Questions for the Warriors
FOR THE FIRST time since the departure of Chris Webber, thereís genuine hope for the Warriors Ė for next season, since this season is another lottery one Ė but there are still questions. Here are the main ones I see:
--Will Baron Davis stay focused on making the Warriors a better team, or will he go south, as he did in New Orleans?
Davis has revitalized the Warriors, without question. In todayís NBA, where there are few outstanding centers, the point guard has become the most important player, and Davis brings to the Warriors the kind of point guard play they havenít had since Tim Hardaway, both with his scoring and playmaking..
Davis takes the pressure off the other players: Jason Richardson no longer has to be the key player, for instance. To his credit, Richardson has realized that the team is better with Davis as the focus, and thereís been a smooth transition. Not only is the team better but Richardson is better, because Davis will get him the ball where he wants it and when he wants it.
Mike Dunleavy, who has never been comfortable as the main player, is free to be a complementary player. Dunleavy does a lot of things well: He can score in double figures, he can rebound, he can play team defense and he can handle the ball. In Sundayís win over Seattle, he made a great pass down the middle to Richardson, cutting to the basket. On another occasion, he got an outlet pass on the wing but didnít even catch it, instead batting the ball to Derek Fisher for a three-pointer from the corner. Dunleavy is not a player who demands the ball. In Sundayís game, he took only three shots until the final two minutes, but then, he buried back-to-back three-pointers to put the game away.
Warriors fans are seeing the Good Davis. New Orleans fans saw the Bad Davis, who seemed to quit on two coaches, Tim Floyd and Byron Scott. I donít believe that will happen here because Davis seems happy to be back on the west coast (understandably!) and he likes to win, as this team has been doing with him at the controls. I also think heís maturing, as he nears 26 Ė but with almost any NBA player, not just Davis, you canít be certain what youíll get.
WHAT ROLE WILL Mickael Pietrus play?
Pietrus is an enormously talented player who still seems to have a considerable upside. He didnít play much last year as a rookie, and early this season, when he was ďstyliníĒ, he didnít play much, either, until he was told he hadnít done enough in the NBA to play like that.
Since then, heís gotten much more playing time, and he had a recent five-game stretch in which he averaged better than 18 points on 60 per cent shooting. Then, he played only 11 minutes against Seattle, and thatís the problem.
Ideally, the warriors should have a three-guard rotation with Davis, Richardson and Pietrus, and sometimes have all three in the game at the same time, with either Richardson or Pietrus sliding to small forward. In that scheme, Derek Fisher would be used only coming off the bench late in a quarter, because the one thing Fisher does well is to hit big shots, often three-pointers, late in a quarter, half or game. His career shooting average is under 40 per cent but he never seems to doubt himself and he seems to shoot much better in clutch situations.
Otherwise, though, heís a liability. Heís slow and not particularly smart on defense; when heís well out on the floor, heíll run into screens instead of running around them as he should, because his man isnít going to shoot from 35 feet out. Heís not a particularly good ballhandler, and he canít finish on a drive.
Unfortunately, heís signed to a six-year contract in a deal that still puzzles me. Coach Mike Montgomery didnít hesitate to sit Adonal Foyle early in the season, although Foyle had signed $40 million contract before the season, so I donít think heís being told by Chris Mullin that he has to play Fisher, but itís still hard to keep a big-contract guy on the bench.
WHAT CAN BE done to strengthen the center position?
Adonal Foyle would be a great defender if he were three inches taller, but heís probably no more than 6-8, despite his 6-10 listing in the media guide. Heís still strong in the middle and a good shot-blocker, but he has no offensive game. He should have concentrated on one move inside, something like a jump hook. Instead, he'll try half a dozen moves in a game, none of which work.
Rookie Andris Biedrins, the youngest player in the league at just 19 (last Saturday), has much to recommend him. Heís very active inside, quick for his 6-11 size and knows his limitations. Heís not going to move outside to try to put up jump shots. He may grow to seven feet or even taller, and he should become a solid player, though probably not a great one. But itís unrealistic to expect him to be a big contributor until his third season.
Itís also unreasonable to expect to get a good big man in the draft, unless the Warriors upset the odds and draft No. 1, which is where Utahís Andrew Bogut will go. So, Mullin is looking at rosters of other teams to see who he might be able to get in a trade.
AS THEY STAND right now, the Warriors are a good team, but they can be even better if Davis stays on course, Pietrus gets consistent big minutes and Mullin is able to get inside help. Dare I say it? The Warriors look like a playoff team next season.
OOPS: Alert readers have pointed out that the Giants actually have the fourth-longest stretch without a World Series championship, behind both Chicago teams and the Cleveland Indians, not second-longest, as I wrote earlier this week.
What do YOU think? Let me know!
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