At its core, sports is about winning. No matter how much is made of sportsmanship and respect, at the end of the day, each team's goal is to do whatever it takes to defeat the other team. Winning defines players, organizations, and owners. Win consistently and you are lauded as the jewel of your sport. Lose consistently and you are the laughingstock of your sport.
This is why it was so easy for fans to criticize the Warriors for the past few years. There was nothing redeemable about them - the players did not play defense correctly, Monta isolated too much, and most importantly, they kept losing. The Warriors remained locked in the Bay Area sports cellar and did not appear to be ready to leave anytime soon. It was not fun to be a Warriors fan.
However, as this 2011-2012 Warriors season has gone on, those run and gun Warriors have not seemed so bad in retrospect. They were not a talented team, but they knew how to make a game exciting - they always looked to push the ball to try to get an open three or dunk. This led to bad defense and groans from the fans, but it also led to some jaw-dropping plays, especially at Oracle Arena. The team seemed to play faster and harder to entertain the fans at Oracle, so you could always expect to be entertained if you bought tickets, as long as you did not expect a win.
This season's Warriors are the opposite of those Warriors. They execute in half court, attempt to clamp down on defense, and play a slower game. However, the issue is that they do not execute well in the half court and cannot defend consistently. Moreover, they suddenly cannot execute the fast break, which leads to blown layups and silly turnovers. While their defensive efficiency is still about the same as last year, their offensive efficiency has fallen off a cliff. Record-wise, the Warriors are worse than last year, when Keith Smart was criticized for failing to set the correct rotations and teaching his players how to play defense.
Ultimately, the problem is that this year's team is a paradox. The Warriors are defensive minded team filled with bad defensive players. They play at a much slower pace in an attempt to play better defense, but as the season has gone on the players have reverted back to form. Rotations are much slower than earlier in the season, multiple players make mental mistakes on defense, and the team often relies on zone to cover up its deficiencies. But because they are still a defensive minded team, they continue to play at a slower pace. This keeps the scores of games closer, but does not signify real improvement and does not make the game any more enjoyable.
In previous seasons, the Warriors did not kid themselves. Nobody on the team was a good defender, so they didn't try to pretend that they were a defensive team. By maximizing their talents on offense, the Warriors kept things fun for the fans. It was exciting to watch Dorell Wright rise up for a three during a fast break, because you knew that he would make it. Every game you knew that the Warriors would go on a crazy run sooner or later and that Oracle would go nuts, even if the Warriors were still down by double digits. Despite all the losing, the Warriors were still an entertaining team for the fans to watch.
So here is some belated appreciation to the run and gun Warriors. You were not a good team, but at least you made the losses bearable.