Way back when I was teenager trying to find my way into a job in sports, I held a couple of internships in PR departments for professional sports teams in which I was occasionally tasked with drafting press releases for teams when they acquired veteran players.
It was a pretty exhilarating experience at that time to see people — like actual, paid journalists — use the copy that you drafted in their reporting about player signings, particularly when you went out of your way to fluff up a release about a player who you knew was almost at the end of his career. One former All-Star I wrote a release for in college was particularly amusing (I often write to amuse myself more than anyone else) because it seemed that people fell for the trick of noting the player's multiple All-Star appearances instead of his steadily declining shooting percentages.
The reason people are so quick to fixate on positives is obvious: people want to be optimistic about new acquisitions, not only because novelty tends to excite people but also because sports fans are always looking for signs for hope for the future and novelty can bring hope in that the future is uncertain. Yet in that light, I find the response to the Golden State Warriors' acquisition of Anderson Varejao interesting because, for the most part, expectations have been tempered.
And why not? He has played 31 games or less in four of the last five seasons; in his 31 games thus far this season, he has played a career-low 10 minutes per game.
Injury and age have left little room for surface-level hope.
I will be shocked if Varejao contributes more than 60 total minutes with the Warriors.— EvanZ (@thecity2) February 22, 2016
However, the Warriors themselves are quite hopeful about the prospects of Varejao contributing. Varejao has passed his physical and could be available to play as soon as tomorrow, according to Paul Newberry of the AP. Rusty Simmons of the S.F. Chronicle reported that the Warriors have given Varejao a video playbook with which to acclimate himself to the team and believe that will be enough to prepare him to play for a historically dominant defending champion. That's lofty praise for a player who many are tempering expectations for, especially given that the veteran he's replacing couldn't seem to acclimate himself to the offense over the course of nearly half a year, as Ethan Strauss of ESPN alluded to in his article about the Varejao signing.
...Thompson struggled to grasp Golden State's offense and defense. That's understandable considering how so much of what happens on the Warriors is improvised, but within an overarching structure. It's hard to play for this particular team if you lack an advanced feel for the game...So the idea seems to be that Varejao, who has yet to join his new team pending a physical, could operate in something of an Andrew Bogut-type role: Get the ball up top, wait for dribble hand offs and Golden State's array of cuts. The Warriors are hoping to salvage Varejao from the NBA's scrap heap by making him a hub.
Still, the learning curve will be steep for the Brazilian big man, a project for the Warriors down the stretch of this season.
If the Warriors can maximize a player's talent by giving him responsibilities that many players his size simply cannot assume, I'll give the Warriors' brass another gold star for outstanding performance in NBA team building.
Or maybe some people are already anticipating the type of revival that would make even the most overzealous PR intern blush.
@AminESPN Varajeo is NOT a poor mans Bogut..would take Varajeo over Bogut everytime..way better on defense and brings a lot more energy— John Mould (@mouldie21) February 22, 2016
Either way, this will certainly test the Warriors' ability to identify and mold the right players into what they need.
I see Lebron's master plan to get Andy V to become a double agent and steal GSW's game plan is falling into place. https://t.co/uSvY6vzYf8— Adam Mares (@Adam_Mares) February 20, 2016
Draymond Green's improvement
There has been quite a bit written about Draymond Green's role in the Warriors' pick-and-roll attack and overall improvement this year, but Jeff Siegel of FanSided did an outstanding job showing how Green's skills in those pick-and-roll situations have improved over the years and describing why the Warriors' pick-and-roll has been so lethal. Warriors fans know this, but in the never-ending search for words to describe this team, this is a great read:
Green’s development as a playmaker in the pick-and-roll has been the most important component of the Warriors’ historic run these last two seasons. The only hope for stopping Curry in the pick-and-roll is to double him; at that time the ball then gets swung to Green who faces a 4-on-3 situation against a scrambling defense. His ability to make the right play in these situations leaves opposing defenses with no way to guard the Warriors...The Green-Curry pick-and-roll is so good because it forces opposing defenses to make impossible choices; it’s all about playing the percentages...The defense plays the percentages, yet all percentages seem to work out in Golden State’s favor.
As many of you already know, I could go on about Draymond Green, but for now I'll allow the Twittersphere to weigh in.
There are only 2 guys in the NBA who could be plugged into Draymond's role - LeBron and Towns https://t.co/XXENbF70GC— Jonathan Tjarks (@JonathanTjarks) February 21, 2016
Which All-NBA Team do you think Draymond ends up on this year?— Nate Jones (@JonesOnTheNBA) February 21, 2016
After tonight, Draymond Green has recorded a triple-double in 20% (11/54) of the Warriors' total games played this season.— Rob Perez (@World_Wide_Wob) February 21, 2016
Ezeli's absence has been obscured by those awesome Dray-at-the-5 lineups, but it's certainly a void. Thin up front now— Ethan Strauss (@SherwoodStrauss) February 20, 2016
The success of small ball
Along the lines of Green's value, his importance to small ball was on full display in the win against the Los Angeles Clippers on Saturday when he made them pay for their attempts to play center DeAndre Jordan when the Warriors were forced to go small due to the absence of Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli.
That led to some more interesting observations about small ball.
I'd add to @JalenRose that the officiating hinders bigger/stronger players. Little guys allowed to hold & foul bigger guys. All levels.— Brian McCormick, PhD (@brianmccormick) February 21, 2016
Because of the way the game is officiated, back to the basket post play is a poor offensive strategy.— Brian McCormick, PhD (@brianmccormick) February 21, 2016
Small ball isn't about size; it's about skill. You down size to get more shooters & passers on court. It's not just playing shorter players.— Brian McCormick, PhD (@brianmccormick) February 21, 2016
When Golden State plays 5 wings, you need to play 5 wings to beat them. Which coach has the courage (and the players) to go small with them?— Jonathan Tjarks (@JonathanTjarks) February 21, 2016
Steph Curry's court vision
Dave Zarum of SportsNet magazine wrote a great article about Steph Curry's life and basketball development back in December that was re-circulated around the time of the All-Sta Game. I thought about his commentary about Curry's court vision when I saw this play last night.
Sometimes I don't know if it's even possible to fully appreciate what we've had the pleasure of witnessing.
Damian Lillard's career game against the Warriors
Back on February 11, Nick DePaula of The Vertical wrote the following about Oakland native Damian Lillard in a great article about his pride for The Town: "With the second half of the NBA season soon beginning, Lillard looks to carry on that all-out and relentless Oakland mentality down the stretch for the postseason push, with his hometown pride showcased in the ink along his chest and etched into the rubber on his newest shoe."
Then Lillard did this to his hometown Warriors:
Dame's stat line tonight vs the Warriors = .— Chiney Ogwumike (@Chiney321) February 20, 2016
31 mins pic.twitter.com/cSxFvyikk4
Oakland's own & snubbed AllStar Damian Lillard's career-high 51 points are most ever by a Blazer against his hometown Warriors. #townbizness— Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) February 20, 2016
That led Alistair Mackay of the blog Future Canon to observe the following:
I was a little surprised that Lillard's performance last night was apparently only the 3rd best of the season according to the ESPN Player Rating, trailing Steph's game against the Pelicans in October and Boogie's explosion against the Hornets last month. The Curry performance also beat out Lillard's on the Basketball Reference Game Score rankings. Shouldn't the fact that Lillard did it in 31 minutes count for something? 1.65 points per minute isn't something to sniff at...Using the DRE formula... the best performance of the season to that point was Klay Thompson's 52 point magic show against the Kings (including the 37 point quarter), which netted him DRE of 26.7. Curry, for reference, has by far the league high average DRE at 9.4. Lillard's performance last night came out at 32.8.
So that means Bay Area fans just can't lose this season, right?
Kevin Durant to the rescue! https://t.co/M5cj4GoDeF— Andy Liu (@AndyKHLiu) February 20, 2016
Games like this, for me, underscore the lack of a penetrator/foul drawer ... Somebody besides Curry to settle things down— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) February 20, 2016
Yup. Attack them, get fouls on Curry and Draymond. https://t.co/aUP7DpCS2L— BBALLBREAKDOWN (@bballbreakdown) February 20, 2016
It always amazes me to see how badly people want to believe in the Clippers. But after I made reference to the 2014 NBA Playoff matchup between the Warriors and Clippers, another thought came to mind: how much better at player/roster development have the Warriors been than the Clippers in that time?
While Doc Rivers has chased/retained aging players without much room to improve, the Warriors have surpassed them in the league's pecking order by having players like Curry, Green, Ezeli, Harrison Barnes, Marreese Speights (er, last season), Klay Thompson, and even Brandon Rush show improvement. And maybe that's something that should be considered when discussing a possible Durant addition too, as Andy Liu has already noted:
They will if they come to GSW. Dray, Klay, Steph. KD next. Maybe AD if he wants too, I guess. https://t.co/J8VXNIggag— Andy Liu (@AndyKHLiu) February 21, 2016
OK, now, back to the Clippers.
The Clippers have 2 players who make the Warriors adjust what they do. Everyone else, they'll live with their best game— Marcus Thompson (@ThompsonScribe) February 21, 2016
You have summed this is up better than I could. https://t.co/IrZ8lOwQ7v— Tim Kawakami (@timkawakami) February 21, 2016
If (read: when) Lance is traded, that means the Los Angeles Clippers will open up 2016-17 with their 5th different starting SF in 5 years.— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) February 17, 2016
Random tweets: The chase for 72
1996 Bulls lost consecutive games just once during 72-win season. Warriors just took the court hoping to avoid first 2-game losing streak...— Ben Golliver (@BenGolliver) February 21, 2016
If you wonder whether Warriors can break 72-10 record at this point, they've lost 4x in 52 games. Not a chance they lose 6+ in 30 games.— Jim Park (@SheridanBlog) February 19, 2016
Also, if it takes Warriors 52 games to lose 4 times, how the hell are they going to lose 4 times in 7 games in the playoffs? lol— Jim Park (@SheridanBlog) February 19, 2016
There are certainly other links, tweets, vines, and videos that I have likely missed, so feel free to drop links from this morning in the comments, create a FanShot with links that we can share on our social channels, or write a FanPost if you have a longer commentary to share with the community.
And since Kurt Rambis reminded us all that people other can actually view your "likes" on Twitter, feel free to check up on what I've been keeping track of during the week by following me at @NateP_SBN and letting me know what I've missed.