The Week That Was:
A big week both on and off the court. The Dubs rebounded from a brutal loss to Miami going into the break with a trio of wins, two of which came at home against likely playoff teams. What’s more, all three were without Andrew Bogut (who had a negative reaction to a cortisone shot) and David Lee also missed Saturday’s win against Brooklyn due to the flu and apparently will not make at least the first leg of the road trip. While all three wins had their merits, I was most impressed with beating the Rockets at home without Andrew Bogut. Jermaine O’Neal did a simply excellent job containing Dwight Howard and provided a little more peace of mind that the Dubs can handle it if Festus Ezeli takes longer than expected to return and shake off the rust. While some cannot appreciate that this Golden State team will continue to be better defensively than offensively, that reality must be a key part of the minutes allocation and rotation construction moving forward.
The Soapbox: The Welcome Addition of Steve Blake
The front office also took a major step towards improving the offense this season by adding Steve Blake for Bazemore and Brooks on Wednesday evening. While I vehemently disagree with the way Coach Jackson has generally kept starters away from the bench units for much of the season, Blake works incredibly well within that reality since he can buoy the team offensively when Curry sits. In addition, Blake can fill a role previously occupied by Jarrett Jack as a ballhandler who plays alongside the Baby-Faced Assassin for stretches of time. Steph has been one of the best spot-up shooters in the NBA for his whole career and benefits from playing off the ball for parts of games in terms of fatigue and defensive attention. I felt like Jackson overused that dynamic last season but it certainly has a benefit if utilized effectively.
Potentially the single largest benefit of acquiring Blake comes from the reduced pressure to play Curry extended minutes. Considering how bad the offense was without him and how high the stakes are for this season, part of me has trouble blaming Jackson for leaning so heavily on his best player. I am of the opinion that in the current NBA season structure no one should average more than 35 minutes per game during the regular season. In 2013-14, Curry has averaged 37.6 minutes per game with Klay at an eye-popping 37.4 MPG as well. At present, they sit at #6 and #7 respectively in minutes per game in the entire league. Having another Point Guard that Coach Jackson (a PG himself, which matters here) can trust should mean a reduction in that number because he can feel more comfortable in the team’s stability. Hopefully having Blake around will lead to a quicker hook for the guards in games that get out of control in either direction, which continues to be a major flaw of this Warriors season considering the injury risks involved.
Blake also fits well off the court as an individual with an excellent reputation as a team player and hard worker. Kobe’s strong praise for Steve should go a long way since the Mamba has not always been the most effusive individual. While a little more edge could have been fun, Blake fits in well and could help keep players grounded as the season grinds down while his playoff experience could be useful in a few months.
A final reason the addition makes a ton of sense for the Warriors comes from where Blake sits in the course of his career. He turns 34 this week and thus appears unlikely to get a big payday like the one Cleveland gave Jarrett Jack that Bob Myers prudently did not come close to last summer. While Mr. Blake may go somewhere else next season, the risk of overpayment in years or dollars feels dramatically lower in this case. Considering where the Lakers could be headed next season, it would not be surprising to see Blake have an interest in staying with a California playoff team if he has a positive experience. A younger option may be better long-term and hopefully Nedovic can become that guy but the Maryland product could be a solid stopgap until we know for sure.
The Week to Come:
It would be hard to overstate the importance of the coming week. Golden State’s last road trip of more than two games sends them to six Eastern Conference cities. This week’s slate starts in Detroit where the Pistons continue to fight for their playoff lives in a tepid conference though their stacked frontcourt could pose problems for the depleted Warriors’ bigs. The Dubs then head to Chicago where the Bulls continue to sit in the fourth seed despite losing key players left and right. They will be a tough match-up even though their offense has been rough to say the least in recent games. From there, the Warriors head east to New York to play the Knicks at MSG for the first time since Steph’s “Studio 54” game. Finally, the week closes out with a Sunday afternoon tilt against the still-surging Raptors and stud PG Kyle Lowry.
I am expecting a 3-1 week but 2-2 would be justified because of the key injuries. That said, heading into Indiana with a clean road trip would make one heck of a statement.
An amazing stat: After this road trip, the Warriors will only travel outside the Pacific time zone twice more in the regular season- an early April trip to Texas and the last game of the season in Denver.