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News » Warriors waiting for an identity

Warriors waiting for an identity

Warriors waiting for an identity Orlando's Rashard Lewis dumped a pass into the post where it was received by center Dwight Howard. You know, the 18.2-point, 12.3-rebound force of nature they call Superman? The chiseled hunk of massive dunks?

Fortunately, the Warriors had anticipated such a strategy. Forward Vladimir Radmanovic raced over to help center Mikki Moore double-team Howard. Howard, no fool, passed back out to Lewis.

But when Radmanovic returned to his position, the ball went back into Howard. This time the Warriors had no chance to react. Howard soared in for a dunk that left Moore on the seat of his pants.

Shortly thereafter, Howard found himself one-on-one with Radmanovic. He faked left, spun right and scored an easy left-hander. At the end of the first quarter of Saturday night's game at Oracle Arena, Howard's Orlando Magic led Moore's Warriors , 42-33. Howard had 12 points. Moore had three fouls.

We now interrupt the season-long game of Whack-a- Warriors for a brief reality check. For starters, no one expected Moore to be the team's starting center for most of the first quarter (and counting) of the season. That includes Moore.

"Mikki Moore was signed as a guy to help us out and be an insurance policy," Warriors general manager Larry Riley said before the game. "Now Mikki Moore and (D League pickup Chris) Hunter are your two big guys."

OK, we understand when it comes to topics of discussion around the Red Bull bar at work, injuries and illness aren't half as sexy as palace intrigue, players who want out, players who don't think they can play with other players and all-purpose front-office weaselry.

But it's an undeniable fact that the story of the Warriors' season to date has as much to do with players who aren't there as it does players who are.

Take Saturday. The Warriors started five players against the Magic. They had to; it's an NBA rule. They also suited up four reserves C.J. Watson (in his fourth game back from the swine flu), Chris Hunter (who until two weeks ago was playing for the Fort Worth Mad Ants), Anthony Randolph (listed as questionable, with a sprained left ankle wrapped tighter than King Tut's head), and Devean George (knee), who hasn't played a minute this season.

Not in uniform: centers Andris Biedrins and Ronny Turiaf (a combined eight games played this season), Brandan Wright and Kelenna Azubuike (out for the duration), recently acquired Raja Bell (had surgery Tuesday, might be back by March) and Anthony Morrow, who was absent due to a death in the family.

Coach Don Nelson worked the game, but will skip the upcoming five-game road trip as he recovers from pneumonia.

"There's an old standard in the league that you judge your team after about 20 games," Riley said. "Then you do it again halfway, and then at 60 games, and then at the end of the year. We can't make a judgment on our team at 20 games, because I don't know what this team is."

We now pause for the obligatory volley of searing one-liners.

The fact is, a fully functional Warriors team would have had trouble with Howard on Saturday (though Randolph gave it a spirited go). A healthy, drama-free Warriors team would likely still be bobbing beneath the playoff line in the Western Conference.

But at the very least, you'd figure a lost season would be a little less lost if you broke for the summer with a better idea of what you had and where you needed to get better.

What's to be gained if this voyage of the damned doesn't improve? That Hunter has a pipeline to some fabulous Mad Ants gear?

Things could improve, but there's no guarantee. Basketball teams, with their small rosters, are especially susceptible to injury epidemics and extended periods of buzzard's luck. Two years ago, the Miami Heat stumbled out the gate, traded Shaquille O'Neal and lost Dwyane Wade to injury for the final 30 games. By mid-March, coach Pat Riley had left the team to scout college tournaments. Two years after winning 16 postseason games en route to the NBA title, the Heat won 15 during the regular season.

"You're going down the right road with that (comparison)," Riley said. "You would hope that things don't get to that point. If we get another major injury, or something, we're in bad shape."

The smart money is on "or something."

Contact Gary Peterson at gpeterson@bayareanewsgroup.com

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Author: Fox Sports
Author's Website: http://www.foxsports.com
Added: December 6, 2009


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