quarter jam. And give him credit for setting the screen that freed up Hudson to get the inbounds pass on the game’s final play.
** Posting up Jackson was a focus of the game plan, and it worked to perfection. He had eight points on only three shots (4-for-4 from the line) and five assists against one turnover is maximum efficiency.
** By the way, sitting next to the Warriors’ bench (a luxury we writers are no longer afforded at the Oracle Arena) made it clear how much coaching Davis and Jackson are doing from the bench. Davis is especially looking after Belinelli, constantly offering advice.
** Biedrins sat out the second half with a sprained big toe on his left foot. It’s not known if it’ll keep him for playing on Thursday.
** Fox Sports Net reporter Matt Steinmetz was showered with affection from the stands by Warriors die-hards who shouted “Let’s go, Matt!” during one of his on-screen appearances.
– Geoff Lepper
That was scary. I got word about Monta’s injury at about 11 p.m. last night and my heart dropped. I could hardly sleep. It seems it’s always those innocuous plays that lead to the devastating injuries. All I could think was he didn’t get his big contract first.
Monta is really a good kid. He’s come through a lot to get where he is and he has such a bright future ahead – and not just as a basketball player. He could use a couple slices of humble pie, but you can expect that from someone in his shoes.
I am truly glad and relieved it is just a neck sprain and he’ll be able to resume the life for which he was headed.
Greetings from Hawaii … since we’re having some technical difficulties getting this updated story on the Web, I thought I would hijack Marcus’ blog and post it here. It’s obviously great news for Monta and the Warriors:
By Geoff Lepper
LAIE, Hawaii — Warriors guard Monta Ellis walked away from a Hawaii hospital late Friday night, just a few hours after suffering a frightening injury during practice that left him lying motionless on the floor of BYU-Hawaii’s gymnasium for more than half an hour.
Team spokesman Raymond Ridder said Ellis was diagnosed with a neck sprain after banging his head on the hip of teammate Brandan Wright during a five-on-five scrimmage nearly 90 minutes into the team’s eighth practice of training camp.
During his roughly three-hour stay in the hospital, Ellis underwent several tests, including an MRI and CAT scan, all of which proved normal, Ridder said. His status was termed “day-to-day” and he was not ruled out from next week’s exhibition games against the Los Angeles Lakers in Honolulu.
Ellis, the NBA’s reigning Most Improved Player, was injured when he tried to knife between two other players on a high screen-and-roll play beyond the top of the key. The play went awry when Ellis tried to squeeze between Wright, who had been setting a screen for him, and defender Austin Croshere.
After the contact with Wright’s hip, Ellis turned 180 degrees, appeared to look in the direction of Marco Belinelli, who had been covering Ellis on the play, and then slowly crumpled to the ground.
Ellis lay face-down, with his arms and legs extended, for 33 minutes until paramedics arrived at 7:58 p.m., carefully turned him over, strapped him to a backboard and wheeled him out of the Cannon Activities Center on a stretcher. Ellis’ only apparent movement during that time was some twitching in his right leg.
Ellis was taken to Castle Medical Center outside of Kailua, approximately 30 to 45 minutes away from the BYU-Hawaii campus.
Ridder said Ellis moved both arms and one leg while being strapped in for transport to the hospital and described him as conscious and speaking to teammates before being wheeled out, although players were not allowed to speak to the media directly.
The injury did not seem to be that serious initially. But as athletic trainer Tom Abdenour attended to Ellis, alarm over the situation grew. Abdenour could be seen stroking Ellis’ right arm, as though to check if the 21-year-old from Lanier High in Jackson, Miss., could feel his touch.
Concerned teammates stood around in a ragged circle until coaches instructed them to shoot free throws, presumably hoping to restore some normalcy to the situation. Team captain Baron Davis lay alongside Ellis for several minutes to offer comfort.
Ellis, who turns 22 in three weeks, is making $770,610 this season as he reaches the end of a three-year deal he signed following his selection in the second round (40 th overall) of the 2005 NBA draft. The expectation around the league has been that he will receive a significant raise — either from the Warriors or another team — as an unrestricted free agent next summer.
Ellis has a history of being able to bounce back from seemingly serious injuries. Ellis collided with Heat forward James Posey in a game in Miami on Dec. 23 and stayed down, nearly motionless, for several minutes before getting up and gingerly walking off the court. X-rays and an MRI were negative, and he ended up missing only five games.
During summer-league play last year, Ellis had to leave the arena on crutches after his right leg gave way underneath him. But that turned out to be nothing more serious than a sprained knee.
However, Ellis did have to pass on an invitation to serve on the scrimmage squad against Team USA this summer due to a back injury that forced him to stop working out for the better part of a month. Ellis chalked it up to a congenital problem and said that it was “nothing serious, nothing life-threatening, It ain’t gonna jeopardize my career.”
Contact Geoff Lepper at email@example.com
The best training camps are usually the ones marked by competition. The Warriors have a few unknowns that need to be worked out and will make for quite some drama during their stay in Hawaii. So, all you prognosticators out there, who do you think will emerge from training camp victorious? Better yet, who are you pulling for?
Monta vs. Marco
The departure of Jason Richardson leaves a void at the starting shooting guard spot. Monta figures to be the no-brainer, coming off his Most Improved Player Award-winning campaign last season. But Belinelli, a natural shooter, probably makes more sense. Not only do the Warriors need a good outside shooter to start, but Belinelli’s inexperience can be better masked in the starting lineup as opposed to the second unit. Ellis would give the Warriors proven production off the bench.
Mickael vs. Kelenna
These two will be battling for the back-up swingman spot, behind Jackson. This spot usually turns out to get a lot of playing time when the Warriors go small. It will especially be valuable the first seven games of the season, with Jackson suspended.
Pietrus — the most experienced and playing for a contract — has to be considered the frontrunner. But don’t sleep on Kelenna, who has a better all-around game.
Patrick vs. Kosta
Will either one of these players emerge as Andris Biedrins back-up? Can either of them prove to Nellie they are worth throwing out there for some rebounding and defense?