From the new Golden State Warriors' coach himself:
"If you're going to win at this level, you've got to do it on the defensive end so we will be a team that takes tremendous pride in defending on one side of the basketball floor. We will rebound the basketball. We'll make it an exciting game. It's going to be a great brand of basketball."
"Hand Down, Man Down" isn't just a hilariously hackneyed television saying for NBA point guard turned television analyst turned Warriors head coach Mark and one of the main cogs in a great drinking game. This apparently is a mantra that Jackson is going to preach in his first ever coaching job (yes, his first ever in basketball. At any level. Ever). This saying just isn't jargon coming from the mouth of a man whose every word seems as if he wrote it down and memorized it for weeks on end from June to October. This seems to have practical applications. For example, if indeed your hand is down, on both the defensive or offensive end, you are adding a deficit to your team, as if they were playing a man down. On the defensive end, if your hand is not up, then you are clearly not defending with enough effort to stop your opponent. Thus, you are nothing more than a "man down". Maybe you're not just a clown with a microphone after all, Mark.
However, all of Jackson's talk isn't without merit. The Warriors need to improve their defense and rebounding, perhaps more than any other team in the league. The last time the Warriors ranked outside of the bottom 10 of field goal percentage allowed was 2006-2007, when they ranked 18th. The last time that they were not last or second to last in rebounding differential, was 2005-2006, when they were 24th. In these last six years, the Warriors have made the playoffs one time, with an average win total of 36 games.
If the Warrior's are going to compete, they're going to have to actually adhere to Jackson's inane catchphrases.
How will this play out?
As over-the-top as Jackson appears, I find it hard to believe that he can keep up that type of persona 24 hours a day for 6 months straight. He's proven as a player that he commands respect and attention of his peers, and through his television work we can all see what type of charisma and passion he has. He should be able to get through to a group of players that truthfully have never been really asked to defend or rebound before, especially in that a lot of them came from the school of executing offense with at least 14 seconds left on the shot clock.
Can anyone tell me if David Lee is a good defender? He's a great rebounder and plays with an extraordinary amount of effort. But between D'Antoni and Keith Smart, has this man ever been asked to do anything besides put up 18 points a game and 11 boards? I would argue that as a professional, no one has asked him to be a defensive stalwart in the post and use his size and length to his advantage.
Throughout Don Nelson's days as the Warriors' coach, Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry were asked to do 2 things: pass and shoot. And sometimes not even the former. Even going back to his days at Davidson, do you think that any coach has put an expectation on Stephen Curry to do anything besides drain jaw-dropping shots and carry a team offense?
Let's take a look at the team as currently constructed. David Lee is a solid 6'9" at 250 pounds with great length and strength. Andris Biedrins has gone through two injury-racked seasons, but before then was averaging 11 boards and 1.5 blocks per contest. Monta Ellis, while a bit undersized, certainly has the footspeed to keep up with any opposing guard. Rookie SG Klay Thompson measures 6'6", 205 lbs and is regarded as a slightly above average defender. Backups Lou Amundson and Charlie Bell are both known for their grittiness and willingness to defend.
This squad has the capability of locking down on their opponents, and with Biedrins, Lee and second-year man Ekpe Udoh up front, rebounding shouldn't be a problem either. While trade rumors swirl regarding Monta, Lee and even to a certain extent Stephen Curry, I wouldn't expect a rebuilding team to sell off its young pieces, especially in light of the fact that they are implementing a completely paradoxical basketball philosophy than that of the one that was just deposed.
How will this affect the Warrior's season?
I truly believe that the Warriors will take to Jackson's new philosophy. Scoring 110 a night is fun, but I can imagine that that act wears thin quickly when your opponent routinely scores 122 in those very same games. If that's the case, look for the Warriors to improve upon last season's record of 36-46.
But I think this coaching move could potentially affect more than just one season alone. This is a move that could change the Golden State Warriors as a we know and sometimes forget about them.
As much as an improved defense and rebounding will help them win games, a reinvigorated fan base will be one of the team's strongest assets going forward. The Bay Area, as has been noted over and over again, is a basketball hot bed. For the most part, the nation is relatively unaware that Warriors fans are amongst the best and smartest in the NBA. This remains an unknown fact simply because they (righlyfully) haven't had much to cheer about the last 20 years, aside from a small, but extremely noticeable blip on the radar by Baron, S-Jax and company during the 2006-2007 season. For those 4 home playoff games, everyone remembered how electrifying basketball could be in the Bay.
A forgotten truth amongst the league is that while Chicago, Miami, LA and New York seem to plunder superstars from small markets and sign lucrative television deals at will, the Warriors are the slumbering major market beast that's been long forgotten. The Warriors are a draw amongst Oakland and San Fran, two major markets in desperate need for some professional ball. Couple this with the possible moves of the Kings to SoCal or elsewhere, the Warriors could potentially serve as not just the team for the Bay Area towns, but expanding up to Sacto and further. New owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber know this. They understand the potential that exists in a relatively untapped market and how so much potential has been squandered by mismanagment for decades. That's why they paid one of the highest prices ever for a NBA team. Mark Jackson's hiring was just the first step in change of culture for the Warriors. As much as this seems like a sub-.500 team just hiring a flashy rookie coach, this particular move is more than that. This could be signifying the awakening of a giant. You heard it here first kids.
Player to Watch: Ekpe Udoh
Pretty close call here between Udoh and Steph Curry. Curry's expectations as a third-year player will be raised, especially in light of the fact that he's going to be a point guard playing under a coach who ranks 2nd all-time in assists. However, Udoh is going to be asked to anchor the Warriors defense with his 6'10" frame and rebounding and blocking ability. A part of his rookie season was wiped out by a hand injury and with that, his second half statistics are a jumble of both good and bad. In 22 minutes a game he rolled out some decent numbers, pulling down 4 boards to go along with 5 points and 2 blocks, but marred by 3 fouls per contest, as well as a poor 41% shooting clip. A high draft pick out of Baylor just a year ago, the Warriors must have some type of consistent big man play coming out of the platoon of Biedrins and Udoh.
Best they can do: 38-28, 2nd in the Pacific, 6th in the West
Lowest they can go: 26-40, 4th in the Pacific, 12th in the West
Probable outcome: 32-34, 3rd in the Pacific, 10th in the West
Like this series? Check out the other Burning Questions leading up to the 2011-12 NBA season:
NBA Season Preview: Burning Questions for teams you don't care about
Burning Question #20: Can Sacramento keep their Kings?
Burning Question #19: Will the Rockets finally make a blockbuster trade?