With every season that ends, for the playoff teams at least, we felt it right to take a look ahead. TNT already has the rights to "Gone Fishin'," and because we're sure someone, somewhere, still likes that Wyclef song, we're going with "Gone Till November." And, yes, we know the season starts in October. Today? The Golden State Warriors.
So, the Warriors have made their big sale – Joe Lacob thankfully took the team out of former owner Chris Cohen’s clutches and ended Don Nelson’s run in the Bay Area. The team made its big draft, grabbing hybrid guard Stephen Curry in 2009, securing a player that could go down as the best shooter in NBA history. It made its big trade, dealing for Andrew Bogut at the 2012 trade deadline, anchoring a defensive-minded center to have everyone’s back. And it made a big free agent move, working its way toward acquiring Andre Iguodala in 2013 in exchange for a litany of draft picks and expiring contracts.
Now the franchise has made its final big move. Steve Kerr is in as head coach, running a basketball team from the sideline for the first time in his life. Mark Jackson is out, a victim of several objective disagreements between him and the team’s front office and ownership crew, in spite of two consecutive playoff runs. In management’s opinion, this has to be the final personnel shift.
Kind of weird, and we’re not even into the third week of May right now. This is what happens, one supposes, when you build to win now.
The 2013-14 Golden State Warriors weren’t your typical first-round fodder, but then again no failing team in the Western Conference was a typical first-round loser. It’s been surmised by many that even a second-round appearance by the Warriors wouldn’t have saved Mark Jackson’s job, one of his players even went on record as saying as much during the team’s eventual first-round defeat at the hands of the Los Angeles Clippers, as Warriors execs obviously thought the team’s 12th-ranked showing in offensive efficiency was beneath the team’s collective talents, a conclusion that was shared by many around the league.
Aside from the hiring of Kerr, the team is basically relying on internal development in order to make the next step. Warriors fans will shudder at the idea of “internal development” as acting as the team’s chief offseason benefactor, as it is a phrase former general manager Garry St. Jean often used after whiffing in anticipation of a hoped-for jump into the playoff bracket, but this time around W’s backers should be excited at the prospect.
Curry will be better, Harrison Barnes has to get better after a second year gone sour, and Klay Thompson will improve. Bogut, Iguodala and David Lee are in their primes and don’t figure to dim unless injuries hit, while Draymond Green will work as a bargain for under a million dollars in 2014-15. This is a 51-win team with 60-win, NBA Finals talent, and the only questions getting in the way of that end are health issues, and whether or not Steve Kerr can make this outfit better than the sum of its parts.
Anyone pretending to know how Kerr would come off as a head coach is lying to you. By fall, he’ll have the attention and respect of this team, but to expect either greatness or failure or anything in between from a rookie head coach that we know nothing about is ridiculous at this point. Not even Kerr knows where he’s headed, and who he’s hiring to work alongside him. That’s not a shot across the bow at Steve, or the Warriors front office. Off record, they’ll admit as such, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.
In declining Stan Van Gundy’s overtures, GM Bob Myers made it clear that he’s running the personnel show, but there’s not a whole lot he can do at this point in terms of overhauling a first-round loser. Fans will never tire of the “is David-Lee-helping-us-or-hurting-us” debate, but he and Bogut are sticking, the team’s bench will probably be once again propped up by re-signing free agents Jermaine O’Neal and Steve Blake, and the team will have to work around the fringes adding depth via exceptions while still living well under the expected luxury tax. Draft help, following the Iguodala deal, isn’t happening – though Golden State should be more than happy with that turnout.
Next season has to be the year, though, as the Warriors are working with the right confluence of emerging youngsters and in-prime stars. Adding a rookie coach to the mix is a wee bit frightening, but despite Jason Kidd’s troubles as an untested coach in Brooklyn (from October until May), he did truly eventually max out what was a second-round team all along. If Kerr goes the Larry Bird route and lets his assistants have plenty to say on the sideline, we could be looking at a special team.
Hell, we were already looking at a special team in 2013-14. Now it’s up to the players and coaching staff to get on the right page at the absolute right time. October can’t get here soon enough.
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