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Team Chemistry Paying Off; Vlad Doesn’t Give a Bleep; JLin Gives DWright the Business

I’m not big on the whole team chemistry thing. To me, it’s more than a tad overrated.

Sometimes, it does matter. It did for the We Believe squad, because it had to overcome some stuff and the players needed to believe in each other and play for each other. But usually, winning teams have good chemistry because they’re losing winning, and losing teams have bad chemistry because their winning losing.

The Warriors have good team chemistry. But they didn’t start 6-2 because they had good chemistry (more like a good schedule) and they didn’t lose 10 of the next 12 because that chemistry went bad. It sounds heart-warming, but it’s overrated.

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However. Today, watching them practice, and especially after practice, I have to admit their team chemistry could be playing a larger part than I’d like to admit. I could see how chemistry matters to this team. They have lost three straight, and eight of nine. They are about to play the hottest team in the league, followed by the team with the best record in the West (both on the road), followed by arguably the most top-heavy team in the league talent-wise. But you would never know it from practice.

They were spirited. They were involved. They seemed to be having fun and enjoying each other. How does that impact their play? While I’m not a huge team chemistry believer, I think that is much more compelling than what I expected – bad body language, guys sitting out practice with lightweight ailments, going through the motions, etc.

The only guy who didn’t practice was Rodney Carney, who is out tonight’s game with what they’re calling a sprained right foot. And he was in tune to practice, chiming in from the stationary bike he was riding.

KEITH SMART: “What I have to do, what we have done , is keep them in a work state. Sometimes, you may go through a stretch (like) we’re in and everyone comes in with their woe-is-me (body language). Last game is over for me and the next day is about planning to get us ready to have a practice and work. Our communication to them: win or lose, the next day is a practice. It’s a work day. I’m trying to develop that identity that we are going to be a working team win or lose. We’re never going to get satisfied with winning five in a row. We’re never going to get too far down when we lose five in a row.”

The ring leader was Monta. He was engaged. He was vocal. He was interactive. So much so I might even start believing his post-game cliches about staying positive and sticking together. This appears to be one of those rare times where good team chemistry is having an impact, because this can go, and has gone, the other way.

In fact, the team chemistry is so good, guess what happened after practice?

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The team huddled, Monta closed out practice with a “Together!” chant. But then head coach Keith Smart gave Vladimir Radmanovic the floor. Now, I couldn’t hear exactly what he said, because I was sitting in like row K on the otherside of the court. But as they stood around and listened, he was clearly telling them they need to go harder in practice. And he mixed in some F bombs to drive home the point. He said “I don’t give a (expletive) a few times” (seemingly, he meant more along the lines of he doesn’t care about whatever excuses people have for not practicing hard).

Monta said something back. Couldn’t make out what he said, but he said “forget it” after one line and practice was done. (If I had to guess, he said something to the effect of “Who you talking to? It’s easy for you to go hard in practice. You ain’t played in weeks!” At least, that’s what I would’ve said.)

You’d expect tension, a cloud of uneasiness to hover over the gym — as it did last season when Nellie and Monta had words after practice in D.C. Instead, most of the players — Monta, Dorell Wright, Biedrins, David Lee, to name a few — stood around talking and laughing together.

Smart liked the idea of Vlad speaking out.

SMART: “We’re going to get better in practice, and that’s what he was trying to share. We’re trying to wait for the game … but he was sharing with the guys, ‘Hey, I’m coming out here to work hard. I’m going to cut hard, play hard. And he did. He had a good practice. And he was just commicating that as a veteran, a guy who has some DNPs by his name. A guy that hasn’t played the minutes he’s wanted. As a veteran. You’ve got to take notice of that and look at that and go, ‘Man. This guy’s working hard in here.’ That’s what he’s accustomed to and that’s what we’re trying to instill in all our guys.”

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Lou Amundson was hoping to return for tomorrow’s game vs. Dallas, which is also his 28th birthday. But that’s not going to happen. And judging by Monday’s practice, he’s at least a week away.

Amundson had trouble holding onto the ball. He caught a pass in the paint and tried to turn and drop it in quickly. But the ball went flying from his hands. Another time, he received a pass – that was pretty close range and probably a little hot, and it bounced right off his hands. Each time, he ran the other way fidgeting with his right fingers, which are splinted as his right index finger recovers from surgery.

Amundson was able to go up left handed and convert, and he was able to get up and down the floor, though his conditioning is not on point. I wouldn’t be surprised if he missed another week.

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Funny moment in practice. Jeremy Lin got a break-away while the team was working on its halfcourt set. Dorell Wright gave a half-hearted chase as Smart told Jeremy to get up high and go up strong. Lin threw it down with one hand, eliciting a reaction from Wright.

DWRIGHT: “That was weak as (expletive)!”

I didn’t hear Jeremy’s response, but it had everyone on the practice court laughing and chiding Dorell. I asked Jeremy what he said, he told me, with a smile, to ask Dorell.

Wright did get his revenge. He threw up a playful hook shot from far away. It airballed and bounced off Jeremy’s head. He was pretty happy with himself afterward.

For those interested, Lin also threw down a 180-degree reverse dunk on a break-away later.

Marcus Thompson

  • Michael

    So the guys are enjoying eachother’s company, gee that’s nice, I’m suprised a kumbya singalong didn’t break out.

    Let’s be blunt-There needs to be more ass kicking on this team and I don’t mean “time outs” for committing dumb fouls in the 4th quarter, that’s CYO coaching. And Vlad’s rant would mean something if he was a captain or at least half ways decent. He’s slow, soft and can’t hit an jumper with my grand ma is marking him. (This better not mean more minutes for Rad Vlad).

    Smart needs to get this team ready play hard AT THE BEGINNING OF THE GAME. And hopefully he remembers what it takes to shut down Nowitzki, Nellie sure as hell did.
    ….
    That feels better, it’s good to vent. Thanks MT2 for the insights.

  • deano

    I am glad to know that this team still has spirit. Losing is (should be) hard to take, no matter how much the players are paid. GSW plays hard. They come close. They lose. Over and over. It is a good sign, a sign of strength, that the Warriors are still positive and supportive.

  • Dave

    Fire Smart!

  • The Right Way

    Hmm. Wonder what will happen with team chemistry after the Warriors trade VladBad. Seems like a good guy but this is business.

    And can you post some vids of Jeremy Lin dunks? You make it sound awesome.

  • Optimistic

    Marcus, great job. I wish more journalist write about this kind of stuff and appreciate you taking the time to write. This really gives us fans an idea of how the players get along which I believe gives them a reason to play for each other rather than playing for their own stats.

    I think they surely had an easier schedule their first 8 games, but really believe had Lee not been injured in that stretch their confidence could have won them a few more. Their confidence now has been beaten down even with Lee in. Hopefully they get on a streak soon

  • Garrett

    sounds good but will it translate? The whole team needs to bring it to dallas and smart shouldnt sly away from pulling his starters if they’re not playing well.Jeremy Reggie Rodney Jeff and Dan , can be stagnant but if they run some passing offensive plays,take high percentage attempts these guys can score and they will definetly play d. I know dallas has no love for the dubs so why not play angry? The same goes for san antonio , the spurs outright disrespected the warriors last time and its time for revenge. Good to hear Vlad’s still helpin even off the court, I still think his true position is at the 3, his game would improve if he was a wing. he’s a mismatch for most wings , and has range.

  • http://chriscohansucks.blogspot.com/ Chris Cohan

    Blahblahblah nice story we talkin bout practice fishin for ANYTHING besides SUCK.

    Better win a freaking game tonight boys.

  • gsw08

    Marcus, we need more write up like this. here’s to not hoping you disappear for another week. Twitter is cool, but it’s taking you away from actual reporting. There’s no way the Warriors can contend with Ellis and Curry playing together. They need to trade for Andre Iguodala. I heard he’s available. I hate watching Ellis play D by going for every steal possible. And who cringe when they saw Ellis guarding Durant. That should never happen, ever. With Iguodala, the Warriors will be a better defensive team and Curry will be free to initiate the offense without ellis hogging the ball. Please make this trade happen.

  • JFish

    What is the REAL story with Brandon Wright? Is it just a sham cover. Lower back pain? Is he getting treatment? Has he had it looked at?

    Does Bell show energy in practice, he sure looks disinterested in games?

  • Mr Chuckles

    Hmm… this was supposed to be an example of good team chemistry? Vlad tries to fire his team up with the support of the head coach and Monta shuts it down and goes and laughs with the other starters? It doesn’t really sound like they are together. It sounds like there are the starters and everyone else (coach included), and the starters don’t have a lot of respect for the “everyone else”.

  • Yoda

    Yeah, team chemistry doesn’t mean a thing. Ask the Giants.

    Re No. 1, yeah, all Smart has to do is show up with the players from the 2007 playoffs and he’ll be fine. LOL at the idea of Nellie as defensive genius.

  • http://briquesduneige.blogspot.com walkerp

    Thanks for this post, Marcus. I appreciate the inside perspective. Personally, I really want a team that has good chemistry. I’d almost say it trumps winning (although maybe when the Warriors start winning for real, I’ll change my tune quick :) ). I want to enjoy my team and when the personalities are clicking, it makes the following of the team so much better.

    I’m getting tired of the haters. We all know the talent level of this team and the trade options currently out there. We knew them going in. Nothing has changed. Getting the Dubs to the next level is going to be a long-term project, at least beyond the end of this season. So all this, fire Smart and trade Monta is simply being unrealistic. We can possibly make marginal trade improvements this season, but there is no way we are going to get anything serious like Melo. I also really don’t see a better option than Keith Smart, who has been doing a rock solid job.

    I’d like to see the team come out with more aggressiveness and energy. I’d like to see them tighten up their little mistakes. We’ve seen an improvement in rebounding already and I want to see that continue. And so on.

    But all this yelling and screaming and demanding the playoffs is just childish and unrealistic. Show some support for your team!

  • dw

    Hey MT.
    I gotta admit this one and the piece in the Merc are a lil soft. You gotta start hitting Riley on how come we don’t have a real backup PG and really no bench besides the bigs that are out. Carney sucks and Charlie Bell should be waived. How come Nellie pulled so many gems out of the D League but we haven’t even thought about calling someone up. Look at our bench production? Ahh but they’re practicing hard. I’m sure iverson is proud. Take it easy MT!

  • Kenny Seagle, Emperor of the North

    hey give radmanovic some pom poms allready

    cool if he wanna be the lead cheer leader

    cuz his play on the court sucks…. sucks HARD

    ANY QUESTIONS???????

  • deano

    Marcus: Your post highlights the fact that Monta has become a leader this season. He is now a true Captain, leading with his words and his play. His hustle and fearlessnes are an example. If the rest of the team was as willing as Monta to initiate contact, the Warriors might not suffer from the free throw disparity which has been the differnece in almost all of their losses.

  • W’s in 2010

    Just because Vlad isn’t playing doesn’t mean he ain’t busting his ass in practice. He was a Laker, a witness to how a championship team prepares. If he’s calling out guys it’s a bad sign.

  • robert rowell

    brilliant fluff piece in the Merc today, MT2! way to dig into the hard issues. riley says the team isn’t playing well because everybody is hurt? oh really? who is the guy who put this bunch of Mr. Glass’s together? they didn’t even do enough homework on their draft pick, who was likely hurt before the draft.

    it doesn’t take a genius to see that this team was horribly flawed and that the bench was non-existent, many folks right here on this blog called that one. yet riley, with a free pass from you, still isn’t sure of the team he’s got. meanwhile Coach still doesn’t have a backup PG, do you think that riley knows that? or is he still “evaluating?” perhaps it will take him 20 more games to figure it out.

    watson, maggette, morrow > bell, gadzuric, carney

    ^^apparently, however, they guy collecting the checks to understand that, doesn’t.

  • robert rowell

    glad larry riley isn’t judging the team by wins and losses, how lame! i mean, wins are so overrated. doesn’t he know fans just want to have a great time out?

    fire this clown now!

    notice too how since the team has started losing (read: playing to it’s actual potential) guber and lacob have disappeared from the media. reminds me of someone… can’t remember his name, tho…

  • http://www.cosbysweaters.com DR
  • Sume

    Good story. Thanks. I like the team chemistry but the talent level needs to improve. Monta needs to learn defense and work it, Curry seems to be improving in that area.

    Injuries and not enough talent on the bench are leading to losses. We lost too many wing players from the trades.

  • http://cctimes Judge Wapner

    The Warriors are soft.. thats for sure. Monta is great, but he was so weak in his defense of Jason Terry, he was embarrassed by “the Jet”. He over played him every time, and Terry blew right by him. Very poor effort by Monta.

    As for David Lee, he was horrible, but I feel for the guy. He was fouled ALL GAME LONG by Nowitzki and the other hacks Dallas brought in, especially on that “block” at the end of the 4th quarter. Dirk clearly hit Lee on the arm as Lee went up with the ball, but no foul was called. Not that it would have mattered, the Warriors were actually less than 50% from the line for the game.

    That is horse crap. These are NBA players. completely unacceptable.

    Oh, and Reggie Williams does not belong in the NBA. He has NO handles, and makes absolutely horrible decisions with the basketball. He should be demoted to the D League immediately. The Warriors need another option at small forward. Too bad Azibuke is rotting on the bench for the Knicks. The Warriors sure could use him right about now..

    ECJ

  • ek

    team clearly needs some more firepower. I would suggest trading VladRad & Gadzuric’s expirings, Brandon Wright & a #2 for Gilbert Arenas. I think he would go for a 6th man role given state of his career & the appeal to his ego of redeeming himself where he started his career & where fans would really embrace him if he could put team on path to playoffs. You think Wash would go for MTII?

  • Tim1234

    Fire Smart and bring back Nellie. This team is boring. They win ugly and lose uglier. Nellie could beat this group with a decent point guard and a bunch of D leaguers in a 7 game series. Tolliver would really help much more than all the other bench players. CJ too, Morrow and Mags. Pathetic management and worse coach. Why did you guys in the media hate Nellie so much? Who else could go into Dallas with 6 healthy guys and come out with a win?

  • KevinSantana

    Agree with Tim. That Dallas gm is Smart’s fault, no Plan B, no setup play and experience to win tight gms.GS needs an experienced COACH, bckup,solid PG, ASAP. They might make a move by Feb. too late. There’s always be next year..bottomline..expect playing with Clippers spot.Playoff??what playoff???

  • reybuenabal

    The Warriors got the players that are available and willing to play for them. Riley has done a very good job of signing the players we have now, like DLee, DWright, Carney, Amundson, Udoh, JLin and Acie Law. These are players most teams would like to be in their roster. Granting that there are better players than these guys, those players are either not available or not willing to play for GSW. If you knew this, you would have lauded Riley for the guys he was able to recruit. If you are a true fan, you must support your team. Constructive criticisms are okay, but calling them clowns, etc. with unrreasonable expectations reflect poorly your support, as if your only option is to be a Warriors fan.