How many people, before the season began, thought that this team could make the playoffs without a healthy Andrew Bogut anchoring its defense? If the number reads more than zero, then we have some liars in our hands because lets face it: no one thought that the Warriors would be good enough in the Western Conference if they couldn’t play defense. Without Bogut’s availability, there was no reason to assume that they would suddenly be able to get stops with a core of Stephen Curry, David Lee, Klay Thompson and a couple of rookies in the starting lineup.
Yet, that’s what happened in the first half of the season. They defended and rebounded the way winning teams would. Maybe it was fluke, because as the season went on, it all reverted back to past years, as they allowed anyone and everyone to shoot freely and attack the rim at will. They limped into the All-Star break with a five-game losing streak, and lost 10-of-13 games to fall back in the standings. It was hard-pressed to find a team that played worse defense in the second half of the season than the Warriors.
Still, they were dominant enough in the first half of the season to outlast the bad times, Bogut eventually came back and has shown flashes of himself since, and here we are, waiting to see who they’ll face in the first round of the playoffs. It was a tough road and even caused coach Mark Jackson – who was one year early on his promise to make the playoffs last season – to shed tears of joy.
We already know about the contributions of Curry, Lee and Jarrett Jack to help the Warriors clinch, but here’s something hardly anyone notices or gives deserved credit to: the defense of Klay Thompson. When you think of Thompson, you think of the “other sharp shooter” in the team’s backcourt. A defensive stopper is not what comes to mind. Yet, that’s what he has quietly done to help the team get to where it is today – with his ability to contain the best perimeter threat on the other team. Here are his thoughts about defense and how he realized his potential as a defender, from Jesse Taylor of Warriorsworld:
“When did you notice the difference in your defense and realize that you were able to stop some really good players?
I’ve always thought I could play defense, going back to high school and then college. I think my shooting and scoring always outshined it. As for the NBA, it was probably midseason this year when I thought, “Oh, I can actually guard some of these guys.” That’s when the confidence really came.
Was there a certain player or a certain game where it really hit you?
Yeah, I’d say when we played the Spurs at home and wore those T-shirts. Remember that game?
Yep. Who can forget the yellow jerseys?
Tony Parker came into that game really hot, averaging like 24 and 10, and shooting high 50s from the field. (note: Parker was averaging 29.3 points on 57% shooting in his previous six games and 9.1 assists in his previous seven games) I thought I did a great job against him in that game on national TV. I thought people finally noticed then that I could be a versatile player, not just an offensive guy.”
Now that everyone’s been given the proper credit they deserve, lets take a look at their future. After clinching a playoff spot on Tuesday against the Timberwolves, majority owner Joe Lacob went as far as promise a championship for the team in the future. It sounds a bit wild, but the way general manager Bob Myers is planning things out, Lacob may just be onto something, from Mark Purdy of Mercury News:
But in a recent sit-down session, Myers was refreshingly open about the team’s ultimate master plan.
That plan begins with some general principles, which scouts are told to emphasize in their evaluation.
“Defense and rebounding are important,” he said, which means you can look for the Warriors to shun those fill-up-the-basket guys who won’t do the necessary work at the other end of the court.
And yet, that’s merely the foundation groundwork. The master plan’s centerpiece is this: to be prepared when a franchise changer becomes available. Myers estimates there might be 15 of those in the league at any one time. You obtain them through free agency, or through your pick in the draft, or through trading for someone else’s selection.
“There’s going to be a moment in time when you have a chance to acquire that player,” Myers said. “Is your roster and your franchise situation set up for that one moment in time? What we cannot have happen is that when the moment comes, we’re not ready.”
“We want to have a seat at that table,” Myers said. “It’s sort of like the party’s been going on, and we’re not getting an invitation to the table. We want to be in position to not just get that invitation but be able to make our presentation at the party.”
This postseason could be tough for the inexperienced group they have right now – no one in the starting lineup outside of Andrew Bogut has any playoff games under their belt. Still, the franchise is heading towards a greater path for the first time in a very long time. As a Warriors fan, you can’t ask for too much more than this.
Onto other news from around the league: