News » Poole: Warriors' crowd has new flavor in Curry

Poole: Warriors' crowd has new flavor in Curry

Poole: Warriors' crowd has new flavor in Curry THE LOUDEST and warmest and most achingly hopeful greeting was extended to the new guy, the one they were officially meeting for the first time.

And this was only a moment after they dropped a mixed bouquet, boos with a sprinkling of cheers, at the feet of the most loquacious Warrior, the one they know best.

If opening night at Oracle Arena is any indication, Warriors fans are ready for change. No, they're eager for change.

And change is coming, even if it began with a horrible loss to a team almost certain to finish with more losses than wins.

Oracle Arena rocked with anticipation Wednesday night, and the sellout crowd (19,596) was rewarded with a Warriors effort that was by turns scrappy and sloppy, as Houston used a torrid third quarter to zoom ahead and held on down the stretch for a 108-107 victory.

As disappointing as the final was to the announced sellout crowd (19,596), it was evident from the onset there is a desire for baby-faced rookie Stephen Curry inherit this team from grizzled veteran Stephen Jackson.

Yet this very fervent wish, this changing of the guard from Jackson to Curry, seems to come with at least one condition: Monta Ellis stays behind.

On a night when one former Warrior great, Tim Hardaway, was honored by having his jersey retired, with his two most familiar former teammates (Chris Mullin, Mitch Richmond) showing up for the occasion in Miami, where Hardaway's Heat jersey was raised to the rafters the newest Warriors were introduced to an appreciative crowd, including several Raiders, the most visible of whom was embattled quarterback JaMarcus Russell sitting courtside.

Defense allegedly is the new directive for the Warriors . In their locker room was posted a sheet with the goals for the evening. They wanted to hold the Rockets to 97 or fewer points; they failed. They wanted to limit them to a field-goal percentage no higher than 43 percent; they failed. They wanted to keep the 3-point percentage no higher than 32 percent; they failed.

"I think we can play a lot better than that," coach Don Nelson understated.

You think? Houston, after all, is utterly starless Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady are out indefinitely, Ron Artest is a Laker and was taking the court for its second consecutive night on the road Yet the Rockets had enough juice to turn a 10-point halftime deficit (62-52) into a 10-point lead (85-75) with 1:14 left in the third quarter.

The Warriors' defensive failures can be traced to a number of factors, one of which is the Ellis-Curry backcourt, the smallest in the NBA. Though Houston big man Luis Scola worked the inside for 21 points and 11 rebounds, guards Trevor Ariza (25 points) and Aaron Brooks (18) combined for 43.

"This was a learning game for us," Ellis said. "We had all kinds of opportunities to win the game." Ellis and Curry combined for 40 points, with Ellis finishing with a game-high 26. Indeed, Curry's seven assists were more impressive than his 14 points.

But the crowd was in his corner no matter what, didn't react at all when Curry shot an air ball late in the first quarter. And he'll be forgiven for flipping an alley-oop into the Rockets defense in the final minutes.

That says a lot given the soap opera the Warriors have become. It was, it seemed, another example of fans choosing entertainment over triumph. And they got that. This alone might be enough for Oracle to maintain its status as the place to be on game night.

It might not rock as it did years ago, when Hardaway, Mullin and Richmond led popular clubs that consistently brought fans to their feet, but it's a new day. Those who have moved on from Run-TMC years and even the We Believe mania of three seasons ago, are opening their arms to the future, visualizing years of a potentially dynamic little backcourt.

They also know how bad it can be when two 6-foot-3 guards play together. Ellis was concerned about partnering in the backcourt with another 6-foot-3 guard. His concerns are justified.

Yes, Nelson needs only 24 wins to become the winningest coach in NBA history. But if the opener is any indication, one 82-game season might not be enough to get them.

Contact Monte Poole at

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Added: October 29, 2009


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