Clippers Get Trashed!

Hayward's hair is explained.
The Utah Jazz just sent the Clippers home in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.  How?  The Clippers on paper seem to have a big three:  Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and Deandre Jordan.  Each are arguably one of the best 3 guys at their position in the whole league.  How they managed to lose in the first round to Gordon Hayward and an aging Joe Johnson still baffles me.  They should be competing for titles, but instead they are dumpster diving, yet again.

So should the Clippers break their nucleus and start over?  The truth is the Clippers don’t have an option.  Both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin  have player options and can return if they want to.  The Clippers themselves may not have a choice.  But aside from that, I think they should keep their core together and at least be good.

I understand that everyone wants to think they are striving to put together a championship team, but only one team wins.  Being a Jazz fan, they never won a championship, but 18 years of being really good was still a ton of fun.  Blowing up the Clippers and starting over sounds good, but in reality they will be mediocre bottom feeders.  The Clippers are putting together fifty win seasons and because of injuries haven’t had that many great chances.  The choice between winning 50+ games with an outside shot of making the Western Conference Finals, sounds a lot better, than 5-6 years of trying to rebuild and sign a Chris Paul and Blake Griffin type player.  Also, don’t forget one big fact:

The Clippers are the Clippers

If you think you are going to rebuild this team into a winning team think again.  This is by far and away the most success they have ever had and I doubt they get back to this level anytime soon.  You have the Donald Sterling curse, karma, plus your owner is a bafoon who couldn’t even realize the iPhone was going to be a success.  Stick it out and until you only win 40 games a year, enjoy them as long as you can.

The Class and the Classless

The Class and ClasslessGeneral Manager from the Oklahoma City Thunder gave his opinion on how Thunder Fans should feel about Kevin Durant leaving to the Golden State Warriors from Scott Davis at Business Insider:

How should they feel about him? You know, listen, I’m not going to tell people how to feel or not to judge or what have you. I just think that what he represented for the city was something larger than basketball. I think that he arrived at a time where the city was also on an upward trajectory, a 20-year-old young man in an aspirational city. People kind of snicker and kind of sneer when we talk about that kind of stuff, but my guess is you’re probably not doing that right now. “You know, we talk and you guys would hear me say, this connection to this community, and the typing would stop and the eyes would roll. But I was saying that truthfully and authentically because I know how this business works, and I know that these days are possible. And we need to recognize what exactly took place here over the last eight years and recognize it and celebrate it. “They should feel thankful, grateful. They should not – I can’t tell them not to be disappointed, but the one thing I would also say is the city should be incredibly proud of what they’ve helped create for the Thunder. It’s not possible without that. They need to carry that on. They need to carry on the spirit and the fight and the grit, because that was here before the Thunder. That was here before the Thunder, that spirit, that ability to continue to press forward. That’s in the water here. “I think all of us, Kevin included, was a beneficiary of that approach and what’s in Oklahoma. So my message would be, carry on. Carry on and continue to be proud of what it is that you represent. It’s much bigger than the Thunder.”

Contrast that response to how owner, Dan Gilbert, responded when LeBron James left Cleveland in 2010.

James J. Parziale for the NY Daily News:

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert isn’t feeling bittersweet about LeBron James’ decision to join the Miami Heat.

He’s just bitter.

James’ migration from his hometown Cavs to South Beach to join Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Pat Riley and Miami Heat inspired scathing words from the man who used to sign his pay checks.

In a statement released on the Cavaliers website, Gilbert ripped James in an open letter addressed to the team’s fans.

“I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE,” Gilbert wrote.

He went on to say James’ actions were a “cowardly betrayal” and that the Cavaliers would work harder than ever for the fans of Cleveland. But LeBron remained the focus of Gilbert’s ire.

“Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there. Sorry, but that’s simply not how it works,” Gilbert wrote. “This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown ‘chosen one’ sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And ‘who’ we would want them to grow-up to become.”

Stark contrast between class and classless. The Thunder will be much better off without Durant, than the Cavaliers were without LeBron.

Durant’s Departure

Royce Young writing for ESPN.com:

He was going to stay. He was going to plant his flag. He was going to finish what
he started. Anyone who was around the team saw Donovan’s hiring as the start
of a new era, a fresh start and the first step in retaining their franchise player.
Durant felt it, too.

What changed?

…But there was always concern that Durant would be persuaded — that outside forces would sway him. Those close to him talk about how he’s impressionable and impulsive, and the moment Durant agreed to meetings in the Hamptons, his future hung in the balance. In reality, he had one foot out the door.

…He said his decision would come down to “who I’m going to be playing with and the people I’m going to be around every single day.” Most assumed that meant he’d choose the people he’d known the past nine years. Westbrook. Collison.  Presti. Weaver.

Instead it was Curry, Thompson and Green.

Durant didn’t want to be the leader anymore. The Warriors’ “Strength In Numbers” mantra wasn’t just a catchphrase. It was what he wanted.

This piece gives great insight on what went into Kevin Durant’s decision. It reads that Kevin Durant’s inner circle wanted him to go.

Also, Durant wasn’t enjoying the Thunder’s culture.  Colin Cowherd on his podcast on Tuesday explained that Steph Curry texted Kevin Durant and told him that he didn’t care about who was the alpha, but that he just wanted to win. It seemed to matter to Westbrook. He preferred the culture of the Warriors. In Oklahoma City it was a grind, where people people insisted on assigning credit. In Golden State it appeared to be a party, where the host was irrelevant, he wanted in on the party.

The Aftermath

LeBron and Cleveland
Dan Wetzel with Yahoo Sports:

When the improbable, seemingly impossible, was done, when Cleveland’s championship was, at long, long last, won, LeBron James simply went to his knees and wept. There was nothing else to do.

Wept for the accomplishment, his Cleveland Cavaliers defeating the Golden State Warriors here Sunday, 93-89 in Game 7 to become the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 Finals deficit. Wept for the performance, 27 more points, 11 more assists and 11 more rebounds to cap a three-game stretch (averaging 36.3 points, 11.6 rebounds, 9.7 assists while facing elimination) as great as any player, ever.

Wept, too, because of Cleveland, because of Akron, because of The Decision and because of The Return, because of the Drive, the Fumble, the Shot, because of Jose Mesa and Rocky Colavito, because the people and places back home made this bigger than him, bigger than a single team, bigger than it even should be, a basketball game understandably meaning so much to so many.

“Just knowing what our city has been through, Northeast Ohio has been through,” James said. “You could go back to the Earnest Byner fumble, [John] Elway going 99 yards

…Our fans, they ride or die,” James continued. “For us to be able to end this, end this drought, our fans deserve it. They deserve it. And it was for them.”

LeBron’s coming home letter was perfect PR, it was emotional, well written, and effective.  Was it honest?  I am not naivete enough to believe that if the Cavaliers hadn’t had some important pieces to be competitive immediately that LeBron might not have come back to Cleveland as soon as he did.  I do believe that he wanted to bring a championship to Cleveland, he has city pride, and that he was willing to sacrifice a better situation to help out a city that meant so much to him.

The cynic will always point out that Miami looked gassed when he left and didn’t have as much promise.  Cleveland had a future #1, plus a star in Kyrie Irving.  They were younger and looked more appealing than a washed up Dwayne Wade and an ineffective Chris Bosh.  Acknowledging that, I still think Miami was a better situation.

Miami is a first class organization with a great reputation and a culture of winning and professionalism.  Miami had proven stars that had led teams into the playoffs.  Both, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving couldn’t check either of those boxes.  Organizationally?  The Cavaliers were atrocious.  They lacked a winning culture, stability, and professionalism.  They went through coaches like Kardashians go through men.  They needed a complete rehaul and it was unlikely that it could be done unless he did it himself.  The letter was a great PR stunt.  Charles Barkley, Colini Cowherd, Jim Rome, and many others all loved that letter.  All admit that Cleveland had assets and could be a contender with LeBron.  But, let’s be honest, in the Eastern Conference who wouldn’t be a contender with LeBron?

LeBron took a worse situation, a lot of risk, and put his career on the line, trusting in himself, as a leader and a basketball player, in order to bring the City of Cleveland a championship.  It’s admirable.  LeBron says and does a lot of things that doesn’t make him likable, to me.  His sacrifice to go back to Cleveland in hopes of bringing them a championship to a city he loved, I applaud.  Maybe there are things that I don’t know that make this move self interested, but without that information I choose to see the move as noble.  Last Night was a great ending.

LeBron’s place in history

Chau for The Ringer writes:

He has always felt out of place and time — out of this world. LeBron has never needed a contemporary, because his race is with the history of the game itself. His greatest rival is and will always be the idea of LeBron James…

Still: James was the series leader in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks; he logged only the third triple-double in a Finals Game 7; his block on Andre Iguodala with under two minutes left in the game, with his arms canvassing both sides of the rim and crashing down like the flaming sword of Uriel, will stand as one of the greatest plays in playoff history.

Chris Mannix of the Vertical:

The horn sounded, the benches emptied and in that moment the weight of a city lifted off LeBron James’ squared shoulders… This is the stuff legends are made of, folks, and it’s time we ask: Is James the best we have ever seen? He will forever be compared to Michael Jordan, will be clubbed by MJ’s perfect Finals record and shrugged at by aging players with a warped perception of just how good their day was. But this is six straight Finals for James, with three championships to show for it. He won in Miami, now in Cleveland, and there is a reasonable argument that he has been the best player in every series he suited up in…

Let the debate rage, the pro-Jordan, the pro-Larry Bird, the pro-Magic Johnson factions have at it. Arguments for each have merit. But the most talented player of this generation has just added another trophy to his shelf, the most physically imposing forward in NBA history has just overpowered the team that once seemed destined to be considered the best of it. Any list of all-time greats has James on it; soon, even his fiercest critics will have no choice but to put him at the top of it…

The LeBron conversation has never been how good he is among current players, but has always been in the conversation of the basketball immortals.  I don’t think there will be many that will put him outside of the top 5, but many will put him in the top 3, and now some will put him with Jordan.  He deserves all of it.  He is great, when he needs to be great.  Curry still deserved the regular season MVP, he was better in the regular season, but in the playofffs there is no doubt.  He dominated the series and showed up when he needed to show up.  Hail the King, he is no longer just in the room as the immortals, but has a seat among basketball’s all-time royalty.

KYRIE LETS CLEVELAND DIE ANOTHER DAY

Shams Charania of the Vertical:

“For one night, Kyrie Irving showcased the youth and the skill set that could form the best sidekick LeBron James has ever had. Right place, right time. Irving is healthy now, nearing his prime years, and there’s no slowing him down. Those 41 points silenced the Oracle Arena crowd and any Golden State runs.”

Matt Borcas for The Ringer:

“What an incredible advertisement for hero ball. I’m not sure what’s crazier: that Kyrie dropped 41 points on a mere 24 shots, or that anyone would suggest that his time in Cleveland may be coming to an end as recently as eight days ago. We’ve seen Kyrie go off like this before, but his Game 5 performance felt revelatory — one LeBron James said “will go down in the all-time greatest performances in Finals history.” Down 3–1 in the Finals to the 73-win Warriors, facing a hostile Oracle crowd — this is when max-contract players need to step up. And Kyrie finally did that on Monday night.”

Dave McMenamin writing for ESPN:

“You’ve got a guy like this who is very special,” James said. “It’s probably one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen live.”

Asked to characterize Irving’s demeanor, James said, “Just calm. Just calm for 48 minutes. Obviously he played 40 minutes, but even in the eight minutes that he was sitting down, he was just calm.”

It’s a trait that will help Cleveland face the overwhelming task of becoming the first team in Finals history to come back from a 3-1 deficit to win it all, breaking an 0-for-32 mark while also becoming the first team in 52 years to win one for The Land.

It’s unprecedented stuff that the Cavs are after. Kind of like the night Irving had in Game 5.

James was asked if he had ever seen anything before quite like Irving’s performance.

“Nobody has,” he replied.

Jack Winter for Uproxx.com:

Compared to expectations, Irving definitely has Curry beat on offense. He’s been much more careful with the ball and made a few more difficult shots. Their disparate on- and off-court efficiencies can’t be overlooked. Irving’s certainly had the more memorable single-game performance, too.

Marc Berman writing for the New York Post:

It’s hard for any Cleveland critic to dare suggest LeBron James doesn’t have a superstar sidekick after he and Kyrie Irving did their 41-41 act to destroy Oracle Arena’s party Monday night in Game 5 of the NBA Finals.

Irving’s postseason has been glorious. His first full Finals could still turn out that way, too, if the Cavaliers become the first club to rally from a 3-1 deficit in the championship-deciding series.

Zach Harper for Cbssports.com writes:

The Warriors tried a lot of different defenders on Irving and they all seemed to get cooked. Part of that was the absence of Draymond Green, and certainly the loss of Andrew Bogut early in the second half. But Irving was still taking it to Golden State when it played good defense on him. Klay Thompson couldn’t stop him. Stephen Curry got outplayed by him. Harrison Barnes couldn’t use his size to bother him. And even the rare moments Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala got a turn, they couldn’t get Irving off his game either.

“Kyrie was great tonight and had my number,” Thompson said after the game. “Hit some tough shots, but there’s nothing you can do about it. Sometimes you put your hand up and it just goes in.”

Those tough shots were probably the most demoralizing part of the night for the Warriors defense.

Kyrie Irving went off, in every sense of the word.  He shot effeciently and made big impact plays when they needed it most.  His baskets were more timely then LeBron’s 41 with a higher degree of difficulty.  Golden State played off LeBron and dared him to shoot, which he torched them.  The Warrior’s defense was all over Irving.  Irving was hot in the first half of game 4 and he was on fire in all of game 5.  Golden State needs to do something from preventing him from taking over the game offensively.  Luckily for the Warriors, Draymond Green will be back, and that will help.  This game doesn’t give Cleveland the upper hand for the series, but for a night it shows us how good, Irving’s good is, and that good–is incredible.  I don’t feel like he will be able to match this output again, but for a night he was untouchable.  He truly saved Cleveland for a night.  They live to die another day.

The Internet vs. LeBron James

NY Daily News Stefan Bondy:

“The great contradiction with LeBron James, or the flaws that have held him back from realizing his birthright as the greatest ever, is how he carries a supreme arrogance in every facet of his basketball life except with a ball in his hands.

James thinks the world of himself, which is understandable from a mega-athlete who has been worshipped since he was in high school. James undermines coaches because he can, because, perhaps rightfully so, he believes he knows more about the game than a David Blatt does. He plays the role of GM, through back channel influence if not by straight demands, even though he’s proven to be subpar over the years in constructing a basketball roster. He takes up all the oxygen in the room, dictating the mood and tenor of his team. If James is not the center of attention, he’ll send out a couple of cryptic tweets to make certain the spotlight is where it belongs.

Basically, LeBron does everybody else’s job but not his own when the time arrives to take over a game. Then he defers.

 

Jack Winter of uproxx.com writes:

“It’s no secret the four-time MVP never quite managed to find his wayward jumper in 2015-16. The Warriors probably understand that even better than the rest of the league, too. They forced James into dismal 29.3 percent shooting from outside the restricted area en route to a title last year. And unfortunately for Cleveland, the only thing that’s changed between then and now is his willingness to improve on that number…The analytically inclined fawn over shot charts that look like this.”

“…James’ ailment has infected his entire team. And unless he magically finds a cure for it, his jump shot will continue plaguing the Cavaliers as their title hopes go from rapidly fading to vanishing altogether.”


Echoing LeBron’s poor shooting is Ethan Strauss for ESPN:

“But 10 games is enough of a sample size. In the last 10 regular-season and playoff meetings between the Warriors and Cavs, James has shot 32-of-91 (35 percent) with Iguodala as his primary defender. In that span, James has yet to solve Iguodala’s combination of speed, savvy and well-timed swipe-downs.

So Iguodala has been dominating James defensively since June 2015. It’s an effort augmented by a team of similarly sized wings who switch and defend with intelligence. It’s an effort augmented by whatever happened to James’ jumper after he left Miami. The Warriors are going under on screens for James and switching with ease thanks to the apparent lack of a shooting threat.”

Harvey Araton on Pro Basketball for the NY Times:

“Losing in the finals to a Golden State team that won a record 73 regular-season games, if that is the inevitable result, would be no disgrace. But if the series continues this way, and so far it has not been remotely competitive, the epitaph for the Cavaliers’ season should be: This is the team James wanted, and assembled.

…Love is just one example — although the most egregious — of what can happen when a player, even the very best player, enjoys the kind of executive leverage James has had since rejoining the Cavaliers in the summer of 2014.

The denials from his camp and the Cleveland front office have naturally been vehement. They say James did not insist on trading Andrew Wiggins, the No. 1 pick of that year’s draft, to Minnesota for the overrated Love, a deal that deprived the Cavaliers of a superior young athlete James might have mentored.

…But agents who have had business with the Cavaliers speak of Griffin’s telling them he would get back to them after checking matters with James. League people remind you that Michael Jordan never had such power in Chicago and, based on the personnel decisions he opposed, probably would not have won six titles if he did have it.”

Dieter Kurtenbach from FoxSports.com writes:

“You can hear the hot-take cannons being prepared as we speak –€” artillery shells with his soon-to-be NBA Finals record –€” “2-5” –€” emblazoned on the side, ready to be fired off as justification for alleging one of the greatest basketball players of all-time isn’t a “great winner.

…The Cavs might lose these Finals in embarrassing fashion, but no matter how it goes down, you can’t pin the loss on LeBron.

It’s not LeBron’s fault that Kyrie Irving has no interest in passing the ball, or that Kevin Love, before his concussion, decided that defense was something he only did for the Timberwolves, or that JR Smith can’t find the space to shoot, or that Tristan Thompson is being worked down-low by smaller players who are hungrier than the once insatiable forward, or that Tyronn Lue doesn’t appear to have any idea what he’s doing, or that the Warriors are ruthless winning machines that crush the souls of anything in their wake (so long as they don’t have three 7-footers.)”

We have the typical, LeBron isn’t alpha male enough. I don’t think that this is LeBron’s ultimate weakness. When Kobe was going total alpha male, his critics railed on him for being too selfish. LeBron can’t win. He went total alpha male last finals, and it still didn’t work. They did win two games, but this Warriors team is better than last year, and it seems that the Warriors figured out a way to beat the total alpha male.

A legitimate concern is LeBron’s shooting. That stat chart reminded me of the first time that I realized Michael Jackson was born black, it was surprising, but made a lot of sense.  There has been a lot of chatter about this that he can’t hit shots away from the basket. Zach Lowe, Brian Windhorst, Ryan Rusillo, and countless others who watch this team all season have brought this up. The shot chart strengthens the argument.

Is this LeBron’s team? Well, yeah, he has built the team. Does that mean, it is all on him if he doesn’t win a championship with them? Well, no. He is in the NBA Finals, which 30 other teams can’t claim, and they all have someone that put together those teams as well. It’s not like he is Coach K choosing his Olympic dream team and ending up with Channing Frye and Tristan Thompson. He can only choose from those players who are willing and available. He orchestrated the resurrection of the Cavs since his return, and any other general manager would love to be in his position. It is bad luck that he has ran into the greatest team ever (allegedly).

LeBron is past his prime, his jump shot has eluded him, and he can’t beat the Warriors. He is still arguably the best player and his ability to instantly make any team he is on a finals contender is remarkable. He is fighting against a proven incompetent organization. A team who was irrelevant, both before and after his stay there. Cleveland should be grateful as long as it’s lasts, title or not.

LeBron Explained

Brian Windhorst writing for ESPN:

“Things were still far from perfect. James, a stickler for punctuality, was continually upset by players not being on time. Film sessions, buses, flights — the lack of professionalism burned James. Sometimes it was Blatt, who was supposed to be setting the example himself, who was late. And on a January afternoon when the Cavs were practicing in Dallas, James got so fed up he tweeted about it, writing: “No RESPECT for time! #PetPeeve”

Within two weeks, Blatt was fired and Lue, his replacement, was preaching accountability from the first moments. Cavs general manager David Griffin talked about accountability when he made the change, but he might as well have said “culture” as well.”

LeBron was making a lot of noise and taking a lot of heat for his cryptic tweets and passive aggressive attitude. This article reveals the reasons behind his actions. I agree there are better ways to convey his miffed attitude towards teammates and management. Importantly though, he was holding his teammates to a higher standard. Cultures are powerful and difficult to change, but once they are changed, it is much easier to teach and maintain greatness. It seems that Cleveland needed this very much.

This article highlights two main things: LeBron’s leadership and secondly it illustrates why Cleveland has been so awful for so long. The Cavaliers’ organization and culture doesn’t produce success, it breeds practical jokers and a lack of professionalism. The immature and rudderless mess left them in the lottery every year and a carousel of coaches to blame it on. Does LeBron have a lot of power? Does LeBron run Cleveland? Yes and yes. But, clearly, the Cavaliers organization doesn’t know what they are doing and LeBron’s plan at least has both leadership and direction.

Two thoughts:
1: So wait… LeBron fired Blatt for being late to a meeting? He’s as strict as Belichick.
2: Is it just me, or does Cleveland Owner Dan Gilbert need to give LeBron part interest in the Cavs for his next contract? Think about it.

Post Season/Regular Season, not the same team, but the same team

I certainly don’t want to overreact with regards to game one, but I will. The Cavs are no Thunder, after the Western Conference Finals this game seemed like a regular season game, where the Warriors won 73.In the days leading up to the game, the idea that his Cleveland team was completely changed from the team that was dominated by Golden State in the regular season, which the Warriors average margin of victory was 17, was unfounded. Yes they had a new coach, added Channing Frye and seemed to have a new style of offense, but, the Cavs shot 7-21 from three which was 5 three’s fewer then they averaged against the Warriors in the regular season.  Frye was irrelevant attempting only one shot and this offense still didn’t produce.
Point being, the Cavs weren’t drastically different then they were in the regular season. They lost by 15, shot less three’s, Channing Frye was forgettable and it was more of the same. I picked this series in 5 for the Warriors and maybe sold them short. RIP Cavs.

NBA Finals Game 1, Bench Dominated

Jonathan Tjarks from theringer.com:

“Game 1 offered a specific reminder of last year’s championship bout: the Finals MVP wasn’t any of the three marquee names on the Warriors roster. On a night when Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined for 20 points on 8-for-27 shooting, the Warriors bench more than made up the difference in Golden State’s 104–89 win over Cleveland. Shaun Livingston, Andre Iguodala, and Leandro Barbosa scored 43 points on 18-for-24 shooting; Barbosa’s net rating for the game was comically high after a perfect 5-for-5, 11-points-in-11-minutes performance; the Warriors were dominant in the 26 minutes that Iguodala and Livingston shared the court — and those gaudy numbers still might understate the bench’s impact on the game.”

The extra effort to stop Curry and Thompson left easy buckets for the role players.  It is looking bleak in Cleveland.

LeBron Vs. Steph, Part 2: How legacies are defined

LeBron vs Curry

Michael Lee of The Vertical:

“I don’t get involved in all of that,” James said. “Underdog, overdog, whatever the case may be. It’s stupidity. … We’re better built to start the Finals than we were last year. Doesn’t matter who it’s against.”

If the opponent weren’t Curry, James might’ve sounded believable. James has been denied a rival for most of his career. The difference in age made it hard for it to truly be Paul Pierce and the difference in age and position made it impossible for Tim Duncan, despite three Finals meetings. Curry, nearly three years James’ junior, presents a threat that neither James nor anyone else in the league could’ve foreseen – the uninvited guest looking to crash the party (again) and own the whole house.

Three years removed from his last NBA title and MVP award, James has never had a better opportunity to regain the standing he has yet to fully relinquish. Knocking off James for a second time would give Curry the respect that somehow continues to elude him. The motivations are different, but the quest to cement legacies remains the same.

This series is must see.  I love watching the best two players in sports meet up for the biggest stakes.

History of Game 7’s

Interesting game 7 numbers from Ben Golliver of Si.com:

There are a million factoids to consider when it comes to sizing up where the series stands now. Here are a few worth considering…

• Only nine of the 232 teams that have trailed a series 3-1, as the Warriors did, have gone on to win in seven games.
•  Teams that have led 3-1 in a series, as the Thunder did, are 7-7 (.500) when they play Game 7 on the road.
•  Home teams are 100-24 (.806) overall in Game 7s dating back to 1948. During the three-point era, home teams are 65-16 (.802) in Game 7s.
•  The Warriors are 17-3 (.850) at home during the playoffs under Kerr. Golden State is also 47-3 (.940) at home during the 2015-16 season and 2016 playoffs combined, although one of those three losses came to Oklahoma City in Game 1.
•  The Thunder are 5-3 on the road during the 2016 playoffs under Donovan, with a win over the Warriors, two wins over the Spurs, and two wins over the Mavericks.

I’d Like to Double Down on the Warriors!

Should Have Doubled Down on Your Warrior StockEthan Sherwood Strauss from ESPN:

With an incredible 108-101 comeback victory on the road Saturday night, the Golden State Warriors clawed their way out of the grave to force a Game 7. It was a game the Oklahoma City Thunder controlled until the Warriors slowly, relentlessly turned what looked like an inexorable tide. It was probably the best offensive performance of Klay Thompson’s life, maybe the best defensive performance of Andre Iguodala’s life, capped by a dagger from one Stephen Curry.

Alert to those who sold their Warrior stock. There is a game 7 and it seems the Warriors have found and drained their magic elixir.  It won them 73 games and will get them back to the NBA Finals.

There were 3 things that happened in this game that were significant:

Frist, I completely agree with Charles Barkley, that the Thunder played hero basketball and that is why they lost.  Between Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook they missed 38 shots, the rest of the team only took 32.

Second, Klay Thompson single handedly saved the Warriors season by going 11-18 from behind the arc and scoring 41 points.  He kept the Warriors close and carried Steph until he was awoken from his slumber.

Third, Steph Curry found his swagger back in the 4th and the Thunder aren’t coming back.  This is eerily familiar with last year when Steph was out of sorts for the beginning of the Cavs/Warriors NBA Finals. Curry finally found his groove in the 4th quarter of game 3 and he never looked back. Look for him to do the same.

The only reason this game was close was because of all the second chance points by the Thunder. If momentum is a thing, the Thunder are done. If it isn’t, they are done.

Watching the Warriors come from behind and seeing Thompson go off is the reason why I enjoy this Warriors team so much. What a great series and hope to win some more money off of Curry and company come Monday.

Plenty are Selling Their Warrior Stock

The Warriors, got, well, ‘warriored’. Generally it is the Warriors blowing out teams and leaving them exasperated looking for answers. Sunday the Warriors took their turn from the wooden spoon.  Their was plenty of blame for everyone.  Draymond Green appeared to have been possessed with Kendrick Perkins. He was 1 for 9 from the floor. Curry and Thompson shot poorly and their once stellar defense was shoddy at best allowing 133 points. Durant played like a man among boys on both ends and the Warriors were ran out of the building. Most reactions are giving up on the Warrriors.

Good article from Chris Mannix writing for the Vertical:

“Where was the Warriors’ confidence? Gone, beaten from them by a relentless performance from Kevin Durant, the one-time MVP, who shook off two subpar games to deliver a 33-point, eight-rebound gem. The accolades have come fast for Curry, deservedly, yet here was Durant, firing in midrange jump shots, steamrolling down the lane for dunks, reminding everyone that any list of the world’s best scorers includes him – that the war he once waged with LeBron James for the NBA’s most dominant player was ongoing.

Where was the Warriors’ swagger? Hijacked, first by Russell Westbrook, who, for the second time this series, has outdueled Curry, the reigning MVP.”

At fivethirtyeight.com:

“We’ve hardly ever seen this incarnation of the Warriors destroyed so thoroughly, and never in a game that meant so much.

“Putting aside why it happened — yes, the Warriors had one of their worst (unluckiest?) shot-making nights of the season, but they also played some of their most porous defense of the year and looked out of sorts for long stretches of the game — Golden State’s Game 3 drubbing has left the team in trouble.”

Fivethirtyeight’s NBA Playoff predictions seem to be down on the Warriors chances and the Thunder are now 64% favorites to make the NBA Finals. According to ESPN’s BPI The Thunder are 60% favorites.

Dieter Kurtenbach for Fox Sports isn’t convinced that the Warriors are cooked:

“It was the kind of lopsided victory from which teams don’t usually come back. It’s the kind of knockdown that keeps teams on the mat. To double-down on the boxing metaphors, the Thunder’s Game 3 win was a punishing haymaker straight to the jaw.

The Warriors were floored Sunday —€” there’s no questioning that, in a 28-point loss where the margin was as large as 41 in the second half —€” and it’s put them in a must-win scenario ahead of Game 4. But it’s a bad idea to presume the Western Conference Finals is over and that the Thunder will be heading to the NBA Finals.

Write them off if you want, but remember: the Warriors are historically good, and a single game is a pretty small sample size.

And for all of the narrative out there, Sunday’s Game 3 win for the Thunder was just that, a Game 3 win. Impressive as it was, it only counts as one.”

I am expecting a series win from the Warriors and hope to make my money back from last nights loss.

Reactions on Knicks Coaching Hire, Jeff Hornacek

WFAN Sports Radio’s Mike Francesca on Jeff Hornacek’s hire:

“Can I sit here and rail against it like it is an absolutely terrible move? No,” Francesa said on his WFAN show Thursday. “Do I sit here and say that it’s a stroke of genius and what a great step for the franchise? I don’t get that either.

“When I think of Hornacek, I think of the player. Loved him as a player. Clutch, tough. Loved everything about him as a player. I mean, he was the kind of player who was underrated, who you could just always rely on. Absolutely loved him as a player.”

“As a coach, you know, he hasn’t been around that long. …Can I tell you about what I think about the way Hornacek decides to lead men and coach basketball and do things and things about his team? You know what, how many times did any of us really pay attention to that team in the short amount of time he was the head coach? Does that mean he’s not a good coach? No.”

Chris Mannix of the Vertical wrote:

“Jackson gets a good coach here, and the next step will be to get out of his way. No one questions Jackson’s coaching brilliance – his 11 rings qualifies him as arguably the greatest coach of all time. He should be a resource for Hornacek, but only when Hornacek wants to tap into it. It will be hard enough for Hornacek to placate Anthony while transitioning the team to Porzingis, all while trying to satisfy a media and fan base expecting playoff-level results. He doesn’t need unsolicited input from his boss on spacing while he’s doing it.

The Knicks made a savvy move in grabbing Hornacek, and Jackson must turn his focus to the other equally important duties of his job.”

Steve Popper from northjersey.com isn’t convinced Hornacek will be a good hire:

“If you could be sold on someone from outside of your very limited circle of basketball friends, why not talk to more of the candidates? While he went outside his comfort zone, Jackson brought in a coach who, no matter how solid a guy he is, if we live by the old Bill Parcell’s line — “You are what your record says you are” — has been a sub-.500 coach. Great first year, fought through tough circumstances in the second year and imploded with, well, a Knicks-like roster this season.

…Or is Hornacek a man who coached an awkwardly constructed roster in Phoenix to the greatest heights they could have reached? And can he do that with the Knicks, a roster that is built to play a 1990’s game in a world where the game has moved on to a small-ball, fast-paced style?”

Hornacek played here in Utah and was instrumental in the Jazz getting over the hump into the Finals, but not enough to beat Michael Jordan. His reputation here is outstanding and we were a little upset when Phoenix hired him before we fired Tyrone Corbin. The only doubts that I have is how quickly he lost the team after overachieving his first year in Phoenix.  He wasn’t a superstar, but he was a Steve Kerr type.  Smart, good character guy, and worked hard.  The 3rd best option on a great team.  He is they type of player seem to make a good coaches, not a Superstar, but someone that can understand and relate to the others on the team.  I side with the crowd calling it a good hire.   Either way, many Knick fans are just glad that it isn’t Rambis.

Thunder’s Win Draws Interest

Westbrook should be the new mascot for Energizer as his motor doesn’t stop. He played an excellent second half and led his team over the Warriors, stunning many in the process. The Thunder are as legitimate contenders now. Just ask Nate Silver.

According to Fivethirtyeight.com their NBA final predictions the Thunder They have a 56% chance of making the finals, more than the Warriors, and a 36% chance of winning the finals, which is the highest percentage (Warriors have a 35%) when a week ago they had a 10% chance of making the finals and a 6% chance of winning the title.

Vegas hasn’t bailed on the Warriors, thebiglead.com reported from Jeff Sherman’s twitter account:

NBA Champ updated
Warriors 6/5
Cavaliers 3/2
Thunder 3/1
Raptors 60/1

After scouring the internet yesterday, I wasn’t able to find an article that spelled doom for the Warriors. Mostly people are excited for a competitive 6 or 7 game series now.

Zach Lowe’s article does a great job, as usual, from ESPN breaking down game 1 and feels the Key terms of engagement for the series are set:

“The Thunder will not win this series playing small ball”
“Warriors Coach Steve Kerr will play the Death Lineup–Curry, Andre Iguodala, Klay Thompson, and Harrison Barnes, with Green at center…”
“Donovan is rightfully reluctant to play the Adams-Kanter combination against the Death Lineup…”
“The Thunder will switch almost everything away from the ball.”

Lowe states the reasons why the Thunder won this game:

“The Thunder mostly played a smart, hyper-aware brand of defense that eluded them for much of the season.”

The Thunder players get bored during the season while they stand and watch Durant and Westbrook, but for the playoffs they are able to keep focused for a whole game. Congratulations Thunder players on being professional, maybe they promised them a Capri-Sun and a Little Debbie after the game. Whatever it is, Adams has stepped up his game and the Thunder have found a way to finish out close games, which has eluded them all season long. They are in this series after a great game 1 win.

Let’s not overreact over a game one, if the Thunder/Spurs series taught us anything, it is that 1 game is only one game. The winningest team in NBA regular season history is capable of rattling off four wins.  I expect the Warriors to feed Curry a more and win still win, but now there is a higher level of uncertainty and excitement. Should be a fun ride.

Fox’s Colin Cowherd’s Hot Take

Colin Cowherd’s Hot Take

Jim Rome on his radio show:

“Hot Take…, they’re bad for the NBA and he’s just not that good. You know what a hot take is? A hot take is finding something that is almost almost universally accepted or thought of as good and running the other way. Or, or, a hot take is finding something that is universally hated and treated with disdain and then putting yourself out there and saying, “Best thing ever!” Oh, no, that is great, that’s great, hot take, I will give you a hot take, OJ Simpson, good dude, good dude, just a good dude with a bad rap, hot take. I will give you another hot take, slamming your hand in a car door, it’s a good time. Makes you feel alive bro. Brother you are not alive until you have slammed your hand in your car door. Good times. There’s a hot take. Let me give you another hot take. A hot take like, Stephen Curry is not that good. That’s a hot take…stop hot taking it. I’ll give you a hot take, Toronto-Miami is the best series ever. There is your hot take.”

Steph Curry was just announced as the MVP of the NBA 2015-16 season. The big difference between this year and other years is that this is the first year that the MVP was unanimous. Before the announcement came, Russillo & Kanell on their radio show was hoping that a voter wouldn’t spoil it, when Curry is so obvious. There always is a contrarian and votes for a Penny Hardaway, instead of a Michael Jordan. Even the Sultan of Swat, Babe Ruth, wasn’t a unanimous hall of fame candidate.

The fact that 131 basketball media members were able to agree, without one of them dissenting and voting for LeBron James or Kwahi Leonard was a relief. In the “hot take” sports world, we knew someone would take that position, this time it was Colin Cowherd.

Colin Cowherd’s Case

“I told you when Chris Paul got hurt the Clippers will not win another game. Season is over. Chris Paul is the heart and soul of the LA Clippers. To me the two most valuable players are LeBron 1 and Chris Paul. Think about this Michael Jordan is the best basketball player of all time. The Bulls went from 57 wins to 55 after he left. LeBron in Cleveland they won 61 games he leaves they win 19, then 21, then 24, then low 30’s, he comes back mid 50’s. That is valuable. This league doesn’t have, this league has never had a single player as valuable as LeBron James. Magic Johnson as great as he was, no question that he mattered, but the Lakers always get stars at the time Lakers they were still the mos glamorous franchise in the league, they would have won a lot of games and did before he got there. To me Magic is the 2nd best player that has ever played in the league, so to me Steph Curry is not the MVP in the league he may be among many things… If you take LeBron out of the Cavs I am not sure they would be favored in a game the rest of the year…College basketball has this right…they have player of the year. I would vote Steph Curry player of the year he has been the most talked about the most exhilarating and he really is changing the game with 3 pointers, that is all that we have now, look at Cleveland that is all they do is shoot 3 pointers. If you want to call it player of the year I will give it to Steph, but Most Valuable? Nope, he is not the most valuable player in the league.”

Colin’s appeals to word valuable, he says it should mean the player whose teammates need him the most. Sure the Warriors are deep so they miss any single individual less then teams with a roster of mediocrity. For example, LeBron last year during the playoffs is more valuable then the LeBron this year in the playoffs, for the mere fact that they have Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving healthy, according to the logic, LeBron is less valuable than last year. The MVP is supposed to go to the best player, not the best player with the worst team. The track record of the award has proved this for the entire history.

Here are two other National Radio guys, Cowherd’s peers, on him (essentially) who want to take an opinion that Steph Curry, doesn’t deserve the MVP.

Jim Rome’s Take:

“It is the epitome of the “Hot Take” It’s not that good Rome, overhyped and overrated hey and while we are at it they are really bad for the NBA that is a bad thing for the NBA nobody wants to see a team of incredibly skilled guys that play extremely well together and are unselfish and maybe have the best chemistry together that you are ever going to see and on top of that they are unbelievable guys…

…I think I can see the other side of almost anything.. I can pick either side of any argument and argue it on just about anything I don’t see the other side of this I don’t see the other side of Golden State is awesome, I don’t see the other side of Steph Curry is a brilliant player. I can’t make the argument the other way I can sit here and say, “You know what, I can see why you don’t like that guy, or I can see where maybe you think that guy is not that great or I can see why you’re not down with them or I can see why you think Golden state isn’ one of the best ever. I can’t see the other side of that I can’t make that other argument…and I can see the other side of almost everything but, not the other side of Golden State is a great team, I don’t see that, yet you hot takers keep coming in with it.”

Rome is basically calling Cowherd “Hot Take Guy”.

Ryan Russillo from ESPN Russillo and Kanell gave his opinion on Cowherd’s Hot Take:

“I get the, Hey, let me do something and people will have me on, but i still don’t understand what the real value of that is. You can play in the moment, “Well, Hey look I, uh 17 radio requests, I can tell you what, It doesn’t… you don’t get to cash those in for something, you don’t get a vacation property out of it. Your company doesn’t, go, “Hey, you know, you get a raise.” So even though we always do, “Hey man it was worth it look at all the attention you got”, tell me where that equates to real value later on in that persons career, you actually just become known as the guy that voted for somebody else”

The problem that I had is when the next day he doubled down and explained the reason his opinion was dissenting is because controversy makes you a big star. In order to stand out in a fragmented society, he needed to be controversial like Bryce Harper, The Kardashians, LeBron, and others. I want to hear opinions that are opinions because of how you believe, not because you want to be controversial. Here are the quotes that led me to believe that Colin went this way to be controversial.

“I am going to Double Down on ‘Steph Curry is not the MVP’ and this is how I am going to do it.”

“I don’t care what anyone says about Skip Bayless, he moves the needle, he is coming over here.”

“Steph is just unbelievably gifted offensively, another component of this is that LeBron James is not beloved. Steph Curry is non-threatening so people love Steph Curry, he is boyish, fun, cute, adorable, nobody hates Steph Curry, LeBron is more polarizing. “

“Kirt Herbstreit said to me once, “How do you deal with all the hate mail”, you don’t get much of it Kirk, I said secondly, who cares. Like, if you look at America, and say who are the biggest stars in America, Fox News, love and hate, Trump, Lebron, Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Bryce Harper, Bill O’Reilly, Simon Cowell, the Kardashians, if you want to break through in a fragmented society some of the people that are going to consume you won’t like you and remember we are all, if you think about what you hate in America it is fear based, hate comes from fear. You fear what you can’t be, you fear what you can’t stop, you fear what you get what you can’t have, it is all psychology you can look it up. So to break through in society, our Bryce Harper is the most loved and hated. I had dinner last night with somebody that has worked at Fox News for 20 years, he said Bill O’Reilly gets a 1000x’s more negative and positive reactions, if you are going to break through you’re going to be polarizing.”

I completely agree with Rome and Russillo. Cowherd seems to be wanting the attention for going the opposite way and to create a little noise. Why be like everyone else? Think differently. Well, being right is more important that being different and if there was a compelling case that most people have missed the boat on, I am all ears. But, there isn’t. Jason Whitlock filled in for Colin the day after Kobe scored 60 and decided to take the day and rip Kobe all day. Colin came in the next day and defended Whitlock saying about how many podcasts were downloaded. Sure, I agree that controversy gets clicks, but it seems to be short term thinking, because you may get the spotlight, but it loses you respect.

Cowherd has enough goodwill in the tank and credibility to outlast any number of controversial opinions. The reason is because he has worked hard and has many smart opinions and is entertaining to listen to. He has earned this. A “Hot Take” for the sake of a hot take isn’t going to make me stop listening to him, but it is a withdrawal out of his bank account of respect as opposed to a deposit.

* Additional quotes supporting that Cowherd wants to be controversial:

“Steph is loved at this point in his career.”

“Remember what really got people upset when LeBron and Dwayne Wade and Bosh had their press conference saying they were going to win 7 championships. Nash won the MVP 2x’s even though he wasn’t the most talented guy, it was because without Nash the Suns were terrible. Golden State set an NBA record 3 point shooting record when Curry was hurt and that is what he does better than everyone else. Curry has 8 other guys that are great and needed less than LeBron. You will see most of Curry’s impact in 10 years when all the 9 year old boys who watch Curry and want to be able to shoot like him. Everyone now shoots three.”

“The two highest paid athletes in America are Floyd Meriweather and Lebron James. I would argue that American Tennis could use a villain. I could argue that Nascar could use a villain, most sports that are struggling don’t have a villain. College Football is great, Alabama is a villain, ND is a villain, USC is a villain. NFL has all sorts of villains, the Patriots, Cowboys, Cam Newton, Tom Brady villains. The NBA has one and LeBron is it. Lebron is the only villain in the NBA. The moment he went back to Cleveland you kind of lost the villain. The NBA was better when LeBron was in Miami,, the city loved him and the nation hated him. Curry got the MVP I don’t think he is top two MVP. “

“We love points. Wilt was an underachiever, Bill Russell was more consistent and won 11. Kobe Bryant only won 68% of games when he scored 40 or more. They won 76% with Shaq. When players go off they don’t win as much. Golden State is more vinable than anyone in the NBA. LeBron, Chris Paul aren’t as vinable as Westbrook, Griffin, and Steph. We get seduced by moments, points and vines. Draymont is the true best player in the series and is having an all time great series. Draymont is always ready to play. All we want to talk about is Stephs 17 point overtime.”

“We fell in love with Marbury, he won only 44% of his games. JJ Watt is great, but not as valuable. Andy Dalton has more of an effect than him. If you take Steph Curry off the Warriors and they are the 2nd best team in the East. Cavs wouldn’t even be a playoff team in the West. Curry’s shooting, ball handling, iq, feet. We fell in love with Derrick Rose as he won MVP and LeBron shut Rose down in the Heat/Bulls series. LeBron outplayed Steph in the finals last year. Steph is easy to love. He is the apple stock, LeBron is the freight train,, or exxon mobile. Kardashian is a bigger star than Jeremy Irons. LeBron will be known as the best and most important player for 15 years. Steph is amazing, most exciting player, LeBron is the MVP of the league.”

NBA Finals MVP: If not LeBron, then Curry

The scorecard, 7-4, for the NBA Finals MVP was between Andre Iguodala and LeBron James with a glaring omission… Stephen Curry, who didn’t receive a single vote.  There have been differing opinions all over the board.

Neil Greenberg for the Washington Post:

“Iguodala finished the series with averages of 16.3 points, four assists and 5.8 rebounds, shooting 52.1 percent from the field. However, he wasn’t the most valuable player on his own team or in any one game, let alone the entire series... According to Michael Beuoy’s “kitchen sink” win probability added, which quantifies the win probability contributions for every box score stat we can measure and attribute at the player level, Iguodala ranked fourth overall in the Finals, behind James, Curry and Draymond Green.”

Jack Winter for uproxx

But Iguodala was merely the biggest beneficiary of Curry’s all-encompassing threat and Draymond Green’s all-court versatility. Why was he afforded so much space to operate in the halfcourt? Due to Cleveland’s ultra-aggressive ball-screen coverage on Curry. And why were the Cavaliers forced to guard him with an overmatched big man? Because Green is a stout enough rebounder, rim-protector, and individual defender to not be frequently outmuscled by Mozgov and Tristan Thompson.

81.5 percent of Iguodala’s scores versus Cleveland were assisted. The nearest defender on all but nine of his 37 made field goals was Mozgov, Thompson or 34-year-old James Jones. Those stats, obviously, have the fingerprints of Curry and Green all over them.

He also noted:

…To be fair, Iguodala did a yeoman’s job defending James. When they shared the court James had a net rating of minus-15.5 and was held to a true shooting percentage of 46.4 percent, which skyrocketed to a net rating of plus-18.8 and 50.9 percent true shooting when they didn’t.

Eric Freeman writing for Yahoo

However, there was no doubt which Warrior was most deserving of the Bill Russell NBA Finals MVP Award as Golden State closed out its first title in 40 years in Tuesday’s Game 6 win at Quicken Loans Arena. Iguodala was the Warriors’ most consistent player of the series, averaging 16.3 points (52.1 percent from the field, 40 percent from deep), 5.8 rebounds and four assists over 36.8 minutes per game while serving as Golden State’s primary defender on James. Plus, Iguodala’s entry into the starting lineup in Game 4 in place of All-Defensive Second Team honoree Andrew Bogut helped turn the series to the Warriors’ favor.

SI.com’s Staff say the decision was obvious:

Lee Jenkins wrote:  “If LeBron James doesn’t win MVP, that’s essentially an admission that a player on the losing team can’t win the award, which is fine, except then the name should probably be changed..

Chris Manix:  “It takes unique circumstances to give the MVP award to a player on a losing team, but this is a unique situation. Even in defeat, James has been the most overwhelmingly dominant player.”

Michael Rosenberg:  “The title is “Most Valuable Player,” not “Most Valuable Player On The Winning Team,” and anybody watching this series understands James has been far more valuable than Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala or anybody else on Golden State’s roster.”

If LeBron had won the MVP it would have been deserving and justified.  He played out of his mind.  He had basically the New York Knicks roster and won two games in the finals.  My hangup with Iguodala having won the award, is he didn’t carry the team.  Steph carried the team.  Steph Curry came into his own at the end of game 3.  That is the main reason they didn’t lose another game, it wasn’t because Andre Iguodala was in the lineup, it was because MVP Steph returned.

To suggest that Iguodala did some sort of wizardry guarding LeBron James, when LeBron garnered votes for Finals MVP on the losing team seems to get lost.  He didn’t do a MVP job, else LeBron wouldn’t have been so impactful.  The fact that LeBron didn’t shoot as well with Andre Iguodala guarding him can be chalked up to a couple of different things.  LeBron was gassed by the 4th game.  He was playing an inordinate amount of minutes carrying a terrible team.  They also played from behind a lot of the time in the later games which fosters ineffeciency.  Andre Iguodala isn’t as good of a defender as Kawhi Leonard who couldn’t keep LeBron’s efficiency down, meaning LeBron wasn’t slowed down by Iguodala, but by the process.  Curry was huge in 4th quarters and stepped up when needed.  He garnered the most attention, and delivered biggest when needed.

If not LeBron, then Curry.

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