Author Archives: Jimmy Spencer

The Western Wing: Time For The Warriors To Break Up With The Big Guy

I’ll always love Don Nelson.

At least, that’s what I would tell him when I broke up with him.

Nelson is the Warriors’ college girlfriend. It was a great run – lots of beer pong, Family Guy and tons of scoring. But they grew apart and wanted different things … they needed different things. So the two sides went their own way. Nelson had a fling with New York before jumping into a long-term relationship with Dallas. Meanwhile, Golden State flirted with lots of different coaches but never settled down; never found true happiness.

After Nelson took some time to himself following a rough breakup with the Mavericks, the Warriors and ole’ Don started to chat. The imagined text conversation between a personified Warriors organization and Nelson probably went something like this …

Warriors: Hey Don-Don, it’s me.
Don: Sorry, I got a new phone. Who is this?
Warriors: It’s me, Warriors. I’ve been thinking about you.
Don: Don’t do this …
Warriors: I think we can have what we used to have; I think there is something special between us.
Don: You’ll just hurt me again. I’ve seen your MySpace. How many coaches have you been with since we called it off? Mike Montgomery, seriously, isn’t he in college? Grow up.
Warriors: Did I mention we just drafted Patrick O’Bryant?
Don: OK, I’m in.

Things got off to a hot start. Everyone was talking about the Warriors upset of the Mavericks in the playoffs. Everyone was so jealous. The next season was more of the same. The Warriors missed the playoffs but did win 48 games. Then the flame began to flicker.  Baron Davis left. Then Monta Ellis fell off his Big Wheel. Then Stephen Jackson remembered he hated everyone.

It became apparent that things weren’t working out. This was a team in need of rebuilding with a coach refusing to develop players. But Nelson wore the pants in this relationship and things continued to wallow with his direction. Plus, could Golden State dump the guy just short of reaching his historic win mark?

Now, new ownership is in and Nelson is essentially begging that the team stays committed to him. Both sides know it’s bad and everyone is getting hurt – especially the kids, the fans, who keep buying “We Believe” T-shirts and showing up to watch Anthony Tolliver play 48 minutes.

Everywhere else in the NBA, loyalty is dead. Just ask LeBron who left his cold, boring broad in Ohio for the hot chick in Florida (also could have gone with Wade-Gabrielle Union here but that’s a bit too real).

So why are the Warriors staying loyal to Nelson?

Well, somewhere along the line, Warriors fans have to quit asking themselves, friends or random gas station clerks the question: “What are the Warriors doing?” Explaining the Warriors strategy is like Whoopi Goldberg explaining Mel Gibson …  “I swear the Warriors are a real good guy.”

The truth is that Golden State’s front office makes moves like a drunken toddler and crying over the franchise’s lack of direction or common sense is too draining.

I sat in on a Warriors practice towards the end of last season. Nelson doesn’t do anything. He walks around in jeans and a t-shirt with a whistle around his neck, pacing around like an awkward middle school kid at a dance while assistant Keith Smart runs practice.

The two sides tried to make it work. They had some fun, but it’s time to move on. The change in ownership makes this a perfect cut-off point. New direction, finding themselves, all of that stuff.

Nelson’s recent comments: “I’d love to coach another year, but I understand that it’s a possibility [I won't be retained]. I want to do what’s best for the organization. If I have to be a part of the change, I will understand.”

What he meant to say was: “Buy me out of my contract and throw in a bottle of Grey Goose. I’ll be on my island.”

Once the sale is final-final (lawyers do stuff), new ownership can start making changes. If I’m the Warriors, I initiate another text conversation:

Warriors: Hey Don
Don: Hi
Warriors: What ya up to?
Don: Just being the winningest coach in NBA history
Warriors: Oh yeah? How about this? YOU’RE history …
Don: :(

Jimmy Spencer can be reached on his Twitter page @JimmySpencerNBA

The Western Wing: LeBron and His Popular Friends Think You are a Loser

I hate the term “hater.”

As my good friend and colleague, Zach Harper, and I were discussing the other day over some pizza (well it was Gchat, but I was eating pizza), it’s an expression people use when their argument runs out.

While I’ve been tempted to use the term for those who hate on LeBron James, I’ll settle with another popular term: idiot.

If you think that LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh won’t be successful, you’re an idiot. The good news is that you’re in the company of other idiots, haters and those who obviously haven’t played or understood basketball. (Let’s be clear. These aren’t the people who said LeBron took the easy road, we’re addressing those who think he won’t be successful.)

Let’s take down both of the idiot’s favorite arguments:

“LeBron and Wade can’t play together.”

Why, because they’re both absurdly unselfish players who routinely make the correct play? Or because they are both studs who can get to the basket whenever they want?

The versatile tandem will dominate. They’re filet mignon and lobster, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, Jay-Z and Alicia Keys, hot chicks and Jettas.  You want to make A-Rod and Jeter comparisons? Well that duo just won a ring.

I’m not sure who started the rumor that two athletic wings can’t play together but it’s an insane notion. Let’s get into a coach’s head for a second and imagine the offensive set potential. Get your five best players on the court. LeBron handles the ball at point, with Wade and Mike Miller on the wings. Bosh finds an elbow and Udonis Haslem finds a post. As either LeBron or Wade attacks, the defense will inevitably have to step in to help and leave either the other superstar open on a cut or Miller and his 48% 3-point shooting wide open behind the arc. Meanwhile, Bosh is floating to openings to finish strong or thrive on mid-range baskets.

If a team plays big, run a four-out offense with Bosh at the post or elbow and position LeBron, Wade, Miller and Chalmers around the perimeter and let them attack.

There’s no way to defend that.  People tend to forget basketball is a simple game with simple goals: score, defend and rebound.  Don’t get caught up in positions or the nuisances that your 6th grade parks and rec coach told you.

“They’ll have no supporting cast.”

LeBron’s decision has already been validated.

I’ll never understand the math – I’m not a doctor – but NBA veterans want to play with these three superstars and they’re finding a way to make it work (did you ever doubt Pat Riley?).

Haslem left $10-$14 million on the table to remain with the Heat, not wanting to miss out on the historic squad in his hometown. Miller will be a tremendous addition after signing on for five years at around $25 million. Veterans Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Juwan Howard are on their way and center Joel Anthony will be re-signed as the only player on the roster with Bird rights.

Who else is out there? Jerry Stackhouse, Tracy McGrady and Jason Williams could work. Also, there are the potential returns of James Jones and Carlos Arroyo.

I don’t know how they will win without depth (sarcastic font) …

You can’t guarantee a championship – you never can – but this team is now the Yankees. They’re the favorites (just check with Vegas) to play the Lakers in the championship – who will the haters root for in that one? – and they will be damn good for a long time. They’re led by youth, surrounded by veteran role players and they’ll be fueled by the hate and expectations.

Make no mistake; this is a team capable of making history. Don’t listen to the haters.

Jimmy Spencer can be found on Twitter at @jimmyspencernba

The Western Wing: A Return Letter To Dan Gilbert

Jimmy Spencer is a writer for NBA.com. He’s also the newest part of the Paroxysm. Bathe him in your warm, glorious light. Or, if you’re from Cleveland, throw things at him, not me. -Ed.

Dan Gilbert

Dear Dan Gilbert,

Stop. Just stop. You look like a fool.

As you know, your former hero is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier. Judging by your letter, I can’t say that I’m shocked that LeBron James wished to take his business elsewhere.

I get it. You’re bitter. LeBron just cost you and your franchise a ton of money as your team sinks back into forgetfulness.

But stop acting surprised. You were a big part of raising LeBron. If he’s the son of Cleveland, then you are the dad who catered to his ego for years and would have done so for another six years in a heartbeat.

You, Mr. Gilbert, created the monster. Your Cleveland Cavaliers were the biggest benefactors of the national spotlight. Now, you have no right to snivel over how things turned out.

I have no doubt you would have paid for the TV special that you knocked if it meant more money in your pockets.

Free agency is a tough game for the incumbent team and all of this was magnified by the media circus developing around LeBron’s decision years ago. But your letter is petty and drips with a sore loser mind-set.

You write that LeBron acted like a coward? How? What should he have done different, other than stay? His free agency was set to be a media frenzy from the beginning. Rather than announcing his decision through a “source” or letting the Cavs control the media flow, he did it on his own. Does he not have the right? Are you hurt he didn’t DM you on Twitter, first?

The only thing worse are the millions of indifferent NBA fans who are upset with how LeBron “treated” Cleveland. As if they have any clue.

The one-hour special LeBron and company aired on ESPN is a drop in the bucket compared to the thousands of hours dedicated to the topic on TV and radio, in addition to the millions of words written on the topic.

Now you – and much of the world – is shocked that LeBron has an ego and wanted to be in control of the message?

I can understand the rant – within your home or your swanky office – but now you’ve embarrassed yourself and your franchise in front of the world. I’m sure free agents are chomping at the bit to come deal with you now.

Face it. LeBron is gone.

He and his ego are off to Miami for white beaches and better looking women. His dollars and his championships are waiting, too.

All you’re left with is the building that LeBron will sell out for you when he comes wearing a visiting jersey.

Sleep well, Gilbert.

– Jimmy Spencer

Jimmy Spencer can be reached on Twitter @jimmyspencernba

The Western Wing: Warriors Offer Too Much Steak, No Sizzle

Basketball teams should look like a meal.

There’s the main dish – steak, chicken, eggplant, whatever you fancy – and then there’s the “other stuff.” Potatoes are always a good fit, veggies have their place and it wouldn’t hurt to have some type of French bread.

Unless you’re a member of the Warriors front office.

Don Nelson orders a Rib Eye (with eight Coronas) and asks for a side of tri-tip with pot roast as an appetizer.

The night, like the Warriors recent seasons, always ends up in the toilet.

Last season’s dish was the mystifying pairing of nearly identical undersized guards, Monta Ellis and Stephen Curry – two great cuts that simply don’t go together.

Ellis is 6-foot-3, 180 pounds; Curry is 6-foot-3, 185 pounds.

Ellis shot 45 percent from the field last season; Curry shot 46 percent.

Ellis averaged 5.3 assists; Curry dished out 5.9 assists.

The same player, with a slight edge to the younger Curry.

Ellis scored 25.5 points per game and Curry averaged 17.5 points in his rookie season. Clearly an explosive offensive tandem, critics pointed out defense as the obvious snag and the squad didn’t disappoint, allowing a league-worst 112.4 points per game.

Obviously it didn’t work and – made worse by a flow of injuries – the NBA D-League Warriors finished in the cellar.

To be fair, Ellis called it immediately.

Us together? No,” Ellis said after the Warriors drafted Curry. “Can’t. We just can’t. … Just can’t. … They say you can … but you can’t. I just want to win and you’re not going to win that way.

Ellis made it clear that he didn’t need a twin in the backcourt and the Warriors made it clear that they would take the best player available in last year’s draft, which according to Rookie of the Year final voting, they did.

Keeping the combo of Ellis and Curry together could work if you surrounded the guards with big, defensive minded forwards and a center. But that’s not what the Warriors have, and to get it, they’d have to give up Ellis, which negates the whole point.

It’s not Ellis’ fault that management decided to clone him. So why has Curry become the golden boy while Ellis’ stock has crashed quicker than a moped in Mississippi?

Because Ellis doesn’t play the game. Curry was raised by his NBA pops and Ellis learned from Stephen Jackson.

Curry is a media darling, smiling and saying all the right things. Ellis is brash, and, as one well-respected national basketball media member once told me, is a “total cancer.”

And since even Nelson must be sick of eating the same tasteless results season after season, it’s obvious that Golden State needs to change the menu.

Early indications on what type of offseason that management will direct are ambiguous at best.

Larry Riley’s drafting of Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh with the No. 6 overall pick could be a sign that the team might have some interest in playing defense. Or, more realistically, the front office was simply looking to stockpile in the Anthony Randolph, Brandan Wright category (more evident since Udoh is already injured and out all of summer league).

If the Warriors truly do want to improve, they’ve got an opportunity this offseason.

Clearing the contract of Corey Maggette for a defensive-minded Charlie Bell and “pay me for one more year” Dan Gadzuric, all while fighting the Golden State instinct to offer retiring Adonal Foyle a seven-year deal, is a great start.

But management can make real strides if rumored offseason moves ever materialize.

(Side note: There is absolutely no way that the Warriors would trade Curry, their biggest marketing weapon. So moving Ellis and the four years remaining on his six-year, $67 million contract seems to be an obvious maneuver.)

(Secondary note: Further complicating matters though is the damage the Warriors have done to Ellis’ trade value for the manner the team handled his moped accident and the subsequent posturing that followed.)

Oakland Tribune Warriors beat writer Marcus Thompson II reported that sources told him that Golden State is looking to do a sign-and-trade with the Knicks to obtain David Lee. With Amar’e Stoudamire in place, a pairing with Ellis in New York could rejuvenate Mike D’Antoni’s high-flying offense.

The latest rumor, however, would move Randolph in exchange for Lee, keeping Ellis in place.

Either way, adding Lee definitely gives the Warriors a more well-rounded plate. The move does nothing for the Warriors’ defense – except maybe make it worse – but it does give the Warriors an inside presence and some rebounding.

But Lee is likely going to require somewhere around a max deal, and should a team pay that for a potato? (Or maybe at that point Lee becomes the steak and Curry and Ellis are the potatoes? I’m confused now … and hungry.)

Maintaining the backcourt of Ellis and Curry, while adding Lee, gives the Warriors incredible offensive juice and that might be enough for Nellie to forget about pretending that defense matters. The Nellie experience would parade on.

What is clear, however, is that somehow Golden State is going to need to change its diet.

Jimmy Spencer can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @jimmyspencernba