Because there is never enough hype for a Hump Day show down between Northern and Southern California, we asked Nate at Golden State of Mind to answer a few questions to provide insight into our in-state adversary. Be sure to check out my answers to his queries at GSoM.
Johnny Stark: After a strong regular season and coming up just short in a 7-game series that could have gone either way, your front office decided to make a change at the coaching position. Were you supportive of jettisoning Mark Jackson? How do you feel about the team's future under Steve Kerr?
Nate Parham: First things first, I was indifferent to Jackson staying. On the one hand, I saw firing a well-liked coach after getting the most wins since forever as a massive risk. On the other hand, at the very least, the rift between coach and management had gotten bad that it had become a constant distraction; at worst, there are ways in which you could argue Jackson wasn't maximizing the roster's talent.
So I was open to the possibility of change but did not like the idea of removing Jackson for yet another complete novice.
There's a lot to like about Kerr and, like Jackson in the beginning, I simply don't know that we've seen enough to make any real statement about the future with him in charge. What I will say is that his willingness to surround himself with more experienced coaches and lean on them a bit for the nuts and bolts of coaching was heartening for me - Kerr seems to me to be a collaborative leader who is willing to take the best ideas of others rather than taking the "my way or the highway" approach. I appreciate that in theory, but I also see where that could go wrong.
I won't complain about the early returns though and am quite optimistic about the future.
JS: The Warriors just extended Klay Thompson for 4 years/70 million dollars. Do you think the Dubs are slowly starting to hitch their wagon to Thompson as the franchise cornerstone as opposed to Steph Curry?
NP: Interesting question, but I wouldn't read the situation quite that way. From what we've seen to this point, the org is committed to keeping the Splash Brothers together long-term. Giving Thompson four years with the expected jump in salary cap figures ahead still leaves room for them to give Curry the sun, the moon, the stars, and the mountains (as for the rest of the core...that's a longer story).
Of course, there is now a significant disparity in pay between the two, but you really can't blame the Warriors for underpaying Curry after his early career ankle issues...nor can you blame Curry for accepting the deal. But I'm pretty sure Curry will be getting paid as a franchise cornerstone when the time comes.
JS: Former Clipper Shaun Livingston signed with your team during the off-season. What type of hopes do you have for the phoenix-kneed point guard?
NP: I was just saying the other night that I always wonder what Livingston could've been had he not suffered that devastating early career injury - you can still see his feel for the game out there and his length/IQ still makes him potentially disruptive on defense.
In this new offense Kerr has installed, what I've been most impressed by is Livingston's ability to make plays as a post up facilitator - that's going to be a mismatch on many nights and, once he gets into playing shape, he could be a threat to score or set someone else up. But he also complements other players in the rotation well enough that it gives Kerr a number of options for how to defend opposing teams and how to keep the offense running when Curry is out - there will likely still be a huge drop-off without Steph, but people vastly underestimate the ability to simply get the ball up court to initiate the offense especially with this system. Having an extra ball handler/playmaker in the rotation makes the team that much more lethal.
JS: What are you biggest concerns for the Warriors this season?
NP: As with any new coach, we have yet to see how he handles adversity (e.g. a losing streak, making sure players remain committed to sacrificing minutes for team, etc). In a tight West, dropping a few games here or there simply due to growing pains should probably be expected.
Turnovers are still a problem and the number and timing of just plain careless unforced turnovers can get frustrating - the Warriors just have a few players who try to make highlight reel passes at the expense of ball security. There are just going to be rough patches here and there with this collection of players.
Third, of course, is health: you just never know with the collective injury history of these players. I STILL cringe if it looks like Curry lands on his ankle funny - that's mostly irrational, but his whole injury history is strange. So we do have to worry about that a bit.
Last, and something that I think gets swept under the rug until we're staring it in the face, is that this is very much a finesse team that has questionable depth in the paint - especially with DLee out - and teams have already shown the ability to exploit that. Jordan Hill had his way with the team for stretches in the Lakers game and both the Kings and Blazers killed them on the boards. This is not a new problem at all and it's not something that a coach could be expected to come in and "fix" - teams that can slow a game down and play grinding, physical basketball are just going to have a better shot at beating this team.
JS: How do you see the 2014-2015 NBA season playing out for the team in the Bay?
NP: I'm expecting between 55-60 wins from this team. They're good and I think the new offense will help maximize their talent. And I thought all that before seeing Klay absolutely blow up.
Playoff success will be all about matchups and home court advantage (and, perhaps similar to last year, health in the postseason) though so I have a hard time projecting that - WCF is certainly a reasonable expectation, but a bad matchup or lower seed could lead to an earlier exit without being a damning statement about the team. Either way, I expect this team to contend this season and that's exciting - never in my life have I been able to legitimately think that this early in the season.
I want to thank Nate for taking the time to give such great answers. If you have anything else to ask him, leave a question in the comments ad perhaps he will have time to answer you.