NBA PM: Some Tar Heel Mojo For Warriors?
Losing can become a habit; it’s a universal truth that the best NBA teams recognize. When a team loses a lot of games, like the Brooklyn Nets and Charlotte Bobcats have done in recent seasons, losing can become an ingrained part of the team’s psyche. It can become a habit that is difficult to break.
The Golden State Warriors have had their share of struggles over the last few years, as well. The last time they made it to the NBA Finals was 1974-75, but over the last two decades the team has made the playoffs just three times, and only once in the last 18 years.
The Warriors are a team that desperately needs a culture change.
One of the ways you change the culture on a team is to draft players who come from winning programs, and the Warriors did just that when they made University of North Carolina swingman Harrison Barnes the seventh overall pick in last summer’s NBA draft. Few programs turn out quality NBA players the way Roy Williams’ Tar Heels team tends to do, and Barnes is already showing signs of being a great addition to the Warriors’ fresh look. It doesn’t hurt that the brotherhood of UNC alums has embraced Barnes, as well.
“I thought coach Williams did a good job preparing me for the NBA, just making sure that we practiced hard every day and stay locked in,” Williams tells HOOPSWORLD. “Guys like Marvin Williams, Vince Carter, those are the guys I got close to when I was at UNC that helped me when I was there and are helping now that I am in the NBA and getting used to things and getting my feet under the me.”
Often a high lottery pick like Barnes would be expected to do big things right away, but the Warriors are tempering short-term expectations in favor of the big picture.
“It’s my rookie year; I think the biggest thing for me is just understanding my position,” says Barnes. “Obviously, we are on a team where we are trying to change the culture, trying to win some games; right now that’s the most important thing, not getting caught up into stats or what people are saying or your role on the team.”
Barnes is an extremely efficient offensive player, currently ranking in the 72nd percentile league-wide in offensive production. Where the team hopes to improve defensively is down low, and while newcomer Andrew Bogut is once again on the shelf, Barnes believes he will be the piece who makes the Warriors a defensive force.
“We work on the defense every single day and I think with Bogut back in there, a big guy who can block shots, skilled, can be there on weak side blocks, can help our defense a lot,” says Barnes.
On the other end, it helps to have an emerging young point guard there to make sure the offense is effective. In the wake of the Monta Ellis trade, Steph Curry is now more accountable for creating the offense, and Barnes is already flourishing under his new floor general.
“Steph has been great,” says Barnes. “He attracts so much attention scoring for us, guys will have to lock in him and allows for myself and other guys to get easier shots.”
Curry’s penetration is a big part of why Barnes is getting 21.4 percent of his offense on spot-up shots, and the rookie has scored 27 points in 28 spot-up possessions to date (54th percentile). Curry also pushes the pace, and Barnes has been at his best in the transition game, where he has scored 28 points on 22 possessions (66th percentile).
Changing a losing culture can be brutally tough for a franchise like the Warriors, which has wallowed in mediocrity for decades. It can be done, however, and Warriors ownership and management has taken some necessary first steps in changing the losing culture in Oakland. The addition of Harrison Barnes is certainly a huge step in the right direction, as Warriors fans are just beginning to see.
Spurs Fighting To Answer Injuries
Over the last two seasons the San Antonio Spurs have been the best team in the Western Conference … at least as such things are measured at the end of the regular season. When the dust settled on 2011-12, the Spurs were 50-16, tied with the Chicago Bulls for the best record in the NBA. In 2010-11, they has the West’s best record at 61-21, just one game behind the Bulls for the league’s top mark. Unfortunately, both times they fell well short of their postseason goals due in large part of the toll the grueling regular season schedule had taken on their aging team.
The Spurs came out of the gates on fire this season, winning seven of their first eight games including wins over the Oklahoma City Thunder and the improved Los Angeles Lakers. Now, however, they have lost two of their last three and lost Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Jackson in the process. Leonard had been playing so well that head coach Gregg Popovich dubbed him the future franchise player in San Antonio, and Jackson was his primary relief off the bench before he, too, went down.
This is not a good sign for a Spurs team that has been defined by inopportune injuries over the last few seasons.
San Antonio turned to a known commodity today as they look to address their sudden need on the wing, signing former Spurs James Anderson, who has been playing in the D-League. Anderson was drafted by the Spurs with the 20th overall pick in the first round of the 2010 NBA Draft out of Oklahoma State University. In 77 career games in San Antonio from 2010-12, Anderson averaged 3.7 points and 1.3 rebounds in 11.5 minutes. He appeared in two game for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers last week, scoring 32 points in 46 minutes.
The Spurs also called up guard Cory Joseph from the Austin Toros.
Winning an NBA championship takes more than just putting together a great roster; it takes a certain amount of luck, and a great deal of health at just the right time. There is no question that the Spurs have the experience, the coaching and the talent to win a championship. The question becomes how healthy will they be when the season ends, and if these key early injuries are harbingers of things to come, it could be another long offseason for the Spurs, no matter how dominant they might turn out to be during the regular season.
What The Nets Are Missing
The Brooklyn Nets have been one of the better teams in the NBA through the first few weeks of the 2012-13 season, but it’s difficult to measure just how good they might be come playoff time based upon a few regular-season games. Their early schedule didn’t help in our analysis, as they had a buffet of non-playoff teams and teams decimated by injury to feast upon. When they saw the defending NBA champs, the Nets managed just 73 points and lost by 30. Similarly, last night they failed in a test against the Los Angeles Lakers, who are expected to be contenders by the time the playoffs arrive.
In their two key losses, one to the Miami HEAT and one to the Lakers, one issue that could bring down one of the league’s most anticipated teams was exposed. Simply put, the Nets don’t have a transcendent star who can put the team on his back and deliver a win when it matters most.
The HEAT game was over long before the fourth quarter came around, but last night’s game was very winnable down the stretch. Brooklyn led by six with roughly five minutes left in the game, and simply couldn’t execute well enough to bring home the win. Instead if was Lakers star and noted closer Kobe Bryant who made key free throws in the waning moments to assure his team of the win.
The question for the Nets is which of their All-Stars is going to become that player for the team. While Bryant was finishing off the Nets we saw Joe Johnson go 6-for-16 and score just 16 points while allowing Bryant 25. Deron Williams may claim the Nets as his own, but his 22 points and 10 assists were tainted by his foul-plagued 6-for-18 showing. Brook Lopez was solid, scoring 23 points, but his last basket came with the 8:19 mark of the fourth quarter, so he was not a factor late beyond his ability to commit intentional fouls to send Dwight Howard to the free throw line.
Normally we would discount these early losses and suggest that someone will rise to the occasion for the Nets before the playoffs arrive, and that might, indeed, happen. It’s just a little bit more difficult to sell that as a reasonable expectation when you’re talking about a team made up of veterans who have never been premier closers. One way or the other, one of those highly-paid Nets stars is going to have to learn to deliver in the clutch or it’s going to be hard to explain to the team’s revved up fan base why the team couldn’t get out of the first round.
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