6

Artest vs. Jax

The Brawl Buddies faced off Wednesday and Sacramento, and it was brutal. The way they were going at it, you would never have known it was Artest who Jackson ran into the crowd to defend when he threw those infamous haymakers.

They never got testy with one another, but they were banging and hacking away. Jackson took several Artest shoulders to the chest, and Artest absorbed some hard swipes from Jack. The crazy part was that three-point play, the one that preceded Jax’s technical foul, was a touch foul.

I was honestly surprised at how physical they were, but even more surprised that Jax held his ground. Artest is a bruising dude, man. He punishes people down low. The Warriors left him one-on-one, too. No help or nothing. Jax is a great defender against soft players, or when he has the quickness advantage against a bigger four. But he had neither the size, strength and quickness — but held his own.

6

MP switches to Reebok

The player once known as the French Jordan is now a Reebok endorser. Pietrus used to endorse the Jordan Brand, which was a dream come true for him, being a Jordan fanatic. When he came into the league, Pietrus wore two necklaces. One had a cross medallion. The other had a Jordan logo medallion. He kissed them both often.

So you know I was surprised when I saw him sifting through a box of Reebok gear. Apparently, Jordan didn’t re-up his deal.

“They didn’t want me no more,” MP said with a smile, so I couldn’t tell if he was joking or not.

Nonetheless, he has a two-year deal with Reebok, joining Baron Davis as the team’s lone representatives. (If you care about that type of stuff, you probably noticed B.D. wearing Iverson’s shoe.)

“I’m about to bring Reebok back,” MP promised, in his usual boasting fashion. “You watch.”

5

Blog Question

“What do you make of the Peter Vescey’s comments in the New York Post about Dolan looking at Mullin for the Knick’s GM job? Is it all BS? Will Cohan let Mullin out of his contract?” – john

It was Marc Berman, not Peter Vecsey. But I understand why you assumed it was Vecsey. This is coming from the Post, which is known for their spitball-on-the-ceiling methods.

From what I know of Mullin, he wouldn’t touch that job with Keith Smart’s hands. Mullin is a low-key family man. He is a New York native, but he likes things much more simple.

Whoever gets that job must be egotistical, teflon-skinned and willing to sacrifice his personal life. That doesn’t fit Mullin. Not even the huge pay raise, I don’t think, could lure him into that.

As far as Dolan looking at Mullin as a GM, it’s possible. I wouldn’t put it past the Knicks to send someone to gage Mullin’s interest. But from what I was told, some of the speculation was fueled by Mullin’s presence at the Garden on Tuesday. Of course, the Warriors were playing the Knicks.

Even if it is true, that the Knicks want Mullin, that just doesn’t strike me as the job for him.

4

Ws Seizing Opportunity

It may look as if the Warriors have fluked into some good fortune. They beat a struggling Toronto team with a hobbled Chris Bosh.

They caught the Knicks in the eye of a drama storm. They outlasted a Washington squad that’s without Gilbert Arenas.

On the surface, there is reason to doubt the Warriors.

But it’s probably more apt to say the Warriors are resilient. It’s more apt to say that this team can take advantage of a situation as well as they can give away opportunities (as they showed in the 0-6 start). If you’re looking for a glimmer of hope in this season, you can find it in the Warriors’ ability to seize opportunity — which is exactly what they did last year. People have doubted what they did, including myself, crediting the tank job committed by the Clippers, the injuries to the Hornets, the fortuitous first-round match-up with Dallas, etc.

The key was taking advantage of those situations, seeing their crease in the line and hitting it like Adrian Peterson. I fully expected this trip to be bad one, as most Warriors road trips go. But it says something that they’ve pulled out three wins, with a key member of the rotation missing in each game. It says this team won’t be fading away. There won’t be draft talk come February. This is a scrappy bunch that will be in the mix.

2

Yes, Jax is That Important

I just watched the Knicks game, finally. There was an obvious difference in the Warriors that can only be explained by the arrival of Stephen Jackson.

They were trying extra hard on defense.

Even Baron, who had been relaxing on defense since he was needed so much on offense, was back to the scrappy guard he was in the playoffs. Monta returned to hustling around the perimeter. And you can tell Pietrus is feeling a bit insecure with Jackson back, because he was playing defense like he did his first couple of seasons, almost as if he can see himself tumbling down the rotation.

To be sure, they played against two struggling teams. But their defensive numbers are amazing considering the first six games, the opponents’ offense flowed like Nas over a Timbaland beat. Since Jax return, the Warriors are allowing just 91 points on 41.5 percent shooting, including 8-for-22 from 3-point range, with 20.0 turnovers forced, 11 steals and 5 blocks.

What Jackson does is take away the best perimeter offensive player, pretty much anyone but the center. That allows the rest of teh team to match up against lesser offensive talents. Before, without Jax, the opponents’ best offensive threat was able to break down the defense. Now, with Jax making life tough for the opponents’ star, the Warriors defense isn’t broken down so easily. Now they can rotate better and help more that they aren’t required to stop a star. It’s like having a shutdown corner in football.

The Warriors strength as a team isn’t man-to-man defense, but a pesky and active team defense that takes advantage of the Warriors quickness. But, as Mike Montgomery used to say, at some point, you have to stop somebody. Jackson can do that.

0

Random thoughts from NY before playing Team Turmoil:

** How big is New Jersey native Al Harrington in this town? Put it this way: Earlier this month, rapper Fat Joe (a fellow NY product) gave Harrington a 1968 Chevy Impala, done up in Warriors’ orange and blue, as a gift.

“Best perk I ever got in the league,” Harrington said

** Odd post-practice sight from Monday: Baron Davis, left knee wrapped in ice, being pushed around the practice court in a laundry cart. No word if he got a handicapped parking pass as well.

** It didn’t get in the game story, but the Warriors had two touch passes for easy layups in the second quarter Sunday against the Raptors. Those may have been the first touch passes of the season. It’s not a coincidence that that happened with Stephen Jackson on the scene.

** If the Warriors and Knicks pull a repeat of the Knicks-Nuggets brawl from last year, DJ Mbenga definitely will come in handy. Patrick O’Bryant has gotten stronger from his rookie year, but Mbenga looks like he could bench-press his counterpart. If this were hockey, he’d make a great enforcer.

** Don’t expect rookie forward Brandan Wright to be scared about appearing in storied Madison Square Garden. He’s already played three games there, and even practiced on the court last Thanksgiving as North Carolina participated in the Preseason NIT.

“It was a long day that day, because we lost the night before,” said Wright, who had scored 21 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in that 82-74 defeat to Gonzaga.

** I’m afraid I have to apologize for jinxing Andris Biedrins at the foul line. I asked him some free-throw questions before the Raptors game, laying the groundwork for a future story, and then he goes 3-for-6 and drops from second to fifth on the team in terms of free-throw percentage.

– Geoff Lepper

8

Stay on the Shooters!!! – Practice Edition

Heard a funny story from Warriors practice in New York. Some of the Warriors were engaged in three-on-three. The teams: Team PO’BE, rhymes with Kobe, (Pietrus, O’Bryant and Ellis) vs. Team BMW (Belinelli, Mbenga and Wright).

Team BMW took the first couple of games (to seven), prompting mountain to proclaim “We ain’t losing again! We ain’t losing again!”

Team PO’BE were up 5-2, when Team BMW began to make a run. For some inexplicable reason, Belinelli found himself all alone for a long ball. Of course he nailed it, and Monta went off. He was screaming something at Pietrus like – and I’m paraphrasing – “Why would you leave the shooter open!”

Monta’s rant of frustration resulted in Pietrus sulking on the side. Monta’s reaction (again, I’m paraphrasing): “Let’s go, Pat. It’s just me and you.” Team PO’BE became Team O’BE.

Sure, Pietrus was standing out by the 3-point line all alone, clapping for the ball. But Monta was fed up. He ignored Pietrus and took it to the rack 1-on-2.

As you could imagine, Team BMW eventually one. The best part is that we can take solace in known that Monta, like us, is frustrated when the shooter is left all alone. Welcome to our world, Monta.