The Warriors' Entertaining 1Q Vs. Phoenix
(originally written 2/28/12)
I've seen nearly every period of 2011-12 Golden State Warriors basketball this year. The 40-pointer at Utah was exciting, OT vs. Miami was thrilling and satisfying, but neither was as enjoyable as their 39-point opening period at Phoenix this past Wednesday.
Steve Nash, known to carve the Dubs into little pieces whenever he plays them, committed two sloppy turnovers fairly close together during that quarter. That never happens—at least when I'm watching.
Maybe it was the new Dwight Schrute look he's sporting. (Off-topic, Nash has now cracked my personal Top Five All-Time Surprising Celebrity Haircuts, dropping Bald Steve Harvey to sixth.) In any event, watching Nash stumble so badly brought a smile to my face.
Dorrell Wright broke a two-game scoring drought quickly and entertainingly en route to a very good game, but it was the Warriors walking scoring drought, Andris Biedrins, who made the strongest impression...unfavorably.
As is now common knowledge, Biedrins no longer even tries to score unless: a) the coaches run a play for him, or b) he is absolutely wide open and passing the shot up would trigger an investigation into potential gambling ties. He averages one shot per 10 minutes. He's played 26 games and taken 46 shots. He had a January stretch in which he played 64 minutes over four games and attempted exactly one field goal (a miss) and zero free throws.
When the Suns center closed on a driving Curry, he found Biedrins open under the hoop, I swear for a split second Andris considered passing the ball. He did ultimately dunk it, his only FGA of the night in 17 minutes (surprise), and I suppose that's what matters, but should we the fans be encouraged when our seven-footer converts an open dunk against his own instincts?
Ladies, gents, I give you No. 15 Andris Biedrins, The Reluctant Dunker. Or "The Relunker." From this point until he scores 10 points in any game as he did Opening Night, he'll be known by that uncomplimentary moniker in all of my columns.
But I won't pick on an easy target (any more than necessary).
Monta Ellis got the scoring started with a corner three and went on to a solid 26-point night, including the impressive game-winner over Grant Hill, to whom he gave away five full inches. Earlier this month I wrote a column about Monta, expressing my (still-existing) belief that as good as he is, the Warriors are unlikely to ever make the playoffs with him leading the charge.
Some people (who clearly skimmed over certain key parts of that article) interpreted my words as criticizing Ellis and blaming him for the Warriors' struggles in recent years.
That wasn't the case—far from it.
Monta is an excellent player and the team's best—he plays hard every night and doesn't complain. But Golden State is 13-17. They'll likely finish below .500 for the fourth straight year. He may carry the team most nights, but where is he carrying them to? Another lottery trip.
In a deep Western Conference, his valiant nightly efforts have proven to not be enough for several years now. That's not Monta's fault; it's just reality. I like him, but I like winning, too. If Golden State can get better by swapping him, they have nothing to lose by trying since they're currently going nowhere—not good enough for a playoff spot, not bad enough for a high draft pick.
THAT was my previous point. But I'm not here to talk about the past. Back to Warriors/Suns first quarter...
David Lee shined brightly in that first quarter. A few days ago, while goofing off at a public hoops court, I ran into a guy who was literally incapable of using his off hand for anything. Passing, shooting, dribbling—all hopeless. Offering unsolicited advice, I informed him that as a slow, nonathletic guy who can no longer jump, in order to hang with quicker, springier foes I had to develop my left hand or risk having "Spalding" imprints on my forehead after every game.
Lee subscribes to the same magazine—he's not overly athletic or quick and his hops are average, but he adds about four to six points to his nightly totals by being able to effectively score with his off (right) hand.
In that first quarter, he made a sweet turnaround baby hook just below the right baseline. It was beautiful; it looked shot by a natural righty. Lee ended up with 13 first-quarter points with Wright adding nine.
It's really amazing how much better a team looks when its' shots go in the basket!
Meanwhile, the Suns were sloppy and uninspired. Coach Alvin Gentry described them as having "walked through" the first quarter, one after which they trailed by 17 points.
Golden State went on to nearly blow this game, allowing the Suns to take the lead in the fourth quarter. If they had lost, my TV would have ended up in the tree outside.
But it still would have been the season's most fun quarter.