Warriors need Barnes, Thompson to answer the bell

Jackson: 'We understand where we are and we'll be just fine'

Warriors need Barnes, Thompson to answer the bell
December 16, 2013, 5:15 pm
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Klay Thompson opened the season making 19 of his first 34 treys (56 percent), but over the last seven games he's made 19 of 53 (36 percent). -- (USA TODAY IMAGES)

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After losing four of their last five, the Warriors are 13-12 and wondering what happened to the contender they were projected to be. It's the perfect time, then, to give the gift that can be useful in the midst of despair.

Mirrors. One for each man playing significant minutes, for the purpose of self-evaluation.

Stephen Curry's reflection reveals a point guard playing reasonably well but still prone to nagging turnovers.

Andrew Bogut sees a solid center working the glass, usually protecting the rim and becoming more of a factor on offense.

David Lee takes a sideways glance at a power forward with decent superficial stats but no idea what happened to his once-trusty midrange jumper – or the man he's assigned to defend.

Draymond Green stares at a forward doing an admirable job of trying to prop up a thin, flimsy bench.

Which brings us to Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. Their mirrors reveal two talented wings thus far unable to fill the void created by the 24-days-and-counting loss of Andre Iguodala.

[REWIND: Jackson 'tired of watching same movie']

Who could have known that Iguodala, who was not a member of the team during its springtime revival, could mean so much, so fast?

If either Thompson or Barnes could have seized the opportunity to shine, the Warriors could better withstand the sight of Iguodala on the bench in street clothes.

And they would not be in such dire need of mirrors in every crucial corner of the locker room.

Thompson was, with few exceptions, terrific through the first three weeks of the season. He shot it well. He was aggressive and effective more often that not. He looked like a player poised to mind the next level of his potential.

In recent weeks, however, Thompson's most notable feature, his catch-and-shoot 3-pointer, has been wildly inconsistent. The guy who opened the season making 19 of his first 34 treys (56 percent) has over the last seven games made 19 of 53 (36 percent). Over the last five, Klay is shooting 37 percent (25 of 67) overall and only 31 percent (10 of 32) from beyond the arc.

Moreover, an alarming number of those shots have been open looks. Shots Thompson usually drains in his sleep.

With opponents clearly focusing on swarming Curry anytime he gets near the 3-point line, Thompson's misses are particularly hurtful. He's not punishing teams that flock to his buddy.

Thompson said early this season that he wanted to develop his slashing game. After some early success, he seems to have gone back to the familiar. If only it were working.

The loss of Iguodala presented Barnes with an opportunity to show how much he has improved. He found another level in the playoffs last spring, when his game was perhaps the primary reason the Warriors performed so well without Lee. And he was, by many accounts, the star of the team's offseason.

But it's not showing up with any degree of consistency. Though his numbers are up slightly over last season, they are fairly flat when adjusted for additional minutes. Despite his ability, Barnes is the one of two starters yet to lead the team in scoring. The other is Bogut, who isn't expected to.

After missing the first four games with a toe injury, Barnes started out as if on a mission. He shot 50 percent in November, including 52 percent from beyond the arc. He's shooting 43 percent in this month, 30 percent from beyond the arc.

The Warriors are asking an awful lot of Curry. He's the primary ball-handler and playmaker, as well as their most consistent scorer of late. Even with defenses determined to stop him, he's shooting the trey better than Thompson or Barnes.

To climb out of this rut, the Warriors will need more effort – at both ends of the court, particularly on defense – from anyone on the floor. That includes Thompson and Barnes, capable defenders who don't sustain their intensity.

"We all, myself included, just need to bring more effort to the game," Bogut said, using his hand to describe intensity that rises and falls like a heart monitor. "Study out scouting reports. Take your one-on-one matchup personally.

"Once that happens, I think the team defense will be great."

No doubt that has to happen if the Warriors are to meet the expectation level they set for themselves. They entered the season counting on making the playoffs, then making noise upon arrival. They want elite status, and it was only a month ago that making the Western Conference finals was conceivable.

Suddenly, with the loss of a player 11 games into his Warriors career, that seems like another team, in another universe.

If that potential still is somewhere inside the current roster, maybe those long gazes into those mirrors will help this foundering team find it.

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