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First impression: Not the usual woeful Warriors

Published: Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 8:19 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 8, 2012 at 8:19 p.m.

I need to start with a confession. I missed the Warriors preseason and their first few games because 1) I was with the Giants for their entire postseason run, 2) When that ended — and after I covered the parade — I retired to my Fortress of Solitude for a few days.

I caught up with the Warriors Wednesday night in Oakland when they beat the Cavaliers 106-96, giving them a 3-2 record. They were 2-3 at the same point last season, and it was downhill from there.

On Wednesday, I saw center Andrew Bogut dish off five nifty assists and he somehow mattered even though he didn’t score and even though he still plays reduced minutes because of his ankle and, in fact, won’t play in a game for the next seven to 10 days.

I saw rookie Harrison Barnes play strong in the paint and attack the basket and score 14. Eventually, Barnes could be the Warriors’ best player. Before the game, coach Mark Jackson told him, “No fade-away jump shots, no messing around. Punish them.” And he did.

I saw Stephen Curry score 21 points and find his stroke.

I saw David Lee play an all-around excellent game even though he had been at death’s door with what they call flu-like symptoms.

I saw reserve forward Carl Landry score 19 and grab nine rebounds. Here is Jackson on Landry: “He’s a guy that can flat-out score on the block, doesn’t settle, very crafty and tough to defend. He’s giving us a lot. He’s been a heck of a find for us and a big-time back-up 4, 5.”

Landry used to murder the Warriors when he played against them. Against Cleveland, he dribbled to one side, brought the ball to the other side and went up for a jumper. Swish.

“I felt like a kid again after that move,” he said. “Basketball is a game and games are supposed to be competitive but fun. After that move it just put a smile on my face. It made me feel like I was a kid all over again.”

Let me add some things. When the Warriors go to the bench, it’s no longer a disaster — factor in Jarrett Jack, Festus Ezeli and Richard Jefferson. The Warriors may be deep enough that they can compensate for losing Brandon Rush, deep enough that they never again have to play Andris Biedrins.

Afterward, I spoke with general manager Bob Myers. When Myers speaks basketball, he does not assert his position. His voice is soft and he speaks slowly, a man searching for precisely the right words, the truth. He still is learning about his team and he is upfront about that.

Cohn: This is my first look at your team because I was with the Giants.

Myers: Good move.

Cohn: Let me tell you my impressions.

Myers: I’d like to know.

Cohn: It seems to me the team has more good players and it plays at a higher level more consistently than I’ve seen in a long time. Is that what you’re seeing?

Myers: Yeah, I think we have more talent than we had in the past and I think you are not seeing the finished product because Bogut has still got some ways to go before you’re seeing who he is. He’s going to change our team even more so than what it has changed already. But, yeah, when we get in ruts and we can’t score, you look at the bench and there are players that can come in and solve the problem. We have a lot of weapons that help us win games. We don’t have to have 40 points out of Curry or, in the past, it was Curry and Monta (Ellis). We don’t need these heroic efforts to win. We can have players have off nights, off halves, off quarters and still maintain leads, which is something we haven’t had.

Cohn: When I see the Bogut that he will be, how will the team change?

Myers: Defensively we’ll be a lot better as far as him being able to move, control the paint, block shots at the rim and, also, offensively expose smaller teams. He’s big and he’s comfortable in the post and he’ll really put some pressure on other teams. We haven’t had a player in the post that opposing teams have had to double team, and he’s a guy they’ll probably have to do that with. So, that will open up things for our shooters. And to be honest, Curry has not shot great. Curry and Klay (Thompson) haven’t had a game where they’ve both been on. That will be good when that clicks.

Cohn: I feel a lot of your young players, first and second year, are really good. One would assume Harrison Barnes will really develop.

Myers: When we draft a basketball player, what we look at is the talent, but also: Is the player going to improve? What’s his ceiling? What’s his work ethic? How competitive is he? And you can check all the boxes with him as far as wanting to be good, wanting to be better, working hard, putting the time in. The best players in the NBA don’t get to the NBA and stay who they are. They get to the NBA and get better each year. That’s our hope. But we’re seeing development. If you had seen all our games, he hasn’t done that in the post before. He hasn’t been that comfortable scoring there. But that’s a great part of his game. Because he’s strong, he can score. He’s athletic. We have high expectations for him.

OK, that was the gist of our conversation. Remember, the Warriors play the Lakers tonight, and the Lakers are an unseemly 1-4, partly because Steve Nash has a small fracture in his left leg and, even when he’s available, he and Kobe Bryant both need the ball and don’t yet know how to play together. All things considered, this is the right time for the Warriors to play the Lakers in L.A.

For more on the world of sports in general and the Bay Area in particular, go to the Cohn Zohn at cohn.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Lowell Cohn at lowell.cohn@pressdemocrat.com.

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