I slept through most of the All-Star festivities last weekend. That kind of stuff happens, I assume, when you've been working all week, Valentine's Day pops up out of thin air, and the somewhat irrevocably important House of Cards just airs. Through highlights and the constant swipe-down on the Twitter timeline throughout the night, I apparently only missed Harrison Barnes shooting layups in a DUNK CONTEST, Stephen Curry bricking in a shooting contest because there wasn't a fire-breathing dragon between him and the basket, and then more of this dragon-less defense in the main event All-Star Game.
Well, and that.
Beyond that, we're all looking forward to an intense second half, one that's likely defined by the deadline movement and financial freedom of management, tension between coaches and players (Andrew Bogut?), and how the team adjusts to the struggling schemes and mindset over the final 29 games.
Here are a couple things to chew over when discussing what's in store for the Golden State Warriors:
Luxury Tax Woes
With the trade deadline fast approaching (February 20th) there are sure to be numerous "Who says no?" trade proposals out there. I even tossed out my own David Lee for Ersan Ilysova/filler out there but it was quickly shut down. The Warriors are said to be connected to Steve Blake.
Perhaps the most significant development during these last few days will be how Bob Myers handles the salary cap. Even though they are a couple million dollars under the cap, Joe Lacob has stated his verbal approval in going over the number. However, one has to assume that this is only if the braintrust believes they are one piece away. Is trading Harrison Barnes/Klay Thompson and taking someone back with a larger contract it? Do they believe that Mark Jackson can fit all these pieces seamlessly with much less than half a season left? At 31-22, the Warriors are still in prime postseason positioning but are further away from where they expected to be this late into the year.
Perhaps the most important aspect of Warriors and trades is the total and utter lack of assets the Warriors own and are willing to give up. If they are as high as they say they are on Barnes and Thompson, there's nothing outside of a 2058 first round pick they can dangle to other teams. But this is where Bob Myers has excelled in making magic out of just dirt and stone (excuse horrible vampire show analogies). In order to acquire Iguodala, the Warriors unloaded two massive contracts but shelled out future picks and had to wrangle in a third team. Myers then did it again in the trade for Jordan Crawford. Getting the Miami Heat involved allowed the one-on-one swap necessary in terms of salary commitments. And although Iguodala has been awful on offense lately and Crawford unlikely to be the bench savior, it's been both a success on and off the court.
Lacob is willing to make the move for a championship if he sees fit but Myers has shown an ability to navigate the team forward despite the financial restraints.
Unfortunately, the recent inability to win games against seemingly inferior opponents at home have avalanched minor concerns into full-blown Mark Jackson tirades and subsequent "I have my coach's back, sorta, if he wins, we should really win, why aren't we winning more?" owner-speak and self-realization from Joe Lacob.
Jackson still hasn't received the raise and extension he wanted in the offseason. I'm probably tuning too deeply into my inner Dr. Phil but how will the constant target-on-his-back escalate the pressure already burdened onto Jackson? In the rant to the media he forcefully reiterated that he would go down coaching this way, even though no one had explicitly questioned him about his job security. Insecurity seems to be an issue not just in the "old era" but the people in charge right now.
But unlike what happened before, there's more than enough talent and successful management in the present to prevent the Warriors from repeating the mistakes from the past.
All the talk about management and issues arising from places off the court fails to address the happenings on the hardwood. In a perfect world, filled with Stephen Curry lefty jumpers, Andre Iguodala and Bogut comes out of the break healthy, Klay Thompson isn't tired from running around like a damn marathon runner, Barnes finds a new, aggressive mindset, and the bench, well, the bench is something between Marreese Speights' on his best day and Marreese Speights on any other day in history.
Jackson has had nearly a week to figure out what to do with his struggling offense, scrambling defense without Bogut, and a team still trying to find an identity and scheme with which to confidently fall back on.
Does he scrap the isolation sets (namely for Barnes and Jermaine O'Neal) in favor of a motion offense? One assumes, because comfortability breeds predictability, that the Jarrett Jack penetration-iso success has played a big part in how Jackson has coached this team. When the first option didn't work and plays died with about half the shot clock left, Jack was left with driving and creating all on his own. Jackson has essentially entrusted young players like Thompson and Barnes to share the burden and it's been an unmitigated disaster, especially with the special season Curry is having.
It wasn't that long ago when the Warriors won 48 games and missed the playoffs after a surprising first round upset against the Dallas Mavericks the season before. After that, the Dubs dismantled their team, going young, and ostensibly building a sustainable, successful team while developing a winning atmosphere. It didn't work.
Now with the core seemingly set, how will the Warriors approach the rest of the season? Because as disappointing as the first half may have been, the trades, coaching, and overall performance in the next 29-57 games will determine not just how we view the team now but how the Golden State Warriors will view themselves for the future.