Andris Biedrins

If the Warriors have a plan, they’re hiding it well

It’s not so much that they didn’t do anything at the trade deadline. Well, that’s not completely accurate. The Warriors did less than nothing, giving away two living, breathing bodies away for a buyout order and a nothing draft pick in 2012. I don’t care how bad the Nets are in 2012, a second round pick in an NBA Draft is only worthwhile if you’re some team like the Spurs and you have 5 years to wait on some awesome player in South America or somewhere to mature.

The problem isn’t that they did less than nothing, but that nobody has any idea what the Warriors wanted to do in the first place. Here’s the current hypotheses, all of which come with a fistful of Morton’s Iodized.

1. The Warriors are somewhat happy with their young core, they don’t know what the next CBA will bring (or when it will be finalized), and they’re not going to do trade anybody just to make a change.

2. They were extremely close to getting Kendrick Perkins … or at least that’s what they believe, anyway.

3. With two fewer frontcourt players at Keith Smart’s disposal, he’ll be forced to give Ekpe Udoh significant minutes.

4. They’re tanking, so Joe Lacob can clean house and recreate the team in his own image, hopefully before everyone’s eyes glaze over and everyone forgets that Lacob and Chris Cohan aren’t the same guy.

5. The Warriors’ new plan is to bring back players who used to play for the team, which is why they were rumored to be after Antawn Jamison at the deadline.

In a league (sorry, “Association”) where transparency is relatively common and rumors seem to come true (or close) more often than any other, it’s disconcerting that we’re all left to spend this much time deciphering the motives of a team that hasn’t shown the ability to even come up with, let alone follow, a coherent plan.

A crazy thing about the Warriors is, nobody complains. There’s one mainstream columnist who rips the Warriors, a beat writer/insider who’s become increasingly critical, a few bloggers and few more really vocal people on Twitter, and that’s about it. Nowhere near the media scrutiny that exists in plenty of other markets, and not enough outcry to keep people from heading to Oracle. Warriors fans may leave early, but the bottom line isn’t affected by what fans do in the last six minutes of the fourth quarter.

Why the Warriors are suddenly such a terrible team

All players are motivated by personal pride, desire for their careers to continue, playing time, fame, money, respect — you get the idea. While those forces can ebb and flow slightly over the course of a year, the one motivating factor that can drastically change usually occurs at the trade deadline, which doubles as sort of a state of the union for each team.

The Warriors were told by their owners that they don’t matter. Not this year anyway.

Forget for a moment that Joe Lacob’s talk of “bold” moves didn’t come true, and what that says about him as an owner. Frankly, I’m tired of talking about owners and what every piece of sporting news means in relation to how rich men are perceived. (Were street vendors selling t-shirts all November featuring Bill Neukom?) However, the actions of the rich guys can cause players to feel differently about themselves and each other. And the Warriors, after two players were recently banished to New Jersey for a second round draft pick and a washed up stat-hound. A washed up stat-hound who’s going to earn a huge paycheck from the Warriors to play 3-9 mpg for the Celtics before his soft play inspires KG to shove him out of the team bus from behind and (officially) end his career (Murphy’s quote will be, “I don’t know, I’ve just been so clumsy lately.”)

Look at how the Warriors have played since the deadline. It’s like Monta Ellis was hoping Stephen Curry would get traded, Curry was hoping Ellis got traded and Andris Biedrins was hoping he would’ve been dealt anywhere else. Or at least the players, like the fans, wish they didn’t have to continue to stay patient when all patience has led to is further requests for patience.

Patience for what? To see if after this whole labor mess is straightened out after the season and what looks to be a meager draft (in which the only way the Warriors could possibly make an interesting choice is if Jimmer falls into their laps, which would cause Monta’s new and improved attitude to disappear), the Warriors will be able to add talent even though the salary cap will probably be a lower dollar amount, without the “soft cap” freedom teams enjoy today?

The patience to see if the Warriors can prove the people wrong who say an Ellis/Curry backcourt can’t/won’t work?

If Lacob decides to roll with Ellis and Curry for years to come, you might be able to partially credit/blame Bill Simmons, a noted supporter of the former Celtics minority owner who was recently sitting courtside when the Celtics came to town, if you think Lacob paid any attention to Simmons’ latest annual trade value column:

24. Monta Ellis
23. Stephen Curry

Curry gets the edge because (A) he’s still on a rookie contract; (B) he’s an offensive savant; and (C), again, he’s an offensive savant. Conventional wisdom says Golden State can’t keep them both because Ellis, an explosive scorer who logs big minutes, is just as bad defensively as Curry. Why not? I’m sorry, is Golden State close to winning the title or something? Why not play fun basketball for a year or two, win some shootouts, entertain your fans and see where it goes? Why does every situation have to be solved right away? And so what if this exact same argument was used by Hosni Mubarak’s and Charlie Sheen’s supporters?

One would imagine if he grew up in Lafayette and loved the Dubs as much as he adores the C’s, Simmons probably wouldn’t be so casual about giving up even more years of relevancy for “fun basketball.” But since fun basketball has always equaled profitable basketball in these parts; maybe that’s Lacob’s plan. Sit through road losses to the Timberwolves knowing that a fun home win against the Bulls could be around the corner, and hope that a great player falls in your lap sometime soon. It certainly isn’t a new and unique way to do things in Oakland.

Sometimes it’s smart for teams to be cautious — the whole “the best trades you make are sometimes the ones you don’t” cliche. In this case though, what are the Warriors protecting? Their foundation (Curry/Lee/Ellis) is cracked. If the Warriors are looking to stock up on young talent (which the Wright/Gadzuric trade would tell you), and there aren’t any franchise players available, why not trade Ellis away for a mix of expiring contracts, young players and picks and start over? What if the Warriors went in full tank mode, won the lottery and ended up with Derrick Williams, giving them a 2011-12 starting lineup of Curry/D. Wright/Williams/Lee/Udoh? That would at least be a lineup that would have the potential to improve over the next couple years, as opposed to the fundamentally flawed squad led by a 6’3″ SG playing 42 mpg.

This isn’t about telling the Warriors to trade Monta Ellis, but to point out that at a time when the teams were most open to being malleable, during a trade deadline when rumors were surpassed in shock value by actual hard news, the Warriors didn’t do anything to show what they think about their own team. Whether they’re looking to tinker or rebuild. Owners calling radio talk shows, sitting in on televised roundtable discussions … that’s unnecessary and often misleading to the fans and the players. Until the Warriors show everyone what their plan is through actual moves that have to be approved by the NBA, everything else has to be taken with a grain of salt.

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