The Warriors' franchise has just four 50-win seasons in its 68-year history. For comparison's sake, the Miami Heat (9), Orlando Magic (7) and the New Orleans Hornets/Pelicans (4) have as many or more in 40+ fewer years in the league. Golden State's 51-win season this year makes for the fourth-best campaign in franchise history.
And yet after leaving Oracle Arena as the Warriors gave away a crucial game against the Denver Nuggets in a 100-99 loss last Thursday, all I could hear from the fans is:
"This is all Mark Jackson's fault. We need a coach who can get us over the top."
That was from the mouth of a Warriors fan wearing a sleeved David Lee jersey.
Needless to say, I was initially flummoxed. But after reflecting a bit, I can see why some Warriors fans are uneasy about their current situation. They took the San Antonio Spurs to the brink in the second round last season in a six-game standoff that confirmed Stephen Curry's status as a superstar in the NBA. Harrison Barnes started doing weirdly awesome things playing power forward. Klay Thompson had spurts of offensive brilliance. Andrew Bogut and David Lee looked like a formidable frontline. Threes were splashed, people were dunked on, defense was played from time to time. Could the Warriors be the next "it" team in the NBA?
Then, the addition of Andre Iguodala happened. The perimeter defense had been spotty in the past, but now Golden State had one of the best perimeter defenders on the planet on its roster. Plus, Iguodala's swiss-army knife skill set meant that the Warriors would gain another ball-handler, finisher at the rim and maybe some threes from time to time. How good could this Golden State Warriors team really be?
Just four wins better, apparently.
While the Warriors got much better as a team, so did the rest of the Western Conference. Teams like Houston, Portland and Phoenix made significant strides, and the West had nine teams with 48+ wins this season. Last year, five teams won 56+ games, but no one else won more than 47. Plus, when you factor in injuries to Iguodala, Lee and Bogut (who will likely miss the playoffs) throughout the season, isn't a 51-win season a pretty good year?
Evidently not to many Warriors fans.
Are the Warriors a perfectly coached roster? Of course not. The biggest gripe of watching the Dubs play is that they sleepwalk through portions of the game. Either they will surge to 15-point leads, then find a way to let it slip away, or they fall behind 15 points, then play with their hair on fire before losing in the end. Maybe it's unsustainable for this team to continually execute for longer stretches of time, but if we don't hold them to a higher standard, then why would we assume this team should be a title contender? Does this fall on the feet of Jackson, the leadership on the roster or the front office that put this roster together?
Fine. You want to blame Mark Jackson? Okay. Who is going to replace him? George Karl? Lionel Hollins? One of the Van Gundys? Memphis, last year's conference finalists, tried to replace a pretty successful coach in Hollins with David Joerger, and the team had growing pains early before surging late to ... the No. 7 seed. Could another coach try some things and net some different results? Possibly.
However, Jackson is one reason the Warriors are even at this level, and even with the turmoil of a coaching staff in flux, the players have never wavered in their support of him. The team has consistently improved year to year, and if they pull off another upset in the first round against the Los Angeles Clippers, would we really be surprised? I wouldn't.
The Warriors are about where they're supposed to be. For a franchise that's been as decrepit as they've been for almost seven decades, making it to the playoffs in consecutive seasons is a momentous occasion. The short-term expectations have been met, but the long-term expectations of winning a championship have much more to do with a talented but ill-fitting roster, along with the murderer's row in the West.
Warriors fans, take solace in one thing: you have the most exciting team to watch in the league. Also, you have the team that no other team wants to play in the playoffs. That's not a bad place to be in year three of the Mark Jackson era.
Happy Hour drink recommendation: John Daly. I woke up this morning and all I wanted to do is sit outside, grill meat and drink an ice cold beverage. You know what's better than an ice cold beverage? An ice cold beverage with alcohol in it. You know what's awesome about a John Daly? Besides the killer name, the drink itself only calls for two ingredients if you can find some sweet tea vodka. Go with Jeremiah Weed, if you can find it, and lemonade. Pour equal parts into a glass over ice and enjoy life like John Daly would. (By that I mean carefree and full of life, not like being drunk in a ditch with a beer belly the size of Arkansas).