By Ryan Matsuura (@RyanKMatsuura5)
For six years, the Warriors represented futility on the defensive glass. They grabbed fewer than 70 percent of the opposition’s misses, good for dead-last in every season from 2007 to 2012. They could not shake the Nellie ball culture after the We Believe team was gutted. Monta Ellis loved to leak out and Andris Biedrins, you know. It was aesthetically pleasing, but far from good basketball.
Fast-forward to this week and a major national media story is “Are the Warriors too dirty?”
Say what? In the past, opposing players could have always counted on getting their per game averages and then some when they visited Oracle. How many times have we heard Fitz [editor’s note: refers to Warriors’ play-by-play man Bob Fitzgerald] say, “Channing Frye is killing the Warriors?” That was the Great Time Out.
The Tank Express season notwithstanding, Mark Jackson’s Warriors are no longer going to be punked. The first sign came in February 2013 in a blowout loss against the Houston Rockets when Draymond Green smacked Patrick Beverley across the face to prevent the Rockets from breaking the single-game 3-point record.
Although insignificant on its own, they backed it up later that month against the Indiana Pacers when David Lee mixed it up with Roy Hibbert. Including Andrew Bogut’s altercations with Kenneth Faried in the playoffs, Joel Freeland earlier this season, and Blake Griffin on Christmas, it’s evident a major emphasis is clearing the defensive glass by any means necessary. And it’s about damn time. (Side note to Steph Curry, just stay out of these skirmishes.)
After a season plus 30 games, it’s now a trend; the Warriors are a solid defensive team, currently ranking sixth in defensive efficiency entering tonight’s contest with the Phoenix Suns. A healthy Bogut helps, but they led the NBA in the aforementioned defensive rebounding rate statistic last season. Their commitment to the defensive end is credited partly to personnel, but mostly to effort and playing on the edge. This edge is what has them in the news as “bullies.”
Of course, no Warrior understands the ramifications if things went over that edge more than Jermaine O’Neal, who explicitly noted the “Brawl” as a major reason why his Pacers never reached the NBA Finals in the early 2000s. Uncle Jermaine’s conscience should win and cooler heads will likely prevail in the regular season.
However, the Warriors have set a precedent that they can be bullies if the situation arises and have recently seen tangible results. After O’Neal underwent surgery on his right wrist, Bogut and Lee have both seen an increase in minutes and have become the first duo since 1978 to record double-digit rebounds in ten straight games. While raw numbers can be misleading, the Warriors can celebrate this stat by officially putting the Nellie ball days in the rear-view mirror.
Although they are not yet consistently playing with the edge we saw on Christmas night, Jackson has to be satisfied with the results on the defensive end of the floor through 30 games. The execution of defending the 3-point line can wane at times, but the commitment is easy to see. At the very least, we all agree that the Golden State Warriors finally have some bad dudes who won’t take no crap off of nobody.