Remember when the Golden State Warriors were the new bad boys of the NBA? No one wanted to play them the last month of the 2007 season because they had quickly evolved into a dangerous team with supreme chemistry and volatile pieces that could go off any second. They were a collection of tough SOB's that didn't back down from anyone no matter how much size they gave up on the floor. The Warriors were a mismatch nightmare that ran up and down the court like mad men on a mission to shoot the ball before the 24 second shot clock hit 12 and to run the opposing bigs off the floor. Virtually everyone in the rotation could handle, pass, shoot, and defend multiple positions. Left for dead at 26-35 with a few months to go, they stormed back winning 16 of the last 21 games to clinch the 8th spot. The seed planted by Paul Wong's 'We Believe Playoff' sign grew and grew until it spilled into the first round of the playoffs and engulfed the Oracle in a sea of Gold. It was pure magic that gave the Warriors that SWAGGER that made them feel like they could beat anyone, anywhere. They became America's Team.
[H4L] Golden State Warriors - Playoffs Live 07
This year, however, it seems as if the Warriors have lost some of that swagger. They weren't blowing out teams as they did in their 2007 chase for the playoffs, but rather they were squeaking out wins routinely, even against clearly inferior teams. They played down to the competition and it seemed like every game was in question, that the team had lost it's killer instinct, its fire, and its passion to play all out for 4 quarters with maniacal defensive scrappiness. They managed to win 48 games, but the finish compared to last year was apparent as night and day. Even if they had made the playoffs, the team had a different vibe about it - one that didn't strike fear, one of vulnerability.
The Warriors need to bring that swagger back. But before they can do that, they need to understand the reasons why it disappeared.
1. The loss of Jason Richardson's exciting play, heart, and determination to win - The heart and soul of the 2007 Warriors was Richardson. His spectacular dunks sent the crowd into a frenzy and his teammates fed off his energy and adrenaline pumped through everyone's veins. Without an electrifying play maker approaching J-Rich's stature this season, energy seemed to be flat many nights, especially in the 4th quarter where no one was able to step up when needed the most.
2. The disappearance of Matt Barnes and Michael Pietrus - Barnes was the enforcer of the group who thrived off Small-ball with his defense, 3/4 court outlet passes, 3 pt shooting, and aggressiveness to the rim. His play had been so bad all season that he could never put together a good stretch of games that would allow him to get back the consistent minutes he needed to get out of his rut. With J-Rich gone, Pietrus became the most athletic player the Warriors had. We didn't get to see much of him because of contract distractions and injuries that hampered his effectiveness. We saw glimpses of what was supposed to be with big time blocks, alley-oop dunks, and corner 3's, but not near enough to support an overall up-tick in the team's swagger meter.
3. Exhausted Stars - Fatigue brought about by playing nearly 40 minutes per night at a run-n-gun pace lead to lazy play, loss of focus, and loss of will to play Small-Ball the way it was meant to be played. Instead of a harassing defense that took advantage of turnovers, they became a less than ordinary defensive team that hardly resembled the 2007 squad.
4. In your face attitudes of Baron, Jackson, and Barnes gone. - The volatile group of emotional balls of fire were castrated. The old Warriors fed off emotion, reveled in drawing technicals, and took pride in intimidating the foe with their fearless play and relentless defense. This year they have been more disciplined and have drawn far fewer technicals, but with it, the swagger waned and contributed to a more subdued group of guys. They became ordinary. The win totals were there, but the flame burnt less bright, and in the end was extinguished far too soon.
Baron Davis & Stephen Jackson - The Dark Side
Matt Barnes Mix by Patrys15
What do the Warriors have to do to bring back that swagger? Baron and Jackson have it in them but they need help to sustain the high level of play for 82 games and into the playoffs.
Monta Ellis - Monta Ellis stepped up big time. His blinding speed, body contorting finishes, and deadly mid-range game needs to carry over to next season. He lets his game do the talking for him and hardly ever protests even the worst of calls gone against him. Monta needs to demand respect from the referees and become more vocal while working the officiating crew just like the veterans do. He's a star on the rise and deserves the benefit of the doubt because he's oftentimes too quick for the defender get set in time to draw charges under him. Monta walks the walk, now he needs to talk the talk.
Monta Ellis - The Next
Brandan Wright - Whenever Brandan Wright got on the floor, there was a buzz and excitement that enveloped the crowd. He is capable of spectacular plays that could energize the team and send the crowd into a frenzy in one fell swoop. His freakishly long arms and athleticism made for some amazing highlights. When it comes to Wright's potential impact on this team, he's only scratched the surface. What he needs to do now is get stronger, put on more muscle mass, and work on his midrange game.
Official Give Brandan Wright More Playing Time Video!
"Josh Smith, you've been YouTubed!"
Brandan Wright versus Kevin Durant
Marco Belinelli - Some knew him as the Italian that shot down Team USA in the FIBA World Games. Most didn't know who he was at all. But by the end of his first Summer League game he was the talk of the NBA. Belinelli walked off the plane, lit up the practice floor, and rifled in 37 points in his debut as an NBA player. Shot after shot fell and his demeanor never changed. It was as if there was no doubt that his off-balance 30 footer was supposed to go in - 'swish' no big deal. From the get go, it was apparent that Belinelli had the swagger and game to go with it. Sadly, Nelson couldn't get past his defensive shortcomings enough to allow Belinelli to shine in his rookie season until it was too late. Nelson could have inserted him among 4 of the best Warrior defenders for a few minutes a game, but Nelson was too focused on winning each possession (even though they might be up by 15 and his stars were losing steam) to think about developing the future for late season help.
Marco Belinelli - The Italian Warrior [P-40]
Marco Belinelli's Summer League Highlights
Marco Belinelli Activated
2008 Draft Picks - Who can we draft to add to our core? My favorite pick right now is Marreese Speights. He's a little raw but in time he could turn into the low post presence that the Warriors sorely lack. He's strong, has an NBA body, good hands, good footwork, nice touch around the rim, can hit the mid-range shot, can rebound, and can block shots. Besto of all, he tries to dunk whenever he can. There's nothing that brings back the swagger faster than winning games. With a balanced roster and a talented group of players, wins will come easier.
Others to consider in the First Round:
Kevin Love (likely gone by #14)
Players to consider in the 2nd Round:
Trade/Free Agent Acquisitions - Who are some players around the NBA that could be on the market and within our range? My dream acquisition would be Ron Artest. He's a crazy mofo that epitimizes swagger and intimidates like no other. Imagine having three of the best steals guys on one team, Artest, Davis, and Ellis. That's exciting basketball. Not only is he one of the best defenders in the league, he's also a legitimate offensive threat. Artest might be crazy, but the Warriors lacked the player of his caliber that inspired defensive effort and toughness. NO LAYUPS!!!!
Ron Artest - Still Crazy
Others to consider:
Adding a couple of these players to our existing group of guys will bring back the swagger in no time. We could use players that will light a fire under this team - players that play with passion and drive. We need players that will get the entire Areana jumping once again.
There are 5 big plays that get the crowd out of their seats and energize up the team: the high-flying dunk, the 3pt shot, the crafty assist, the emphatic rejection, and the ankle breaking drive to the hoop. We have young guys that are capable of these plays in Ellis, Wright, and Belinelli. Nelson should play Wright and Belinelli more next year and allow them to energize the team with their youthful play. In turn, the vets get rest and feel pressure to play their best. No one should be given a free pass, not even Baron. If he starts playing poorly by jacking up ill-advised threes, playing lazy defense, or pounding the ball incessantly without getting others involved - he should get yanked off the court and replaced by someone who will play with the intensity necessary to win. Everyone needs to be held accountable for their play. If that happens, the swagger will be back before you know it.
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