Pre-Game Jitters: Phoenix

Turiaf in, Monta out.  Standard.  The Warriors are +12 road dogs without their leader, and understandably so.  It is hard to imagine they’ll be able to keep up with Phoenix’s pace without Monta, and down to one guard.  One guard.  Roll that around on your tongue for a bit.  But the Warriors have astounded the bookies, not to mention this fan, with their effort so far this season.  They are now 11-3 ATS in their last 14 games.

The upside to Monta going down is that we’ll get a look at how Stephen Curry can run a team.  (Even if it’s a D-league team.) If last night is any indication, the answer is pretty darn well.  The Warriors outscored the Nets by 24 after Monta went down.  Curry was dominant, with a career high 32 points, and 7 assists against 2 TO’s.  And for those of you who continue to insist that he’s not a point guard, I believe I heard Jim Barnett say last night that Curry “is as good in the open floor as anyone in the NBA.”

50-40-90.  Do those numbers mean anything to you?  Those are the shooting percentages Steve Nash has surpassed from the field, from three, and from the line, in four of the last 5 years.  In the year he missed, it was because he allowed his free throw percentage to dip to 88.9.  For shame!  Needless to say, these are incredibly elite numbers, that place Nash among the most efficient scorers in NBA history.

Why do I bring it up?  Because these are Stephen Curry’s shooting percentages in January: 49-44-87. While playing ridiculous minutes, and great defense, for a depleted team, in his rookie season. Something to think about.

Here’s something else to think about: Tyreke Evans is about to slip badly in the rookie of the year race.  Why? Because Kevin Martin has returned to the Kings lineup. Evans now finds himself in the same situation Curry has been in since the start of the year.  He is no longer the only Kings star on the court, and the focus of its offense.  He now has to share the backcourt with an established star, and a player that needs the ball in his hands to be effective. There could be quite an adjustment period ahead for the Kings, and Mr. Evans.  Take a look at last night’s box score to see what I mean.

I guess what I’m saying is that no matter what fresh hell the Warriors encounter this 13-28 season, there continues to something fascinating to watch about them. No Monta Ellis? Ok, I’ll watch Stephen Curry take another step towards greatness. I’ll watch Corey Maggette continue to confound his critics. I’ll watch the D-league all-stars lay it all on the line for a place in the league. And of course, I’ll watch Don Nelson, confronted by disaster, delivering one of the most remarkable coaching performances of his career.

17 Responses to Pre-Game Jitters: Phoenix

  1. From the RealGM site, Jan. 22:

    Warriors general manager Larry Riley expects the club to be busy over the next month or so as the NBA’s trade deadline approaches.

    “Is a little something good enough? I can tell you right now: No it isn’t,” Riley said. “We’re not looking to do something minor.

    I must confess, Riley’s comments make me nervous. Any thoughts what could/should happen?

  2. The Warriors appear headed for a high lottery pick. But are they? That depends heavily on the future health of their roster. By all indications, this is a team that can play close to .500, or better, when reasonably healthy.

    In 1998, with the Mavericks coming off a bad season, Nellie used a first-round pick to land Steve Nash. I’m pretty sure his thinking was that if he landed Nash, that first round pick wouldn’t wind up that great. (It didn’t work out that way: Nash was plagued with injuries and struggled, and the Suns landed Marion with the 7th pick. The next season was Nash’s breakout, and the Mavs were off and running.)

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nellie do something similar this season: use that draft pick to land an impact player, right when the Warriors are on the verge of getting healthy and turning the corner. Obviously, what we need is a power forward.

  3. By the way, did you see Riley’s comment that Raja Bell might return next month? That would be huge.

  4. I spent some time last night considering why the Nets are so bad, and as per usual when I do that, I concluded that horrendous coaching has a lot to do with it. First of all, any coach who wears ridiculous trendy glasses on the sidelines is clearly trying to hide the fact that he doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing (see also: Mike Brown). Here’s the substance:

    1) Trying to turn Devin Harris into a pass-first point guard. Harris is in the Tony Parker, Monta Ellis mold. He needs to be set free, for good or ill.

    2) Force feeding Yi in the post. Whatever Yi is, he most certainly is not a post-player, and never will be. I’ve never seen a big man with a softer grip on the ball. His attempts at jump-hooks were positively girlish. What Kiki is doing with Yi reminds me of what McMillan did with Channing Frye. Get him out at the three point line where he belongs, and open up that lane for Lopez.

    3) Stop drafting and playing players that can’t shoot (cf. Don Nelson).

  5. Steven Nash is going to destroy Curry tonight. Curry is THE ONLY GUARD tonight, so he has 5 fouls to give in 48 minutes before he’s gone from the game on the 6th. That means he can’t touch Nash, or get near him, or breathe on him.

  6. Curry also has to watch his fouls as well as run the offense and score some points, i.e. we’ll have to turn Nash loose. Let’s not expect too much tonight. Martin on Nash?

  7. IQ: But wasn’t that Nellie’s game plan on Nash last game? :>

  8. Feltbot: Man, that seemed so long ago. That was the home win right after Christmas. I can’t remember what the game plan was back then. We’ve been through so much since then.

    Looking at the box score, wow, we were a different team then. We had Morrow, Randolph, Monta, Radman, CJ. This time, we’ll have George, Cartier, Tolliver, Hunter, Biedrins. The only guys that are the same in both games is Curry, Maggette, Turiaf.

    On the offensive side, we’re not going to be an outside shooting threat. No Monta means we’re not a drive-to-the-hoop threat from the outside. We’re going to have to try to win it with rebounds.

    On the defensive side, we have size and rebounding presence, but no speed, so there won’t be many pass interception steals into fast breaks.

    I don’t know anything about the Suns now that they’ve changed their lineup. I read JRich and Frye got moved to the bench, so whatever they have now will further complicate the game plan.

    Besides, we can always blame a loss on the schedule maker. This is another scheduled loss as we play a back to back, travel to another time zone, lose an hour, and play less than 24 hours than before.

  9. Hard to disagree with your pessimistic forecast on paper. I wonder why I’m looking forward to the game. I think I just want to see what crazy Nellie comes up with when he can’t run and he can’t shoot :>

    And then there’s that tantalizing rookie…

  10. We could use a one armed Raja right now, who knows if any Warriors will be left in a month.

  11. PS: regarding Nellie’s game plan last time, check out my recap on GSoM:

    http://www.goldenstateofmind.com/2009/12/27/1220678/recap-warriors-132-suns-127-big

  12. Game plan:

    Make sure Curry is the last player to foul out so he can stay in the game and we can watch Nash shoot free throws.

  13. Nivrag – Hahahaha, I can just see it now.

    Tweeeeet! Curry whistled for foul #5. Nellie sends Hunter out there to Hack A Sun to foul out Hunter. 7 players left. Nellie does the same to Cartier and Turiaf. 5 guys left. OK, Curry, you can now play defense!

  14. Or if Nellie wants to get it done quickly, he’ll send Hunter, Cartier, and Turiaf out to argue and shove the refs around, instant double T, instant ejections. 5 players left!

  15. On Ellis:

    I don’t see how anyone who likes basketball can criticize Ellis. His efforts have been heroic — and I hope not tragic.

    Much of what Nelson says suggests that he is deferring to his team leader, that Ellis is calling the shots, as to his playing time, the offense, and his shot totals. This hasn’t hurt us.

    I wonder what Ellis is doing, and am of course guessing wildly. In a losing season, he is trying to prove he is an elite player, which he is, maybe make the all star game. I have no argument here — this drive is what makes the NBA go. And of course he is trying to maintain his belief in himself and in his play. We all can learn something here.

    But I’m hoping this tweak in his ankle — and I hope it’s just a tweak — will slow him down, that at least second half he’ll relent and get more rest. But I’d also like him to step down from being an elite player to an awfully damn good one, and the second half and next year cut his load and spread the offense around more. This will be tough on him, but I think the team needs it. He may need it as well.

    Assuming he stays. . . .

    Trades:

    No argument here, Feltbot. The current roster only needs a few more healthy bodies to continue being an exciting, competitive team, all we can hope for. No need to panic, FO.

    We’ve seen this team tear itself apart from something into nothing so many times, the reason I get nervous.

    My priorities:

    1. Keep what you’ve got. We’ve seen so much talent, potential talent walk out the door. Start with Robert Parrish (and then we didn’t have a big man), Mitch Richmond, etc., etc., etc.

    2. No expensive gambles, putting up big bucks, bad trades for veterans with potential health risks, unproven talent (Billy Owens), marquee players (Jo Jo White) or personality cases that may not fit with the team. (But I would defend Stephen Jackson and Sprewell. These did produce dividends. And as far as Carlesimo is concerned, I wanted to strangle him.)

    3. Don’t look for saviors. (I blame all the expectations dumped on Dunleavy. He had the potential to be a very fine sixth man, no more.)

    4. Keep the system intact and allow continuity. We have a good system with good players now to build on. And at the very least, we have the best coach we can realistically expect to get. (What exactly have our other options been?) But I can do better than that. We have an excellent coach with decades of experience to help make the transition. (I’m assuming Nelson will retire sooner or later.) And he’s tough enough — and maybe jaded enough — to put up with all the flack that comes from not winning games, which might destroy any replacement.

  16. “And as far as Carlesimo is concerned, I wanted to strangle him.”

    This is a very under-voiced angle :>

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