Let's cut straight to the point. As much as we've been looking forward to watching the dubs play, and getting a look at some of the new faces on the team, none of this was supposed to matter. Unfortunately when Stephen Curry when down with yet another ankle sprain in the first half, this insignificant preseason game against the Sacramento Kings became very relevant. This injury really casts a dark shadow over the promise of opening the season on Christmas Day, and the teams hopes for success early on in the season. The actual act of rolling the ankle didn't look all that bad, but you could tell by Curry's reaction that he was in lots of pain, and the sight of him leaving Sactown on crutches certainly doesn't inspire confidence for a speedy recover. We still don't know how serious the injury is though, so until we do let's all hope that this is just a small bump in the road for the franchise's most important player. In the mean time, hit the jump for some player evaluations and game notes from tonight's action!
Back-up Point Guard Controversy?
The good news is that after just two preseason games we've seen some promising play from our two new pickups at the PG spot. The bad news, of course, is that we might be relying on these guys to make major contributions if Curry is to miss any significant time with this ankle sprain. Charles Jenkins had a nice game Saturday, but only hit the court for 11 minutes (and didn't exactly fill the stat sheet) so let's focus on Ish Smith's first time suiting up for the Warriors. The first impression is undeniable... the guy is fast. Sure, he may have some major holes in his game, but his speed can go a long way to make up for some of his other shortcomings. We saw a great example of this early in the first half when he drove the lane only to get his shot blocked. As the Kings took off on the break he was well under the basket on the baseline, and yet somehow by the time the Kings made it to the other end of the floor he had come flying down the court to get in the passing lanes and steal the ball right back. The guy has jaw-dropping speed. Later in the game he flashed it again when he grabbed a rebound on the defensive end and took it coast to coast to draw a shooting foul at the rim. As the game went on he seemed pretty comfortable running the team, despite barely knowing the offense. His handles looked solid, and he even had some nice passes out there. The big question with him has been, and will continue to be his shooting, and overall ability to score. What good is it to have the speed to get in the lane if you can't finish. Will defenses start to sag off of him if he can't show a consistent outside shot? Jenkins may end up taking the spot with a more balanced offensive game, but time will tell.
With reports of a sexual harassment suit arising just before game time it would certainly be understandable for Monta to come out a little distracted, and early on that seemed to be the case. He put up some really bad shots in the first half. It was beyond "forcing it." These were contested, drifting, mid range jumpers that you'd hope to only see with two seconds on the shot clock, not twenty. The good news is that as the game went on Monta settled down, and ended up having a decent, if unspectacular, night.
Klay Thompson: A one dimensional shooter... wait, what?
The consensus on Klay coming into training camp was that he was an excellent shooter, but that he might struggle to play defense, get into the lane, and handle the ball at this level. Well, so far he's been pretty much the polar opposite of that. His shooting has been horrendous (2-15 tonight, 0-7 on threes) but he's been surprisingly good in the areas he's been expected to struggle in. He's been rebounding well, playing pretty decent D, and getting into the lane fairly easily. It's only been two preseason games, so there is still not much reason to think he's all that different of a player than we thought he'd be. But hey, I think I'll look at this optimistically and say that his shot will come along, and that he just might be a much more well rounded player than we thought he might be. Yeah, yeah, let's not talk about how most of his minutes have come against another rookie guard who's not exactly a proven NBA defender. Moving on.
David Lee: This guy is a bargain!
After one season of watching Lee struggle to live up to expectations and a hefty paycheck, Warriors fans (myself included at times) were ready trade him and his contract for a bag of balls and a clean slate. Well, tonight we caught a glimpse of the David Lee that many GSoMers used to drool over, and post trade-machine fantasies about when he was with the Knicks. Sure, there is still plenty of sarcasm in my proclamation above, but this might be a good time to remember that Lee was looking pretty darn good last year before losing a good chunk of his season (and a good chunk of his arm) to the zombie apocalypse that is Wilson Chandler. He finished the night with 30pts (on 11-19)13reb 4ast 2blk 2stl, and he looked aggressive on offense, cutting to the basket and consistently looking for contact in the paint. I don't know if Lee will ever be a good value on this contract, but but he will certainly be more valuable if the team continues to take advantage of his skill set the way they did tonight. He's at his best moving to the basket, whether it's on pick and rolls, or weak side cuts to the rim, the Warriors need to continue to get the ball in his hands on the move where he can put bigger inside defenders in a tough spot. I'll be happy to say goodbye to Lee post-ups and isolations 18 feet from the hoop.
It's still obviously way too early to judge, but I've already seen more active team defense than I remember seeing all last season. Combine that effort with better ball movement, and what seems to be a better understanding of how to put players in a position to succeed on offense, and let's say I'm a little more than cautiously optimistic about our new coaching staff.