Warriors in Need of a Rout

The last time the Warriors had a game decided by 15 points or more was Jan. 31 against Charlotte (127-96). Before that, Jan. 19 vs. Milwaukee (119-99). That’s not good considering they have played 10 below .500 teams in 2008 (not counting Sacramento, a rivalry game).
Since coach Don Nelson isn’t going to use his reserves to rest his players, then the Warriors need to take advantage of the scrubs on their schedule and register some routs. Because, assuredly, the key players – specifically Baron and Jackson – won’t have much left for March and April.
Tonight’s game against Philly, who is in the hunt for a playoff spot out East, is a great opportunity to get the starters some rest. Philly is athletic and young, but the Warriors are better. If they bring their A game, the Warriors win by 20 easy. Patrick O’Bryant and Marco Belinelli are logging 8-10 fourth-quarter minutes. If they jive around, as usual, Baron will put in another 40-minute night, further wearing the tread on his tires.
More than ever, the Warriors need to start putting these garbage teams away. After Sunday, they have a four-game road trip that features three scrubs: Atlanta, Charlotte and Miami. They need to win those games by a combined 60 points, saving their key players for a big game against Orlando. It may not be enough to just win. The Warriors need to start smashing on these less-than opponents. Jax and Baron especially can use a fourth quarter or two on the bench.


Spurtability or Underachieving?

The Warriors’ best attribute as a team is their ability to, in a moment’s notice, go crazy and run off a bunch of points. They have the kind of offensive firepower that other teams are just flat-out scared of.

Luke Ridnour: “Even when you’re up 10, that’s like being up 2 with these guys because they make so many runs.”

At any moment, Baron can take over the game. At any moment, Jackson or Harrington can get hot. At any moment, Monta can do something jaw-dropping (I get the feeling Brandan Wright will fall into this category pretty soon) It is pretty captivating. It’s even better than having a team with one huge star, like a Kobe or a LeBron. Having so many guys who can make it happen, instead of it riding on one guy, not only makes a big spurt more likely but more dramatic.
The way they started last night’s game, you just knew it was coming. At one point, they were 3-for-15 from behind the arc and were shooting close to 40 percent. It was practically inevitable that some threes would start falling, the offense would start to click. P.J. Carlesimo considered it inevitable. He wasn’t even wowed, but a little disappointed his players were,

PJ: “We got deflated. It took us too long to dig our heels in and we really broke our backs. … It’s what they do. You can’t say it was an accident when you turn the ball over because they’re one of the best in the league at that. You can’t say it was an accident when they score points off those turnovers because they are the best in the league at at that.”

But it seems to also be their worst attribute. The knowledge that they can, all of a sudden, flip that switch and run off 10 straight or so, seems to be working against them. They just don’t seem to be up for some games, specifically the games against lesser opponents.

It’s most evidence on defense, when some lesser-known player is posting a career night, or some team that has struggled scoring all season is shooting better than 50 percent at the half. Tuesday night, largely because of Seattle’s ineptitude, they didn’t get burned. But they have been (see: Minnesota, Chicago), and they almost assuredly will get burned again.

But that leads me to the main question. Is it reasonable to ask the Warriors to play at that level all the time? Are they really underachieving, taking it easy, as it looks?
Because they have a bunch of streaky shooters, niche players and really good players with exploitable weaknesses, maybe they can only operate in spurts – depending on who they’re playing, the match-ups, etc. Maybe the don’t have anyone good enough (Other than Baron. I’m not letting him off the hook. He’s good enough to play at the same level every night, he just doesn’t) to play at a high level consistently and need opportune situations to thrive.

Can Monta do what he’s doing once teams start bring a help defender, and forcing him to his left, as Utah did in the playoffs? Jackson is at his best when his 3-pointer is falling because it opens up his drive. But he’s a streaky 3-point shooter, so can he really be expected to be anything other than streaky? Can Al Harrington be a consistent scorer when the opponent takes away his open 3-point looks, forcing him to drive and create shots on his own?

The reality is, maybe the Warriors have to live on their spurtability. Maybe their success is determined by who’s hot, what the match-up is and the momentum. I was convinced that they are a great team who plays down to the competition and sometimes lacks intensity. Now I’m thinking they might not be great, but really good and great when all things are clicking.
If the latter is true, then this roster needs major changes. You can’t win in the West on banking on spurtability.


Wright set to start

Rookie forward Brandan Wright is set to start tonight, along with Stephen Jackson, who’s back from his sprained ankle. This won’t be Wright’s first career NBA start — that came against New Orleans on Jan. 4 — but after that game, Wright sat out 15 of the next 21 contests at Don Nelson’s behest.

This, on the other hand, has the vibe of being the debut of something big. We’ll see in about 3 hours.

— Geoff


Quick hits from practice Sunday:

** Stephen Jackson expects to play Tuesday. Jackson didn’t practice, but did undergo a fairly rigorous shooting workout with assistant coach Rico Hines, and proclaimed his sprained left ankle to be at 90 percent, which is more than good enough. He will most likely open with the defensive assignment of Seattle rookie Kevin Durant.

** Al Harrington said the team is definitely engaging in scoreboard watching, even with a third of the season remaining. “Yeah, every day,” Harrington said. “You’ve got to when you’re on the outside looking in. We realize that we’re in a position where we’ve got to win now.”

** Andris Biedrins did not practice and wasn’t around when the media was allowed in, but he did make it in for the team photo session. The team has still not released an official timetable on Biedrins’ return, so it’s not clear if he’ll follow the typical rehabilitation profile for pro athletes, which is roughly two weeks out of action, or if things are more complicated.

— Geoff


Time for Wright is Now

It’s kind of hard to go against Nellie, though I think he makes a lot of questionable decisions, dare I say some bad decisions. Still, the dude knows what he’s doing, and there have been a lot of times where he’s dead on, so there is reason for reserve when questioning his moves. Though I may not always agree with his reasoning, he usually has a pretty logical reason.
This, though, I can’t get past. I’ve tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, but it just doesn’t make any sense. Nellie: PLAY BRANDAN WRIGHT.
With Andris out, with the Webber experiment yawning along, there is no excuse for Wright not to play. I’m not even on the “play the youngsters” kick, as I’d be perfectly fine with not seeing Belinelli and Kosta on the court this year (though I don’t understand why C.J. isn’t play. He does well almost every time he’s in). But Wright, he’s different. He can be a factor now. And he’s not as much of a liability as the other youngsters.
Wright has the athleticism, the motor and the skills to contribute something the Warriors need right now. Why is his mistakes less tolerable than Stephen Jackson’s telegraphed crossover or Matt Barnes’ failed Magic Johnson imitations or Mickael Pietrus tap dancing on the out-of-bounds line? If you can bring Webber along, you can certainly bring Wright along, because he has way more life in his legs.
I’m not saying run Wright out there for 30 minutes. But he’s good enough to play 15 to 20. I’d settle for 10. And not with four other hardly used reserves, either.
Whne you think about it, the Warriors have talent on the bench. Half of them have had their confidence sapped by Nellie’s whimsical rotation. But for the most part, some of these dudes can play. Azubuike was a starter. He can play. Pietrus and Barnes can play (when they’re under control). Wright can play.
Even Patrick O’Bryant can play. Kinda. He’s slow. He’s soft. But he has offensive skills. In the right situation, such as last night against the bigger Hawks, he can give you something inside. At the very least, he could put Josh Childress in his place with a bony elbow to the chest. You might as well milk POB for what you can. He’s going to leave town in two months having made nearly $5 million off the Warriors.
All they need is the removal of the fear that one mistake will end their stint. Look how comfortable Wright was last night knowing that he was going to play. With his length and athleticism and skill set, he can’t help but make an impact. All he needs his mental under control, and he’s going to give you something — without causing you to lose.
Since the Warriors didn’t pull off a trade, they can still make a move that adds to the team. They can potentially get that spark they need, that boost past Denver and/or Houston.


Mullin Vindicated

Some have criticized the Warriors for not making a move, especially with missing the postseason being such a real proposition.
But based on who was moved and what it took, it seems the Warriors’ brass was right to pass this time around. Apparently, the Grizzlies either wanted to much or didn’t want to move Mike Miller. Ditto for Ron Artest, Chris Wilcox and Charlie Villanueva. Anybody of value was being linked to a bad contract, kind of like when the mom makes the ugly sibling tag along on a date.
For the entire trade season — dating back to July 1, the start of the NBA season — teams just wanted more than what the Warriors had or was willing to part with.
Look what it took for Cleveland to get Ben Wallace.
San Antonio had to give up two expiring contracts for Kurt Thomas. Atlanta had to give up young talent (Shelden Williams was a No. 5 pick) for Bibby. The Mavericks gave up their future for Jason Kidd.
Around the trade deadline is when GMs turn into pawn brokers. Everybody’s trying to hustle. Everybody wants to come up. Kudos to the Warriors for not being so desperate that they fall victim, like the Cavaliers did. Aparrently, it would’ve taken Monta Ellis and an act of congress to get anybody worthwhile.


Standing Pat a Good Move

Let MP walk at the end of the year.
Bite your tongue and pass on Mike Miller.
Pass on Charlie Villanueva.
Walk away from the Jermain O’Neal sweepstakes.
Reaching the other end of the trade deadline without making a move won’t be a bad deal at all. In fact, it may be the best deal available. Any person of value will have a catch, usually some worthless player with a bloated contra chained to their ankle. It’s not worth it to take on a bad contract. It’s not worth it to burn the trade exception now unless it is on a no-brainer.
Two reasons: a) it won’t help the Warriors over the Lakers/Dallas/Phoenix/Spurs hump; b) there will be plenty options in the offseason.

Seriously, who out there is going to help the Warriors win the Pacific, ensuring them a top-four seed? Who out there that is available can hit the ground running over the next 28 games and propel the Warriors into the playoffs, then be good enough to make Nellie’s eight-man playoff rotation? The choices are slim.
This offseason, there will be plenty more options. The same players will be available, plus the restricted free agent market, plus the free agents to be. The Warriors won’t be stuck trying to make moves with greedy GMs looking to capitalize on deadline pressure. Mullin & Co. will have the leverage in the form of options.

With an owner that has regard for the luxury tax, Mullin has to be careful about every move. It would be much smarter to make moves for a championship than to get a round further into the playoffs.
The pattern is clear. In today’s NBA, you have to have three great players to win a title. The Warriors have one great player and two really good ones (Ellis and Jackson). By next year, Ellis will be closer to great. All the Warriors will need is one more great player. They have a better chance of getting that during the offseason then now.