The Golden State Warriors will square off in game 3 of the Western Conference Semifinals against Utah shortly. This is a great and improbable story, and unless the Warriors somehow beat Utah and subsequently play the run-and-gun Phoenix Suns, the best playoff series in the NBA.
As anyone who has been watching the playoffs knows, The Warriors' 42-40 record and #8 finish in the West is deceptive. The playoff team as we know it was not together until the last few weeks of the regular season. There is little resemblance between this exciting team and the injury-decimated squad that had a 26-35 record as of February '07 and finished 34-48 in the past two seasons under former Stanford coach Mike Montgomery. As soon as Baron Davis, Jason Richardson and Stephen Jackson were on the floor together, the Warriors tranformed into a contender - and beat the living daylights out of the Detroit Pistons.
Perhaps most amazing: the remarkably savvy moves by Chris Mullin and Rod Higgins. Clearly, these guys have a sixth sense of when another team is desperate to unload top-notch talent. For a nice backup point guard (Speedy Claxton), a grizzled veteran at the end of the trail (Dale Davis), two role players (Mike Dunleavy, Jr. and Troy Murphy) and a young player struggling to learn coach Nelson's system (Ike Diogu), the Warriors received an exceptional point guard (The Baron), the best sixth man in the NBA (Stephen Jackson) and a solid front-line player (Al Harrington). Nice going, Chris and Rod. Very nice going. And Chris convinced Don Nelson to abandon that bucolic Hawaii retirement for one more go at coaching. It's a fitting payback after decades of dreadful Warriors trades and questionable draft choices under multiple regimes.
Whatever happens in this series, it is a new day for this long-cursed franchise. If the principals return and stay healthy, this team will contend for the Western Division title in 2007-2008.
I extend big time kudos to the players, coach Don Nelson and the loyal, vocal, long-suffering Warriors fans.