Programming note: Immediately after the Bulls-Warriors game Thursday night, change the channel to Comcast SportsNet Bay Area for complete postgame coverage
OAKLAND – Wrist surgery and rehabilitation forced Warriors center Jermaine O'Neal to spend two months watching his teammates, whether on TV or live from the courtside bench. The 18th-year veteran saw enough to reach several conclusions.
Among them was O'Neal's belief that the Warriors are wasting one of the best home crowds in the NBA.
"That's something that we’ve got to relish, because there are a lot of arenas that are half empty, and have good teams," O'Neal said after practice Wednesday. "This arena is packed every single night and we've got to take advantage of that. That's got to be our Superman Juice.
"I don't care if we're down 15, if we score two straight baskets it's going to get loud and crazy and that energizes us."
O'Neal was speaking 15 hours after the Warriors submitted conceivably their worst game of the season, taking a 91-75 loss to the sub-mediocre Charlotte Bobcats on Tuesday night. The Warriors were treated to the rare sight of fans trickling out of Oracle Arena after the third quarter, leaving in droves in the fourth.
"We should be ashamed of ourselves for last night – every last one of us," O'Neal said. "It's a collective group effort when you win or lose games.
"To play as bad as we played, at home, when we have one of the loudest . . . our fans sit around and they are waiting to get crazy. They are waiting to get loud. And sometimes we just don't give them (anything) to cheer for."
While the schedule-makers were tough on the Warriors for the first 10 weeks, burdening them with more road games than any other team in the NBA, the last three-plus weeks presented an opportunity. With 11 of 15 games played at Oracle from Jan. 10 through the All-Star break, this was when the Warriors could get even.
They haven't. Eight of those games have passed, and five ended in the loss column. Of those five, four were to opponents below .500. This despite the home sellout streak growing to 61 games.
Now playing with his seventh franchise, O'Neal has played in 90 playoff games for four different teams. Each of his first 10 seasons, four with Portland and six with Indiana, ended with playoff appearances. So he has seen and heard a lot of crowds.
And O'Neal knows time is slipping not only for the team, which seeks advantageous playoff seeding, and for himself, because he likely will retire, but also for a group of fans that have experienced postseason basketball only twice since 1994.
"Hopefully," O'Neal said, looking forward to Thursday's game against Chicago, "we can give them something to be proud of."