Tuesday, March 20, 2012

A Night at the Warrriors

Last night I had the good fortune to be the guest of Mike Driscoll at the Golden State Warrior game against the Minnesota Timberwolves. It was Chris Mullin jersey retirement night. His number 17 is now hanging in the rafters with other Warrior greats. Mullin has played in more games as a Warrior than anyone else in franchise history. He averaged 25 points or more for 5 straight seasons, a feat matched in Warrior history only by none other than Wilt Chamberlain. And last year he was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.

Mullin has always been one of my favorite Warriors. My favorite was actually the pre-Tim Hardaway version that had the uncanny ability to get to the hoop with some Earl Monroe-like magic. Non-blessed with blazing speed or incredible jumping ability some of Mullins moves to the rim defy description. A stop and go, change of pace and direction, quirkiness to the extreme are words that just don't do it justice. A local sports writer compared him to one of my all time favorite Giants, Stu Miller. Miller was a master of an equally quirky delivery that stressed changing speeds. With the advent of Hardaway Mullin did not have to create his own shot as much. So he used less energy and relied more on his incredibly fluid left hand jump shot.

In the late 80's I was also at the previous Warrior retirement of a jersey, that of number 24, Rick Barry. Barry of course is the greatest West Coast Warrior and led the '74-'75 team to the bay area's only NBA title. I remember both him and that year well. What was ironic was that that night a Mullin who had spent most of that season in the late '80's(I think it was 1987) in alchohol rehab came out and lit up Clyde Drexler and the Portland Trailblazers for I think 34 points. Symbolically I felt a torch of sorts was passed on from Barry to Mullin and Mullin went on to make 5 consectutive All-Star games. So I was watching to see if any Warrior might have stood out to take the torch from Mullin. And if any my guess it would be Klay Thompson. Thompson is a rookie wing player with an incredibly fluid shot and who shows a talent for getting to the hoop as well. He is long but tends to get his shot blocked a lot because he lengthens and goes ups straight. This gives taller defenders a target and line up to block his shot. I think Thompson could study tapes of Mullin and how Mullin moved and finished at the hoop. Just a thought. Thompson,like most of the Warriors, had a bad first half. But he scored 12 points in the third quarter. It is important for a shooter/scorer to continue to shoot even if the results are not there. And Thompson is learning this. Mysteriously he was not put back into the game until about 3 minutes left. He finished with 17 points, all in the second half. I think if he had been put back in earlier the Warriors would have won the game. But as was the case with the Rick Barry retirement night the Warriors lost a tight game. But we will see if Klay Thompson picks up the mantle and becomes the next great Warrior scorer. Barry to Mullin to Thompson?

In an unfortunate setting, the new co-owner Joe Lacob was soundly booed after he followed Mullin to end the half time tribute. Both Mullin and Barry actually spoke to the crowd about how they felt Lacob will turn the team around. For the record I was not one of those who booed. My sense is that this goes far beyond the team and its woes. I believe we are going through a transformational time where there is a lot of stress. Even though people who can afford to attend an NBA game are probably well above average financially, I think it is significant that this group is feeling an economic pinch. Lacob may represent the minority of the incredibly monied and some of the frustration vented might have that as something of a base. Times are tight for everyone. The Warriors represent a distraction, something to take one's mind off pressing issues. Even though they have not been successful, the fan base has been remarkably loyal. Both Mullin and Barry referred to the fans as the NBA's best.

My top 5 favorite Warriors in no particular order really:
1. Mullin
2. Barry
3. Thurmond
4 Bernard King
5. Tim Hardaway

Barry and Mullin are obvious choices. Thurmond is one of the NBA's 50 greatest players and was a dominant big man the likes of which the Warriors haven't sniffed since. He was unfortunately overshadowed early by Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain and later by Kareem Abdul Jabbar. Bernard King was a Warrior for 2 memorable seasons before being traded to the Knicks, where he won several scoring titles before the advent of Michael Jordan. Intensity, Intelligence, and incredibly clutch, I wish the Warriors had decided to build around him rather than Joe Barry Carroll. The history of the team might have been much different. And Hardaway of the killer crossover is probably my favorite all time Warrior point guard. My daughter and I met him and Mitch Richmond( who should also be on the list but we can only have 5) at the University of Santa Clara for a community basketball clinic during Hardaway's rookie year. He was another one the Warriors let get away, having some very productive years for the Miami Heat post Golden State.

On another aside today is the 44th anniversary of the showing of Diana Rigg's last Avengers episode on ABC tv. I'll do another Avengers blog next week to commemorate their debut on American tv.

And I found this clip of Mullin on Youtube. What a fluid player. And note what I said about his ability to finish at the hoop.


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