After 18 games, the Golden State Warriors have shown glimpses of greatness when healthy and glimpses of an entertaining group who will not take games off while dealing with injuries (Iguodala, Curry, Barnes, Douglas). Now for a question and answer session with Warriors aficionado David Barnes.
Q. What did you think of Jermaine O’Neal’s recent post-game comments, regarding regular season lessons learned:
“For our team, I keep telling these guys. Trials and tribulations is what builds character and a true championship team. It may not look good all the time, but if we keep fighting, it doesn’t matter who’s on the court. Hopefully these lessons that we learned early — all the injuries, losing some games — will teach us a lesson. I truly believe that at the end of the year, we’re going to be rewarded for these lessons that we learned.
A. I agree with him. To a great extent, the on-court mistakes are due to guys trying to do too much and trying to do more than they should and that’s a very correctable thing. Last night’s game against Sacramento was an indicator of a lesson learned – in the 4th quarter you need to know for sure if Curry is that elite player we all want to think he is and there were signs of that. We also need to see Coach Jackson’s growth as a tactician and last night we saw him use his timeouts to get Draymond Green in and out which made for a very effective front-court tandem (Lee, Green, Bogut).
Q. The Warrior bandwagon was getting pretty ridiculous for a few weeks there. With Iguodala’s injury and a very tough November schedule, the wagon is a bit lighter at the moment. As a long-term Warrior fan, what is the most frustrating aspect of the bandwagon?
A. That a lot of these people don’t know how good things are and how bad things were for an extended period of time. So far this season they’ve lost to the Spurs, Clippers, Memphis twice and OKC. They started the season without Harrison Barnes, lost their most impactful player (Iguodala) not that long ago, and missed Curry for three games, so lots of reasons (or excuses) for their failings at a very early stage in a very long season.
This is a good team with the potential to be a great team and anyone that infers anything meaningful about the quality of an NBA team at this time of year is probably shorting the long-view. You want to panic? Go ahead and do so knowing that I’ll gladly take your extra tickets off your hands.
Side note: Warriors ticket prices are out of control this year. Combine an exciting team with the tech economy and you get a ridiculous demand for tickets. The same thing happened with Giants tickets over the past couple of years.
Q. The two Golden State-Oklahoma City games were about as exciting as regular season games get. Is there a Western Conference playoff match-up that you would rather see? Along the same lines, which Western Conference match-ups would make for the most entertaining playoff series?
A. For straight balling? OKC-GSW features everything about the modern game that translates well to television. Two great home crowds make the energy so visceral that even the commentators enjoy doing the games and yes, that should make for even better viewing come playoffs. Add in the stakes for both teams (OKC needs to get deeper, GSW needs to prove last year was no aberration) and this is as good as it gets. Not saying other series won’t be good but…
Q. The Warriors were shooting an insane 45.5% from behind the arc a few games ago. They are currently at 43.9%. Where will they finish the season?
A. Above 40%? Tough one to say but that 45% truly is insane and maybe even the idea of above 40 for a season is nuts. They are capable of great things if Iguodala keeps shooting like he was (check Ethan Sherwood Strauss’ analysis for evidence of why), and Curry and Thompson stay in “splash” mode.
Q. Will Marreese Speights be a reliable back-up big man come April?
A. Yes but only because he’ll be the third, fourth or fifth option (Lee, Bogut, Ezili, O’Neal, Green) and won’t have the opportunity for any of those early in the shot clock 18-footers. Not that I’m giving up on the guy but on this team you not only need to know your role, you need to know your limits.
Q. What are your favorite developments over the first 18 games?
A. The ball movement! It’s hard to put into words what it’s like to see this team when they are ON. It’s not just the passing, it’s the idea behind the passing. It’s best to look at it from the concept of the hockey pass (also known as the secondary assist). This is the pass that sets up the pass that creates the assist). You can quantify passing to a certain extent but how do you quantify vision? When they are rebounding as a team and running as a team it really does become a video game like experience and when it happens at home? You can talk all you want about March madness but nothing beats this.
Side note: nba.com/stats offers some great player tracking data this year (thanks to Sport VU), including passing numbers such as the secondary assist. Iguodala is 14th (1.5), Curry is 19th (1.4). For more on the hockey assist, check this post on Grizzly Bear Blues (Memphis site)
Q. What are your least favorite developments over the first 18 games?
A. All small things: Bazemore’s regression, Speights willingness to settle for the 18-footer, Lee’s stubbornness in the paint and Bogut’s silly fouls (maybe even toss Curry in there, too). They (and one of their announcers, Bob Fitzgerald) like to complain about the regular disparity in foul calls but they are still guilty of the lazy hand calls. Even when they really don’t do much to discourage an offensive player they are way too blatant for an NBA ref not to call.
Side note: The foul disparity often seems to be exaggerated when playing teams like the Lakers, Thunder and Spurs. Certain players always get the benefit of the doubt (Kobe, Durant, Westbrook, Duncan, Ginobili, Parker). The Warriors have never had that type of player. Their best offensive players are not supremely athletic, and their greatest strengths are their shooting, which makes the foul calls harder to come by.
Q. And now for the purely speculative: How many games will the Warriors win this year, and what seed will that give them?
A. 50 and a four-seed and this is the only answer I didn’t agonize over as you’re right, total speculation! Ask me again after Christmas and I’ll give you a more reasoned, considered response.
David Barnes has been a devotee of the Golden State Warriors since 1975, when he watched a team with no superstars who epitomized everything that was right about sports. He loved Al “The Destroyer” Attles, the only coach in the NBA who was both strong and patient enough to deal with Rick Barry (he of the bottomless pit of ego).