Pulling a typical George Karl In The Playoffs move, the Denver Nuggets fell to the No. 6 Golden State Warriors behind Stephen Curry’s monster third quarter performances. Here’s my HoopsHabit article on how the Warriors were able to win without David Lee
If you follow the NBA at all, you’ve probably read about how Chris Mullin’s special night of retiring his jersey was ruined by Golden State fans booing Warriors owner Joe Lacob. Even though you feel bad for Mullin, you’ve probably seen the YouTube video a few times and laughed your ass off while watching a flustered Lacob look for support and an irate Rick Barry scold the audience. At first, I was disgusted with these Warriors fans, booing and ruining what should have been a memorable and happy night not just for Chris Mullin but for the franchise and its ever-supportive fans. But then I realized that Golden State fans have every reason to be upset.
Bill Simmons, my favorite basketball writer, lays out the history of the Warriors franchise in a lengthy article detailing how management has brought some of the best fans in the NBA to their knees. A few awful facts stuck out in reading his article about the Warriors over the past 35 years: 1) They’ve missed the playoffs 29 times in 35 years 2) They haven’t had an NBA All-Star since 1997 3) Despite the Warriors’ awful losing records, they’ve had 22 top-14 picks since 1985 and 4) They’ve given away Chris Webber, Jason Richardson, Baron Davis, Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas as well as coaches Rick Adelman, George Karl and Gregg Popovich.
YIKES. If you’re a diehard Warriors fans (and there really is no other kind of Warriors fan), those last four sentences should break your heart. And after all that the franchise has been through, Warrior fans are still some of the best in the NBA. Everyone saw how riled up Golden State’s fanbase can get when they actually have something to cheer about, evidenced by the Warriors’ improbable playoff run as the eight seed in 2007, knocking off the Dallas Mavericks in six games. Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, Stephen Jackson and Matt Barnes almost led them past the Utah Jazz in the second round, and even if they were eliminated, the Warriors had reason to stand behind their slogan of “We Believe!” (while also giving us Davis’ wicked dunk over Andrei Kirilenko). But then poor management kicked in, players were shipped off and the Warriors have been reeling ever since (again). Until recently, it was starting to become the era of Monta Ellis, Stephen Curry and David Lee.
Even if the team wasn’t going to contend, Ellis gave fans something to cheer about. The Warriors had a young and talented core to build around for the future, even if the present could have been better. Mark Jackson was brought on as head coach and it looked like the franchise might return to its 2007-playoff-run glory. But Jackson hasn’t shaped up to be the coach fans prayed for, Curry has been plagued with ankle injuries and the last straw came in the form of the Monta Ellis trade.
I initially defended this trade for Golden State, noting that the Warriors weren’t going to contend anyway, so there really wasn’t much of a problem gearing up for next year by getting rid of a guard (who isn’t as efficient as he should be) for an injured Andrew Bogut and a declining but still decent Richard Jefferson. But I didn’t stop and think about what Ellis meant to Warriors fans. I didn’t recall Golden State’s terrible history over the past 35 years. I failed to take into account the fact that Warriors fans are some of the most passionate in the NBA, and therefore have no reason to be satisfied with tanking this year in order to improve next season. So for Warriors fans, this trade sent their one glimmer of hope and excitement away for an big man with a history of injuries in addition to an old guy with a cap-space-killing contract.
So unfortunately for Joe Lacob, Chris Mullin, and anyone who’s uncomfortable with awkward situations, I have to applaud the Golden State fanbase for booing their owner during that halftime ceremony. It was high time fans made their discontent be known. I can understand his intentions to look at the big picture and improve for next year, but for an impatient fan, a move like trading Ellis is enraging. Fans should try and have hope for the future and feel some shame in blemishing Mullin’s ceremony. But even though Chris Mullin deserved better on his special night, it’s only fair to equally understand that Golden State Warriors fans have deserved better for 35 years.
The Milwaukee Bucks recently snuck into the number 8 seed in the East, but after today’s fantastic trade, they may have a few more spots to climb. The Bucks acquired Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown from Golden State and will send the injury-laden pair of Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson to the Warriors.
For the Bucks, this is a fantastic trade at the moment. Although they initially struggled without their star big man Bogut, Milwaukee worked its way back into the playoff race thanks phenomenal elevated play from Ersan Ilyasova and Drew Gooden, consistently great play from Jennings, and the Knicks’ six game losing streak. All with Bogut and Jackson sitting on the bench. Can you imagine a starting lineup of Brandon Jennings, Monta Ellis, Ilyasova, Gooden and Tobias Harris, with Mike Dunleavy (consistent bench scoring), Carlos Delfino (current starter averaging 9.0 ppg) and Beno Udrih (a semi-efficient guard) coming off the bench and giving decent minutes? Ignoring the Tobias Harris part, that sounds like a pretty decent squad! The biggest concern is how Jennings and Ellis will play together, as both are phenomenal guards who look to score first and need a lot of shots. The give-and-take at the guard position may take some getting used to if this team is to be successful. But if these two can learn to play together, you’re potentially looking at the NBA’s most dangerous backcourt. Kwame Brown and Ekpe Udoh don’t really bring much to the table, but trading Milwaukee’s two injured players for the Warriors’ scoring machine, especially when one of those players has a history of injury, is a great move for the Bucks.
On the other side of the coin, this move is perplexing if you’re a Warriors fan, as Golden State just gave up its best offensive weapon for two injured players who have been riding Milwaukee’s bench all season. Bogut has played in 12 games this season, spending the majority of his time on the sideline after fracturing his ankle against the Rockets on Jan. 25. Stephen Jackson hasn’t played since Feb. 19, sitting out with a hamstring injury, but even when he was healthy, he saw limited minutes as Milwaukee coach Scott Skiles didn’t like his attitude problem. Apparently the Warriors have given up on Mark Jackson and the Warriors for this season and look to rebuild for next year starting now. A healthy core of Curry, Bogut, Jackson, and David Lee along with Dorrell Wright, Brandon Rush and Nate Robinson is an interesting concept for next season, especially if Coach Jackson can learn to control the new Jackson. But as long as Curry continues to be riddled with ankle injuries and Mark Jackson continues to struggle as a head coach (you think Stephen Jackson’s attitude problem will improve with a first-year coach?), Warriors basketball may not be so fun to watch for the time being.
NOTE: Could the Warriors be setting themselves up to try and trade multiple pieces for Dwight Howard? They now have Bogut, Jackson, Curry, Lee and other role-player assets that could be packaged into a big deal for Superman. It would be interesting to see what kind of package would interest the Magic in exchange for Howard, but just a thought to keep in mind.
Here are the scores from around the league and the major headlines:
Boston Celtics 115, New York Knicks 111 – The Celtics beat the Knicks at home in overtime after Paul Pierce hit a tough contested three to tie the game in regulation. Pierce ended up with 34, which was overshadowed by Rajon Rondo’s historic triple double of 18 points, 17 rebounds and 20 assists. Only two other players have recorded a 15-15-15 triple double in the last 25 years (Jason Kidd and Magic Johnson). Talks of trading Rondo will likely die down now, even though the Celtics probably need to make some changes to stay competitive in the East. Carmelo Anthony led the Knicks with 25 points and had a few key buckets to give the Knicks the lead before Pierce forced overtime. Jeremy Lin struggled, finishing with 14 points and 6 turnovers. He’ll need to work on keeping his turnovers down while increasing his scoring and distributing for the Knicks to be contenders this year.
Los Angeles Lakers 93, Miami Heat 83 – Kobe Bryant and the Lakers made a statement with their ten-point victory over the visiting Miami Heat. Kobe started out the night with 18 points in the first quarter and singlehandedly set the tone for his team early on. Kobe finished with 33 and has scored 30+ in each of his last three games while wearing the mask to protect his nose. LeBron James led the Heat with 25 points, 13 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals and 2 blocks, but it still wasn’t enough for a Miami side that was down the whole game. The Masked Mamba showed his competitive fire from the start while LeBron, who had a good game, couldn’t carry the load with Chris Bosh out and Dwyane Wade fouling out in the 4th. The Heat probably win this game with Bosh on the floor, but watch out for the Lakers in the West. They are looking like a completely different team from the beginning of the season behind Kobe’s hot hand.
Denver Nuggets 99, San Antonio Spurs 94 – Ty Lawson flirted with a triple double as the Nuggets edged the Spurs in Manu Ginobili’s return to the court. Lawson finished with 22 points, 11 assists and 9 rebounds, and also hit a critical jumper that put Denver up by three and sealed the deal. Gary Neal tried to tie it up on the Spurs’ final possession but his 3-pointer rimmed out, resulting in San Antonio’s third loss of the season at home. Tony Parker led the Spurs with 25. The Nuggets have now won three in a row without Danilo Gallinari or Nene. This game also showed off Kenneth Faried’s incredible athletic ability. Look for him to continue to evolve his game, he could develop into quite the role player for Denver.
Chicago Bulls 96, Philadelphia 76ers 91 – Derrick Rose tied his season high of 35 points and added 7 assists in a spectacular performance as the Bulls got a road victory over the 76ers. Chicago avenged a loss earlier in the season and led for most of the second half but couldn’t quite close the deal, missing free throws down the stretch. Joakim Noah has 11 points and 18 rebounds for the Bulls, who now own the best record in the NBA at 31-8. Andre Iguodala had two good looks for threes in the fourth that would have kept the Sixers alive, but air-balled them both. The Sixers have now lost seven of their last nine games.
Los Angeles Clippers 105, Houston Rockets 103 – Chris Paul was clutch again for the Clippers down the stretch, giving Los Angeles a solid win on the road in overtime. Paul led the way with 28 points and 10 assists, including 3 crucial points in the final minute of overtime. The Rockets have now lost three games in a row. The Clippers still hold on to a slim lead over the Lakers in the Pacific.
New Jersey Nets 104, Charlotte Bobcats 101 – Deron Williams has a historic night of his own, putting up 57 points to set a Nets’ franchise record. Williams’ 57 is the highest scoring total in the NBA so far this season. Williams was a perfect 21-for-21 from the free throw line. The Bobcats still only have four wins on the season.
Phoenix Suns 96, Sacramento Kings 88 – The Suns won their third in a row behind Steve Nash and Marcin Gortat, erasing a double-digit deficit in the second half, also for the third game in a row. Nash had 19 points while Gortat had 14 points and 17 rebounds. This is the longest winning streak for the Suns this season, and has helped put Phoenix only a few games behind the 8th spot in the Western Conference.
Toronto Raptors 83, Golden State Warriors 75 – DeMar DeRozan scored 25 for Toronto, leading the Raptors to a victory over Mark Jackson’s Warriors. Golden State was up by nine at halftime but only scored 11 points in the third quarter. David Lee led the way with 22 points and 12 rebounds for the Warriors, who have now lost six of their last nine.