SF 49er’s Week’s 4 & 5 OT Losses

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Evaluating the Niner’s five losses, they were soundly beaten in week 1 by a very good Carolina Panthers team. In their last 4 games, they were in the game until the very last possession and have lost those games by a total combined 11 points. Their last two losses at the Cardinals and at the Colts came in OT.

The take-away for me is that this team is still bad but twice as good as the 2016 team. This year’s team is competitive and plays hard entertaining games. They are heading in the right direction but still have plenty of gaps to fill before they turn those close losses into W’s. On offense, it is clear that need a franchise QB, a remake of their interior O-line, and one or two impact WR’s. On defense, they need a total remake of their LB’s with the exception of Reuben Foster. Sad, but true that NaVorro Bowman no longer can play like he did prior to his knee and achilles injuries. They also need two new CB’s.

This is the state of the roster that Trent Baalke left behind. After the Colts’ win over the Niners last week, Frank Gore said it best when he was quoted, “Trent messed up this team.” Baalke must have drafted at least 10 CB’s in his last three years and none of them have turned into impact players and most of them are no longer on the team or on any other roster. Half of the CB’s that he drafted had known knee injuries but he still drafted them. But the most egregious error that he made was a political one where he and Jed York ran a proven winning coach, Jim Harbaugh, out of town. This is what Gore’s message really meant.

In this league, the gap between a bad team and a good team is not that wide. Losing 4 games by a total of 14 points is proof of that. But the consistence by which a bad team like the Niners lose is glaring and the gaps in the offense and defense that I define above have to be addressed if they are to turn this franchise around. I still have plenty of confidence in Lynch and Shanahan.

Here is my definition of a good team. In last week’s Packer’s vs Cowboy’s game, when Dak Prescott scored the go-ahead TD for the Cowboys with 1:13 left in  the game, my first reaction was that they left too much time on the clock for Aaron Rodgers. And, you know the rest of the story as Rodgers lead another amazing come-from-behind win.

And here is my definition of a bad team. In both of the Niner’s OT losses, when the Niners had the ball, all my thoughts were on “how the offense will screw up”. And on defense, more often than not, on third down and short or long, they will either allow the other team to get a first down or be called for a defensive penalty. Bad teams will somehow find a way to lose close games.

I expect to see these kinds of losses on a consistent basis for the remainder of the year. I’m sure that Lynch has his scouts busy looking for impact players who will either be free agents next year or good college draft prospects.

SF 49er’s Week 3 Entertainment

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Thursday night’s 41-39 Niner loss was entertaining, fun, and frustrating.

I must say that this was by far the most entertaining game played at Levi Stadium since the Niners moved there. I found myself jumping out of my seat and throwing fist pumps on many occasions.

Such a change of pace from the bland brand of football that we have been suffering through for the last three years. There is still a lot of re-building to be done, but as long as the ShanaLynch team can make the games exciting, it’ll be a fun process.

The first thing to mention is that I was very impressed with the LA Rams. Sean McVay, the youngest coach in the NFL at age 31 and his coaches and their front office has done a remarkable job in their re-building process. They have surrounded QB Jared Goff with a quality offensive line and secured great WR’s in Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Tavon Austin, and Sammy Watkins who had a monster game last night. Along with Todd Gurley, who is no longer “girly”, they have a fairly potent offense for years to come.

Regarding the Niners offense, one can easily make a case that the game was lost on the very first play of the game when Brian Hoyer threw a horrendous interception giving the Rams a quick and easy 7 points. Since the Niners lost by only 2 points, one can deduce that that one play was the difference. However, there were so many ebbs and flows in regards to turnovers, key 3rd down conversions and misses, and horrible referee calls, that one play was only one of many game changers.

Game changing plays:

  • The Hoyer interception on the first play of the game.
  • The bad pass interference call on Dontae Johnson on the Rams first drive on 3rd down when Goff was sacked. Instead of the Niners getting the ball back, the Rams got a first down that lead to another touchdown.
  • The pass interference that was not called on the Garrett Celek on a 3rd down play in the end zone where the Rams defensive back had an arm bar on Celek’s left arm for a good 10 yards as Celek was running directly at the referee. I don’t know what the referee was looking at. Ultimately, the Niners did score on a 4th down play but it never should have gotten to 4th
  • The Rams 3rd down and 12 yards to go play in the late 3rd quarter where linebackers Ray Ray Armstrong and Novarro Bowman chased covered receivers toward separate sidelines and left the middle wide open for a big 1st down gain for Gurley. I know it’s blasphemous to say, but Novarro showed both his age and the slowdown in his speed from his knee and achilles injuries.
  • Lastly, the phantom offensive pass interference penalty on Trent Taylor on a 3rd down play after the Niners recovered an on-side kick-off and started a potentially game winning drive. Instead of a 1st down at the Ram’s 40 yard line with 2 minutes go to in the game and down by only 2 points, the Niners were faced with a 3rd and 20 on their 40 yard line. The way that the Niners offense was moving the ball, they had a great chance to get another 1st down putting themselves in great position for a game winning field goal. This was the biggest game changer.
  • Although not game changers, the Niners had to challenge two great completed sideline catches by Pierre Garcon and Marquis Goodwin. The Niners won both challenges but the mere fact that the referees initially called the catches incomplete gives you an idea of how atrocious the officiating was in this game.

There were some great “You Got Moss’ed” catches in this game:

  • Pierre Garcon’s great sideline catch where the ball was thrown a good three yards out of bounds but he stretched full length to grab the ball while acrobatically keeping both feet in-bounds.
  • Garcon’s wonderful 50 yard catch down the right sidelines fully stretched over pro-bowl corner back, Trumaine Johnson.
  • Marquis Goodwin’s sideline catch on the Rams’ 3 yrd line which was a mirror image of Garcon’s sideline catch mentioned above.
  • Sammy Watkins’ amazing catch of a downfield bomb thrown by Goff.

To be sure, the Niners are further behind the Rams in their re-building processes. Next year, the Niners must address the QB position foremost followed by the interior offensive line. For the O-line, they should look at proven free agents as O-linemen in the draft are a crap-shoot. For the QB, if there is any chance for the Niners to draft Sam Darnold (USC) or Josh Rosen (UCLA), they should do whatever they can to get one of them. QB draft picks are also crap-shoots but these two seem to be the real deal even though they do have flaws. In addition to drafting a QB, if there is a chance that the KC Chiefs move on to Patrick Mahomes and make Alex Smith available, they must get him. On the defensive side, even with Reuben Foster coming back in a few weeks, the next biggest priority is re-building the line backing core and getting an impact edge rusher. By plugging those defensive holes, I believe that our D-line, CB’s and Safeties are good enough to be successful in this league.

I’ll end this post by saying that Carlos Hyde is having a monster year and last night, he fought through a hip injury and still produced in a big way. I also must say that the entire team gave it their all and put in a gutty performance. Win or lose, that is all a true fan can ask for….

 

SF 49er’s Week 2 Results

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Over the last 3-4 years, the Seahawks physically dominated the Niners and the games were lost before they started. Last Sunday, the game was a dog fight and the Niners equaled the Hawks in the trenches. On defense, the CB’s and Safeties had their best game in years. They held the Seahawks to 12 points and actually held the lead (9-6) in the 4th quarter.

The difference in the game was that the Seahawks have Russell Wilson and the Niners have Brian Hoyer. Wilson took over as he usually does when the game matters and converted 3 key 3rd downs to keep the drive alive allowing them to take and maintain the lead for a 12-6 victory.

The Niners defense showed up and played one hell of a game. But, they were on the field for way too many snaps due to the Niner offense being ineffective. They were worn out allowing the Seahawks to run out the clock at the end of the game. The offense continued to struggle although they did upgrade their left guard position as Laken Tomlinson held his own against the vaunted Seahawks front seven. They also improved their run game as Carlos Hyde had a terrific game with 124 yards on 15 carries.

On the Niners best drive of the day, Marquis Goodwin dropped yet another key first down pass inside the Seahawks 10 yard line. It wiped out the possibility of the Niners going up by 7 points instead of by 3 in the 4th quarter. Although the Niner WR’s are much improved over last year, Garcon is their #1 receiver while Goodwin is #2. In looking around the league and comparing WR’s, Garcon to me is a #2 receiver. The Niners do not have a bona fide #1 WR. To improve this group, they really do need an impact WR with Garcon being the #2 receiver. An effective passing game is what separates great teams from also-ran teams in the NFL. While the Niners search for their QB of the future and an impact WR, it would be wise for Shanahan to give Trent Taylor, Aldrick Robinson, Victor Bolden, and Kendrick Bourne more snaps to develop their skills in game situations.

There are no moral victories in football. The Niners lost and dropped to 0-2.

The big question in front of them lie in their next three games (Rams at home, Cardinals at AZ, and the Colts at Indy). I am fully expecting the Niners record to be 3-2 after week 5. Winning 2 of 3 will also be acceptable. Going worse than that will mean that the Niners have not improved their roster much and Niner fans are in for another disastrous season.

Shanahan must step up his game.

 

Around the league:

  • Did Zeke Elliott start serving his suspension? He didn’t show up against the Broncos.
  • The LA Charger’s field goal kicker (Younghoe Koo) missed a short game winning field goal against the Dolphins. He also missed a game tieing field goal against the Broncos in week 1. Koo is not cool.
  • The LA Chargers and LA Rams combined had less fan attendance than the USC Trojans vs Texas game. LA is a college football town (USC and UCLA), not an NFL town… Great job Goodell.
  • The LA Chargers stadium  has a max attendance of 27,000. Maybe the 49ers should play their home games at San Jose State’s stadium. They can then almost sell out games.
  • Why isn’t Kaepernick playing instead of Flake Fortles (Jags), Jacoby Brissett (Dolts), Deshaun Watson (Texans), Mike Glennon (Bears), Andy Dalton (Bengals), Case Keenum (Vikings), or Josh McCown (Jets)? I’m not a Kaep fan but he is better than these guys.
  • Speaking of Mike Glennon, why did the Bears pay a back-up QB for Tampa Bay so much money, then draft Mitch Trubisky at #2? When will they replace Glennon with Trubisky? Glennon knows the Tampa Bay defense so well as he practiced against them every day for 2 years, he threw 2 interceptions and lost 1 fumble against them. I guess it was a thank you gesture.
  • Matthew Stafford and the Lions showed “Eli’s Goin'” (no longer “Comin'”) and Slow-dell Beckham how the game should be played. Did Slow-dell and Brandon Marshall go down to Miami for another boat trip during Irma to practice catching balls in windy conditions? If they did, it didn’t work, again… Problem was they played in perfectly windless conditions so they dropped balls. Slow-dell said that he should be the highest paid player in the league. I agree… in the Canadian Football league or Arena league… You are more show than production… As good as you make yourself to be, I’m glad you’re not on the Niner’s roster. ShanaLynch is changing the culture and building Team Chemistry. At least there is no “I” on the Niner’s “TEAM”…C’mon Man !!!
  • Next year, if Andy Reid screws Alex Smith by starting Patrick Mahomes (like Jim Harbaugh screwed him by replacing him with Kaep), wouldn’t it be nice to see Alex back with the Niners? I’m convinced that the Niners would have had their 6th SB trophy if Alex was the QB against the Ravens.

SF 49er’s Weak 1 Results

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During the National Anthem, I was awaiting a fly-over but the skies remained hot and clear with no jets in sight. Bad omen…

The Niners finally put up the Ring of Honor but did so with only the Numbers of the Honorees without their names. I was trying to figure out who some of the numbers belonged to…

After the National Anthem, I was expecting the throngs of Faithful fans to take their seats across the way on the HOT sun side of the field. The seats remained 70% empty for the entire game.

During half-time, the Niners inducted Tom Rathman into the Niners Hall Of Fame. I was expecting that most fans would stay in their seats and watch the induction ceremonies. Rathman accepted the honor by talking to empty seats.

Finally, the game starts and the Niners are off to a great start. They hold the Panthers, receive the punt, then start driving. Shanahan’s offense is in high gear and then Hoyer throws his first long pass of the year down the right side. But, Marquis Goodwin drops the ball at the 3 yard line. The game for the Niners goes downhill from that point.

On the next Panthers series, Reuben Foster goes down with an apparent serious season ending leg injury. He is carted off the field and I’m feeling like “New coach, same results”. Thankfully, it was not a season ending injury but Foster will be out 4-6 weeks. After 11 plays in the first game of the season, Reuben Foster is clearly the best player on defense. That’s all you need to know about Trent Baalke’s draft picking skills.

The only other Niner highlight for the game was Jaquiski Tartt’s amazing one-handed interception which was the #1 ESPN “You’ve been Moss’ed”  highlight of the week.

The areas that I was most disappointed in were:

  • The offensive interior line play was expected to be a weak point and it clearly showed. Hoyer was sacked 4 times and had very little time to throw all day long. Zane Beadles was beaten all day and his weak blocking lead to 3 sacks and 1 lost fumble.
  • I had high hopes for our defensive front four and line-backing core this year and expected much less from our CB’s and Safeties. The defensive back-field actually had a decent game with the exception of a blown coverage by Tartt which resulted in the Panthers first touchdown. The most disappointing aspect of the team play was the Niner defensive front four. Cam Newton’s jersey was as clean at the end of the game as it was when he started the game. Absolutely zero pressure and Newton had all day to pick his receiver. That is another reason that I say that the DB’s had a decent game. The Niners spent their #1 draft pick in each of the last three seasons (Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner, and Soloman Thomas) on the defensive front four. None of them showed up. Lastly, Shanahan made a decision before the game to inactivate a healthy Aaron Lynch, the Niners best pass rusher. I do have to give credit to the D-line for containing the Panther’s running game including McCaffery. They were stout in the running game.
  • Shanahan’s decisions to go for it on 4th downs were not good decisions. In this league, field position is vital. He gave up 6 unnecessary points before half time so instead of a 7-0 deficit, he was looking at 13-0 with the Niners receiving the ball to start the 3rd quarter. Also, on those 4th down plays and some 3rd down plays, he called plays that took too much time thus resulted in bad plays. He knew Hoyer was under pressure but still called those slow developing plays.

I am still confident that this team will begin to play much better. Zane Beadles will be replaced with Laken Tomlinson whom they acquired from the Detroit Lions a few weeks ago. Until we see how well he plays, the jury is still out, but he has to be an improvement over Beadles. Shanahan’s play calls were good except for those 3rd and 4th down calls. Hoyer just didn’t have time. I saw the WR routes and they were much improved over last year. Completions are on the way. And, Robert Saleh will somehow get the defense to start putting pressure on the opposing QB’s.

We will be suffering another loss in Seattle next week. Having said that, I will be looking for improved play on both our offensive and defensive lines. The Seahawks offensive line is nothing to write home about so I’m looking for the Niners to put pressure on Wilson. The Niners won’t score too many points on the superior Seahawks defense but I’m hoping that Hoyer will have more time to have a decent passing game. The Niner running game will be very limited due to the Seahawk front 7 strength.

It will take time to turn this franchise around so Shanahan will learn how to get the best out of what he has and get some unexpected wins this year. I’m not giving up on this regime. We do have a special GM in Lynch and a good coach in Shanahan. They will attract the talent but it will take 2-3 years before they become consistent winners again.

2017 SF Forty Niners 53 Man Roster – Final

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Note: Names in Bold are new players to the team.

QB (2): Starter: Brian Hoyer,  Backup: C.J. Beathard
RB (3): Starter: Carlos Hyde, Backups: Raheem MostertMatt Breida
FB (1): Starter: Kyle Juszczyk
WR (6): Starters: Pierre GarçonMarquise Goodwin, Backups: Victor BoldenAldrick Robinson, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne
TE (3): Starter: George Kittle, Backups: Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek
OT (4): Starters: Joe Staley, Trent Brown, Backups: Garry Gilliam, John Theus
OG (3): Starters: Zane Beadles, Brandon Fusco, Backup: Laken Tomlinson
C (2): Starter: Daniel Kilgore, Backup: Erik Magnuson

DT (4): Starters: DeForest Buckner, Earl Mitchell, Backups: D.J. Jones, Tank Carradine
DE (6)
: Starters: Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Backups: Elvis Dumervil, Aaron Lynch, Pita Taumoepenu, Ronald Blair
OLB (2): Starter: Eli Harold, Backup: Dekoda Watson
MLB (4): Starters: NaVorro Bowman, Reuben Foster, Backups: Ray Ray Armstrong Brock Coyle
CB (5): Starters: Rashard Robinson, Dontae Johnson Backups: Keith Reaser, Ahkello Witherspoon, K’Waun Williams
S (5): Jimmie Ward, Eric Reid, Jaquiski Tartt, Lorenzo Jerome, Adrian Colbert

K (1)Robbie Gould
P (1): Bradley Pinion
LS (1): Kyle Nelson

 

Injured reserve: LB Malcolm Smith, S Chanceller James, LB Jimmie Gilbert, WR BJ Johnson III, LB Donavin Newsom, RB Joe Williams, S Don Jones, Aaron Burbridge, OG Joshua Garnett, DT Chris Jones

Analysis:

  • 30 new players for 2017, keeping 23 players from a 2016 2-14 team. (57% new players)
  • Of the offensive skill positions (QB, WR, RB, TE), 13 of the 15 players are new (87%)
  • Every single draft pick this year made the team with the exception of Joe Williams who was placed on IR. So, technically, he made the team
  • Niners got young with a good mixture of veteran leaders on both sides of the ball. This is absolutely a move in the right direction
  • Positions of weakness are LB, CB, FS and OG so look for ShanaLynch to replace some players in these positions with players cut by other teams. Would love to see them pick up T.J. Ward who was cut by the Broncos

2017 SF Forty Niners 53 Man Roster Projections

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Note: Names in Bold are new players to the team.

QB (2): Starter: Brian Hoyer,  Backup: C.J. Beathard (Cut Matt Barkley)
RB (4): Starter: Carlos Hyde, Backups: Raheem Mostert, Joe Williams, Matt Breida (Cut Tim Hightower… Mostert is not only a better RB, he is also valuable on the Special Teams).
FB (1): Starter: Kyle Juszczyk
WR (6): Starters: Pierre GarçonMarquise Goodwin, Backups: Victor BoldenAldrick Robinson, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne (Trade Jeremy Kerley for a Corner Back or draft pick… possibly to the Patriots who lost Edelman… Bolden is better at returning punts/kickoffs)
TE (3): Starter: George Kittle, Backups: Logan Paulsen, Garrett Celek (Trade Vance McDonald for a Guard or draft pick… If no trade, keep him and cut Celek).
OT (4): Starters: Joe Staley, Trent Brown, Backup: Garry Gilliam, John Theus
OG (4): Starters: Zane Beadles, Brandon Fusco, Backups: Joshua Garnett, Erik Magnuson
C (2): Starter: Daniel Kilgore, Backup: Tim Barnes

DT (5): Starters: DeForest Buckner, Earl Mitchell, Backups: D.J. JonesChris Jones, Quinton Dial (Trade Quinton Dial for a Guard or draft pick… If no trade, keep him).
DE (4)
: Starters: Arik Armstead, Solomon Thomas, Backups: Elvis Dumervil, Aaron Lynch (Trade Tank Carradine for a draft pick or cut him).
OLB (2): Starter: Eli Harold, Backup: Dekoda Watson
MLB (4): Starters: NaVorro Bowman, Reuben Foster, Backups: Ray Ray Armstrong Brock Coyle
CB (5): Starters: Rashard Robinson, Dontae Johnson Backups: Keith Reaser, Ahkello Witherspoon, K’Waun Williams (Disappointed with Witherspoon. If Niners can trade for a CB, then move Witherspoon to the practice squad).
S (4): Starters: Jaquiski Tartt, Eric Reid, Backups: Jimmy Ward, Lorenzo Jerome

K (1)Robbie Gould
P (1): Bradley Pinion
LS (1): Kyle Nelson

Project 30 new players for 2017, keeping 23 players from a 2016 2-14 team.

Also project a 6-10 season… moving in the right direction.

 

Commentary:

  • QB is much improved from last year. Hoyer is very Alex Smith-like which is not necessarily a bad thing. It is still not a position of strength but still better than last year.
  • RB’s are very much improved from last year.
  • WR’s are now a position of strength. From worst to a top 15 group.
  • OT’s are a position of strength.
  • OG’s are a weakness that must be improved in the next 2 years.
  • C is average and should be improved in next 2 years.
  • D-line is a bit better than average and much improved from last year.
  • LB’s are better than average and way better than last year.
  • CB’s are weak and must be improved in the next 2 years. Baalke invested so many damaged goods at this position over his administration, it’ll take a complete make-over.
  • Eric Reid at Strong safety seems to be thriving under Robert Saleh’s defensive scheme. Jaquiski Tartt may develop as Free Safety but too early to tell. Jimmy Ward is always hurt… another Baalke damaged good pick.

 

2017 NBA Free Agency Signings – Winners and Losers

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Free agency in the NBA focused on one and only one thing… How to create a team that could compete against the Golden State Warriors. How did the top competitors do to close the gap?

Cleveland Cavaliers

Although the Cavs tried to sign one of the top free agent players, they failed. Paul George went to OKC, Chris Paul went to Houston, and Jimmy Butler went to Minnesota. They did re-sign Kyle Korver (age 36) and added Jose Calderon (age 35). Additionally, they fired their GM, David Griffin, right before the NBA draft and the beginning of free agency. LeBron was very fond of Griffin. Also, Chauncey Billups, a close friend of LeBron, turned down the GM slot. Something bad is brewing in Cavs-land. There still remains the possibility of adding Carmelo Anthony who stated they he would waive his no-trade clause if he were moved to either the Cavs or Houston. In the case of the Cavs, it would be a straight-up Anthony for Love trade. The big question is if the Knicks want Love on their team. They haven’t had any “love” on that team for a very long time. If the Love for Anthony trade does go down, will the Cavs be improved? In my opinion, at this stage in their careers, Love is a better player than Anthony. Thus, the Cavs will not have closed any gaps on the Warriors. However, with or without Anthony, the Cavs are still the best team in the East.

Boston Celtics

The Celtics went hard after both Paul George and Jimmy butler but lost both bids. They did land Gordon Hayward who is re-united with his college coach, Brad Stevens. It hasn’t yet been determined who the Celtics will have to give up for the Hayward signing. Regardless of who they lose, the Celtics became a better team and have closed the gap on the Cavs.

Houston Rockets

The Rockets got a boost by the Chris Paul signing. Having said that, they had to give up 7 players (Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Darrun Hilliard, DeAndre Liggins, Kyle Wiltjer, a protected first-round pick next year and cash considerations). This reminds me of the Hershel Walker trade between the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys where the Cowboys got 5 players and 7 draft picks. As we all know, the Cowboys became a dynasty and the Vikings became the Vikings. It is fitting that two ball hogs (James Harden and CP3) are on the same team. They’ll have nobody to pass the ball to but that’ll be fine with them. The Rockets instantly became a worse team and will fall in the middle of the pack in the West.

Los Angeles Clippers

The Clippers lost CP3 but added a boatload of players from the Rockets. They also re-signed Blake Griffin to a large contract. In my opinion, the largest addition to the organization was the signing of Jerry West. He was the mastermind in huge CP3 trade that brought 7 good players to the Clippers. It is a great first step in re-building the Clippers and I applaud the move. They have closed the gap on the Warriors but are still far away from being able to compete with them.

Oklahoma City Thunder

The Thunder added Paul George to their roster and gave up Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis. George is a great player but nowhere near the player that Kevin Durant is. OKC was not able to beat the Warriors with Westbrook and Durant so they will not stand a chance with Westbrook and George. Also, George is a one year rental as he will bolt for the Lakers next year when he becomes a free agent. Thus, OKC gave up a good guard in Oladipo and a potentially good center/power forward in Sabonis for renting George for one year. OKC just became a worse team.

San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs tried very hard to unload LeMarcus Aldridge but found no buyers. They did not sign any free agents but did re-sign Patty Mills to a hefty contract. They stood pat which is not necessarily bad as they are loaded with talent. Having said that, they may lose Manu Ginobili to retirement and an old Tony Parker ended his season with a serious injury. The Spurs need to get younger to be able to compete with the Warriors.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Of the Warrior competitors, the Timberwolves improved their team the most. They added Jimmy Butler, Taj Gibson and Jeff Teague along with trading Ricky Rubio to Utah for their 2018 first round pick. The Wolves were a team of the future before these signings with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. They became an instant playoff team with their new additions. In a two or three years, I believe that they will be one of the top 5 teams in the NBA and will continue to close the gap on the Warriors if they keep this team together.

Golden State Warriors

The world champion Warriors became a better team with their signings if you can believe that. Although some of the teams listed above became better, the Warriors lapped everyone. First and most importantly, they re-signed all of their key free agents (Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Kevin Durant, and signed Steph Curry to a max contract). The Warriors are never happy with standing pat even though they are the class of the NBA. They added Nick Young (6-7 off guard with length) and Omri Casspi (6-9 forward with length). They both shoot at better than 40% beyond the 3 point line. The Warriors are hoping to add to their lead when the second team is on the floor with Young and Casspi. Lastly, it looks likely that Zaza Pachulia will return and there is an outside chance that JaVale McGee may also come back after testing the free agency waters.

I must also mention that Kevin Durant sacrificed his salary to allow the Warriors to re-sign all of their free agents. He made it known that he will re-sign with the Warriors only after the other free agents were taken care of. You won’t find any super stars in any sport who did what KD did. He is the ultimate team player. The Warriors will take good care of KD next year by giving him a max contract.

Lastly, I must also comment on what the Warriors did in the NBA draft. Last year, they bought the rights to Patrick McCaw from the Milwaukee Bucks who drafted him in the second round. This year, they bought the rights to Jordan Bell from the Chicago Bulls who drafted him in the second round. Thus, a championship team having no draft picks in the last two years added 2 good players to their roster.

The biggest winner in free agency also happens to be the best team in the NBA, the Golden State Warriors.

The Golden State Warriors – The Gold Standard

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The 2017 NBA Champion Golden State Warriors set out to make their team better for 2018 and beyond. Mission accomplished !!!

Their Gold Standard resonates throughout the organization from ownership, to the front office, to the coaching staff and to their players. It may be cliché to state that the Warriors are family but their relationships from top to bottom are sincerely genuine.

Here are a few examples:

  • As Steve Kerr continued to endure the pain from a botched back surgery two years ago, he had the full support of Joe Lacob, Bob Myers, the coaching staff and his players. After the Game 3 win in Portland (the first game that Kerr couldn’t coach), Steph Curry held tight to the game ball as he wanted to present it to Kerr.
  • Mike Brown, the assistant head coach took over for Kerr after Game 2 of the Portland series. All he did was coach the team to a perfect 12-0 record as the acting head coach… IN THE PLAYOFFS !!! He was so gracious, he let everyone know that Kerr was still his head coach and that he was still working closely with him on every game plan.
  • Draymond talks to Bob Myers on almost a daily basis and talk as “friends”, not as “boss and player”.
  • As free agency began, the very first move made was not by any of the Warriors free agent players, but, by Kevin Durant. He opted out of his two year contract and stated that he will re-sign with the Warriors. But he also stated that he will wait until all of the Warrior free agent players were taken care of either by the Warriors or by another team.
  • Joe Lacob stated that he was extremely worried about the high luxury tax that the organization had to pay. The importance of keeping a championship team together took priority.

Let’s now assess Kevin Durant’s decision to take less money to allow the organization to re-sign his teammates. The result was that the key free agents (Andre Iguodala – 3 years, Shaun Livingston – 3 years, and David West – 1 year before retiring after 2018) all are returning. Additionally, Steph Curry signed a max contract of $201 million for 5 years. Very much deserving as he was sorely under paid for the last 3 years when he lead the team to 2 world championships and 2 NBA MVP trophies. Due to KD’s graciousness, the Warriors were able to retain the key pieces of their championship team. After the Warriors re-signed Andre, Shuan, David, and Steph, KD then signed a 2 year contract worth $52.5 million… $25 for 2018 and $27.5 for 2019. He signed for roughly $10 million per year less than a player of his stature deserves. His motives are clear… he wants to continue to play with his teammates to the point that he took a back seat to keep the team together. Can you name another superstar who did what KD did to keep his family together? Surely KD will be rewarded as the Warriors WILL re-do KD’s contract to a max contract after next season. I’m also betting that Steph will re-do his contract in 2019 when Klay Thompson and Draymond Green become free agents to accommodate their needs.

After all, the Warriors are the Gold Standard !!!

Warriors vs Cavs – Game 5: 16 and WON !!!

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The Finals are over and “The Larry” is coming back to Oakland for the 2nd time in three years!!!

Steve Kerr said it best when he stated that he has never seen this much talent and skilled players on the court from both teams at the same time.

Hats off to the Cavs. They are a great great team. LeBron is the best player on the planet and he proved it by producing triple-doubles in all 5 games. Kyrie has the best handles in the world and he complimented LeBron brilliantly. It was obvious that his knee and sore back hampered him in games 4 and 5 but he didn’t used that as an excuse. JR Smith contributed in a big way in both games 4 and 5. Although Kevin Love fell off the radar in game 5, his rebounding was outstanding throughout the Finals. The Cavs were a bounce or two away from winning both games in Cleveland and they refused to quit and go away in game 5. They have hearts of a champion. LeBron said that his Cavs are a Super Team. I agree and would say that the Cavs as constructed today would beat most of the teams in the past who are acknowledged to be the best of all time (The Bulls, Celtics, 76ers, Pistons, Lakers).

The Warriors were a championship team before they signed KD. With KD, they are not only a Super Team but a team for the ages. A couple more “Larry’s” in the house will tell the story of where they belong in history. For now, they are creating a new history with every new season.

For sure, the Warriors have the best roster of any team that I can think of either in the past or present. Their motto “Strength in Numbers” is no joke. All of their 4 All Stars (KD, Steph, Draymond, and Klay) are all in their 20’s and in the prime of their careers. All of their other complimentary players (Zaza, Iguodala, Livingston, West, McGee, McCaw, Clark, McAdoo) played and made contributions in the Finals. In game 5, Iguodala was the spark plug who ignited the Warriors on their 2nd quarter run. Iggy is a veteran who knows what it takes to up the game to another level during the Finals. He won the Finals MVP in 2015 for a reason.  And a rookie, Patrick McCaw, played magnificently during the minutes that he played. Although KD deservingly won the Finals MVP award, Steph Curry had a monster game with 34 points, 6 rebounds, 10 assists and 3 steals. KD called him the “Big Dog” for his terrific play and dissed anyone who said or wrote that Steph can’t put up numbers in the Finals.

The off season will be important to the Warriors as they have to make tough financial decisions which will impact both Livingston and Iguodala the hardest. If KD and Steph both decide that it is more important to keep the team together rather than demand the max contracts, then this dynasty will continue. If they lose either one or both, Bob Myers and Steve Kerr will find another versatile player or two who can play multiple positions and be effective at both ends of the floor. Dynasties are built around a system and there will always be great skilled players who could do very well in the Warriors’ system. Luckily for Bay Area fans, the Warriors will be on top for years to come.

Warriors vs Cavs – Game 3: Dagger

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We finally had a nail-biter and one hell of a game.  The stars from both teams came to play and they put on a dazzling show. Final score was 118-113 Warriors. JR Smith banged a three with 2:30 left in the game to make the score 113-107 Cavs. That would be the last points that the Cavs would score for the remainder of the game. The Warriors closed the game with an 11-0 run…. Dagger !!!

The only unhappy campers with the outcome of the game were the Cav’s players, organization, fans, Charles Barkley and ABC/Disney. Barkey is a Warrior hater and doesn’t think a “jump shooting” team should ever win a championship. If one analyzes the strength of the Warriors, it is their suffocating defense that leads the way and creates offensive opportunities. ABC/Disney loses $75 million per game that it can’t televise. So, naturally, they are hoping for a 7 game series. Speaking of 7 game series, JR Smith tweeted last night, “Cavs in 7”, then deleted it. I think he meant to tweet, “Cavs in for practice at 7:00 am on Thursday as the last practice of the year”.

Let’s take a look at the stars’ performances from both teams:

Cav’s:

  • LeBron James (39 points, 11 rebounds, 9 assists) while playing 45 minutes.
  • Kyrie Irving (38 points, 6 rebounds, 3 assists) while playing 44 minute.
  • LeBron and Kyrie combined for 77 of the Cav’s 107 points.

Of note for the Cavs:

  • JR Smith broke out and made 5 three pointers for a total of 16 points.

Warriors:

  • Kevin Durant (31 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists) while playing 40 minutes.
  • Klay Thompson (30 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists while playing 40 minutes.
  • Steph Curry (26 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists) while playing 39 minutes.
  • KD, Klay, and Steph combined for 87 of the Warrior’s 113 points.

Of note for the Warriors:

  • Although Draymond Green played only 33 minutes due to foul problems, he had the largest +/- differential while he was on the court… He was +14. Draymond’s play consistently goes well beyond any box scores. He is the heartbeat of the Warriors!
  • Andre Iguodala played 30 minutes and had a +/- differential of +10 behind only Draymond’s +14 and Steph’s +11. There was a reason why Andre was the MVP of the Finals two years ago!

In a game this close, there are always some plays that occur during the course of the game that play a large role in the outcome. Here are a few of them:

  • In the 2nd quarter, LeBron threw a lob pass into Kevin Love who was guarded by Draymond. The pass was so bad, it went into the basket for 2 points, plus a foul was called on Draymond.
  • Right before halftime with the score 67-59 Warriors, they had the last shot with KD controlling the ball. For some unexplained reason Zaza blatantly fouled trying to set a screen. The foul lead to Irving driving in for a layup at the buzzer. Instead of a 10 or 11 point lead, the Warriors went into halftime with only a 6 point lead. Steph was visibly upset at Zaza.
  • Early in the 3rd quarter, KD had an open lane for an easy dunk but again, Zaza foolishly committed an unnecessary foul negating the dunk.

In terms of the play of both Centers (Zaza Pachulia and Tristen Thompson), they were both atrocious and offset each other.

In regard to Kevin Love, Steve Kerr designed his offensive game plan attacking Love any time he had a chance. Love’s defensive is simply bad. The Warriors scored 25 points attacking Love which was really the difference in the game. The other difference is that the Warriors held the Cavs to 26% shooting in the 4th quarter. With LaBron playing 45 minutes and Kyrie playing 44 minutes, the two of them simply ran out of gas. Therein lies the difference between the two teams. The Cavs are a two man show while the Warriors’ Strength in Numbers were in full display.

Let’s now analyze the last 2:30 of the game when the Cav’s took a 6 point lead at 113-107. KD and Steph took over the game offensively to outscore the Cav’s 11-0 for the remainder of the game. But it was the defensive play of the 5 Warriors on the court that shut down the Cavs. In addition, the Cav’s lack of basketball IQ showed up in a big way after KD hit his remarkable three pointer to give the Warriors a 114-113 lead with 45.3 seconds left in the game. This set up the Cavs for a perfect 2-for-1 opportunity to give them two offensive opportunities to the Warriors one. Instead, Kyrie dribbled the clock away and missed a three point shot with 26 seconds left in the game. Ty Lue, LeBron and Kyrie all should have known the circumstance, yet they squandered away a golden opportunity. Their lack of IQ doesn’t end there. After the Warriors got the rebound, they were able to run off another 13 seconds off the clock without the Cavs fouling them. With 13 seconds left in the game, KD drained 2 free throws to give them a 3 point lead. Then came the play of the game. While I was thinking that the Warriors should foul with about 5-6 seconds left in the game to prevent a three point shot to be made, LeBron got the inbounds pass and immediately went up for a three point shot. While he was going up, Iguodala with his lightening fast magical hands, swatted the ball away and the ball hit LeBron prior to going out of bounds…. Game over!!! While it was a great play by Andre, he was an inch away of fouling LeBron with the possibility of putting him on the line to tie the game. In the heat of the game, Andre relied on instinct and made the play that he is skilled at to win the game.

Lastly, let’s just marvel at some coincidences:

  • The five guys on the court in the last 3 minutes of the game were all at the Hampton’s to recruit KD last July.
  • Last year, Kyrie made the three pointer at the end of Game 7. This year, he missed the three point shot from approximately the same area of the court in Game 3.
  • Last year, LeBron blocked Iguodala in game 7 at the end of the game. This year, Iguodala blocks Lebron at the end of Game 3.
  • KD knocks down the go ahead three in front of LeBron. It was 5 years ago that LeBron and his Miami Heat beat KD’s OKC Thunder in the Finals.