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What to Watch For – Game 7

At the end of practice Thursday, Warriors guard Nate Robinson entertained his new teammates by having a dunk off with rookie forward Chris Wright (whose hops are ridiculous, BTW). What was more impressive than any dunk he pulled off was the fact that he had the energy to attempt several dunks after his first NBA practice of the season.

MARK JACKSON: “Obviously, there’s no substitute for real live action, but he’s a heck of an athlete. And he’s in shape.”

That’s good news for the Warriors, because Nate Robinson will be needed. Jackson said he could see Robinson playing significant minutes. Rookie second-round pick Charles Jenkins will start, but expect Robinson – not Ish Smith, who seems to have fallen out of favor with Jackson – to be the back-up. It may be just a matter of time before Robinson is starting, especially if Stephen Curry is out for an elongated period.

Robinson said he looks forward to the challenge – especially proving people wrong about him. Since being waived by Oklahoma City, Robinson had gotten little bite from other NBA teams, concerned about his effect on team chemistry.

ROBINSON: “I don’t care what they say. Coach already said he’s not worried about the naysayers and my past. He’s talking about now and the future. We’re moving forward and that’s something I love about Coach. He sees me as a player. I have another start, a second chance and this is a great opportunity. God blessed me with the ability to go through these struggles in my life and overcome them. That’s something I’m trying to do again. Just trying to prove to the Warriors and the fans and to my friends and family and to God that I can do it.”

( Note: This Q&A with Nate Robinson by Matt Steinmetz is a must-read.)

Golden State will immediately need Robinson’s scoring. They will need his energy. They will need his ability to take over a game. That may be a lot to ask from Robinson. It’s doubtful he can provide all that. He hasn’t been a high-caliber player for a little over a year now.

But the Warriors need him. If he can’t take advantage of this opportunity – where he’s going to get minutes, the coach is vouching for him – redemption for Robinson may not be possible.

Here are some other things to watch for tonight.

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Monta Ellis in the post: If you watched Jackson play, than you’re not surprised about his use of guard Monta Ellis.

The last two games, Jackson has put his 6-foot-3, 180-pound shooting guard in the post. On several occasions, Ellis got the ball on the low block against Steve Nash and Tony Parker. The results were consistently effective.

JACKSON: “He’s a scorer. He has no limitations on the offensive end of the floor. That’s post. That’s pick and rolls. That’s isolations. That’s catch-and-shoot. So I’m going to use him in every form, especially when teams put a smaller guy on him. Even when they put a bigger guy because posting the size of the guy, it’s the skill of the offensive guy. He feels extremely comfortable there and we’re going to capitalize on that.”

Ellis’ post game is much better than his size might indicate. It’s been an under-utilized part of his game. But it makes sense that he would be good at posting. He is quick, so he can make a move and get to a spot. He can jump high, with good hang time, so he can get a shot off and a good look. It’s a confined work space with limited dribbling, so his suspect handles aren’t a problem. And he’s gotten much better at passing, so he can use the post to set others up.

Against San Antonio, he went to a turn-around jumper a couple of times. That shows he’s been working on his post game.

Not sure if Jackson will try that against Derek Fisher or Steve Blake. With Ellis’ quickness advantage, he probably doesn’t need to post them up. But you can expect Kobe Bryant or Metta World Peace to spend some time defending Ellis. That might be a good time to try Ellis in the post.

The next thing he needs to learn is how to draw fouls.

 

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Impact of DWight Howard rumors: We’ve already known, and reported, the Warriors’ interest in Dwight Howard. It’s one of the reasons they didn’t ship Curry to New Orleans for Chris Paul, hoping to get CP3 and Tyson Chandler so they could then offer Curry and Chandler to Orlando for DWight Howard.

But Yahoo! Sports reported the Warriors are “aggressively pursuing” Howard. Not only are the Warriors not requiring Howard to sign a long-term extension, but they are willing to allow Orlando to pick whatever they want.

GM LARRY RILEY: “I think it’s obvious that our ownership would like to come up with a superstar to add to this team. We’ll always look into opportunities where someone might be available.”

No one I talked to seems to think Golden State has any real chance of landing Howard, especially now that Curry’s ankle is a big issue. First off, Orlando is not entertaining trading Howard right now. Golden State, despite its overtures, hasn’t even solicited a response from the Magic at this point. No current talks are going on.

What’s more, Bynum would have to be an impossibility, Brook Lopez would have to look terrible when he returns from injury and the Warriors might even have to go get a draft pick, since they don’t have one until my four-year-old graduates from high school.

But, how will that impact this young roster, hearing the Warriors are willing to give up any and everybody to rent Howard? Several guys are on one-year deals, trying to resurrect their careers. Will they start going for self? Will they stop caring?

Against San Antonio, they hung in there a bit thanks largely to Monta Ellis. How long will that last?

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How Charles Jenkins’ handles the bright lights: One thing I’ve noticed about Jenkins so far is that he’s humble and hungry. He doesn’t wrestle against rookie hazing. He doesn’t, not even off the record, make bold promises and predictions. He’s content with going hard and doing his work.

Will that translate to poise? The pressure will be on. His first career start is coming on the road at Staples Center with his team desperately needing a win. Will he simply try not to mess up? Will he be aggressive and make plays?

I think he will be fine. I was encouraged by his play in Phoenix, especially how he smoothly knocked down those three jumpers. I see why Mark Jackson trusts him. The key for him will be his aggressiveness. Golden State can not afford for him to just be on the court.

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Ekpe Udoh’s coming out party:  I absolutely love how this guy never makes an excuse. I asked him to describe his start, he said “a little slow.” I asked him about his rebound production, he said he is not satisfied and he needs to get better. I asked him about how his postgame is developing, he didn’t shy away from the truth.

UDOH: “I’m getting the shots I want. I’ve just got to finish them, honestly. We’ve got players who are going to make plays for all the players. So I’ve got to be ready to take those shots with confidence.”

Tonight may be a chance for Udoh to step it up. If Andris doesn’t play, that likely means Kwame Brown will start. That leaves the Warriors needing Udoh to spend a lot of time at C. Against Andrew Bynum.

Sounds daunting, right? Could be the perfect opportunity to pull out that midrange jumper, pull Bynum from the key. If he’s matched up with Pau Gasol, that presents a great opportunity for him to get back in the post, convert some of those moves.

No doubt, Udoh has to bring more. Golden State needs him to bring more. No better time than tonight.

 

 

Marcus Thompson