The 2008-09 NBA season ended as expected. The Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers finished with the best record in the Western Conference, and went on to win the NBA Championship. The 66-win Cleveland Cavaliers were led by NBA MVP Lebron James. The first overall pick in 2008 by the Chicago Bulls, Derrick Rose, won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award.
Oh, and the Golden State Warriors were irrelevant.
The Golden State Warriors lost to the Phoenix Suns 117-113 to end their 2008-09 NBA regular season. Anthony Morrow lead the Warriors with 33 points and 12 rebounds in that game, but it wasn’t enough to salvage one final win to end a disappointing campaign. Golden State finished the season 29-53 record; that was good enough for a 10th place finish in the Western Conference.
The centerpiece of this Golden State season was supposed to be fourth-year guard Monta Ellis. Coming off a career best season in 2007, and prior to that, the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award in 2006, Golden State inked Ellis to a six-year, $66 million dollar contract. That same day, the Warriors signed his backcourt teammate Kelenna Azubuike to a three-year, $9 million deal.
Golden State Warriors icon Baron Davis left for the Los Angeles Clippers for a lucrative deal that same offseason, so signing his heir-apparent, Ellis, to a major extension made sense. Unfortunately for both parties involved, Ellis tore ligaments in his ankle prior to the start of the season, sidelining him for three months. It later came out that the 22-year-old guard did not hurt himself while training, but hurt himself while riding his moped. It earned Ellis a 30-game suspension.
The highest paid player on the team played 25 games in 2008-09.
In Ellis’ absence, forward Stephen Jackson thrived in his own right. Jackson led the Warriors in scoring, assists, and minutes in 2008 while starting the all of the first 59 games that year. Jackson’s efforts earned him a three-year contract extension in November. With the team struggling at 20-39, Jackson hung it up for the season to have surgery on his foot.
Golden State lost 13 of their last 22 without Jackson in the lineup.
The Warriors roster was littered fresh talent and new contracts. Big man Andris Biedrins, fresh off signing a six-year, $54 million contract that July, set career highs across the board in 2008. Corey Maggette signed a five-year, $50 million deal prior to the 2008 season. He averaged 18.6 points per game that year, but was traded after two seasons. Jamal Crawford averaged 19.7 per game in his 54 starts in 2008, including a 50-point night in December against Charlotte. 2008-09 was Crawford’s one and only in California; he was traded to Atlanta in the offseason.
No Warrior in 2008-09 received an All-Star nomination.
Lucrative deals placed a lid on the franchise’s ceiling for years. The Golden State Warriors didn’t finish a season with a winning record until 2012.
This iteration of the Warriors were coached by Don Nelson, a 3-time NBA Coach of the Year and five-time NBA Champion as a player with Boston Celtics. In 2008-09, his team finished the year 2nd in scoring offense in the league (108.6 points per game); they played with the fastest pace of any team in the NBA. Unfortunately, Nelson forgot about the other side of floor. Golden State ranked dead last in nearly every defensive metric imaginable. They gave up league worst 112.3 points per game, three more points than the Sacramento Kings allowed, and they were the worst team in the NBA that year.
Nelson coached one more season for Golden State in 2009 before stepping down. Executive vice-president Chris Mullen’s contract expired following the 2008-09 campaign. He was replaced by Larry Riley.
Drafting 7th overall in the 2009 NBA Draft, the Warriors selected a senior guard from Davidson College, Stephen Curry.
In 2011, they drafted Klay Thompson. The following year, Draymond Green. A few years later, Kevin Durant joined the party as a free agent. And now, All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins (aka Boogie) is a Warrior.
Man, what a difference 10 years can make, huh?