The Damian Jones experiment is over.

Damian Jones tore his pectoral muscle last night. He will miss the rest of the season. That is a tough break for a nice kid. I wish him all the best.

That said…

I spent the first three quarters (pre-injury) last night realizing that the Damian Jones experiment failed. Don Nelson used to say that you need to see 20 games to evaluate a team. Well, we finished number 26 last night. Time to draw conclusions.

My conclusion: he’s not going to make it. He is lacking too many skills. He is obviously not effective now, and I don’t think he ever will be. It was pretty telling to learn that the Warriors were in the hunt for Tyson Chandler a few weeks ago.

Jones works hard. He’s a good guy. He has tremendous size and athleticism – he dominates the G-League. But there are a couple dozen small basketball skills that he lacks. Jim Barnett catalogs his flaws every game. He has bad footwork, stone hands, bad instincts, gathers before shooting.

The lack of skills gets exposed at this, the highest, level. Jones gets pwned each night by real NBA centers.

Maybe most damning of all – he won’t shoot unless it is a dunk. That is what got Andrew Bogut sent away. Enter Zaza and David West, guys that weren’t afraid to shoot a 12 footer. And JaVale, who wasn’t afraid to shoot from 3 (though we wish he didn’t).

This is bad news for Bob Myers. The Warriors will have invested three years and millions of dollars on the guy. Their next 5-year plan surly included an affordable center in his 20s. DeMarcus Cousins will eventually appear to save this season. But next summer, they’ll be calling guys in their 30s again, hoping to patch together another “center-by-committee” (to borrow a term from Fitz).

The Boogie Cousins no brainer fit

Boogie Cousins will sign a 1-year deal with the Warriors for $5.3MM.

The NBA media-sphere is simultaneously aghast at the concentration of talent, and worried to death that Cousins won’t fit with the Warriors.

These worries about fit are all based on the past. You know what the Securities and Exchange Commission says about the past?

Past performance is no guarantee of future results

Cousins played just 48 meaningful games for the Pelicans, and hundreds of meaningless games for the Kings. How do we know what he is? How do we know how he fits?

The great Marcus Thompson says:

You don’t come to the Warriors these days without humility helping steer you.

Instead of looking for all the ways Cousins could fit-out, consider how he might fit-in:

  • On offense, he can be an offensively-minded version of Andrew Bogut.
  • On defense, he can internalize the teaching of basketball-yoda Ron Adams.
  • Worst case, he provides scoring punch when the starters are sitting.

What if Cousins proves to be the injection of curiosity and enthusiasm the Warriors need? What if he channels Moses Malone, and leads them to a fo-fo-fo-fo postseason?

I think these Myers/Kerr/Curry/Green/Thompson/Durant/Iguodala Warriors are like Cesar Millan’s good dogs: they can domesticate any outlier.

And that, really, is the Warriors true super-power.

Andrew Bogut is really good

Today, the US Olympic team played Australia. The Aussies pushed Team USA to the final minute. Largely because of Andrew Bogut.

Team USA shot a dismal 35% from inside the arc. Coincidence that Bogut was prowling the paint? I think not.

Meanwhile, Australia shot an astonishing 63% inside the arc, mostly facing this year’s 1st Team All Defense center – DeAndre Jordan.

Bogut not only closes the paint on defense, he opens lanes on offense!

Now Bogut’s refusal to play offense in the NBA frustrated the Warriors FO, and me. The Warriors needed an offensive upgrade at center, and they found one in Zaza.

But mark my words – the Warriors will miss Bogut. Defense will get much harder. Opposing centers will roam free, on both ends. Watching Bogut set picks on one end, and Jordan on the other, was like night and day. Bogut blots out the sun.

I’m betting that Bogut reports to the Mavs with a chip on his shoulder (for being discarded). He will start taking it to the hole again. And the Mavs will surprise everyone by grabbing the 4th seed in the West.

 

Debriefing the draft.

I did not expect to care about the draft last night. I was wrong. As usual, the Association never fails to entertain!

 

Teams I Care About

Warriors – Social Media instant analysis gave them an A+. Lacob’s FO has actually been good in the draft. I don’t actually know about any of the draftees. I never do. I only watch NBA games. But I’m optimistic about the Warriors.

Lakers – Picking Ingram was like hitting a 2-run homer: he was consensus pick, and fills a need at small forward. The other need for LAL is a center, and they took one in the 2nd round. Mitch K also has an excellent draft record, so I’m optimistic about this one as well.

Kings – WTH? They made two really nice trades, then picked a bunch of centers. Boogie tweeted “Lord give me strength.” If they secretly plan to trade Boogie next month, this might work out. If not… wow.

 

Other Teams

Celtics – LOL! Remember when Daryl Morey got stuck with a bag of picks a few years ago? No one would trade, so he had to pick ’em. Rockets didn’t get better. This time it was Ainge on the clock, but with an even bigger bag of picks. It became obvious Danny never intended to pick, because he grabbed random guys and Euro stashes. Meet the new Celtics – same as the old Celtics.

Suns – More centers? It’s like Rob Hennigan can only evaluate one position at a time. Two years ago, he cornered the market for point guards. Now he’s after centers. Oh kay…

Thunder/Magic – Fun trade! Instant pundits declared OKC the winner, but I’m not sure. Could be win-win. Could be Magic win. This one is good bar-talk fodder until the season starts.

 

On trades…

It sucks to be a GM these days. A vast army of internet pundits awaits your every move. You will be judged instantly. And it’s zero-sum: Someone will be declared the winner, someone the loser. There are no ties on the internet.  Pile up 24 months of internet losses, and you get fired.

The result, I fear, is that no one makes a deal unless they are convinced that they will “win” the trade. I’m sure the Magic thought, “We are getting Serge Ibaka, internet darling, for marginal guys. Win!”

Meanwhile, Danny Ainge is trying to make “fair” deals for his draft picks. But no one will bite on a “fair” deal. The only hope he had was to make over-the-top offers. But he didn’t. And had to pick.

 

Bogut gets robbed

Andrew Bogut was not the first team All-Defensive center – that award goes to DeAndre Jordan.

Jordan was good. Hard to argue the point.

But… second team All-Defensive center is… Hassan Whiteside?

Really?

If I am picking centers, I am taking Bogut 10 out of 10 over Whiteside. Whiteside is not even close to the defensive presence of Bogut.

I can only conclude that the East Coast bias is in full effect. How else do you pick Whiteside over Bogut? Do you even watch the games?

By failing to reach the 2nd team, Bogut loses $2 million in bonus money. Robbed. Thanks National Media.

70

The Warriors notched their 70th win tonight.

Only one other team in history won 70. That was the 95-96 Bulls, who went on to win 72.

If the Warriors win the last 3 games, they will beat the record. If they win 2 of 3, they tie.

Even if they lose-out, this will be historic. They will have the second-best single-season record for as long as the world goes on. Or something.

The point is… Now is a good time to pause and reflect on the historic greatness of this team. No team is great forever. The 00’s Pistons won just one championship, despite being in the East Finals 6 consecutive times.

This is what worries me.

Of course, I hope and expect that the Warriors will win the championship again this year. But after that… I dunno.

Every off-season, teams change. New guys are added via the draft or free agency. Previous brothers are discarded. It’s a brutal calculus.

The Warriors are a fragile snowflake. Yes, the transcendent talent of the first 6 players is a powerful factor. But what if you discard 2-3 of them? Are they really fungible parts? If Kevin Durant wants to join, we’ll find out.

If they stand pat, it’s not really better. Everyone will be a year older next year, and a year older the year after. There is an expiration for all players. For Andrew Bogut and Andre Igouadala, that date is near.

But look, I come here not to bury the Warriors, but to praise them! 70 is a great achievement. Let’s savor the flavor.

 

A Requiem to Jason Richardson

Jason Richardson retired today.

Marcus Thompson II wrote Jason Richardson never stopped being a Warrior, a wonderful look a JRich, Warrior.

Tim Kawakami calls him the Lost Prince of We Believe. And adds more good insights into the character of JRich.

And that leads to my perspective.

The modern (21st-century) history of the Warriors can best be understood as an ongoing effort to replace Chris Webber.

Webber was obtained by the Warriors in a draft-day trade in 1993. In 1995, he was traded.

Back in the 1990s, power forward and center were the dominate positions in the NBA. The Warriors had basically never had a dominate power forward. They had not had a dominate center since 1974 (traded Nate Thurmond to the Bulls just before winning the championship with non-dominate Clifford Ray). From 1995 on, they searched relentlessly for dominate frontcourt players.

My own story reaches back to 1998, when Antawn Jamison was drafted  4th, and Vince Carter was drafted 5th. In a draft-day trade, the Warriors and Raptors swapped. Meanwhile, Larry Hughes was the 8th pick, by the 76ers.

This was actually 1-season before I started obsessively following the NBA. It was also 6-months after the Sprewell choking incident that seemed to confirm the Warriors as a perpetual joke.

Jamison was the latest heir to Chris Webber. At that, he failed. But he did score in bunches. He gave us all hope for the future. Alas, he was often injured.

In 2000, with Jamison out for the season with an injury, the Warriors gave away the farm for Larry Hughes. Hughes was brilliant at creating shots, aweful at converting. He had the green light, shot like crazy, and made 38% (from 2).

In June 2001, the Warriors changed their draft strategy to “best available.” As a result, they chose Jason Richardson with the 5th pick. Richardson had won a NCAA Championship at Michigan State, but that was playing power forward. An athletic freak, JRich was projected to play either 2 or 3 in the NBA.

(Also on that Michigan State team: Charlie Bell, who would play his own part in Warriors history.)

The Jamison/Hughes lineup failed to materialize the following year (Larry got hurt). With both players healthy in 2001-2, Larry averaged just 12 ppg.  The chemistry did not work, so the Warriors let Hughes leave in free agency.

For sure, part of the decision to let Hughes leave is that the Warriors liked what they saw in young JRich. JRich was a two-time member of the Rookie Challenge. He won the Slam Dunk Championship both years. JRich had a memorable moment when, in the closing seconds of the 2003 Rookie Challange, game, he bounced the ball off Carlos Boozer’s forehead and then made a three-pointer before the clock ran out.

Richadson’s scoring increased every year for the first 5 years, topping out at 23.2 ppg in 2005-6.

In the middle of the 2005-6 season, the Warriors acquired Baron Davis, Baron instantly became the  locker-room leader.

JRiich was hurt in the the We Believe year, 2006-7, appearing in just 52 games, but still averaging 16 ppg (19 ppg in the playoffs).

After the We Believe season, Richardson was traded for Brandon Wright on draft day, in what Tim Kawakami believes was part of an ongoing effort by the Warriors to obtain Kevin Garnett.

Summary of my experience:

  • JRich was relentlessly positive, and pro-Warrior at a time when most around the league were down on the Warriors.
  • JRich was never as good as Warrior’s PR made him out to be. For example, in a long career, he never went to an All-Star game.
  • I always had the sense that JRich was learning on-the-job, in front of me. He came into the league as an under-size power forward, then developed himself into a 2-guard. Good for him, but the Warriors needed accomplished players in those days.
  • I always though he got screwed being traded just when the Warriors maxed-out.

Others know a lot more than me. He is, apparently, a self-made man. And an NBA good-guy. Also, his best years, for sure, were with the Warriors. And, in those grim times, he was a point of light.

Thanks for being there, Jason.

Hilarity in the NBA

This is the NBA silly season. Closing in on training camp, some GM’s try to pull a rabbit out of their hat. With predictable results.

Here’s what happened today:

1) The Lakers signed Meta World Peace. Kobe needed a seat buddy on the plane. No other reason makes sense.

2) The Cavs signed Austin Daye. Who is not now, nor will ever be, an NBA player.

3) The Warriors may sign Ben Gordon to a training camp make-good deal. Ben is such locker room poison that:

  • The Bulls let him leave without compensation.
  • Michael Jordon released him from the Hornets one day after he was eligible to re-sign with a playoff team.
  • Orlando signed him to a 2-year deal (team option). He put up good numbers in year one, but they still released him.
  • Despite being a career 40% 3-pt shooter, a make good deal is the best he can find.