Sprained hell out of my left ankle on Friday, so I really haven't been moving around much. Off the bikes for sure, and walking ain't much fun either. Don't even get me started on stairs. Just been days of icepacks and Epsom salt soaking. And the same Aircast I've had for the past 10 years or so. My ankles have been a disaster since way back in high school—limping is pretty much a bi-monthly activity. I probably should have gone through physical therapy at some point, but what fun would that have been? Instead, I'll probably be arthritic by 40. Can't wait.
So thank God for League Pass. Watched a little of the Hawks/Lakers—long enough to see Marvin Williams yoke one on Kwame Brown, who hasn't been doing much to polish his oh-so-tarnished reputation. Hint to Kwame: If Phil writes a book after this season, don't read it. On the other hand, Kobe Bryant seems to be suffering no ill effects after being bashed in print. In fact, he could end up having his best season ever if he keeps it up. The Lakers might miss the playoffs anyway, but it sure won't be Kobe's fault.
The more compelling game, however, was in Milwaukee, where the undefeated Bucks were taking on the revamped Golden State Warriors. It's possible that no team got better this offseason than the Bucks. They essentially added two lottery picks, in No. 1 guy Andrew Bogut and returned point guard T.J. Ford, who missed all of last season with a spinal injury (yet somehow didn't lose a step). They signed the League's Most Improved player in swingman Bobby Simmons, and then were able to trade exciting yet redundant Desmond Mason to the Hornets for All-Star center Jamaal Magloire. Factor in the ever-improving Michael Redd, and Milwaukee is looking like a tough second-round out. At least.
The Warriors didn't add as many bodies, but the one they did add—point guard Baron Davis, at the end of last season—made all the difference. Inserting him into the lineup was like flipping on a switch, as everyone came alive. They didn't have enough time to make the playoffs, but the Warriors were an entirely different team for the last month. (They do have four rookies as well—Ike Diogu, who's been sidelined since early October with a fractured left hand; Monta Ellis, who hasn't played; Aaron Miles, who's been solid in spot minutes; and Chris Taft, who has already gotten real minutes but has yet to hit a free throw.)
A couple years ago, this wasn't a matchup you'd have wanted to watch. But now, with matchups like Jason Richardson and Redd, Troy Murphy and Bogut, even Simmons and Dunleavy, this is damn near a marquee matchup. Much better for a true fan than a more heralded-sounding one like Celtics/Lakers. Just some thoughts on the game.
• Troy Murphy is a beast. 6-11 lefty with touch from outside and a banger's body? Just in case you didn't realize, he averaged a double-double last season (16 and 10), and he's just the tip of the Warriors young big iceberg: Andris Biedrins, Taft, Zarko Cabarkaba, and the hopefully soon-to-be-back Diogu. Murph is super-deadly, especially on the screen and roll with Baron (who I absolutely refuse to call Boom Dizzle).
• Baron Davis, injuries aside, is electrifying. Still got that athleticism, which is what separates him from other points like JKidd and Steve Nash. The closest comparison is Stephon Marbury, but Baron is much more of a pure point. Not that he can't hit the step-back jumper or yoke it on guys a foot taller. Still, it's his health that will make the difference.
• Chris Taft may have been picked late (42nd overall), but the Pitt product has shown the same flashes of athleticism and shot-blocking prowess that made him a prospect in the first place. As a bonus, he's not Adonal Foyle.
• Calbert Cheaney is still on the Warrior roster?
• If Dominique Wilkins is the Human Highlight Film, then Michael Redd is the Human Instructional Video. Is there anyone out there who shoots better? Especially with Reggie Miller and Allan Houston retired, it's hard to think of someone with a sweeter stroke. Except for maybe Ray Allen, who was of course his predecessor. How lucky is that? The closest comparison I can come up with is AC/DC—Bon Scott dies, they get Brian Johnson, and release "Back In Black" less than a year later. Never skipped a beat.
• T. J. Ford is unbelievable. Misses well over a year with spinal problems, and comes back in mid-season form. Talk about not skipping a beat. Ford is a blur on the court, connecting perfectly with a whole mess of guys he's never played with. Mo Williams as his backup isn't too shabby, either.
• I was wrong about Andrew Bogut. So wrong. Didn't think he was first-pick worthy, thought Marvin Williams would be better. And Marv might end up being the better player, in the long run. But for out-the-box NBA performance, Bogut is the man. Seventeen boards—eight offensive—in his third game? Crazy. He still looks like a giant Owen Wilson, though.
• The Bucks got Jamaal Magloire for what? Desmond Mason and a first-round pick? ROBBERY. Not only was Mason made expendable by the Bobby Simmons pickup, but the first-round pick was just going to mean adding more salary. The core of this team is in place, and they're all young. Adding the best center in the division was a no-brainer. Maybe it was a bold move that late in the game, but it'll pay off. Soon.
• Funny thing is this—the Warriors beat the Bucks, IN Milwaukee, and I'm still not sure whether they make the playoffs. They've got the talent, but a lot of it is still in the form of potential. Other than Davis, Richardson and Murphy, it's hard to tell if there's enough consistency. And it bears repeating how much hinges on Davis's health. He's a monster—and he's gotten it done in the playoffs before—but they're going to need at least 70 games from him, and some serious improvement from Dunleavy and others, to even get there. This year.