By Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com
Posted Oct 16 2012 2:10PM
Mark Jackson is a practiced, even a professional, speaker. He knows what to say and how to say it. He grew up on the New York City blacktops, played at St. John's in the rich days of the Big East and under the bright lights for the Knicks, then had long playoff runs as a Pacer with Larry Bird as his coach and Reggie Miller as a teammate.
So of course there is no sign that Jackson is feeling pressure and certainly no sighting of concern. That is not the Jackson way.
The only hint of retreat heading into the second season as Warriors coach is dialing down the rhetoric and backing away from the guarantees. Rookie coach Jackson promised about a year ago that Golden State would make the playoffs. The Warriors didn't. For 2012-13, the former point guard has fallen into the company plan of less buildup and more proving.
A lot more proving. The Warriors are annual contenders for the hype championship, through different management teams and coaches and certainly changing waves of players. Now the organization has made a noticeable turn making the actions the only voice that matters.
Timing has everything to do with it: The Warriors will finally have Andrew Bogut in uniform as the planned long-sought solution at center. Stephen Curry is claiming a return to health after a season of ankle problems. Klay Thompson is coming off a very promising rookie showing. Harrison Barnes is the lottery pick with a bright future, and several direct-hit roster moves greatly improved the depth. There is no need for a catchy marketing campaign. There is talent and real potential.
Oh, and there is a coach that needs to produce.
If Jackson was under scrutiny in 2011-12 as a hire without previous coaching experience -- at any level, as an assistant or in the No. 1 chair -- the scrutiny that follows him into the second season is more intense. He isn't close to having the most heat even in his own Pacific Division, an unwanted distinction that goes to Vinny Del Negro of the Clippers and/or Mike Brown of the Lakers. But the series of summer moves out of Oakland has pushed Golden State expectations to a different level than a year ago.
"Obviously they're different," Jackson said. "I think we've upgraded through the draft, through free agency and through trades. We're certainly a better basketball team and we all expect different results."
Then: He guaranteed the playoffs.
Now: He'd better get to the playoffs.
There has been no edict from owner Joe Lacob or general manager Bob Myers about Jackson needing the postseason to keep his job. But to keep one of the most passionate fan bases in the league from screaming for a coaching change, everyone knows what has to happen.
It's a challenge. Two of the best teams in the league, the Lakers and Clippers, are in his division. His top assistant, Michael Malone, is regarded by many, including Lacob, to be an excellent prospect as a head coach.
Still, if Curry can finally shake chronic ankle issues and Bogut comes back strong from the fractured ankle that kept him sidelined after being acquired from the Bucks in March, it is fair to give the Warriors a legit chance of playing at least into the end of April.
When Jackson is asked the one area he needs to most improve as a coach, he said, "We need to win."
"No," he came the clarification, "you as a coach."
He didn't hesitate.
"I need to win," Jackson said.
1. Small forward is the lone position battle in the starting lineup, with extra intrigue because one of the candidates is Barnes, the lottery pick and among the hoped-for foundations of the future. Veterans Brandon Rush and Richard Jefferson are also contending to join Curry, Thompson, David Lee and, when healthy, Bogut.
2. For all the experience on the deep roster, the Warriors may rely heavily on rookies. Festus Ezeli will be the opening-night starter at center if Bogut's recovery does not go as planned, and Ezeli will probably play a lot right away no matter what as the backup. And Barnes is expected to have a prominent role as well. That's all in addition to Thompson at shooting guard in his second season.
3. The Warriors still need to prove they can stop the opponent, after finishing 28th in shooting defense, and be more than invisible on the boards, after finishing 30th in rebound percentage. Bogut is being counted on to bring those numbers way down.
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LAST YEAR: 23-43, 4th in Pacific
FINISH: Missed playoffs
2011-12 TEAM LEADERS
|Complete 2011-12 Stats|
STEPHEN CURRY, POINT GUARD
14.7 PPG | 3.4 RPG | 5.3 APG
If the troubled ankles hold up -- they have been, unfortunately, a question throughout his brief career, and limited him to 26 games last season -- his future is bright.
KLAY THOMPSON, SHOOTING GUARD
12.5 PPG | 2.5 RPG | 2.0 APG
On his way to becoming a lethal shooter after hitting 41.4 percent of his 3-pointers as a rookie, the former Washington State deadeye will be counted on to fill it up.
HARRISON BARNES, SMALL FORWARD
17.1 PPG | 5.2 RPG at North Carolina
At 6-foot-8, but only 215 pounds, Barnes will have to beef up some. But being surrounded by offensive weapons reduces the pressure for the lottery pick to produce right away.
DAVID LEE, POWER FORWARD
20.1 PPG | 9.6 RPG | 2.8 APG
He's been very solid so far in Golden State, but the arrival of a true running-mate in center Bogut should lead to Lee's best season with the Warriors.
ANDREW BOGUT, CENTER
11.3 PPG | 8.3 RPG | 2.6 APG
Once he finally returns to full health, Bogut hopefully becomes the standout center and defensive boost Golden State has been chasing for years.
|Jarrett Jack||6-3||197||G||Excellent addition to back up the point.|
|Carl Landry||6-9||248||F||Chance for a long-term home after three teams the last three seasons.|
|Brandon Rush||6-6||225||G-F||Warriors made re-signing him a priority.|
ADDED: F Harrison Barnes, C Festus Ezeli, F Draymond Green, G Jarrett Jack, F Carl Landry
LOST: F Dominic McGuire, G Nate Robinson, F Dorell Wright
KLAY THOMPSON, G
When Thompson was inserted into the starting lineup in March, the 2012 All-Rookie First Team shooting guard provided a key scoring punch for the Warriors, especially from downtown, where he shot 41 percent. Look for him to be a go-to guy on the offensive end.
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