It's quite early, but after two preseason games and two regular season games, I must say that I like what I'm seeing. On paper you'd think that when a team has the same starting five from one year to the next there shouldn't be much mystery, but I feel like I'm watching a whole new team. With the new coaching staff and the overhaul of the bench, these look like some very different Warriors. Jump for some game notes, and some quick thoughts on this team's newly emerging identity.
- Stephen Curry tweaked his injured right ankle about halfway into the fourth quarter. The offense certainly didn't flow as well from then on, but the Warriors played tough and were able to preserve the lead and secure the win. He left the game with 21pts (on 12 shots) 10ast 7reb and 6stl in 37 minutes. Wow.
- On offense Curry, Ellis, and Lee looked like the best versions of themselves tonight. They each scored more than 20 points, and they did it in the right way. It was a good reminder of this team's offensive potential to see them do that against what should be one of the leagues best defenses.
- Kwame Brown looks to be playing his way into game shape, but he provided 23 great minutes at the center spot tonight. With Lee, Udoh, Biedrins, and Kwame, this Warriors team has a pretty respectable complement of big men, whose skills seem to complement one another, and that's a compliment... I think, right? Did I mention this recap is complimentary? Seriously, put your wallet away.
With the shortened training camp and preseason it would be impossible for Mark Jackson to have any sort of system fully installed at this point, but here are a few thoughts about what I think I'm seeing, or maybe what I hope I'm seeing.
From what we've seen on the court Coach Jackson seems to demand a much higher level of defensive effort and activity than we are accustomed to seeing here in the Bay. Tonight the Warriors came away with 16 steals (7 from the center spot!) and were getting deflections that were constantly disrupting Chicago's offensive flow and forcing them to turn the ball over twice as many times as the Warriors did. Enforcing this kind of effort over the course of an entire season can be tough for a coach, but it doesn't hurt having guys like Brandon Rush, Udoh, and Brown ready to come in off the bench and play hard defense. Whatever he's doing to keep guys focused on that end of the floor seems to be working so far. It's only two games in, but we've already seen the team show a variety of looks on D, handling things like the pick and roll, post threats, and guard penetration a few different ways, and doing it effectively. I've heard people say that defense is one of the only places in basketball where coaching and effort matter more that raw talent, and this will be an interesting team to watch if you'd like to test that theory. I'll be very impressed if Coach can change the defensive culture enough to make competent defenders out of guys like Ellis and Lee over the course of the season.
So far we've heard Mark Jackson use words like "random" and "freestyle" when referring to this team's offense. It's pretty clear that the focus for the coaching staff has had to be on the other end of the floor, as it should be. It's actually been refreshing to see the team get back to basics like moving the ball around, and getting guys the ball in places they've proven they can be successful. I haven't seen Jackson calling as many plays as Smart did, and that has meant far fewer isolations, and better movement without the ball. He's trusting his player to create scoring opportunities in the flow of the game, for themselves and others. So far the best signs have been Steph's aggressiveness, Lee getting the ball on the move to the rim, and Ellis drawing attention on the drive and dropping it to the big men when the defense collapses. There is still plenty of room for improvement, but I'd bet this coaching staff already has a better idea of how to play to the team's strengths than we saw last year. And let's not forget that the more turnovers you create on defense, the more fast break opportunities you have. Back when Ellis was at his most efficient he just so happened to be leading the league in fast break points on a team that was second in the league in steals, and first in opponent's turnovers... coincidence? I think not.
GSoMer tafkasam, for going to the game and calling the victory in the game thread!! Okay, okay, not really. I have to give this one to Steph Curry for filling out the stat sheet in all the right places. I would have loved to see a healthy Steph grab three rebounds and four steals in the second half of that fourth quarter to end the game with the Quadruple-Double! Big honorable mention goes out to Kwame Brown for anchoring the defense during some big Warrior runs.