Wednesday, November 14, 2012

New Season Same Story (So Far)

By Justin Taylor

Hello and welcome to the opening week of the We Believe Warriors season 28!  Or was it 29?  It’s the start of a new era of Warriors basketball and through one week it has been pretty much status quo in Oakland.  Andrew Bogut, our most important player is back on the shelf with a Stephen Curry sized ankle.  Brandon Rush, our most versatile player off the bench and the guy who should probably be the starting small forward, is gone for the season with an exploding knee.  Now Mark Jackson is coaching a team with more excuses built into it than the arena in San Francisco has parking spots planned.

The saying goes that that those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it and most of what the Warriors front office has done over the last year seems to show they’ve learned a thing or two.  Even if this team isn’t a contender (or maybe even a playoff team) they will surely be counted on to be the squad that breaks the cycle of mismanagement, misguided PR campaigns and general dysfunction.  The only real reminders left of our tortured past are Bob Fitzgerald and Gary St. Jean on the TV side, Steph Curry’s ankle on the court and the cadaver of Andris Biedrins on the bench (making two free throws won’t change that). 

Now the season is finally rolling and low and behold it’s the same old storylines emerging and I’ve outlined what I think are the main ones here today.

Andrew Bogut

How awkward was it to see a legit 7 footer who can walk and chew gum out there on the court in a Warriors uniform even if it was only for a few minutes.  If you blinked you might have missed it but Andrew Bogut got about 60 minutes of court time before shutting himself down for 7-10 days.  My question is why did he have to shut himself down in the first place?  If I’m running a team and I see my 28 year old franchise player out there moving like a 35 year old Arvydas Sabonis I’m going to be the one pulling the plug.  Don’t get me wrong, an old Sabonis is better than anything the Warriors have had at center in decades but Bogut is being paid $13 million a year to be an all star or at least something resembling one.

The idea that a week off is going to make a difference after being out almost all of last season is ludicrous.  Now that timetable has been extended through the upcoming road trip but why keep extending it by days?  Call it a month and let people be happy if he can come back earlier already.  If everyone involved could do it all over again, Steph Curry wouldn’t have played another game after that first ankle tweak until it was fully healed last year.  See what listening to the player did in that instance?  Now it looks like there is a similar situation brewing whether anyone on the teams payroll wants to admit it or not.  I may be alone in my opinion but I say shut him down for months if that’s what it takes to get the guy we traded Monta Ellis for.

Brandon Rush
After all of the tanking in 2012 there were three focus points for the team’s brass in the offseason.  Add an asset through the draft, add a back up point guard without ankle issues and bring back Brandon Rush.  The front office did great job of scaring off any potential suitors for our top reserve and got him back (as well as Carl Landry) at a great price in the process.  I was one of many who thought that Rush should have began the season as the starting small forward because Harrison Barnes should be forced to earn every minute he gets. He is also the better player (right now) if that counts for anything.  None of that matters anymore now that Rush’s knee is resting in pieces.

The loss of Brandon Rush hurts but it shouldn’t affect the outcome of this season one bit.  If you think you’re a playoff contender an injury to your 6th man cannot be the reason you’re proven wrong.  If you want to describe yourselves as a deep and balanced team then you’ve got to go out and prove it when the inevitable injury crops up.  As great as Brandon Rush fit on this team, every single one of his talents is replaceable.  Even if they aren’t, it’s time for this group of guys to show they’ve got the kind of depth and toughness they’ve been talking about for months now.

David Lee and Carl Landry
I’m not sure if there is a better one two power forward punch in the league.  Sure, one superstar is better then two really good players but we’re getting 48 minutes of solid production out of our 4 spot and not many teams can boast that.  You know what else I’m not sure about?  Who the Warriors best power forward is!  I know which one is overpaid and which is underpaid.  I know which one is on all of the billboards, which one is on the all star ballots and which one the owner jocks but I honestly can’t tell you which one should be starting right now at least.

Did anyone see this argument coming three weeks ago?  Nobody has mistaken David Lee for an all star since he was mistaken for an all star in New York and even though I predicted a big (contract) year from Landry I didn’t expect to wonder why he’s not starting.  Mark Jackson has been taking a lot of shit for being an anti-small ball coach who’s being a poor man’s Nellie in Bogut’s absence but what is he supposed to do?  I’ve got one thought, start Carl Landry and let David Lee outhustle guys in the second unit until he gets his act together or permanently if Landry can keep this up.  This needs to be explored further even if Joe Lacob might fire Coach Jackson for pulling Captain Lee from the starting lineup.  Hey, this might be a better idea then I thought.

Full Disclosure: Advanced metric stats are not my thing.  I like traditional numbers and the age old tradition of the eyeball test because I spend too much time yelling at my TV when I watch the Warriors to do that kind of research but for this argument I’m pulling out the big guns. 

Traditional stats through 7 games:

David Lee: 14.3 points, 9.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 42% shooting, 1.1 steals, .3 blocks, 2.3 turnovers, 37 minutes

Carl Landry: 16.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 60% shooting, .3 steals, .4 blocks, 1.9 turnovers, 26.7 minutes

Advanced stats through 7 games:

David Lee: PER 13.3, True shooting % .474, Rebound % 14.3, WS/48 = .085

Carl Landry: PER 24.5, True shooting % .628, Rebound % 16.5, WS/48 = .231

WS/48 - Win Shares Per 48 minutes: An estimate of the number of wins contributed by a player per 48 minutes (league average is approximately .100).  Please do not ask how in the hell these numbers are calculated and if anybody has the numbers on our best statistical lineup combinations please educate me below...

Mark Jackson

I already mentioned the mini controversy surrounding his small ball lineups but that is just one of many things Jackson is taking heat for after losses.  He doesn’t call timeouts to stop runs, he just stands there with his hands in his pockets and Mike Malone is still calling the plays!  Those are among the tweets I’ve seen accompanied by the #FireMarkJackson hash tag on Twitter in recent days (I may or may not have tweeted a couple of those myself).  I honestly don’t know that any of these things matter and do believe that Jackson deserves a shot with a real roster but the fuse is getting shorter that’s for sure.  Everybody around the Bay Area and across the country knew that this wasn’t a playoff team without a healthy Andrew Bogut so nobody should be surprised that we’re sucking wind out there right now.  Pastor Jackson has no control of that no matter how good his relationship with god is and it really doesn’t matter what crappy plays Mike Malone is drawing up if the shots aren’t falling.

After careful consideration and intense, angry eyeball analysis this team currently has two fatal flaws and won’t be cracking the top eight in the west until they’re corrected.  The first is our 7 foot Australian on a bum ankle. Bet you didn’t see that one coming.  The other is that this team has zero penetration or aggression on offense.  This team is playing slow, there are no drive and kick opportunities, no easy buckets in the lane and no prospects of fixing it anytime soon.  Bogut will help the inside out game but he won’t fix everything.  Until somebody decides that attacking the rim and getting to the foul line is a priority this is going to be just another jump shooting team.  #FireMarkJackson might pick up steam as the season roles on and I’m not opposed to the notion but Bob Myers has bigger fish to fry in the short term.