Are Warriors feelin’ lucky?

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At the end of this month, scores of miniature ghosts, goblins and witches will scour our neighborhoods begging for Halloween treats. An occasional black cat may scurry across our path and the number 13 will elicit feelings of apprehension.

With the 2006-07 NBA season looming, Warriors fans may also feel a sense of uneasiness. After all, 12 long seasons have passed since the Warriors last made the playoffs. Will season No. 13 prove to be lucky or unlucky?

Ironically, newly hired Don Nelson was the last coach to guide the Warriors into the postseason. Will the second time around bring similar results? There is no doubt that with Nellie at the helm, the Warriors will play an exciting, up-tempo style of basketball. Putting points on the scoreboard should not be a problem. The question remains, however, whether the Warriors will be able to stop other teams from doing so. Nelson has not been known for his defensive focus and, unless he changes his philosophy, the Warriors may once again find disappointment.

Last season, the Warriors actually improved in their overall team defense, finishing 17th in the league. This season’s squad will have to play at least as well and improve by eight to 10 wins for the Warriors to have any chance of making the postseason. An effective defense can stimulate offense, but not often does the reverse hold true.

Another critical factor for success this season is the health of Baron Davis, who played in only 54 games last season. Without his leadership and scoring, the team will be in big trouble, especially if the knee injury to Monta Ellis is serious. Fans must also hope that Baron and Nellie establish a good working relationship. Last season, we all witnessed the problems that stemmed from the tenuous relationship between Davis and Mike Montgomery.

Additionally, there are two big question marks next to Mike Dunleavy Jr. and Mickael Pietrus. Both players performed poorly last season and, if the team is to improve, each player must step up and play at a higher level, especially when it comes to shooting the ball more accurately. In fact, the team as a whole must do a better job of making good decisions when it comes to shooting.

Finally, there is the concern about experience. The Warriors are one of the youngest teams in the league, with only Adonal Foyle being over the age of 27. If history is any indication, young teams just do not win in the NBA on a regular basis.

I hope I’m wrong, but there are simply too many unanswered questions for me to believe that season No. 13 will be lucky.

Former Warriors star Rick Barry is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame. E-mail him at rbarry@examiner.com.

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