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.

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