2018 GS Warriors – 9-1 After 10 Games

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After the first 10 games of the 2018-2019 NBA season, this is what I can say about the World Champion Golden State Warriors:

  • Steph Curry is in the best basketball shape of his career, both physically and mentally. He is averaging 32.5 points per game, 5.9 3’s while shooting 51% from the 3-point line, 6 assists per game, and 5.4 rebounds. His floor leadership is his best asset this year as he is spreading the court and finding the open guy. Steph is leading the league in so many categories (or near the top), the media have finally been forced to come to their senses and “mention” Steph as a possible MVP candidate… DUH… Steph is LOCKED IN !!!
  • Kevin Durant is having the best year of his career averaging 28.3 points per game, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and shooting 40% from 3 while playing great defense. He is by far the best offense weapon in the NBA and perhaps in NBA history. KD is LOCKED IN !!!
  • Klay Thompson is the best two-way player in the league. He always gets the toughest defensive assignment night after night because of his defensive skills. His offense may suffer some nights but his defense is stellar every night. After getting off to a slow start shooting-wise, Klay is back to form and is averaging 20 points per game, 4 rebounds, and has developed his skill to drive to the hoop and pick up fouls. Against the Bulls in Chicago, Klay went off and made the most 3’s in NBA history, 14 of them breaking Steph Curry’s record of 13. He scored 52 points in 27 minutes or more points per minute than when Kobe Bryant scored 81 points in a game. The most amazing stat in Klay’s record breaking game is that he dribbled a total of 9 times ( I didn’t miss a trailing 0) for his 14 3’s… He is the best catch-n-shoot pure shooter in the history of the NBA. When, Klay broke Steph’s record, it was Steph who was the happiest guy on the court. It was Steph and KD who kept feeding Klay the ball encouraging him to break the record. This defines the Warriors… team play and going to the hot hand. Klay is LOCKED IN !!!
  • Draymond Green is the glue of the team. He does everything. His stats are consistent in all categories (8.4 points per game, 8.5 rebounds per game, 8.5 assists per game). What his stats say is that he comes close to getting a triple-double every single game. He is the game’s first ever Point Power Forward. What this means is that after getting rebounds, he brings the ball up-court much like a Point Guard and calls out the play or finds the open guy. What his stats don’t show is that Dray is the Defensive Player of the Year (DPOY). Draymond’s ability to guard his guy, then anticipate passes and switch to guard other players and steal passes or block shots of bigger players is remarkable. It was insult to him and to the organization that Dray was not even voted onto the 1st team defensive team last year. Draymond is on a mission this year to secure the DPOY and his play is reflecting his mission. Dray is LOCKED IN !!!
  • Although not an All-Star, Damien Jones has become the athletic Center and player that the Warriors have been training him for. After the Warriors won their 3rd World Championship Title in 4 years last year, Steve Kerr turned to Damien and told him that “Next year is your year”. I don’t think Steve was prophetic, I think Steve knew that Damien was ready after 3 years of hard work. That hard work is paying off big time this year. Damien is LOCKED IN !!!

So all the starters are LOCKED IN, but they can’t play 48 minutes per game. What makes this team so special this year is that they have accumulated the best second/third team players that I’ve ever seen. At Center, Kevon Looney has taken his game to the next level after playing like a beast in last year’s playoff games. Jordan Bell can play both Center and Power Forward and is still learning the game. Both Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala look much fresher this year than last year. And Quinn Cook has improved his game at Point Guard after blossoming last year. But, the two additions to this year’s squad who are having a huge positive impact are Alfonzo (Zo) McKinnie and Jonas Jerebko. Both guys hustle like crazy and they have a natural instinct to find and get the ball. Zo is averaging 13.3 minutes, 6.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, and is shooting an astounding 59% from 3. Last night against a very good Timberwolves team, Zo played 27 minutes including all 12 minutes of the 4th quarter, had 8 rebounds and scored 8 points with a slam dunk and a dagger 3 pointer to ice the game. Zo is LOCKED IN !!! Jonas is averaging 16.2 minutes, 7.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, and is shooting a great 44% from 3. Like Zo, Jonas has a nose for the ball and gets the tough rebounds when it counts. Lastly, both Zo and Jonas play great defense which is the cornerstone to the Warriors game.

So, all 5 starters from a World Championship team are LOCKED IN. The next seven players off the bench are all LOCKED IN. Sound scary for the rest of the NBA? Nope… DeMarcus Cousins (Boogie) hasn’t boogied yet. When he starts to boogie, that will be down-right SCARY!!!

The power rankings for the rest of the teams in the NBA don’t really matter.

2018 Golden State Warriors Boogie Thru NBA Free Agency

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As expected, LeBron James stole the free agency show by signing with the LA Lakers, a 4 year $154 million contract at age 33. The other key free agent signings were reported with very little fanfare although, in my opinion, had much more of an impact on the NBA landscape:

Chris Paul, age 33, signed a 4 year $160 million contract to remain a Houston Rocket

Paul George, age 28, signed a 4 year $137 million contract to remain an OKC Thunder

DeAndre Jordan, age 29, signed a 1 year $24 million contract with the Dallas Mavericks

Trevor Ariza, age 33, signed a 1 year $15 million contract with the Phoenix Suns

To me, the real headline is that none of LeBron’s buddies followed him to Hollywood. Magic Johnson losing Paul George (PG-13) to the Thunder is indeed very surprising and even shocking on many levels. PG-13 is still in his prime and he would have legitimized the Lakers. He grew up in LA and made comments about wanting to go home. Very curious why he chose to stay in OKC. Yes, I agree that the Lakers will be much better with LeBron but without PG-13, their roster now looks much like the Cavs roster that LeBron just left.

Also, in looking at the 4 year contracts for both LeBron and Chris Paul, both are age 33 and on the downhill slope of their careers. While both are still playing at a high level, father time always has a way of catching up. After losing PG-13 to the Thunder, I’m surprised that Magic Johnson didn’t offer a max contract to Uncle Drew. He got game, is from Hollywood, and looks younger than LeBron.

LeBron’s signing with the Lakers immediately became the headline. Then, two days later, the Warriors shocked the NBA world by signing DeMarcus (Boogie) Cousins to a mid-level 1 year contract for $5.3 million. This, in fact, will cost the Warriors more than $20 million due to the NBA luxury tax for going beyond the allowable salary maximum. The World Champions just filled their only weakness with the most dominant Center in the league. Last year, Boogie averaged 25 point, 13 rebounds and 5.4 assists per game and is still only 27 years of age. JaVale McGee and Zaza Pachulia combined averaged 9 points, 5 rebounds and 0.4 assists per game.

Boogie is an All-NBA Center meaning that the Warriors now have all five starting positions filled with All-Stars (Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kevin Durant). How in the world could this have happened? The short answer is that when an organization develops a winning culture, treats their employees with class, and treats all of their opponents with respect, great players will want to migrate to that organization.

Boogie has a torn Achilles tendon which most likely had a lot to do with him signing with the Warriors for much less than his worth. He said that he is working very hard to be ready for the start of the 2018-2019 season. Knowing the Warriors, they will be very cautious and won’t play him until they are absolutely certain that he is fully recovered.

So here are the events that lead to Boogie’s decision to sign with the Warriors. He couldn’t sleep Sunday night as he had zero offers on the table including nothing from his current team, the New Orleans Pelicans. Boogie called his agent and told them that he is going to call Bob Myers, the GM for the Warriors, to express his interest in joining the team.  He then called Kevin Durant, Draymond Green who is vacationing in Greece, and Steph Curry to make sure that they were comfortable with him coming on-board. They all greeted his interest with shock and awe. Boogie said that Steph was especially thrilled thus sealing the deal for Boogie to join the team. Boogie also said that he played his Ace of Spades with the Warriors this year hoping that his role in another successful year will lead him to a lucrative contract next year.

Why the Pelicans didn’t offer him a contract is beyond my comprehension. They had their best season in their franchise history last year and really had the inside track to make some real noise this year. They, instead decided to go in another direction for unknown reasons. The Lakers also had plenty of salary cap space to offer Boogie a good contract. After losing PG-13, you would have thought that the Lakers would go after Cousins. Very curious why they didn’t. Instead, the Lakers signed Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee, and Rajon Rondo and got rid of one their young stars, Julius Randle. I’m not sure that these are LeBron’s kind of guys and I’m fairly certain that they will supply Shaqitin with some good Tweeting materials next year.

These are the kinds of decisions that make teams like the Pelicans and Lakers just average teams. I can say that about most teams who are desperately trying to catch the Warriors. They start on the right path but if they don’t win immediately, they make desperate decisions. Take, for example, the Toronto Raptors. They had the 2nd best record in the league next to the Rockets last year. Their coach, Dwayne Casey, won the NBA Coach of the Year award but they lost to the Cavs in the playoffs so they fired Casey. Another example is the Houston Rockets who had the best record last year but bought players putting them at their max salary. This year, they were forced to give Chris Paul a max deal for 4 years at $160 million even though he is 33 years old and has a history of leg injuries. Because they are at the salary cap, they couldn’t afford to bring another star to their team and instead lost one of their stars, Trevor Ariza. This is a big blow to them as Ariza was their best defender.

For Warrior haters who dislike their “Super Team” image, of the 5 super-stars, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson were all draft picks. Kevin Durant, is the only super-star who signed from another team whom the Warriors recruited. The Boogie signing was initiated by him and not by the Warriors. I am also very curious if these Warrior haters also hated the Celtics, Bulls, Spurs, and Lakers in their dominant years. Or, are most of these haters just millennials who never saw those other dynasties play? The NBA has survived all of these dynasties and will also survive the current Warrior dynasty. After all, they are the model of greatness and plain fun to watch.

All of the other “Super Team” pretenders have spent millions (up to their salary cap) to sign the next level stars in their attempt to beat the Warriors. If these teams would draft better and/or sign complimentary “team” players instead of signing individuals who play for themselves, they would have a better chance to catch up to the Warriors. They would also be better off to stick with their plans instead of blowing it up if they don’t win immediately. The Warriors won their first title in 1975 and took another 40 long years to win another championship in 2015. So Warrior fans have suffered through many lackluster years prior to the current organization putting together this dynastic team.

NBA fans may hate the Warriors now but they will continue to spend money on their teams in the hope that their team will one day become champions themselves. Everything is cyclical so Warrior fans are enjoying their time to shine while it lasts.

2018 NBA Finals – Cavs vs Warriors – Sweet Sweep

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The Golden State Warriors are the 2018 NBA Champions and have now won 2 titles in succession and 3 trophies in 4 years. They have made their statement by playing TEAM ball without caring what the rest of the basketball world have said about this current dynasty. If Warrior haters are tired of seeing the same team in the Finals year-after-year, then some other team has to beat them before they get to the Finals…. Period.  The same can be said about the Cleveland Cavs who have also reached the Finals in the last 4 years. The difference is that the Cavs have lost to the Warriors in 3 of the 4 Finals. In head-to-head games between the Warriors and Cavs since the beginning of 2017, the Warriors are 3-0 during the regular season and 8-1 in the Finals for a combined 11-1 in the last two years. This is called DOMINATION !!!

As for the pundits who say that the Houston Rockets would have beaten the Warriors if Chris Paul hadn’t hurt his leg at the end of Game 5 of their 7 game series.  Why don’t these pundits look at what the Rockets didn’t do in Games 6 and 7. In Game 7, from the middle of the 2nd quarter to the middle of the 4th, the Rockets missed an NBA record 27 straight 3-point shot attempts and finished making 1 of their last 30 three point shots. James Harden was 2 for 13, Trevor Ariza 0 for 9, and Eric Gordon 2 for 12. In the 2nd half of Game 7, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets 58-38. In the 2nd half of Game 6, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets 64-25. Thus, for the 2 games that mattered most, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets in the 2nd half for a combined 122-63. Can anyone convince me that Chris Paul would have made up a 59 point difference in the 2nd half of Games 6 and 7? Also, one can easily say that the Warriors would have won that series in 5 games if Andre Iguodala hadn’t hurt his knee. The point is that teams have to play with the players available to them. It just so happens that the Warriors have more depth than any other team in the league… This is the reason that their motto, “Strength in Numbers” fits the team so well.

Let’s take a look at the Warriors Strength in Numbers during the Finals:

Shaun Livingston – made 13 out of 15 shots

JaVale McGee – made 16 out of 20 shots

Jordan Bell – made 10 out of 14 shots

Andre Iguodala – made 7 out of 12 shots

Kevon Looney – made 5 out of 7 shots

So these 5 players shot a cool 75% from the field during the Finals. This, my friends, is called Strength in Numbers !!!

Now, let’s take a look at the age of the core of the Warriors Team:

Kevin Durant (29), Steph Curry (30), Klay Thompson (27), Draymond Green (27), JaVale McGee (30), Shaun Livingston (32), Jordan Bell (23), Andre Iguodala (34), Kevon Looney (21), Zaza Pachulia (33), David West (37), Nick Young (32), Quinn Cook (24), and Patrick McCaw (22).

With the exception of Pachulia and West (and perhaps Iguodala), the rest of the guys on the World Champion team are all in their prime with their better years ahead of them. This is called current and ongoing DYNASTY !!!

For Warrior haters who dislike their “Super Team” image, of the 4 super-stars, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson were all draft picks. Kevin Durant, is the only super-star who signed from another team. All of the other “Super Team” pretenders have spent millions (up to their salary cap) to sign the next level stars in their attempt to beat the Warriors. If these teams would draft better and/or sign complimentary “team” players instead of signing individuals who play for themselves, they would have a better chance to catch up to the Warriors.

Kevin Durant won his 2nd consecutive MVP award for the Finals but on this team, individual awards take a back seat to the team goal of Team World Championships. If I were to pick an MVP, my most valuable individual in this injury ridden year is Chelsea Lane, the team’s Head Performance Therapist. She worked diligently on Steph Curry on his 3 ankle sprains and the severe knee contusion, on Andre Iguodala on his knee bone bruise, and performed a miracle on Klay Thompson’s ankle which he injured in Game 1 of the Finals. Due to Chelsea’s great work, Klay didn’t miss any games.

We can talk at length about the drama in Game 1 of the Finals when LeBron’s drive to the bucket with less than a minute was initially called a blocking foul on Durant, then changed (correctly) to a charge. Or the George Hill missed free throw with 4 seconds left which would have given the Cavs a lead. Or the JR Smith empty brain decision when he rebounded the missed free throw and dribbled the clock out because he thought the Cavs were ahead. He received the loudest standing ovation at Roaracle Arena in Game 2 when his name was announced and also received a chant of MVP MVP MVP when he went to the free throw line during the game. If the Cavs had won Game 1, then the series would have been over in 5 games instead of a 4 game sweep. We later learned that LeBron took his frustration out on a white-board after the Game 1 loss. But, apparently, this white-board took it out on Lebron’s hand and won that battle, too. Here is another example of the difference between the Cavs and Warriors. Steve Kerr can shatter a white-board during the game and his players get the message and responds in a positive way. LeBron breaks a white-board and also breaks his hand and his team doesn’t respond. Steve used a magic marker to break the white-board. There was no magic in LeBron’s hand when the Cavs needed a lot of magic.

In the 2018 NBA season, there were 3 teams in contention for the Title… The Warriors, Rockets, and Cavs… In a seven game series, the cream always rises to the top and the Warriors have been the cream of the crop for the last two years.

This year’s Finals sweep was indeed very sweet !!!

2018 NBA Finals – Warriors & LeBron show the world why they are winners

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The cream has risen to the top both in the East and the West once again. LeBron single-handedly willed the Cavs to win the East and the Warriors’ Strength in Numbers proved that there still are no equals in the NBA.

The stage is set for the Cavs vs the Warriors for the 4th consecutive year to determine the 2018 NBA Champion. Two teams meeting for a championship four years in a row has never happened in any professional sports until now. LeBron’s teams have reached the NBA Finals 8 years in a row, a feat that may never be replicated. Despite critics who say they are bored with watching the same teams battle it out again, both teams deserve to be in the Finals… Because they happen to be the best teams in their respective conferences… period…

I also believe that the Celtics and the Rockets were the 2nd best teams in the East and West. Both teams showed their grit by taking the Cavs and Warriors to a seventh game showdown. Both the Celtics and Rockets hosted the seventh game and both started the game strong. In the end, the Cavs and Warriors had the will and the heart and the stamina to finish the job to achieve their goal.

In the East Finals, the Cavs won Game Seven 87-79 after the Celtics got off to a 12 point lead. The Celtics finished the game shooting 34% (29 for 85) while shooting 18% from the 3-point line (7 for 39). Their two hottest 3 point shooters Terry Rozier (0 for 10) and Jaylen Brown (3 for 12) went ice cold. The Cavs shooting wasn’t much better but LeBron carried them to the East Title. The Cavs shot 45% (30 for 66) while shooting 26% (9 for 35) from the 3-point line.

In the West Finals, the Warriors won Game Seven 101-92 after the Rockets started red hot and quickly built a 15 point lead. The Rockets finished the game shooting 40% (36 for 90) while shooting 16% from the 3-point line (7 for 44). This after beginning the game shooting 6 for 14 from the three. From the middle of the 2nd quarter to the middle of the 4th, the Rockets missed an NBA record 27 straight 3-point shot attempts and finished making 1 of their last 30 three point shots. James Harden was 2 for 13, Trevor Ariza 0 for 9, and Eric Gordon 2 for 12. On the other hand, the Warriors shot 49% (39 for 80) and 41% (16 for 39) from the 3-point line.

In the 2nd half of Game 7, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets 58-38. In the 2nd half of Game 6, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets 64-25. Thus, for the 2 games that mattered most, the Warriors out-scored the Rockets in the 2nd half for a combined 122-63. This is an astounding stat but not totally surprising as the Warriors have repeatedly performed like champions in must-win situations.

Some negative comments that I have regarding the Rockets… They are a bunch of sore losers, from Morey down to their top players. I didn’t see any congratulatory messages from Morey to Lacob. Also, Harden, CP3, and Ariza walked off the court after losing without congratulating the Warrior players. And, when Draymond tried to help Harden off the floor after a fall, Harden shoved him away. Instead of congratulatory messages, the Rockets said that they would have won if CP3 had played. It doesn’t register with them that if Andre Iguodala had played, the Warriors would have won the series in 5 games. In sports, you play with the players that are available to play and may the best team win. In this case, the best team won.

In the Finals, the Warriors are heavy favorites. Having said that, one can never count out a LeBron lead team. May the best team win !!!

Already looking forward to 2019, what will the title pretenders do?

Houston Rockets: Chris Paul (CP3) is 33 years old. He is a premier point guard but will be a free agent. GM Daryl Morey (in his obsession to unseat the Warriors) did a great job this year to build a team capable of competing with the Warriors. The Rockets are at the salary cap and have no draft picks. It’ll be very interesting to see if they offer CP3 a max contract at his age. Additionally, he has a long history of leg injuries proving once again that he can’t endure the rigors of a long season. If they commit to CP3, it will limit what they can do to sign another super-star like LeBron or Paul George. My take on the Rockets is that they will remain as a top competitor in the West but don’t appear likely to unseat the Warriors anytime soon. Also, their philosophy of ISO and live-or-die-by-the-3 makes them an exciting team to watch but in a long series, the better team will figure them out.

Boston Celtics: The Celtics may have over-achieved this year in the playoffs by making it to the East Finals. They did so without Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. With the return of Kyrie and Hayward and the other young studs that they have (Jaylen Brown, Terry Rozier and Jayson Tatum) they have the inside track to win the East next year.

There are other good teams who will continue to make the playoffs and make some noise but still aren’t at the same level as the Warriors…

The Cleveland Cavs will literally fall apart if LeBron leaves. They may not even make the playoffs in the weaker East Conference.

The Philly Sixers are an up-and-coming team and will compete against the Celtics for the East Title. This can become a reality if LeBron decides to sign with them. Note: It will not be wise for LeBron to join a team in the West Conference. It’ll break his streak of 8 consecutive years in the Finals.

The NOLA Pelicans can make some noise next year when DeMarcus Cousins returns. He with Anthony Davis and Jrue Holiday are an awesome trio but they have little else.

The OKC Thunder struck out trying to build a super-team with the signings of Paul George and Carmelo Anthony. Good individual players but sucky team players.

Finally, you know that the Warriors will not stand pat. They will keep their core four together (Steph, KD, Klay, and Draymond) but everyone else (including Andre) may not be on the team next year. Do not be surprised if they go after free agent DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers. They need a dominant Center and Jordan is a great fit for the Warriors’ pick-and-roll style of play. DeAndre and KD are best friends so I’m sure there are some player recruiting going on. Zaza, JaVale and David West likely will not return next year. To make room for DeAndre, the Warriors may have to sadly say good-bye to Andre and Shaun. The three young players that the Warriors will likely retain are Quinn Cook, Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell. I would love to see the Warriors do something to keep Kevon Looney, but he may have played so well, he’ll command a good payday from another team. Back in October of 2017, they decided not to pick up Looney’s 4th year option for 2.2 million but did pick up Damien Jones’ 3rd year option for 1.5 million. The 700k financial decision may come back to haunt the Warriors but at that time, they had no idea that Looney would have such a positive impact. Regardless, the Warriors are the team that all other teams will be chasing for years to come.

2017-2018 GS Warriors – Strength and Length in Numbers

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In this 2017 year-end assessment of the Dubs, this team is a much better team than the one that won the World Championship last year. Steve Kerr made this statement before the season started. Thirty five games into the season, the Dubs hold a 28-7 record which is the best in the NBA but their record is simply a by-product of the real reasons why they are the best.

The Dubs re-signed all of their key players from last year’s championship team. In addition, they aggressively upgraded their only weakness by improving their supporting team. The signings of Omri Casspi and Nick Young improved the second team scoring power which was missing from last year. An added bonus is that Casspi fit into the Warriors scheme immediately and he has been a rock on both ends of the court. Omri runs the court like a deer and cuts like a knife getting many easy hoops in the paint. His shots have so much arc on them that the fans in the upper bowl of the coliseum get a close-up view of the basketball prior to descending toward the hoop. Omri’s 6-9 length doesn’t hurt either. Nick Young has worked hard and is now playing the kind of Dubs ball that Kerr was hoping. At the beginning of the year, Nick looked lost, especially on defense. He also had issues running and passing on offense. In the early stages, it looked like a rare mistake bringing Swaggy P to a smooth running team like the Warriors. He found his shooting range 10 games into the season so I started calling him Swaggy 3, but his defense was still suspect. In the last 10 games, all of the coaching and his hard work started paying off as Nick is now playing like a Warrior at both ends of the floor. Nick’s Swaggy references are now history.

In addition to Omri and Nick, the Dubs “bought” Jordan Bell from the Chicago Bulls who drafted Bell in the 2nd round of this year’s college draft. Jordan (6-9 with a 6-11 and ¾ wingspan) was a defensive gem at Oregon blocking 2.2 shots per game while scoring 10.9 points per game and lead the Ducks into the Final Four. The Warriors didn’t have any draft picks this year or last and wound up buying Patrick McCaw and Jordan Bell in consecutive years. I’m thinking that the Dubs front office knows talent. And that is not the end of the talent story. Jordan Bell was NOT the best player on the Oregon Ducks team. Chris Boucher (6-10 with a 7-4 wingspan) was the MAN for the Ducks until he tore his ACL in the Pac-12 tournament against Cal. He wasn’t drafted so the Warriors signed him and he is now ahead of schedule in his recovery with the Santa Cruz Warriors. Lastly, the Dubs also signed Quinn Cook who played 4 years under Coach K. at Duke and is one of seven players who scored over 1,000 points with 500 assists.  He also ranks 4th best all time at Duke with a .853 free throw percentage. Quinn was cut by Atlanta, Dallas and New Orleans prior to being signed by the Warriors. Cook started 2 games and had some significant minutes during Steph’s absence with an ankle injury.

Andre Iguodala has taken McCaw under his wings, Draymond Green has taken Bell under his wings, and although a bit odd, Kevin Durant has taken Cook under his wings. These are examples of why the Warriors are the best team in the league. They genuinely like each other and will go to great lengths to keep the team close and “preach the process”. On the floor, one can easily see how McCaw’s, Bell’s, and Cook’s game have improved due to the presence of the team veterans.

The unsung heroes of this year’s team are David West, Shaun Livingston, ZaZa Pachulia, and Kevon Looney. West is the enforcer, Shaun is the calming influence, Zaza is the hulk, and Kevon is the hustler. Much credit goes to Kevon as his first two years were injury ridden with hip issues. He lost 25 pounds and now looks leaner and faster than ever. His offense rebounding skills are “off the boards” and he hustles like crazy to keep balls alive on the offensive end.

As for the big 4 All-Stars, Klay is the solid rock who hasn’t missed any games this year. He is by far the best 2-way guard in the league. Steph is the captain and the leader but he has missed 12 games due to a sprained ankle. Displaying their strength in numbers, the Warriors went 11-1 during his absence. This in a nutshell shows the depth of this team and the strength in their numbers. Last year, Kevin Durant hurt his knee and missed the last 22 games of the regular season. The Warriors went 17-5 without him with a 14 game winning streak after adjusting to playing without him. Draymond is the Defensive Player of the year but does so much more on offense. He is one of the team’s assist leaders and best passers. Lastly, Kevin Durant is no longer KD. He has become K-D with emphasis on the D. Kevin is never satisfied with his game even though he is acknowledged to be the league’s offensive MVP and the MVP of the Championship series. He worked long and hard on his defensive skills during the off season. He is averaging 6.5 defensive rebounds per game which leads the team and 7.1 overall rebounds which is second to Draymond’s 7.5. He is also averaging 2.33 blocks per games which second in the league next to Miles Turner of Indiana who is averaging 2.36 blocks per game. In the Christmas day game with the Cavs, he had 7 rebounds and 5 huge blocks in addition to his 25 points. K-D is on course to win this year’s Defensive Player of the Year and he has the full support of last year’s winner, Draymond Green.

The Strength and Length of the Warriors are real and built under the leadership of Steve Kerr who won the Coach of the Year in 2015-2016 and by Bob Myers who won Executive of the Year in 2016-2017. The NBA is a copycat league and the top teams have made some dramatic trades to compete with the Warriors. The Rockets appear to have done the best job but they traded away much of their depth. The others are all pretenders. Also, look for other teams who don’t have any 2nd round draft picks to try to “buy” drafted players like the Warriors did.

For now, the Warriors look hard to beat with Myers, Kerr, and their supporting cast…

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.

Warriors vs Cavs – Game 2: Fo-Fo-Fo-Two

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The final score was 132-113 Warriors.

The Good news for the Cavs:

  • They forced 20 turnovers for the game resulting in 23 points.
  • They scored 60 points in the paint, mostly by LeBron taking it to the hoop early and often in the first half.
  • Kevin Love had a great offensive game (27 points).

Now, the Bad news for the Cavs:

  • Steve Kerr is baaaaaack.
  • Although the Cavs forced 8 turnovers in the first quarter, the Warriors still scored 40 points to their 34.
  • Although the Cavs forced 20 turnovers for the game, the Warriors scored 132 points, 19 more than in Game 1 when they had only 4 turnovers.
  • There wasn’t a single Cavs player who had a + point differential while on the court. This also happened in Game 1. LeBron was -11 and Kyrie was -17, and Love was -8.
  • Conversely, there wasn’t a single Warriors player who had a – point differential while on the court. This also happened in Game 1. Steph was +21, KD was +21 and Klay was +24.
  • Steph had a triple double (32 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists). But he had 8 turnovers.
  • KD had a monster game (33 points, 13 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 steals, and 5 massive blocks).
  • Klay found his shot (22 points and 4-7 from three) in addition to his stellar defensive play.

Plays of the game:

  • KD blocking Love on the block, then taking it coast-to-coast with a cross-over on LeBron and scoring on both LeBron and Love attempting to block his shot.
  • Steph doing a spin cycle on LeBron and taking it to the hoop with LeBron hitting only glass trying to block his layup. Additionally, Love was waiting for Steph in the paint, but only managed a weak hand in his face, then stepped back allowing Steph to easily bank his layup on the glass. This play demonstrated Love’s defense (or lack of) to a cup of tea.
  • Steph’s no-look binocular pass to Shaun Livingston for an easy uncontested dunk.

Misc stuff and musings:

  • The Warriors made 18 threes to the Cavs 8. The Cavs were averaging almost 15 threes in the Eastern Conference playoff games.
  • The Warriors shot 51.7% from the field, 41.9% from three, and 91.7% from the free-throw line with Steph being perfect at 14-14 (He was 10-10 in the first quarter). In the NBA, a mark of 50%-40%-80% in these categories is considered to be monster games.
  • On KD’s 4 point play in the second half, JR Smith fouled KD as he shot from the three point line. As he fouled KD, Smith also extended his leg right under KD. Luckily, KD didn’t land on Smith’s shoes and roll his ankle. Why wasn’t a flagrant foul called? Because KD didn’t get hurt. The NBA needs to address this somehow.
  • They are putting Tristen Thompson’s and JR Smith’s mug-shots on milk cartons as they are now officially MIA.
  • Ty Lue said that the Celics are a much tougher team to defend than the Warriors as they give them so many different looks. GEICO is now considering doing another one of their “Easier done than said” commercials with Lue in it.
  • Warriors are negotiating with a Broom company as they’ll need a lot of new brooms to keep their new arena in San Francisco clean… Just sayin’