Golden State Warriors coach Mark Jackson -- through his time as a player, color commentator, and rookie coach -- has never appeared anything less than buoyant. And, because his Warriors have started the season by losing 10 of their first 15 games, our man Jax is having to work extra hard at keeping that glass half full. Because after reading this interview with CSN Bay Area's Matt Steinmetz, you have to wonder where he's buying his particular brand of happy, and if he can lend us some when it comes time to answer a call from a number we don't recognize.
Steinmetz more or less nails Jackson on a number of points in a way that you just don't see from most on-record reporters, and Jackson remains ebullient and full of brio as he works around Matt's cogent points. It's a remarkable read, especially when you consider the task ahead of Jackson and his Warriors if they're to follow up on his promises between now and the season's end three months from now.
In the piece, Steinmetz addresses Jackson's offseason contention that the Warriors would be a playoff team in the loaded Western Conference. And, 15 games into a 66-game season, assumptions along this line (especially predictions made 6 1/2 months before the NBA season even starts), are looking really daffy at this juncture. Jackson, as you're about to find out, is undeterred.
Question: Somebody asked me the other day about you and I said that reality might be setting in with this team, that you might be realizing this team isn't as good as you thought. Would that be incorrect?
Jackson: I guess you lied to them. … What is reality?
Question: That this team isn't as good as you thought … That this team can't be as good as you thought.
Jackson: No, that's not true. In my opinion we have the best backcourt in the business, we have an all-star caliber power forward, we have solid role players, and we are a defensive-minded basketball team. We are grinding and we've been in position to win in eight of our 10 losses and we've beaten some of the best in the land. The reality is that we're very close to being who I am convinced we are. Tell your friend I said 'hi.' … You are trying today.
Opinions can never be wrong, even if some people are of the opinion that CBS is worth having on their local television package, because they remain opinions. Misstated facts can be wrong, though, and it's quite nearly a fact that the Warriors don't have "the best backcourt in the business." Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry are fantastic, individually, but Curry barely plays due to injury and the best backcourt probably remains Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose or Kobe Bryant and whomever the heck they're playing alongside that particular night.
Yes, the Warriors have beaten the technical "best in the land" in the 15-3 Chicago Bulls, a team that owns the NBA's best record. The issue with that victory is that Chicago shot itself in the foot by turning the ball over 20 times against a Warriors team that didn't (to these eyes, at least) look to be causing the majority of those miscues.
And the playoffs? That's a bit much, at this point.
Golden State is 5-10, as noted above. This leaves them with 51 games to make a move, and a crowded playoff bracket to break into. The defending champion Dallas Mavericks currently occupy the eighth seed in the West, winning 59 percent of their games so far, which puts them (and, if you'll submit, the eighth seed) on pace for 39 wins. Which means Golden State would have to go 34-17 the rest of the way just to match the Mavs.
Which means the team would have to win two-thirds of its games from here on out after starting the season losing two-thirds of its games.
And to call the Warriors, currently stuck at 26th in defensive efficiency, a "defensive-minded" basketball team? Technically, it's correct. These players sometimes appear to want to play defense, and they're certainly working harder on that end. But "defensive-minded" clubs play better defense than this. Much, much better defense. Strike "26" in half, and "defensive-minded" teams still play better defense than that number.
Jackson, as I think we've brought up 4,200 times by this point, is keeping his chin up. Bless that man, even when he's down.
"The reality is I've got a bunch of guys that have never won that are playing winning basketball that have changed their ways from an offensive juggernaut to defensive principles where we battle, compete and give ourselves a chance. Winning in this league is a process and in that process you've got to be extremely patient to see the other side. It gets tough being that salmon swimming upstream. But as long as you're persistent and don't quit, you will get to the other side."
Not necessarily, but it's nice to think that. Hang in there, Jax. Hopefully you'll get some players, soon.