Before the start of 2008-2009 NBA season the Golden State Warriors GM at the time, Chris Mullin, pulled the trigger on a trade that sent a future No. 1 draft pick to the New Jersey Nets for third-year point guard Marcus Williams. Williams had enjoyed a standout college career at the University of Connecticut; however he struggled with weight problems and largely underperformed in his two years with the Nets.
The deal was made out of necessity for a point guard after Baron Davis bailed for the lights and glamour of Los Angeles (even if it was only the Clippers), and Monta Ellis incurred a season delaying moped injury. The hope was that Williams – who had apparently lost weight and was motivated to play in Don Nelson’s run and gun offense – could step in and fill at least some of the void left by BD’s abrupt departure. Unfortunately for Golden State, the only similarity Marcus Williams shared with Baron Davis would be the latter’s future portly physique. Williams couldn’t keep up with the Warriors up-tempo style, and after playing in 9 very underwhelming games he was released.
So here we are in 2012, and Marcus Williams isn’t much more than a blip on the proverbial screen in the memories of most Warriors fans. I had entirely forgotten about him until recently, when the state of my beloved team’s 2012 draft pick was brought to my attention. As it turns out, this is the year the Warriors have to pay the piper in the form of that very pick. As it also turns out, this year’s draft class happens to be heralded as one of the deepest and most talented of the last few years. The twist however, is that the Warriors would get to keep the pick if it’s in the top six. They lose it to Utah if it’s not.
This left me in an interesting position. As a fan, do I root for my team to win and try to sneak into that eighth and final playoff spot in a wide open Western Conference, or do I hope for them to pile up the losses in order to increase our lottery chances? The prospect of actually rooting for your own team to lose is so counter-intuitive as a fan that it is difficult to do so, even if you know that it might be in the team’s best interest for their future. The fact that we were actually in the playoff hunt made it even harder. It’s similar to the feeling you get when you’ve bet a bunch of money against your own team in a big game hoping that you’ll be happy no matter what happens: in the end you just sort of feel slightly let down either way.
In the end Larry Riley and the Warriors front office made this decision easier on me and the rest of the Warriors fan base by trading Monta, Udoh and Kwame Brown to The Bucs for Andrew Bogut (most likely out for the rest of the year) and Captain Jack (immediately passed on to the Spurs). Coupled with the murmurings that they were going to shut down Curry and his porcelain ankle for the remainder of the year, and it became apparent the direction the Dubs wanted to take. And while the moves may turn first year coach Marc Jackson and his playoff guarantee into a liar for the moment, I think they will go a long way to making that guarantee come to fruition over the next couple of years. For now I’ll just sit back, watch us lose and cross my fingers in hopes that a few ping-pong balls bounce our way in June.
Eli Pearlman is an NBA writer for The Sports Blitz