One of the terms used to describe the 2006 Golden State Warriors team was a "freak show." Somewhat like a trapeze or high-wire act you would see at the circus: dangerously reckless, but exciting and captivating nonetheless.
In 2008, the Warriors can once again be called a freak show. This time however, it is for far less flattering reasons.
Call me a homer, but I still believe that Golden State Warriors fans are the most loyal fans in the NBA. To be as patient with a team with no playoff appearance in 13 seasons as Warriors fans were prior to the magical 2006 playoff run, is something that should be admired by fans of any team.
But now many long time followers of Golden State can now begin see this year’s team heading down that dark, scary road of irrelevance once more.
A perfect analogy for this team would be something like a patchwork quilt. The only problem is that instead of cloth, other materials have been thrown in, like...glass and metal.
Materials that really don’t belong in a quilt.
Players that really don’t belong on this team.
See the comparison?
It seems to have all started with the front office. The Cohan/Nelson/Mullin spat has proved to be poison for this franchise. Baron Davis and his (shocking) beef with his head coach caused Mullin to make the rather awkward decision in not matching Davis’ offer.
Combine that with the freak moped injury to Monta Ellis, the childish pouting by Al Harrington, and the last minute signings of Williams and Nelson, two players that have proven nothing in the league, and the Warriors were set up to fail.
Chris Mullin, meanwhile, has all but given up his GM activities, even going so far as to end his visits to Warriors' practices. It seems Cohan is dead bent on showing Mullin the door.
Makes perfect sense, huh?
All Mullin has done was bring in Harrington and Jackson in 2006, sparking the playoff run, draft Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins, two of the league’s most exciting young players, and hire Don Nelson, resurrecting the team from the depths of obscurity.
Mullin may very likely find himself back in New York City, as the GM of the Knicks, a position that will be wide open for him.
The Warriors’ problems are almost too huge to even begin to cover. While Don Nelson was and still may be the best choice for head coach, his straight forward message that he used at the start of the 2006 season, in which he flat out told his team they sucked the previous season, still suck, and will continue to suck until told otherwise, simply doesn’t work on this year’s team.
While most veteran players can take criticism well, even using it as a motivational tool, rookies and young players are just a little bit more sensitive to blunt pessimism.
I am of course in no way advocating “coddling” of these players. They make more money at the age of 19 and 20 than I will probably ever make in a lifetime. I am, however, in favor of a little bit more of mentoring, and reality, regardless of how bleak it is.
If young players experience losing as much as the current squad of Warriors does, then losing is what they will know. It may sound cliché, but winning creates winners. For this group to even begin to see marginal success, some guidance is needed.
While Don Nelson has shown he is now willing to play and start his rookies, he still seems to leave the mentoring to his younger coaches, such as Keith Smart. For developing players, motivation and positive criticism is what allows them to go through the rigors of rookie playing time, and greatly benefits them in the long run.
Then comes of the question of the players themselves.
Stephen Jackson showed himself to be one of the most explosive offensive players in the NBA the past two seasons. This was of course when he had Baron Davis and Monta Ellis playing All-Star level basketball beside him.
With Jackson now a one-man band, both his shooting and his defense have declined sharply. He was forced into a point guard role prior to the Jamal Crawford trade, and focused on distributing instead of scoring, something he is simply not as adept at succeeding in.
The Brandon Wright trade in the 2007 Draft, followed by the Anthony Randolph selection this season, attempted to fill the hole in the Warriors’ frontcourt. Only problem is, Jason Richardson, one of this team’s few proven scorers was moved in order to fill this need.
Meanwhile, Wright has shown some promise, but is still for the most part raw and inconsistent. Randolph has played encouragingly, demonstrating some great defensive skills, and enthusiasm. He too, however, is still a question mark in terms of his ceiling.
Belinelli, a highly touted player when he was in Italy, is now FINALLY starting to live up to the hype. Even he looked disappointing though up until four or five weeks ago.
Morrow, after his two nights of fame, cooled off and now looks like more of a spot shooter, and not an everyday player. Rob Kurz appears to be a potential sleeper, showing composure and defensive prowess in the paint.
As for Marcus Williams and DeMarcus Nelson, the most that can be said for them is they have much to prove if they want to be considered legitimate pros.
There are of course the few bright spots. Andris Biedrins is having a career season statistically, and is many nights the only rebounder and interior defender on the floor for Golden State. Jamal Crawford is a dynamic scorer, and when he is can go for 30+ per night on a regular basis.
Monta, when he is not popping wheelies on mopeds, is one of the quickest scorers and explosive players in the NBA. And of course, Captain Jack, regardless of his inconsistency, is the emotional heart and soul of this team.
Unfortunately, the negatives greatly overshadow the few rays of positives on this team. What’s worse, it appears to be a very long way off from righting its ship. Be assured, it all begins and ends with the management. If this front office does not pull it together, the hope of any success on the court can be waved goodbye.
Until some internal stability is found, this team will continue to suffer. Playoffs are obviously not happening this year, and if the trends continues, this decade. A formula needs to be found, and then applied in order to begin the process of going forward.
If there are any fans who may not believe that a franchise can be awful for too long, (or perhaps didn’t watch the Warriors prior to 2006), one must only look a few hundred miles south to Los Angeles.
While the Warriors aren’t quite in Clippers territory, they are certainly getting closer with every passing week.
This Warriors fan base is too faithful to be treated that way. And if things keep going the way they are, there is no saying just how far this franchise can sink into the depths of embarrassment.