Remember when Coliseum Arena fans donned hard hats to celebrate the physical play of forward Larry Smith? It may have taken 25 years to recapture Oakland’s working-class spirit, but the new-look Warriors actually now have a host of tough guys and reason to smile, if not dance in the aisle.
Equally significant, Golden State finally has depth and size to complement its gifted backcourt.
Unfortunately, since their “bigs” are still short on offensive skills, once again the fate of the team rests predominantly with the gamesmanship of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, who sprained his ankle again and is listed as day-to-day, the team announced Tuesday.
True to form, the Warriors lost their opener when the dynamic duo scored only 19 points against the Los Angeles Clippers, missing 23 of 31 shots while committing nine turnovers.
Bouncing back the next night, Ellis and Curry combined for 47 points (17-of-29 FG) and 17 assists in a win over the Chicago Bulls. However, unlike past seasons when the Warriors needed strong games from both high-scoring guards to win, this year’s squad has the talent to overcome an off night from one of its stars.
Swingman Brandon Rush or rookie Klay Thompson could step in at shooting guard. Rush is a proven veteran who plays well at both ends of the court. Thompson may struggle adapting to the speed of the pro game, but he’s a great pure shooter with an NBA pedigree.
Lightning-quick second-year guard Ish Smith or impressive second-round pick Charles Jenkins could run the point, in a pinch.
On the frontline, Andris Biedrins, David Lee and Dorrell Wright should all be more productive playing fewer minutes. So far, Mark Jackson has been quick to go to his reserves — as 6-foot-11 Kwame Brown, 6-10 Ekpe Udoh and 6-9 Dominic McGwire have all played prominent roles, with a sleeper keeper, 6-11 rookie Jeremy Tyler, waiting in the wings.
I don’t know if Golden State is good enough to make the playoffs, but with a defense-first mentality and the addition of much-needed help for its prolific but small backcourt, a .500 season is definitely within reach.
Besides, at least one Oakland rookie coach named Jackson is doing more than just talking about building a bully.
KGO (810 AM) Sports Director Rich Walcoff can be heard weekdays from 5 to 9 a.m. on the KGO morning news. He can be reached at RichWalcoff@gmail.com.