Feltbot's Warriors Blog http://feltbot.com For Golden State Warriors Fans Mon, 28 Jul 2014 02:01:06 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Why the Warriors Can’t Emulate the Spurs Offense http://feltbot.com/2014/07/27/warriors-cant-emulate-spurs-offense/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=warriors-cant-emulate-spurs-offense http://feltbot.com/2014/07/27/warriors-cant-emulate-spurs-offense/#comments Sun, 27 Jul 2014 23:30:48 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3186 Continue reading ]]> There’s been quite a bit of talk this off-season, largely initiated by new head coach Steve Kerr, that the Warriors are going to try to emulate the Spurs motion offense in the coming season. Sounds perfect for the Warriors, doesn’t it? Like the Spurs, the Warriors roster is loaded with high-IQ, high-character, and unselfish players with great passing ability. Spurs offense, here we come! Right?

Sorry, it ain’t gonna happen. 

The Warriors might try to run to run some of the same plays, but they won’t get anything like the same results. Why? Because the head coach and roster that GM Joe Lacob has assembled simply won’t allow it.

A major key to emulating the Spurs’ success is pushing the ball upcourt, and playing at an extremely fast pace. In countless sideline interviews last year, Pop was heard to complain that the Spurs weren’t playing with enough pace. And he was continuously pushing his players in the huddle, faster, Faster, FASTER!

Pop’s goal was to get his team wide open shots before the defense got a chance to get set. And to continue to keep the defense scrambling with constant motion and quick and decisive passing.

There are several reasons why I believe the Warriors have very little chance of emulating this offense:

1) Bogut.

Obviously, the Spurs bigs get upcourt far quicker than Bogut, and draw attention away from the ballhandler. How to match the Spurs pace with Bogut in the lineup is a continual problem.

Equally obviously, the Spurs bigs are adept at running pick and roll with Parker, and attacking the rim, while Bogut cringes at the very thought. (For those who have expressed disagreement with this frequently expressed opinion of mine, I simply refer you to Jeff van Gundy’s comment during the Spurs-Warriors playoff series: “The difference between the two teams is that the Spurs have centers who can convert the pick and roll, and the Warriors don’t.”)

Festus Ezeli is a much more willing pick and roll player than Bogut, as he’s far quicker, and has no fear of taking the ball to contact and getting to the line. But Ezeli unfortunately struggles with bad hands, and an erratic finish.

2) Joe Lacob and Smallball.

The Spurs have far more smallball players than the Warriors, and under Popovich are far more willing to play it than have been Joe Lacob’s rookie coaches. In fact, it has been obvious from the beginning of Lacob’s reign, through both his public pronouncements of his basketball philosophy, and his roster moves, that Lacob has actively discouraged the playing of smallball. (And it’s one of the chief ironies of his reign that his team has nevertheless been forced to rely extensively on it, both in the 12-13 regular season, and in the the last two playoffs, as a result of the Bogut signing, and the consequent injuries through overwork to Lee and Ezeli.) To Joe Lacob, smallball represents “the sins of the past.”

This season, the Warriors once again appear committed to playing big on the second unit with a non-shooting center, Festus Ezeli.  The Spurs, by contrast, prefer to run with stretch-fives like Diaw and Bonner.

3) Spacing.

The Spurs are far better able to stretch the floor with their starting lineup (unless Lee returns to form from midrange), and as noted have far more effective stretch lineups on their smallball reserve units. More on this below.

3) The Triangle.

While they incorporate some triangle concepts, the Spurs play very little post-up basketball. For two very important reasons: a) It slows the pace and allows the defense time to get set (it takes time to set up a post entry; and b) It’s the least efficient form of offense there is.

But Steve Kerr has expressed strong interest in using both Bogut and David Lee in the pinch post of the triangle. If he follows through on that threat, the Warriors pace will slow to a crawl relative to the Spurs.

4) Shaun Livingston.

Livingston creates a particular spacing problem that will be practically unique to the Warriors in the league.

Note that every single one of Popovich’s reserve guards is deadly from three. That is not an accident. It is crucial to running the Spurs system. First of all, the ability to shoot an early offense three is very helpful to running an efficient fast break. But more importantly, in a motion offense the point guard is not ball-dominant. He plays a major role off the ball, as a spot-up three point shooter and floor-spacer. You need shooters to play that role.

Shaun Livingston is not a shooter. With an effective range of about 12 feet, he’s next to useless off the ball. He cannot spot up at the three point line and represent a legitimate threat. He cannot draw an important defender (he will in fact draw the weakest defender). And whomever he draws will not even have to guard him, except in the low post. His presence on the court will completely collapse the defense.

Shaun Livingston is a ridiculously bad fit for a Spurs-style motion offense. He’s really only playable in a completely ball-dominant role. Either in pick and roll, or in the low post (there’s that post-up basketball again).

When you add to this the fact that Livingston will frequently be playing at the same time as Ezeli and Green, perhaps you will begin to understand my extreme bafflement and dismay at his signing.

5) Steve Kerr’s commitment to pushing the pace, and more Shaun Livingston.

Although Steve Kerr has hinted in the press that he wants the Warriors to continue to push the pace, will a guy who is steeped in Phil Jackson’s notions of floor balance, and the post-up offense of the Spurs in Tim Duncan’s prime, really prove willing to throw his previous experience out the window? What about the guy who as GM of the Suns traded Shawn Marion for Fat Shaq, traded Boris Diaw away as well, and pushed Amare Stoudemire to the four, completely destroying the Suns spacing? The guy who forced Steve Nash to walk the ball up the court and feed the post (Steve Nash!), and caused coach Mike D’Antoni to quit in disgust?

Will that same guy really be willing to put that past behind him, and push the tempo?

And even if he is willing, will he actually be able to push the tempo with this Warriors’ roster? I have severe doubts about that, for all the reasons listed above, but also this:

If Warriors management really wanted to push the pace, would Shaun Livingston be the guy they signed to play back-up point guard? A post-up player, incapable of shooting early offense threes? A guy who played at one of the slowest paces in the entire league last season? (25th out of 30.)

A guy who is currently hobbling around in a walking cast with a case of turf toe? An injury that frequently proves chronic (see Butler, Jimmy)?

Or would they have signed Isaiah Thomas, Darren Collison, DJ Augustin, Jordan Farmar or any number of other jitterbug three point bombers?

I’m curious to see what exactly the Warriors’ offensive philosophy evolves into this season.

But one thing I’m already certain of.

It ain’t gonna look like the Spurs.

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Can’t Buy Me Love http://feltbot.com/2014/07/19/cant-buy-love/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cant-buy-love http://feltbot.com/2014/07/19/cant-buy-love/#comments Sat, 19 Jul 2014 21:40:06 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3184 Continue reading ]]> I’ll give you all I’ve got to give
If you say you love me too
I may not have a lot to give
But what I’ve got I’ll give to you
I don’t care too much for money
For money can’t buy me love

                     – Lennon and McCartney

Everyone is on pins and needles waiting for the Kevin Love trade to come down. I don’t get it. I simply don’t buy the prevailing media narrative that the Wolves have to make this deal before the season starts. That the offers the Wolves are seeing right now are the best they will get, and that they will lose leverage the longer they wait.   

I don’t believe the Wolves will have any trouble fielding mega-offers for Love, no matter how long they wait. In fact, I think the longer they wait, the better the offers will get. This is simply not the moment for the best offers to show up. Teams don’t put all their cards on the table until they’re up against a hard deadline. That’s when the real auctions occur.

It also helps to wait until the trade deadline, because that’s the moment when incompetent GMs can no longer escape the outright putridity of their creations, and realize with horror that only a breathtaking move can save their jobs. (Feel free to interpret Bob Myers’ strong advocacy for the Love trade in light of this universal truth.)

There is simply no downside for the Timberwolves in waiting until the trade deadline to deal Love. The Warriors and Cavs will still be bidders, regardless. But on the other hand, there is a HUGE amount of potential upside in waiting.

As I currently handicap it, it is highly likely that the Warriors will have taken a step back in the West by that time. Virtually all of their middle-of-the-pack competitors have taken strong steps forward with their rosters, while the Warriors have added… Shaun Livingston and the avatar of Brandon Rush. Virtually all of their competitors have good to great veteran coaches, running real NBA systems, while the utterly dysfunctional Warriors management have hired their third rookie coach in five years, a 48-year-old virgin who wants to impose the triangle — half-court post-up basketball — on what should be one of the best open-court and pick and roll teams in the league.

I find it exceedingly likely that Joe Lacob will be foaming at the mouth for a change by midseason, and no longer paying any attention at all to the blinking light on his Jerry West Bat-phone. And equally likely that a desperate-eyed Bob Myers will be nodding his head with even more vigor than usual.

I envision a similar scenario in Cleveland, if the Timberwolves are smart enough to wait. The 19-year-old Andrew Wiggins isn’t yet able to dominate on the college or summer league levels, and yet he’s ready to star for 82 games and the playoffs as an NBA rookie? Please. After struggling for a couple of months trying to whip the soft, self-entitled, knuckle-headed Kiddie-Cavs into an unselfish and hard-nosed contending team, there will be thunderbolts coming out of Lebron’s eyes, and steam coming out of his ears.

That’s the moment that Dan Gilbert and David Griffin will spread the entire Cavs team and all of their draft-picks before Flip Saunders like an all-you-can-eat buffet, and say “Dig in.”

It is astonishing to me that every single NBA writer seems to have already forgotten the Carmelo Anthony trade deadline lollapalooza. Wasn’t it made perfectly obvious at the time of that fiasco that Masai Ujiri had hit upon the perfect model – for all time — for handling a superstar extorting his way out of town? Or in other words, the perfect model for handling the desperate GMs and wanna-be-GM NBA owners who covet said superstar?

We’re dealing with universal truths here. Of human weakness. And human greed.

If Flip Saunders is smart, he’ll draw the process out to the very end, and let the volcano of folly build.

Can’t buy me Love.

Until the time is ripe, and the price is right.

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Bye Bye, Klay Thompson http://feltbot.com/2014/07/12/bye-bye-klay-thompson/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=bye-bye-klay-thompson http://feltbot.com/2014/07/12/bye-bye-klay-thompson/#comments Sun, 13 Jul 2014 03:57:33 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3182 Continue reading ]]> That’s my prediction, and I’m putting it on record.

Amid the hoopla of virtually every one of the Warriors’ Western Conference competitors making important signings to improve their rosters, the Warriors’ signing of non-shooting back-up point guard Shaun Livingston to an exorbitant 3 year, $16 million contract has fallen with a thud. No one is talking Warriors in the Western Conference anymore. No one.  

And my money is betting that Joe Lacob’s ego won’t be able to take it. Despite what the few actual basketball people in the Warriors organization are telling him.

And not just Lacob’s ego, but his complete and utter attachment to the bottom line.

Headlines.

Ticket sales.

Jersey sales.

That’s the intoxicating brew that a Kevin Love acquisition offers Joe Lacob, which I believe he will ultimately prove unable to resist.

The TWolves are in the drivers’ seat here. The NBA landscape has changed radically in the last few days, as you know. Lebron is headed back to the Cavs, which has put a Wiggins for Love deal on the table. Despite the Cavs’ current denials.

Other teams, unforeseen at this time, will also almost certainly emerge before it’s over. Like the Rockets, if they decline the option to pay the max to the currently all-but-superfluous Chandler Parsons, in the wake of the Trevor Ariza signing. And even if the Rockets do match the Mavs’ offer, might not Parsons be more attractive to the TWolves than David Lee?

Bottom line, David Lee and Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green will never get this deal done. (Despite the Warriors’ current plans to pump up Harrison Barnes’ trade value by re-inserting him into the starting lineup. Another thing I’m tempted to bet on.) The TWolves have considerable leverage now, and if history is a guide, will have even more by the trading deadline. If the current offers don’t improve significantly by the start of the season, I think the TWolves are virtually certain to hold onto Love until the last minute.

By the time the TWolves are ready to pull the trigger, I’m not even sure that Klay Thompson and David Lee and agreeing to swallow the poison pill of Kevin Martin’s contract will still be enough to land Kevin Love. But what I am sure of is that before it’s over, Joe Lacob will have thrown Klay Thompson into the pot.

Bye bye, Klay Thompson.

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The Lowe of the Herd: My Answer to Zach Lowe on the Kevin Love to the Warriors Trade http://feltbot.com/2014/06/25/lowe-herd-answer-zach-lowe-kevin-love-warriors-trade/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=lowe-herd-answer-zach-lowe-kevin-love-warriors-trade http://feltbot.com/2014/06/25/lowe-herd-answer-zach-lowe-kevin-love-warriors-trade/#comments Wed, 25 Jun 2014 09:40:34 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3180 Continue reading ]]> Zach Lowe of Grantland has just written a characteristically thorough and instructive look at the conundrum the Warriors are facing in trying to trade for Kevin Love. He concludes that the Warriors should make the deal happen, regardless of the pain of swallowing Kevin Martin’s contract.

He might prove right about that in the end, but for what it’s worth I believe he’s made several crucial errors in his analysis.       

The difference between the Wolves’ top 5 offense and the Warriors’ offense last season was not the difference between Love and Lee. It was the difference between Pekovich and Bogut. (And Adelman and Jackson.)

Pek is a dominant inside scorer and free throw shooter, who WANTS THE BALL, and DEMANDS A DOUBLE TEAM.

Bogut is the exact opposite. A player who is afraid to catch in traffic, and petrified to attack the rim in pick and roll. So petrified he usually doesn’t even look at Curry in the pick and roll, let alone actually roll. A player who is on the verge of out-Biedrinsing Biedrins in his determined avoidance of the free throw line, and agonized paralysis once he gets there.

Bogut averaged 1 free throw attempt a game last year. ONE. And shot 34%.

Big Pek averaged 4.6 FTA, and shot 75%.

And averaged over 17 points a game.

Do you think Big Pek attracted the defense’s attention away from Kevin Love at all? With Bogut, it was the exact opposite. His defenders barely looked at him. And when Curry and Lee ran pick and roll, Bogut’s defender was front and center under the rim. Eyes forward. Waiting.

Lowe seems to think Curry/Bogut pick and roll with Love spreading the floor will become a thing if the Warriors do this trade. It makes you wonder if he’s ever even watched the Warriors play. If he had, he would know that there is no such thing as Curry/Bogut pick and roll. There is Bogut high pick, followed by Bogut standing at the top of the key while Curry receives a vicious blitz. Followed by one of three actions: 1) Curry swings the ball to a third player on the wing; 2) Curry waits out the double, then returns to Bogut for another pick that will hopefully free him for a quick jumper; or 3) Curry passes to the wide open Bogut at the top of the key, who stands there with the ball, or takes one or two hesitant dribbles, until he can find a teammate to dump it off to.

I won’t even mention the fact that Kerr has stated his intention to use Bogut posted up in the triangle. Because hopefully the real NBA coaches on the Warriors staff (Alvin Gentry) will disabuse him of that notion fast.

The fact of the matter, lost to Lowe, is that acquiring Kevin Love will do nothing to open up the Warriors pick and roll. When Love is Curry’s pick and roll partner, he will encounter the same monstrous obstacle parked and waiting at the rim that David Lee did: Bogut’s man. (And if you think Love will be better at finishing over that obstacle than Lee, you will be sorely disappointed.)

As for Andrew Bogut pick and roll, THERE IS NO SUCH THING. No matter how well Love spreads the floor.

What the acquisition of Kevin Love will open up for Curry and the Warriors, is PICK AND POP. And that, admittedly, will be the most lethal pick and pop in the league, and an incredible boon to Stephen Curry’s game.

But will that addition to the offense be enough to overcome the utter hamstringing of the Warriors’ finances created by Kevin Martin’s horrid and useless contract? Lowe himself points to the many new holes in the Warriors roster that will be created by the deal. No one to shield Curry from guarding point guards. No money for a veteran back-up point guard. No money for a sixth man. (Oh, is KMart going to be the sixth man? Well then, as noted in my last post, the Warriors will be starting 3 non-scorers alongside Curry and Love, and I will bet any amount of money that the Warriors will not be a top 10 offense, let alone a top 5 offense, playing that way. So what was the point again?)

One final point. Lowe utterly fails to consider the biggest of all holes in the Warriors roster that this trade will both create, and prevent the Warriors from being able to fix:

Andrew Bogut and Kevin Martin.

Who will stand in for them, come playoff time?

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Love Hurts: Thoughts on the Kevin Love Trade http://feltbot.com/2014/06/22/love-hurts-thoughts-kevin-love-trade/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=love-hurts-thoughts-kevin-love-trade http://feltbot.com/2014/06/22/love-hurts-thoughts-kevin-love-trade/#comments Sun, 22 Jun 2014 18:14:25 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3177 Continue reading ]]> I’m surprised that so many think Kevin Love and Kevin Martin for David Lee and Klay Thompson is a no-brainer for the Warriors. 

Bogut-Love-Iggy-Martin-Curry strike you as a good lineup? Who guards the point guards? Iggy? Well, then who guards the other team’s best scorer? Who guards the SF?

This is an untenable lineup on the defensive end.

What about Bogut-Love-Green-Iggy-Curry, which is the one I’m guessing most of you prefer? Can’t you envision the offensive problems that unit will encounter?

You’ve got two sublime offensive players, surrounded by three non-scoring facilitators. As we’ve seen over and over in the NBA, these kinds of lineups are simply way too easy to defend. As an example, it allows opponents to put their best defender on Curry all game long, with virtual impunity. He’ll be looking at Kawhi Leonard and Matt Barnes and Paul George all season long.

Yes, the pick and pop with Love will be nice. But very little else will be open, much less efficient. You will have solved the problem of opening the floor with a stretch-four, at the price of creating several more problems.

[UPDATE: I see I forgot to consider a starting lineup with Harrison Barnes instead of Green at the SF. Probably because I simply can't conceive of Barnes as an NBA regular on a winning team. However, this is probably exactly what GM Joe Lacob and his chief lackey/spokesmodel Bob Myers have in mind. For one thing, it gives them one more crack at proving that their over-hyped draft pick wasn't disastrous. And for another, they probably don't understand just how bad Barnes is at the defensive end. Will he or Iggy be used to guard the point guard? If it's Iggy, that will expose Barnes badly againt potent two-guards. He can't stay in front of them.

Add to that all of the well-chronicled offensive deficiencies in Barnes' game, and you still have a trade that defies easy analysis.]

Something else no one seems to be considering: Kevin Martin sucks. He has been injured for much of the last three seasons. He’s almost never completely healthy. Even when healthy, he plays only one side of the court. And he has a horrible contract that the Warriors will never be able to get rid of.

I think most of you think Kevin Martin is a useful player. He’s not. At this stage of his career, he’s an albatross. A terrible, losing player. Which is why Sacto, then Houston and now the TWolves have been so anxious to move him.

Love for Lee might be a no-brainer. Love for Lee and a potential Hall of Fame small forward, plus choking on a horrible contract?

Brainer.

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The Steve Kerr Era: Open Thread Two http://feltbot.com/2014/06/08/steve-kerr-era-open-thread-two/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=steve-kerr-era-open-thread-two http://feltbot.com/2014/06/08/steve-kerr-era-open-thread-two/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 03:06:58 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3174 [I'm out on the golf course burnishing my resume.]

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The Steve Kerr Era: Open Thread http://feltbot.com/2014/05/22/steve-kerr-era-open-thread/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=steve-kerr-era-open-thread http://feltbot.com/2014/05/22/steve-kerr-era-open-thread/#comments Thu, 22 May 2014 17:18:42 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3172 Continue reading ]]> I’m not going to write up this move at this time, as I’m awaiting further developments on the coaching staff, and the roster. The construction of the staff around Kerr will obviously be hugely significant. Consider this story from the LA Times that states that Kerr has had several conversations with Alvin Gentry about becoming the Warriors “associate head coach in charge of the offense.” That has me scratching my head on several levels. I love Gentry as a coach, and kind of wonder why he wasn’t considered for the head coach job himself. Too much experience? Has his own opinions? Not enough “respectfulness” and “humility”? Doesn’t play golf?                   

If you care to look them up, I did give my initial reactions to the hiring on twitter (@feltbot) and in Comment 157 of the last thread.

I also gave a few thoughts on the other issue of the day, trading David Lee for Kevin Love, in Comment 159 of the last thread. As for the Marcus Thompson created rumor of Warriors’ interest in Carmelo Anthony, I’m just praying that Joe Lacob isn’t dumb enough to chain Stephen Curry to that selfish ball-stopper. We all saw how Linsanity ended, didn’t we?

At the moment, I’m still chewing over this conundrum: Mark Jackson, Hall of Fame point guard, got 3 years, $6 million as a rookie coach. Jason Kidd, Hall of Fame point guard, got 4 years, $10.5 million. Steve Kerr, career back-up spot-up shooter, got 5 years, $25 million.

What am I missing here?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Get the picture? OK, I’m off to play some golf.

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Requiem for a Season: Clippers 126 Warriors 121 — Game 7 http://feltbot.com/2014/05/05/requiem-season-clippers-126-warriors-121-game-7/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=requiem-season-clippers-126-warriors-121-game-7 http://feltbot.com/2014/05/05/requiem-season-clippers-126-warriors-121-game-7/#comments Mon, 05 May 2014 18:49:57 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3169 Continue reading ]]> I would have  loved to have watched this game at home, and to have it on tape. Instead, due to the dark alchemies of pipes, drywall, microbes and time, I was once again forced to watch from a sportsbar — the Fiddler’s Green in San Rafael, with their fine selection of Belgian beers and Irish whiskeys.    

And for some reason, my recollection of this game, and in particular the second half, is foggy. I remember very well the game starting off at the Warriors pace. Perhaps the fastest pace we’ve seen all season.

I remember very well Mark Jackson trying to rectify his mistake of game 6, and starting the game by calling Klay Thompson’ number.

I remember very well the return of the Curry/Lee pick and roll, and how fabulously it worked in creating open shots, with Lee playing point guard in the middle of the floor.

I also remember very well Lee in the high post, running UCLA, pulling DeAndre Jordan all the way out of the lane, and finding Iggy posted up on Redick in the lane.

And I remember the Warriors ending the first half up 8.

These are things I have clear memories of. What I don’t remember is why it all ended in the second half. Why the pace ground to a halt, and the offense stopped clicking. Was it simply that the Clippers turned up the heat? Or did the Warriors get away from what worked so well in the first half.

For one of the first times this season, I find myself in need of a recap.

The Officiating: I wrote in the previous thread how the style in which this game was officiated would go a long ways towards determining its outcome. And to my amazement, the officiating came down solidly on the side of the Warriors. They let the big men play. And behold, Lee and Green avoided foul trouble, and the ball was rebounded, and the Warriors ran like the wind and rained threes.

They also called Chris Paul for fouling Curry in the act of shooting a three pointer, and caught the Clippers grabbing and bodying Curry on his drives.

It was like the officials were determined to rectify every previous wrong in the series. Those 16 free throws were not due to Curry deciding to do something different in this game than he had in the previous games.

The Pace: I thought the pace with which the Warriors opened this game was the fastest all season. You can see that reflected in the final score, obviously.

Unfortunately, their beautiful first quarter run was interrupted by some ghastly open-court turnovers. I strongly suspect that these were due to the Warriors playing at a faster pace than they were used to.

What if they had played this way the entire season, instead of walking the ball up like the middle of the pack teams?

Curry: Finally put up the kind of stat line the media wanted from him. But if you ask me, the Warriors relied a little too much on hero ball down the stretch, when what worked in the first half — and in previous games — may have worked better.

Have to mention his defense, because nobody else will. He worked extremely hard on that end, and those steals down the stretch helped keep the Warriors in the game.

Klay: The Clippers were determined not to leave him open, which lead to a lot of drives, which lead to his 7 assists. Not a playmaker?

6 free throws, but it could have been more. I remember in particular a drive in which he was confronted by Jordan at the basket. Rather than leaning into the contact to get the foul, Klay leaned away, extending his left arm as far away from possible, and attempting a Curryesque dipsy-do.

In the playoffs, you got to take that hit.

Lee: I came away vaguely disappointed by this performance, as I’m sure Lee himself was. He was not a factor offensively in crunchtime. And had a bad turnover down the stretch.

But is it fair to remember Lee’s performance this way? Here is where I miss being able to review the game tape. What kind of offense were the Warriors running down the stretch? I think they went away from pick and roll, and the high post. I know his turnover occurred on an isolation post-up, which is not the best way to use him against this Clippers front line.

I also note his team high 13 rebounds, despite having to battle DeAndre Jordan. And I note his team high +7. Clearly David Lee does things for his team that go unnoticed by pundits and fans alike. Including me.

The drumbeat of the ridiculous meme of Lee’s expendability is again growing loud. But it’s not Harrison Barnes who is his obvious replacement this year, but Draymond Green.

I’ll point out what is obvious to me. Draymond Green is not a starting power forward. Do you really expect the Warriors to double team every time they face Blake Griffin, or Kevin Love, or LaMarcus Aldridge, or Zach Randolph, or…?

And did you happen to miss Draymond Green putting a hand on his back, and grimacing while attempting to stretch his back out, on the free throw line in this game 7?

82 games of that and he’d be ground to a pulp. Draymond Green is a great player, yes. But he’s not a starting power forward.

Green: Just like him to have his best performance of the season, in the biggest game of the season. I can still hear Bob Fitzgerald whining dolefully in my ear: “I just don’t think threes are Draymond’s game….”

He’s going to be in the league a long time. The next Shane Battier.

Iggy: Got out-played by JJ Redick and Jamal Crawford in the biggest game of the season.

Which is kind of the playoff rap against him, isn’t it?

Jermaine O’Neal: His attempted incarnation of Willis Reed fell flat. His appearance was disastrous for the Warriors: -6 in 3 minutes. Would have been -8 if pulled after 2.

Did he really need to play in this game? Mark Jackson was paying tribute to his ancient warrior. Wouldn’t  have it any other way.

Crawford: Once again, played the sixth man. Looked like he got it going a bit in this game. Liked the look of the Curry/Crawford backcourt, with Crawford playing the point. Liked the way the Warriors could push the tempo with him. Why didn’t Mark Jackson accept him onto the team in this role? And what would have happened if he’d gotten every one of Harrison Barnes’ minutes in this game?

I mourn the loss of what could have been, this season.

Mokur: Found his shot in this game. Let it fly, with no thinking. +2. Could have played more minutes, in my opinion. Could have started on Blake Griffin, in my opinion.

Mokur was Mokur.

And I rest my case.

Barnes: The coup de grace fell due to Barnes being late on a defensive rotation, and helplessly watching a DeAndre Jordan slam.

Provoking this death-squeal on twitter: “Why the hell is Barnes in in crunch-time?”

Mark Jackson: Haven’t been a great fan of his performance this season, but have to say I admired what he did in this game.

Admired the game plan. Admired the pace with which the Warriors played. Admired, for the most part, the rotations. Greatly admired the ensemble, and particularly that tie.

God go with you, Mark Jackson.

Thus ends my requiem.

 

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Game 6 — Warriors 100 Clippers 99: Green Day http://feltbot.com/2014/05/02/game-6-warriors-100-clippers-99-green-day/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=game-6-warriors-100-clippers-99-green-day http://feltbot.com/2014/05/02/game-6-warriors-100-clippers-99-green-day/#comments Fri, 02 May 2014 19:40:22 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3165 Continue reading ]]> Got the opportunity to join my buddy Micah Brown courtside for this Warriors — Clippers game 6. Micah goes back to the days of Bill Russell and the Cow Palace, is one of the Warriors’ longest season ticket holders and most loyal fans, and knows everything there is to know about the game of basketball. No one in the world I’d rather take in a game with.

Thanks, Micah!

Micah Brown

Anticipating victory.

Pace: After regressing in the last game, the Warriors once again picked up the pace in this one. They even pushed it a couple times after made baskets, Curry memorably going coast to coast after a Jordan dunk one time.

14 fastbreak points is not enough, though. If the Warriors are going to win game 7, they’ve got to get out and go.

Officiating: In Mark Jackson’s defense, it is really hard to run when a game is officiated as tightly as this one. All of the foul calls slow the game to a crawl, with the ball being inbounded, rather than rebounded.

This was a horribly officiated game, on many levels. Whatever happened to the concept of a playoff foul? Of letting the big men play in the playoffs?

It should be noted that calling the game this tightly works strongly against the Warriors’ interest. As the smaller, short-handed team, they are badly in need of leniency when wrestling around the basket. And as the team which relies on the fastbreak and the open court to free up its superstar, the endless trips to the free throw line are deadly.

Most sportswriters severely underrate the impact that officiating can have on a playoff game. Coaches and players know better, but can only mutter about it under their breaths. The style in which game 7 is officiated will go a long way towards determining its outcome.

Don’t think the league office doesn’t know this.

Turnovers and the Demise of Pick and Roll: A very big reason why the Warriors managed to win this game is that they only turned the ball over 8 times. Curry himself only had 2.

It was clear from watching him that this was a point of focus — he took far less risk, in particular in splitting the double team.

But note that Mark Jackson made a major adjustment to help Curry avoid turnovers. Less pick and roll with David Lee, meaning less pick and roll involving the extremely long DeAndre Jordan. And more pick and roll with not only Draymond Green — who sticks his picks longer than Lee, because he’s less of a roll threat — but also with Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala.

Curry was still blitzed, but as he mentioned post-game, he found it easier to turn the corner, and also to pass over the top.

I’m sad at the early demise of the Curry/Lee pick and roll, though, and the far less efficient offense that has resulted. Doc Rivers has been conceded this battle. Too easily? I wonder whether a different head coach might have found better adjustments. Or been able to live with the turnovers.

A coach like Mike D’Antoni, for instance.

4th Quarter Isos: I didn’t hate these last night. Context is everything, and in this particular 4th quarter, Curry/Lee pick and roll was unavailable.

Klay Thompson and Jordan Crawford were the primary targets. Klay was clutch over Redick. Crawford failed to hit his shots over Collison. But note how successfully he backed down Collison, to create 10 footers for himself. And note that, unlike Harrison Barnes, Jordan Crawford is normally extremely efficient from midrange. This is his wheelhouse, and I am all over Jackson’s decision to use him this way.

Speaking of Barnes, he got the final iso of the game, and I was all NoNoNoNoNoNo YES! And he buried those free throws. Nice job, Mr. Barnes.

The Press Conference: Did you all catch this extraordinary bit of Mark Jackson theater? “This team won’t be here next year.” “Someone’s lying.”

I can’t say I’ve ever seen a coach make a playoff game all about him in quite this fashion. Extraordinary. And it appears from this performance that Jackson is utterly certain that he’s finished on the Warriors.

I can’t wait for the game 7 performance.

(On a side note, and for what it’s worth, I was seated directly across from Joe Lacob last night, and his body language was absolutely terrible. He seemed completely morose the entire evening. I understand he’s mourning the latest collapse of his signature signing. But even so….)

Draymond Green: Because of the struggles of the headliners, Curry, Klay and Lee, it was apparent to all that this was his game. Another monster performance.

From my courtside perspective, his rebounding was spectacular. Because frequently, as the ball neared the rim, I couldn’t even see Green. My view of him was completely eclipsed by the bigger Clipper bodies in the paint. But then, as the ball came off, Green would suddenly soar into sight, and snatch the ball out of the air. It was incredibly dramatic, and the crowd around me went nuts every time.

Green doesn’t have the hops of Charles Barkley. But he has his knack of being the first off the ground.

And maybe just a little of his toughness.

David Lee:  I also got to witness at close quarters the battle royale between Lee and DeAndre Jordan in the paint. David and Goliath, indeed. Jordan got his rebounds in this game, but Lee did a terrific job of keeping him away from the offensive boards, and the alley-oops. And took a hell of a beating in the process.

He was of course denied the opportunity for payback by the shift of the Warriors offense away from him.

If you’re going to compare Lee and Green by the defense they play on Blake Griffin, you must start by recognizing that Mark Jackson helps Green with double teams, but hangs Lee out to dry in single coverage.

And why is that exactly, Mark Jackson? In particular, why did you do that in crunchtime, when Lee had 5 fouls and was a sitting duck? Griffin has not exactly been efficient in beating the Warriors’ double teams. In fact, you could say he’s been extremely inefficient. So why not double there?

It could be that Mark Jackson has been influenced by three years of watching David Lee play extremely good post defense against Griffin and Love and Aldridge.

But I don’t think the David Lee we’re seeing right now is the same guy we’re used to in the regular season. I think this David Lee is playing on one leg.

It would be nice if Mark Jackson found a way to keep him on the court.

Klay Thompson: Where did he go? I think Mark Jackson forgot to call his number last night. Jackson tried to rectify that at the start of the second half, calling an iso, and using him as Curry’s pick and roll partner. But he was already ice cold.

Thompson’s size is a big edge against the Clippers’ undersized backcourt. Jackson needs to remember that in game 7. 4 shots in the first half is not enough.

Iggy: Hit a big crunchtime shot, but the Warriors aren’t paying him $12 million to play JJ Redick even. He needs to DOMINATE this matchup, and that simply didn’t happen in this game.

And he needs to give his free throws a chance to go in. Every one of Iggy’s missed free throws last night bricked off the back rim. This has nothing to do with form. It has to do with brains, and Feltbot’s Law. Short is better than long.

Does no one on the tattered remains of Mark Jackson’s coaching staff know this? Maybe Draymond Green can whisper the law in his ear. Green has figured it out.

Mokur: 12 and 6 with a block in 12 minutes. +5. Hate on, haters.

If I were Mark Jackson, I would seriously contemplate starting Speights in game 7, to bear the brunt of Blake Griffin’s opening wrath. He’s not afraid of Griffin, and doesn’t give him an inch.

Easy boys, I’m not suggesting limiting Draymond Green’s minutes. Just adjusting where he gets them.

To keep him on the court, capisce?

As for Mokur’s shot, I must confess he’s not worthy of the name I’ve bestowed right now. I got a close up look at his shot last night, and it’s a mess. He’s squeezing at the top, aiming it. His free throws remain beautiful rainbows, but his outside shots are errant darts.

Let it go, Mokur! Let it fly!

Barnes: The injury to O’Neal forced Barnes into more minutes against the bigs. And although that’s a tall task for him, I thought he performed admirably. In general, I much prefer him defending big than defending against guards. He’s so much better as a stretch-four than as anything else.

Jermaine O’Neal: Sorry to see him go down. But it’s not like it was unexpected, going against this frontline.

He gave his heart and soul to this Warriors team this season, and far more great play than we had any right to expect. Signing him with the expectation that he could be the primary backup center, and last out the season, was extraordinarily naive on the part of Joe Lacob.

Although not nearly so naive as trading for Andrew Bogut, and re-signing him for 3 years and $36 million.

The Sixth Man: Did you happen to notice that Jordan Crawford was brought into the game to play POINT GUARD, while Steve Blake was benched? Regular readers of this blog know that I have been arguing for this move since… well, since the day the trades were made.

And did you happen to notice that the bench unit had a positive +/- for the first time since… well, since the first time?

Jordan Crawford can create off the dribble, Steve Blake cannot. Crawford can exploit mismatches. Blake cannot. Crawford can push the tempo. Blake cannot. Crawford can EXPLODE. Blake cannot.

I wrote before this series began, that if Mark Jackson wanted to give his team a realistic chance to win, he must take the reins off Jordan Crawford.

AND RAISE THE VARIANCE.

This will never be more true than in the upcoming game 7.

The Warriors have had a 6th man ever since midseason. Mark Jackson and the godawful, misbegotten, Kent Bazemore for Steve Blake trade turned the Warriors 6th man into their 9th man. Buried him.

It appears that in this, the likely next-to-last game of the season, with all his lumbering centers unavailable to him, and Nellieball the last recourse, Mark Jackson finally saw the light with regard to Jordan Crawford.

But just in case, I’ll frame one last plea to him, in terms I think he might understand: Mark Jackson,

LET YOUR PEOPLE GO!

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Game 4 — Warriors 118 Clippers 97: The Sins of the Past http://feltbot.com/2014/04/28/game-4-warriors-118-clippers-97-sins-past/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=game-4-warriors-118-clippers-97-sins-past http://feltbot.com/2014/04/28/game-4-warriors-118-clippers-97-sins-past/#comments Mon, 28 Apr 2014 18:06:12 +0000 http://feltbot.com/?p=3162 Continue reading ]]> I hate that I have to lead with Donald Sterling’s idiocy after a game like this one. Hate that it’s the major storyline describing the Clipper’s failure to win this game. 

But it deserves to be. This is a major moment in American history, a uniquely American moment. But also a teaching moment, one that I  believe will ultimately contribute to the positive changes already occurring in our society. This is not a step back, but a step forward.

Anything else I could say on this topic, Marcus Thompson and Scott Ostler have already said better. It’s on the owners, and their commissioner, not the players, to clean up this mess. To set an example. To lead.

And there is zero chance that you’ll ever see Sterling’s face at a Clippers game again. He’s finished.

On to basketball. And the glory that was this game.

6-8, 6-6, 6-6 across the front line.

Fastbreak basketball. Transition threes.

Spreading the floor, with five shooters. Pick and roll. Alternating the point of attack, with gifted point forwards.

Unleashing the gifts of your superstars.

On defense, utilizing long and gritty wings to defend the big men. Switching every pick. Disrupting, swarming, stealing. Running the other way.

Seamless basketball. Positionless basketball. Transcendant basketball.

What’s it called?

Joe Lacob calls it “the sins of the past.”

Me, I call it Nellieball.

And the truest expression of this fabulous Warriors roster, with its Stephen Curry and David Lee core.

Mark Jackson: He started the adjustments in Game 3. In this game he perfected them.

1) Smallball: Replaced Jermaine O’Neal in the starting lineup with Draymond Green. Everything that follows flowed from that major decision.

2) Tempo – We heard him in the huddle urging his team to push it, and we saw just that on the court. The Warriors ran after almost every rebound, and wasn’t that a welcome site? And the quicker Warriors shut down the Clippers fastbreak in turn. 27 fastbreak points, to 8.

Did you happen to notice how many opportunities Curry got in the open court?

Happen to notice how Iggy’s game blossomed?

Did you see the best running center in the NBA, David Lee get out on that break and finish?

Glory, glory, hallelujah. Where in the world has this bee… Oh stop it, feltbot. It’s here now. Rejoice!

3) Point-Iggy and Point-Klay: There was less static high post in this game. Iggy and Klay attacked the rim out of pick and roll. With glorious results.

4) Double-Teaming Blake Griffin: I have been saying for some time that Draymond Green isn’t big enough to start against frontline power forwards, right? That he has gotten flattened, and will continue to get flattened, by Blake Griffin in the post? So did this game prove me wrong?

Not really.  Because I made those comments in the context of what I knew about Mark Jackson’s system. All season long, Jackson has REFUSED to double team. Not anyone. Not ever. All part of “remaining true to our principles” or “true to the process” or somesuchamabob.

And what we have seen all season long, due to Jackson’s rigid adherence to these defensive principals, is very large men relentlessly backing down David Lee and Draymond Green, banging them back for an interminable 5 seconds or more, with multiple dribbles, while no other Warrior made a move to give help.

If Mark Jackson had continued with this defensive scheme, then yes, Draymond Green would have gotten flattened like a pancake by Blake Griffin. Murdered. It was the instant double-teaming, as soon as Griffin put the ball on the floor, that allowed this matchup to work so well, and for so long.

This is exactly the same way that Don Nelson made it work at power forward with Chris Mullin, and Vincent Askew, and Eduardo Najera, and Adrien Griffin, and Al Harrington, and Matt Barnes, and Corey Maggette, and Kelenna Azubuike, etc. Remember? If you’re willing to rapidly double team the low post, you can successfully use a wide variety of small forwards and tweeners at power forward.

Back then it was called “gimmick defense” by Tim Kawakami and Adam Lauridsen. Because back then Nellie was ahead of his time. A madman, loathed and hounded by the ignorati.

Remember?

Nellieball is no longer a gimmick. It’s the rage of the league.

Because it wins.

5) Switching the Pick and Roll: Playing with smaller, quicker players allowed the Warriors to switch everything on defense, which was very tough on the Clippers offense.

It’s particularly annoying to Chris Paul, when he runs the pick and roll and comes face to face with…

Draymond Green.

Timing: Note that Mark Jackson made these adjustments in Game 4. I’ve seen a lot of commenters (and bloggers) wondering why it took him so long in this series to get to these seemingly obvious adjustments. Here are several possible reasons:

1) Because it took time for Jermaine O’Neal to prove ineffective. (I think he’d be better in a cross-match against Griffin).

2) Because Jermaine O’Neal came to Mark Jackson and suggested this move! (I don’t find this flattering to Mark Jackson, if true.)

3) Because Jermaine O’Neal has worn down. (This seems quite likely given his history, and the fact that he suggested the move to smallball.)

4) Because Draymond Green proved over the course of the series, in short minutes, to be effective against Griffin.

5) Because David Lee has been unable to keep Griffin out of the lane with single coverage. (I think his hamstring injury might have something to do with this.)

6) Because now, Draymond Green and David Lee are as fresh as possible with the series half over, and the Warriors can take the series in only two more games of smallball. Thus maximizing their chances of surviving the series uninjured.

7) Because now, Doc Rivers has only ONE GAME to adjust to this surprising shift in Warriors tactics. One game, game 5.

Because if the Clippers lose Game 5, and the Warriors get back to Oracle up 3-2, then ooh baby.

Do you think I’m giving Mark Jackson too much credit with these last two reasons? Perhaps I am, especially given what I viewed as his utter obtuseness during the regular season. And the fact that this move apparently occurred to Jermaine O’Neal before it occurred to him.

But regardless of whether Mark Jackson’s timing of this move to Nellieball was calculated, or inadvertent and dictated by desperate circumstance — or suggested by his players — it just so happens that he has gotten every single thing in this series exactly right, at exactly the right moment.

Mark Jackson is killing Doc Rivers.

Curry: Was his offensive explosion a result of him simply deciding he needed to score more, and asserting his will? Or was it a result of Mark Jackson changing his offense to get him open looks? I’m going to quibble with the mainstream narrative here.

In game 4, as in game 1, Stephen Curry simply made the best basketball play, according to his superstar talents. He took what the defense — and Mark Jackson’s offense — allowed him to take.

In Game 1, it was the pass. In game 4, by virtue of Mark Jackson’s myriad adjustments, it was the shot.

Nellieball got him open looks. The transition three. The transition three-fake, and layup. Curry’s impossible to guard in the open court.

Point-Iggy and Point-Klay got him open looks. It’s impossible to double team Curry when he’s off the ball, and the floor is spread, and Iggy and Klay run pick and roll and get into the lane.

Iggy: Mark Jackson’s adjustments had a similarly transformative effect on Iggy. He’s a great player in the open court.

And a much better player with the ball in his hands, than off the ball. 9 assists in this game! (I stick by my Iggy-meter: if Iggy gets 6 assists or more, the Warriors win.)

His offensive aggression in this game was wonderful to see. Particularly getting to the line, which he has shied away from all season long.

Jarrett who?

A note on his defense: I don’t believe any of the Clippers shooters, Redick, Crawford or Paul, actually made a jumper over Iggy in this game. His closeouts are phenomenal.

Green: One of the things that makes Green such an effective defender of Griffin — and so fascinating to watch — is the way he attacks Griffin’s dribble. Griffin can’t even turn to face up, without Green getting a hand on the ball.

And when Blake turns his back, and starts to back down… that’s when the double-team strikes. Curry from the blindside, stealing the ball and looking upcourt….

It didn’t look at all from the boxscore like Draymond had a good game offensively. But his genius and his unselfishness were everywhere on display. Great screens, as we all know. But also a fabulous ability to see the open man, and get him the ball in an instant. A master of the hockey assist.

Klay: But for the fouls, another great floor game. 5 assists, several off the dribble, in pick and roll.

5 rebounds. Did you happen to catch that fabulous Rodmanesque rebound over Matt Barnes? Reached over, palm up, tipped it back to himself.

I know you saw that vicious, two-handed, FACIAL over Big Baby. Could Reggie Miller do that? No, nor many of the other things Klay does: defend, rebound, create for others. Something to think about.

About those fouls. Mark Jackson trusted him to play through foul trouble, and Klay let him down. I disagree with those who think he didn’t deserve them. Yes, Jamal Crawford cleverly hooked his arm on that drive. But Klay was beat on the play, and in position to get snookered. And on those offensive fouls, Klay clearly extended his arm to ward off.

I think Klay needs to make an adjustment when he expects contact on his drives. His current mentality is to dodge the brunt of the contact, and get the shot off, a la Curry and Monta. I think that’s wrong. Klay should take it straight into the contact, make sure of the foul, and THEN try to get the shot up. He needs to man up, and take that hit. He’s big enough to play that way.

Like James Harden, another guy who gets to the hoop on craft and guile, not blazing speed. Klay could learn a lot from watching tape of Harden, a guy who induces fouls at the basket at a league-leading rate.

Lee: Was relatively quiet offensively. Not featured as much in the pick and roll. But like Draymond Green, simply a fabulous facilitator.

Gets to feature his running ability at center. Got a fastbreak dunk, a regular feature of his time on the Knicks.

And did you see what he did to DeAndre Jordan on defense? Unlike Bogut, he’s very good at walling Jordan off from his favored alley-oops. In some matchups, quickness is better than size.

You’ll note that Lee’s defensive rebounds have gone down when he’s playing center. That’s not just a testament to Jordan’s rebounding prowess, and the size disparity. Lee’s role changes when he’s guarding Jordan instead of Griffin. Now he’s the guy who boxes out, not the guy who chases the rebound.

Barnes: He’s having a really tough time staying with the smaller Clipper guards he’s being asked to guard. Redick and Crawford are lighting him up.

He’s never seen a screen that he couldn’t get hung up on. I mean, it’s borderline ridiculous.

In this game, at least, he gave better than he got. It got a little dicey when Klay got into foul trouble, but Barnes stepped up nicely into the breach. Confident and decisive.

Nellieball favors his talents.

Jermaine O’Neal: -15 in 10 minutes, in a 20 point win?

He’s giving what he’s got.

The Series: Lost in the prevailing narratives of the Sterling effect, and the Nellieball effect, is the fact that the Clippers simply didn’t need this game. Yes, there’s a valid comparison between this Clippers’ game 4, and the Warriors’ game 2. There was definitely an element of give up in the Clippers’ performance, that would have been there regardless of the external drama.

On paper, the Clippers remain in control of this series. All they need to do is hold serve at home.

Against one of the most talented Nellieball teams in league history.

Finally playing Nellieball.

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