Warriors far from being contenders 

The Warriors have always been the passion play in this town.

When they have mattered, the buzz would kick in on the drive down Interstate 880. The parking lot would simmer. And, when the Warriors were about to tangle with a key Western Conference rival, the Arena in Oakland would pulsate, ready to explode.

Whether it was Rick Barry and Co., Run TMC — Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway — or Baron Davis and that group a few years ago, when the Warriors have been relevant, the Bay Area turns out with its heart on its sleeve, ready to love them unconditionally.

That’s why it is so frustrating to watch these Warriors night in and night out. They are so far from being any good, so far from threatening teams that are championship contenders. A winning streak here, or a nice win there, sure, but this team feels light years from the championship conversation.

The Warriors are worse than a team in need of a new start. They’re a team lacking a place from which to start. Pin their problems on Don Nelson, who left them in September with this team possessing less than a mismatched roster. He left them without any combination of players that could legitimately serve the Warriors’ uniform as the hope for a new beginning.

The backcourt tandem of Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry, while occasionally lethal, is forced at its best. The rest of this team, even David Lee and that monstrous contract of his, give off the feeling of being spare parts.

Unfortunately, at the top of the NBA, two talented small guys and a bunch of spare parts is not a recipe for a championship.

Do the Warriors begin building off Ellis? Off Curry? Do they figure out a way to build off having both in their backcourt. It’s the most frustrating puzzle.

If there were a crystal ball that could show us the day when the Warriors reached a point where they could take out the best the Western Conference has to offer in a grueling seven-game series, I can’t single out one player on their current roster who I’d bet would be in a Warriors uniform when that day came.

Even worse, the Warriors’ identity dilemma comes at a time when we are rapidly approaching a changing of the guard at the top of the Western Conference. The best days of the Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks are behind them. Each is going to have to retool if they’re going to contend three or four years from now. Only Oklahoma City has a legitimate claim on still having room to grow.

Throw all this together, and it may be that the Warriors’ most frustrating days are still ahead of them. And there’s not going to be any passion associated with that.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. E-mail him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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