Last year’s NBA Cinderella story was the eighth-seeded Golden State Warriors upsetting the top-seeded Dallas Mavericks in the first round of the playoffs. However, this year’s fairytale rules have changed, and Cinderella missed the ball.
Actually, forget it.
I was going to write an unbiased take on the Warriors’ situation, but it’s a hard task when I’ve lived in the East Bay for most of my life. Like most other Warriors fans, I just want to find the reason why one of the most exciting seasons since Run TMC ended in such a pitiful way.
Most of all, I just want to find somebody to blame. Here’s who all Bay Area basketball fans with broken hearts should be pointing their fingers at.
1. The Western Conference
Don’t worry – I’m not going to make references to the “Wild Wild West” or the “Leastern Conference” like every sports writer in America. I just want to point out some of the facts.
The Warriors won 48 games this season, a six-game improvement from last year and the most games a team has won without making the postseason since 1972.
If the Warriors were playing in the East this season, they would be the fourth seed.
Also, they had a record of 20-10 against the Eastern Conference this year, which means they could’ve potentially stolen the third or even second seed in the weaker conference.
2. David Stern
Recently, the commissioner of the NBA has been occupied by only three tasks on his agenda: raising the age limit of incoming players, finding a new home for the Seattle Sonics and expanding the NBA market to Asia.
I have a question for the commissioner: Why not try to improve the competition itself? I am talking about the top 16 teams in the NBA making the playoffs. Get rid of the two sides, because it’s obviously a failing system.
Many (mostly executives on the Eastern Conference and old-school NBA officials) are against the idea. They argue the power balance will reset itself eventually.
When, though? The last time the conferences were close to even was 1998, when the Chicago Bulls played the Utah Jazz in the finals.
Events that have occurred since then: a Lakers dynasty, a Spurs dynasty and two more retirements by Michael Jordan. It’s safe to say the balance won’t be shifting soon.
The championships won by the 2004 Detroit Pistons and ’06 Miami Heat came from nothing more than mental breakdowns by competition.
Moreover, anybody who argues flights would be too much for players to handle in a coast-to-coast re-alignment has never been on a private jet. Athletes making millions of dollars will find a way to survive a little jet lag.
3. Chris Mullin
No, there is no way to easily bring in a superstar like Jordan to lead the franchise to many championships. However, the Warriors had their own fairly decent No. 23 – Jason Richardson.
In such a tight playoff race, there’s no doubt Richardson could’ve helped the Warriors squeeze out a few extra victories to get the job done, especially when they started the season 0-6 while Stephen Jackson was suspended.
Think about how well Richardson would’ve fit into the Warriors’ system this year considering he shot 40.6 percent from behind the arc to lead the league in 3-point makes, at 243.
Yes, Richardson was traded because the Warriors were going to face salary-cap issues in the offseason upon needing to re-sign Andris Biedrins and Monta Ellis, but a season was lost because management didn’t want to be over the cap even if there was a chance to build on last year’s success.
4. Don Nelson
Both brilliant and stubborn, Nelson had his share of ups and downs this season.
Most people are still confused as to why he benched Baron Davis for the entire second half of the huge game against the Phoenix Suns at the end of the season, but more upsetting is his unyielding philosophy of never playing rookies.
Brandan Wright had some remarkable moments in his first season, but they never resulted in solid minutes in Nelson’s rotation. If you trade away your top scorer from last year, why not give the guy you replaced him with some consistent playing time?
And seldom-played big man Patrick O’Bryant may have some questions about “Nellie Ball” of his own.
5. The Warriors
Let’s face it – they had their fair share of chances. At some point the team just needed to play better in crucial games.
Take, for instance, the play of Jackson. He shot 23 for 62 in five losses against potential playoff competition in the final two weeks of the season. Ellis and Davis also combined for 40 turnovers in those same five games.
This list likely didn’t make any Warriors fans feel better, but at least they can look forward to a few ping-pong balls in the lottery and the potential of signing Elton Brand if he opts out of his contract.
If all that fails, there’s always “better luck next year.”
Dmitry Bisk is an animal science alumnus and a Mustang Daily sports columnist.