Let’s take a run up and down America’s best state (sorry, we are Cali guys) and check on all four teams.
Dwight Howard dominates the paint on both ends, Kobe Bryant plays less than 30 minutes for the first time this season, Steve Nash runs the offense with precision, the defense has its best game in weeks and the Lakers run away with a 20-point win in their Sunday home whites.
So, everything’s back to normal again in Tinseltown, right?
Who cares that it was against the Cavaliers, who lose three of every four games they play? Or that Cleveland was missing Anderson Varejao, their best rebounder, post defender and energy player? Or that Howard and Bryant were primarily matched up against rookies Tyler Zeller and Dion Waiters?
The Lakers are too busy battling the unrealistic expectations of their spoiled fans to immerse themselves in a full-fledged rivalry such as one with their neighbors down the hall at Staples Center.
No, the developing rivalry is between the Clippers and the Warriors, which went to a new level Saturday night.
The oft-injured Bogut will not play in any of the team’s next three games as he continues to build strength in his surgically repaired left ankle, the team announced Tuesday.
(This is another in a series of 30 guest columns that will run in October, when optimism reigns supreme across the NBA. The theme will be “Five Reasons to Feel Positive About … ” We encourage you to follow the authors on Twitter and visit their sites. – CS)
For fans of Golden State Warriors, the “We Believe” playoff run seems like it happened about 12 years ago and not five. One of the biggest upsets in NBA history against the Dallas Mavericks was slowly wiped away and replaced by the same frustration and losing culture that had haunted the team for the 13 years before 2007.
From ‘07 on, the start of every season had been filled with a lot of blind optimism and hope, only for it to be derailed by mo-peds, injuries or just an overall lack of talent.
Now here we are, with the 2012-13 season quickly approaching and that same sense of optimism and hope is creeping back towards Oracle Arena. Two key players are set to return this season – Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut – and they are going to be surrounded with one of the most talented groups of players Golden State has assembled in years.
So while that cloud of optimism and hope is nice and fresh, let’s take a look at some reasons to feel positive about the Golden State Warriors.
After going through season after season of injury-plagued rosters and being forced to play players that were either out of position or simply not good enough, the Warriors have gathered a bunch of players that resemble an actual NBA team.
At point guard, they have the talented Curry, who seemed to be on the precipice of stardom after his rookie season before ankle problems halted his progress. Behind him there is the newly acquired and very solid Jarrett Jack. He has spent the majority of his career as a backup to the likes of Chris Paul and Jose Calderon but last season as a starter with the Hornets he showed his true value.
Jack will be asked to back up Curry this season but also provides insurance for the Warriors as a reliable starter should Curry’s ankle troubles resurface. They also have a quality third point guard in Hofstra product Charles Jenkins, who can shoot the mid-range jumper with the best of them.
At shooting guard and small forward, the Warriors have a number of options with which they can mix and match. The three main ones are Klay Thompson (whom the majority of NBA GMs picked most likely to have a breakout year), Brandon Rush and rookie Harrison Barnes.
Behind that trio are rookie Draymond Green and veteran Richard Jefferson. Yes, Golden State has almost too many options at the wings, and the latter two probably won’t get a whole lot of playing time. But at the very least, everyone in this group could contribute in some fashion if called upon.
In the frontcourt, Bogut and David Lee will start with Carl Landry, rookie Festus Ezeli and (gulp) Andris Biedrins backing them up. Although there are a lot of question marks surrounding this frontcourt group – Bogut’s health, the defense of Lee and Landry, Ezeli’s lack of experience, Biedrins’ overall Biedrins-ness – the fact that the Warriors even have options here shows how determined they are to prove they are not the same Warriors of old.
2. Andrew Bogut
Bogut has yet to play a single game in a Warriors uniform but is one of the biggest reasons to feel good about this team. He is a defensive-minded big man that Golden State has coveted for years, and the team took a positive step in the direction of changing its identity by swapping him for fan favorite Monta Ellis last season. When Bogut is on the court, he makes life tough for not only opposing big men, but for those pesky perimeter players who like to take it to the rim.