Players decide wins and losses. It's the coach's job is to put them in position to decide this fate. If they believe in him, if they love him, they'll go that extra mile, they'll play with a swagger. This is half the battle of coaching. Don Nelson sparked exactly this within Baron Davis. Once Davis got his hands on Jackson, the entire team was fueled by the passion and belief these two players had in their coach. Was it a coincidence that they happened to be the two best players on the team? I'm not so sure.
A heady politician can keep a team happy, but once he's worn his welcome and sinks his teeth in the hand that feeds him, the other hands offering food begin to disappear. Then it becomes hard to collectively get the very most out of your entire team. Players rely on other teammates to accentuate unique strengths and aspects within their game. If that player is disgruntled, unenthused, or simply benched because of personal reasons or distractions within the work, other players who have grown used to having that guy by their side during games, will suffer the loss of benefitting from that teammate. They will then have to disrupt their rhythm and jump through hoops to find other ways to be effective, and learn other teammates they're less familiar with and possibly, less effective with.
Oddly enough, during Nelson's sorrowed departure, fans are grumbling about the upcoming harvest while we haven't even begun to sow the seeds. Many are hastily hung up on the fact that the beginning of our new legacy is marked by the installation of an "assistant guy". Interestingly enough, the last two seasons of of watching the "aw, shucks-face", that Nelson would sport in front of the cameras, post-game after his team was out-rebounded by 20, and outscored by the lowest ppg teams in all the league, was not enough to comfortably merit a friendly goodbye.
"Well when Smart took over those few games last year while Nellie was sick, I hated his rotations and he played this player more than he should've played that player, etc."
I don't know what Smart's got up his sleeve for this season, but I'd happily take that over what I Know Nelson has to offer - uninspired basketball bred from a recipe that has not produced, and possibly a player-coach fall out. I wish I did not have to bad mouth Nelson to deliver this point. He is not what you think he is. There are many vehicles on the road these days that are capable of driving you to the bowl game. You can roll through the savanna on a two wheel drive Toyota. But how will you survive through the jungle? Defense.
Even if Nelson were the coach he was 10 years ago, (which he's no where close) if he didn't win a ring back then, then why would you want him establishing a culture under new management that has proved to be handicapped when competing for a division title, let alone a championship?
I would happily take baby steps towards a lasting regime that embraced learning how to play defense, and taking pride in playing defense, under a defensive coach. I don't care if his name is Charlie Nobody! Just bring the truth. The offensive schemes, the race to the offensive half-court to catch them with their pants down, the shooting, passing, big men, the guard who rebounds as well as the center - They're all lies. Innovative, sure. But lies.
Defense is the only truth.
Coach Smart, while not the most experienced, still has a more successful blueprint reflecting the longevity of success held by the elite teams around the league - teams with glorious history. They do not let you score. It's like bringing a knife to a gun fight. Nelson is the best knife in the world, but sooner than later, he's going to lose to a gun. Smart may hiccup or flinch during the battle, but he's still armed with a rifle, nonetheless. When Smart falls, somebody else, a sharpshooting veteran (Brian Shaw, Spolstra?), will pick up his rifle and continue the fight to the future. If Nelson stays for another year, no matter who is taking over, they're still picking up a knife and walking into a gunfight. We don't need that. We need our young, talented players to learn properly about how the game should be played, and why it's played that way. They will then know the truth, and pass it on to their chillens, draft picks and such...
Never mind Keith Smart's step-in for Nelson last season. You'd be foolish to believe that Smart did not discuss guidelines with Nelson before the game. You'd know nothing at all about Keith Smart as a man if you thought he didn't insist on taking orders from the head coach under contract, before each and every one of those games.
There are bigger fish to fry and less excusable offenses than the outcome of Smart's short stint last year.
Was Nelson always right for benching Wright? How about refusing to let Randolph play through his mistakes during an injury plagued season that instantly shouted pending doom from every pitiful orifice of our depleted and feuding team before we even tipped the ball off?
Why did he publicly blast his player, somebody he's absolutely depended on to rebound the ball and start his beloved offense, when he knew that player was hurt and losing confidence?
Why did he allow Ellis to run rampant, and arrogantly shoot the ball 30 times without benching him?
Why the heck did Nelson not stand up to Rowell and say, "You fire him, I'm out." And save our team some freaking respect around the league? What? Did you think that'd look good in the eyes of potential free agents who were shaking their heads at the sheer shadiness of our FO? They shook their heads because they knew exactly who Chris Mullin is. Nobody knows who the hell Robert Rowell is (or was, I guess I should say). And nobody should freaking care.
Back to the Biedrins situation, how would the two men have come to terms and operated come training camp? Would the lyrically acclaimed Nellie welcome the three-point lacking Biedrins with open arms, pluck him from the doghouse, ask him how the surgery went with his arm wrapped around his neck and sweep the ghosts of Christmas' past under the rug? Was not going to happen.
Andris Biedrins is our center; our only center. If one can not identify the need for such a player, and is willing to turn a blind eye to the negative way Nelson is capable of impacting young players and spurring untimely trades, then you don't understand the inner dynamics of the game past the ball going through the net. I understand many fans here did not know the Warriors before the "We Believe" era - another thing people attribute more to Nelson, than Mullin - the man responsible for both the Baron and Jackson/Harrington trades (and Nelson, himself, for that matter). I understand that the team's success during this time may have sentimentally tied you to Don Nelson, as it was your first true experience with the team, and a good one.
But what about the others? What about the ones who watched Nellie break up Run TMC for Billy - O? What about the time Chris Webber was traded for what amounted to nothing, along with our future 1st round draft picks and not to mention Penny Hardaway?
Understand that while you may enjoy the game of basketball, and your newfound allegiance to this team is most intriguing to you, there are many of us who have been around long enough to know that Nelson is capable of doing some serious, serious sabotage in a very small amount of time. We've lived through it, and with a heavy heart I tell you, it's just not worth it. My amigo for life, thick-n-thin, it's not worth it at all.
Lacob is smart, and Smart is saving you from years of heartache that I know all too well - From having to cry after reading an article titled, "Jason Caffey the destroyer", and shaking my head and pissing on my new shoes after listening to Fitzgerald rave about Sam Jacobson being a future asset to the team, because he was a white guy who could catch an alley-oop - I advise you to look to the future, cause the past is all behind you.
Adonal Foyle was not a great big man. Although he lacked the flash and the outrageous scoring ability some of his peers at the time possessed, he'd often put us in a position to win late in games, when he'd come up with a big defensive play. Correction: He often would've put us in a position to win late in the game if our team would've been good enough to be in the game during the 4th qtr to begin with on a regular basis.
Foyle was possibly the most defensively clutch shot-blocker I've ever seen on the Warriors. His only problem: He was a Golden State Warrior. Adonal Foyle didn't go unnoticed during his career with the Warriors because of his lack of PPG and flash, he went unnoticed because what he did late in games rarely mattered.
Our rosters were unacceptably bad during his tenure here. Not only did the Warriors have bad teams during those years, but they were exceptionally horrific when it came to crunch time and deciding games in the 4th quarter. What good is a clutch block, or a clutch contested shot without a foul and the defensive rebound, if the spread is 10+ points with 2 minutes remaining? Now, put Foyle on the Lakers, Jazz, Blazers, etc. during his prime, and those big time stops with 3 minutes to go with his team leading by 1-point seem to matter much more. Now he has players like Stockton collecting his handiwork and feeding it over to Malone. He'd have guys like Kevin Johnson scooping up the loose ball and firing it up to Thunder Dan Majerle for the game winning two + the foul.
Foyle could've been a face on any winning franchise. Players like him do not matter on losing teams. He's like that mother that provided every opportunity for their child to succeed while they slacked it off and bought drugs.
Ekpe Udoh can be for Lacob, what Foyle was for Cohan. Except this time around, he will matter because we will have a winning team to benefit from his hustled generosities. His big time stops will not be mistaken for small time stops, trying to pick up the pieces from a 20 point blowout spread. He will grant opportunities for this young roster to figure out what it takes to put together an offensive play in the clutch and deliver it with extreme prejudice.
Character guy? Who cares?
Foyle was largely considered to be one of the NBA's nicest and most passionate players. This is no small deed. When the game is on the line, this kind of passion translates towards your ability to focus on the game and zero-in on the play. Focus is the key to being an impact player on the Defensive end.
"Character guys" get better as the game goes along, rather than getting worse. Why? Because they don't allow the mishaps of their involvement early in the game to dictate what they're capable of doing later on, when the team needs them to execute. And mishaps are bound to happen to everybody. A player like J.R. Smith - Misses his first three jump shots in the game, and he'll easily become a non-entity when it matters the most.
One thing we know about Ekpe, if not his unproven skills, is that we can rely on him to execute to the best of his ability late in games. He will always be prepared. Championship teams need a character guy who thrives in a role position on a roster with multi-faceted players with skills that complement his own. While Andris Biedrins plays well off of teammates in the post who have more natural scoring ability (Lee), Udoh shares the same complementary talents to Brandan Wright, in the 2nd string.
Many are not thrilled to have Ekpe Udoh on the team for various reasons that are not far beyond reasonable complaint. I believe Udoh's shot-blocking ability will migrate effectively to the professional level. He's not just a big, strong body - An attribute that can inflate many big men's shot blocking numbers on the collegiate level. To quote a professional scout:
Nicknamed "The Nightmare" for his demonic shot blocking prowess (3.7 per game as junior) ... Views swatting shots as an art form - always taking proper angles, never leaving his feet until his opponent does, can block shots with either hand and keeps balls in play. Exhibits solid agility on the perimeter, able to stay in front of quicker guards on pick and roll switches ... Moves his feet well and lateral quickness is much improved. - Adam Ganeles
Translation to the pro's
Marcus Camby recorded 4 bpg his senior year at Umass. His rookie season, his numbers dropped to 2.5 bgp per 36. However, the following season he climbed back up to 4.1 bpg, while logging virtually the same amount of minutes at 31 mpg. Although Camby was a great shot blocker at Umass, his athleticism and tenacious nature allowed these skills to carry over to the next level, rather than just being a big body that could overrule most college aggressors.
Ike Diogu averaged just over 2 bpg with the Sun Devils. Physically, he was a monster. He rebounded everything, and his physical strength plus his length, allowed him to control lesser opponents. His 2 Bpg was not a result of his understanding of the art. When he came to the NBA, he played in 69 games for the Warriors, where he averaged 1 bpg per 36 minutes. He has never established himself defensively, or in any such way since.
We do not need a Turiaf kind of shot swatter. We need a center who goes after shots with the intention to change them, to control them. As long as they miss the shot we can breathe easy, now that we have collectors like David Lee, Andris Biedrins, Louis Amundson, and even Dorell Wright around the basket. With a 7'5 wingspan and lateral quickness, Udoh has the immense range we need from a shot blocker, to lock in on guys from distances that were foreign to Warrior big men of the past.
1-on-1 in the post
Udoh recorded a standing vertical at 31". The ability to get up without stepping is not a common strength among big men, and it is to a shot blocker what a 3-point shot is to a guard. When Udoh's opponent decides to make his move, he will likely attempt to disable Udoh's balance with a shoulder bump, crossover step, spin, etc. Even though Udoh may be off-balance and on his heels after this occurs, he still has the ability to get up without stepping, the reach, and the sense of timing to challenge the shot, (even off his heels) with effectiveness.
If David Lee and co. were not on the team, and we had a player in his stead who was not much of a rebounding force, Udoh's value as a defensive shot-hunter would decrease, as our ability to collect the rebound/blocked shot would as well.
David Lee and Louis Amundson create the most physical two man power forward tandem in the league, and will wear down opponents at that position on a nightly basis. Teams will no longer "look forward" to playing the Golden State Warriors. While Lee sits down after beating up his man, Louis will step in after the tag, and continue to pummel Lee's opponent for positioning, for rebounds, checking, and dishing out hard fouls. Most teams have a finesse scorer in the post who does not like to be muscled around, followed by a back up guy who can do the grunt work.
The Warriors retain their physicality at the position from both their starter, and their back up for 48 minutes. The star power forwards will not walk away from the night without their share of bruises and beaten bones. Lee and Louis can wear down interior players, and soften up the inside defenses late in the game, opening up the lane for guys like Ellis and Williams to take advantage. Put Udoh on whoever Lee and Louis were lickin' on, and you're looking at a tired, beaten up, scoring 4 (someone the opposing team depends on to deliver down the stretch) looking to convert against our defensive specialist.
Louis brings us a piece of player who is essential for all winning teams. The Warriors have always lacked a gear that other teams possess - a gear that adds velocity towards gaining the win. While others have sped up, our Warriors have repeatedly slowed down. Collapsed.
Assets such as a Turiaf, Amundson, Birdman, Humphries, Blair, Millsap, Artest - these are players that decide the game when placed on roster with good, to very good players. In other words, In of themselves, these are guys who will not stand out (Artest possibly being the exception) on a bad team. However, put this kind of player on a good team, and they can be the deciding factor when superb skills meet superb skills face to face, and it becomes a dogfight of pure will. This is why Louis Amundson will be appreciated this year from a fan base who has largely never experienced a winning roster in the Bay Area, and has similarly not experienced how such a player correlates so directly to wins. His late-game blocks, his last-second tip ins, his unrelenting battle for position in the post with the opposing team's star, frustrating him to commit a silly foul that sits him the majority of the 3rd, allowing our team the comeback and win, etc... It'll be like Barnesy's back in town.
My only advice to Amundson is this: If Monta comes out like the Guns of the Navarone, follow that leprechaun to the hoop, because there is a pot of gold waiting for you at the end of that rainbow. Expect to see Louis clean up a lot of messes this year.
I apologize if this is too long for most people to read. I've been away for awhile and I've had a lot to say. Also, I did not mean to be snide when mentioning my tenure as a fan, I just wanted to make the point about knowing Nelson, rather than sticking my nose to the air. Thanks a lot for your time.