Theres a school of thought out there among some Warriorsfans in which things really begin to come together during the 2012-13season.The Warriors finally have a center, and Andrew Bogut is apretty good one when hes healthy. Stephen Curry, fingers crossed, willhopefully return and his right ankle will be completely healed.And theres also the matter of the Warriors draft pick. Ifthe Warriors get a break or during the NBA lottery, theyll end up getting atop-seven pick and be able to add to their talent pool.In other words, things seem to be locking in.But theres a wild card out there, and unknown that couldwind up throwing a monkey wrench into the plans. That wild card is MichaelMalone.Malone, of course, is the Warriors top assistant coach andhes sure to get a few sniffs come this offseason. But hes more than just theWarriors No. 1 assistant. Malone is considered one of the best young assistantcoaches in the game and it seems only a matter of time before he becomes a headcoach.And if this is Malones time to get a head job, then theWarriors will be negatively impacted.As far as assistant coaches go, few if any have moreinput and influence than Malone. If you sit outside a practice at the Warriorsfacility, it is Malones voice mostly heard echoing within the gym.When the Warriors are in a tight game, and need a bucket, itis Malone who draws up the plays in the huddle. When head coach Mark Jacksonpaces the sidelines, it invariably is Malone who approaches him with asuggestion or gives him advice.The Washington Wizards, Orlando Magic, Portland TrailBlazers and L.A. Clippers, and maybe another team or two, figure to have headcoaching openings this offseason.And its likely Malone will be a candidate in one or more ofthose places. It sure seems like Malone could have a busy summer. There alreadyhas been a report that the Magics Dwight Howard wants Malone to be Orlandoshead coach. And there is a history between Clippers point guard Chris Paul andMalone, both of whom were in New Orleans.In other words, the Warriors have all their importantplayers signed and under contract for next season. The big unknown, however, iswhether their top assistant coach will return.
Following Toronto's 127-125 loss to the Warriors on Saturday night, Raptors shooting guard DeMar DeRozan wasn't happy.
His team had almost erased a 27-point deficit and he felt like the officials were helping the Warriors.
"It's frustrating being out there feeling like you're playing 5-on-8. Some of those calls were terrible, period," DeRozan told reporters after the game.
As you might imagine, the NBA wasn't thrilled with thoses comments and fined DeRozan $15,000 on Tuesday for public criticism of the officiating.
DeRozan's incident is the latest in a long list of greivances between the players and the officials. The two sides met face-to-face in late December and plan to meet again during All-Star weekend in February to discuss the growing tension.
After all the battles over the past three years, the exchanging of championships and champagne celebrations, the Warriors truly respect the Cavaliers and give honest props to LeBron James for being a great player.
But the Warriors have moved beyond the days of considering the Cavs a legitimate threat to rob them of their goals. That much was evident in the first half of their 118-108 victory Monday night in Cleveland.
“I was a little upset at halftime just because we weren’t guarding anybody,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told reporters at Quicken Loans Arena. “We didn’t play with much intensity.”
The Warriors spent the first quarter lounging about at scrimmage speed. They could’ve wearing robes and smoking pipes. Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry combined for six shots. There wasn’t much sweat at all, yet the offense was effective: 35 points, 56.5-percent shooting and 11 assists on their 13 buckets.
The offense slowed to a crawl in the second quarter, as the Warriors managed only eight field goals while shooting 36.4 percent.
And Warriors defense was a rumor throughout the half, during which Cleveland shot 56.5 percent.
“We kind of let them do whatever they wanted in that first half,” Klay Thompson said.
That’s not the way Cavs big man Kevin Love saw it.
“We played well in the first half,” he summarized.
Fools gold. Cleveland went into the locker room with a seven-point lead, 64-57, in part because a Kevin Durant live-ball turnover in the final seconds resulted in at least a four-point swing.
Once the Warriors actually arrived in the second half, the blowout was on. They poured in 56 points in a little more than 20 minutes, during which time Cleveland managed only 35 points.
“We just started focusing more,” Durant said.
“In the first half, we were just out there,” Draymond Green conceded. “We played with more force in the second half.”
Put another way, the Warriors spent 24 minutes toying around, skipping and shrugging and whistling, before operating on the team they have faced in the last three NBA Finals.
The team widely considered No. 2 in the NBA despite its current 26-17 record.
When the Warriors pulled away for good early in the fourth quarter, Durant and Curry were sitting on the bench, peeking out from beneath hoods. They’d crushed it in the third quarter, combining for 27 points to equal Cleveland’s total for the quarter. Now they were watching Green and Thompson and the Vet Platoon -- Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston and David West -- bury the Cavs under a ton of defense.
“Seemed like the rim got smaller and smaller,” James said.
“That group that was out there, they have hung their hats on being a defensive unit and getting stops and that’s what they did the first four minutes,” Curry said. “I don’t think they gave Cleveland any daylight.”
Leading by two entering the fourth quarter, the Warriors needed about six minutes to push it to 10. They were up eight, 105-97, when Curry and Durant returned with 5:29 remaining to deliver the goodnight kiss.
The Warriors well into that stage that most great teams experience. They know that if they do what they’re capable of doing, the competition is irrelevant.
They also are aware that if they are too careless or complacent, they can lose to any team. Five of their nine losses are to teams simply hoping to make the playoffs.
The Cavs aren’t hoping. They’ll be there. The question is will they be there in June.
“I don’t think this game was any indication of what’s going to happen with this team down the line,” Durant said of the Cavs. “They’re going to be much better than what they are right now. And we all know that.”
Durant is right. The Cavs will be better in April than they are in January. Isaiah Thomas, who missed the first 11 weeks before taking the court on Jan. 2, will have shaken off the rust long before the playoffs. James will be in championship-or-bust mode. Whether there is a trade or not, Cleveland’s rotations will be set.
But the Warriors know they’re the better team, able to keep up with the Cavs even while snoozing. When the defending champs decide to work at it, they know Cleveland is helpless, even if it’s not something said in public.