Stretching the Field: Believe the hype in Oakland

The Sports NetworkOctober 18, 2013 

(SportsNetwork.com) - Flavor Flav of the classic hip-hop group Public Enemy told listeners "don't believe the hype" when it came to political issues at the time of the song's release in the late 1980s.

Around that same time the Golden State Warriors were regulars in the NBA playoffs, reaching the postseason five times from 1986-87 to 1993-94.

The Warriors garnered much hype then and made believers across the league until fleeing the scene to irrelevance. With just one postseason berth (2006-07) since the 1993-94 campaign, the Warriors found their way out of obscurity with a playoff appearance last season and now they're the soup du jour by a vast majority.

Will the 2013-14 season be a special one for the Warriors? Could be. The roster is stacked with talent and depth could be Golden State's ticket to another successful run.

A big piece to the Warriors' achievements will be the health of center Andrew Bogut. The former No. 1 overall pick said last month he is back at full strength following bouts with ankle, knee and back issues. Bogut, who's in the final year of his five-year, $60 million contract, appeared in just 32 games last season and averaged only 5.8 points and 7.7 rebounds. He improved in the postseason, averaging 7.2 points and 10.9 boards in 12 games for the sixth- seeded Warriors, who defeated the Denver Nuggets in six games in the opening round and bowed out in six games to the San Antonio Spurs in the semis.

The 7-foot Bogut is happy he has no restrictions and can perform all basketball activities such as running, lifting, playing five-on-five. Bogut was asked about the media hype and if this is the most talented team he has been on.

"I've been on some talented teams in Milwaukee, too, though," Bogut said. "We had some years where it was very similar to this, where we had a piece of paper that had 12 players on the roster, or 15, the media was saying the same thing, and we absolutely bombed from the added pressure. So I've been in that situation before, and I respect the process. We're not there yet. We've still got work to do. But I like what we have."

What the Warriors do have is a solid nucleus coming back. Point guard? Check. Power forward? Check. The same goes for small forward and center, and that's why the Warriors are on unfamiliar grounds as a preseason favorite.

"Everyone is blowing us up," Bogut told InsideBayArea.com. "But we've only had one good year the last five or six. We still have a lot to prove. ... We're not going sprinkle some dust on the roster and sweep everybody in the playoffs and win a championship. There's a process, and it takes a lot of hard work and commitment."

Golden State took a trip to China for some exhibition games and to promote team bonding. For a team that is welcoming back the usual suspects in Bogut, Steph Curry, David Lee and Klay Thompson, the Warriors got better by bringing in multi-talented guard/forward Andre Iguodala. They say if ain't broke, don't fix it, but the addition of Iguodala will make this corps that much stronger. Plus, he brings experience and a veteran presence in the locker room.

Head coach Mark Jackson said the team is growing and excited about the future, and is aware the rest of the league will not take the Warriors lightly.

"They're not going to sleep on us," Jackson said of other teams. "But for us it's important to realize that it's a process. We want to stay true to the process as usual and put ourselves in position to be a dangerous team when it matters most. We've made changes and we feel like we're better. Now it's a question to go out and actually show it on the floor."

Jackson said depth is an "advantage" because it's a long year, so players have to stay ready because their number will be called. And when that happens the players have to take full advantage of the opportunity. Some of those players are forward Harrison Barnes, center Jermaine O'Neal, forward/center Marreese Speights and guards Toney Douglas and Nemanja Nedovic.

Barnes is currently bothered by a foot ailment and should be ready for the regular season later this month. Barnes is expected to be Jackson's top reserve and may one day be a starter for this team. He enjoyed a decent rookie campaign last season, finishing fifth in scoring (9.2 points), 10th in rebounding (4.1 rebounds), 10th in field-goal percentage (.439) and seventh in three-point shooting (.359) among first-year players. His output improved tremendously in the playoffs, upping his scoring to 16.1 ppg.

He's one of the reasons why Jackson believes it's a positive to have depth instead of it being a labeled as a "downside."

The Warriors have also improved tremendously on defense under Jackson and last season excelled in opponents' field goal percentage (fourth in NBA; 20th in 2011-12), opponents' three-point percentage (seventh; 28th in 2011-12), defensive rebounding (first; 24th in 2011-12) and rebounds per game (third; 28th in 2011-12). They will have to be stingy again on the defensive front playing in both the Pacific and Western Conference, and there's no reason why the team shouldn't finish with one of the top three or four seeds.

Golden State can once again shout from the mountain top, as winning a division title and advancing deep into the postseason is a possibility.

Believe the hype surrounding the Warriors because it's for real.

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