I've had a dislike for the Warriors since I saw how poorly they defended under Don Nelson, and not much changed under Keith Smart. I didn't like Monta Ellis and Curry in the same backcourt, and I thought Udoh was a rubbish pick. With that said, I like the approach new head coach Mark Jackson has taken, and there are a number of players on their team which have me coming around.
First of all, this was the first time I'd seen the much-heralded Klay Thompson, and I see what all the fuss is about, he shoots lights out, moves off the ball well, has great size for the position and didn't really force it. He finished with 24 points tonight as the first option on a team with Gladness, Jenkins, Richard Jefferson and Jeremy Tyler as his support. While he shot 9-19, he shot 4-4 from the FT line, and had 12 in the 4th to bring the Warriors back from the brink. There's just one problem; basketball players have to attack and defend, and the saying "God doesn't give with both hands" is especially true of Thompson. He does the things which make it seem like he's trying defensively, staying low, having a wide stance and adjusting to players around him, but he was caught flat-footed just about every time someone tried to go by him, and he simply doesn't seem to have the mentality that he wants to stop his opponent, he'd rather pay him back at the other end. I'll cut him some slack for being a rookie, but his movements defensively were all big movements, he'd make a big jump to adjust to the screen instead of a few small steps to stay on his toes. Offensively though, he plays a prototypical shooting-guard game, and moving Ellis was a wise move, because it's allowed Thompson to blossom, whilst also giving the Warriors a shot at retaining their lottery pick (which is top-7 protected).
Another player from the Warriors I'm high on is Jeremy Tyler. I was thrilled when the Bobcats took him early in the second round last year, as he has great physical attributes, and was slept on due to his ill-conceived stint in the pros overseas after leaving high school early. That was until MJ sold him to the Rockets for a bit of cash. As a result, I haven't been able to watch him much this year, so I was glad the game I watched saw Tyler get a lot of minutes. He is unfortunately very raw, but he moves well off the ball to set screens, is active going after boards and his length was able to bother Scola and Patterson underneath a few times. That said, he struggles to prevent players backing him down, and needs to work at holding his ground a bit better. Offensively, he tried a few too many turnaround jumpers in the post, but he showed nice touch inside when he actually got inside. Tyler finished with 8 points on 4-7 shooting, and of those three he missed, two were jumpers. He has quick feet, but they can be a little too quick, as he was called for a travel at one point for lifting that pivot foot before taking a bounce. However, for a second round pick he's showing that he can be a decent backup C at the very least, and with his rookie year under his belt, a full off-season to work with his coaches and little pressure to do the spectacular at this stage of his career, he's well placed to develop even further. Tyler is similar to DeAndre Jordan in that he was an athletic freak, was the top prospect at one point in his high school career and fell into the second round. Hopefully, having emulated Jordan's fall from grace, he can mirror his rise into a starting role - especially if Andrew Bogut continues to miss large chunks of seasons.
Not much to say about the Rockets that I didn't say two days ago. However, Dragic threw down a nasty dunk, which surprised me, Courtney Lee continued to make timely buckets, and there was even a Marcus Morris sighting! The much maligned lottery pick was beaten out by second-rounder Chandler Parsons, but hit a nice step back jumper with a hand in his face and hasn't lost the shooting touch he possessed in college. That said, he has relatively slow feet, and his handle slows him down even further. He looked smaller than I thought he'd be out there and definitely lacks the size to play the PF full-time, so must improve his conditioning to allow himself to play the small forward at the NBA level. I don't see him being particularly successful in Houston with Budinger and Parsons there, as both of them are similar players but are simply better.
That's all for this one folks, I'll see you on Wednesday (Tuesday for your North American folk) for a preview of the Eastern Conference Finals with Miami against Boston. Just kidding (or am I?).