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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.

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?

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