I've been pretty silent in regards to the Warriors so far this season. That's primarily because I consider the NBA regular season an 82-game exhibition, but there also wasn't much reason to write about the Warriors until now. As you know they started off horribly. Or 0-6 as I like to call it. They dealt with personal issues, S-Jax was suspended, and they looked like they'd lost their magic. Most of the NBA was already starting to write them off as a one-year - or more appropriately - a half-year wonder.
But since then they're 6-1, and more importantly, 5-1 with our favorite player Stephen Jackson in the lineup. They're also finally completely together and were at last able to put out the killer small ball lineup they used so effectively last season in the playoffs. That's Davis, Monta Ellis, Barnes, Jackson and Al Harrington. And with that lineup now healthy and playing together, they beat the red hot Phoenix Suns. Sure the game was in Oakland, but the Warriors had just finished a tough east coast road trip. That was one huge win last night.
The problem is the Warriors are like a broken ming vase held together by spit. When everything is assembled as it should be, they're a thing of beauty to behold. But if you knock one piece out, they disintegrate.
Nobody exmplifies this better than S-Jax. We know everyone outside of the Bay Area makes fun of him because he has a gun tattooed on his chest being held by praying hands, and that he likes firing guns outside of strip clubs. But he's a major part of what holds this team together along with Baron Davis's shaky knee. S-Jax is a good defender, a streaky - but effective - scorer, and an oddly perfect team captain for a team that hails from Oakland. It doesn't really make any sense, until you see how it works out on the court. 1-6 without him; 5-1 with him. Then it's entirely clear.
I'm not going to lie and say I wasn't worried when the team jettisoned J-Rich before the season started. Why mess with a perfect mix? But J-Rich has turned out to be more expendable than I realized.
That's because when the Warriors are assembled in their small ball entirety - even without J-Rich - they're a playoff caliber team. And they can sub-in Biedrins effectively for inside defense. But knock any one of those 5 starting guys out for a period of time, and we may not be talking playoffs anymore. I realize there are other teams in the NBA, like Cleveland, who if they lost LeBron, would be done. But they aren't done if they lose Larry Hughes (which has already happened). I get the sense that even the loss of Barnes or Ellis would absolutely cripple the Warriors, even though there's Pietrus and Azubuike backing them up.
The Warriors may well grow over the season and assemble a deep bench. That's definitely the hope. But I'm also hoping they can stay healthy and can keep the lightning in the bottle.
Even if they do that, they aren't going to win the Pacific this year over the Suns, but they should come in second. And in the playoffs, as we here in the Bay Area know, anything can happen.