As a Golden State Warriors fan, you can sense what kind of excitement I had (and the whole Bay Area had) when the Warriors clinched their first playoff berth in 12 years. I immediately purchased tickets to Game Three of round one, eagerly awaiting to see my team against the NBA-best Dallas Mavericks.
The game was amazing, the atmosphere was incredible, and my investment in the four tickets was well worth the $1,000 I paid.
After that series (and the convincing Game Six victory over the NBA-best Mavericks), it seemed like nothing can go wrong. The Warriors were finally being nationally recognized as a team to be reckoned with, not the usual bottom feeder of the NBA Western Conference.
Game Three against the Jazz (yes I attended that too) was even better than the previous Game Three. I witnessed the epic Baron Davis dunk over the league's top defender, Andrei Kirilenko. The Warriors smashed the Jazz that game, and maybe, just maybe, the Warriors could pull off another huge upset.
It didn't happen, but the fun the Bay Area experienced during the 2007 NBA Playoffs will always be remembered as the "We Believe" movement. Where for just a little while, the Golden State Warriors were known as a team to watch out for.
That next off-season, the Warriors traded the fan favorite Jason Richardson for the unproven, skinny North Carolina forward Brandan Wright. Warrior fans were irate over the trade that sent a player who dedicated his whole career to a franchise that constantly was being known as one of the worst run franchises in the NBA.
Still, the Warriors needed to clear cap space, as the contracts of Monta Ellis, Baron Davis, and Andris Biedrins were up after the next off-season. J-Rich and his $50 million contract accounted for much of the Warriors cap space.
Even though the Warriors traded one of their top scoring players for a player that won't contribute for another two or three seasons, the Warriors still managed to end the 2007-2008 season with 48 wins. Ask any coach, GM, owner, or player before that season whether 48 wins would be enough to make the playoffs; for sure most if not all of them would have said a resounding: YES.
Unfortunately for the Warriors, 48 wins and 34 losses was not enough to make the playoffs in the incredibly good Western Conference. However, if the Warriors played in the woefully bad Eastern Conference, they would have received a No. 4 seed. Tell me David Stern, is that fair?
It wasn't as if missing the playoffs with 48 wins was bad enough, but the way the season ended didn't help either. In arguably the most important game of the year, an away game in Phoenix against a strong Suns team, Don Nelson decided to bench star point guard Baron Davis for most of the second half. A move that had Warriors fans scratching their heads for a long time (and still now).
Now whether this contributed to Baron Davis's departure later that off-season only Baron and Nellie know, but another star player leaving the Warriors? Hmmmmm, where have Warrior fans seen that before? Before then, the Warriors had both Gilbert Arenas and Antawn Jamison (both All-Stars now) in the same lineup. A combo that for sure could have been a successful one if they stiill were on the Warriors.
However, no move was bigger to the eventual success (or lack thereof) of the Golden State Warriors than the departure of Baron Davis. The should be All Star of the 07-08 season opted-out of a possible $17.8 million in the last year of his contract to sign a lucrative five-year, $65 million deal with the woeful Los Angeles Clippers.
It was reported that Chris Mullin and Baron Davis agreed on a three-year, $39 million deal until GM Robert Rowell over-ruled it, thus leading to his departure to the Clippers, the signings of Corey Maggette, Ronny Turiaf, Kelenna Azubuike and the re-signings of both young stars Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins.
However, there is no doubt that the Warriors miss Baron Davis. Admitted or not by management, the departure of Baron Davis has ruined the team on and off the court. On the court, the Warriors lack a clear leader, a clear ball handler, and a player that other teams fear with the ball in his hands. Off the court, the loss of Boom Dizzle has lead to front office turmoil reminiscent of the Oakland Raiders.
Why would Rowell not want the Warriors best player back? A player that clearly rejuvenated a depleted franchise into a yearly playoff contender? Simply put, because Robert Rowell is a complete moron. Sorry! How else is there to explain it? Yes, BD is injury prone, but BD was perfect for Nellie-Ball, just came off a year where he missed 0 (yes, 0) games. A three-year deal worth roughly $13 million a year? Not bad at all for a top 10 player in the league.
Of course, this led to Monta's epic moped incident, their current 15-33 record, the trade of Al Harrington to the Knicks for Jamal Crawford, and a team that is typical to one of a typical Warriors team.
However, not all is bad in Warrior land. Even with the front office mess, the eventual departure of Chris Mullin, and Nellie at the helm, the Warriors still have some pieces that could lead to a successful franchise...in time.
Former D-Leagers Kelenna Azubuike and CJ Watson are getting some nice minutes, especially Kelenna, who starts for the Warriors now with Corey coming off the bench. One thing Nellie and Mullin have done successfully is finding absolute nobody's and turn them into players that can contribute in the NBA.
Marco Belinelli, Anthony Randoph, Anthony Morrow, Brandan Wright, Monta Ellis, Andris Biedrins, with above mentioned Azubuike and Watson provide a decent core of young players to build around.
With veterans Jamal Crawford, Stephen Jackson, Corey Maggette, and Ronny Turiaf, the Warriors seem to have a nice mix of young potential with veteran leadership.
However, none of this takes away from the departure of fan favorite's Jason Richardson, Matt Barnes, Mickael Pietrus (who can forget Air France?), and Baron Davis.
The core that brought the Bay Area the "We Believe" movement is gone. In fact, the 2007 NBA playoffs seem like they happened in 1997; there are no signs of that movement anymore.
The starting lineup of Baron Davis, Monta Ellis, Jason Richardson, Al Harrington, and Andris Biedrins is long gone. The success that was once there is forever lost in NBA history.
The success that the Bay Area (and the whole nation for that matter) saw in 2007 is nowhere to be found.
At least for now, we have a suffering Warrior fan base, a befuddled front office, a coach that can't stop thinking of Maui, under performing youngsters, overpaid veterans, and a team that lacks the same fire and entertainment of last year and the year before.
But in Warrior land, what else is new?