After the San Antonio Spurs won Game 6, ending the Golden State Warriors’ wild 2013 ride on their home floor, the mood was not one of disappointment in the Warriors’ locker room. The air was full of post-shower humidity, pride and solidarity. The same sentiment was uttered by everyone affiliated with the team, from Joe Lacob to Kent Bazemore: the chemistry on the team was amazing, no cliques, no agendas, just a group of guys who loved playing with and for one another.
So I don’t blame all the fans who responded to the post I wrote late last night about the Warriors reportedly going after Dwight Howard and shopping David Lee with cries of, “No, not Howard! What about the chemistry?” No one outside the previously mentioned locker room gave the Warriors an ice cube’s chance of getting as far as they did, so something abnormal had to be the reason, right?
Avoid Howard at all costs — he would ruin this band of brothers with his brand of me-first prima donnaism!
What are the chances the Warriors will talk Howard into making them his first choice? Not all that great, since the Lakers can offer one more year and more money and the Rockets and Mavericks can offer a much better state tax situation than we deal with here in California. But if the Warriors can convince Howard to join the rest of the Christians in Golden State for a four-year run in the Bay Area, fans should be nothing short of ecstatic … even after Howard has spent the last two years convincing everyone he’s an awful human being.
Howard can play (a lot of games)
He’s not just an elite rebounder and a fantastic defensive presence underneath — Howard doesn’t miss games. He doesn’t miss all that many, anyway. Howard has played in the NBA for nine years. In that time, he has missed 25 games, including 12 in the lockout-shortened 2011/12 campaign and six last season. In between those last two years, Howard had surgery on his back. Last season Howard suffered a partially torn labrum which didn’t require surgery. Note that no foot or ankle injuries were mentioned in this paragraph.
Andrew Bogut is a great quote. He’s also a strong rebounder/defender. He has also missed an average of 22.5 games per season over his eight-year career. Bogut showed terrific pain tolerance throughout the playoffs, and he’s a year removed from ankle surgery and looking at a contract year of his own in 2013/14. But even under these circumstances it’s hard to picture Bogut playing 70 games, a mark he has only hit twice in his career (the last time was in 2007/08).
Many thought the Warriors traded into the first round to select a “big,” and not because of anything having to do with Bogut. Festus Ezeli had knee surgery in mid-June. Let’s check the press release (I inserted a few of my own thoughts in parentheses):
Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli underwent successful surgery yesterday on his right knee, the team announced. (I should make a joke about how the surgery was considered successful immediately after it was performed, because NOBODY HAS EVER DONE THIS BEFORE.) The procedure, which was performed by Dr. Neal El Attrache of the Kerlan-Jobe (Uh oh. Jobe? As a baseball fan I don’t like where this is going.) Clinic in Los Angeles, was necessary to reinforce both the medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament in Ezeli’s right knee. (Reinforce with what?) Ezeli suffered a sprained right knee during the club’s regular-season finale this season at Portland on April 17. (Which he played through, so no big deal right?) He will begin rehabilitation in the near future and is expected to make a complete recovery. The team’s medical staff indicates that recovery time could be a minimum of 6-9 months. (Jaw drops … recurring nightmares of the overly-tanned Latvian starting 40 games commence.)
So at minimum, Ezeli comes back in December. Bogut and Biedrins. Biedrins and Bogut. Just Biedrins.
/Downs full bottle of Pepto Bismol
Even if it means giving up either Harrison Barnes or Klay Thompson, two promising young wing players to be certain, anything beats watching Biedrins start one game, let alone 20 or more. Two more things — the Warriors have Brandon Rush to replace Barnes or Thompson, and if the Warriors lose Bogut to injury they’ll be more liable to rush Ezeli back prematurely.
Howard has never been arrested. He forced Stan Van Gundy out of town, but how many head coaches last longer than five seasons in one spot? He isn’t half as funny as he thinks he is and has no idea how his wishy-washiness in Orlando or his lack of verve in Los Angeles came off publicly, but he’s also a 27-year-old who’s lived a pretty strange life as a 6′ 11″ superstar who skipped college.
I’ll admit that this story doesn’t translate to an NBA court, locker room or airplane in the slightest, but I spent an afternoon with Howard once. Okay, I spent an afternoon around Howard. Back in my freelancing days, I took a day trip to the EA studios in Vancouver, where the video game company’s gigantic campus includes every sporting surface you can imagine. Different athletes “taught” video game journalists how to perform certain tasks, which included Venus Williams showing us how to hit a serve and a post-moves demonstration from Howard.
Howard was getting paid, clearly. But it’s pretty hard for a jerk to act incredibly nice to a huge group of people, most of them anonymous gaming nerds, for five straight hours. Was he able to stop joking (or flirting, whenever Venus was within earshot)? No. Howard is a class clown, which doesn’t mesh well with our expectations that NBA superstars smile pretty and yell at anyone who doesn’t measure up to their standards (some classify this behavior as being an “alpha dog”). Howard may be petulant at times, which makes him a jerk in a different way when he doesn’t get what he likes. But let’s face it — our tolerance for rude behavior is much higher when a player’s height is closer to the average human male.
The idea of doing a sign-and-trade deal with the Lakers for Howard might not be appealing to everyone for specific basketball reasons — the Warriors ran in the playoffs more than Howard might like, and some believe both Thompson and Barnes are capable of blossoming into All-Stars. But Howard is undeniably durable and the Warriors, as harmonious as they are, need talent if they want to build off what they accomplished last year. The chemistry probably can’t get better than what the Warriors experienced in 2012/13. But their center situation certainly can.