No state has dominated the world of professional sports like California has over the past year.
The San Francisco Giants won the World Series and the Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup. The Oakland Athletics, San Jose Sharks and San Francisco 49ers are all among the elite teams in their respective sports.
Northern California basketball is clearly behind, as the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings were essentially free wins on the schedule last season. This season has been no different for the Kings.
It has, however, been much different for the Warriors. The Golden State Warriors are currently sitting atop the Pacific Division. While they may not win the division this season, there is clearly a new player in the already competitive California hoops scene.
The Warriors were awfully bad over the past four seasons, compiling a record of 114-198. The only realistic way to go from awfully bad to good is by having a terrific offseason, and that's exactly what Golden State did.
They lost Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh, Dorell Wright, Nate Robinson, Dominic McGuire, Kwame Brown and a rotating spot for D-Leaguers. They replaced these seven with Andrew Bogut, Richard Jefferson, Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green, Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry.
Sixteen games into the 2012-13 season, even without the offseason's most prized addition in Bogut, the new-look Warriors are better by leaps and bounds. So much better, in fact, that placing them with California's other top NBA teams isn't out of the question.
Sure, the Warriors aren't there yet. The Lakers and Clippers have a boatload of All-Stars—Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, and they have playoff experience and a track record that goes beyond 16 games.
Still, the Warriors have the depth and team chemistry to hang with L.A.'s All-Stars all season. Golden State also has the youth and coaching to surpass both the Lakers and the Clippers in the coming seasons.
Within California sports, a certain dichotomy exists between north and south. Down south, there is an extreme level of star power. The Lakers, Clippers, Kings, Dodgers, Angels and heck, the LA Galaxy feature household names from Kobe Bryant, to Albert Pujols to David Beckham.
Up north, there is less star power. Not many casual sports fans could tell you who Yoenis Cespedes, Patrick Willis or Buster Posey are. Northern California teams do have immense talent, but while their So-Cal counterparts win on talent, these Nor-Cal teams win on depth, team chemistry and, perhaps most of all, brilliant coaching.
Bob Melvin, Bruce Bochy and Jim Harbaugh are among the top coaches in their sports. And while Warriors coach Mark Jackson isn't there yet, he has his Warriors playing with an identity, intensity and selflessness that Mike D'Antoni and Vinny Del Negro have not been able to implement or inspire down south.
The Lakers and Clippers have some tough decisions to make next summer. The Lakers will attempt to re-sign Dwight Howard while looking for ways to improve an aging and expensive roster without adding payroll. The Clippers will do their best to re-sign Chris Paul, which is far from a forgone conclusion.
Meanwhile, the Warriors future looks only brighter than the present. Stephen Curry is locked up for four seasons. Andrew Bogut will be back next year. Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli and Klay Thompson still have some years before hitting restricted free agency. Brandon Rush will return from injury.
Things can change rapidly, especially in professional sports. Just as quickly as the Warriors have gone from cellar-dweller to contender in a few months, they could fall back down to the bottom by season's end.
However, we can only go by what we can see and foresee. What is apparent right now is that the Warriors have jumped on the winning California sports teams bandwagon. What appears to lie ahead is a window; an opportunity for Golden State to bask in the sun.
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