Well, hello there.
OK, so you’re immediately shocked. Who’s this Carl Steward? Where’s our Marcus Thompson? Not to worry, Warriors fans. M.T. II is still with us, now moving on to much deserved grander horizons as the newest Bay Area News Group sports columnist, replacing Comcast TV star Monte Poole. Marcus will still be writing a lot about the Warriors — tons, I predict — in his new position as a senior purveyor of perspective. Between him and Tim Kawakami, you will probably get even more than your usual fill.
Me? I’ll work in a jab-step and mid-range baseline pop here and there. Never mastered the crossover. But you should know me if you’ve read East Bay papers at any time during the past 37 years. If nothing else, you relative newbies may remember me calling the Warriors’ upset of Dallas in 2006, in the exact number of games, with my rationale having played out like an NBA Nostradamus.
First things first, I’m not the new Warriors beat writer. I am the very old Warriors interim beat writer, donning a pair of ragged Chuck Taylor white hightops to cover the team for the time it takes to find a fresh-faced, virile, thoroughly obsessed Warriors beat writer. Ten years younger, I’d love to take this team for the full ride myself, because it’s a Corvette of a team to chronicle, with terrific, accommodating guys who play an entertaining brand of ball.
I know and enjoy NBA basketball, too. But I’m afraid the schedule grind would wear me down as a full-time starter — attrition is the name of the game as much for scribes as players — and as readers, you deserve the same objective, sharp, iron man coverage you’ve received from Marcus the past nine years. I can give you really good minutes, but not months. I prefer the Draymond Green approach, coming off the bench to do whatever’s needed in short bursts. As some of you may know, in addition to filling in on the Warriors, I do a lot of backup work with the Giants, A’s, 49ers, Raiders and also cover golf, boxing, tennis and whatever else is thrown on my plate. At this stage of my career, I thrive on the variety.
That said, the Warriors hold a special place in my heart. They were my first professional beat, from 1978-83, for the Hayward Daily Review back when it was a separate entity from what is now the greater metropolitan BANG empire. I’ve been absorbed into every morph of the organization — Oakland Tribune, Contra Costa Times, San Jose Mercury News. But back in my vintage Warriors days, there were seven or eight writers covering the team, and in that era, all the writers sat at courtside. I sat two seats down from the legendary Bill King. I still remember the night when they played the Stones’ “Start Me Up” at ear-crushing volume for about the 10th time. Bill got up out of his chair, threw off his headset, came to the P.A. guy sitting next to me and screamed, “Turn that ^%&^%&(*) down or I’m going to kill somebody!” The late Dr. Bob Albo, the team physician for many years, sat right behind me in the stands, screaming blue verbiage at referees Tommy Nunez and Jake O’Donnell night after night over perceived bad calls. Doc Albo was like Dr. Jekyll, one of those nicest guys you’d ever want to meet, but at opening tip, he became Mr. Hyde for 48 minutes.
It’s rather scary to think that a YOUNG Robert Parish played on the first team I covered (actually, we’re almost the same age — Parish is two months older than me, and we were both 24 at the time). And how’s this for ancient? There was no three-point line my first year on the beat — unthinkable today, particularly in the context of this current Warriors team. And coach Al Attles — to this day, perhaps the nicest, classiest gentleman I’ve ever encountered covering sports — was still running the floor with his players in practice (sad to say, I was at the practice in which Al blew out his Achilles, and never took the court again).
So suffice it to say I feel qualified to hold down the fort for a few weeks with the GSWs. I can tell you just about anything that’s happened with them over the last 40 years, having personally witnessed almost all of their fleeting best but mostly many worst moments. Anything before that, you’ll have to go ask Jim Barnett.
But I can tell you about Chris Washburn, proudly showing me his new black Mercedes — with flame decals on the sides. Honest. I can’t make up something like that. I can tell you about the grace and grandeur of Purvis Short all day, and that most insane high-arcing jumper in NBA history. I can tell you about Bernard King, and two of the most electric, explosive seasons ever delivered by a Warriors player under the Coliseum roof. I can tell you about Antawn Jamison, who couldn’t shoot outside three feet when he came to Golden State, and left as one of the league’s best outside shooters. I can tell you about Don Nelson if you have a free month or two. I can tell you many stories about World B. Free, Lorenzo Romar, Joe Barry Carroll, Mario Elie, Larry Smith, Chris Mullin, Tim Hardaway, Manute Bol, Muggsy Bogues, Baron Davis … even Chibi Okayama. That name doesn’t ring a bell? Go check out Wikipedia. Chibi was a 7-foot-8 Japanese center the Warriors drafted in the eighth round in 1981. Never got to Oakland, but he remains a vital part of crazy Warriors lore. Yes, sonny, back then they actually had an eighth round of the NBA Draft.
My kind of player? I love guys who play like coaches, guys who play the game right within the team context. I love Andre Iguodala. I love Draymond Green. I’ll admit, Stephen Curry has two or three times exceeded the quality of NBA player I thought he would become. I am quite taken with Klay Thompson’s drive and determination, which I saw many times two decades ago watching his dad Mychal thrash the Warriors. Truth be told, it’s hard not to like any of the current Warriors top seven, and I like their coach, too. For years, I wrote screeds maintaining that the Warriors would never head anywhere significant — even during the Run TMC years — until they developed a passion for playing defense. Mark Jackson finally brought the promise I waited so many years to hear, and more often than not, these Warriors deliver on that defensive promise. Stay healthy, and I see 48-52 wins from these Warriors and a strong playoff run. If things fall just right, they could conceivably win the NBA title, and I would not have said that in any of my previous 36 years on this job.
That’s way down the road, though. For now, I hope you enjoy my blog posts, where I take a little different, more personal approach and let what’s left of my hair down a bit. I’ll try to provide the coverage and insight you’ve grown accustomed to getting from Marcus over the years until the next prodigy steps into the very large shoes he has left to fill.
Maybe I can cover a spate of wins while I’m here. We’ll see. I’m laced up and ready to go in. Follow along online, in print, and on Twitter: @stewardsfolly.