Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Are The Warriors A Bad Team?

How we derive expectations has lot to do with momentum (i.e. recent results). We had expectations the 49ers would be a competitive team this year based on last year, and similarly, we have expectations for the Warriors to have a good - if not great - season on the heals of their exciting playoff run last season.

Were we wrong to have these expectations? If the answer is based on last season's performance, then clearly the answer is no. Both teams played very well to finish their seasons, leaving us with hope based on the logic that they are on an upward trend that will continue.

In the case of the 49ers, we have seen enough to know that this upward trend of last year did not continue. They are playing almost as poorly as they did in the throwaway season of 2005, which was Mike Nolan and Alex Smith's first season. The 8-8 season that I hoped for is not possible, and the way it looks now, they'll be lucky to win another game! If they can't beat Joey Harrington and the Atlanta Falcons, who can they beat?

This moves us to the Golden State Warriors, who a week into their 2007-2008 campaign have yet to win. They have lost to the Utah Jazz twice, the LA Clippers, and the Cleveland Cavaliers. In these four games they've played from behind the majority of the time, and in the two games they actually had a chance to win (vs. LA and Cleveland) they stumbled in crunch time to get it done. Instead of a Warrior player making the big play and taking over the game in the fourth quarter, it was a player on the other team making the big play. The scary thing now is that this could snowball. Their next opponents are Dallas and Detroit, two very tough teams. Then they have the Clippers again who always play them tough. Right now any team in the NBA would pose a tough challenge for the Warriors and if they aren't careful their hopes of another trip to the playoffs will start to dim. They can't count on another 19-6 run to finish the season to squeak into the playoffs this year can they?

This negativity and lack of confidence is quite contrary to how Warrior fans felt last March-April-May when the Warriors could seemingly beat anybody. Whether it was the Suns, Mavericks, Kings, Nuggets, Clippers, Blazers, Lakers, Rockets, Spurs, or any team in the Eastern Conference, we knew going into the game that we were going to win, and in many cases - win convincingly! Our style of play was to outscore you, run you in the ground, pick your pocket, and have you wondering what hit you. Opposing teams feared our explosiveness! The Warriors 0-4 start has essentially removed this fear from the opposition.

Ok, I know it's only been four games and there is plenty of time for things to turn around. We don't have Stephen Jackson yet (who is serving a seven game suspension), and the team is still figuring out how to gel in the post-Jason Richardson era.

However, I think I've seen enough to have some legitimate concerns. Did we underestimate how valuable Jason Richardson's contributions were to this team? Was trading him for a younger player who won't have value until future seasons a mistake when the Warriors window of opportunity is NOW? Can the Warriors truly compete without a dominant physical big man? Now that Matt Barnes got paid and is more of a proven entity is he not going to play as well? Will their defense that generated 9.2 steals per game last season get better? Will their 3-point shooting get better since they rely on it so much for not only scoring but building the momentum/energy in which they thrive on? What if Baron Davis gets hurt and has to miss a bunch of games? Why can't Andris Biedrins get more loft on his free-throws!?

The answers to these questions remains to be seen and I'll definitely be watching and looking for answers. Despite being frustrated watching them lose, their style of play is still entertaining and they still have some great talent and a lot of potential. Nevertheless, I am starting to wonder if they are merely off to a bad start or if they are really a bad team losing to better teams. My fingers are crossed that it's the former.

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