Friday, May 3, 2013

Yellow For Courage

I'm not really a fan of the made-for-TV bit of theater in which the home team gets all its fans to wear the same color. White, red, orange, black...we've seen it all and it always seems a bit hokey to me.

But I'm making an exception for the yellow T-shirts the Warriors have been handing out to their playoff crowds. Yellow is the color historically used to denote cowardice. This basketball team is far from cowardly.

The shirts say "We Are Warriors" on the front and sport a variety of hortatory words on the back. The fans, of course, aren't warriors. They're just loud and energetic.  The Warriors aren't always perfect practitioners of the basketball arts. They're just exciting.

The close-out Game 6 against Denver showed the W's at their best and worst. On the plus side: Andrew Bogut's ferocious 21-rebound effort, punctuated by 4 blocked shots before halftime. Bogut is one of several wounded Warriors, playing on a less-than-full tank but gunning the engine hard.

Also on the plus side: Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes, a couple of rookies who played with courage and savvy amid a fourth-quarter unraveling that saw the Warriors barf up all but two points of an 18-point lead. 

Another plus: David Lee, whose stat line (0-1 field, 1 rebound) was meaningless (Nuggets coach George Karl called Lee's brief appearance "weird") but whose very presence was enormous. Most everyone had assumed Lee's next appearance for the W's would be next season after he tore a hip flexor in Game 1 of this series.

On the other side of the coin: guards Steph Curry, Jarrett Jack, and Klay Thompson. Curry's flurry at the start of the second half helped the Warriors build the big lead they nearly squandered, but his ragged play near the end took some of the shine off his heroics earlier in the series. Neither Jack nor Thompson could shoot (a combined 5 for 23 from the floor--though credit Jack for nailing 9 of 10 free throws) and Jack, in particular, made questionable decisions at the offensive end.

The Warriors face an enormous challenge in the next round. San Antonio is a veteran team that can pounce on disarray and weakness. It would be an enormous upset were the Warriors to win the series. But let's not kid ourselves here: the last time the Warriors won two playoff series in a season was the year they won the NBA Championship, back in 1975.

This team has already exceeded expectations. Of course Jackson and his players want more. But in their Warrior hearts, these guys know they've made enormous strides. The future looks better than it has in a long time, and nobody who follows pro hoops associates the color yellow with cowardice anymore.

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