This article is part of our The Give and Go series.
Subject: Give and Go
Date: March 10, 2009 4:00 AM PDT
Have the wheels ever come off for any franchise as quickly and completely as they've come off for the Warriors? It wasn't that long ago that Don Nelson's club was the most exciting young group in the NBA... but since then they've:
- Lost Baron Davis to free agency
- Replaced Davis by giving Corey Maggette a terrible contract
- Alienated Monta Ellis with their handling of his injuy situation<./li>
- Traded for yet another no-defense swingman with a bad contract in Jamal Crawford
And things just seem to be getting worse. A number of reports have suggested that Ellis is miserable and acting out - not participating in huddles, showing up late, etc. The team seems intent on making Crawford miserable, in the hope that he'll opt out of his contract this summer - I wonder if the union will have something to say about that.
Then there's Don Nelson's new "rest my veterans to keep them fresh" policy - he sat Crawford for C.J. Watson and Stephen Jackson for Anthony Randolph last week, and will reportedly do the same with other vets down the stretch. (Andris Biedrins was scheduled to sit on Friday, but wound up leaving the team to deal with a family matter.)
Can you make any sense of what's going on in Oakland?
Things seem to be falling apart for the Knicks as well... after the break, they seemed primed to at least make a playoff push, but they've lost five of six, with awful losses to Miami (gave up a huge lead in the fourth quarter), Charlotte and Jersey. Chris Duhon is taking a lot of the blame and is mired in an awful slump - but in fairness to him, the Knicks have played most of the season with no depth at the point, which has forced Duhon to log very heavy minutes. He's averaging just under 40 - and has never topped 30 minutes per game in his NBA career.
I think it's fair to say that allowing the Marbury affair to drag on for as long as it did - which is one of the reasons the Knicks had no depth in the backcourt - is coming back to bite them now.
A few writers have suggested that the Knicks move Nate Robinson to the starting lineup in Duhon's place. Think that's the right move? I love Nate... and he's been one of the better players in the league since the All-Star break... but I can't help but think that the best role for him is the one he's in - sixth man, energy guy, comes in when the opposing team is starting to switch to its second unit.
One more bad team to discuss... over on RotoSynthesis, I posted an observation from the Elias Sports Bureau guys that suggested that Oklahoma City is playing better ball since Kevin Durant's injury, mostly because they're allowing nine fewer points per 48 minutes with Durant sidelined.
They are 4-1 since Durant's ankle injury - but two of those wins came against Washington and Memphis. (5-1 seems like a real possibility; they play Sacramento on Tuesday.)
I don't really buy the idea that the team is better without a 30-point scorer... but it's interesting to consider what the Thunder will be like if Durant becomes a credible defender... he certainly has the physical tools to do it, but you could say that about lots of guys. (Jamal Crawford is my favorite example... he's athletic, he's got long arms... he looks like a good defender. But he always plays defense like he's seeing the opposition for the first time - never over-plays the opponent's dominant hand, makes poor decisions going over or under screens... he has the body of a good defender, but doesn't seem to have the head for it.)
Any other bad teams worth watching as they play out the string?
Subject: Re: Give and Go
Date: March 10, 2009 3:59 PM PDT
Funny you should mention the Warriors as I got some feedback from a knowledgeable reader after last week. Here's his take since he knows the team better than I do:
It's like this regarding Don and the benchings/getting to see the youth:
1. BD left the team by surprise.
2. Monta, before anyone could even begin to form which direction the team went with its guard rotation post-BD, hurt himself on a moped.
3. Al H demanded a trade which knocked the W's position of power down making a trade, which brought in Crawford, who is more of a combo G, which the W's have in Monta, not to mention a few others.
4. CJ Watson, Kelenna Azu, Belinelli and Morrow have all shown promise.
5. Maggette has accepted 6th man and done well there.
6. The Warriors are the youngest team in the league.
7. The W's have had tons of injuries.
So, (as well as realizing some of these hurdles the team has faced when you knee jerkedly bash the W's record) when you look at the FACTS of the matter, what Nelson is doing makes damn good sense.
Can anybody from No. 4 above be considered for bigger roles next year? Who knows how "Monta" Monta will ever be again?
The Warriors, for various reasons, many defensible if the players themselves are not defensive on the court, have tons of swingmen/combo Gs. This offseason the team must trade some of its surplus to upgrade PG/PF or land a difference maker anywhere. Why not see who can do what with minutes? What is to lose? Your fantasy team's stats?
I love what DN is doing. I see that the team has more talent than many think. Think about what I laid out above. BD left, the team had to scramble, Monta got hurt, others got hurt, Al demanded out... all that youth... lack of time to jell.
(Seen Randolph's freakish wingspan and motor? Calm that kid down and teach him to play within himself just a bit, and watch out.)
So, let's say Don gets a brainstorm from all these scrambled minutes. He also gets the Warriors a slightly better draft pick while not really tanking, instead having a legit reason to do what he's doing. But, the team has a lot of talent, and if you know hoops, you know that. A decent draft and one or two adjusting trades and... I'd bet the OVER on the Warriors win total next year if I were you. Not saying they'll be all that yet, but they'll be better than most knee jerk, combined with west coast ignorant, fans think.
Do I agree with him? To a point - the problem is they don't have a superstar, and if Ellis doesn't return 100 percent, they might not even have an ordinary star. They have lots of talent depth, but Randolph/Morrow/Watson/Belinelli have merely shown flashes. It's right for Nelson to give them an extended look, but until he does, we won't know how suited they are as significant parts in the rotation.
But the reader's point is that if one or two of their prospects pan out, Ellis comes back healthy, and the team stays healthy - they'll be closer to what they were two years ago than what they are now. At least I think that's what he's saying.
As for the Knicks - they're pretty similar - you have a team of non-stars who compete by playing an up-tempo style. I see Robinson as a perfect instant-offense sixth man - he's the Knicks Leandro Barbosa. Duhon is Eric Snow - solid fundamental guy, but I'm not sure he should be directing a Mike D'Antoni offense, either. They're stuck with him this season, but I don't expect him to be the starter next year.
As for the Thunder, I think the initial bump teams get where their stars go down is due to two factors: (1) Because everyone else stands around less, bands together more and steps up his game; and (2) Because teams don't know what kind of offense you're running, and in the short term, that makes it harder to game plan against. But in the long haul as teams adjust to what you're doing, and the second tier players deal with teams focusing more intently on stopping them, the offense bogs down. And then you really miss the player like Durant who can score even when the defense is geared toward stopping him.
Of course, in Durant's case, as you point out, there's also addition by subtraction on the defensive end. It'll be interesting to see whether he improves that aspect of his game - it's part of what separates the true superstars (LeBron/Kobe) from the Carmelo Anthonys and Chris Boshes.
Subject: Give and Go
Date: March 11, 2009 3:58 AM PDT
I understand why he's trying to get a look at the younger guys... obviously the current team is going nowhere. It makes sense to get an extended look at players who may be part of the solution. But your reader's impassioned defense of Nellie leaves out a couple of details.
1. It was Nelson's coaching and anarchic substitution patterns that had Al Harrington asking out in the first place.
2. Maggette has been OK as the sixth man... and occasional starting power forward. That doesn't change the fact that he was a strange signing and didn't really meet a team need.
3. Yes, they probably needed to trade Harrington. But no one forced 'em to trade for yet another defense-free swingman with a bad contract.
4. This "we're going to try to get Crawford to opt out" nonsense - if that's what's really happening - sets a very dangerous precedent.
I don't blame the Warriors for Ellis' injury. I do blame the team for their handling of the situation. The kid screwed up, and he lied about it. Fine. But was the suspension-without-pay really the best move, just months after giving him a $66 million extension?
Maybe Nelson is simply playing the cards he's been dealt. But where did he get those cards?
Now, I'm happy to admit, Nelson has been on my list of "Coaches to Avoid" for fantasy hoops purposes for years - specifically because of his unpredictable sub patterns and seemingly random lineup changes. It tends to make his teams fun to watch - but maddening if you're looking for consistent production.
Other coaches I tend to avoid when possible: Larry Brown - for the same "inconsistent rotations and substitution patterns" reasons - and Scott Skiles, who has been known to have an exceptionally quick hook where his younger guys are concerned. (The fact that Skiles let Ramon Sessions languish on the bench for most of this season - until injuries forced his hand - is inexcusable from a fantasy owner perspective.)
Subject: Re: Give and Go
Date: March 11, 2009 10:53 AM PDT
Larry Brown is also terrible for fantasy owners because his teams emphasize defense so much, and you'd get a dropoff even if he stuck with the same guys. Skiles is maddening - though we've been over that before. It seems as if doing things their way is more important than production and even short-term team success under the theory that if you do things the "right" way that's the only way to win over the long haul. That's well and good, but if only the lesser players do things the right way, you still won't win long term. Winning the test of wills until your players do what you want how you want it doesn't always work. Tom Coughlin was like that until the year he loosened up, the Giants won the Super Bowl. Compromise is necessary sometimes, and not every player responds to the same type of motivational tactics. It's a good thing that injuries forced Skiles' hand - otherwise, Sessions would probably still get inconsistent minutes.
As for Nelson and Warriors management, I'm a bit more sympathetic - Ellis signs a big, guaranteed deal, takes a ton of their money, then gets hurt doing something expressly prohibited by his contract and lies about it. Why shouldn't he give the money back? He's not delivering the services he promised to deliver for that period of time, so why should they deliver the money? It's not as if the injury happened on the job.
And Harrington was getting paid - what $9 million this year, 10 next? He's not an All-Star. Why should he be in a position to ask out of anything in that case? And if he were, good riddance. The Crawford deal was a panic move of sorts, but the team was trying to implement Nelson's plan that had originally included Ellis, and they needed a fill-in with similar skills. That was short-sighted, but I suppose the team didn't want to write off the season from the outset, and Crawford's deal only had one more year than Harrington's.
Management needs to be flexible and compromise in the case of a Sessions who's clearly the better talent than Luke Ridnour. But when you're dealing with players who are bellyaching about their 27 mpg when they're overpaid to begin with, or who injure themselves off the court and lie about it, you've got to put your foot down.
Article first appeared on 3/11/09