Those that read this blog often know that I’m a diehard optimist who is always looking for the silver lining. I can rant with the best of them, but I still hold out hope that the team is headed in the right direction. On the flipside, there are pitfalls at every turn and opportunities for failure up and down our roster. So it's only fair to address them in turn.
The ER Threat
Raef and Googs are walking MASH units, Payton isn’t getting any younger, Paul will again have the weight of the team on his shoulders, and you just never know when a freak injury will sideline a guy out of the blue. That’s why you build depth and try to say a little on the young side. However, that brings me to my second point.
Nothing speaks "vulnerable" to the opponent quite like relying heavily on rookies and inexperienced players for contributions. If we opened up tomorrow (and everyone showed up healthy) the starters would likely be Payton, Pierce, Davis, Raef, and Blount. But our second and third strings are filled with players like Jefferson, Perkins, West, Allen, Banks, and Jiri Welsch. Not a lot of miles on those tires and they’ll need to learn on the job, especially if any ER moments happen to the starters. These kids are great talents, and may be the future of the franchise, but they don’t yet know what it takes to win in the NBA. McCarty is a nice utility infielder that can play many positions, but he can only do so much for a team.
Like them or not, you have to admit that Ricky Davis and Gary Payton have unique personalities. If the wrong situation arises, you can’t count on these guys being model citizens. Ricky was a patron Saint last year, but he’s shown in the past that the wrong kind of coach can bring out his bad side. Gary won’t be quiet and unassuming in any situation. With both players, you have a tremendous talent and productivity in the right setting. But we better hope their teammates and coaching staff can bring out their sunnier sides. The Mark Blount confrontation with Davis worries me some. Do they legitimately dislike each other? Or was Blount actually setting an example of work ethic that Davis may never have seen before? Davis is working out like a mini-Blount this offseason, so maybe Mark will respect that. Or maybe Davis or Payton will get too competitive in practice and forget that they play for the same team as the guys around them. Not saying any of this is very likely to happen. I’m just saying that I’m not comfortable with the fact that I can’t rule it out.
I could go on about a new coaching staff, the changing face of the Eastern conference, and plain old bad luck, but I’ll stop here. Basically anything could happen to derail our high hopes and great expectations for this year. Thankfully though, it is still the offseason and we are still tied for first and we haven’t lost a single game. Nothing bad has happened so far. We’re just a few days away from training camp. Optimism abounds …for now.