Remember the picture-in-picture feature and its impact on how we watched sports television?
The revolutionary technology allowed us to view two separate programs from two concurrent TV programs with one smaller window appearing within the larger overall screen. It’s a really great way to watch the desired game on the bigger screen while simultaneously catching a secondary glimpse of the less desirable game. Moreover, the ability to flip back and forth between the two games is another asset for viewers.
Well, it was a picture-in-picture month of January for the Golden State Warriors: They are a team that has macro-visions of an NBA title appearing on the big screen the majority of the time, with a sneaky peek of disappointment popping up in the corner thumbnail screen just in their periphery.
The team’s flip-floppy performance at the start of 2014 has Warriors fans reaching for their hipster-framed bifocals.
It’s a constant toggling between the microscopic window featuring lackluster performances and the far-sighted view of a deep playoff run and eventual Finals appearance.
But which picture should be on the main screen? Which picture represents who the Warriors really are?
That’s what is so astigmatic about following the Dubs.
They have been often considered one of the league’s elite squads, featuring a formidable lineup that has the potential to take down any opponent.
After a magical 2013 playoff run behind the supernova performance of Steph Curry, Golden State was primed for national attention on the main screen, no longer languishing as the secondary support act.
For most of the season, the Warriors have indeed lived up to their new billing.
The addition of swingman Andre Iguodala has sculpted the Dubs into a formidable defensive team, while supplementing diversity to an already potent offensive attack. With such dexterity at both ends of the floor, the Warriors were the sexy pick to compete for the Western Conference title. The storyline was going according to plan as the Dubs closed out December and the year 2013.
However, January became a different chapter, one that has seen the team vacillate high and low.
The month began with Golden State putting out the Miami Heat on the road.
This statement game for the Dubs demonstrated their ability to hang with the best of the best—proof that this young ball club was indeed talented and mature enough to contend for a league title.
The Warriors went on to win three more road games, extending their overall win streak to 10 in a row. With the chance to do something unprecedented—completing an undefeated road trip of seven or more games—the spotlight shone bright in Brooklyn on January 8th, as the Dubs took on the Nets with history on the line.
But the Warriors lost.
Nobody would fault the team for coming up just short (102-98) in that contest. And yet nobody could anticipate the ensuing discontinuity that became the theme for the month’s final three weeks.
After thrashing Eastern Conference foes during their road trip, the Warriors found their opponents out West to be more cross-grained.
The remaining January games were more truthful barometers of where Golden State stood amongst the NBA’s upper class. And the outcomes did not lie.
More vexing, however, in the uninspiring stretch, are the four losses in seven games against the West, dropping the Warriors’ intra-conference record to a ho-hum 19-15.
Elite status? Definitely not.
Golden State is having an identity crisis as a result of all this mediocrity.
Are the Warriors the team that deserves the big screen, the team that has defeated three of the West’s top four teams (Oklahoma City, Portland and the Los Angeles Clippers) and three of the top four East squads (Miami, Toronto and Atlanta) this season?
Or are the Dubs just a group of pretenders, a bunch of wannabes who should continue to be relegated to the bottom corner picture-in-picture window?
The Warriors’ record against the also-rans—especially those in the West—is alarmingly pathetic.
Losses to the Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves and Phoenix Suns speak to the Warriors’ proclivity to play only at the level of their opponent. And the Dubs’ alleged home-court advantage behind the league’s most intimidating and loyal fan base isn’t as dominating as it should be (14-8 home record).
These are indeed real concerns for the Warriors—ones that are worrisome roadblocks to the team’s long-term seasonal goals.
The Warriors want to be a great team, not merely a good one. And crossing that barrier into the cream of the crop alongside the Thunder, Spurs and Clippers will take more than just thrashing the Leastern Conference (although, the Dubs did lose embarrassingly at home to the Washington Wizards, 88-85, last Tuesday; so their mastery over the East is not that strong).
Golden State has to do more damage against the best (and the adequate) of the West. It can’t go kaput at home against a Spurs team sans the Big Three. It can’t fall flat defensively, allowing 121 points against both Denver and Minnesota—again, at home.
Moreover, the Warriors cannot play down to the level of the opposition.
They have to set the tone as to the style, tempo and intensity at which the matchups should be played. The opponents should be the ones stepping up their games to meet Golden State’s level.
Right now, the Warriors’ grandiose dreams of an NBA title are just that: dreams.
Sure, they are an entertaining bunch; they have some of the league’s biggest talents in Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala, David Lee and Klay Thompson. But in January, the team just seemed be off for whatever reason.
And that’s just it: There’s no one reason to pinpoint. It’s hard to focus on single fatal flaw.
There should be no excuses to the team’s extended mediocrity. Yes, Iguodala is probably not at 100 percent after his hamstring injury earlier in the season. But the Clippers have played more games without Chris Paul, and they have somehow extended their lead in the Pacific Division.
Meanwhile, Curry dropped 27.6 points per game for the Warriors in January. Lee went bonkers, too, posting 20 points and 10 rebounds for the month and shooting over 54 percent from the field. And don’t forget, Golden State actually improved its roster by adding bench help, acquiring Jordan Crawford and MarShon Brooks from the Boston Celtics.
So all the pieces are in place—or should be, to keep Warriors fans’ attention for the long haul. But the team’s continued lack of consistency is enough to make audiences switch channels to watch a better team. Or turn off the TV all together.
Follow me on Twitter: @nathanieljue
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