NBA AM: Warriors Poised To Make Noise
The ongoing lockout has brought the NBA to a grinding halt, but the Golden State Warriors have been picking up much needed momentum for whenever league play resumes.
Part of the newfound excitement surrounding the franchise revolves around recently hired head coach Mark Jackson’s arrival and his vow to dramatically improve the Warriors defensively.
One of the players who could substantially benefit from the departure of an offense first team strategy is second year forward Ekpe Udoh.
Udoh, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2010 draft, knows this is his big opportunity to emerge from the bench and earn significant rotation minutes under the defensive minded Jackson.
“That’s something I love,” Udoh told HOOPSWORLD at Joe Abunassar’s Impact Basketball Competitive Training Series in Las Vegas when asked about Jackson’s defensive philosophies. “I just have to have more of a vocal presence helping my team get as many wins as possible. I’ll be ready regardless.”
Whether he’s ready for the opportunity or not will play out over the coming months but there is no question Udoh will have a chance to compete for a significant role in Golden State’s frontcourt.
The 24 year old forward posted an impressive 1.5 blocks per game (3.0 per 36 minutes) during his rookie campaign despite averaging less than eighteen minutes per contest. If he qualified those numbers would have placed Udoh amongst the top 15 in the league last season in rejections.
While defense may be his primary tool to see increased minutes in the rotation, Udoh also believes he’ll be much more comfortable offensively after having a year to get acclimated to his teammates. He also believes in order to play with Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis, two guards who both boast All-Star potential, that he must be ready to put the ball in the basket efficiently.
“Just knowing our personnel now, I know where my shots are going to be even though we have a new offense,” Udoh said. “But with the guards we have you know they can get into the lane at anytime. You just have to be ready for the dump off or the pop out for the fifteen or seventeen foot [jumper].”
Despite what is usually reported about Ellis and Curry’s chemistry on the court, Udoh strongly feels the team continues to grow closer off the floor which will make them tougher moving forward.
“We’re just trying to build that bond coming into this season or whenever the lockout is over,” Udoh told HOOPSWORLD. After hearing what happened in the past I would say we had the best off the court relationships last year. So we have to just keep building that with the new [coaching] staff coming in, so when they come in we’ll be all ready to go.”
After completing a major academic step earlier this summer Udoh has shifted his focus to diligently working on strengthening his lanky frame.
“Well first I graduated from Baylor,” Udoh stated proudly when asked what he’s accomplished this summer. “Then I’ve been working out in a low key location in Detroit. [I’m] just working out getting my base real strong as well as my upper body. I’m just working on my game on the court, having more confidence and building my own rhythm.”
On paper the Warriors face a big hurdle trying to improve their position defensively – second worst in the league in 2011.
Ellis still struggles tremendously defending opposing two guards, while power forward David Lee also has his own struggles on the interior guarding quicker big men.
However, Curry and Ellis both have All-Star level skills, while Lee already has an All-Star appearance under his belt and guys like Dorell Wright and Udoh are ready to emerge.
Whether the Warriors can compete for a playoff spot when the lockout concludes in the ultra-competitive Western Conference is a tough call and probably too much to ask in Jackson’s rookie coaching season, but nonetheless Udoh is doing his best to enter the 2012 season fully prepared.
“It’s tough,” Udoh commented on trying to prepare in the midst of the labor dispute. “Because you don’t know whether to go full speed or just go slow. But you just have to maintain. When you hear the whispers it’s about to go down, you have to get in that shape and be ready.”
Brian Cardinal Wants To Return To Dallas: An unrestricted free agent who won’t make any of the “most coveted” target lists of the offseason is eleven year forward Brian Cardinal.
But as he proved in the playoffs last season, while coming off the bench for the NBA champion Dallas Mavericks, sometimes it’s not all about possessing mind boggling athletic talent.
Sometimes, as Cardinal proved, it’s about pure effort, determination and heart.
On numerous occasions during the finals versus the Miami HEAT the veteran forward drew offensive charges against LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and outhustled Miami’s frontcourt at pivotal moments.
Now, Cardinal is looking to play one more season before calling it quits and wants an opportunity to help defend the championship hardware back in Dallas – provided the lockout doesn’t force him into retirement.
“My goal is to play another year, and hopefully, that’s in Dallas,” Cardinal told Jeff Washburn of Boiler Station. “It’s a crazy business, so we will see where things take us. We’re just hopeful there’s going to be an NBA season this coming year. We’re the best team in the league, so why break it up? Obviously, I’ve developed great friendships with Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Kidd, Mark Cuban and coach Rick Carlisle. We have a unique bond. We’re all hopeful that we can keep it together and try to win it again.”
Other NBA News & Notes
- According to Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal Memphis Grizzlies forward Rudy Gay has been cleared to resume full-contact basketball related activities. Gay suffered a partially dislocated left shoulder in a game against Philadelphia back in February.
- The Houston Chronicle reports Rockets forward Patrick Patterson’s agent Odell McCants believes the player will be ready for the start of training camp (provided the league start on time) after undergoing ankle surgery last month. The surgery treated bone spurs which the forward has been battling the past few years according to the report.
NBA Chats: There are two NBA Chats scheduled for today starting with HOOPSWORLD’s senior writer Eric Pincus at 4pm EST. Eric’s chats are a hot ticket so getting in early is always wise. I will be hosting my weekly hoops chat tonight at 8pm EST. Submit your questions here. Anything basketball related is up for discussion. You can always find the next NBA Chat here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/upcoming-chats/ and if you are looking for Previous Chats try here: http://www.hoopsworld.com/previous-chats/