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NBA@2: 2012-13′s Most Improved NBA Team?
Posted By Bill Ingram On April 23, 2012 @ 2:07 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
While a little more than half of the NBA’s 30 teams are currently either fighting for playoff position or fighting for the chance to extend their season, there are quite a few teams for which reality has already set in. Among those, there is one, in particular, that already looks poised to bounce right back into the playoff discussion next season.
It’s been a tough season for the Golden State Warriors, but there have been more than a few extenuating circumstances contributing to their 23-41 record. Changing head coaches leading up to the lockout-shortened season proved to be tough for every team that did it, and the Warriors were no exception. On top of that, they had major injuries and a significant trade thrown into the mix. Give the Warriors a summer to get Stephen Curry and Andrew Bogut healthy, another high draft pick, a full summer league schedule and then a full training camp, and there’s every reason to believe that Golden State will be the NBA’s most improved team next season.
At the center of that hope is rookie head coach Mark Jackson, who by all accounts was ready to hit the ground running in his first season as a coach.
“You know it’s really been exactly what I thought,” new head coach Mark Jackson tells HOOPSWORLD of his first season at the helm. “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 by 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.”
“Mark’s done an unbelievable job,” David Lee said. “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.”
It speaks volumes of Jackson’s approach that Richard Jefferson sees a little bit of Gregg Popovich in him. Jefferson, of course, has been playing for a championship with the San Antonio Spurs and is now the veteran helping rebuild a young Warriors team.
“I think there are a lot of similarities (between Jackson and Popovich), but also a lot of differences in the way they approach the game,” says Jefferson. “I think Mark has a bright future as a head coach. His basketball IQ is as high as anybody’s, but he’s in his first year and it’s tough to have such a young team in your first year and in a lockout season. It’s probably the toughest situation that you could come into as a first-year head coach and he’s handled it amazingly well.”
It’s certainly been a learning year for Jackson, who admits this season has been a little bit like living a dream. He believes the experience of this season is what will help him take his team to new heights next season.
“I think the most valuable thing is this is something I dreamt about, and it’s totally different to dream it and to live it. So, experience is the thing that I will take into the next year. At the same time, playing for so many years, playing for Hall of Fame coaches, there have been no surprises. And I’m fortunate to have an outstanding staff that makes life so much easier for me and a committed group of guys that buy into the message.”
Next season looks to be the year the Warriors are once again a team to be feared. They will have good size up front with Bogut and Lee, they’ll have veteran leadership in Jefferson and a star-caliber playmaker in Curry. They’ll also have another lottery pick in place to grow alongside promising rookie Klay Thompson. The future is bright for the Warriors, and thankfully, that bright future appears to be right around the corner.
Richard Jefferson Talks Trade
Golden State Warriors forward Richard Jefferson talks about the trade that sent him from the contending Spurs to the lottery-bound Warriors, compares Mark Jackson to Gregg Popovich, talks about the Warriors’ future and more in this exclusive interview.
Over the last few years, injuries have defined the Houston Rockets as much as or more than anything they managed to accomplish on the court. Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady never seemed to be healthy at the same time, but even when that era ended with Yao’s retirement and a McGrady trade, the injuries have persisted. This season it’s been the starting backcourt that’s been hit the hardest, with Kevin Martin sidelined by a shoulder injury and Kyle Lowry missing time with multiple afflictions.
Injuries are nothing new to Martin, but for Lowry this couldn’t have come at a worse time. He earned his first full-time starting gig last season, when Aaron Brooks was sidelined by an ankle injury, so this was supposed to be his first full season leading a team as the starting point guard.
For his part, Lowry was on pace to have a career year before a groin pull and then a viral infection took him out of action mid-season. Now, after a brief and admirable attempt to return and help his team push for the playoffs, he’s calling it a season and preparing for offseason surgery.
“I’m shutting it down,” Lowry told the Houston Chronicle. “With the injuries, I won’t be playing again this year. With the groin and the sports hernia, it’s a lot to deal with. I made a decision to shut it down.”
Rockets head coach Kevin McHale chose to stay with Goran Dragic for the entire second half of Houston’s loss to Miami on Sunday – their seventh loss in eight tries – and will have to rely on Earl Boykins as they play out their final game of the season on Wednesday.
“It’s been a long process,” Lowry said of his injuries this season. “I haven’t been healthy since I came back. I was trying to help my team. I’ll probably need surgery after the season. I’ve had (the sports hernia) since last July. Now, I think it’s gotten worse. I played with it all year, but it got to the point it got too bad.
“If anybody has seen me play lately, it’s not who I am. It’s one of those tough processes, I tried to play with it and do what I can and not complain about it. It’s a situation I have to get it fixed and taken care of.”
Before the injury, Lowry was having the kind of season that had fans mentioning him as a possible All-Star addition, and internally the Rockets believe he has even more untapped potential. Clearly Lowry is a huge part of Houston’s long-term rebuilding plan, and having him sit out the last game in the interest of getting fully healthy is definitely the right call.
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