It's been said before, but let's face it again: Bay Area pro-sports have been in a slump for a while now. When are we ever going to be able to gloat again over our local heroes to the rest of the country... the rest of the world?
The 49ers have been mired in or below mediocrity for a decade, the Raiders fell apart after one Super Bowl attempt and have years of insanity outside of that, the Giants went from World Series contenders to bottom-ranked bummers, scandals attached.
It is and has been officially dark times for Bay Area professional sports.
The East Bay still has some hope with the A's and the Warriors though. The A's have been decent this season so far, and the Warriors, despite falling out of the playoff picture this year, actually had a better regular season record than the previous year.
If only they both didn't seem like farm teams for the rest of their respective league, we could probably rest easy.
But, being at my heart a basketball fan above other sports, I lend my focus to the Golden State Warriors. They've been at the center of Bay Area sports excitement in recent times, and I hope it will continue (despite the usual, expected chagrin of ticket price hikes).
But to be truthful, one has to be blunt: the team, though fun and exciting, will never win a championship and is not built to be a contender.
Let's start with the good.
Baron and Stephen had strong years, stronger than ever.
We have young talent. Ellis is amazing when driving, and has a sweet jumper. Biedrins can move and does have good hands for a big man, blocking shots, catching passes on the cut, and dunking.
No telling what Brandan Wright and Marco Belinelli might be able to do in the future. And Harrington, for all it's worth, has some versatility. Barnes and Pietrus have also had their moments.
That being said...
Our mix of talent is impressive, but truly combustible. Don't tell me for a second you can't see Baron or Jack taking a turn for the worse (injury? fight suspension? shooting slump?) at any point in any season.
And by the way, Baron Davis and Stephen Jackson, if you forget how to shoot on a given night, please go to the rim or distribute the ball.
Mickael Pietrus: When you realized you were "stuck" with us, you turned on the goods—what you should've been doing for years—and then shut it down for the season.
Perfect. We know you're walking this summer, and shopping yourself around. Congratulations. What we will remember most is the millionth time you stepped out of bounds with the ball when trying to cut to the basket along the baseline.
C'est magnifique. All kidding aside, you had some impressive plays—good luck to you elsewhere.
Harrington: I agree with Nellie. There were moments of brilliance. And then there was the other 75 percent of the time where you seemed to kill our momentum.
Nellie: No doubt, an awesome Hall-of-Fame coach. But the strange benching call for Baron, the lack of play time for our rookie crew, and zero emphasis on defense?
Having vented a little now, I'll make a few points of emphasis for things that really matter, if we want to turn the corner:
1) Care about defense.
I'm not saying give up that neck-breaking, fast-pace offense. But for crying out loud, if you score a basket, and they immediately score back on you in transition, what good is that?
The Help D is not there, the defensive rebounding is not there, and the "get back, they're on a fast-break" mentality is most certainly not there. Yes, we get our hand on the loose balls or passes many times, but no, it wasn't enough to stop our opponent.
2) Our offense isn't as good as we think.
Yes, we've poured in points in certain quarters, certain halves. But we've also had quarters where we scored 10-12 points.
Television analyst Jim Barnett and others always say, the offensive player has the advantage. Then, we see one of you walk up to the line, jack up a long-distance shot, clang it off the rim, and lose the possession.
That's not offense. It's offensive, but it's not an offense.
Elementary kids do that on the playground. I'm not saying we shouldn't mix it up to give an element of surprise. But if you're in a bind, run the set play with Biedrins on that pick-and-roll.
Or that dime to the streaking Ellis, who apparently can worm through multiple defenders at will.
3) Where is the balance?
One of our new nemeses, Baron's ol' Hornets, have balance with a post-up player who can also pick-and-pop (West), a point guard who dishes first but can still score (Paul), a shooter (Stojakovic), and a rebounder/shot-blocker (Chandler).
Plus, though their bench isn't deep, they have a scoring option off the bench with playoff experience (Wells).
We have Davis (scorer), Ellis (scorer), Jackson (scorer), Harrington (scorer), Biedrins (rebounder/shot-blocker).
We have Belinelli (scorer), Brandan Wright (still a question mark) and Perovic (rebounder/shot-blocker). The rest of our team probably walks (Barnes, Pietrus, Azubuike, O'Bryant).
Granted, Davis and Jackson can make a lot of sweet dishes, and Jackson can be a lock-down defender at times. But this doesn't appear to be very balanced.
Score more, stop others from scoring, balance things out.. to win?
That's obvious. Most definitely.
All I want is to demonstrate that the team has flaws, ones that will prevent us from getting over the hump and being something really special. Only the Bay Area could immortalize Run-TMC, which didn't last all that long.
Let's not return to that and say "good enough."
With all of that said, I love the Warriors. I think highly of all our current team.
But it's time to lay all the cards out on the table.
I want nothing more than for them to get better. To be better. To be all they can be. Maybe in a future article I'll throw out some new ideas to what can help resolve some of the above.
But for now, recognize: it's great to look pretty—but who wants to be the Anna Kournikova of basketball?
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