Posts tagged ‘Golden State Warriors’

February 8, 2011

The Puzzling Logic of Stephen Jackson

by npiller88

Just don't let MJ see that tat

When Stephen Jackson came to the Golden State Warriors, he was on a mission to rebuild his tattered image. It’s hard not to look back on that famous brawl between the Pacers and Pistons in 2004 without thinking of Jackson, who took a leading role in one of the most embarrassing moments for the NBA in recent memory. At the time, he was a pariah. Ironically, the guy most condemned for his role in the brawl, Ron Artest, has seen his reputation soar in recent years, thanks to winning with the Lakers and charity efforts addressing mental illness. But Jackson’s reputation, on the other hand, seems to be constantly in flux.

Jackson saw a revitalization with the Warriors, and Golden State fans (being the desperate bunch they are), were willing to forgive ANYTHING in exchange for success on the court. And Jackson, despite his poor shooting percentage (career 42%), capably guided the Dubs to playoff success as a classic Don Nelson point forward. But this isn’t a debate about his value.

Throughout every stop in his career (and there have been many), Jackson has frequently tried to explain his volatile behavior, often making matters worse. When he came to Golden State, he addressed concerns over his gun-toting past (he and several other Pacers had been involved at a garden variety NBA strip club altercation, and Jackson fired several 9mm rounds in ‘self defense’), by referencing one of his favorite tatoos. It featured an image of praying hands wrapped around a gun, which Jackson explained meant “I pray I never have to use the gun again.” The remarks just made very little sense. He was trying to allay concerns about his potential to stir up trouble and violence, and he does so by sending a message to OTHERS, essentially suggesting that he can’t control a potentially violent response if he’s provoked, and nor should he. Sure, he’s expressing a sort of tempered remorse, but it falls pretty flat, because there’s no accountability.

It’s never Stephen Jackson’s fault, and if he acts crazy, its always because someone else CAUSED him to respond in such a way. The most recent controversy swirling around Jackson is no different. After Bobcats Owner Michael Jordan and Coach Paul Silas boiled over in public frustration with Jackson’s incessant complaining to the refs, piling up of technical fouls, and distracted, egocentric on-court demeanor, Jackson fired back with this wonderful nugget:

No, I get techs because I want to; I don’t care. I’m not getting techs for no reason. It happens.

Apathy. Now that’ll keep the owner and coach on your side. Another exciting new wrinkle in the deeply complex psyche of Captain Jack. Now, he did step back and admit that he was responsible for his actions, even referencing the fateful brawl:

My reputation is the main reason why a lot of things don’t go my way on the court. I can’t really pout about it and complain about it. I know I put myself in those situations. I went in the stands. I had those incidents off the court, and I’ve got to be responsible for them. I just have to be professional and try to get through it.

Well, he was already featured in a video distributed by the NBA to players about how NOT to behave when speaking with officials. He’s one of David Stern’s “examples” of bad behavior. And so his racking up of 11 technical fouls this season (third in the league) doesn’t quite go along with his vow to be “professional.” And nor does it jive with his flip comment about “wanting” to get technical fouls. He can’t be apathetic and proud while trying to be professional.

Perhaps this all stems from Jackson’s inflated sense of self. I think he truly believes he is one of the league’s greatest talents. Guys like Kobe (an elite talent if I ever saw one) might even complain to the refs more than Jackson, and probably get technical fouls less often, because the NBA hates to piss off its moneymakers. Teammates like Center Nazr Mohammed are reinforcing this notion for Jackson:

He’s one of the elite players in this league, and when he feels like he’s not being treated like some of the elite players in this league, it frustrates him and he gets technicals sometimes.

Depends on your definition of elite, I guess. But according to mine, he’s nowhere near “elite.” Still, he seems to have convinced himself of that notion, which tends to reinforce the voice in his head that says: “there’s a big conspiracy against you.” Jackson, who grew up in a rough part of Texas and witnessed the death of his half-brother at a young age, probably has legitimate reason to be suspicious of those in power. He doesn’t like to be restrained, and I don’t really blame him. But he has to pick an angle here. He can go on being inflexible and stubborn, or he can try to be more professional. But it seems like he always treads a narrow path between yearning for an improved reputation or great accolades, and holding on to his ‘I don’t give a s**t’ image.

In the mean time, he should avoid showing off his tats at press conferences. Baby steps.

February 1, 2011

New Warriors Owners Getting Early Taste of Perpetual Franchise Disfunction

by npiller88

They even feed the children!

The Golden State Warriors have one of the most loyal, energetic, passionate fan bases in professional sports. The state of never-ending mediocrity in Oakland always gets met with optimism and tongue-in-cheek self deprecation. Take a look at the Warriors’ fan blog,–it features a quote from former rookie center Marc Jackson (whom no one remembers, nor should they), shouting “Unstoppable Baby!” after a two point bucket during the close of a 29 point loss to the Dallas Mavericks.

But beyond this great sense of humor displayed by Warriors devotees lies a deeper inferiority complex punctuated by years of losing and just awful, awful luck. Flash back to the 2007-2008 season, when the Warriors were fresh off of that scintillating upset of the #1 seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs. They managed 48 wins, the best in many years for the franchise, but failed to make the playoffs during an historically competitive year in the Western Conference. They were the only team in NBA history to miss the playoffs with at least 48 wins.

That disappointment gradually devolved into a languishing culture of no-defense under Nellie (Don Nelson, the NBA wins leader among coaches). The past few years have been tough ones for Warriors fans.

But last season brought a ray of sunshine in the form of cherubic rookie guard Stephen Curry. Though the Dubs slogged their way to a 20+ win season, Curry brought energy and enthusiasm, along with real star power, something that is consistently lacking on the team, and something earnestly craved by the restless fanbase.

But this season, for all its marginal improvements in performance (the 20 win plateau has already been reached), has carried with it similar oddities and bad luck. The season started off well enough, even with the loss of top draft pick Epke Udoh and early ankle problems for Stephen Curry, as the Dubs cruised to a 6-2 record. With new front court acquisition David Lee in the lineup, the Dubs are actually at around a .500 winning percentage on the season. But when Lee was forced to miss ample time after being bitten (yes, I said bitten) by the Knicks’ Wilson Chandler, the Warriors began to slip in the win column once again. The maccabre nature of the injury was business as usual for the Warriors, who always seem to attract general strangeness. Perhaps it was a fitting initiation into said strangeness for the new owners, Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, who did their best to offer the best doctors on the planet to Lee’s mangled elbow. Alas, an infection couldn’t be avoided, and a sickly looking Lee began to add an odd, ghoulish presence to the Dubs’ bench, albeit in a suit and tie.

This new season brought much fanfare and optimism, with new owners, new uniforms and a fearsomely exciting back court featuring the electric Monta Ellis, who really has no equal in terms of raw quickness in the NBA, and the skilled, crafty Curry, whose shooting ability rivals any league veteran, and whose creativity around the basket and in setting up teammates shows tremendous potential. Ellis is averaging over 25 points per game this season, and probably won’t be an all-star, despite ranking sixth in the league in the league in that category, along with other gaudy numbers (including being ranked third in steals per game). But the greater frustration lies with Ellis’ raw talent. Anyone who has watched a full Dubs game knows the tornado that is Monta Ellis. His drives to the basket are often punctuated by ballet-like spins and twirls, with slick concentration and finishing ability around the rim. All-Star Game spectators will miss out on one of the most exciting players to watch in the past several years of up and down NBA action. No NBA player is quicker, at least certainly no player who stands as tall as 6’3.”

But therein lies the rub. Both Ellis and Curry, for all their brilliance, are the exact same size, at 6’3″ and 185 pounds. Slight guards in the NBA can put up shots, but usually can’t defend too well. There are exceptions, like Chris Paul, but they are few and far between. As long as the Warriors keep this back court together, it will be difficult to win consistently (assuming they won’t be able to pull off a trade for Dwight Howard). The irony of the situation is that their greatest weakness (abysmal defense in the back court), is also their greatest strength (blitzkrieg offense from a pair of marketable, offensively gifted playmakers). Few teams are more fun to watch than the Warriors, and a lot of that is because of their unique back court. But they don’t win too often, and it’s becoming more and more clear that Lee’s is not a sufficient inside presence to give the Dubs a winning squad. Back when Curry was drafted, a dejected Ellis said it best himself when asked if the two could play well together: “Can’t, just can’t.” Ellis has since matured and showed more of a team-oriented attitude, especially as regards Curry. But even if they can play together and look good, they have trouble doing it without losing far too often.

When Lacob told local blogger/journalist Tim Kawakami that he would consider trading Curry or Ellis if the right deal came around, fans started their annual freak out. Lacob has since backed off on those comments. But the situation remains the same. The Dubs will probably have to choose between a fun-to-watch team and a potentially successful one. That transition could come soon if they trade Curry or Ellis for a strong big man. But even then, something will probably go wrong. It’s the Warriors.

In the mean time, any good trade ideas for this frustrated Dubs fan? (If it wasn’t obvious enough, my allegiances are out now). Whoever that new Warrior is, he better watch out for wayward teeth.