Oakland, CA — Associated Press, September 3, 2007
In an NBA Season that saw a record number of deals and a slew of blockbuster trades happening one after the other, the relatively inactive Golden State Warriors, which only made a couple of Free Agent pickups (apart from the draft picks they signed), has proven that playing an intact roster (from the Pre-Season, that is) for the full duration of a regular season can pay dividends by reaching the Western Conference Finals for the first time since Rick Barry led the underdog Warriors to a 4 game sweep of the Washington Bullets en route to their lone 1975 championship.
All too often second-guessed during the Pre-Season and Regular Season, the reclusive Warriors GM, John Knight, finally spoke to the press about the seeming “stand still” and virtual non-movement of personnel in the Warriors Organization. “I have gotten a lot of interesting suggestions and recommendations from basketball experts the whole season to tweak and even overhaul our line-up, especially with the wave of trades happening around the league. But we, as an organization, wanted to see how our current roster will develop into a well-synchronized and cohesive team, especially with the fact that we had all the valuable pieces of the core team in place. Chemistry was and is number 1 in our list.”
Unknown to the multitude, the Warriors’ GM got its share of trade offers, but promptly rejected most of them, opting to stick with the current roster and see how the budding chemistry pans out. GM Knight confirmed with reporters that he used Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson as trade baits at one point in the season. “This was done at a time when we were having troubles with the rotation as we wanted to insert Marco and Brandan into the picture to help in their development as future cogs of the team. We spoke to both Al and Stephen about it at that time, and they understood the situation. Only after a team powwow, just weeks before the trade deadline, that everybody came together and decided to stick it out and gut it out for the playoffs.”, Mr. Knight quipped.
What a “powwow” that was…
Golden State surged in the Pacific, and gave Phoenix, their Western Finals opponent, a great run for their money for the Pacific Division plum. The stronger and more talented Suns won the Division (4 games ahead of the Warriors), but had to settle for a 2-2 season series with the rag-tag bunch of “Road Warriors”. This year’s Western Finals showdown will be very interesting, with both teams employing the same brand of fast-paced offense.
Just last season, the Warriors were the typical Don Nelson run-and-gun, high-octane, and all-offense team. This year, however, the ever-innovative Coach Don Nelson, tweaked his strategy and opted to couple that offensive prowess with intense defense, allowing the opposition to shoot only at 42% from the field (second only to the Utah Jazz’s 40%). Asked about this quite “unusual” tack, Nellie replied tongue-in-cheek, “Well… I’ve been reading some business books and magazines during the off-season. And I’ve gotten to learn this stuff about improving profitability… that is… to get the most margin out of your business, you have to increase the revenues (PPG) and limit your expenses (PPG allowed). Given that we’ll have a hard time limiting our opponents score with our fast-paced offense, we just concentrated on the derivative of the PPG allowed —- the FG percentage.” An interesting business lesson applied to the game of basketball.
Now, after finishing the season with a 46-36 record and placing 4th overall in the Western Conference seeding, the Warriors immediately buckled down for work, battling their inter-state rivals, the Sacramento Kings, to a gruelling 4-2 decision. The Warriors took the regular season series vs. the Kings: 4-0. But Baron Davis, the team captain said, “We all know that those series don’t count. Things change in the Playoffs. And you saw that the Kings were mighty strong against us. It could have gone either way. It’s about gutting it out. Giving your 101%.”
In a much-awaited showdown of 2 defensive teams in the Western Conference Semis, the Warriors’ energy proved too much for the holder of the League’s best record, the Utah Jazz. The Warriors posted a huge psychological win in the first game, lambasting Sloan and his wards with a 105-76 rout. B-Diddy erupted for 24 points and 17 assists, while Matt Barnes and Al Harrington took turns in containing Kirilenko to 4 of 18 shooting from the field (en route to 10 points). “We knew a lot would be resting on AK’s shoulders, having been named as part of the league’s 1st Team. We were there to make life a little bit harder for him”, Barnes said in a post-game interview. Kirilenko had another miserable one in Game 2 as Utah suffered a close defeat, 86-88. In the 3rd game, Sloan managed to resurrect his beleaguered Russian star to post big numbers together with his other stars (Camby, Boozer, Hughes, Williams) as 6 players posted double-digit point totals. In this game, the Jazz outrebounded the Warriors, 58-44, but the Warriors’ Defense kicked up a notch usual, forcing the Jazz to shoot only 38.2% from the field. The din in Oracle Arena also helped the Oakland Cagers convert 10 triples (10 of 17 from beyond the arc) compared to the Salt Lake City Boys’ 3.
By the time the Jazz got to post a win in the series (a 106-82 trashing of the Warriors at Oracle Arena), it was a case of reporting to work too late.
The Warriors wrapped up the series with an 89-85 win at Salt Lake City, and finally avenging their Western Semis loss to the Jazz a season earlier.
“It feels great to finally go to the Western Conference Finals! Doing it against our tormentors last year and this year’s best team make it even sweeter!”, said a visibly relieved Al Harrington who was still wearing a protective mask to secure his fractured nose which he injured towards the end of the regular season.
“It’s not yet over. We’re definitely happy for the moment, but it’s not yet over. Phoenix will be a great challenge for us. Containing their frontline is a tough hurdle. We’re up to the task,” Nellie said, obviously referring to the terrible troika of Amare, Dwight, and Peja.
Asked about what he thinks made the difference at this point for the Franchise and which team they wish to meet in the Finals if they ever advance, John Knight waxed philosophically with this answer, “It’s all about staying true to what you believe in. I believed in my line-up, imperfect though it may be. We just played the hand we got, and worked ourselves up. As I said, chemistry is important and will be our priority. As for the NBA Finals… Hell, I don’t want to even think about it. But if I were to dream it now, I wish we can face the team we faced 22 years ago. It’s been over 2 decades since we last went to the Finals and won the championship. It’ll be quite a poetic and sweet justice if we win it against the same team we won against. Albeit, they have a different name now.”
Will the Warriors make it all the way to the NBA Finals? Will John Knight get what he wished for, that of facing the Washington Wizards? Or will he face the tested Tim Duncan and the Celtics?
Got you there. This is a Franchise Press Release posted at the Basketball Exchange SIM League, which is already in the NBA Playoff period.
To find out which Teams made it as Division Champs, Conference Champs, and NBA Finals Champ, go to the Basketball Exchange SIM League Home Page.