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Mark Jackson Right Fit for Warriors?
Posted By Derek Page On April 23, 2012 @ 9:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
Over the last few seasons, the Golden State Warriors have been the trendy pick by some to bully their way into the Western Conference playoffs. Featuring a young and talented roster featuring the likes of Stephen Curry, David Lee, Monta Ellis and Andris Biedrins; the Warriors appeared to have the tools to challenge for the playoffs this season.
Golden State shelved that idea midway through this season, trading away arguably the teams’ best player in Ellis at the trade deadline. Since then, the Warriors have stumbled their way to a 23-41 record with two games remaining in the 2012 regular season.
Fans at Oracle Arena were so miffed by the trade at the time that they booed owner Joe Lacob at a ceremony for Warriors’ great Chris Mullin less than a week after the trade deadline.
Not only did the Warriors lose their top scorer at the deadline, but injuries have decimated this squad all season long. Curry, Lee, Biedrins and newcomer Andrew Bogut have all spent significant time on the shelf due to various injuries and that lack of cohesion has wreaked havoc on the young squad.
Combine that with the idea out there that the Warriors are tanking to make sure they keep their 2012 draft pick (top-7 protected in 2008 trade with Utah Jazz), and it’s undoubtedly been a rough season in Oakland.
Through it all, Mark Jackson – in his first season as head coach in the NBA – has been the man in charge in Golden State. Even though he’s lacking in experience, Warriors’ players believe Jackson is the coach that can lead them in the right direction moving forward.
“He’s been good,” Warriors’ starting point guard, Curry, told HOOPSWOLD of Coach Jackson’s first season. “Even though it’s been a tough year collectively, with injuries and trades and not performing the way that we thought coming into the season but this is the mind of a point guard. As a player, he coached that way to me specifically. But for him as a player just playing so many games and playing on so many winning teams, he has that attitude from the start.
“Even though we’re not there yet, I think for us to have that mentality of getting to the next level and he’s going to help us get there.”
Lee agreed with his point guard that Jackson should be the Warriors’ head coach for the foreseeable future.
“Mark’s done an unbelievable job,” Lee told HOOPSWORLD. “He’s come in here and he knows how to really handle personalities and that’s a big part of being a head coach in this league. I think he’s going to be the head coach for a long time and he’s really doing an unbelievable job with our team.”
Even though Jackson has the backing of his players, the fact is Golden State has missed the postseason in 18 out of the last 19 seasons including 2012 and fans are getting restless for wins as this team continues to change it’s identity. To make matters worse, Jackson guaranteed a playoff berth before the start of this season – which hasn’t done him any favors with Warriors’ fans.
Jackson believes the trials and tribulations of a 17-year career as the floor general prepared him for this tough season.
“You know, it’s really been exactly what I thought,” Jackson explained to HOOPSWORLD. “As a player I went through a lockout year so there were no surprises as far as that’s concerned. Growing up I’ve prepared myself to be a head coach in this league watching coaches I played for so it was really no surprises, not at all. I put together an incredible staff and they really do a great job of being on top of everything, so I am extremely fortunate.”
What is working in both Jackson’s and the Warriors favor overall is that they’ve loaded up with talent. We’re not talking about raw, undeveloped players either but legitimately talented players with a “win now” mentality going into next season.
From a former point guard great to a young up and comer, Curry believes every team must have a winning outlook going into a new year.
“You’ve got to have that mentality,” Curry explained. “I mean, every team can’t come into the season thinking anything other than [playoffs]. Fans and owners may have different feelings but, as players, you’ve got to go out and think that way night in, night out or else your not going to play up to the best of your abilities. We have to have that mentality coming into next year.”
In the front court, Bogut and Lee (on paper at least) look to be one of the top center-power forward combinations in the league. Lee believes the duo’s differing styles on the court will compliment each other throughout the course of next season.
“I think we’re going to work well together,” Lee told HOOPSWORLD. “One of my biggest weaknesses is shot blocking and that’s his strength. I think we’re both unselfish on offense and can make passes and finish with the ball as well in the post. So I think it’s got the ability to be a really good match. We’re going to work really hard to make it work and to be one of the best front courts in the league next year.”
In the back court, rookie Klay Thompson (averaging 19 points per game on 46 percent shooting in the month of April) has shown flashes all season of being a solid starting shooting guard and Curry has all the tools to be a quality point guard in this league.
A likely top-7 pick in the 2012 draft helps as well and, if this team can stay healthy, Golden State would look to be a hopeful once again to snag one of the last few playoff spots in a crowded Western Conference.
Health is a huge factor in those types of aspirations, however, with feature players like Bogut and Curry who having missed significant chunks of each of the past few seasons.
The team’s starting power forward, Lee, believes anything less than a playoff birth next season should be considered a failure but agrees that staying healthy is a concern.
“No doubt about it,” Lee said. “It’s going to be a big disappointment if we’re not [in the playoffs next year]. Health is going to be a big thing for us. We need to get Steph [Curry] and Andrew [Bogut] back healthy. Once we do that I think we have a shot to be a very, very solid team next year.”
Even when healthy, residing veteran on the team Richard Jefferson cautions that the Warriors aren’t just going to waltz into the playoffs because of talent alone.
“I talk to the young guys a lot about their approach,” Jefferson told HOOPSWORLD. “Next year things aren’t going to automatically be better when Bogut’s healthy and when Steph [Curry] is healthy. Things aren’t going to be automatically better because every other team is going to get guys back and get guys healthy. It’s how you approach the game, how hard you work, the way you execute and just your general approach to the game. That has to start right now. This is also a great opportunity for some young guys to get some good minutes in some crucial games.”
Looking to next season, optimism is running high throughout the team and the belief is that they have the talent to compete in the Western Conference.
Figuring out how to put that all together in the form of a consistent, winning basketball team will be crucial in that development.
“We’re going to have to figure that out,” Jefferson said. “Talent doesn’t necessarily get you to the playoffs. How you work, how you approach the game, your work ethic, your execution . . . those are things that great teams always bring to the table night in and night out.
“Talent-wise, we’ll be as talented as anybody in the league, but the next part is our execution and how we approach the game moving forward.”
Coach Jackson will be in charge or figuring out that formula and the way he’s handled this difficult season (and the two years left on his contract) assures that he will have that opportunity next season.
After a rocky 2012 campaign, there is hope on the horizon for the Golden State Warriors. The journey to get back into the playoffs for the first time since the 2006-2007 season isn’t going to be an easy one, but at least this team now has the pieces moving forward that give Golden State a better shot to make that happen.
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