When a team loses 13 of their last 15 games, and 5 of their last 6 home games, you have to work harder to find things to worry about without repeating yourself again and again. After focusing on subjects like all the injured bigs, Steph vs. Monta, and injured Steph, it was time to focus on the high draft pick who was recently activated, but not really active.
Ekpe Udoh, who’d played a grand total of 8:21 in his first four games since returning from wrist surgery (including a DNP-CD against Portland on Saturday), became the obsession du jour. Besides the game the Warriors were playing against a resurgent Rockets team, Udoh’s playing time was my main focus going into my second chance to cover the Warriors with access.
On Monday night, Udoh finally got some minutes. In just under 25 of them, Udoh contributed 5 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 blocks and energy, thanks to the best end-to-end sequence anyone on the Warriors has had all season.
On offense, Udoh followed one of Monta Ellis’ few misses on the night (Monta went 15-for-20, carving up Kyle Lowry, Kevin Martin and Courtney Lee for 44 points) with an alarmingly quick and powerful lefty putback slam, which woke up the lethargic crowd at Oracle (and who can blame them, since the Warriors aren’t even winning at home these days). Then Udoh stepped his conditioning into high gear with how he got back on defense, sprinting back down the floor and blocking Courtney Lee’s layup attempt from behind. Well, “block” isn’t the best word. He slapped the ball into the crowd in a way we haven’t seen a Warrior reject a shot since Ronny Turiaf was here, and the crowd exploded. Add a couple jumpers in a row from Monta, and for a couple minutes Oracle seemed like Oracle again.
Then, in yet another reminder how out-manned they’ve become and how far away playoff contention has gotten, the Warriors lost the game 121-112, as the defense crumbled in the last five minutes of the contest.
During stretches like this, little moments like what Udoh showed are the only consolation. Lord knows the crowd is hungry for something to latch onto, they even did an Uribe-esque “OOOOH …. DOHHHHH” chant when Udoh was at the foul line at one point. If Udoh can build off tonight and become a solid contributor, that’s all we’ll remember about what was otherwise just a routine Monday night home loss to the Rockets.
Okay, that’s not the ONLY thing we’ll remember
— Monta Ellis was scorching hot. An almost perfect game. You could even argue that a couple of his 3 turnovers were made because his teammates weren’t thinking or moving as fast as he was.
— The video I uploaded was from a group of three of us media types asking Ekpe Udoh some questions, including yours truly butchering mine about focusing on defense over offense. Still getting used to asking coherent questions while trying to keep someone’s face in view, instead of just holding a voice recorder or (even better) leaving your voice recorder on a table or podium. Ahhh yes, that’s some good lazy journalism, right there. That is, as long as you don’t forget to press “record” before setting it down. Because I’ve forgotten to do that before. God, that sucks. It’s like missing a final exam because you thought it was two days later than it was (which I’ve also done, back in college … I don’t recommend it).
— Coming up next: much more on what it was like to go back behind the curtains for the second time, including who sat at my press table (hint, a certain ESPN personality with an affinity for hair products was on the scene). Stay tuned!