After the Warriors beat the Celtics on Saturday night in the final game of 2012, Head Coach Mark Jackson reflected a bit on the year that was.
“Bottom line is, it’s been a great year for us – 2012 has been really good to us,” he said. “We will put it behind us and look forward to doing great things in 2013. I’m extremely proud of this group. I know it sounds like a broken record, but I really believe that bigger things lie ahead than what we just accomplished.”
With that, we take a look at some of the things Dub Nation can look forward to in 2013 …
Nobody is looking past the next three and a half months, but it’s hard to make a counter argument to the Warriors playing postseason basketball this coming spring. The Bay Area is passionate about all of their sports teams, but there’s nothing quite like a Warriors playoff run to bring everyone together. If you were around the Bay Area in 2007, you know the drill. And if not, get ready for an even more rocking atmosphere at Oracle Arena. As well as the Warriors have played this season – their 21-10 record is their best start to a season since the 1991-92 campaign and their 12 wins in December marks the highest win total in a single month since March or 1976 (13) – they are still just in fifth place in the Western Conference. So if the season ended today (one of the most used phrases in sports writing), the Warriors would open the playoffs on the road against the Memphis Grizzlies. Lots can happen over the next 51 games and there’s no question that remaining healthy in 2013 will be a key factor for success in 2013. However, this Warriors team has shown the grit and determination to win close games and against quality opponents. The last-second victory in Miami on December 12 points to that, and their 9-1 record against teams with winning records indicates that the Dubs have plenty of ingredients commonly found in a playoff team.
NBA ALL-STAR WEEKEND
Don’t be surprised if the Warriors have representation in Houston this February for NBA All-Star Weekend. David Lee and Stephen Curry are the team’s leading candidates to play in the league’s annual showcase of the best and brightest, and their numbers, in addition to the team’s success, do nothing but back up their credentials. Lee is the only player in the NBA who averages at least 20 points and 10 rebounds, and his 3.6 assists per game are more than any other Western Conference power forward. Curry, the NBA’s 10th-leading scorer (Lee is ninth), is also worthy of your All-Star vote. Curry has NBA All-Star Weekend experience. He has participated in the 3-Point Shootout and he won the 2011 Taco Bell Skills Challenge, though he was unable to defend his crown last year due to injury. Nevertheless, Curry is one of three players in the league to average at least 20 points, six assists and three rebounds – probable All-Stars LeBron James and Russell Westbrook are the others – and he’s in the top five of both 3-point percentage (.444) and 3-pointers made (92). Speaking of 3-point shooting, Klay Thompson definitely has a legitimate case to be in the league’s 3-point shootout on NBA All-Star Saturday. He’s third in the NBA with 83 made treys and he’s a near lock to participate in the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge, an exhibition game featuring the NBA’s top rookies and second-year players. Arguments can be made that Harrison Barnes, Draymond Green, Festus Ezeli and Charles Jenkins deserve the opportunity to play in that game as well. Remember, fans can help send the Warriors to the All-Star Game. #DubTheVote, spread the word and vote early and often.
A BREWING RIVALRY???
It wasn’t that long ago that the Warriors and Clippers were afterthoughts in the Pacific Division. The Lakers have been the longstanding dominant force and both the Kings and Suns have had their reigns as well, but the tides seem to be changing. The Clippers have taken the NBA by storm with their 17-game winning streak and the Warriors are responsible for one of the six losses their Southern California neighbors have suffered this season. The two teams will meet three times in January, including this Wednesday at the first-ever Warriors Whiteout. Could this be a possible playoff preview? Time will tell. The Warriors earned a hard-fought victory over the Clippers in Los Angeles in November, and the basketball world would certainly be satisfied if the remaining matchups resemble anything close to that nail-biter.
ROCKING ATMOSPHERES AT ORACLE ARENA
Warriors fans have a well-earned reputation as being the best fans in the NBA. The team has sold out each of their five games since completing a 6-1 road trip in December and there’s no reason that streak will end any time soon. With the team playing as well as it has in decades and upcoming matchups against marquee opponents – five of the next six home games are against the Clippers (twice), Grizzlies, Heat and Thunder – Oracle Arena figures to be abuzz in excitement for quite a long period of time. Throw in a playoff push with 16 of the final 22 regular season games being played at home and there’s no telling how crazy Dub Nation might get in 2013.
REMATCH WITH THE REIGNING CHAMPS
Before Jarrett Jack found Draymond Green cutting backdoor for a game-winning basket, there was an overtime victory that capped a 17-point second half comeback. Yes, the Warriors have won their last two meetings with the Miami Heat, and they have done so in dramatic fashion. The two teams meet again on January 16 and tickets are still available, though they won’t be for long. There’s no question that LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh would like to make a statement and avenge that December defeat, but if the rest of this season has been any indication, the Warriors will be ready.
THE RETURN OF ANDREW BOGUT
Perhaps more surprising than the level of Warriors success this season is that they’ve done it for the most part without Andrew Bogut or Brandon Rush. Coach Jackson has said that both players are top-five talents on the team, and while Rush is out for the season with a torn ACL and MCL in his left knee, Bogut continues to rehab his surgically-repaired left ankle for his eventual return. When healthy, the 7-foot center figures to be a welcome addition to the high level of play and on-court chemistry the team has displayed so far. An unselfish player who could protect the paint, Bogut is known to be one of the best passing big men in the game today. He’ll become an immediate threat in the post and his mere presence should be able to create open looks for the likes of Curry, Thompson and Lee.
ONGOING DEVELOPMENT OF TEAM’S YOUTH
Youth movement and winning rarely go together, but the Warriors are achieving both this season. Golden State is one of two teams – Charlotte being the other – to start two rookies (Harrison Barnes and Festus Ezeli) in a majority of its games this season, and several youngins play meaningful minutes off the bench. The Warriors are the eighth youngest team in the NBA (average age 25.2) and considering that last year’s rookies played a shortened season, big-game experience is at a premium for this club. Despite the inevitable growing pains, the rookies are showing improvement. Ezeli is a legitimate protector of the paint, Barnes has demonstrated an ability to take over games in stretches and Draymond Green has worked his way into the rotation with his all-around skillset. They’re already contributing, and they are only going to get better.