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News » Warriors seeking to improve defense

Warriors seeking to improve defense

Warriors seeking to improve defense The endless predictions for the NBA season have been documented. The Warriors are pegged to miss the playoffs for the third consecutive season, and for the 15th time in the past 16 seasons.

But are the Warriors poised to be a Cinderella team? Do they have it in them to beat the expectations and surprise their naysayers?

Their chances of making the postseason will hinge on whether all that preseason talk about defense was more than just talk.

"Defense has been a big problem for us," swingman Stephen Jackson said. "I can't guard everybody. We've got five guys on the court, and everybody has to do their part. Our defense has to get better for us to even think about having a great year."

Plenty of reasons exist to believe the Warriors won't be much improved on defense. Golden State doesn't have a roster loaded with good individual defenders. Only Jackson is noted for his man-to-man defense on the perimeter, and centers Ronny Turiaf and Andris Biedrins can hold their own in the key.

Aside from them, and maybe swingman Kelenna Azubuike, the Warriors have a collection of players who lack the size, speed or savvy to be reliable defenders. The need for better defense is a clich? in the Warriors' locker room. It was cited as the culprit in most of their 53 losses last season.

The Warriors ranked last among the 30 NBA teams in points allowed per game (112.3) and 23rd in field-goal percentage defense. Even when they prevented an opponent from scoring, they often failed to secure the boards. Golden State gave up a league-high 1,165 offensive rebounds. (Chicago was second with 1,017.)

Turiaf said the Warriors are hoping to crack the top 15 in fewest points allowed. They certainly will have to do better than last season to finish among the top eight in the Western Conference.

"We had really bad defense," Biedrins said, "and now this year we're kind of (trying to make) sure people won't score a lot of points on us. We've tried to get better at helping each other and getting rebounds, especially if we play with a small lineup."

Coach Don Nelson's decision to start a backcourt of Stephen Curry and Monta Ellis each listed at 6-foot-3 and a sandwich over 180 pounds is sure to toughen the task of improving the defense because of the mismatches it will create on the perimeter. But the coaching staff is hoping it has found a way to cover up the team's limitations.

Assistant Keith Smart, whom Nelson has named the Warriors' "defensive coordinator," created a regimen with fellow assistant Stephen Silas. It included a simplification of the defensive schemes, increased film study and an emphasis on team defense.

The Warriors didn't even install their zone defense until late in the exhibition season, because they wanted to create a culture of defensive accountability.

The whispers in the locker room are that it's working. Forward Corey Maggette, never confused with being a good defender, is among the team's highest-rated defenders based on the Warriors' evaluation system.

"They are very much ahead of where they were last year," Smart said. "We're helping a lot of guys out by just being simple defensively, not changing game to game. ... I think that helps with all our guys. We're trying to build our base and get them to trust defense-first man-to-man. You have to have a lot of accountability, because there is no bailout."

The Warriors have something to hang their hats on defensively. Last season, they led the league in blocked shots and were seventh in forcing turnovers. Plus, Nelson said he is planning to play arguably the Warriors' best defensive lineup, which pairs Turiaf and Biedrins, something he wouldn't do last season because of their offensive shortcomings.

But perhaps the Warriors' biggest defensive asset is Jackson, their closest thing to a lockdown defender.

Almost assuredly, any hope the Warriors have of improving on defense and thereby becoming a serious playoff contender goes through Jackson, who often will be matched up against opponents' best perimeter player.

Is he fully committed?

Jackson made waves most of the preseason. His public criticism of the franchise and desire to be traded, along with his two-game suspension for a blowup on the bench against the Los Angeles Lakers on Oct. 9, raises questions about whether he will produce for the Warriors .

But Nelson doesn't share those questions. Neither does Jackson, nor his teammates.

If Jackson is on board, and this heightened defensive effort has its desired effect, then perhaps the Warriors will be better defensively. And if they're better defensively, any hope of sneaking into the postseason becomes that much more feasible.

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Author: Fox Sports
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Added: October 30, 2009


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