Thursday, October 25, 2007

Unbelievable, Unforgettable, and Unstoppable Baby!

Before we move forward in The W Column to what a great time out the 2007-2008
Warriors will be starting opening night October 30, 2007 against the Utah Jazz aka GSoM Night II, I think it’s important to look back and celebrate the many unbelievable things last year’s squad accomplished, especially since longtime Warriors and fan favorites Jason Richardson and Adonal Foyle are now in the NBA's Southeast division. After over a decade of the Warriors being regarded as nothing more than the NBA’s running joke, this cast put the franchise back on the map in the most unforgettable way possible. Adding icing to cake, they made us believe with their storybook rise to darling of the 2007 NBA Playoffs. We will most likely never see anything like that in our lifetimes again. Decades from now I know I will be nostalgically recounting the famed tale of these true warriors to my grandchildren.

Here’s 13 unbelievable things that I will never forget about the 2006-2007
Golden State Warriors:

1. Opening Night Disaster

After a long and difficult 2005-2006 season Chris Mullin and Rod Higgins brought back an old friend. Coach Don Nelson’s surprise return to the bench as the head coach of the Warriors brought excitement and promise back to Bay Area hoops. Nellie would bring out the best in this flawed roster with his fast paced brand of hoops that put a premium on shooting and passing.

After all the training camp hype however, the Warriors came out on opening night in Oakland and pretty much stunk up the joint with a blowout loss to the LA Lakers. It was embarrassing. It was frustrating. It looked like “Here we go again” times 13 for many Warrior fans, but we all still kept our heads up.

2. The trade which set up “Warrior Tempo”

By early January the opening night struggles proved they were simply no fluke. This was a bad team going nowhere fast. It was a wake up call for the Warriors front office. Nellie was undoubtedly a hoops mastermind and the right coach to help get the team back to the playoffs and respectability, but he couldn’t work miracles with the poor roster personnel decisions and mismanaged salary cap haunting this team. With Nellie very vocally airing out his frustrations with the roster and fan morale understandably low, Chris Mullin and Rod Higgins had no choice, but to give the team a major shakeup even if meant taking a huge risk. The status quo just wasn’t going to cut it. Something needed to be done.

The Warriors’ backcourt was speedy and supremely athletic with Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, and Monta Ellis, but the frontcourt was too slow and unathletic to keep up. Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy in particular were under performing and were making Mullin and Higgins look foolish for outbidding themselves in their respective contract dealings. In an attempt to add the speed, athleticism, and winning attitude to match the backcourt the Warriors shipped out Murphy, Dunleavy, and struggling second year power forward Ike Diogu along with seldom used backup point guard Keith McLeod to the Indiana Pacers for the Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson, Sarunas Jasikevicius, and Josh Powell. Harrington was Chris Mullin’s unattainable free agent prize of the 2006 summer, but quickly deemed a poor fit alongside his buddy Jermaine O’Neal by the Pacers’ front office. Jackson became the target of the Pacers' front office and their fans' frustrations with their mediocre ballclub because of his not-so-squeaky clean record and reports that he wasn’t getting along with head coach Rick Carlisle. Despite being a much-heralded superstar in Israel, Jasikevicius was having a hard time translating his game to the NBA. The Warriors were undoubtedly taking a risk especially with huge loss in rebounding ability, but at that point they had nothing to lose.

The funny thing is that many major outlets had the Pacers as big winners in the trade. Their embarrassing attempts at analysis of the trade proved how little actual game film of the Warriors they had watched the past few seasons and exposed their own agenda against the controversial Stephen Jackson. Warriors Nation, the Warriors’ front office, and Coach Nelson knew what was up during the trade, but I doubt anyone really knew what sort of wild ride we were all in store for.

3. Nellie saying the Warriors weren’t going to the playoffs

Even after the heist of the Pacers in that 8 player swap the Warriors were still struggling. The move made perfect sense both in the long run as the team’s salary cap was infinitely more manageable and in the short run as Jackson and Harrington were big upgrades for the Warriors' starting five. However, the blockbuster trade couldn’t solve the nasty injury bug which hit this team hard since opening day. Because of his late off season knee surgery, Jason Richardson was still struggling to regain his old lift and scoring consistency. After having to log on so many minutes because of injuries to other teammates, and being who Nellie labeled his only “dominant” player Baron Davis was banged up and had to undergo in-season knee surgery. It didn't look good and even our fearless leader Nellie was saying we might just have to wait till 2008 to taste the playoffs again in the Bay Area.

4. Last second wins: Rockets, Nets, 76ers

For most of the season the Warriors were below .500, but that didn't mean it wasn't exciting. There were still a ton of big shots that allowed us to wonder if maybe this was the year the the curse would end.
Without Baron's big shot against the Rockets at home, Monta's sweet jumper with the clock expiring against the Nets in Oakland, or Al Harrington's clutch drive in Philly, that whole We Believe thing would've never happened.

5. GSoM Night

On March 23rd 2007 it seemed to be a given that the Warriors would be sitting at home watching the NBA Playoffs for the 13th straight season. Times were admittedly bleak for Warrior fans, but nothing could stop the first ever GSoM Night at the Oracle. The upper deck aka The People’s Section was jam-packed with over 350 unstoppably loud and passionate GSoMers. After being down at the half with Stephen Jackson ejected early in the game it looked like our old friends on the Washington Warriors were going to take the W.

Thankfully though the Oracle Arena became the Roaracle Arena that night and the Warriors came back to win and avenge that mysterious loss against the Wiz earlier that March in Washington. The players brought it on the court and the fans brought it in the stands. The season could've easily been over that night, but the Warriors and their fans simply would not quit.

6. We Believe Playoff: Nellie goes smaller than small

While the blockbuster trade with the Pacers was brilliant, it left the Warriors’ supply of big men and rebounders completely depleted. The Warriors were getting killed on the boards nightly with Andris Biedrins as their lone rebounding force. So Nellie of course did what only he would do in such a desperate time for bigger players and more rebounding. He went even smaller with a starting 5 of Baron, Monta, JRich, Stephen, and Al. It was easily the smallest starting unit in the league, but it was also the fastest and most fun to watch.

With this unbelievably unconventional lineup that only Nellie would dare try, the wildest fans in the league chanting "Play-offs! Play-offs! Play-offs!", and the running joke that every game was the most important game of the past 12 years for this franchise, the Warriors went on a wild, wild 15-5 run. It didn't look like the Warriors had any chance whatsoever to make the playoffs, but no member of Warriors Nation was hearing that last April.

7. The End of the Curse

12 years, 41 wins, 40 losses and it all came down to one game. I’d be lying to you if I said Warrior fans slept well the night before. There were so many demons haunting this franchise (see The Dirty Dozen Part I | Part II | Part III), but they could all be put to rest if the Warriors could just get one win. ONE.

I won't lie, it was a long, long 48 minutes, but the Warriors pulled it off in Portland with Bob Fitzgerald and Jim Barnett providing a memorable narration to that unforgettable night. It was an emotional and joyous time for everyone. Back in the Bay we were planning a big parade to celebrate the end of the curse, but Nellie and the fellas had even bigger plans in mind. The party was just getting started...

8. Game 1 in Dallas: "They are in it to win it"

Most hoop junkies were billing this series against the Mavs as the best first round matchup of the playoffs. Well, that was only partly correct. It was the best series of the entire 2007 NBA Playoffs. There were a plethora of storylines for this series revolving around Nellie, Mavs' owner Mark Cuban, and the Warriors uncanny, seemingly unexplainable dominance of the Mavs in the regular season for the past two regular seasons.

Truth be told most Warriors fans were just happy to be here in the playoffs. If the Warriors lost Game 1 in Dallas and proceeded to get swept, most of us would still be smiling. Still, the thought of shocking the world by upsetting the 67 win Mavs was intriguing. There were no finer words than the FSN Bay Area slogan for the Warriors in the playoffs: "They are in it to win it". Our party was just getting started, but it was already over for the Mavs because We Believed.

9. Game 3 in Oakland: The best fans in the league

After getting a series split in Dallas, the Warriors came back home for the first playoff game in Oakland in 13 years. All the energy that Warriors fans had building up for over a decade manifested itself that Friday night at the Oracle Arena. The Warriors' organization gave new meaning to the We Believe fan generated theme (Paul Wong will go down as a legend in the Warrior history books) by outfitting the entire crowd of 20,629 with those unforgettably bold and stylish golden yellow We Believe t-shirts. It was amazing that even with the crazy 880 Friday rush hour traffic thousands of Warrior fans were actually at the arena way before the 7:30pm start time for the game. Twenty minutes before tip off Warrior fans were already packing the stands in their bright tee's chanting "Let's Go War-ri-ors! Let's Go War-ri-ors! Let's Go War-ri-ors!"

The Warriors went on to blow out the Mavericks that night showing heart and the power of the Golden Crowd. But the fun didn't stop for fans that night. During my entire BART ride home (take BART, don’t pollute!) folks were chanting “Let’s Go War-ri-ors!” and at every stop when the BART doors opened everyone in unison turned up the decibel level another notch with their cheers. Other towns do some silly things when their teams win, but us folks in the Bay? We unite like Voltron on public transportation trains and platforms!

10. Barkley vs the Bay

There were two things the name Charles Barkley was synonymous with for longtime Warrior fans. The first was the classic Nike barbershop commercial in which the last Warrior All-Star Latrell Sprewell and then rookie sensation Chris Webber were joking about CWebb’s thunderous fast break dunk on Chuck. The other was Barkley’s amazing 56 point night in Game 3 of the Warriors and Suns 1st round series in Oakland back in the 1994 NBA Playoffs that was the last taste of playoff hoops for the Bay Area in over 12 years.

After the Mavs took Game 2 on TNT’s post game show Chuck said the series was over and the Warriors were going to lose the next 3 games straight and be gone fishing before everyone knew it. Barkley went on to crack a few jokes about how the small ball Warriors were just midgets. Well us Bay Area folk are knowledgeable hoops fans. We don't forget our history and we sure weren't going to forget the midget jokes. Maybe it was a Napoleon-like complex from the Dub following, but the humorous war of words and pictures that transpired next between the Bay Area and Chuck was pure comedy.

In the 4th quarter of Game 3 with the Warriors blowing out the Mavs chants of "Barkley sucks! Barkley sucks! Barkley sucks!" emerged... and wouldn't stop. Chuck heard it from the packed Roaracle Arena crowd that night and for the rest of the playoffs. Let's just say Charles wasn't going to take the clowning from the Warrior faithful quietly. He started taking outrageously funny shots at the Bay Area for being hillbillies. Bay Area folk kept the joke running by conjuring up some classic drawings of the Chuckster "living life up to the fullest" here in the SF, OAK, SJC triangle.

What made it so funny was that deep down inside everyone knew it was all in jest and how absurd both sides were being. Barkley was just doing his job as a studio analyst and trying to make an entertaining prediction and Warrior fans were just clowning around. Chuck couldn't seriously believe those things he was saying about the Bay- or at least I hope not!

11. Game 4 in Oakland: Believe It

After the Warriors and their fans' golden performance in Game 3 the whole nation starting taking notice of Bay Area hoops. Word was getting around that the Spring's best party was going down at the Roaracle Arena under Nellie's supervision and guidance. The Warriors and their fans were the hottest topic in the entire sports world. The Bay Area was in full on We Believe mode and many good people across the entire hoops landscape wanted a piece of that We Believe action as well. No one was disappointed, except for Mavs fans.

The game opened up with Warrior on court hype man and swingman Mickael Pietrus leading the crew into the arena carrying one of the We Believe tee's that were actually going on eBay at the time for upwards of $75 at the time. Thanks to a ton of heart from the golden crowd, BD, MP2, JRich, Jax, and Barnes the Warriors took a 3 to 1 series lead that Sunday. It was shocking, but there were still plenty of aftershocks left...

12. Game 6 in Oakland: SHOCK THE WORLD!

There's actually a little side story that Hash, Fantasy Junkie, and I have never told anyone. Before Game 5 in Dallas with the Warriors convincingly leading the series and one game away from the upset, Will Leitch of the sports world's most popular blog Deadspin wanted to document what was happening in this unbelievable playoff series for a team that was seen as the NBA's longest running joke just a few weeks earlier from the Warrior fans' perspective with an interview with the GSoM crew. The interview was originally set to run before Game 5 but because of some email issues that didn't happen. Anyhow Will asked us a few questions that were prime jinx material:

  • "OK, seriously ... are you guys $%&*#ing your pants? You're a game away from upsetting a team that won 67 games, and you haven't been to the playoffs in a decade."

  • "Did you really see this coming? Be honest."

  • "We're asking this just so you'll curse it: Whom do you want in the second round, Utah or Houston?"

  • "Seriously ... they gonna pull this off? If they don't, what will it mean to Warrior fandom?"

The Warriors of course went on to lose Game 5 in Dallas by a narrow margin and unfortunately it looked like there was a chance that they wouldn't be able to channel that fire and raw emotion that had gotten them through that daunting stretch in March and April and to 1 game away from pulling off a monumental upset anymore. I still to this day believe that if our interview ran before Game 5 we would've jinxed it all and the Warriors would have lost the series. By the way Mavs' fans, you can thank us for that Game 5 present by sending us a DVD box set of this playoff series this XMas.

Everything was at stake that Thursday night in Oakland. The hoops history books even. Well, we all know what happened that night:

  • In the first half of the game the Warriors' superstar Point Guard BD went down with a hamstring injury and had to go to the locker room for some attention. With their bearded leader looking to be out for the rest of the game and even a looming Game 7 in Dallas, it looked like it was all over for the golden show.

  • The Mavs just seemed be knocking down everything from outside in that first half.

  • But somehow the Warriors still led by 2 after the 2nd quarter.

  • Stephen Jackson had ice in his veins that night. He completely shut down league MVP Dirk Nowitzki and in the 3rd quarter he came out firing dropping 4 trifectas. His sharp shooting helped the Dubs surge right after the half putting up 36 points to the Mavs' 15 during that epic quarter.

  • After dropping an amazing 7 treys, Jackson's teammate on the 2002 NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs and then TNT analyst Steve Kerr exclaimed on the broadcast “He doesn’t care what anyone thinks and I mean that in the best way possible.”

  • After a dominating 3rd quarter the Warriors essentially traded baskets with the Mavs to finish off the blowout. But there was one Warriors basket in particular that the Mavs could not return. MP2 hit a baseline cutting JRich with a sneaky bounce pass that led to an unforgettable, thunderous, dunk. It was like a relief pitcher in baseball getting a final strikeout.

The sounds of Marv Albert boldly announcing to the whole world “The Golden State Warriors have pulled off the biggest upset in NBA playoff history” and the image of Chuck sporting a We Believe tee back in the TNT studios will never leave my memory. WE BELIEVE UPSET.

The World Was SHOCKED!

13. 2nd round Warriors vs Jazz Game 3 in Oakland: BD Posterizes AK47

While Game 3 of the 2nd round series against the Jazz wasn’t the last game of the Warriors 2006-2007 season years from now we’ll look back and see it as the final exclamation point to a thrilling season of Warriors basketball. There was that little dunk by Boom Dizzle that I'm sure you've all seen by now with Stephen Jackson dusting his shoulders off. It even won the dunk of the year on Ballhype (thanks to Warriors Nation banding together on a weekend’s notice!). Fitz: “DO YOU BELIEVE NOW?!”

No doubt.

The 2k6-2k7 Golden State Warriors made the whole Bay Area proud. These 13 unBELIEVEables helped make Oakland the new capital of California hoops. To everyone who made that season possible from the players who embodied what Bay Area hoops is all about, to Don Nelson and the entire coaching staff for their creativity and willingness to try the unthinkable, to the front office for assembling this edition of Warriors basketball, to the FSN Bay Area crew for always making it fun to watch the Warriors on TV even when times were tough, to the folks at KNBR 680/1050 for always being down to talk Warriors, to the local beatwriters and columnists who help satisfy our Warriors fix, to the Warrior Girls for being flyer than the legendary In Living Color Fly Girls, to the GS Lightening b-boys for pumping up the crowd with some unbelievable moves, to the Jr. Jam Squad for the fun dances, to Thunder and his unreal workout regimen, to Franco Finn who always kept the arena hype, to super fan Paul Wong who emphatically put the believe in We Believe Playoff, to inflatable Thunder who never ceases to crack me up, to the drummers who provided the live percussion while the Warriors beat up on playoff foes, to the Maverick fans and media who spoke too soon and underestimated the heart of a true Warrior, to the mohawk, to the critics who couldn’t understand the raw energy, passion, and hustle that made this is a cohesive, intelligent team, to Ernie, Kenny, Charles and the rest of the TNT crew for the laughs, and of course to the best fans in the NBA-- it
was truly Unbelievable, Unforgettable, and Unstoppable Baby! Thank you.

1 Dub. 1 Luv.


sweetbabyjesus said...

Great writeup guys, a couple of goosebump inducing memories were awakened with your words. BD, didn't hurt his ankle though it was his hamstring....c'mon GSoM, those kind of trivial facts should be child's play to y'all.

Again, great job.

Atma Brother #1 said...

sweetbabyjesus- Thanks for reading and good catch. Warriors fans are sharper than a fresh new Mach-3 Turbo razor!

I better fix that one up for the history books.