The faithful of the Golden State Warriors have for several years now had to deal with an all too common statement for my liking.... "Yes but we have a lot of injuries..." and frankly...I have had enough of listening to this. I year...ok, every team has their problems...two years..ok, however I am not happy at the number of injuries to key players and begin to ask questions... 3 YEARS??? OK... this is NOT normal.
Now, in the past I have raised this as occasional comment in various threads and yet here we are again with injury issues and I decided it was high time we created a post to discuss what is a glaring problem in my personal opinion.
Professional basketball is a sport with many, many unknown faces within the organisation. To that end, it is similar to politics! In the UK, governments come and go and yet members of what is called the 'civil service' can remain in position within key departments of governmental power from the Ministry of Defence right through to staff at Downing Street (think Whitehouse) irrespective of the new leader that comes to power.
Now... while this offers a certain degree of stability for the incumbent leader to simply move in and get on with the job at hand, many of these 'civil servants' are effectively faceless and nameless 'grey suits' who 'advise' said leaders and the net result is often governmental policy which is created from 'advice' given by said faceless wonders... Alas none of these individuals are elected by the people and none of them have to re-apply for their jobs. The net result is politics that become a greyer shade of grey...where in reality, there is little effective change brought about by publicly elected changes in government.. and THAT, can be a problem.
How does this relate to basketball and our beloved Golden State Warriors I hear you cry? Well like government, Golden State has just undergone not only a franchise leadership change, but also a coaching leadership change and yet the 'grey suits' or 'grey gym gear wearers' remain in place....is it therefore time to clear ranks in house and bring a completely fresh outlook to the way this basketball club goes about its business?? If you are interested to read further, I have put forward some observations/concerns below...if not...I wish you a Merry Christmas!
Some might say that the demise of Cohan, came through a very clear fan majority of disapproval of his tenure as Franchise owner and that had he continued much longer, season ticket sales would have suffered even more so than they had already. Fortunately, new owners have stepped forward and a new era beckoned with such a change. Along with the franchise ownership change, came significant roster changes on the team and a slight surprise change in head of coaching....
It was fair to think that 2010-2011 NBA season was potentially the turning of a corner for the GSW franchise and come the start of the season with a great string of results, the "WE BELIEVE" T-shirts were once more brought down from the attic and a genuine sense of excitement began.
But....this is Golden State remember and as predicted by many, the proverbial wheel has come off the wagon!
Now aside from the calls for Keith Smart's head on a silver platter with some rocket and a drizzling of balsamic!! The greater issue to me relates back to the 'faceless man' syndrome that this Franchise may well need to look at.
While I agree that injuries are part and parcel of any professional sports franchise, the Golden State Warriors have had far more than their fair share and while stupid finger injuries to the likes of David Lee can never be predicted, there does now suggest that the physical fitness of our players is not what it needs to be in order to compete in what is now one of the most physically demanding and explosive power sports in the world.
Simply being a good basketball player is no longer good enough. You have to be a powerful athlete now, able to withstand the knocks, twists, turns, speed and muscular strength to go out, night after night and take that sort of punishment.
Now this is nothing new....sports like Rugby, American Football (yes the proper football is played with the foot!) Australian rules football and other physical sports have all had to deal with recovering the human body enough, to once again go into battle for the next game, my question is...... does GSW have a staffing problem in this area?
Personally I feel there are alarm bells to be rung with regards to our players physical conditioning and most importantly, WHO is responsible for this. Why for example, do players go off on their own to do their own pre-season conditioning? WHO is controlling this?? The player?? In which case, this is wholly wrong.
The player is a paid asset of the franchise, therefore the franchise must have control of it's assets to ensure they are operating at a level that is required by obligation of contract, by that franchise. If I therefore, were that franchise owner, I would want to know exactly what targets have been set of each player and the condition expected of them come season start. For example, if Brandan Wright has been told he needs to be 245lbs with proven strength improvement and upper body power capability when the season starts...does this happen? and did he achieve it? Likewise you could say the same of Andris Biedrins, who continues to improve to form we used to see and expected, still needs to put on some pounds to compete truly with the big NBA centres.
During the season, are the players instructed to go into the locker room and undergo 'ice' baths to assist in the muscle recovery? or do they simply take a shower, get changed, have a debrief, then go into the bar for a meet and greet!?! Who is the man responsible for the physical fitness of the players and can he provide rationale as to why so many GSW players seem to be 'light' when faced with opposition? and why so many of them seem to continually pick up injuries?
Learning great new defensive plays is all well and good, however if the man being defended can easily overpower your proposed 'Big men', then you instantly have an enormous gaping hole in your ability to stop the other team from scoring. David Lee was certainly an improvement in size for GSW, however we truly don't have a player that can go body to body with the likes of Amare, Duncan, Shaq, Oden or the biggest beast of them all.....Dwight Howard. Unless your players are in peak physical condition, these types of players mentioned above will beat your players up so badly, that they have to work twice as hard through speed and agility to have a hope of beating the opponent.
Now... combine that power, with speed, strength AND skill, in a player like LeBron and you have a HUGE problem keeping your players healthy.....or do you?
Is this now the cross-over between 'faceless man' backroom staff and their responsibilities to maintain a healthy, strong squad and the head coaches ability to play your teams offence and to a certain degree defence, to keep them away from the 'body on body' power game that is slowly taking over the NBA?
One could easily claim that one of Don Nelson's greatest skills was his ability to use the players that he had available and get the most out of their skill set to play a game that others could not match. For the last few years, due to the lack of size within the GSW squad, it was without doubt, one of the fastest teams in the NBA. When the Warriors employed the 'RunNGun' approach, other teams went on record to state they could not live with that pace. The oppositions only chance was to slow the game down and go one on one to take advantage of the lack of size in the GSW line-up.
However.... the wheels would also come off Don's wagon and in fact you could argue that the pace the team ran at, simply burned players out, in which case, do we now return full circle to the faceless backroom staff that condition the players and ensure that the players are following the strictest of regimes to remain healthy?
From a player's perspective, does size = power and strength... NO... it certainly does not. Classic cases in question are Corey Maggette and Kelenna Azubuike. Two players which were famed for the 'guns' and clearly had power, but injuries have cost both players dearly in the leg department. Therefore...who was responsible for saying 'yeah that upper body is huge and very impressive, however if that makes you unbalanced, we want you to cut back the bench presses and increase the leg strength'.
Now, while I have no doubt there must be coaching staff doing this....the Golden State Warriors 'appear' to be getting more injuries than maybe one team should expect, ergo, is there a problem in coaching and 'regime' with regards pre-game, post-game and off-season?
Shoes and technology used to protect the ankle has also been discussed in other threads, but again, is the power of the athlete now overtaking the supportive capability of the shoe? By its very nature, basketball forces an athlete's foot to often go one way, while the knee points in a completely different direction. In fact, does a shoe now give TOO MUCH grip? that the human bone joints cannot keep up? Again.... what does the team do to assist in this process by means of conditioning when the body takes that kind of beating!
Without speaking to the head of player fitness for GSW, its hard to fully understand exactly what measures are currently being done to optimise the physical condition of players and therefore to fully judge if the team is doing everything it can to get the best from it's assets. However....I believe fingers must now be pointed at all to answer and more importantly 'prove' that their actions are benefiting the team and I still stand by the fact that we miss the excellent shooting coaching of Mr Sidney Moncrief on the back-room staff team and I also believe that if I were Mr Lacob, I would introduce other sweeping backroom staffing changes, long before I fire Keith Smart and then if said changes fail... then let Keith go.
But as with any human body that has undergone major surgery, you cannot begin to build strength and improve physical fitness until you are sure that all 'cancer' has been removed.... on a separate note, is Robert Rowell still in his job? ;)
Have a good Christmas All and a Happy New Year! Here's to changes in the future that might result in more success, less injuries and a return to the playoffs....ahhhh hope..... its a wonderful thing!!