An Rx for Warriors
--Find a really good shooter, either in the draft or through a trade. It wonít be clear whoís available in the draft until the non-seniors have decided whether to declare, and we canít be sure what position the Warriors will have, but there are usually shooters available.
One big reason the Warriors have lost so many games in the final minutes is that they donít have a guy who can absolutely bury the shot you need. Jason Richardson is an outstanding athlete who has improved his game every year and heís the Warriorsí top scorer, but he can be shut down in the closing minutes. The Warriors need another option.
If they canít find a shooter in the draft, perhaps the Warriors could package their first-round draft choice and Troy Murphy to get a veteran player. Murphy is what I call a ďfantasy league player.Ē If youíve got a team in one of those leagues, heís a great choice because he puts up good numbers. But when you go to an actual basketball game, you see that heís not a factor. He doesnít like to play inside, though heís 6-11, on either offense or defense, which makes the Warriors unbalanced at both ends of the court. If the Warriors canít trade him, he should be on the bench.
If they get the shooter they need, they should make Mike Dunleavy the sixth man. Dunleavy has a lot of skills. Heís a good ballhandler who knows how to get the ball to the open man and a good rebounder. But he just isnít a consistent enough shooter to be starting at small forward. Certainly, heís not the guy you can count on to make the winning shot in the final minute of play. Heís much better suited to being the sixth man.
That would make Mickael Pietrus the off man out. Pietrus has been an enormous disappointment. Earlier in the season, I thought he should be playing more, but when he got a chance to start, he flopped. He has the potential to be outstanding, but he hasnít developed that potential yet, so you wonder if he ever will. The Warriors would probably have to go over the cap to keep him, and he isnít worth that. Let him go.
--Make Ike Diogu the starter at power forward. Diogu had some growing pains this year. He was injured in training camp, which deprived him of the time he needed to learn the system, and his playing time was inconsistent, until coach Mike Montgomery decided to go with his younger players in the closing weeks. As Montgomery struggled to find an answer for the teamís weakness in the middle, he even tried Diogu at center early in the season. At probably 6-7, Diogu is undersized for a power forward but makes up for it with his long reach and strength. Having to defend 7-footers in the middle was too much, and playing center gave him even less time to learn how to play power forward in the NBA.
He can definitely score and rebound at strong forward, as he showed whenever he got decent minutes. He did it on his own, too, because the Warriors had no specific plays designed for him. That should change next year because if Diogu gets the ball down low, he either gets his shot off or gets fouled.
Chris Taftís rookie year was first limited and then ended by his back problems, but he showed flashes of good play when he was healthy. If heís recovered next season, Iíd like to see him backing up Diogu. Let Murphy tantalize another club with his deceiving numbers.
--Make Andris Biedrins the starting center. That would make Adonal Foyle what he should always have been: a good backup center.
Chris Mullin was between a rock and a hard place when Erick Dampier left as a free agent after the 2003-04 season. He had to have a center, so he signed Foyle to a too-lucrative contract. Foyle is easily the most intelligent player on the team and nobody could ever fault his effort. If he were 2-3 inches taller, he could be a dominant defensive center, but he isnít. And he has hands of stone, so itís hard to make him a significant part of the offense.
Biedrins, who turned 20 two weeks ago, is still growing and will probably be a legitimate 7-footer by next season. He has good footwork, good hands and good overall athletic ability. Heís improved defensively and rebounds well. He will probably never be a shooter, but with his reflexes and sense for where the ball is, heíll probably put up enough loose balls for garbage points to get into double digits in games.
The Warriors should also insist he shoot 500 free throws each day this summer, so he can develop a consistent stroke. Frankly, heíd do better shooting underhanded, as Rick Barry did, because thatís still the best way, but players donít want to do it that way now.
--Make Monta Ellis a significant part of the guard rotation, at both point and shooting guard. Derek Fisher played well at the point when Baron Davis went down, but heís reached his peak. Ellis is 20 and has a considerable upside. He should be ahead of Fisher in the rotation.
The Warriorsí second-round pick in last yearís draft, Ellis came in with the reputation of being a very good shooter, but heís also shown good ballhandling skills and plays a tight defense, helped by his speed. If he continues to develop, he could be very good.
Mullin has said he wonít make changes in his backcourt, and he shouldnít. Richardson is the teamís best player, and Davis can be a team leader, if he wants to be. Apparently, he didnít want that role this season. Even when he was healthy, he didnít play well. Montgomery should sit down with him during the offseason and point out the obvious to Davis: He and the team are most effective when heís driving the middle and either dishing it off to an open man or taking it to the basket himself. These wild three-pointers early in the shot clock are not a good idea.
ONE CHANGE that wonít be made is the coach. Mullin has taken the blame for the teamís performance. He also knows that Warriors coaches since Don Nelson have often been undermined by players who know the coach doesnít have the support of the front office. Montgomery will return for his third year and will probably coach the Warriors for all four years of his contract.
Itís been a learning process for Montgomery, who went from a college game where coaches are very important to the NBA, which is largely run by the players. His coaching concepts are good ones, but he hasnít always been able to get his players to accept them. So, my final suggestion would be that he spend some time with his players in informal situations in the offseason, so he can get to know them better, and vice versa. Maybe then theyíll be more open to his ideas during the season.
LETTERS: I'll be updating this section today.
CORRECTION: The episode in which Charles Haley went into a post-game rage was after a regular season game in 1991 against the Raiders, not an exhibition. Haley had a history of disputes with teammates and coaches during his 49er career.
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