“You are doing the defense a favor when you post up Lee or Biedrins.” — Mark Jackson
I couldn’t agree with Mark Jackson more. We were told by the commentators to last night’s game that Keith Smart and his staff were raving about David Lee’s “surprising” abilities in the low post. (Surprising to whom? Matt Steinmetz et al? They weren’t surprising to feltbot.) Jackson went on to explain that despite Lee’s talent in the post, he is one of the greatest pick and roll players in the league, and that is how the Warriors should deploy him. I couldn’t agree more, as readers of this blog know.
And yet last night we were treated by Keith Smart to four quarters of watching the Warriors trying to post up Lee and Biedrins in the heart of the Lakers defense. Why? For well over three quarters, Smart ran literally no pick and rolls with Lee that were designed to get him a shot. Instead Andris Biedrins was used almost exclusively to set the high picks, with Lee standing uselessly on the wings waiting for the ball that never came. Why?
It wasn’t until 2:06 of the 4th quarter that the Warriors ran pick and roll with Lee and Monta at the top of the key. Monta drove the lane effortlessly and made a perfect over the shoulder dish to the wide-open, charging Lee for the layup. Take a good look at that dynamic play. Was it even possible for David Lee to be more wide open, as the whole Laker team converged on Monta Ellis? How many times did the Warriors have a play that wide open last night? How many times in your life have you seen a play that wide open?
That play is unguardable. Compare it to the Warriors’ static post-up of Lee in no-man’s land at 7:08 of the 4th quarter. Granted, I’m cherry-picking a bad result for purposes of illustration. But ask yourself, which play is a better fit for the Warriors uniquely talented players, the dynamic pick and roll, or the static post up? Which play is more likely to get a bucket?
And yet, once they found the Achilles heel of the Lakers’ defense, did the Warriors attempt to exploit it? Did they return to the pick and roll with Monta and Lee with the game on the line? They did not. Not once. Why?
I’m going to cut off my rant here. There are several possible reasons why Smart didn’t use pick and roll last night. To wit: He wanted to use the game to work exclusively on things that the Warriors need work on; Stephen Curry, his chief pick and roll guard, was out; he doesn’t want to show his hand in the pre-season.
But if Keith Smart brings this completely ludicrous and completely inexplicable style of basketball into the regular season, we will know for a certainty that Joe Lacob is not just the GM of the Warriors, but also their coach.
Monta Ellis: I’ve already written about my expectations for Monta this season. He’s finally back to his playing weight of 185. He is reconciled to his team and his role. He has playing partners in David Lee and Stephen Curry that can get him wide open. He has playing partners in David Lee and Stephen Curry that provide excellent targets for his vastly underrated passing ability.
This year, “Monta Ellis” and “Superstar” are once again going to be frequently heard in the same sentence. Kobe Bryant’s number one favorite player to watch is back.
Reggie Williams: I have been stating that Reggie Williams is the Warriors’ backup point guard. Others have been stating that he’s not a very good ball-handler, and that playing him at point-forward was simply another symptom of Crazy Nellie. Last night, in the absence of Curry, the Warriors used Reggie almost exclusively at the point. He played with intelligence and purpose, knowing exactly how the offense was supposed to be run. Both his superb court vision and his rock-solid handle were on display, as his 8 assists against 2 To’s attest. His decision-making on when to look for his own shot was near perfect, as his super-efficient 27 points on 8-14 and 9-9 from the line attest. His forays into the lane were masterful. He is a natural born scorer.
I think Reggie Williams is a remarkable player, a dominant scoring point guard/forward in the Don Nelson mold, and perhaps the chief reason why the Warriors let CJ Watson go.
What do you think?
David Lee: Rewind the tape to 8:44 of the third to see Lee throw a perfect bounce pass to a back-cutting Monta Ellis.
Then forward the tape to 7:40 of the third, and take another look at the play where Monta and Lee played a two-man game on the right wing, that resulted in a brilliant Lee no-look backhand bounce-pass that hit Ellis in stride for the layup.
David Lee is an incredible player. His offensive talent is simply off the charts. Keith Smart, for god’s sake ditch the Lacob-mandated crap you’re running, get David Lee into the high post, and run pick and roll.
Just get him the damn ball.
Andris Biedrins: Biedrins was perfectly serviceable last night, playing a tough opponent in Pau Gasol. Gasol was limited to 12 points on 3-9. But I didn’t see the remarkable energy, athleticism and defensive intuition that I saw in him at his peak. Conditioning? Preseason?
He also made 2-4 free throws. Both times he went to the line, his first free throw looked godawful, but the second was smoooooooth.
Vlad Rad: One thing that I think is clear at this point is that Vlad is going to be backing up Dorell Wright at the small forward. Reggie Williams is desperately needed at the backup point guard position. Rodney Carney is currently not a factor. And Brandon Wright is execrable at the position, as last night showed conclusively.
Vlad actually did a credible job guarding Kobe Bryant last night, and I remember he also did a credible job guarding Bryant at the height of his powers in a game for Nellie last season. Perhaps I was wrong about Vlad’s ability to guard threes. I’m still convinced, along with Nelson, that he is a far more effective player at the four. But as currently constituted, the Warriors need him at the three.
Vlad of course being Vlad, he balanced his largely effective play last night (+8) with a series of enigmatic brain-farts in crunch time. He farted away this win.
Brandan Wright: We got a good look at Wright at the small forward last night. And he gave us a quintessential Brandan Wright performance. Wandering aimlessly around the court, with no instinct for where to go or what to do. A split-second late on every close-out, on every rotation, on every rebound. He was the Lakers’ go-to matchup. And they lit him on fire.
He put up a couple of stats. Pulled a few uncontested rebounds. But there is only one stat concerning his performance in this game that matters: -23 in a game the Warriors lost by three. If you can’t see what I’m talking about by looking at the game tape, and if you are unpersuaded by my opinion, and that of Don Nelson and Stephen Jackson and Rony Turiaf and even Keith Smart himself — if you still hold out hope that Brandan Wright is an NBA player — then just stare at that boxscore for awhile.
Something is missing. Something in his head, and something in the middle of his chest.
And oh, by the way, he’ll never be a small forward. Noted with amusement last night, this comment by the play-by-play guy: “Wright with the odd release at the free throw line.” I’ve seen that free-throw close up, from courtside at the Vegas summer league. It’s a knuckleball.
With Udoh and Amundsen out, the Warriors will need a good chunk of minutes from Brandon Wright, which should be worrisome, to put it mildly. Hopefully, they find a way to carry Adrien on the roster.
Dan Gadzuric: I remember the time when Gadzuric was an athletic leaper, and ran the court like a deer. Those days are apparently gone. He was the slowest player changing ends last night. And those hands of stone…
Ekpe Udoh, the Bay Area turns its lonely eyes to you.
Charlie Bell and Jeremy Lin: Anyone see anything useful or good in their minutes? I didn’t. Lin is completely starstruck and overmatched. He reminds me of Coby Karl. Could he use some time in the D-League? That might allow the Warriors to carry Adrien.
And now, because its getting to be about that time, I will venture a few
- Warriors in the playoffs? Based on what I saw last night? No way. But if Keith Smart comes to his senses? Hmmm… still unlikely given the thinness of the Warriors’ bench, but not out of the question given the current state of the West. I’ll get back to you on this, but I won’t have a serious opinion until I see Smart coach in the regular season.
- Warriors over 30.5 wins at -130? Cautiously, yes. The bet has this going for it: if Keith Smart doesn’t beat this number with the talent on this roster he will be fired. The bet has this going against it: Andris Biedrins as the lone center standing between the Warriors and oblivion.
- Monta Ellis will be an All-Star.
- Reggie Williams will be the Sixth Man of the Year.
- Vlad Rad will get more minutes than Brandan Wright, despite explosive noises from Lauridsen’s blog.
- Andris Biedrins will shoot 52% from the line. No more, no less. (Give me odds.)
- Lakers v. Heat in the finals
- Gilbert Arenas and Reggie Williams will win two (2) (both) fantasy leagues for feltbot this year.