Mark Jackson: Talking the talk and walking the walk

(SB Nation)

Coach Mark Jackson — who dueled with Del Curry now goes into battle with his son Steph Curry.

Mark Jackson’s coaching career got off to a rough start. The NBA lockout, an unfulfilled trade and injuries made his first season with the Golden State Warriors a virtual washout. With a healthy roster and an abundance of talent, Jackson and Golden State Warriors are the out-of-nowhere surprise in the NBA this season.

The young and talented Golden State Warriors have responded in kind to the old school instruction of second-year head coach Mark Jackson. Last season when guard Steph Curry was hobbled by injuries, expectations were placed on hold. Leading scorer Monta Ellis was dealt to the Milwaukee Bucks for center Andrew Bogut — who fractured his left ankle 12 games into the 2011-12 season. Bogut never suited up for his new team. Throw in the 66-game schedule without training camp and the Warriors 23-43 record has more clarity.

Golden State has been wandering in the NBA’s wilderness for almost two decades. So when the team failed to make the playoffs, (Jackson promised a playoff appearance prior to the start of the season) it was the same soup re-heated for some of the NBA’s most loyal fans.

With Ellis shipped out and Bogut on the shelf, the Warriors came into this season searching for some scoring punch. Second-year shooting guard Klay Thompson has thrived in the up tempo offense. Thompson’s play as a rookie was enough to convince the Warriors to move Ellis. On nights when Steph Curry is struggling or fighting off double teams, Thompson has made opponents pay a heavy price. He’s averaging 16 points and 4 rebounds per contest this season. The young swingman is making a strong case for the NBA’s Most Improved Player.

David Lee is the workhorse in the post the Warriors have missed since the departure of Chris Webber. Lee has been one of the NBA’s most consistent glass-eaters. Lee is averaging close to ten boards a game for his career. The former Florida Gator spent five seasons in New York before joining the Warriors. In his third season with the club, Lee is feasting on the boards. The All-Star power forward is grabbing 11 rebounds per game to go with 19 points a night.

Rookie Harrison Barnes is rounding into a nice NBA player. The 7th overall pick in the 2012 draft is averaging 9 points and 4 rebounds per contest. The explosive Barnes is a slasher and an open floor threat — who wastes little time in getting to the basket.

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“Rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.” – Bo Bennett

Steph Curry handled his All-Star snub like an 0-7 first half…he kept shooting. The Golden Child is posting career highs in points (21.0) and assists (6.6) in his fourth season. Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving and Philadelphia’s Jrue Holiday carry more of of an offensive burden for their respective teams as point guards, but Curry has a supporting cast able to pick him up on a sub-par night. Curry is averaging 18 or more points against 12 of the 15 teams in the Western Conference. As the leader of the Warriors, it’s safe to say the younger Curry has stepped away from the shadow of his father Del Curry.

The Warriors bench is an underrated strength, averaging nearly 44 points a night. They are anchored by journeymen Carl Landry and Jarrett Jack. Jack is a versatile guard who is averaging 14 points and 6 assists. Jack is more than capable of creating his own shot when things break down. Landry’s 11 points and 7 boards a contest keeps the Warriors rugged in the paint when Lee needs a breather. Richard Jefferson, and Draymond Green are swingmen capable of defending and extending the defense.

Golden State was dealt a huge blow this weekend when center Andrew Bogut went down with a back injury. The current diagnosis has him sidelined indefinitely. Rookie Festus Ezeli and mainstay Andris Biedrins have a total of 44 starts between them this season. Both are able to man the center position.

At the end of the bench, there’s Jackson — never overly expressive. Still visualizing the game as if he’s running the offense. Last season’s playoff prediction was no surprise to anyone who knows him. This is the same Mark Jackson who bet Charles Barkley in the middle of a game he could knock down a three-pointer, and later what turned out to be a game-winning basket. It’s the Brooklyn in him — bold and unapologetic, willing to go out on a limb. It’s what made him one of the greatest players in the history of the Big East Conference as a point guard of the former St. John’s Redmen. It’s why he is still one of the most beloved New York Knicks. Jackson never played on a championship team, but his flair for the dramatics and genuine love for the game is unquestioned. The third leading assist man in NBA history walks and talks a confident game.

When Jackson went into the broadcasting booth, he took the time to study NBA players at close range. His verbal jousts with partner Stan Van Gundy added spice to their broadcasts. They schooled one another from perspectives they could relate to. In the end, both men were better for it.

[www.youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sc0POK52mp4]

Who can blame Jackson for such a bold proclamation coming in the door? No one has taken notice of the Golden State Warriors in years. Jackson — who is an ordained minister knows how to walk by faith. He is a symbol of the resurrection of round ball in the Bay Area, it’s up to the rest of the NBA to catch on. These aren’t the pushover Golden State Warriors, not anymore.

In Friday’s thrilling overtime victory over the red-hot San Antonio Spurs, Jackson, who was miked for the game was heard telling his team they earned the right to win the game. 

The Golden State Warriors are playoff bound with Mark Jackson at the helm. It looks like coach and team have earned the right.

 

 

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