The late-2013 edition of the Golden State Warriors deserve their own walled-off section in a mental hospital. They say that the definition of insanity is to doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This team has now fallen behind by double-digits against the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Memphis Grizzlies, and Toronto Raptors before staging some type of rally in narrowing the deficit. It's worked one time, relying on a historic shooting effort to squeak by a horrendous Rudy Gay-led squad.
With about a quarter of the season gone by, Mark Jackson has seemed unperturbed, as far as game planning goes, in ridding of this horrific stench of basketball. Starting with the incessant post-up nature of certain players in "favorable" matchups to start the season, the Warriors have gone back to the dried-up well repeatedly, in hopes that the players will "make something happen". Hoping and executing are two different things. Putting your players in situations to fail or lowering their probability to succeed qualifies in the former category. And so the Warriors started this game trying to get David Lee and Harrison Barnes going, almost to a fault. Problem was? Lee was shorter than Terrence Jones and couldn't guard him; and getting James Harden isolated on defense only made the oft-criticized defender try harder.
Harden's problem has been his inability to chase cutters and shooters on the floor. Instead of running Barnes through pick-and-rolls, screens, or just empty space, keeping Harden stationery made the job for him that much easier. Harden coasted to a 34-point night on the other end of the floor.
Perpetually playing with the need to make a perfect play takes its toll on any basketball team, no matter how talented. Every turnover, missed shot and lack of a defensive rebound compounds the already-large problem at hand. The Warriors function best when playing a free-flowing game, with excellent passers stationed across the perimeter as well as the paint. Has Andre Iguodala been missed that much or has the excellent play in the first ten games been a mirage and product of horrible teams? Regardless of the answer, it's worrisome to think that they've been looking so lost, at times, on offense without a player with much tangible offensive output.
The Warriors are 11-9 now. If we're being honest, and without making the excuses that Jackson always preaches to avoid, they are playing well below expectations. But one can argue they've lost the games they should win. But with the style and level of play to start the season, it's disappointing to lose to contenders every time out. Especially ones without their starting point guard (Jeremy Lin), star backup center (Omer Asik), and two of the top three players banged up (Harden and Chandler Parsons). Random demarcation points in any season are ambiguous and deceiving to the eye of any beholder but, hey, the Warriors were 13-7 at this point last season. When healthy and matched up together, this year's edition is probably a better team but they're not playing like it.
There's only so many Jermaine O'Neal speeches to keep this team coming back from the graves they keep digging themselves during random periods of every game. If it's a matter of effort, then that's fixable, especially on a team with seemingly strong leadership qualities. If it's a schematic issue, there's evidence that Jackson will do what it takes to put players in the right situations. He still is the same guy that started Barnes at the power forward position; in a playoff series, no less. Borne out of necessity or not, he could have easily gone the "conventional" route. This isn't to say that benching Lee would solve problems but it might not hurt, either. I don't know, I'm not nearly as smart as a quarter of the coach Jackson is.
We can question -- and expect the groans to become more audible if they lose to the Marc Gasol-less Grizzlies tomorrow -- but here's hoping (again) this prolonged slump, even during wins, becomes more of a teaching and learning moment in the season instead of a debilitating theme throughout.
And, of course, I hedge everything i say with the fact that once Iguodala returns (it could be tomorrow, given the nature of the Warriors injury secrecies), everything will be fixed.
When in doubt, I'll take the best player on the team.