Posted Aug 20, 2012 10:37 AM
This is the first in a series of articles on the teams that did not make the playoffs last season, previewing their prospects of making it to the postseason in 2012-13. Next up: the Sacramento Kings.
This is it. No, seriously. Stop laughing. Stop with rubbing the rabbit's foot and searching for four-leaf clovers, too.
This is the Warriors crashing the playoffs, once and for all. Really. Not only that, but becoming postseason regulars with a window of opportunity that will last years.
Would they lie?
Just maybe, Golden State has it right this time. It is reasonable to think playoffs after the last five months: the major trade at the deadline that still has not kicked in, the Draft, the summer deal and free-agent decisions. That's as far as the bold proclamations should go. But the Warriors have made themselves better.
How much better will depend on health, perhaps more than any other team, and how coach Mark Jackson does with expectations to deliver the postseason, not just predict an appearance as he did last season.
Enough with the talking. This is it.
The Warriors of 2011-12 were DOA. They had a new coach in Jackson but no typical training camp or in-season practice schedule thanks to the lockout calendar. They had the same center -- although it still was Andris Biedrins -- and they clearly did not want to have to rely on him. Same brutal rebounding. A series of ankle problems, early and often, for Stephen Curry. Trading Monta Ellis and Ekpe Udoh to Milwaukee for Andrew Bogut, then never getting Bogut on the court as he recovered from a fractured ankle. It was one thing after another.
Jackson reached to force feed a new atmosphere, as new coaches or execs are known to do for franchises that have known so much losing. By spring, the succession plan of Bob Myers one day replacing Larry Riley as general manager was being accelerated, until Myers took over in April.
Relying on a coach and a GM with very little experience was a new direction for the organization, all right.
The Warriors used the Draft, free agency and summer trades to fill almost every hole. Need a backup point guard? Jarrett Jack. Need a backup power forward? Carl Landry. Need a backup center? Festus Ezeli can go from last pick of the first round to growing into that role. Need depth on the wings? Re-sign Brandon Rush and draft Draymond Green. Need a starting small forward? Draft Harrison Barnes.
Given that he has yet to play, the Bogut swap from March can be grouped among the summer transactions as a new acquisition. That's the biggest one, too, the center the Warriors have been chasing for years, the basis of the hope for major gains on defense and the boards, a big man who will fit perfectly into the loaded offense because he can pass as well as score.
That's a lot of buying on spec: that Barnes and Ezeli will play well as rookies (especially in Ezeli's case) and that Bogut will reach 2012-13 in good health. That's also a lot of reason to consider it a satisfying offseason.
Every team has to worry about injuries. The Warriors are the one that has to sweat two starters coming off major health concerns. Curry managed just 26 games in 2011-12 before the last of a series of right ankle sprains forced him out for good, eventually leading to surgery that, the team said, found no structural damage. Bogut was already out with a fractured left ankle at the time of the March 13 move from Milwaukee to Oakland, didn't suit up as a Warrior and also had surgery. How the point guard and the center have recovered will largely determine whether Golden State recovers.
Playoff prospects are good, health willing. And with so much of the projected rotation still young, the Warriors are looking at the possibility of an initial postseason appearance as a building block, not a finish line. They have serious questions to answer -- defense and rebounding, health, the ability of the current rookie class to make an immediate contribution -- but also, finally, long-term possibilities. No lie.
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