Game Thread #50: New Jersey Nets @ Golden State Warriors - Reminiscing Avery Johnson's 93-94 season with the Warriors (Chris Webber's rookie year)

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New Jersey Nets (17-35) at Golden State Warriors (20-29)

Tipoff: 7:30pm PDT

TV: CSN Bay Area | Radio: KNBR 680

Blog Buddy: NetsDaily

For a "real" and thorough preview of this game, which includes many other preview links, please check out our blog buddy NetsDaily's preview. Other fun things to look out for in tonight's game, besides Deron Williams, of course: Marshon Brooks (turning out to be a better draft pick than Kemba Walker), Kris Humphries vs David Lee straight up, and the newly acquired Gerald Wallace. On paper, the Nets actually look pretty good, so who knows what's happening over there.

But I thought we'd take a step back on memory lane as we welcome head coach Avery Johnson back to the Bay. Remember 1993-94? Chris Webber's rookie year. Avery was brought in to replace Tim Hardaway, who suffered a heartbreaking ACL during practice (practice!) in the preseason. Let's take a look and please feel free to comment and fill in any blanks, as I don't recall all the details myself...

Per Bill Simmons's recent brilliant "wikipedia" post on the Warriors (shall we refer to it from now on as "60 Reasons"?)...

The '94 Warriors featured an incredible starting five on paper: Webber, Chris Mullin, Tim Hardaway, Latrell Sprewell and Billy Owens. And that's where it stayed: on paper. Hardaway blew out an ACL before the season. The team was talented enough that they won 50 games before being swept by Phoenix in Round 1.

Actually, the starting five on paper at the beginning of the 94-95 season was even better: Hardaway, Sprewell, Mullin, Webber, and "auto-double-double" (seriously) Rony Seikaly. In my mind, the most lethal starting five never to actually take the court. But we won't talk about that today.

The best way to reminisce is to lookup our old buddy Basketball-Reference.com. Here's the link to Avery Johnson's season, which featured 82 games, 70 starts, and a 50-32 season...

http://www.basketball-reference.com/players/j/johnsav01/gamelog/1994/

Believe it or not, the starting lineup on opening day was this: Avery, Spre, Owens, Andre Spencer (who?), and Victor Alexander. Webber missed the first three games. Mully must've been injured, as he missed the first 20 games. And did you know we had Keith Jennings that season too? [ASIDE: Keith's brother Ken had a team (stats!) eons ago in Dream League and they were pretty awesome. We're talking dunks in rec league from Oakland legends like Roy Byrd and Jairus Michael.]

By the time Mully became active, the Warriors were 11-9. Mullin would score 23 points off the bench the next game, and the starting five for now Hall of Fame coach Don Nelson soon was shaped into Avery, Spre, Mully, Owens, and Webber. Based on the boxscores, it appears Mullin would even come off the bench, with Alexander starting, if the Warriors were facing a team with a big starting five.

Man, this was a fun team. Nellie would insert Chris Gatling or Byron Houston into the starting lineup every now and then. The team won five in a row, then later six in a row, then closed out the season with eight straight followed by a loss in the last game, to finish 50-32.

Curiously, by the time the Warriors were 36-27 and about to face Shaq's Orlando Magic (Anfernee Hardaway, Nick Anderson, and Dennis Scott too), Nellie had Avery coming off the bench and started Owens, Spre, Mully, Webber, and Gatling. If memory serves correct, Nellie had Owens playing point-forward.

And that would be the starters for the ill-fated series against Charles Barkley's Phoenix Suns. Nellie even started Byron Houston in Games 2 and 3. The Western Conference was stacked back in that era. Barkley's Suns eventually lost to Hakeem Olajuwon's Rockets in the Conference Semifinals. The Rockets then beat the Jazz in the Conference Finals and the Knicks in the Finals. Let's not forget the Sonics led by Shawn Kemp and Gary Payton. And through it all, the Warriors of 1993-94 still won fifty games.

You look at this Warriors lineup on paper and with names like Jennings, Jeff Grayer, Jud Beuchler, Houston, Gatling, Alexander, and you wonder how it won 50 games. I think that just goes to show you how incredibly talented Sprewell, Webber, and Mullin were. The next year Tim Hardaway would return and a bonafide 5 in Seikaly would join the team. Oh, and Chris Cohan bought the team.

But despite his yeoman efforts, Avery Johnson would depart and so would you-know-who, sending the franchise into a tailspin it has yet to recover from after nearly two decades. Still, what a season!

I'll be at the Nets/Warriors game tonight. I'll update this post with the best comments reminiscing from '93-94 as well, tomorrow. Follow me on Twitter...

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