Dear beloved Golden State,
We should have seen it coming. Though I admit, as most will, I was first taken by surprise late Monday night when Baron Davis opted out of the final year of his contract, I soon realized how much sense it all made. This is Baron Davis; the drama king of the NBA, the man whose game fluctuated night after night between god-awful and top tier point guard. And just like his so often daring shot selection, he made the daring move to opt out. And as always, as crazy as these decisions seem, it some how works out. Yet he left us with nothing. But of course that is the way it turned out, after all, these are the Golden State Warriors; the former laughing stock of the NBA next to only, well, the Clippers. This is a franchise whose story is built around unsuccessful draft picks and getting spurned by players for bigger bucks. Was there any other way this all could have worked out? Of course, you all know all of this already.
Of course, Baron's departure leaves a void in this team that no one is talking about; a void that began to depart with Jason Richardson a year ago today. With the exiting of these two players, our beloved Warriors are once again left without an identity, a soul, or a heart beat; the same problem that haunted them for 13 postseason-less years. Jason was undoubtedly the heart of the Warriors, he had been there for enough of the struggles to realize that what had finally been assembled should not be wasted. We witnessed him fight and give it his all, and as fans we loved him for that. He would have sold his soul to the devil if it meant success for our team. But what Jason lacked was a killer-instinct; he wanted it, but it just wasn't in his DNA. This is where Baron made up for what Jason lacked; the daringness to take the shot, as well as the ability to make it. He was crazy, but it was controlled.Together, combined with the right amount of craziness from good old Stephen Jackson, they were a perfect mesh. It was exactly what this fan base needed; a bunch of pirates who could get the job done. On any night they could beat anyone and on any other night they could get blown out, but I guarantee there was never a team that wanted to play this group of bandits. They were the reason for "We Believe." With their heart and courageousness combined, they gave us the ability to believe. So with Jason's departure, the heart of the team left and as last season dwindled down, the effort did as well. Now with Baron's departure, they wont just be missing an all-star caliber point guard, but they will lose their leader; the man who was crazy, but kept it all under control. He had a bond with Stephen Jackson that cannot be replaced, and who knows how that will turn out? As much as I love him and hope he stays, there may be fear about ever Stephen being the same player.There is no more identity.
Maybe he just needs time, but I don't see Monta Ellis ever fulfilling these needs. Can he be a go-to scorer? Absolutely. There is no reason he shouldn't average 25 points a game next year. So though he can carry the offense, he cannot carry this team's emotions. And all of the best teams have some one who can. The Spurs have Duncan, the Suns have Nash, the Celtics have three guys, the Pistons have Billups, and I guess you could say the Lakers have Kobe, but who ever really know with him.
I think Mullin knows this, but after Jason left he also knew this team would never be the same again and thus, keeping Baron around for the long-haul on a team that wanted a new identity was pointless. Mullin knows its time to take this team's identity from crazy and unpredictable to, well, just flat-out good and they've got the young guys (though I'm skeptical) to build around. So what else exactly does this team need?
If you think about it, this teams needs are still exactly the same, plus the emotional leader. They still need a big rebounder/shot blocker, a consistent three-point shooter, and a point guard. Right off the bat, a perfect three-point specialist is James Jones (go ahead and check his three-point field goal percentage last year). Not only that, but he can also play both forward spots. As for point guard, I've been mulling over a guy for the past couple of days that no one is talking about and I can't figure out why. He is 6'7", he was a top 5 pick, he is 22 years old, he could come fairly cheep, and is the only unrestricted free agent this year who has a shot at being a star whose name isn't Gilbert Arenas, Baron Davis, and Elton Brand. And oh yeah, he is a former Clipper. His name is Shaun Livingston and he might just turn out to be the perfect guard to pair up with Monta in the back court. If he ever lives up to his potential, they would easily be the best young back court in the NBA. I know he's had a major history of injuries, but why not take a shot at two years worth a little more than the mid-level exception? Even if he doesn't work out, he'll be a nice back up for Monta at the point. Please, no more guys like Jamal Crawford or Jamal Tinsley. Honestly, what can they really bring to this young team? For years we have seen the Warriors fill their starting roster with place holders (Speedy Claxton, Dale Davis, Clifford Robinson to name a few recent ones) to play next to their budding stars (Richardson, Arenas, Ellis) waiting for the right guy to turn up at that position and only once has it worked (Davis). Now Davis is gone and Livingston could offer a potential permanent solution to the point guard position for the Warriors. If they're going to take a chance on a guy like Crawford or Tinsley, why not take a chance on a guy like Livingston instead.
Warriors fans, I ask that we band together and ensure our team does not get stuck in a well too familiar position. As for a legitimate big man, there are few options and it most some how come through a trade likely involving Harrington and future picks.
Last but not certainly not least, we as fans must do what is in our power to keep Jackson around. It is time the man with the tattooed gun fully mature into everything this team needs. Though it may be a lot to ask, I have faith and so should you. He took major strides these past seasons with the Warriors under Nelson and this season must be the final step. Pardon me for the corny simile, but in a sense he is Batman. The one where Christian Bale has so much potential to lead, yet so much uncontrolled violence and it is not until he learns to tame it that he can take Gotham to the heights his father (in this case Davis) once took it. Jackson's fiery passion can be the fuel for this teams success just as much Jason's heat was. And hell, we already know he's just as crazy as Baron when it comes to shot selection (think Los Angeles Lakers, second game in LA) and we certainly know he can hit the big-shot (think Los Angeles Lakers, second game in LA). Stephen Jackson is no longer a tri-captain, but the sole ring leader to what should be an interesting ride. Granted he is no Duncan or Nash, but they just wouldn't be the Warriors style anyways. And who knows, maybe soon enough the Warriors luck will change and that guy will come around for them. Or maybe I'm wrong and Monta can develop into that guy. But at this point, is there really any other guy you'd rather hand the keys over to than good ol' Captain Jack?