With the Golden State Warriors (20-26) traveling to the Rose Garden to take on the Portland Trail Blazers (22-26) tonight (6:00 pm PDT), Warriors World reached out to Sean Highkin of The Portland Roundball Society to discuss the state of both teams.
J.M. Poulard, Warriors World: With the Golden State Warriors stuck in the land of mediocrity, they decided to make a trade that would help them in the future but also set them back for the present in the standings. For lack of a better term, the Dubs are tanking.
The objective in this case is to get the players to play hard, give the young guys some playing time in order to find out what they are capable of but also give them a chance to gain some confidence in their abilities.
Stephen Curry has missed time due to injury but will undoubtedly help the team whenever he does get back on the court and be the face of the franchise.
Warriors fans are slowly coming to grips with the rebuilding project but they aren’t the only fan base that had to change their expectations during the course of the season.
The Portland Trail Blazers expected to…
Well, let’s get Sean to explain this one.
Sean Highkin, Portland Roundball Society: This season’s Blazers have one of the weirdest teams in recent memory to manage expectations for. Going into training camp, the season seemed doomed from the outset, between Brandon Roy’s shocking retirement and Greg Oden’s not-as-shocking latest knee injury. But a funny thing happened during the first couple weeks of the season: the Blazers looked good. Really, really good. They were running more than previous Nate McMillan teams had been allowed to; they pulled out quality wins against teams like the Thunder, Lakers, Nuggets, and Clippers; new point guard Raymond Felton looked like a possible answer to their never-ending PGOTF search; Gerald Wallace was playing out of his mind—if everything broke right, there was no reason the Portland team we saw at the beginning of the season couldn’t make a deep playoff run.
Since that hot start, not much can go worse than it has. Felton’s play fell off a cliff, and he and Jamal Crawford clashed with McMillan over just about everything. LaMarcus Aldridge’s overdue first All-Star selection was about the only bright spot as the Blazers slogged through weeks of losses to teams they had no business losing to, with the collective effort and energy seeming to diminish exponentially with each on-court exercise in humiliation. It got to the point where Steve Blake was being looked at as a possible upgrade over Felton. That’s all I really need to tell you.
Which is why it came as sort of a relief to fans when the front office came to their senses at the trade deadline and decided to fire McMillan and tear up the roster and start over. I wrote at length about the Blazers’ deadline moves when they happened, so I won’t rehash that here. But suffice it to say that Portland is looking at an offseason that will more than likely include two lottery picks (their own and the Nets’ top-three protected selection) and anywhere between $15 and 20 million in cap room. Because of this, I and many other Blazers fans are in the same boat as Warriors fans: rooting for losses. Even as they’ve gotten blown out by Oklahoma City and Milwaukee, I’ve had more fun watching the post-deadline Blazers than I’ve had watching any version of the team since about the first week of January. Funny what having no expectations for the rest of the season will do.
J.M. Poulard: See Warriors fans? Sean gets it.
The Golden State Warriors thrilled fans earlier in the season with wins against the Chicago Bulls, New York Knicks and Miami Heat (in overtime); and Monta Ellis looked more like a team-first player as Marc Jackson got him to play some minutes at point guard where he spoon fed teammates with passes for attempts right at the rim.
In addition, David Lee morphed into a legitimate low post threat thanks to his ability to play with his back to the basket and score with either hand around the rim. The former Gator’s defense may not have been the stuff of legend so far this season, but his scoring and rebounding could always be counted on and the same could be said about Monta’s playmaking.
The Warriors may have flirted with a sub .500 record for most of the season but there was still a glimmer off hope that the team might qualify for the postseason, especially towards the second week of February when the Dubs took the Western Conference leading Oklahoma City Thunder down to the wire, aided by Monta Ellis’ 48 points. That night alone might not have meant much if looked at by itself, but in the following two weeks, Mark Jackson’s unit would earn two victories (one at home and another on the road) against the Los Angeles Clippers that brought them back into the playoff discussion.
Consequently, fans had hope despite the fact that they started a center that often made cameos on the television show The Walking Dead. In addition, they had Dorell Wright on the team that played the role that Ray Felton currently plays for the Blazers: his play from last season created expectations for the 2011-12 campaign; but he’s failed to meet them. Indeed, Wright has had a few good nights this season but his play has not warranted him being Golden State’s starter at small forward.
The ship of hope has now sailed.
Although fans want to see their teams win, the Dubs need to lose as much as possible until the end of the season in order to ensure the franchise can move forward next year.
But here’s a fun question: who tanks better tonight?
Sean Highkin: I think Portland wins this question by default, since they have the ability to play Hasheem Thabeet starter minutes if Kaleb Canales so chooses. For these teams, the rest of the season has become about letting young players get minutes and develop. The guy the Warriors have focused these efforts on is Klay Thompson, someone with legitimate starter potential. For the Blazers, it’s looking like that guy is J.J. Hickson. Yeah, that J.J. Hickson.
J.M. Poulard: The Warriors have in fact force fed minutes to Klay Thompson and it’s done wonders for his confidence and his game.
With that said, I beg to differ on your Portland tank pick tonight. Golden State played last night and therefore might be a little sluggish in their head-to-head matchup this evening. Also, Nate Robinson is doubtful for tonight’s game but his play is usually a good barometer of how the Warriors will play. If he makes a few shots, it opens up the court for him and his teammates and he becomes more aggressive with the ball and looks to make more plays, which leads to him setting up teammates and scoring the ball.
There’s just one problem: despite playing more minutes on the road than at home, Robinson is less productive when the games are played away from Oracle Arena.
Portland wins an entertaining game in the last two minutes of the contest.
Thanks again Sean.
Questions or comments? Feel free to leave them in the comments section or you can contact me by email at JM.Poulard@Warriorsworld.net.