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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Golden State Warriors Are No Longer Irrelevant in the NBA

Golden State Warrior basketball is back baby! With the Warriors beating the New York Knicks 122-117 on Wednesday night, they improved their record to 6-2, their best start in 16 years since they began the 1994-1995 campaign 7-2. The team has been completely rebuilt from the top down. The greatest thing to happen to Warrior basketball finally unfolded this past summer: the worst owner in basketball, (well LA’s Donald Sterling might have something to say about that) Chris Cohan, finally sold the team. The years of being cheap, making mind-numbing front office decisions, and not caring about winning appear to be over.

The new owners, Peter Guber and Joe Lacob quickly showed they were serious about winning when they fired all time coaching wins leader Don Nelson and ate the remaining dollars on his deal. Nelson was generally tuned out by the third quarter last season with thoughts of his post game drink. He seems like a whiskey sour kind of guy to me. Assistant Coach Keith Smart took over and has instilled his own philosophy with the team, stressing more attention to defense and rebounding.

In addition to the owner and coach, the Warriors completely changed their roster this summer, electing to build around rising super star Steph Curry. They acquired All-Star power forward David Lee from the Knicks in exchange for Ronny Turiaf, Anthony Randolph and Kelenna Azubuike in a sign-and-trade. Lee is the type of player the Warriors have been missing in past seasons; capable of banging with the best bigs in the league, Lee is a stat stuffer who averaged a double-double last season.

Steph Curry sure loves playing with Lee. “I saw how we played last year and I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have won a game like this, especially with Amare in attack mode the whole time,” Curry said after Wednesday’s game. “We were able to fight through a lot of injuries. David’s over there, got a tooth (cut) in his elbow, fighting through all of that to get a win on the road.” Lee is a little slow on defense, but he brings a sense of toughness and hard-nosed tenacity to a Warriors team that was seriously lacking in that department. Lee has teamed up with Andris Biedrins, the seven footer from Latvia to form a strong rebounding front line that can quickly get the ball to their superb guards, Steph Curry and Monta Ellis.

The presence of Lee has also greatly helped shooting guard Monta Ellis. It’s hard to argue with Monta’s numbers as he was just one of four players along side LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Kobe Bryant to average 25 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists last season, but as someone who has watched him frequently I assure you he was not a winner last year. He walked around with a grudge against the world and played selfishly. He tried to be more than he is. Now with Lee in the picture, the Warriors don’t need Monta to be their main offensive threat. He can go back to what he did when Baron Davis was running the team — slashing and hitting mid-range jumpers. Monta is an amazing mid-range shooter and when he doesn’t force the ball is one of the most talented scorers in the league.

With David Lee and Andris Biedrins down low cleaning up the glass, the Warriors are holding opponents to significantly less second-chance opportunities. Statistically last season they were the worst rebounding team in the league at 38.4 per game. After eight games this season they are 5th in the NBA at 45.9 per game. The Warriors have bought into coach Keith Smart’s plan and believe they can win. This team can succeed, but with the organization’s past history they might need to borrow a little magic from the San Francisco Giants across the Bay as they try to earn a playoff berth for just the second time in 16 years.

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