Liotta: Mullin’s moves put Warriors on top 

First of all, let’s throw away the 12-year history of heartache. It does not deserve mention. Let’s just say for 45 days, encompassing 21 games played in 11 different cities, these Warriors were good. Really good.

Sure, by the time the NBA reaches the final six weeks of its mind-numbing schedule, plenty of teams play with the attentiveness of school kids the week before summer break, but the Warriors did go 8-4 against playoff teams.

Remember, these Warriors walked off the court after losing to the Washington Wizards on March 4 the proud holders of a 25-36 record with their chances of making the playoffs along the lines of Kevin Federline producing a smash record. Their coach even said as much.

The most remarkable thing about the turnaround may just be the way the Warriors turned it around — by playing as a team, something pretty rare at the professional level. In winning 16 of their last 21, nine of the last 10, the Warriors saw five or more players score in double-figures 18 times, with six players serving as the leading scorer along the way.

Don Nelson tightened his rotation to eight and the Warriors found their stride. Who knew they’d walk into the playoffs?

While everybody will be heralding Nellie’s great coaching job, I’m saying Chris Mullin deserves the lion’s share of credit. His midseason, eight-player deal that rid the Warriors of Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy — and their contracts — was good.

But his taking a chance on Stephen Jackson was even better.

Far from conventional, probably a personality few of us would understand, Jackson is one heck of a basketball player. He’s been all about winning since his arrival, and seems to bring a hint of "anything could happen" every time he takes the floor.

Mullin also has proven himself a shrewd judge of talent in the draft, adding Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis with picks that rarely yield players that really make a difference. Biedrins was the 11th overall selection in 2004, while Ellis was a second-round pick, 40th overall, in 2005.

And so, thanks to this team jelling the past month and a half, two guys who may be big as people as they are basketball players, Jason Richardson and Adonal Foyle, were at practice Thursday getting ready for a playoff game. It only took Richardson 435 games to get in. For Foyle, 641, the most among active NBA players.

Hey, Warriors fans — who may be the best in all of sports — nobody can take away the stretch run you’ve already enjoyed. If the Warriors can take one of the first two in Dallas, the atmosphere at Oracle Arena prior to Game 3’s tipoff will be off the charts.

Will they beat the Dallas Mavericks? Not likely, but, to be honest, the Warriors were a longer shot to reach the playoffs on March 5 than they are going into this series.

OTHER TEAMS: Giants have no margin for error

The Giants have already proven they’ll have to start winning games their opponents attempt to lose. Whether it’s a couple of misplayed groundballs or a Hall of Famer-to-be botching a steal of home, the Giants have to allow a couple of games to be handed to them.

The first few weeks of the season have shown this team simply doesn’t have a margin for error. The Giants’ starting rotation willgive them a chance to win their share of games, but it will be up to the rest of the team to capitalize on those opportunities. They won’t be overpowering anybody.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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