The Prodigal Son Returns

    As all may know, Pau Gasol has been acquired by the Lakers.

    This comes at the heels of the news that a once-favored, since-hated and now-returned Warrior has returned to Oakland in Chris Webber.

    Because much importance was placed in Webber's signing as a preventive measure for the Lakers' own desires for a substitute big, the acquisition of Gasol comes as a huge disappointment. Not only have they succeeded in finding their center, but they have a found a legitimate All-Star with an impressive skill set and a long resume of personal success. Imagining a "Twin Towers" roster with the manchild Bynum and the skilled Gasol patrolling the paint -- with the multi-faceted Odom to boot - can cause great fear of the Lakers' new super-frontcourt. And though Webber was once an All-Star in his own right, even the most cursory comparison of the two seems to largely favor the Lakers.

    So it is not surprising to find many Warrior fans wanting more, to trump the Lakers again and accelerating an arms race of sorts. But I'm happy where we are, even while acknowledging that Pietrus should probably be moved, or that our backup pg situation is still a bit shaky no matter how well Watson has been playing. I'm happy because of what our broadcasters consistently repeat and what every true fans knows: for this team, it's not about the stats, it's not about the theorycrafting, and it definitely doesn't make sense if you look at the box score. The Warriors don't make sense by any educated analysis. But when you and I assert the mantra of "We Believe", we're not only re-living the glorious playoff triumphs of last year. We're asserting faith.

    And where there is faith, there is love.

    14 years ago we drafted a player that would blast us through the ceiling of limited playoff success. For once, we would have a legit big; but not just any center: a prodigy. Great hands, length, leaping/finishing/passing ability... he had it all. A physical specimen. We placed our hopes and dreams into him, only to watch it unravel in the most devastating fashion. In this, I don't need to elaborate: most of you know the story by heart.

    For 12 years, a player, a coach and a team went on different paths. The player attempted to reach greatness on his own, and seemed ever so close in reaching it; but in spite of his unbridled ability he failed. Everywhere he went, it seemed, he would reach some sort of limited success, but always he would disappoint: the Kings, the Sixers, the Pistons. As he grew older the longevity of this pattern would shorten. And through his struggles he was afflicted with a debilitating injury to his knee, which would not hampered his ability to play, but combined with his own shortcomings it served to humble him.
    The coach also went his own path. For 12 years, he also achieved a limited sort of success, bringing promise and rebuilding to multiple franchises. But he, too, never reached the long-sought goal, and though he mentored several supremely talented players, he never appeared to be satisfied.

    And for 12 years, the team went to shit. All the hopes had gone into this one player; but he had left. The coach, angry and remorseful, also left the next year riddled with guilt. Abandoned by both, the team suffered through the longest streak of failure ever known in its existence. But a funny thing happened on the 13th year. The coach came back, and time had changed him. He was still a pain in the ass to those adherents of protocol. He still drank way too much; still cussed and screamed, still played his same old games with the media. But he had changed, and for the better: he was wiser, kinder, more aware of his own shortcomings while still understanding his strengths.

    He brought us back to the playoffs, and we all rejoiced. But he knew his work was not done, and though he loved the team he knew there was a huge abyss that he needed to fill not only with talent, but in redemption for his past mistake. And so the next year, pushing his own pride aside, he reached out to his prodigal son.

    Now, the prodigal son returns.

    It's way more than numbers. It's even more than strategy, though I could make a solid case for Webber's potential effect for our game: His mere presence is a body to shield Biedrins, which should help offset the rebounding disadvantage. His passing ability takes a huge burden off Baron - something that Jackson, and to a lesser extent, Ellis and Barnes - have tried to fill but have not really succeeded. His outside touch is something nonexistent in our current front court (besides Croshure); he can still finish well inside. All that being said, when comparing Gasol and Webber at the end of the year, it is more than likely that Gasol will post better numbers, and perhaps the Lakers may have a better record at the end of the year.

    But it's not about numbers. Look at today's boxscore: all the experts thought that Baron would impose his revenge upon the hapless Bobcats by going for 30 something and recording a near triple-double. But in our biggest blowout of the season, Baron had a quiet five points, six assists... and yet he was huge. He destroyed JRich and Boykins, those old Warrior favorites. When a team blows out another by 30 something, there's usually a huge individual abnormality in the stat line - but our highest scorer had 21 points. We got destroyed in the middle again to another pretty-good big man (Okafor going for 21 and 18) but it didn't matter. We ran all over them, to the point I felt sorry for JRich, because I know he misses it here. I know he wishes he was still a part of us, because for the Warriors, there's something more.

    There's something more, and when you apply it to this situation of the Lakers and the Warriors both acquiring a center, there's much less to fear. Because the Lakers, in their usual glitzy and superficial fashion, went for a player who has never won a playoff game, who has never even had a secondary talent to play with, who plays no defense and who scores the quietest 19ppg in the league. They don't know him, they've never played with him, and they have no idea how he will contribute or detract from their "team's" chemistry (substitute Kobe for "team"). In short, they went for the numbers without thinking too much of the effect, when all evidence shows that this year, this NBA, is all about chemistry.

    But the Warriors... we went back to the past. Mullie, Nelson, and Webber... a GM who was the epitome of Run TMC, a Player who was supposed to carry TMC to the future, and a Coach who failed to bridge the transition. But we not only went to the past to get Webber, we went back to bring back the old fans who gave up, who saw a franchise explode and were reminded that sports isn't always a break from ugly reality. It started last year when a lot of the fans - including some bandwagon hoppers and sunshine patriots - wanted to be a part of the playoffs again. But now, with Webber back, there will be a true reunion: not just with fans, old and new, but with a father and son.

There will be much rejoicing. The firstborn lamb will be slaughtered, a new cloak will be donned, and there will be much feasting and drinking. Perhaps, just like the parable, there will be a ring as well.


This FanPost is a submission from a member of the mighty Golden State of Mind community. While we're all here to throw up that W, these words do not necessarily reflect the views of the GSoM Crew. Still, chances are the preceding post is Unstoppable Baby!

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