If you're a fan of the Warriors, then you either know or should know who Marcus Thompson is. He's the beat writer for the Warriors at the Contra Costa Times. Not only does he write dope articles, but he also puts in overtime answering questions in his online forum. So if you ever have a Warriors question, drop Marcus a line. Here's a quick description of Marcus from the CC Times website:
Without further ado, here are our questions and Marcus' responses:
Golden State of Mind: Give me the top 3 reasons why the Warriors failed to make the playoffs last year and what they need to do to fix it.
Marcus Thompson: The main reason was that Baron Davis had a relatively poor season. He played just 54 games, several of which he played while hurt. He shot the ball poorly, which made him easier to defend and the Warriors' offense easier to control. He had a real down year defensively, even for someone not known for his defense. Part of it was because of injury, but he gave up big games to players not nearly as talented. And he acknowledged himself he didn't do as good a job leading the team as he would have liked. To put it simply, Davis is a great player who didn't have a great year.
I would say reason No. 2 has to be Mike Montgomery. Generally speaking, he just set a poor tone for the season with unsettled rotations, ineffective gameplans and poor player relations. From my perspective, he just never got them to buy into what he was doing and never took control of the team. He certainly didn't figure out how to stop their spiraling defense, never was able to get Mike Dunleavy going, never really got the running game going, and didn't take advantage of Monte Ellis and Ike Diogu soon enough. In hindsight, there were a lot of things he could have done, perhaps should have done, to change things. But he didn't.
Reason No. 3 has to go to Chris Mullin. There are other specific reasons I could say. Such as Dunleavy's poor season, Mickael Pietrus' stunted progress, poor home record. But in the end, Mullin assembled a team that didn't match. He left a fairly inexperienced coach with a lot of holes. He banked on some guys who didn't perform. He took some risks that didn't pan out. You might say he's reason No. 1, but he's at least top 3.
Golden State of Mind: Given the choice, would you rather make the playoffs this year or tank it and have a shot at the top pick in the loaded 2007 draft?
Marcus Thompson: Some say Greg Oden is the kind of guy that might stay in college. Wouldn't it be something to tank the season, get the top pick and Oden stays a Buckeye? I'm never for tanking anything. That's just not the way to succeed. You can't build a winning tradition by quitting. I'd rather see the Warriors do everything they can to make the playoffs and if they don't, or even if they do, pull out all the stops to trade up for No. 1 pick. If Oden comes out.
Golden State of Mind: Let's fast forward to May 2007 and pretend that the Warriors are in the lottery again after missing the playoffs for the 13th straight time. Which if any of these guys are gone: President Robert Rowell, Vice President Chris Mullin, General Manager Rod Higgins, or Coach Mike Montgomery?
Marcus Thompson: Mike Montgomery. If the Warriors aren't in a position for a playoff push, he might not make it past the break. There would be far too much pressure for Mullin to change something. Since he may not be able to change the players, he may need to get a more experienced coach. Rowell is safe. Rod is safe as long as Mullin has the job, and I think Chris gets longer than a three-season leash.
Golden State of Mind: Mullin is reportedly in love with the young players he's drafted. Why should we be excited about any of the following players: Andris Biedrins, Ike Diogu, Monta Ellis, Chris Taft, Patrick O'Bryant aka The Chef aka Project O'Bryant, and Kosta Perovic aka Kosta Coast?
Marcus Thompson: *Andris could end up being a very valuable player on a playoff team. He may not be a star, but he can be a productive player, one of those pieces you need for a winning team. He's athletic. He can finish. He hustles. He does the dirty work. He can play. You surround him with the right players, he'll definitely be worth his money. He could do what Udonis Haslem did for Miami, or what Dasagna Diop did for Dallas. Players like that are invaluable. If things really workout the way Mullin hopes, he could be even more.
*Ike Diogu is far beyond his years when it comes to scoring in an NBA paint. If he gets the opportunity, he's going to get you some buckets. Plus throw in a weakside block here and there. If he can hold his own on defense, you have a rare commodity. Diogu could be a Zach Randolph without the drama or even Elton Brand, best-case scenario. They key, while he's young, is going to be how the Warriors use him.
*Of all these youngsters, Monta Ellis has the most star potential. If he keeps his feet on the ground and his work ethic tight, he'll be a force in this league. He has too much talent not to. He'll be a 15 to 20 ppg scorer -- plus excellent defense. If he works on his shot and becomes better at creating (not necessarily being a point guard but being able to make things happen off the dribble) he could be an Allen Iverson, or Gilbert Arenas type.
*It's hard to get excited about Chris Taft with his current situation. Back problems tend to cause more reservation than excitement. He has to come back from back surgery and have the same athleticism and mobility. He could be a thicker, stronger Andris Biedrins. He's further along offensively, especially at creating his own shot, but he'll first be valuable as a garbage man.
*To be honest, I'm not excited about O'Bryant. It sounds harsh even though I do think he can play. I think he was a good pick because drafts are about value and potential. But big man projects just don't do it for me. Just a personal thing. To me, you can tell right off whether a big man has it or not. I saw it in Al Jefferson when I saw him in summer league. I saw it in Ike, even in his small frame. I saw it in LaMarcus Aldridge. I saw it in Oden in a 15-second clip. I didn't see it in O'Bryant. I saw an obvious skillset. He can do some things with the ball in his hands. But there's a certain quality centers need to have, just like point guards. You can try to label it as toughness, instinct, a certain mentality. But it's just an intangible quality. You know it when you see it. Not sure if you can develop it, but I wouldn't bank on it. O'Bryant, because of his skills, could be a Zydrunas Ilgauskus type. He'll be able to score against most defenders and block some shots. But we all saw what happened to Z in the playoffs.
*As far as Kosta, see O'Bryant.
Golden State of Mind: Last week on ESPN's Quite Frankly, Stephen A Smith had Scoop Jackson on as a guest and they were discussing a recent report that revealed the astounding lack of people of color, specifically Black folk, covering the NBA for the Associated Press and for numerous local outlets. Do you sense any mistrust between the players and the mostly white writers that cover them?
Marcus Thompson: I sense a mistrust between players and media period. They don't seem to trust me, at first, no more than they trust anyone. I think I can relate with them better. I think I can earn their trust faster. But the player fraternity, from my two years up close and personal, doesn't discriminate based on race, gender, age, etc., just based on whether you were in the NBA or not. They use media for their own gain. Some do develop relationships with media. But generally, they don't trust any of us. Maybe it would be different if most of the writers were African-American. Maybe they wouldn't put that wall up so quick. But I get the feeling it will go up just the same if reporters do their job, which sometimes requires ripping a player.
Golden State of Mind: What is wrong with the Bay Area? The best major pro sports team plays...hockey? Will we see a championship come to the Bay Area before the end of the decade and which team will win it all first, A's, Giants, Niners, Raiders, Warriors or Sharks?
Marcus Thompson: Please don't make me think about it. It's depressing. I'm a Yay Area product. It kills me that we suck at everything. I've never watched hockey so closely in my life as I did following the Sharks in the playoffs. I just wanted at least one team from the Bay to win something. What do they do? Choke. Bustas.
I say we will see a championship before the end of the decade. It's going to be the Sharks. They should be loaded again next year. Unlike the rest of the Bay Area squads, save for the A's kinda, San Jose has been knocking at the door. They are taking the natural steps of winning a title, which sometimes includes losing inthe first round, blowing a series lead, taking your lumps. Of course, based on that logic, the A's should have been won a World Series. They've taken their lumps. We'll see this year if they're ready to take the next step. If they are, I say they are my Plan B.
Golden State of Mind: Which current Warrior player would welcome a trade to another team the most?
Marcus Thompson: That's a tough one. Most of the players haven't known any other organization, at least not extensively. I haven't met him yet, but I'd have to say Keith McLeod. I'm sure he wants to be a starting point guard, and he has no chance here. Let me take that back. According to recent history, he has a great chance. Oh, I know. Zarko Cabarkapa. If the Warriors traded him to a team that would give him some time, he'd be happy to go. Though it would be tough because he and Andris are best friends. I know he wants more of a chance to show his stuff.
Golden State of Mind: Warriors owner Chris Cohan vs 49ers owner John York: Who is more willing to shell out the money to bring in winning GM's, coaches and players? Who is more embarrassed about all the losing?
Marcus Thompson: I don't know much about York, and I'd hate to form a definitive opinion of him based on reports and rumors. So I will have to say Cohan. He's signed everyone Mullin and Rowell told him to sign, though he could've paid much less. He turned over the franchise to Chris Mullin, whom he believes can turn things around. He's invested into the franchise. The only thing you can really question about Cohan is who he keeps deciding to give the keys to. But he's willing to give up the keys. That's something.
Golden State of Mind: Pick one player on the Warriors who's going to breakout and one player who will be a bust this year.
Marcus Thompson: This is a tough question. These are the most unpredictable and inconsistent players I've ever seen. I would say Monta, but will he get the opportunity, and will that opportunity be suited to his game? I think Baron is poised for a breakout year. Everything is on the line for him. He simply can't afford to produce anything less than greatness. Something tells me he'll answer the bell. Plus, Mike Dunleavy has to play better than last year, right? Is it his time to breakout? The bust is just as hard. Will it be a bust if Baron gets hurt or if Dunleavy doesn't produce, or if O'Bryant doesn't contribute anything? How can it be a bust from a team that as a whole and individually (save for J-Rich and a couple others) underachieved?
Golden State of Mind: What are your expectations this year for the Warriors? Will Jason Richardson take that next step towards greatness? Will Baron Davis be the All-Star caliber guard he's capable of being? Will the young guys grow up?
Marcus Thompson: I expect them to be be in the playoff hunt later in the season (assuming Baron is healthy). I expect them to go into the final week with a serious shot. I think Ellis and Diogu will make them better and deeper because they are going to play a lot more. I expect Richardson to carry them. He's going to be an All-Star this year and he might make All-NBA third team if the Warriors make the playoffs. I expect Dunleavy to play better also. He's not as bad as he played last year, and I think Montgomery has a better idea of how to make life easier for Dunleavy. Maybe I'm just wishing too hard.
Golden State of Mind: People seem to either love or hate Mike Dunelavy. What we'd like to know is, how do his teammates and the franchise in general view him? Is he a good locker room guy and teammate? What kinds of expectations do they have for him?
Marcus Thompson: I think his teammates and members of the franchise are getting a little tired of waiting on him. I know they feel like he's a better player than he's been playing, but their patience is getting thin. He's going to have to score and rebound more this year. They are going to call on him to be the fourth scorer since Fisher is gone. I wouldn't say he's great in the locker room and I wouldn't say he's bad. I know he's not afraid to speak out, but I don't think it carried much weight with the way he was playing. I don't think anybody dislikes him or anything. But they know they need more from him. Even he knows that.
The starting 5 at Golden State of Mind would like to thank Marcus for responding openly and candidly to our questions.
Make sure to drop by Marcus' online forum to get any of your Warriors questions answered.
** Feel free to link to our Q&A with Marcus Thompson, but please do not freely distribute it across the web. Doing so is copyright infringement. Here's the direct link to this piece: http://www.goldenstateofmind.com/story/2006/8/10/21513/2825