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Inside Practice (Jan. 20)

Wasn’t much out of Tuesday’s practice. Watson and Belinelli didn’t practice, but worked out. Brandan Wright was no where to be found. There was one interesting play when Monta took a hard body check from Anthony Randolph. Monta didn’t just pop back up, but he did get up.
Much of the talk was about the inauguration.

Nellie
“What a great time for our country. Real exciting. How about that speech? I wrote that for him.”

Jackson
“I didn’t watch it. I know he’s president. I don’t need to watch TV to know he’s president. I’m happy for him. Today is a beautiful today. They’re going to be playing it all day, so I’ll probably get a chance to watch it this evening. I’m going to an inauguration party, so I can watch it there. But I didn’t wake up to watch it.”

Maggette
“I caught some little clips here and there. It’s a great day, especially for minorities in general. Having Obama becoming president and being inaugurated today, it’s a big step, man. It’s a big step in history. No one ever expected this type of thing to happen. But this shows how much our country has grown. I think that’s what we’re trying to do, become as one – unity, togetherness, spreading opportunity.”

“Obama has a lot on his plate, man. The only thing you can do for him is pray for him and hopefully he can do the job most people want him to do.”


Ellis

“I watched a little bit of it. I didn’t know it came on that early. I heard Obama speech. That’s about it. It felt good. Actually, to me, he was saying pretty much the same thing that Martin Luther King was saying. And he sounded just like him when he was speaking. I just look at the picture of how many people were there, it was just like when Dr. King was speaking. It was a great feelling. It was like history repeating itself.”

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Crawford: All-Star Anomaly

Check this out. I was investigating the All-Star returns, looking to see if Warriors fans had Andris at least somewhat close to the top. I hadn’t looked the entire time, figuring no Warrior had a shot. But tonight I looked.
Sure enough, Andris was not even close. According to the fourth returns, put out Jan. 8, Biedrins had 170,732 votes. He was behin Yao Ming, Shaq, Andrew Bynum, Mehmet Okur and Greg Oden.
But guess whose name I did see? Jamal Crawford. He was sixth among West guards!

Immediately, I thought “He must’ve got a lot of New York votes. Wrong.

The first returns came out Dec. 11. Crawford was traded by New York to the Warriors on Nov. 21. He didn’t make the top 11 for either conference. Houston point guard Rafer Alston was 11th with 73, 614 votes. Gilbert Arenas was 11th in the East with 64,450.

I checked the second returns, which came out on Dec. 25. Still no Crawford in the East or West. Denver’s Chauncey Billups was 11th with 170,645.

On to the third returns, unveiled on Jan. 1. Still no Crawford. We know he had fewer than 205,554 votes, which is how much Billups had at he bottom of the top 11.

Then, suddenly, on Jan. 8, when the fourth returns are released, Crawford has 462, 039 votes? That’s more than 255,000 votes he’d accumulated in that one week! What happened? Did he hold a ballot punching party somewhere, or are Warriors fans falling in love?

Crawford won’t get voted in, and he probably won’t be added by the coaches. Still, these All-Star stats have some interesting tid bits in them:

* He has more votes than Steve Nash (even though the All-Star Game is in Phoenix), Jason Kidd, Rafer Alston (who has the China vote by virtue of playing with Yao), Brandon Roy, Chauncey Billups, Deron Williams and, yes, Baron Davis.

* He is sixth among guards, but the ballot doesn’t break it up into point guards and shooting guards. If you go by position, he’s third among point guards – behind Chris Paul and Tony Parker – and fourth among shooting guards – behind Kobe Bryant, Tracy McGrady (who also has the China vote) and Manu Ginobili.

* Of the five people ahead of him, only Kobe and CP3 have played at least as many games as Chris Paul. McGrady has hardly played and Giniobili and Parker missed chunks at the beginning of the season

* The only East guards with more votes after the fourth returns were Dwyane Wade, Allen Iverson, Vince Carter, Ray Allen and (barely) Devin Harris.

*This has nothing to do with Crawford, but how does Joe Johnson have just 236,883 votes – fewer than Luke Ridnour!

* Baron had 499,186 total votes last year total. Remember, Crawford had 462,039 when they announced on Jan. 8. The voting ended today. So Crawford was 37,000-plus votes behind with 11 days to go. But Crawford has been here for seven weeks. Baron had been here for three years and had led the team to the playoffs the year before for the first time in 13 years.

* Swingman Stephen Jackson, the team’s leader, is nowhere to be found. He was on the ballot as a guard. The fourth returns had Roy as No. 11 at 267,053. So Crawford had some 200,000 more than Jackson!

Why is Crawford getting so much love from Warriors’ fans? Was it the 40 in the home opener? Was it the 50-point game? Was it the game-winner against Indiana? Is it the good-guy personality?

Someone explain this to me.

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Who Gets the Rock in the Fourth?

(Note: We’ve had some technical issues with our blog. Somehow, the last post, and all the comments, disappeared. The Raiders blog is having even more problems. I am recreating the post for those who didn’t see it. For those who did, there will be some differences as I didn’t have it saved anywhere).

After watching the Hawks game, and how Crawford closed it out efficiently, I was thinking the Warriors will have a dilemma on their hands. Who are they going to designate the go-to guy.
Before I break down the options, I must say that I go into this with the belief that the closer-by-committee thing doesn’t work in basketball. In the NBA, you need to have the one guy who is THAT GUY. No matter who is rolling. No matter how bad he’s been playing. He gets the rock. Obviously, it won’t be 100 percent of the time. But for the most part, I believe, you need a guy who you go-to down the stretch, who has the skills to make something happen for himself and others, and even after the plans go awry. You win and lose with him. Doesn’t mean he has to take the shot, but he needs to be involved, the center of what happens down the stretch. Hopefully, this guy is good enough to get it done. Because if you don’t have that guy in this league, you’re not a very good team. Or if you have the wrong kind of guy in that position, you’re not a very good team.
The Warriors had that guy in Baron, now they need to deem someone his successor. So, who would you give that job, too. The options:

STEPHEN JACKSON
Pros: His midrange is money and he’s a good 3-point shooter when he gets a good look. He can post-up, which gives you another option. He is a pretty good passer for his position, so you can have faith he can set up a score for someone else. He also has experience hitting clutch shots, the often others created them for him. He’s also a good free throw shooter.
Cons:
He isn’t a good ball-handler and he’s prone to make poor decisions, so he’s a high-risk for a turnover.

MONTA ELLIS
Pros: Because of his superior athleticism and midrange jumper, he is sometimes impossible to guard. He’s excellent at finishing his drives and he’s a solid free throw shooter. He has a scoring knack, so he can find multiple ways to put the ball in the hole – jumper, drive, offensive rebound, finishing, pull-up, free throws, fast break. Also, Monta has a killer instinct. He plays aggressive, determined and hungry.
Cons: He’s handles, though improved, still limit his ability to improvise. His court vision is limited and his passing, though improved, makes you wonder if he can consistently make plays for others. He didn’t shoot the 3-pointer well, which means you’re in trouble if you need one. Of course, all this is based on last season and it doesn’t take into consideration any improvements he may have made. With his history, it’s highly likely he’s gotten better.

JAMAL CRAWFORD

Pros: Because of his excellent ball-handling ability, he can create easily for himself and others off the dribble. Can get to anywhere on the floor. Can knock down any shot on the floor. Can knock down different types of shots, especially difficult ones. His midrange is water and he has 3-point range. Really good free throw shooter. Underrated passer.
Cons: Settles for tough shots too much and takes too many unnecessary 3-pointers. Was once an explosive athlete but doesn’t finish above the rim much anymore. Isn’t as good finishing with contact as you’d like.

COREY MAGGETTE
Pros: Excellent at getting to the basket and the free throw line, which is the kind of high-percentage opportunity you want down the stretch. Good free throw shooter. He has a nice midrange jumper and the size to post up. Handles are good enough to get to where he needs to go. Can stick a 3-pointer when he gets a good look.
Cons: Doesn’t pass well, nor does he see the floor well. Prone to offensive fouls because of his head-down drives. Decision making can be suspect (i.e., takes a jumper over a smaller defender, rushes the shot when running clock is best, etc.)

So, who gets your vote.

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Inside Practice (Jan. 15)

* Jackson is expected to play tomorrow. He was in his practice uniform and on the court.

* Maggette had his hand taped. Apparently, he sustained some kind of injury Wednesday. Maybe that’s why he missed 8 of 12 free throws.

* Monta practiced again at full speed, though many of the big-minutes players practiced lighter. Ellis got through his second consecutive practice without incident. Still no word on when he returns.

Nellie: “It’s doctors and trainers. Not his call. Not mine.”

Nelson continued to express nothing but positivity about Monta’s recovery.

Nellie: “I was worried that he wouldn’t get back to where he was. He had two tendons severed so it was a major operation. But I’m not worried about that anymore. I think he’s going to get back and I see the same quickness and explosiveness. But he’s not there yet.”

*One interesting topic came up: Andris Biedrins seems to practice every blue moon. Andris is fourth on the team in minutes per game (32.1), but his minutes are the hard-earned kind, as he’s down there banging and running. Plus, remember, Biedrins played this summer for his national team.
Still, there is a fine line between resting and killing energy. Nellie said he thinks he crossed it when he gave Biedrins the day off Tuesday.

Nellie: “I’ve given him a couple of days, but maybe I shouldn’t have given him that second day (off) because I thought his start was pretty poor last night. He missed two or three baskets right at the rim. I probably should’ve given him one day and worked him a little bit the next. I thought he’d been playing a little tired so I decided to give him two days off. He picked it up in the second half. He’s fine.”

* A lot of talk after the triple-overtime L the Warriors took Wednesday was about whether to foul or not foul. The Warriors had a foul to give, but didn’t take it and Kevin Martin drove to the basket for a game-tying dunk.

Nellie: “It would’ve been a good time to use the foul. No question about that.”

Then Kevin Martin was left long enough to nail a 3-pointer to steal victory.

Nellie: “He should’ve been chased off the line. That was a mistake that we made. There were 11 seconds. You don’t foul at 11, you foul at 5. When it hit five, he was at the three. You don’t want to foul. If you foul there he’s going to go up and get two free throws. That was a tough play for a rookie (Anthony Morrow). He gave up three 3s that hurt us (the other two by Francisco Garcia from the corner), but those are rookie mistakes. I’m going to have to live with those. It’s not that he did anything wrong, but he should’ve moved — he could play on the other side of him. Give him the two, it doesn’t matter. You don’t give the three. And he did. He’s trying to do the right thing, nobody’s blaming him. But that’s a rookie mistake.”

* Funny moment that may have went overlooked Wednesday night. When C.J. Watson fouled out, Nelson walked down the bench looking for someone to replace him with. Crawford was already on the court. Belinelli is hurt. Morrow was already on the court. There was one guard left on the bench.
Rob Kurz.
That’s who Nellie put in after he whisked right past Marcus Williams. The question begs: if he can’t get in the game for an injury depleted team, with three players fouled out in a triple-overtime game, then when can M-Will get in???

Nellie: “When Monta comes back, it will be harder. He’s kept a good attitude. He’s done the right things. He wants to play. He just has a lot of guys playing ahead of him.”

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Inside Practice (Jan. 13)

*MONTA ELLIS reached the next step in his rehab – full practice. But before I get to the good stuff, here are some other less important items of note (that you won’t care about once you get to Monta but I’m putting them in here anyway!)

*Marco Belinelli was at practice, sitting down in a sweatsuit watching guys scrimmage. I didn’t see the other two injured players, Stephen Jackson and Brandan Wright. Azubuike was in practice uniform, but he just stood on the side from what I could see. He didn’t participate. He officially has a sprained neck and is listed as a game-time decision for Wednesday. Biedrins was given the day off. He worked out in the weight room, but didn’t practice with the team.

*Jackson showed up after practice in street clothes. His t-shirt said “Stack Jack” on the back, bordered by a rectangle of rhinestones.

*There were an unusual amount of dunks, at least compared to what we usually see when we’re allowed to watch practice. Jamareo Davidson got a pretty one-hand follow dunk. Then Corey Maggette surprised Davidson with a one-hand tomahawk on the break, which Maggette followed with a strut and a few words (more on that later). Randolph was leading a 3-on-1 break and kept it himself, stretching for a dunk over Rob Kurz with one-hand. Even C.J. Watson, on a fast break, tried to dunk on Maggette, who went for the block expecting C.J. to lay-it up off the glass. C.J. couldn’t get the dunk down.

* OK, Back to Monta. Tuesday, he did more than run up and down the court. This time, he was full-on playing, though he looked to be at about 75-80%. The only thing left is for him to get in shape and he’s ready to play. I got .50 cent down on a Monday return.

Nellie: “Monta actually did the whole practice today, which probably I wasn’t supposed to do. It kind of ended up that way. … He’s getting closer. … He was playing the small forward. We had a lot of guys out. But his grasp of the plays are decent obviously.”

When I walked in to practice, Monta was in triple threat position against Corey Magette. He faked right, dribbled hard left, stopped on a dime (ok, more like stopped on a half dollar) and pulled up a jumper. It looked pretty dangers as Monta’s feet landed underneath Maggette, who contested the shot aggressively. Monta didn’t seem to alter his shot or his landing at all, which was a sign he’s not thinking about his ankle.

Why was Corey guarding Monta? Because Marcus Williams was, and when Williams was trying to front Corey on defense, Corey just threw him aside. That happened before I arrived, but I’m told it prompted the switch and Corey was told to chill out.
Why was Corey so aggressive ? Jamal Crawford said because Monta was talking trash and he thinks it got Corey going a bit.
Yes, Monta was talking trash the entire time I was there. He also did some encouraging — shouting “Good D, Rob” several times — but mostly he was talking trash. He played SF for the B team: Kurz, Marcus Williams, Davidson and C.J. Watson. They were playing against Maggette, Crawford, Morrow, Randolph and Turiaf.
Crawford said Monta lifted practice. He said the two talks “all the time” off the court. Crawford even traded trash talk with Monta.

Crawford: “Yeah. I’m not backing down. I’m not going to start it, but I’mma finish it. I’m not 50 Cent, but I’m Jay-Z, I’ll finish it. (laughs)”

Other Monta moments:
– He nailed a fade-away jumper and ran halfway down the other end of the court talking trash

– He found himself behind Maggette in the post. Corey’s turnaround jumper missed, and Monta sprinted down court the other way shouting “Let’s Go! Let’s Go!”

- Monta, dribbling out top, split a double team with a quick spin move, though his pull-up jumper banged off the front rim. Again, a sign he’s not thinking about the ankle.

- Monta stripped the ball away from Maggette out by the 3-point line, then dove on the floor for the loose ball, beating Maggette to it. Corey fell on top of Monta, then helped him up.

After practice, Monta zipped by the media and PR director Raymond Ridder. He did, however, come back out and talk to us. He was already talking when I got done with Nellie. I came in on …

“Trying to bring my voice to get everybody going and just try to have a great practice.”


These are your games right now. Is this where you need to get your competitive juices going?

“That’s what I’m saying. That’s I said it starts with practice. Then practice carry over into games. So we’ve got to do whatever we can. Like I said, we can still make the playoffs if we make this run, get a couple wins under our belt and see how it goes.”

Did you know you were going to go today? What’s the process right now?

“We’re just going day by day, see how it feels the next day. Continue to do what we’ve been doing. Like I said, I’m just glad to be back on the court.”

Have you noticed anything?

“No pain. No swelling. Nothing. Everything feels good. It’s just I’ve been trying to get back safely.”

What speed would you say you’re at right now?

“I’m not going to put a speed on it. Just going to take it day by day?”

How’s your conditioning? Were you winded out there?
“C’mon, man. It’s been nine months. Anybody try to come back after nine months and play this game, they ain’t gone have it. Like I said, I’mma work hard every day, try and get that back. See how it goes.”

Is your ankle 100 percent strength wise?
“Yeah. Strength wise? Yeah. Right now it ain’t even ankle. It’s the condition work, getting back in the flow of things. It’s been nine months since I played basketball. Like I said, I’mma take it day by day, continue to work hard, keep moving forward.”

Is there anything you can’t do?
“I could do whatever I could do before I left.”

(Crawford comes over and stands alongside the media to listen to the interview)

How are you handling it mentally?
“It’s over with. It’s done. I did everything to get it strong. I can’t worry about that because once I worry about that, I’m just going to hurt it again. So just go out and play basketball. Whatever happens, happens.”

How about that Crawford guy?
“Ahh, man. He’s a bum.”
(laughs. Crawford walks away smiling)

“Naw, for real though. I just can’t wait for us to play aside each other and see how it goes.”

Is there a day on the calendar you’re looking at?
“Like I said, I’m taking it day by day.”

Are you starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel?
“The light’s been on. Like I said, I’m just glad to be back out there to even play five-on-five, to be at practice the whole time and get through it no pain. Like I said, I’m just going to have to take it day by day. I don’t know when I’m coming back. I’m not going to say what percentage I am. I’m just going to continue to work hard, continue doing the things I’ve been doing to get to this point and get on over with it.”

I want to give you a chance to respond to something that’s out there about you …

“Listen. Listen.”

Go ahead
“Whatever it is about me leaving, wanting to go, I don’t want to play for Nellie – that never came from my mouth. I don’t know where they got that from. But I’m here for the next six years. I’m a Warrior. I’m always going to be a Warrior. Whoever put that out there, they did it because they wanted a story. I’m making it known right now. I’m a Warrior. I love playing for Nellie. I never said that not one time. So you don’t have to worry about that.”

Are you glad I’ve given you a chance to clear that up? (laughs)
“I was going to do that anyway before this interview was over with. It shocked me when I read it. But I never said that. I’m here for the next six years. The only thing I’m worried about is getting back on the basketball court. Everything else is irrelevant.”

Is it true that you were talking about coming back already, that you wanted to be playing games by now?
“I don’t know where you get that from either. Like I said, I’ve just been working hard. It probably ran across my mind that yeah I think this and think that. But once you get on the court and see that it wasn’t ready, you just had to step back. But I’m here now and that’s all I’m worried about. Everything else is behind me.”

Is that the most fun you’ve had in a while?
“Oh yeah. I haven’t been doing nothing. I’ve been limited. I’ve been doing nothing. It’s to be back and going back and forth with the guys, making everybody play hard, everybody laughing, everybody having a great practice.”

Are you planning to surprise everybody with your return, just pop up one day in the lineup?
“I don’t know. I can’t say. I want to play, bad. At the same time, with this, I have to take my time and make smart decisions. So when that time comes, I’ll let everybody know when Monta Ellis is back in the starting lineup.”

So, you’re ruling yourself out for tomorrow night?

“Ok. Yeah. (laughs) One game at a time? Yeah. I’m out for tomorrow. I’m not playing. (laughs)”

So you’re not willing to come off the bench?

“Oh, naw. (laughs)”

So you’re not coming back until you’re ready to start?
“Yeah.”

So you’re at the point where you’re one game at a time?
“It’s been like that since I had the screws out. Like I said, it’s a process. You’ve got to take it day by day.”

Are there any last final check-ups you need to go through?
“I can’t go out and play tomorrow. My ankle won’t let me do that. I’m not fixing to go out there and hurt my team just going out there not in shape with just my presence. I’m not going to do that. I’m going to take my time and get everything back 100 percent.”

Looking back at rehab, was it harder than you thought? Easier? More frustrating?
“Nothing easy about it. It was frustrating. But he (Mark Grabow, the Warriors’ director of athletic development) kept me on the right path and told me what, let me look at the good things, I mean the positive things. (He told me,) ‘Just take your time. You’re going to come back. It’s a long season, you’ve got a long career ahead of you. Just take your time and when you’re ready, you’re ready.’”

You were really vocal. What was that about, you being more of a leader?
“More like bringing the joy back to basketball, to Warriors basketball. When I’m on the bench or watching the game, it seems like some players get down on themselves too easy. (I’m) just talking and just lifting them up, keeping them going the whole game. Don’t let down, you’re going to make mistakes. Just move on and continue to play basketball.”

You pick up any hobbies? Collecting stamps or something?

“Nope.”

You’ve been bored to death?
“Yep.”

How many tats have you added since you last were on the court?
“Two.”

Two times how many?
“Naw, just two. I don’t know what y’all talking ’bout.”