2009-10 Golden State Warriors Season Preview
The Season That Was.....
Last season started off with a bang. By bang, I mean Monta Ellis crashing his moped in a low speed accident that summer. This resulted in ankle surgery and costing him a 30-game suspension (and some salary from his off season contract extension). That wasn't the only cause for last season. Baron Davis packed his bags and went back to his hometown to play for the LA Clippers. A disgruntled "Protegé" Al Harrington getting shipped out to New York for Jamal Crawford. Then Don Nelson tried everything he could with the lineups to just make something happen due to a rampage of injuries to the Warriors roster. By anything, I mean ANYTHING. There was awkward friction between GM, Chris Mullin and the rest of the Warriors front office. All of a sudden when the season got going, "We Believe" turned into "I Guess....?" Speaking of which, Paul Wong, who sparked the "We Believe" campaign was blatantly ignored by the Warriors organization for his efforts. If Paul Wong stopped believing, then who will? We were wondering what happened to the Golden State Warriors we loved for the past two seasons prior to last year.
There were some bright spots on that roster last season. Stephen Jackson, acting as the sole team captain, registering three games of at least 30 points and 10 assists in a five-game span at some point in the season. Andris Biedrins is continuing his development as one of the league's up and coming big men (and hot fantasy basketball commodity). There was Anthony Morrow's coming out party against the LA Clippers registering 37 points in his season debut in the starting lineup. Speaking of undrafted sensations, CJ Watson torched Deron Williams and the Utah Jazz on April 11th for 38 points in a near triple double effort (9 ast, 7 reb). Corey Maggette was one of the top 6th men in the league by providing some solid point totals off the bench. Jamal Crawford dropped 50 on the Bobcats a month after he arrived at Golden State. Hyphy Ronny Turiaf was the spark plug off that Warriors bench with his hustle and strength in the paint. Towards the end of the season, the Warriors gained some momentum in the front court from the then-rookie power forward, Anthony Randolph. Randolph displayed some fearless athleticism that we haven't seen in that spot for a while.
2008-09 Record: 29-53 (10th in the west)
Off Season Drama Fo' Yo' Momma....
Captain Jack is no more. He's just Stack Jack from now on. Not only did he publicly express wanting to be traded to a "winning team", he also requested to have his "captain" tag removed. Why? For starters, he cussed out Don Nelson recently during a preseason game. He felt that being a captain is overrated and he would rather not be acknowledged as a role model. You can see it in his eyes and hear it in his voice; the man's frustrated and dissatisfied this organization. This is a 180 from the calmer, more responsible, and hard working Stack Jack we've grown accustomed to. Who took this role? Monta Ellis.
"Everybody is putting everything on me, so I have to accept it, be a leader and speak up," Ellis said. "That's what coach wants me to do, and that's what I'm going to do. I don't have a problem with carrying that load."
Just about a month ago, Monta Ellis expressed his opinion on playing in the same back court as Stephen Curry by saying, "I just want to win. That's.... not going to win that way." Then a couple weeks later during training camp, he's changed his mind about Curry. Apparently Ellis is meshing well with the rookie, however, well, after he got his butt whooped in practice. Not exactly the best start to assuming the vocal leader role and current face of the Golden State Warriors. We do think he'll manage and we'll forget any of this stuff from the past two years ever happened, sorta. Monta Ellis is still one of the premier guards and one of the quickest in the league. Oh yea, Brendan Wright got injured and had off season shoulder surgery. He'll miss the first couple months of the season, at least.
The Off Season Changes....
In May, Chris Mullin's tenure as the General Manager of the Warriors came to a close after the Warriors decided not to renew his contract. We saw this one coming a mile away. In late June, Larry Riley, the new GM, drafted the scoring sensation, Stephen Curry from Davidson College with the 7th pick of the 2009 NBA Draft. On draft day, Jamal Crawford was shipped out to Atlanta for point guards Acie Law and Speedy Claxton (for his 2nd tenure with the Warriors). The Italian Stallion, Marco Belinelli, was traded to the Toronto Raptors for Devean George over a month later. Then at the end of August, the Warriors signed the journeyman forward/center, Mikki Moore, to add depth to the front court. Let's take a look at the new guys and get you folks a bit more familiarized with them.
Acie Law IV - Point Guard:
History: He was drafted 2 years ago by the Atlanta Hawks, 11th overall in the 2007 NBA Draft. He was supposed to be the future of the Atlanta Hawks back court until they traded for Mike Bibby during their 2008 playoff run. He was well known as a clutch player during his college years at Texas A&M.
What He Brings: He brings added depth to the Warriors point guard spot by joining CJ Watson, Stephen Curry, and Speedy Claxton as well. He was a summer league sensation last year, but we still haven't seen much success besides that in the pros thus far. He's still very young and maybe he'll find a niche in the Nellie system. Uh... small forward, anyone?
Speedy Claxton - Point Guard:
History: In 2003, he signed a four-year contract with Golden State for approximately $25 million. During that span, he was known as a scrappy defender and solid point guard. He even started a good portion of the games during his tenure before he was shipped off with Dale Davis to New Orleans for B-Diddy.
What He Brings: Will he stay healthy after having an injury plagued history? Who knows? If you look at the numbers, with his playing time, he's been a solid contributor off the bench and starting. He brings some much needed veteran experience to a very young Golden State Warriors back court.
Devean George - Guard-Forward:
History: Devean George was one of the main contributors off the bench for that Laker three-peat squad during the height of the Kobe and Shaq era (Shaq & Kobe, whatever). He was also an integral part of that very successful 06-07 Dallas Mavericks team (which the Warriors promptly sent them on an early summer vacation in the 1st round).
What He Brings: With his size and offensive versatility, I'm pretty sure Nellie will shoe horn minutes at power forward for Mr. George. Solid defender and most importantly, he has a knack for shooting 3's, which a lot of Laker fans remember.
Mikki Moore - Forward-Center:
History: Having played for 9 different teams in his 11 year career, he's entering his 12th season in the pros with his 10th team at Golden State. If you look at his pro resume, he was a main contributor in the front court for such playoff bound teams in the past as the Pistons, Jazz, Nets, and Celtics. That didn't include his stints earlier in his career in the NBDL.
What He Brings: Last season Andris Biedrins and Ronny Turiaf were just some of the very few options we had at center. This is where Mikki Moore comes in. This veteran scrapper in the paint provides these youngsters with a lesson in "hustlenomics".
Last...but definitely not least. Mr. Ross Tirona will take it from here to present you with Golden State's greatest off season prize and the rest of this season's player preview! I think he has a man-crush on Anthony Morrow. Seriously.
Stephen Curry (rookie) - Guard:
History: Stephen Curry really doesn't need much of an introduction if you also follow college basketball or at the very least the NCAA Tournament in March. As a Junior collegian, he led the nation in scoring last season at 28.6 ppg. A prolific shooter and scorer he took on the point guard role for Davidson and his assists went up from 2.9 to 5.6.
What He Brings: Questions still surround him in regards to his ball handling, dribbling, and passing skills. However, after watching him in the Vegas Summer League and in pre-season, I am confident in saying that he is absolutely the best passer on the team. He sees the court well and is getting more and more comfortable setting up his teammates. His outside shot isn't falling as much as we all expected. After all, he did average 46.7% from the field and 41.2% from downtown in college. I'm sure his shot will come around.
Anthony Morrow - Guard-Forward:
One guy I'm not worried about offensively is the sharpest-shooting Anthony Morrow. NBA fans should know that he led the Association in three point percentage last year, hitting 46.7% from downtown. After watching Morrow light in up in Summer League setting a Summer League record 47 points against the Hornets. I could not wait to see what he would do for an encore in the pre-season and I was not disappointed in the slightest. His pre-season numbers are astounding. 57.9% FG, 51.9% 3PT, 96.2% FT, 22 PPG. If he got extended playing time AND kept up this efficiency, then look out. Morrow is the real deal.
Monta Ellis - Guard:
Once the future face of the franchise. Now, I'm not so sure. What I do know is if he goes back to being the Monta Ellis of 07-08 where he averaged 20.2 ppg on 53.1% FG then Warriors fans be more likely forgive his "Moped" season last year.
Andris Biedrins - Center:
The only Euro I've seen with more hair gel than me is back for another season of double-double productivity. Always among the leaders in field goal percentage, since he doesn't take a shot outside of five feet, I expect more of the same if not slightly better numbers. After five years in the NBA I hope he finally knows how NOT to get into foul trouble.
Stephen Jackson - Guard-Forward:
So I hear he will still play hard even though we all know about him being more disgruntled than Grumpy in Snow White. Expect a dip in numbers all across the board.
Anthony Randolph - Forward:
Another fine player in the "future core". He was a man among boys in the Vegas Summer League and really looks like he is ready to take that next step in the NBA. And no, I don't mean the new traveling rule. (Holland: Fantasy basketball fans have a hard-on for this guy's potential this season too.)
Corey Maggette - Guard-Forward:
Clipper fans can tell me all they want about him and for the most part they're right. The ball has no hope of coming back after being passed to him. He will shoot, he will drive, and he will get to the line. On a team that plays at such a high pace, his ability to stop the game by taking free throws will only help the legs of his teammates over the course of the long NBA season. (Holland: He talks to pigeons, man. PIGEONS. He's like Aquaman, but with pigeons.)
Ronny Turiaf - Forward-Center:
Mr. Hyphy has quickly become a fan favorite with his hustle, rebounding, and shot blocking ability. His passing is underrated. After watching him last season and this pre-season, I would not be surprised if he averages three assists a game. Dead serious.
CJ Watson - Point Guard:
So Warriors (mis)management decided to extend his contract. Since his contract isn't breaking the bank and he knows the system I don't see a problem with it at all. I just hope he is okay with playing five minutes a game. Unless he plans on giving Ellis a moped for Christmas. Hmmm. (Holland: Is there a drinking game for how many moped-related Monta Ellis jokes we're writing in this?)
Kelenna Azubuike - Guard-Forward:
The three year Kentucky Wildcat has guns that MMA stars are envious of. In Don Nelson's system, he is occasionally forced to play the three. Thankfully his physical strength alone is enough to make him not be completely overpowered down low given his 6' 5" height. Every year he has improved. After averaging 14.4 points per game last year, how long will that improvement last with Morrow right behind him?
Brandan Wright - Forward:
Apparently he's made significant progress. Then got injured and now we won't see that progress for a while. I really want to see something out of the kid or else he will be forever known as "The guy we got for J-Rich."
What To Expect From The 2009-2010 Golden State Warriors....
Roster Musical Chairs:
Well, the game plan is more or less the same as last season. Don Nelson will run a high octane offense without much regard for defense. This is the most obvious plan in the eyes of a lot of NBA fans. With a roster that features more swingmen than a Cirque du Soleil act, a few two-guards, and a few players actually exceeding 6'9" in height, this is an interesting bunch. Don Nelson will play his men where he sees fit. Don't think of it as a decision according to size or even ability to play the position. If Don Nelson wanted 3 players with a passing ability, dammit, he'll make it happen. Will it work? That remains to be seen and based on last season, no, not really at all. One thing's for sure. Night in and night out, this young squad is going to be very fun to watch. That's pretty much guaranteed if you like teams who are fast paced and score a lot. When healthy, Don Nelson's system will result in a fair amount of wins. It's likely not enough wins to avoid more ping pong balls next summer.
Will Monta and Stephen Co-Exist?:
We think they'll do just fine. In fact, during the pre-season game and scrimmage we saw this past week, they definitely seem to be clicking together. Hopefully when the season gets rollin', all of us will forget Monta even said anything. Monta will use his lightning quick slashing ability to break down defenses and Curry can camp outside for open jumpers. If Stephen Curry picks up the point guard position in the pros, it'll make it easier for Ellis to find his baskets inside for easy layups. The talent of those two working together is there, we just hope it gels together some more as the season progresses. We're also really hoping Curry will be holding up that rookie of the year trophy too, but in that very talented back court, who knows if he'll get the ball enough? This year's rookie crop has some stiff competition, even with Blake "Superior" shelved after Thanksgiving. Either way, we think they can be one of the best back courts in the league. Ellis is the man and Curry is legit.
The Artist Formerly Known As Captain Jack:
It seems lately that the tension, in the meantime, has been put aside for the greater good of the team. He no longer has to be a role model. He is no longer responsible for talking to refs or leading the young core through motivation and mentoring. Stephen Jackson just needs to keep his head in the game. With his $35 million, 3-year contract extension which doesn't go into effect until next summer, there won't be anyone in the league to trade him to. Don Nelson believes Stack Jack will play hard and be a "good soldier" for the Warriors. Although he seems a bit out of it when he's on the court lately, he still plays quite hard as one of the best players on that Warriors roster. One thing's for sure, Nellie ain't his momma.
Projected Starting Five (for now):
PG - Stephen Curry, SG - Monta Ellis, SF - Stephen Jackson, PF - Anthony Randolph, C - Andris Biedrins
Our Predicted 2009-10 Season Records:
Best Case Scenario - 38-44
Worst Case Senario - 23-59
Best Case Scenario - 43-39
Worst Case Scenario - 28-54
Remember the good times, people. In a league where "Amazing Happens...", sometimes you never know what kind of crazy stuff can happen....
Mark Your Calendars:
October 28th, 2009 vs. Houston - The Warriors open their season at home against a Houston Rockets team that's starting a back to back schedule. Now they have to run with the Warriors.
October 30th, 2009 @ Phoenix - Run n' gun, baby. This'll be a high scoring game. Just don't blink.
November 6th, 2009 vs. LA Clippers - Anthony Morrow's back and reloaded. Will he have another big game against his favorite team? Or will it be Baron Davis' revenge?
November 8th, 2009 @ Sacramento - Stephen Curry vs. Tyreke Evans for ROY bragging rights.
November 9th, 2009 vs. Minnesota - Followed up with Stephen Curry vs. Jonny Flynn, another ROY candidate point guard.
March 6th, 2010 @ Charlotte - Yes, more Curry. Stephen plays in front of the area code that made him famous.
April 2nd, 2010 @ New York - Former Warrior Protegé Al Harrington brings his shoes and Mike D'Antoni's New York Knicks to Oracle Arena. The boo birds will be in full force. Also, it's KryptoNate's home coming to the east bay.
Stay tuned in the future as Holland, Ross, and friends discuss possible job opportunities for Thunder, the former Golden State Warriors mascot. It's a tough economy out there and thunderbolts aren't selling as well as they used to. There's a lonely trampoline with a basketball hoop out there somewhere that's not being used. Until then, can I get a "YEEEEEEEEE!"?We're always up late. How about buying us a coffee? Or an energy drink!?