When Andrew Bogut said Tuesday night, “We’re not who we think we are,” Dennis Green wept.
And presumably, Mark Jackson cheered. If he didn’t, he’s missing a key component in how the Golden State Warriors face the last 30 games of the regular season.
Bogut was saying, in no uncertain terms, that the Warriors had bought into all the praise heaped their way – the operative phrase being, “I think we thought we were maybe a little better than we were.” Almost 20 years of being uniformly bad were being scrubbed away by three months of being good, and the result was their latest come-to-Jesus moment, a 116-107 loss to Houston that displayed yet again how soft their underbelly actually is.
Or at least has been. The Warriors went from being fourth in the Western Conference 10 days ago to sixth, barely a game ahead of seventh-place Utah. Worse, what betrayed them is the one thing that should never have such wild fluctuations – the defense.
[REWIND: Instant Replay -- Rockets 116, Warriors 107]
In their five-game losing streak, their opponents have shot a scandalous 48.5 percent, give or take a shot, eight percentage points worse than last-place Cleveland averages per game and a ridiculous 45 percentage points worse than their own average for the year. In each of the last five losses, they have allowed an effective field goal percentage (factoring in a three-pointer as a more valuable shot than a mere field goal) of over 50 percent, which is frankly brutal.
In other words, when Bogut said that there’s been “some slippage,” he’s soft-pedaling it. When he says it’s been “horses----,” he’s closer to the mark.
And it goes back, as counterintuitive as this might seem, to the outpouring of love and respect they’ve received for being a good defensive team, for being tough-minded and generally hard to play. They’ve heard so little of anything but slagging these past 19 years that a little cuddle made them think at least momentarily the battle won, when in fact the best teams knows that it only just begins at the All-Star Break.
The Warriors have never been any of those things, at least not for a generation, so it is understandable that some of them might not fully know how easy it is to lose the edge. It is also instructive that guard Jarrett Jack missed the middle three of those five losses. He put up almost identically impressive box score lines in the two Houston losses, but those around him failed to one extent or another.
But he does not take all the team’s defensive snarl with him when he doesn’t play -- at least he shouldn’t. The Warriors may be new to this style of play, but it is not so difficult to master that it cannot be regained over their week’s holiday. Defense is the only way this team will excel, at least with the present roster, and if this violates some historical tradition, well, the Warriors have mostly lost as a powerful offensive team. The math seems pretty simple.
Bogut’s analysis, thus, is spot-on. It is also interesting coming from someone who has played 22 games in two years, and 10 for his new team. It is an assertion of leadership that (a) most newcomers would fear to exhibit and (b) is badly needed, in that fresh-eyes sort of way. If the Warriors are clever enough to understand that he is as qualified to say it as David Lee or Stephen Curry or Jack or Carl Landry or even Mark Jackson, this will end up being a boon to them when play resumes.
But if this is seen as some sort of usurpation of power within the locker room (hey, you never know with teams that are as new to winning as these guys), then there will be a problem bigger than not keeping your man in front of you. There is no concrete reason to assume that, but there is no concrete reason to ignore it as a possibility, either. This is all uncharted territory in Oakland, so all possibilities must be considered.
After all, when you’re not who you think you are, you have to find out who you are, who you want to be, and how to get there. The Warriors have a week to figure it out.