3 ways the season can play out for the Warriors

S CurryThe Golden State Warriors have high expectations going into 2012-13 (not to say they don’t often begin the season with these expectations, they just seem a little more warranted this year). Nearly everyone agrees they had a great offseason, and it seems as though it may very well come down the health of the team (Warriors fans haven’t heard that one before). So what should we expect? Here are the three possible scenarios I see playing out for Golden State this year:

Scenario 1:

In the first game of the regular season, an exuberant Draymond Green sets a pick for Stephen Curry near the top of the key. It’s the Dancing Bear’s first playing time of the year, and in his excitement he pops out a second too early. The results are disastrous: Curry stumbles over Green’s left foot, simultaneously spraining both ankles while throwing the ball up towards the rim. Andrew Bogut – who has looked superb in the first couple quarters of the season – leaps to catch the errant pass, smashing his head against the side of the backboard and incurring such severe head trauma that he is sidelined the majority of the year. In a span of 5.3 seconds the entire season is lost.[1] Golden State goes into tank mode 2.0 as management decides to keep David Lee sidelined with a dubious gluteal pull. Meanwhile, midway through the season, Harrison Barnes decides to take a hiatus from his basketball ball career to market his new brand of sneakers, “the Black Falcons.” Andris Biedrins plays 35 minutes a game and the Warriors finish 20 and 62. Bob Fitzgerald still finds a silver lining.[2]

Scenario 2:

The Warriors stay healthy for the entire 2012-’13 season; that includes Curry and Bogut. And it’s everything management dreamed of and more. They’re unstoppable – like Bane in the Dark Knight Rises, that is, before Batman realizes all he has to do is hit him in the face instead of attacking his giant, impenetrable torso. Bogut and Lee have a field day finding Klay Thompson, Brandon Rush, Barnes and Curry on the perimeter for open jumpers. Even ol’ Dick Jefferson shoots better than 35% from three in limited playing time. As Bogut regains his touch offensively, his defensive presence, coupled with his passing and rebounding show why he was one of the top centers in the league before the elbow injury. Rush continues to improve, accomplishing what Dorell Wright couldn’t before him, and cementing himself as the starting small forward. Thompson avoids any sort of sophomore slump, we prove to be one of the deeper teams in the NBA, and the Warriors win 52 games, good enough for the 6th seed in the Western Conference. In the first round of the playoffs Golden state gets an aging Spurs team (of course people have been saying that about the Spurs for a few years now) and they shoot them out of the building before falling to OKC in the second round. Bob Fitzgerald begins to sound more and more like a west coast Tommy Heinsohn, at one point even comparing Festus Ezeli to Bill Russell. Andris Biedrins plays 35 minutes the entire season.[3]

Scenario 3:

Admittedly the most likely scenario of the three, (although I like to think the upcoming season will be most reminiscent of scenario 2) this scenario falls somewhere in between the first two. I don’t think anybody would be surprised if Curry and Bogut miss a few games due to lingering ankle/knee issues. However this year, as long as neither misses any extensive time, it looks as if Golden State might be deep enough to withstand a few injuries (especially at point guard with Charles Jenkins and the addition of Jarrett Jack.) Carl Landry will quickly become a fan favorite providing physicality and depth at the power forward spot, and Thompson looks as if he’s just going to keep getting better. Under this scenario, the Warriors win between 45 and 48 games and hopefully enough to sneak into the 7th or 8th spot, but you never know with an extremely deep Western Conference this year. Funny to think, though, last year we were hoping to sneak into the 6th or 7th spot in the opposite direction.

[1] After the game, reports come out that Joe Lacob has suffered a similar injury to Bogut; speculation is that it’s from banging his head repeatedly against a wall.

[2] Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those Fitz haters that seem to be in abundance; in fact I actually like the guy as a broadcaster and a radio host. But seriously, ‘overly optimistic’ is an understatement. He’s like the Goebbels of Golden State: the man can put a positive spin on everything!

[3] I think one way we’ll be able to measure the success of this year’s Warriors team will be how much playing time Biedrins gets. There will be a direct correlation between his minutes and our success: the more minutes he plays, the worse our team will be doing, and vise-versa. I’m going to start a sort of odometer as the season progresses which will track the relationship between the two. Right now I’m deciding between calling it the KBOB meter (Keep-Biedrins-On-the-Bench meter) or the KARP meter (Keep-Andris-Riding-Pine meter).

Eli Pearlman is a writer for The Sports Blitz Network and can be contacted at EPearlman@TheSportsBlitz.com

The Warriors will make it this year, I’m pretty sure

Golden State WarriorsEight years ago after my 13th birthday I decided to spend a large portion of my savings on a Golden State Warriors ticket package that included half the season’s home games. For some reason I thought this was going to be the year we made the playoffs; or at least we would be in the running, I was certain of that.

In retrospect, I wish somebody had set me straight, because looking back at that 2003-04 roster, there wasn’t a snowball’s chance in hell that team could have ever made the playoffs. They wound up 37-45 (quite an achievement, really, if you consider the fact that Eric Dampier started at center, Speedy Claxton started at point guard, and even Brian “The Custodian” Cardinal occasionally started. As a side note, Cardinal inconceivably – albeit somewhat admirably – parlayed a few corner threes and a year of hustle plays into a laughable 6 year, $39 million contract from the Grizzlies).

Perhaps that year should have taught me a valuable lesson about what it means to be a Warriors fan: the customary cyclical pattern of optimism inevitably followed by futility and disappointment. Far from learning any lessons, however, in the end I was left only with a strong distaste for Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy, or the Dun-Murphy sisters as KNBR talk-show host Damon Bruce so aptly nicknamed them for their consistently soft play.

Golden State did finally reach the playoffs in ’06-’07 for the first time in nearly a decade and a half. They rid themselves of the sisters, and then Baron Davis and Captain Jack caught lightning in a bottle, which culminated in the triumph over top seeded Dallas in the first round of the playoffs. I will always look back on that series as one of my favorite sports memories, a small reward to one of the most devoted, loyal fan-bases in the NBA.

Of course in the scheme of things it meant very little for the franchise, which was still owned and run by the awful Chris Cohan and his inept management. Failure to make the playoffs the next year resulted in the disbandment of the ’06-’07 team, and as fans we were back at step one: disillusionment, disappointment and irrational hope for a successful following year.

So here we are in 2012. The Warriors have new owners and a sparkling new front office headed by Jerry West and GM Bob Meyers. Last year they were able to swap an undersized combo guard in Monta Ellis for one of the better centers, health provided, in the league in Andrew Bogut. This year Golden state put together one of their most solid drafts in years, and then got an absolute steal when they traded for Jarrett Jack.

Talking to someone earlier today I once again heard myself saying “If we stay healthy, I think we’ve got a great shot at making the playoffs this year” (which seems to be some sort of mantra for Warriors fans).   And honestly, I truly believe that; just like I believed it when I said it last year with Monta and Steph Curry running the backcourt; just as I believed it in 2003 when Dampier and my man Adonyl Foyle were fumbling around in the frontcourt.

Here’s to hoping that I never learn. Only this year they’ll be in the running; I’m certain of that. Oh, and I still don’t much like Dunleavy or Murphy.

NBA free agency: The only thing worth watching these days

Jarrett JackMajor League Baseball’s all-star break marks one of the most boring weeks in the sports world. The NBA playoffs have ended and the hundreds of mock drafts have already come and gone with the subsequent draft. Football season is still a couple months away, and although soccer is probably being played somewhere, I don’t really care.

Meanwhile the Home-run Derby, unless you have a substantial amount of money riding on it, is about as fun to watch as a horse race (which perhaps not so coincidentally is also only fun to watch if you have a substantial amount of money riding it.) Those of us that did gamble on the Derby in an attempt to make it a little more palatable inevitably put our money on incumbent derby king Robinson Cano, who inexplicably crushed a whopping zero home runs and immediately and shamefully was disqualified in all of about eight minutes. (On the plus side it was one of those few moments in professional sports where all of us watching an athlete from home could say “Ha, I could do that!” and legitimately be correct.) At least the Giants have home field advantage if they make the World Series after an 8 – 0 National league win in the All-Star game.

Yet there remains a light that shines through the proverbial curtain of fog, offering us a shred of hope: NBA free agency. This is always an exciting time for basketball fans, as we watch with anticipation, wondering where big stars will end up next, and which GM will shell out the next Joe Johnson-like albatross contract. On the other hang generally it’s a somewhat lackluster couple of months for Golden State fans, who’s team rarely seems to make a big splash during the summer (although they have handed out some pretty bad contracts).

But management is new and the future looks bright. With Jerry West helping to orchestrate things behind the scenes, and Bob Myers appearing to be a legitimate General Manager, there is a new sense of comfort that I haven’t often felt about the decision making that goes on behind the scenes in Oakland. After a solid draft (I’m not a big fan of Harrison Barnes but he was the best pick on the board at number seven and I’m glad they didn’t take Drummond) I went into the free agency period sharing the hopes of most Warrior fans: that we’d pick up a solid back up point guard – preferably with a veteran presence – and another big body to come off the bench behind David Lee.

Despite the limited cap room the team had, I actually felt confident the Warriors would accomplish these goals. We sat back calmly; biding our time and as people ate up the Dwight Howard trade rumors with almost as much gusto as the public has for erotic novels (my friend just read best selling 50 Shades of Grey to see what all the hype was about and related this insight: “it sucked.”)

Deron Williams chose Jay Z and the Nets over Mark Cuban and his home town Mavs and Ray Allen joined the dark side (Allen is going to have a field day hitting open threes next year). The Celtics resigned 36 year old Kevin Garnett and added 35 year old Jason Terry, working to assemble a roster with more aging stars than the cast of The Expendables II (Boston will be much better next year than that movie though, I’m sure).

My heart was broken when Steve Nash, one of my favorite players, signed with the Lakers, my least favorite team. Andre Miller, Jason Kidd and Kirk Hinrich, all of whom I somewhat coveted for that veteran back up guard spot, each agreed to very reasonable, affordable contracts, none of which were with the Warriors.

And when we finally pulled the trigger, Meyers and Co didn’t disappoint. Originally the news was that Golden State had traded away Dorell Wright, who was in the middle of succumbing to gravity and descending back towards earth (representative in this case of his realistic basketball talent), after having banged his head rather hard in 2010 on the unforgiving ceiling that is representative of his potential. In return from the Sixers the Warriors were to receive the draft rights to a three toed sloth from Bosnia who looked a bit like Mr. Bean – or perhaps it was a 28 year old power forward named Edin Bavcic – The resemblance between the two anyhow is uncanny.

Either way neither will ever play in the NBA, and the move was a way to open up more cap space. Of course I could hardly contain my excitement when I heard that we weren’t getting a sloth, or Mr. Bean or whatever, but were in fact receiving guard Jarrett Jack from the Hornets in a three team deal. Jack put up very good numbers with New Orleans last year as a starter (he averaged 15, 6 and 4), so he can certainly step into the starting line-up if Curry comes up lame again this season. Fans may also remember the triple-double Jack posted against the Warriors back on March 21. The man can play.

So, the question you may be asking is whether I wrote this simply to state my excitement about Jack’s arrival in Golden State to play back-up point-guard. And to that I answer, yes. Yes I did. Welcome to Oakland Jarrett, I’m looking forward to watching you next year. Maybe you can help the Warriors live up to their #6 NBA franchise ranking (although that’s a pretty tall order) on http://nba-franchises.findthedata.org/, a very cool website by the way, check it out (don’t worry I got you Paul). I have confidence that you will be able to at least help bring back some of the magic we found in Oracle Arena the last time the Warriors traded for a point guard from the Hornets in 2005.

Golden State Warriors draft possibilities 1.0

andre drummondThere are hundreds of NBA mock drafts all over the place, and while I don’t claim to know as much as all of the experts out there, sometimes I feel like many of these predictions hold about as much weight as the Essential Home White Four-Drawer Chest from Kmart – very little. (A side note to prospective college students: while this item of furniture will be tempting because of its light weight and relatively cheap cost, avoid it unless you don’t mind the contents of your bottom drawer spending most of its time on the ground.)

Often there are large discrepancies from one prediction to the next, which I think points to the fact that nobody really knows what’s going to happen come draft day. I have seen mock drafts which have Andre Drummond dropping out of the top 7 or being picked as high as number two (which would automatically doom him to a career ruined by the Jordan curse), and Perry Jones III going to Portland at number 6, or dropping to Boston towards the end of the first round.

The general consensus is that Thomas Robinson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist will be off the board by the time the Warriors make their pick at seven, and your grandmother could probably tell you that the Unibrow will be gone first. That leaves Drummond, Bradley Beal and Harrison Barnes as the players most mock drafts believe will round out the top six. That being said, I have seen at least a few mocks projecting that one of those three players will fall to the Warriors, usually by way of Weber State point guard Damian Lillard being drafted with the sixth pick by the Blazers. And so without further ado, I’ll play expert for a moment and look at which of these three players would fit best with the Dubs should they happen to fall. But first, as seems the customary thing to do among draft experts, I’ll give my analysis a number label: we’ll call this “Warriors Draft Possibilities 1.0.” That leaves the door open for 2.0, and who knows, maybe even 3.0!

Bradley Beal

Beal is the least likely to drop, but if the Warriors find that somehow he does fall into their laps at seven, he’s the must take of the three, even if it means moving Klay Thompson to small forward. Although Golden State is after a bigger, stronger guy to step into the small forward position, a-la Terrance Jones (naturally a power forward), the downsizing that would occur with Beal wouldn’t by any means leave Golden State in the same position they were in when Curry started alongside Monta Ellis in the backcourt. At 6’4’’, Beal has a 6’8’’ wingspan (only an inch less than the 6’7’’Thompson’s).

According to scouts he has the strength and smarts to be a solid defender, and he’s already an exceptional rebounder at the guard position; in fact Beal averaged more rebounds, steals and blocks per game in his freshman year than 6’8’’ Harrison Barnes did in either of his freshman or sophomore years at North Carolina. Comparisons to Ray Allen, Eric Gordon and Dwayne Wade certainly don’t seem completely unfounded, although he is less athletic than Gordon and has a better shooting stroke than Wade did coming into the league. I don’t think there’s any question that Bob Meyers and Jerry West would sacrifice their hopes of a long, athletic, defensive minded three if Beal were still on the table.

Andre Drummond

I watched a fair amount of UConn basketball this last year so I got to see Drummond play quite a bit. For the most part he wasn’t very impressive; lost in the post, terrible at the free throw line, often it just seemed like he disappeared on the offensive end of the court. Obviously he’s young (still 18 until August) and he has some ridiculous physical attributes. But thus far the Amare Stoudemire similarities end after the 2-3 minute highlight clips on YouTube. And don’t get me wrong, some of those highlights make Drummond look scary: check out the play he makes beginning at 2:10 of this video. You will NEVER see Hasheem Thabeet or Andris Biedrins do that. Ever. (Here’s a clip of Andre Blatche making the exact same play, punctuated with a more Blatche-like finish. I put this in only because I think it’s funny.)

Unfortunately physical gifts and athleticism aren’t everything; if they were, than we would likely see Perry Jones III getting drafted second right after Drummond. Drummond is a project. He’s high risk, high reward. And it just seems to me that every time the Warriors make one of those high risk, high reward picks, most recently with Brandon Wright and Anthony Randolph, those picks blow up in their face. For some reason I have a feeling Drummond will be a bust. I thought the same thing about Kevin Love when he was drafted, so apparently my “feelings” about potential should be taken with at least one, if not many more grains of salt.

There have been multiple reports that Thomas Robinson outplayed Drummond in their head to head matchup during draft workouts. This is to be expected – Robinson is one of the most NBA ready players in the draft. When asked what he’s trying to show teams, Drummond replied, at this point, “that I run the floor hard, play hard, grab rebounds and block shots. The offense will come to me.’’ Andre Drummond is not Wright, or Randolph. He has much more potential, and worst case scenario he will probably be a DeAndre Jordan type player. Golden State is one year removed from trying to shell out some $43 million to Jordan, so why not take Drummond if he’s still around? I think they have to. At 18 years old, stash him behind Bogut for a year or two, let him mature and bring some athleticism, rebounding and defense off the bench. Who knows, if the offense does “come to [him]” then he’ll develop into something special.

Harrison Barnes

On the surface Barnes seems like the perfect fit for the Warriors small forward need. With an NBA ready body and a polished offensive game that revolves around a silky jump shot as smooth as his off-court persona, one would think that Golden State would jump at the opportunity to land the sophomore Tar Heel. At the same time there are a number of question marks that surround Barnes. Does he have what it takes to be a great player in the NBA?

After being heralded as the next best thing since fried beer coming out of high school, Barnes had a largely disappointing collegiate career, culminating in a 2012 NCAA tournament in which he averaged 14 ppg and shot a dismal 32.7% from the field. It’s no secret that Barnes has a slow first step and difficulty getting to the rim, but his inability to effectively create his own shot at times was on full display, especially after the injury to North Carolina point guard Kendall Marshall. Do the Warriors really need another lanky wing man who can spot up and hit threes? I’m pretty sure they already have that in Dorell Wright.

I’m not saying Harrison Barnes is going to be Dorell Wright; his ceiling is much higher. But it wouldn’t surprise me. In his article Brand Gone Bust (which I recommend reading), Jay Caspian King describes how Barnes’ desire to create his own brand has always been priority number one. Because he’s put so much effort into presenting and shaping his persona, the basketball itself has suffered. Similar to how Baron Davis got caught up in his movie career in Los Angeles, we may see Barnes posing for Calvin Klein or doing more work to perfect his own line of Cologne rather than hitting the gym to work on his first step. It will be difficult, but the Warriors should pass on Barnes. They might just be getting a glorified Dorell Wright.

Eli Pearlman is an NBA writer for The Sports Blitz.  He can be contacted at EPearlman@TheSportsBlitz.com.

The Warriors 2012 Lottery Celebration

Golden State Warriors CheerleadersToday ping-pong balls bounced in the Golden State Warriors’ favor – or at least did what they were supposed to do if things played out according to the odds. The Dubs get to keep their lottery pick, which was top 7 protected. If Joe Lacob were to call a Warriors Organization meeting in celebration of securing the seventh pick following today’s (May 30) 2012 draft lottery, I envision his speech going something like this:

Lacob: Alright everybody, thanks for the applause. I made sure not to invite any Warriors fans to the ceremony this time; I think we all know why, hehe.

Knowing chuckles from the audience. Rick Barry and Chris Mullen, both of whom aren’t in attendance shake their heads somewhere.

We all know why we’re here: We’ve done it guys! We have officially secured the seventh spot in this year’s draft lottery. Of course we couldn’t have done it without a lot of help from all of you. First off however, I’d like to take a little credit myself: from the moment I purchased this franchise and made the promise that we would make the playoffs this past year, it has been my goal to bring a winning culture here to Golden State. As we all know, the first step to a future of winning is tanking miserably, which, if I may say so myself, we did an admirable job of doing over the last third of the season. 5-18 over the final 23 games? Not bad folks, give yourselves a pat on the back. As that guy in Batman: The Dark Knight says, the night is always darkest just before the dawn.

Nate Robinson does his ever popular, locker-room-favorite, Batman impression, which is only slightly worse than his Dave Chappelle impression, followed by laughs and high-fives all around

Anyways, I’d like to thank Larry Riley, Bob Meyers and Jerry West for pulling off that Monta Ellis trade just when it looked like we were going to be doomed to wallow in mediocrity for the next decade. It only took about five years to realize that we could never build a winning team around Monta, no matter how much fun he was to watch. The fact that we landed an injured Andrew Bogut who wasn’t able to play the rest of the 2011-12 season only sweetened the deal for our tanking purposes.

Angry Warriors Fan: WE COULD HAVE WON WITH MONTA!!! We just needed to put a better group of players around him! They were never fully healthy! His starting center was ANDRIS BIEDRINS (Biedrins nods sadly) for Christ’s-sake!! I liked his tattoos…..

Lacob: Oh Dammit, who let HER in! Can somebody please escort my fiancé (deftly dodges a thrown high-heel shoe as it whizzes by his left ear) out of the facilities? I know you weren’t happy with the trade, Honey, but please!

Richard Jefferson, working security tonight in an effort to earn some of the remaining $21 million on his egregious contract, escorts Curran, Lacob’s fiancé, out of the building. Lacob gathers himself and continues with a confident smile

Lacob: Well I’m glad that’s over with. Your doing a great job at the door there, Richard, keep it up. We might have a spot for you working security at the new San Francisco stadium in a few years if nobody wants your basketball services. Next I would like to thank a few of our players…

Andris Biedrins: (Lacob smiles over at Andris, and from amidst the crowd, Marc Jackson yells “I still Believe in you ‘Dre!) Ever since you inexplicably lost every ounce of confidence following the 2008-09 season, we have been able to rely on you each and every year to be in the running for the “Biggest Stiff in the NBA” award, right up there with Hasheem Thabeet. Despite assurances that you had gotten your life back together and “worked as hard as [you’ve] ever worked” in the last lock-out extended offseason, you continued to be your unproductive, injury-prone self. Any more than the 1.7 points and 3.7 rebounds per game you gave us this year, and we might have risked winning a few more games. For that consistent ineffectiveness, we thank you!

Raucous applause. As Biedrins begins to walk towards the podium to say a few words, he tweaks his groin.

Lacob: Ooh, that’s okay, Andris. Why don’t you sit back down. You better get used to sitting; you’re going to be doing a lot of it over the next two years if we can’t dump your remaining $18 million on some other team. God, why didn’t we trade you to the Rockets at the beginning of the year while somebody actually wanted you!? But I digress. Where was I? Oh yes, current players…

Dorell Wright: I guess we could have expected a regression from you after the incredible strides you made last season. 16 point, 5 rebounds and 3 assists per game, while shooting nearly 40% from three-point range when you had never averaged more than 7.9 points previously in your career. The 10 ppg you averaged this season were a much more realistic insight into what we can expect from you in the future. Thank goodness we didn’t sign you to any long-term deals, am I right, haha? (Wright scowls). Well anyway, this last season allowed us to see that Brandon Rush is a more valuable asset for our future, and that we probably need a new starting small forward. I think I may have strayed a bit from the point, however. Your regression certainly helped us reach the losing record we worked so hard for, so thank you.

Crowd applauds politely, Wright is still frowning

Lacob: Now we never could have qualified for that seventh slot in the draft without the incredible job done by our medical staff. Our staff worked tirelessly to make sure some of our key guys who were playing just too hard would be sidelined down the stretch at a time when we needed all the losses we could muster. Some of you very nearly ruined our lottery chances single-handedly with your inspired play and great leadership after the Monta trade. I’m looking at you David Lee.

Lacob winks in Lee’s direction and everybody laughs heartily.

If we hadn’t shut you down with that “groin injury” (wink, wink) then you may have aggravated it even further, and Larry Riley just couldn’t let you do that, especially right after you scored a game high 30 points in a hard-fought loss to the Mavericks the night before! And I know you were chewing at the bit to get back out on the court, Steph.

Stephen Curry looks up quickly from massaging his ankles and nods emphatically

But it was actually a good idea to shut you down, tank-job or no tank-job. We need those porcelain ankles healthy for next year, Buddy! Those things are about as stable as Lamar Odom going through menopause.

More laughs, somebody shouts “sounds like an emotional roller-coaster to me, Joe!”

Lacob: (Nodding) exactly, exactly. Pretty damn unstable. Don’t worry; you’ll be back out there next year, Steph. You better be, we’re counting on you. Well, I think that’s pretty much it for now. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few people, you don’t just finish the last 23 games of a season with a miraculous, Bobcattian (yeah I made that word up) .27 winning percentage without the help of a lot of people. Most of you are probably aware of our past luck when it comes to the lottery. Historically the lottery gods have not been kind to Golden State; we haven’t moved up in the draft once in the last 15 years that we were in the lottery. In fact we actually moved down in five of those drafts. So you can see why keeping this year’s pick is reason enough to celebrate. Not to mention we have three other picks in this very deep (at least that’s what the scouts say, right Jerry West) draft. Let’s make Warriors fans forget about the last couple decades of futility, and have them remember this last one as the year that changed our franchise for good. Jesus, I hope Perry Jones doesn’t turn into Anthony Randolph 2.0….

Eli Pearlman is an NBA writer for The Sports Blitz Network.  He can be contacted at EPearlman@thesportsblitz.com.

Was Golden State’s trade of Monta Ellis the right move?

Monta Ellis

Two weeks have passed now since the Golden Stagbte Warriors exchanged Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown for Milwaukee’s Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson. (That trade was followed by the Warriors swapping Jackson for Richard Jefferson and a first round pick). The trade has turned out to be more polarizing than any I can remember in recent Warriors memory, and certainly the most controversial in the NBA since the Boston Celtics dealt Kendrick Perkins last year.

It’s rare to see so much conflicting opinion about a trade among sports writers across the internet as well as within a fan base.  Recently I have read articles that stated the move was unequivocally the right one to make, and a necessary one at that. Don Nelson said during the Warriors broadcast on March 19th it’s a rare opportunity that you have to jump on whenever you can trade a guard for a quality big man like Bogut.  Obviously Warriors brass felt the same way.  But then I have read a number of articles which contain an air of befuddlement, wondering what drove Golden State to make such a terrible series of trades.  Some articles just seem to waffle indecisively between the two sides.  And of course fans expressed their displeasure with the trade when they decided to turn Chris Mullin’s jersey retirement night into a giant boo-fest of Joe Lacob.

Perhaps this sort of thing can be expected from the general slew of sports opinionists, most of whom probably don’t spend a whole lot of time watching Warriors games or Bucks games for that matter, and thus are not completely attuned to the team’s situation.  I was surprised however about the differing opinions among fans.  A number of my friends were very disappointed with the trade, while others (myself included) thought it was a great move for the future. What’s become apparent however is that most fans who disliked the trade did so not because they thought the team was going to be worse off down the road, but because they were going to miss Monta and Udoh (very few people were troubled by the loss of Kwame Brown, although he did play well for the Dubs before his injury and very well may be back next year.)  Ellis was the face of the franchise, and easily the most popular player in Oakland.  Hell, even Lacob’s wife was angry about the trade.  All emotional attachment aside however, many of my friends eventually agreed that it was probably a good move.

Indeed, I fully agree with this sentiment, and it’s easy to see where angry fans are coming from. It’s very difficult to just say goodbye to a player you have invested so much time following and rooting for, and often a trade will seem quite abrupt.  It certainly took me a little while to get over the initial shock after hearing that Monta was no longer a Warrior.  I’ve spent the last six years watching Monta Ellis grow and develop into a team leader and one of the most exciting, prolific scorers in the league.  You could always count on Monta for at least one whirling, reverse finish at the rim, or an incredible spin move through traffic.  The Dubs might not always win, but as a fan you knew that most games would be somewhat close and at the very least entertaining.  Hopefully with Bogut (and Curry) healthy and at least one draft pick added to the mix next year the Dubs can be a legitimate playoff contender, and people will wonder why they ever questioned the trade in the first place.

Eli Pearlman is an NBA writer for The Sports Blitz.  He can be contacted at EPearlman@TheSportsBlitz.com.

Golden State Warriors: Waiting for ping-pong balls to bounce their way

Stephen Curry

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

5 teams that will attempt to sign Jeremy Lin after the 2012 season

Jeremy Lin

New York Knicks Jeremy LinJeremy Lin’s unprecedented level of play over the past six games has propelled him into the fore-front of the sports world. Lin’s play in February has guaranteed him a hefty contract next season, but what five teams have the best shot of signing him? Let’s take a look:

1. New York Knicks
If Mike D’antoni is smart he will do whatever it takes to ensure that the organization inks Jeremy Lin to a long-term contract before the end of the season. Under the new collective bargaining agreement the New York Knicks can only offer Lin five million dollars in the first year of a long-term deal; this is an eerily convenient set circumstances. The Knicks have their mid-level-exception available for next season, which would allow the team to make Lin the maximum offer without taking a hit on the salary cap. Given that the success of D’antoni’s system is predicated on the ability of a point guard to play at an elite level, the Knicks have no choice but to lock up Lin for the long run.

2. Dallas Mavericks
Count on Mark Cuban to make a run at Lin this offseason. Jason Kidd’s days are numbered and given that Kidd has finally won an NBA championship it seems likely that retirement might be an attractive option for the veteran point guard. One possibility might involve signing Lin to a long-term deal, and bring Jason Kidd back for a single season; a transition season if you will. In an ideal world Lin could start for the Mavericks while Kidd comes off the bench; this would allow Lin to continue to grow under the tutelage of a future first ballot hall of famer.

3. Houston Rockets
This may seem odd given that the Rockets appear to be set at point guard right now (Kyle Lowry, Goran Dragic), but the Rockets seem to be active trade partners every year. Lin would make sense in Houston for a couple of reasons. The Rockets have the marketing infrastructure in place to do business in the Chinese market. After drafting Yao Ming, the Rockets adopted a uniform color scheme eerily similar to that of the Chinese national team, and there is no doubt that the organization’s executives still have contacts in Asia; this would be a marketing marriage made in heaven. Second, bringing Jeremy Lin to Houston could help Houston finally get over their playoff hump. If Jeremy Lin continues to play as well as he is now, he may be this franchise’s best hope of getting out of the first round of the playoffs.

4. Golden State Warriors
Early in the season Steph Curry was linked to both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard trade rumors. There is no doubt that the Warriors organization is still not sold on Curry’s ability to co-exist with Monte Ellis. While Golden State was the organization that cut Lin in the first place, don’t count out a reunion for the Northern California native. A Lin/Ellis back court could be deadly, and with a point guard with Lin’s vision could really do wonders for the Warriors young spot up shooter Klay Thompson and freak athlete Ekpe Udoh. Signing Lin would allow the Warriors to actively shop Curry, a strategy that could yield more young talent and draft picks for a team looking to escape from the cellars of the west.

5. Los Angeles Lakers
Last, but surely not least, the Lost Angeles Lakers are almost guaranteed to make a run at Jeremy Lin. The Lakers have been looking for an upgrade at point guard for years now. Jordan Farmar wasn’t the answer and neither is Steve Blake. The point guard situation has gotten so bad in L.A. that Kobe Bryant is literally lobbying the organization to sign Gilbert Arenas. Lin could be the answer for L.A., and an infusion of scoring, playmaking, and youth at the point guard position could be just what Kobe needs to get a sixth championship. Those variables, combined with the fact that L.A. is also a large Asian market, make L.A. a match too perfect for the Lakers and Lin. Look for Kobe to lobby for Lin during the off season.