“No excuse basketball team”, “Don’t let go of the rope” and “It’s a make or miss league” are all statements we have heard Golden State Warriors’ head coach Mark Jackson say during press conferences. He is always good for a good soundbite, and he did not disappoint Monday night.
While talking about Andrew Bogut’s mysterious shoulder injury, he said Bogut might have injured it while sleeping. Bogut was unhappy with that statement saying it was “ridiculous” and proclaiming his injury occurred in Utah two weeks ago. The story appeared to be over but Jackson, after a whooping of the 76ers, said the media twisted his words, even though they had quoted him.
These comments may be a bigger issue than Bogut’s injury. It may be Jackson’s insecurity in the Warriors’ place in the Western Conference and that they should be much higher in the standings. This team was supposed to compete for a championship but are teetering on not making the playoffs and Jackson may be feeling that pressure, lashing out at his players.
This may be the first incident in the Warriors’ locker room since Jackson took over the reigns in 2011 and changing this franchise around along with owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber. Jackson does not believe the Bogut issue will be a distraction to the team, a team that may have the best chemistry in the league. If this issue becomes a distraction, it may hurt this team in the future and may set this franchise back yet again.
There is also the issue that the Warriors should be an elite basketball team with all the talent they have acquired in Jackson’s tenure. Since the ten-game winning streak, the Warriors have played .500 basketball and are losing to teams much more inferior to them. They have lost to teams like Minnesota, Charlotte and Washington because the they were not ready to play at the start of the game.
The players should be ready to play at the start of the game, but the coaches need to instill a confidence and urgency in them that they must play at a consistent level in order to be successful. Jackson is a master motivator but has been criticized for his lack of knowledge of X’s and O’s.
Michael Malone, now head coach of the Sacramento Kings, was the lead assistant coach for the Warriors last season and was believed to be a master play caller. With Malone gone, Jackson has become more of a play caller, which certainly is not his forte and the Warriors’ offense has suffered as a result.
The Warriors are at their best when they have good ball movement, and considering they may have the best big men passers in the league in David Lee and Andrew Bogut, this should not be a problem. But too often, you see isolation plays for Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes and the play breaks down resulting a bad shot or a turnover. This is a product of losing Malone and the lack of experience in his coaching staff.
Barnes and Klay Thompson exploded onto the scene in 2013 playoffs and each were expected to make a big jump this season. Thompson started out well, but has really struggled for the last two months, taking too many threes and not attacking the basket. Barnes has certainly regressed this season, not looking comfortable since Iguodala was acquired and Lee regained his starting power forward position back after his hip injury. Barnes has shown glimpses of late that may be coming out of his season-long funk with good games against Phoenix and Philadelphia but he has been a disappointment throughout the season.
Both of these guys were supposed to be budding stars but instead both are clearly struggling. Is this a result of the coaching staff and Jackson? It may be the case, but Jackson has been one of the Warriors most successful coaches in recent memory and getting rid of him may be a mistake.
The Warriors are certainly underachieving this season but they are still ten games over .500 and destined for the postseason, something Warriors have not seen much in decades. But if Jackson continues to under-utilize his talent, do not be surprised to be another leader in Oakland soon.