OAKLAND – The Mark Jackson honeymoon lasted all of a couple weeks into the regular season before the latest new wave of optimism from the Warriors turned into a 2-6 start. We have seen no consistent sign of the promised commitment to defense, prompting instant doubt about Jackson’s playoff guarantee.
“Reality check?” forward Dorell Wright said. “We weren’t guaranteed anything. We’re not the Heat or anybody like that. It’s no reality check. We’ve got to get better.”
And fast. The Warriors are not close to getting through what they can only hope is a bad stretch, losing six of eight. In a very un-Golden State issue, the Warriors have been struggling to score while dealing with ongoing concerns about Stephen Curry and his injured right ankle. The schedule is about to turn bad, too.
The schedule so far has included five games at home, one back-to-back with travel and another without, and a list of opponents that includes the Knicks (a win), 76ers (loss), Suns (loss) and Jazz (loss). The next 10: the Heat on Tuesday night, the Magic on Thursday, followed by four games in five nights on the road, and then the Pacers, Grizzlies, Trail Blazers and Thunder at home.
“It’s a process,” Jackson said. “We’ve got to keep on working, got to keep on preaching it, and you’ve got to find guys that believe in the message and are willing to do whatever. No need to hold our heads down. We’re going to be fine. But we’ve gotta make it happen. Nobody’s going to hand-deliver us a win. We’ve got to go get it.”
Asked if he has some players who are not believing the message, he said: “No, no, no, no, no. I want guys to believe not on the conditions or the terms. I want you to believe in spite of them and find a way to make it happen. That’s what winning teams do. And I mean across the board. The great teams think, ‘What’s going to happen now to win this game?’ The teams that have a history of losing think, ‘What’s going to happen that’s been happening that’s going to cause us to lose?’ We’ve got to turn it and make things happen.”
By assuring a postseason bid, Jackson put pressure on himself and his team where none would have existed. He’s a rookie coach – at any level, as an assistant or the No. 1 – with a team that hasn’t won in years. To the Warriors, his bold statements were part Jackson confidence, part a desire to change the culture.
Still, nothing has changed in the standings yet. So both the Warriors and their new head coach have to start living up to those increased expectations soon.