Around the NBA
HIGH SCHOOLERS AND THE NBA
Before we get started, I wanted to ask for your thoughts on high schoolers entering the NBA for next week’s column. If you think teenagers shouldn’t be allowed to jump straight to the pros, tell me why. If you think it’s their right, explain -- and let me know at what age, if any, they should be prohibited.
Basically, anything related to the topic is fine by me. All I ask is that you keep it SHORT, and include your full name and hometown in the e-mail. Although, if you work for or play in the NBA, I’m making a one-time offer: I promise you’ll remain anonymous at your request.
So, start typing in those thoughts, and e-mail them to me at email@example.com.
What’s wrong with the Golden State Warriors?
Well, you can start with the fact they’re members of the Western Conference.
You can throw in the fact they received nothing for the off-season trade that sent scoring-machine Antawn Jamison to Dallas.
Actually, the Warriors received talented point guard Nick Van Exel in return, but all he’s done is get hurt and act angry.
It doesn’t help that up-and-coming forward Troy Murphy has spent most of the season on the injured list, or that shooting guard Jason Richardson doesn’t seem to have improved much since his rookie season. In fact, Richardson may be WORSE than he was last year.
There’s also the idea that small forward Mike Dunleavy still isn’t ready to replace Jamison -- and considering Dunleavy‘s lack of aggressiveness and confidence, you have to wonder if he ever will be.
Other than all that, Golden State is in great shape.
Unless you take into account that big men Erik Dampier and Clifford Robinson have been maddeningly inconsistent, and little man Speedy Claxton has been slowed by various aches and pains.
The Warriors have been far from golden, often looking dazed and confused while committing turnovers and missing open shots at the worst possible moments. All of it makes you wonder why second-year coach Eric Musselman doesn’t begin each postgame press conference by asking for somebody to pass the TUMS.
This isn’t meant to bury the Warriors, but one thing about their season that DOES bug me is their general refusal to listen to Musselman. The guy has won everywhere he’s been -- namely, the CBA. Musselman is the son of the late Bill Musselman, who once coached Cleveland and Minnesota and gained a reputation as a man who wouldn’t tolerate any hooey. Eric Musselman is pretty much the same way, and remains the only coach/general manager to have traded two of his players at HALFTIME of a CBA game.
So if you want to point the finger at the Warriors’ underachieving ways, don’t point it at Musselman. Golden State exceeded expectations in his first season, and did so with a less inexperienced lineup and thinner bench.
Maybe the Warriors are just too difficult to figure out. Like I mentioned, things would probably be different if they played in the Easy East, but unless they plan to bolt for Maine and become the Pine Tree State Warriors, their conference affiliation won’t be changing anytime soon.
The bottom line is, as a fan of every team in the NBA, I’m probably most disappointed in the Warriors. Yes, injuries have played a role. But the biggest problem has been attitude and instability on the court -- and all it takes to fix that is a little effort.
Right now, the Warriors just aren’t making it.
THINGS I LIKE ABOUT THE WARRIORS
-- Chris Mullin. A former Warrior and one of the NBA’s all-time most overachieving players is primed to take over for Garry St. Jean as Golden State’s GM. Right now, Mullin is acting in an advisory/coaching role, helping younger players such as Dunleavy and rookie Mickael Pietrus learn the pro game.
-- Musselman. I’m convinced he can win a championship with the right group of guys. He is extremely subtle on the sidelines and knows the game as well as anyone who never played in the league. He reminds me very much of a calmer, younger Hubie Brown.
-- Pietrus. I criticized the Warriors for drafting the athletic Frenchman, saying the last thing they needed was another swingman. But Pietrus has displayed a wonderful and willing attitude, and his potential to become a force is at least as good as Richardson’s.
-- Claxton. When it comes to guys who can make major contributions for 20-30 minutes a night off the bench, Speedy is among the best. But he’s NOT a starter. Some guys are just predestined to be a reserve in the NBA, and there’s nothing wrong with that. If poor Speedy could just stay healthy, he could eventually become the Warriors’ Bobby Jackson.
-- Avery Johnson. Any guy who is 38 years old, 5-foot-10 on a good day, has read the entire Bible, and is still in the NBA is OK by me.
-- Having said all that, I still believe the Warriors will be a surprise team and make a nice playoff run as early as next season. No, they don’t need to move Richardson, who is still pretty good even on his worst days. But they do need to find a starting point guard, and hope that Murphy becomes more durable and Dunleavy more assertive.
QUICK RANDOM THOUGHTS
-- I should probably let you know I plan to cut this week’s column short, as I’ll be returning to my native Akron, Ohio, in a few hours. That’s right, I’m from Akron, and was even born in the same hospital as LeBron James -- with the major differences being LeBron has his own bobblehead doll and millions of dollars, while I have a cartoon drawing of myself given to me by my wife and a maxed out credit card.
-- If NBA referees really want to protest something, perhaps they should object to the fact Joey Crawford is still employed. Crawford may be a wonderful person, but he’s a lousy official -- and he’s been getting away with atrocious calls for way too long. Also, why does it seem like a fight breaks out every time Crawford officiates? I’ve always loved refs like Dick Bavetta, Danny Crawford, and Joe Forte, as they take command of games without putting themselves at center stage. Nor do they approach their jobs with some sort of agenda. Crawford is a different story, and I really can’t explain it. Just watch him and you’ll know what I mean.
-- Randy Woods (Philadelphia) wrote: “I read somewhere that Denver point guard Earl Boykins can bench press 320 pounds. For a guy who stands 5-foot-5 and weighs 135 pounds, that is truly a remarkable accomplishment. Is it true?”
-- Dear Randy, Earl Boykins is one of my top five favorite players in the league, as he is unquestionably a guy who understands the game and plays hard every night. Boykins is a true inspiration to anyone who’s been told he couldn’t do something, and one of the most fundamentally-sound players in the history of the game. BUT THERE’S NO WAY HE CAN BENCH 320 POUNDS. I know which story you’re talking about, and it all started after Antawn Jamison told a Denver-area writer about Boykins’ supposed feat. The rumor then made its way to most of the national publications. Chances are, Jamison was exaggerating and the writer, as usual, took it as gospel.
-- The Los Angeles Clippers are one capable point guard away from very good things. I really mean that. Marko Jaric is the guy who’s currently running the point for the Clippers, and while I think he can eventually turn into a Manu Ginobili-type off the bench, he’s no starter. All the Clips need is someone who can create off the dribble, penetrate, and kick the ball out to the scorers (read: Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, and Quentin Richardson). Young big men such as Chris Kaman, Chris Wilcox and Melvin Ely will do the dirty work for years to come, and coach Mike Dunleavy is a more-than-bright basketball mind. As usual, I’m recommending Omar Cook as a candidate. Cook is a fantastic distributor of the ball who appears to have lost his backup role in Portland to Dan Dickau.
-- I have seen enough college basketball to tell you that Saint Joseph’s guard Dalonte West is among my all-time favorite players. If you’re old like me, West will remind you very much of former Georgetown swingman Reggie Williams, a star on those Patrick Ewing-led teams of the 1980s who later went on to a solid pro career. West is athletic, an underrated shooter, and basically, always hustling. In fact, throw in certain lottery pick Jameer Nelson, a 5-foot-11 fullback of a point guard, and I can’t think of a college team that I’ve enjoyed watching more since Michigan’s Fab Five.
-- Most scouts have Nelson being drafted anywhere from eighth to 13th in the first round. NBA draft expert Chris Monter, whose opinion I value more than most NBA scouts, had Nelson rated as the top point guard prospect in the most recent edition of his newsletter, Monter Draft News. Also, nbadraft.net has Nelson going 10th to Golden State.
-- In another good move, Cleveland recently signed Lee Nailon, a strong perimeter shooter who played for Cavaliers coach Paul Silas in New Orleans (and most recently for Atlanta). And if you’ve been following the Cavaliers, you know they could use a few more strong perimeter shooters.
-- It might not be a bad idea for Cleveland to stick with the theme of signing former Hornet sharpshooters and go after Bryce Drew. I know, Drew was your average stiff before being waived in New Orleans, but no one can argue about his ability to drain the open long-range shot. Who knows? Drew might just become another Steve Kerr, who jumpstarted his career in Cleveland after rotting on the bench in Phoenix in the early 1990s.
-- I love NBA Fastbreak’s regular “Dunk of the Night” feature on ESPN2, but wouldn’t it be nice if the show’s producers also handed out a “Mid-Range Jump Shot of the Night” award? The game could definitely use more emphasis on the fundamentals, and something like this would be big help.
-- Chicago forward Marcus Fizer is already eyeing an off-season move to New Orleans, according to the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald. Fizer played for Hornets coach Tim Floyd at Iowa State and went to high school in Louisiana. “I’d love to play for Tim,” Fizer told the newspaper. “It’s close to home. I’m used to him and his coaching style. We’re very good friends, and I like what he’s done (with the Hornets).” It’d be a great pickup if the Hornets could pull it off, as Fizer has always made the most of his limited chances with the Bulls.
-- That’s all for this week. Have a great weekend, and don’t forget to e-mail those thoughts on high schoolers entering the NBA -- or anything else, for that matter.
You can e-mail your thoughts to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You must include your full name to be considered for publication. Also, please include your hometown, as I love to see where the e-mails are coming from.