It’s getting difficult to make sense of what is going on during Warriors’ games currently. So many agendas are being worked out, so many little dramas. Biedrins taking a back seat to Udoh’s development. Stephen Curry sitting out an entire fourth quarter of a close game. Working Al Thornton, and a radically different style of play, into the rotation.
It is fair to ask at this point whether the Warriors as an organization are even trying to win basketball games.
Which is frustrating, because if the last two closely contested road losses — to the vaunted Celtics, and to a surging Sixers team that has the best record in the East over the last month — show anything, it is just how close the Warriors are in talent to the best teams in the league. And just how many games they might have won this season, if Joe Lacob had not bought the franchise.
Keith Smart: I’m getting tired of piling on Keith Smart. Blogging is not a blood sport to me. I like to think that my compulsion to write about basketball derives from a higher purpose. Celebration of the style of basketball I love. Ruthless dissection of the style I hate. And advocacy, which is an unquenchable part of me.
There is no longer anything for me to advocate this season. The season has taken its shape and run its course. At this point, by both his actions and — if you like reading between the lines, as I do — his words, Joe Lacob has made clear that there will be no cavalry charging over the hill to rescue Keith Smart. His milk carton is stamped. And with that, my feelings towards him have shifted to empathy.
There is no question that Keith Smart was dealt a lousy hand by Joe Lacob this season. Jeremy Lin, Lou Amundson. Rodney Carney, the Warriors only defensive swingman on the bench, taken away and replaced by… nobody. Larry Riley had his D-league-twitching hands tied behind his back. Dan Gadzuric, the only real center behind the defunct Andris Biedrins, thrown away for a second round pick.
And let’s not forget the insistence from the start– spoken or unspoken, the insistence was obvious — that this beautifully round Nellieball roster be pounded into a square defense-and-rebounding hole.
Keith Smart had it tough this season, very tough. But having said that — you knew it was coming, didn’t you? — I would be remiss if I didn’t keep pointing out how I think Smart is failing this Warriors’ team. And a lot of things went wrong for him in this game.
Starting with his decision to open the overtime with Andris Biedrins. Could it be that he made this decision solely in the hope that Beans would win the tip and gain the Warriors the first possession? Whatever impelled this choice, it was disastrous against a Sixers lineup whose biggest player was Thaddeus Young. The Sixers wasted no time exploiting Biedrins on the pick and roll, the Warriors couldn’t return the favor with Biedrins polluting the lane, and the Sixers seized the lead and the momentum. A disastrous decision.
Other decisions also perplexed. Biedrins simply didn’t belong on the court in this game against the Sixers small second unit. If you play him at all, you have to start him against Hawes. The Warriors were -13 with Beans on the court bridging the first and second quarters. Disastrous. And completely forseeable.
It’s also completely forseeable that this problem will persist as the Warriors go forward. If Biedrins is worth playing at all, it must be against bigger players. Playing him on the second unit will turn him into a target every time.
Other decisions: If you are not planning on playing Udoh down the stretch or in overtime, why yank him when he picks up his fourth foul 4 minutes into the third Q, a 4 minute stretch in which the Warriors were +7?
Stephen Curry sitting out all but the last minute of the fourth quarter….
The failure to fully exploit the pick and roll. If you still have this game on tape, take a look at a few of the pick and rolls the Warriors ran in this game:
- 10:25 1Q: Lee/Ellis, Lee is bottled up in the lane because Udoh brings his man to him.
- 3:00 1Q: With Biedrins stinking up the lane, Lee is forced to pop and Curry is swarmed.
- 10:45 2Q: Same problem, turnover.
- 2:25 3Q: With Vlad Rad at 4 spreading the floor, a Lee/Curry PNR results in Lee being wide open down the lane, leading to a perfect pass to DWright for free throws.
- 6:40 4Q: With Vlad Rad at center (!), the Sixers cannot blitz Acie Law on the pick and roll. Layup.
- 5:35 4Q: Same play again, drive and dish to Reggie Williams.
For a great pick and roll player like David Lee, this game presented a dream matchup against Elton Brand. It should have been exploited. That meant forcing the Sixers into what they wanted to do anyway: going small. No Biedrins, no Amundson on the floor, ever. And it meant spacing Udoh, and giving him the green light to fire that 20 footer, regardless. To keep the defense honest. Lee got a mere 11 shots in this game, shooting 7-11. I just don’t think that’s the way a good coach would have game-planned it.
I was confused trying to determine the Warriors’ plan of action in this game. No matter how sympathetically you might regard Keith Smart’s predicament this season, I think you must admit that his real-time game decisions do not speak with the same kind of authority that we expect of an NBA coach.
Andris Biedrins: Beans has been getting killed in the press and by the fans recently, particularly since he willingly accepted a demotion to the second unit.
I think he’s being treated unfairly.
Yes, that’s right. I know I have been as harsh as anyone in pointing out his free throw woes, and what I have called his cowardice in shying away from contact. But when I wrote those statements I was still holding out hope that Beans was working his way back into shape, and could improve. That hope is now gone. And I don’t think it’s Beans fault.
Andris Biedrins has a CHRONIC INJURY. It’s related to his abdomen, and that “hernia” surgery he had last season. It has robbed him of his quickness and athleticism, which was the hallmark of his game. And when those went, so did his confidence and decisiveness. And when those went, he lost his hands, and his mind.
That’s what he’s getting killed for. Everyone can see how frightened and feeble he is on the basketball court right now. But it is actually unfair to him. Because he’s injured, and he is never going to get better.
Yes, I know he just gave an interview in which he said he felt great physically. I think this may be untrue, because I’ve seen him come out of two games recently clutching his abdominal area. What he is willing to admit to is that he can’t get his game back, and can’t figure out why.
I can figure out why. First of all, he can’t jump. Just take a look at his shotblocking totals. 1.7 a game at the height of his power. .9 a game now.
Take a look at his finishes in the lane. Do you remember how he used to finish before he got injured? He would flash across the lane to that lefty layup, that was unblockable because it was above the rim. Do you remember all those alley-oops Nellie used to run for him? Gone, along with Biedrin’s jumping ability. What we see now are flat-footed jumphooks.
More than this, Beans is actually afraid to jump. Can you think of a good reason why Biedrins did not jump center this season? Why David Lee jumped center in his place? To me (and only me, I have not been able to get anyone in the media to take interest in this subject) the answer is obvious:
The Warriors’ are protecting Biedrins from aggravating his injury.
Along with his jumping, Bean’s has lost his running ability. This once great player who used to beat his man downcourt with regularity, and frequently be the first Warriors defender back on defense is now laboring up and down the court.
And that spells doom. Beans is not a banger. He’s extremely light in fact, at 240, for a center. What made him special as a player was his athleticism and quickness. That’s gone, and it’s not coming back. Whatever it is that’s going on, and I strongly suspect it may be osteitis pubis, it’s not going to get better. You can read that in Biedrins’ attitude. He is playing out the string.
Andris Biedrins is finished as a basketball player.
The conspiracy of silence surrounding this is baffling to me. I can understand the euphemisms and obfuscations being employed by Warriors management and Biedrins himself. They want to keep Beans as mentally strong as possible, and protect him as much as possible from being exploited on the court.
But the mainstream media? Like Biedrins in the lane, they have dropped the ball.
Stephen Curry: If it weren’t for the overtime, Curry would have gotten 30 minutes in this game. This after getting 31 minutes in the Boston game. While Monta is getting overworked.
Seriously, what is up with this? I wonder why this isn’t more of an issue in the press? It’s astonishing to me that no one is covering this.
We all know that Stephen Curry can single-handedly carry a team, don’t we? I mean, we saw it time and time again last year, right? He is that good. So what is going on?
Is it a physical issue? Are Curry’s ankles still bothering him? He has looked gassed on occasion.
Or is it something else, some issue between Smart and Curry? I have had an increasing perception that something is wrong about Curry’s body language this season. He frequently doesn’t seem completely engaged in the huddles to me, among other things.
Stephen Curry is a very, very intelligent kid. I think he may have read Joe Lacob’s mail very early on in this season. And now he’s just gritting his teeth and fighting through it.
Or maybe that’s just me projecting my own feelings. What do you think?
On a slightly different note: I have contemplated off and on doing a statistical comparison of Curry’s last season under Nellie with this season under Smart. Matt Steinmetz got the jump on me with this very interesting tweet yesterday:
“Stephen Curry had 10 or more assists in 9 of last 29 games in 2009-10. This year, 5 times total in 54 games.”
Brother, I could write 5 posts about what those simple figures imply, if the heart hadn’t been cut out of me. On second thought, maybe I’ve already done it.
Thunder Watch: The Thunder failed to cover their -6 spread against Phoenix last night, twice. First in regulation. And then again in overtime.
The Thunder are now 1-3 against the spread since I began my watch. And I predict this will get worse, not better, when Perkins returns.
Have you voted yet? Grade Joe Lacob.