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NBA.F17: Resting Has Warriors Besting LeBron’s Backs-to-the-Wall Gang

6 Jun

It was as plain as even the rather small nose on the forlorn face of Stephen Curry as he watched his Golden State Warriors in the closing seconds of last June’s NBA Finals, about to drop their third game, second in a row, to their fierce foes the Cleveland Cavaliers who were going to take game six (115-101) and even-up the Series at 3-3, the defending champs having squandered a 3-1 lead: The 2016 single-season record setters in victories (73) were, not surprisingly, dog tired.

It had been a whirlwind campaign of championship and achievements for the Bay boys, having bested LeBron’s bunch in Finals 2015 (4-2), his 2d Cleveland tenure, then almost running the table the following regular season to reach those 2016 Finals only to fall short (3-4) to what in the aftermath must’ve seemed a certain James’ destiny to bring a first NBA title to his native Ohio.

That Wars’ leader and star Curry had bagged two (2) consecutive MVP awards added just that much more glitter, and pressure, to their mostly joyous run.

So when coach Steve Kerr & Company failed to complete the technical dynasty (at least two (2) sequential championships), all asked, ‘What happened?’

LeBron James happened, of course, but there’s a bit more to it than that.

The following is an excerpt of an article I wrote last July in wake of Wars unexpected collapse and Cavs historical comeback win, postulating what was a major factor in the result and what the future (F17) held in store:

“The weary factor: It’s why Warriors failed to close the deal on what might’ve been the greatest season in NBA history. Ironically, those 73 RS wins that put them on precipice of immortality were also the reason why they fell short. Winning that many takes its toll, as previewed in the WC final vs OKC (4-3) where the champs had to pull their fat outta’ the fire just to move on. Of course, those 1995-96 Bulls piled a weary-worthy total themselves in their super season (72-10) and still managed to take the title vs Seattle (4-2). Just sayin.’

Rubbermaid® NBA Finals 2017

NBA’s powers-that-be salivate over thought of a Cavs – Wars 3-peat. Who’s gonna’ stop ‘em, besides the injury bug? That the Association’s quality of competition rating is at lowest ebb since the scaling was first calibrated by this writer some years back, matters not in the least to the Cufflinks, the same frat-boys who think tanking’s a joke, as long as the Big Celebrities make it to the Big Party, i.e., LeBron, Stevo, Durantula, Love & Irving.

Even if Durant does work a small drain of the splash-pool and Lue takes no action to teach Kyrie who’s #1 (James) and fundamentals of point play, i.e., ‘See the ball, set a play, pass the ball,’ these two teams should have little trouble making it into next season’s Finals, again barring any notable injury issues.

If they do meet, it’s Warriors who likely take the rubber-match.

Kyrie Irving’s not about to learn that kindergarten starter-skill called sharing and former All-Star Kevin Love is now so marginalized by team & press that LeBron’s gonna’ lose whatever hair he has left by season’s end.

For the Oaklanders, they’ve already got the 73, the substantive one (See; B.Bonds (‘01)), and Kerr will make damn sure his men are better rested this time in event they make the WC finals. Sixty-plus should get home-court…no tanking, mind you, but Stevo will give his starters…respites as needed to avoid weariness that turned splash into a prolonged belly-flop in G5-7 (https://stevenkeys.wordpress.com/2016/07/11/nba17-too-many-cooks-spoil-the-splash-but-cavs-wars-are-rubbermade-for-re-match/).”

So, did Kerr work to curb enthusiasm in a strategy to help ensure his men had enough Finals end-game this time around? The six (6) fewer regular season victories (67-15) suggests he might have. Of course, having 2014 MVP Kevin Durant rostered this season has certainly played a part to ease some burden, maintain energy levels, while at the same time easing his own workload for the first time since his rookie NBA campaign in 2007 (Seattle (OKC)).

Which brings this Series, this terrific NBA trilogy of titledom that may someday rival the fantastic Lakers v. Boston feud of the 80s (Jordan never had a great rivalry) to its critical point: Game 3. It’s winner will likely win these Finals, for a third W for the Wars will break Cleveland’s spirit while a Cavs victory will enspirt a team that seems to play best when their backs are to the wall.

We might even get one of those forever frozen in time moments, as when Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson, at center for Jabbar, scored on that baby hook-shot late to steal G5 (?) in the Garden, going a long way in helping LA win the ‘87 Series and then the rightful claim to supremecy as the decade‘s best. We might.

Steven Keys
Nothing But Net
Photo credit: basketball-net, wc.cca, 1995, static; S.Kerr-NBA.referee, wc, 2.24.25, K.Allison; S.Curry, wc, N.Salzman, 4.6.14; Love-Irving-James, 10.1.14, wc, E.Drost;
Posted: 6.6.17 @ 6:45p EST; Copyright © 2017

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NBA17: Colin Curries Conflict, Lego® LeBron Builds Legends and Lives

3 Oct

Caring to Coalesce

It is our task to provide the nation of Turkey with the match to inflame the people against Russia.”

Words of Nazi “Colonel Robinson (Sydney Greenstreet)” in the George Raft – Brenda Marshall wartime drama, Background to Danger (‘43), summarizing for his provocateur charge their sinister plan to draw the neutral nation into war.

— — —

You knew it was gonna’ happen. Colin Kaepernick would become a GTG, aka, go-to-guy. For the junior media, anyway.

Now they’re going to the Krude one for political insights. The dude with the prison-yard tattoos and, before he got benched and started sitting out the national anthem, seemed to always be tuned out to the world and tuned into his headphones (Beats-by-Dre).

kaep-10-27-13-wc-cca-d-hartwig-thumbSo what does Kaep Krusader think of Dollar Don and Capital Hill? No likey (“lesser of two evils”). The “evil” is a bit harsh but I can’t argue with the “lesser (We get what we ask for, or don‘t, as the case may be).” ‘But even a blind pig will find an acorn.’

On the gridiron is where Kaepernick should’ve been a GTG all along, i.e., tight-end. But Jimbo’s offensively-challenged so he decided to bench Alex Smith, who’d gotten ‘em to the cusp of Superduperville (NFCC11 (NYG)), missing out for a teammate with fumblitis, and went with improvisation-on-the-run, i.e., flash-QB.

As for mining for socio-political nuggets from the mind of Colin, you could add his intellect to his personality and it wouldn’t fill up a shot glass. So there’s that.

Once the 49ers reserve QB (might get a start soon), decided to spark controversy with his national anthem sit n’ stew, then tapped into hate with his racist mock-socks (white cops (“pigs”) only), an incendiary that leaders Roger Goodell, DeMaurice Smith and President Obama did not see fit to condemn, you knew the Boys & Girls who run our media would take the strike-match Krudesader tossed their way and “inflame” the masses, about 16%, anyway, then paint with broad stroke as racially hostile, anyone in the populace who dared criticize the headphone promoter turned “provocateur.”

belafonte-dc-wc-8-25-63-655k-nara-usiappAs if Mahatma, Martin or Bobby would’ve used racist mockery to foment change, and then never get called on it. But those guys were old skool, their problems couldn’t compare to ours today, right (ugh)? Wrong. Goof-think 2016.

Iconic status was never in the cards for Kaep, not like a Rosa Parks or tireless civil rights advocate of 89-years, Harry Belafonte.

For one, it was a whole different ball-game back then, before desegregation took hold with help of federal courts and National Guard units, before southern Democrat President Lyndon Johnson (TX) convinced majority of white America to back his strong-arm of Congress into passing civil rights & voting legislation, and before Affirmative Action made the other two changes worthwhile. We’ve made real progress in the past fifty years that’s as permanent and part of the American fabric as the Stars n’ Stripes that grace the flag that Francis Scott Key immortalized in poetry & song.

And two, while Colin’s boycott does not come without some risk to his career and probably his person as well as there have been reports of threats, and will most certainly test his mettle as not many things before ever did, it’s also probably safe to write that the burden he bears, lightened somewhat by ensconcing effects of a very supportive, almost coddling media, pales in comparison to those which many civil rights volunteers in 1950s – 60s bore in their efforts to bring about change, especially in the South (See; Chaney – Goodman – Schwerner (d.1964)).

gandhi-wc-pre1942-155kKaepernick, like all of us, is subject to the era in which he lives. He is shaped by its events and mores, enabled and limited both by time-space continuum, choosing to alter or satisfy his surroundings . Short of super-human state (Gandhi, King, RFK, etc.) or an H.G. Wellsian “Time Machine,” Kaep has little control over his circumstances. What he can control is his message: Content, delivery and desired end.

His non-conformity in refusing allegiance to what Colin claims is hypocrisy in our national anthem was bold enough, but had he kept his protest constructive, conceding the progress we have made as a nation that for 350 years sanctioned slavery and its deformities (Jim Crow, etc.), showing courage and vision in dialoguing, inviting response and actually listening-for-content at the words of his rationally-minded detractors, rather than lobbing grenades (mock-socks), the Milwaukee-native might’ve been impactful in a culturally substantive way.

Enter LeBron James. He’s another GTG, for cub reporters and their betters.

When LeBron speaks, people listen, not because he’s the eloquence of a Mahatma (“I want to change their minds, not kill them for weaknesses we all possess“), but because he’s the biggest sport celebrity on the planet who sometimes appears to have a mind of his own.

So what does King James of Akron think of the two major candidates for the White House? See no “evil,” not in Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton, anyway. He endorsed the former First Lady on Sunday.

james-sing-home-e-drost-8-8-14-wc-506kWith a net worth of over $250 million, the NBA champion Cavaliers main-man carries considerable clout. It’s not in league with Oprah Winfrey ($2.9B), but it’s sizable, maybe exceeding that of President Obama whose pathway to power appears not so fraught with serious hardships, never having met an issue he couldn’t or wouldn’t appease.

Unlike Michael Jordan’s slightly less-than-challenged rein of success on the Finals hardwood, most with the Bulls (1985 – 03), James has had to persevere through painful periods of unfulfilled great expectations in his pro journey that began in Cleveland (Phase I) 2003, expectations heaped mostly upon his shoulders alone (See; Wilt-the-Stilt).

Money alone won’t buy happiness but battle-scars build character and James persevered, meeting his two prof’l objectives: First, fashioning a title with his 2nd team, the Miami Heat, then in return of the prodigal son to the Forest City in 2014, leading the way for their own long awaited championship, defeating a Warriors team (73 wins) many in the junior media had pre-maturely crowned the greatest of all-time (GAT, not GOAT).

Descending from his well-earned place in 7th- heaven last week to field questions, James broke ranks with some of his people and peers, those who are hell-bent on hate and finger-point in maligning America‘s police forces. He responded to a query on the Kaep case, uttering at some point the phrase, “All lives matter.”

It was a big moment, catching the media off guard. So they did what normally they’ll do when free speech gets too free and pushed his response to the margins.

legobausteinevon-gnufdl-5-28-14-roletschekSuch generosity and hope conveyed in speaking to “all lives” is never well received by those who’re steeped in blinding, egotistical anger. And those who sign-post the way to a better, more progressive place, a destination we never reach without some self-sacrifice and compromise along the way, put themselves in precarious position, risking popularity and drop in sales receipts, among the lesser vitals of life.

James also declared that he won’t be boycotting any national anthems.

Lending credence to James’ words is the fact that he has not been one to sit on the sidelines when it comes to social issues. Earlier this year Lego® made statement on the very issue of police tactic and, by some, its postulated misuse.

In wearing a t-shirt that read “I can’t breathe,” referencing to a typical choke-hold law enforcement can employ to immobilize a dangerous suspect but which can also inflict what some deem unnecessary harm, may have been a facilitator to Kaepernick’s sit-statement, but at very least puts the basketball player’s motives well beyond the reach of reproach.

Different strokes for different folks. When it comes to social engineering, maybe a little social change ($), too, that’s Colin Kaepernick and LeBron James.

All lives matter, and all prejudice stinks. And all that LeBron James has done in three little words is more than our sitting President has done for race relations in nearly eight years.

Who says sports don’t “matter?”

net-wc-1995-88k-staticSteven Keys
Nothing But Net
Photo credit: L.James, wc.cca, K.Allison, 4.27.8; C.Kaepernick, wc, D.Hartwig, 10.27.13; H.Belafonte, wc, 8.25.63, NARA-USIAP&P; M.Gandhi, wc, pre-1942; L.James-sing, wc, E.Drost, 8.8.14; Lego-BausteineVon, wc, gnufdl, 5.28.14, Roletschek; L.James, wc, K.Allison, 4.28.7; b-ball.net, wc, 1995, static.
Posted: 10.3.16 @ 2:22am, edits @ 4:18pm and 10.4.16 @ 12:30pm Eastern Standard Time; Copyright © 2016

NBA17: Too Many Cooks Spoil the Splash But Cavs & Wars Are Rubbermade for Re-Match

11 Jul

The McGinnis Moral

New Oakland area teammates Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry just might be the awesome version of the dynamic George McGinnis and Julius Erving duo that took Philadelphia and the NBA by storm forty years ago. A little less muscle but the finesse factor is fairly even, Steven.

To people of the 70s, those who followed the pro hardwood game, Dyan Cannon and Jack Nicholson for example, the names McGinnis and Erving side-by-side speak volumes about the risk in packing a roster too liberally ($) with star power.

........Durant.wc.K.Allison.2-14.thmOwner Irv Kosloff (‘63) already had his Philadelphia 76ers well stocked for the 1975-76 NBA season with the likes of All-Stars Doug Collins, Steve Mix, World B. Free, ‘67 champ Billy Cunningham and then big new addition from Indiana in former ABA superstar George McGinnis. But that team would exit early in R1 of those playoffs to Bob McAdoo’s Buffalo Braves (SD-LAC). So later that year new owner Fitz Eugene Dixon would “add another hue unto the rainbow (de Vere)” in corralling the other decorated ace from the closing-for-business American in the person of New York Nets’ Julius “Dr. J” Erving under the theory ‘you can’t have too much of a good thing.’

The consecutive annual signings of players the caliber of McGinnis & Erving appeared at the time to be a straddle of that fine line between bold and desperate. Only question for the more optimistic of Philly faithful was exactly how many NBA titles they’d win by the time their dynamic duo’s contracts expired. Sound familiar (See; Durant & Curry)? Some things never change.

Sadly for McGinnis and owner Dixon that much anticipated championship never materialized in their respective Sixers tenures.

.......McGinnis.smIn George’s three years in the City of Brotherly Love (‘75-78) the Sixers reached but one Final (‘77) and though they jumped out to a 2-0 lead would lose to the Jack Ramsay – Bill Walton – Maurice Lucas Portland Trailblazers, 4-2.

The grand experiment would be terminated with the former Hoosier’s shipment to Denver (‘78-79) in exchange for forward and defensive specialist Bobby Jones who’d help Philly and newer owner Harold Katz (‘81) achieve that elusive 3rd NBA championship in 1983. More importantly, it was the signing of another former ABA’er in the incomparable Moses Malone (HOU) to start that 1982 season that proved the master stroke.

Which all toggles the question, is it too many cooks (stars) that spoils the broth (team chemistry), or more particularly, having too many chefs in the kitchen with the same specialty (ball control) that can turn the porridge pudgy?

For today’s Golden State Warriors it may be the latter maxim that proves prophetic in 2016-17: Too many shooters looking to load-up n’ fire with limited ammo: Just one Spalding to go around.

......Durant.Tokyo.2010.C.Johnson.wc.thmWith Big Cheese Kevin Durant opting to leave the only team he’s known in his career (‘08-16 (OKC – SEA)) and join a well-stocked club in GSW with leadership baton well-in-hand of the MVP (x2), champion (‘15) and co-Face of the NBA in Steve Curry (See Also; LeBron), those who remember ABBA and brewmeister Billy Carter will appreciate that any talk of a coming dynasty is as premature as getting your boogie shoes out of storage in anticipation of a ♫ disco revival ♫.

When Moses led the Philly-steens to the Promised Land (’83) he filled a big man need that the Caldwell Jones – Darryl Dawkins tandem had not met. Possessing of a soft shooter’s touch, Malone was a feared force inside (24.5 / 15.3 reb) the likes of which the Assc’n had not seen since days of Bob Lanier, a game which complemented Dr. J’s drive & dunk (21.4). Big synergy, for one year, anyway.

Likewise, when James, Riley and Spoelstra turned the Heat into familiar Eastern Finals foes (‘11-14) their run of success turned on the big three in Bosh, James & Wade knowing and then maintaining distinct roles which rarely came in conflict.

.....Curry.3.2.11.wc.K.Allison.thmbBut in Oakland, the 4-time scoring champ’s arrival presents a conundrum: How do the NBA’s two premier scorers and bona fide #1 guys concede point pile-ups and then those all important leadership reins?

Two master chefs in the same kitchen can whip up delightful concoctions but when they frequently grab for the same condiments, tempers can flare and the entrées will suffer in flavor-drain (faux-reality TV is a plague). For Durant & Curry the flavor of choice flows from the trendiest bottle on the shelf, the one labeled 3-point “zowie!”

In Kev’s nine NBA seasons he’s launched over 3000 tres (.380 (27.4)), Steve over 3500 (30.1 (‘15-16)) in just seven campaigns. While they diverge on the boards (KD: 7.0 (4.3)) and assists (SC: 6.9 (3.7)), it’s hard to imagine, however they fire ‘em off, that these two point machines can co-exist harmoniously.

From Fire to Frying Pan?

That Durant may’ve wanted a bigger market to showcase / compensate his top talent, optimize chance at winning a ring or even just a simple change of scenery, are all tenable reasons to sign with the Warriors.

......Westbrook.James.1.25.15.E.Drost.thm.wcAnd if escaping the Russ Westbrook Show, a performance like Kyrie Irving’s where the co-star never passes a chance to prove he’s a leading man, was an impetus for cleaning out his locker at Chesapeake Energy, KD would’ve been wiser to rectify that state rather than taking his talents to a theater (GSW) where #1 is set-in-stone (Curry) and he may simply re-create the same clash in talents ceded in OKC.

It was always Durant’s prerogative as Thunder’s franchise-man to have roles defined and enforced or send someone packing. That he and not Westbrook was the one who exited OKC, a city Kev was, as I suspect is RW, desirous of bringing a title, speaks to the uniqueness of Lego® LeBron who builds his own champion confections (MIA / CLE) instead of window shopping for already-made.

As for Russ, now you‘re a #1. Careful what ya’ wish for, big guy.

If It Works…

Who needs who? Does Golden State need Kev or does Kev need Golden State? Talented as is Mr. Durant, most would answer ‘no – yes’ to that query.

.....Kuhn.wc.MLB.1982.thmAnd if Bowie Kuhn were alive today and occupying the NBA Commissioner’s chair instead of Adam ‘Hi-Yo’ Silver, the Durant-to-Golden-State deal would’ve been nixed as contrary to “the best interest of (the Association).”

Just when it looked like NBA was gonna’ get interesting again with this 7-game 2016 Finals, the wealth of talent coalesces and we get a further shrinking of the field of competition in its aftermath, like life’s blood squeezing through an ever-narrowing artery. The succinct critique: Rich get richer, mediocre multiply.

Kevin, with all good intentions at team play, may actually make the Warriors a lesser team by working the same effect-in-awkwardness that did the teaming of Erving and McGinnis in 1976, talented men just as determined to championize.

What Warriors could use is another strong rebounder to complement Draymond Green, something the 6’9” Longhorn has never made a priority (7.0). Kerr might also look into finding Dray a stable-goat of sorts, someone with head screwed on straight and battle-tested who can calm the high-strung b-ball star and help keep him outta’ trouble (“Draymond…arrested” / Mlive / 7.11.16 / B.Quinn).

.....Kerr.wc.2.24.15.wc.thmb.K.AllisonBut alas, while James is NBA’s best player the Wars are, even with an excess in talent, the Association’s best team, runner-up trophy, notwithstanding. Kerr & Company run it all like a top.

The weary factor: It’s why Warriors failed to close the deal on what might’ve been the greatest season in NBA history. Ironically, those 73 RS wins that put them on precipice of immortality were also the reason why they fell short. Winning that many takes its toll, as previewed in the WC final versus OKC (4-3) where the champs had to pull their fat outta’ the fire just to move on. Of course, those 1995-96 Chicago Bulls piled a weary-worthy total themselves in their super season (72-10) and still managed to take the title versus Seattle (4-2). Just sayin.’

If It’s Broke…

As for the champs, even the car that sits in the Indy 500 winner’s circle can need a new gear-box. Cleveland’s clank? Absence of a floor leader who appreciates importance of running plays and the self-sacrifice necessary to get the ball into the right hands at the right time (assists). Cavaliers won in spite of deficiency.

Rubbermaid® NBA Finals 2017

NBA’s powers-that-be are salivating over the thought of a Cavs – Wars 3-peat. Who’s gonna’ stop ‘em anyway, besides the injury bug? That the Association’s overall quality of competition rating is at its lowest ebb since the scaling was first calibrated by this writer a few years back, matters not in the least to the Cufflinks, the same frat-boys who think tanking’s a joke, as long as the Big Celebrities make it to the Big Party, i.e., LeBron, Stevo, Durantula, Kyrie, etcetera.

.....rubber-ball.wc.6.30.7.Oroo.thm.colorEven if Durant does work a small drain of the splash-pool and Tyronn Lue takes no action to teach Kyrie who’s #1 (James) and fundamentals of point play, i.e., ‘See the ball, set a play, pass the ball,’ these two teams should have little trouble making it into next season’s Finals, again barring any notable injury issues.

And if they both do meet, it’s the Warriors who likely take the rubber-match.

Kyrie Irving’s not about to learn that kindergarten starter-skill called sharing and former All-Star Kevin Love is now so marginalized by team & press that LeBron’s likely to lose whatever hair he has left by season’s end.

For the Oaklanders, they’ve already got 73, the one with substance (See; Bonds (‘01))), and Kerr will make damn sure his guys are better rested this time in event they make the WC finals. Sixty-plus should get home-court East or West. No tanking, mind you, but SK will give his starters and select subs respites as needed to avoid the weariness that turned splash into a prolonged belly-flop in G5-7.

......straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo Credits: Too-Many-Cooks, Google; K.Durant, wc.cca, 2-14, K.Allison; G.McGinnis, Philly; Durant, OSU, wc, KT.King, 10.31.11; Durant, wc, C.Johnson, 2010; S.Curry, wc, 3.2.11, K.Allison; R.Westbrook-Cavs, wc, 1.25.15, E.Drost; B.Kuhn, MLB, 1982, wc; S.Kerr, K.Allison, 2.24.25, wc; rubberband-ball, wc, 6.30.7, Oroo; Straight-Shooter, produce-label.
Posted: 7.11.16 @ 5:32pm EST; Copyright © 2016

NBA.F16: The Day Steve Kerr Saved the NBA

7 Jun

Silver Into Gold

The day was May 14, 2014.

That’s when word came down that much sought after NBA coaching prospect Steve Kerr, the former University of Arizona All-American under Lute Olson, member of the last US national team to take a title as amateurs (Spain ‘86), NBA champion (Bulls / Spurs), Phoenix Suns executive but drillmaster novice had opted to sign with Golden State for his first teaching gig, spurning serious overtures from the New York Knicks, their president, Kerr’s former coach in Chicago Phil Jackson and the enigma that is Carmelo Anthony. The deal: $5 million buckaroos over five (5) years.

............Kerr.wc.4.5.13.thm.Thomson200Five over five (5/5): In fractions that translates into one. One, as in, Kerr and GSW have become America’s #1 sport sensation since he took hold of Warriors’ reins, a two-year journey of joy & accolades for San Fran / Oakland area b-ball faithful and one that has appeared surprisingly easy going.

And it’s been due largely to head coach, Steve Kerr.

‘Au contraire, Monsieur, that is absurd, Curry, Thompson, Green, they are magnifique!’ That they are, Pierre, that they are.

Consider this: The year before Steve hit Oakland, Wars had a roster that was near carbon-copy of the present, at least in key cogs Curry, Thompson, Green, Bogut, Iguodala and Barnes, one orchestrated by capable coach Mark Jackson who’d turned a 23-43 club (‘11-12)) into contenders lickety-split (51-31 (‘13-14)) but then fumbled in the playoffs, bowing out 3-4 to the Clippers in Rd-1.

The magic touch Kerr displayed upon arriving at Oracle conjures images of Magic Johnson in his newly fitted ‘79-80 Lakers uniform who took title right outta’ the gate, and then Steve’s former boss and possible coaching template in Jackson who himself replaced a winning coach in Doug Collins (‘86-89). That was a Michael Jordan-led team in similar progression upward that were Eastern Conference finalists in ‘89 but seemed to be missing a championship ingredient. That’s the theory put forth, anyway.

........Jackson.Jordan.S.Lipofsky.wc.cc.97.thumb*The change in Chicagoland did produce big results with six (6) NBA titles in Jackson’s nine seasons in the Windy City, though, two seasons in mid-tenure when Mike went on a sabbatical (‘93-95) saw the zen-fullness vanish as Bulls got bounced in the semi-finals of each playoff run.

Steve does alot of things well but won’t spin straw to gold.

Steve Curry and his teammates, like those Jordan Bulls, are special talents. Just as important as super skill-set is what all champions possess mentality in ability to translate the Xs & Os of a new coach philosophy and implementing captains in command into winning, in stretches and the clutch.

Bottom-line: Great coaches need great players who can lead, and vice-versa.

It’s the vice-versa that too often gets the short-shrift as reflections upon the past will focus almost entirely upon the great athleticism of the students at expense of the dedicated and innovative teacher.

And it must be noted, great coaches need top staff who appreciate the plan and convey it in discernable terms. The names include Ron Adams, Bruce Fraser, Alvin Gentry (2015 (NO)), Jarron Collins, Keke Lyles (2015), Lachlan Penfold (trainer) and recently contracted-to-be Lakers head coach Luke Walton who served as interim HC to start this 2015-16 campaign while Kerr recuperated from back surgery, getting GSW off to a hot start and record unbeaten streak.

That date also marks the moment when fortunes of the NBA took a turn skyward, like it hitched a ride on a NASA booster rocket.

........James.K.Allison.4.27.8.smile.thm*Yes, Mr. James has been good for the game and its business end, whether based in the Forest City, Salsa City or back home to Cleveland. LeBron, with his present crew in Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving et al, or past partners in Pat Riley, Dwyane Wade et al, wins many games, personal hardware (MVPs), Conference and Association titles and conducts himself with a corporate cool kinda’ professionalism.

What Kerr & Co. have injected into the NBA’s…I wouldn’t call it a corpse exactly, but into its body of generally uninspired work where flopping, mopping (floor with poor competition) and dropping (3s at expense of the physical game) is all too common, these Warriors have been a B12 booster shot of verve & vigor.

But if you think the man with the terrific résumé and Jack Armstrong aura has always had everything served sunny-side up, think again.

Born in Beirut, Lebanon in 1965, Steve’s father Malcolm was assassinated by Islamic terrorists in 1984 when employed as president of American University.

Enrolled in Tucson at the time and playing on Olson’s nationally-ranked Wildcats’ squads, the tragedy that must’ve shaken his world to its foundation seemed to become a source of inspiration to the underclassman who held his public emotions in check and has since taken on all challenges presented, career and family, with a focused resolve for success.

.......Kerr.wc.2.24.15.wc.thm.ref.K.Allison*So what lay ahead for Kerr and his Warriors team who are at this posting up on the Cavaliers 2-zip in their best of seven NBA.F16 series, looking to win back-to-back titles and don that dynasty regalia?

In the immediacy, it’s too early to count out Cleveland who head home to host Wednesday nite’s action (6.8) at Quicken Loans Arena. But with Cavs’ big man Kevin Love suffering a head bang in 3Q of last nite’s action on a Harrison Barnes up-the-back rebound rush prompting concussion protocol, prospects appear dimmer by the day for chances of that first elusive NBA title in the Forest City.

Warriors current title run has ‘em sittin’ pretty but series just prior they looked ugly ducks, down 1-3 vs rival OKC in Western final, has this writer thinking back to those resilient Red Sox in 2004. Down 3-zip to nemesis New York, Beaneaters got cookin’ to win the series and ride momentum in sweep over St. Louis.

In the longer view, if the Wars do hoist their 2d consecutive O’Brien, what then might be the final culmination of this masterpiece in basketball that owners Joe Lacob, Peter Guber and GM Bob Myers built, Steve Kerr & staff direct and Steve Curry & friends are implementing to near perfection these past two years?

I’ve written it before, I’m no fan of the 3-pt shot that Golden State has made a staple in their routine and works to drain the game of its natural physicality and inherent symmetry that kept balance between inside and outside games.

*.......Curry.3.2.11.wc.K.Allison.thmbBut until another high caliber club can move the Wars off their high-post pedestal, and apparently the Cavaliers, though stocked with talent, are not that team, I will show respect to the champs and find favor where I can.

Can the Warriors duplicate the Jordan-led Bulls fantastic feat of the 1990s, six titles in eight years, that most today hold out as team template for NBA greatness?

Health or durability along with roster retention are always big hurdles the Sporting Gods place as obstacles to overcome on the champions track, but nothing on the current Assc’n landscape in team nor player talent stands to say ‘no’ to the possibility, as long-shot as it appears.

Think of it: Jackson’s former player in Kerr managing an enterprise that looks to equal his own marvelous mark, a winning venture begun after Steve nixed an invite to the Big Apple from his former mentor? The Gods do love irony.

Biggest question: Will Steve Kerr get what’s due, his share of credit and just reward from fans & press for saving Adam Silver’s bacon and pulling NBA’s fat outta’ the flopalupagus fire? That’s highly doubtful.

Lacob & Gruber will give the man a raise or two but nowhere near what even your lowest paid Warriors’ starter gets in gold ($10M?). ‘Players play, coaches coach’ will be the standard spiel in denial. But Steve, his family, his friends, most of his players and basketball aficionados will know the score and that’s enough in anyone‘s book, plus the $8.5M per soon to come.

......straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
Straight-Shooter
Photo credit: S.Kerr, wc, 4.15.13, Thomson200; Kerr, wc, K.Allison, 2.24.15; Jordan-Jackson, wc, S.Liposky, 97; James, wc, 4.27.8, K.Allison; Kerr-referee, wc, 2.34.15, K.Allison; Curry, wc, 3.2.11, K.Allison; Straight-Shooter, produce-label.
Posted: 6.7.16 @ 12:06am EST; Copyright © 2016

NBA.F16: Awesome v. Epic As Cavs & Wars’ Worlds Collide

1 Jun

Mind v. Matter

Dandy dust-ups from the past century:

Ford v. Chevy: In a car culture these titans owned the road

Hamburger v. hot dog: Battle over barbecue taste buds never ends

Edison (DC) v. Tesla (AC): Geniuses wrestle for the right to light.

Crawford v. Davis: Golden age film greats fight for fans hearts & minds

Lakers v. Celtics: Early, often and coast-to-coast, their war made the NBA

Mantle v. Mays: In the hero-era, their images held sway over card collectors

The Beatles v. Elvis: British invaders, the mop-top lads moved Mr. Swivel out

Pepsi-Cola v. Coca Cola: Begins brand loyalty but this one can get out of hand;

Catsup v. ketchup: Speech style stirred debate until Hunts® bailed on the Cat.

Tastes great! v. Less filing!: Same vats (Miller) but campaign kept its head.

The Simpsons v. Family Guy: “Brian” alone makes this cartoon call easy as pie.

NBA.F16 features a collision in basketball styles and celebrity cults that is sure to rank among the best in entertainment annals.

........James.K.Allison.wc.thm.11.21.14With tip-off set for 9pm Thursday nite (6.2) at Oracle in Oakland, defending champ Golden State Warriors takes on a familiar foe from 2015 Finale, the Cleveland Cavaliers, as Warriors seek a cherry-on-top for a record 73 win season while the Cavaliers try again to deliver a first Larry O‘Brien title trophy to the Forest City.

Two faces decorate the marquee for this dollar donnybrook: Reigning MVP (2) Steve Curry v. 4-time winner LeBron James, both smooth customers and maybe the two hottest commercial commodities across these Consumer States of America (CSA).

Curry, coach Steve Kerr and the Warriors are darlings of the young set, their older siblings in journalism, Disney (ESPN) and not a small number of the ladies who may happen to drop in. Kerr’s Krew rely heavily upon the 3-pt shot, a tack heretofore unseen on Assc’n stage. When they’re turning the tres they set records and wow the crowd, but when they lay bricks the scaffolding can all come down.

Warriors best defense? The mind-game. Not the cruel kind, but in by-product.

It’s just one way in which 3-pt’er (’79) has gradually altered the game of b-ball: Inside action shifts to the high-post, less physicality even for mountain-sized men, 90s trend down in defense continues as tres-defenders opt-out in the risk-benefit balance and swings in momentum that can be seismic (GSW @ OKC G6).

To the last change, it’s not just an extra point the tres tacks on, it’s the psychological impact on the opposition that can demoralize and alter game plan. That’s not necessarily based on rational thought of the opposition but then in a sport where emotions run the gamut, who’s always rational? Coaches, captains try to fend off the heebie-jeebies but the current design of game can make it difficult, especially in final few.

.......Curry.3.2.11.wc.K.Allison.thmbCurry, Thompson, Draymond Green, Kerr and the rest of GSW must be commended for exploiting a shot that when made in bushels has, with a Freudian-like finesse, worked inside the heads of opponents. It can emotionally stifle a foes’ momentum, drain confidence while enunciating their own speech-in-swishery (Klay’s 3-pt mark), often running up the bill late in the session: Mind over matter.

In the other corner, the Cavs are, of course, led by Lego® LeBron, a team he, with owner Gilbert, built to their specs, though, 5th-year-point-guard-who-plays-like-shooting-guard Kyrie Irving does his best to pile points and tug the spotlight.

Earlier greats like Mikan, Russell, Cousy & Havlicek, Chamberlain & West, Big-O & Kareem, Magic, Bird, Jordan & Pippen, Shag, Kobe and Duncan, all sold the NBA product with lots o’ wins and titles galore, but no player has so completely embraced, mastered the role of corporate player as has Mr. James.

Still the favorite of most fans, young & old alike, LeBron guided his teams to enough Finals (6) and hoisted sufficient O’Briens (2) to legitimize his pitch to the public but carries himself with a dignity wrapped in a calm – cool -collected demeanor that should make him the envy of every marketing Cufflink in the land.

The crystal-ball reads pretty clear on this series.

Both squads are near full strength for this rematch of 2015 Final, Cleveland this time having services of their high paid, multi-skilled big-man-with-the-soft-shooting-touch in Love who exited early in 2015 playoffs. He, like his counterpart in Curry are both managing recent injuries that, if inflamed, could alter plans.

.......James.Love.Irving.wc.E.Drost.thm.10.1.14How to fend off the injury bug? Player regimen in nutrient supplementation at this point in the journey, including the Bs, ashwagandha, alpha lipoic acid, CoQ10, D3 and magnesium, all help with the blues, bruises, bones and boost. Then there are offerings to the Sporting Gods. Herbs & beer are tradition. Can’t be too careful.

On defense, you don’t get this far without knowing its value and how to employ it, at least most of the time, anyway, and then both benches are well stocked with capable talent but won’t make the starters too nervy.

Cleveland balances better on scoring, hold an edge on the boards and while Warriors are fleeter-of-feet they don’t utilize it to full advantage, often pulling up on the perimeter to launch the T-bombs (3-pt). Wars are slightly more proficient at the charity-stripe (.764 (.748)) and than can play big in close contests.

Warriors Keys

Prolific shooters in Curry & Thompson keep firing away, working through slumps that may befall. And having a back-up plan at the ready when the 3s start rattling the rim and ♫ clang clang clang ♫ like a San Fran trolley would be wise. Didn’t see one in the WC. Easier said than done but necessity’s the father of invention.

Cavaliers Keys

Avoid vesting heavily in 3-pt’er even as they’ve a panache (“25”), not let Golden showers of 3s (bad for sure but you gotta’ laugh) set their minds to worry, give ’em the Freudian slip, so to speak, utilize Kevin to his full potential (sure) to consistently impose their real strength: Power, in drive and rebound: Matter-a-fact-in-your-face, so to speak.

.......James.wc.4.27.8.K.Allison.thmThat’s where James mellow-mode, a corporate winner and fine with lesser foes, must give way to a controlled aggression in the Finals to put fear into hearts of men, not just those in blue & yellow but co-workers who need their minds set right too. Leadership, they call it.

Big shots (The Beatles) can afford big risks (♫ Getting Better ♫), Mr. James. Think of it in these terms, LeBron, “the (risk) you take is equal to the (market impact) you make.” Cha-ching!

Many in sportology will vacillate by keying on different players to rise to the occasion as the series evolves, hoping the roll comes up 7-11. I don’t play that game. The stars will perform and the support staff with shine depending on the circumstance (foes), their mood and level of moxie. That’s sport.

Who wins this NBA16 championship bout? Cavaliers most likely.

The interlude Cleveland’s enjoyed after dispatching Toronto with relative ease (4-2) can work a determent in dulling an edge, throwing a rhythm. That’s how it plays in football and rounders not infrequently. But in a sport like b-ball where the pace is grueling (soccer) and the post-season gauntlet runs long (NHL), more time off before a title round can heal wounds and re-charge draining batteries.

Rest gives an edge to the Forest City folk over a weary Warriors bunch who compiled 73 RS wins only to be pushed to 7G by a determined OKC bunch and escape by the “hair on their chinny chin chin(s).” Plus, the Ohioans should weather better those sure-to-come 3-point barrages than did the Thunder, possessing the men & methods to counter-punch on that point. At least that’s the arsenal it appears Cavs’ head coach Tyronn Lue n’ staff have at the ready.

.....straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
Straight-Shooter
Photo credits: S.Curry, wc.cca, 4.6.14, N.Salzman; L.James, wc, K.Allison, 11.21.14; Curry, wc, K.Allison, 3.2.11; Love-Irving-James, wc, 10.1.14, E.Drost; James, wc, 4.27.8, K.Allison; Straight-Shooter, produce-label.
Posted: 6.1.16 @ 11:56am; Copyright © 2016

NBA16: Cavaliers’ Key? Ceding #2 Star Some Needed Love

20 Apr

♫ “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do
Two can be as bad as one
It’s the loneliest number since the number one (“One” / Nilsson (’67))”♫

Every team’s got one.

He’s the guy (or gal (WNBA)) who tops his team in talent and on most nights tops the scoreboard, too. He attracts throngs of celebrity seekers, most of the camera shots and in the professional basketball ranks will rake in the biggest bucks.

He gets coach’s gaze for most the game and bears the responsibility of being the team leader on and off the court. When down, he picks ‘em up, when they’re hitting on all cylinders he keeps ‘em steady. That’s the expectation, anyway, of co-workers and brass. And he’s typically the go-to guy (gal) in the clutch. Swish!

He’s the #1.

But you don’t need to be a b-ball aficionado to appreciate that in team sport, no #1 can carry a squad on their back for long, not Bill Russell nor Dirk Nowitski. To win a title there must be skill at all positions, filled by both a capable cast of reserves coming off the bench and a stalwart set of starters to boot, and re-boot.

Most important of those leading men? The #2, of course.

.......Love.10.1.14.E.Drost.wc.thmEvery great #1 had a top-flight second, in compliment as a double-barreled bang of shooting or rebounding prowess, other times to fill the void, step into the breach when the main man has taken a tumble, gets the debilitating double-team or is just having one of those rare ‘off’ games.

Like the superstar, the All-Star vice-admiral, as it were, has a great responsibility, maybe greater than the #1 because if he slips up more than once it’s a pretty good bet it’ll be ‘Sayonara, Sonny’ sometime soon. Scapegoat‘s must be had, especially on digestible contracts. Gulp.

A short list of some of the best NBA player tandems-in-terrific:

Bill Russell (#1) and Bob Cousy (#2), then John Havlicek;
Elgin Baylor and Jerry West, then Jerry and Wilt (#1);
Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Oscar Robertson;
Willis Reed and Dave DeBusschere (Walt Frazier (2.25));
Magic Johnson and Abdul-Jabbar (James Worthy);
Larry Bird and Robert Parrish (Kevin McHale);
Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler;
Isiah Thomas and Bill Laimbeer;
Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen;
Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant (or vice versa);
Tim Duncan and Tony Parker (Manu Ginobili);
LeBron James and Dwyane Wade (Chris Bosh);
Steve Curry and Klay Thompson

On occasion the #2 will resist his better-suited but somewhat subservient role as a 2d-in-Command, attempting to usurp the #1 (See; Westbrook & Durant (#1) (OKC)), keeping a team in quandary-land.

But typically, the issue concerns a clouding of the #2 spot by any number of other talented yet supporting cast members on the team.

......James.wc.1.25.15.E.Drost.thmbWithout that solidified #2 the team will never reach it’s true potential.

Such is the case in the Forest City.

We all know #1 on Cavs’ roster, though, LeBron James himself will forever be semi-shy about grasping firmly his role, believing too often ‘‘tis better to give (assists) than to receive.’

LeBron is a 6’8” 250 lbs. strong-as-an-ox power forward who nonetheless led the Cavaliers in total assists 2016 (514) and apg (6.8), though, pt-guard Kyle Irving (249 (4.7)) suited for just 53 of Cavs’ contests. The game-averages speak loudly.

A top gun who readily shares the ball is very sweet, sensible sometimes, but not exactly enhancer of that championship-run, either, if done out of consternation, misplaced sense of generosity or fear of failure.

Who then is Cavaliers’ #2? That’s an issue presently in flux and unless worked to wide satisfaction soon, potentially derailing of a championship run.

Thirteen-year NBA veteran J.R. Smith (12.4 / 1.7a / 2.8rb (2015-16)) would like to believe it is he who’s Cavs 2d-in-Command and James’ right hand man. This outlook may stem from his Knickerbockers stint (18.1 (2012-13 (NBA 6th-Man))). But like Stevie Wonder sang, ‘When you believe in things you don’t understand, then you suffer.’ And sometimes Earl Joseph tends to “suffer” realization he’s not #2, or #1, for that matter.

More troubling for Cleveland would be Mr. Irving believing he is in fact #2.

.....Irving&Singler.10.17.13.wc.E.Drost.thmNot because Kyle is not All-Star caliber. He is (x3) and led the way for Cavs in opening playoff round match against Detroit, pouring in 31 w/6 assists and 5 boards in their too-close-for-comfort win vs Detroit, 106-101. Because Irving is a point guard needed to set-up the score (See; M. Cheeks) and if too tied to swishery will tap team synergy.

Cleveland’s true #2: Kevin Love, the 6’10, 250 lbs, power-forward / center who unfortunately has not been playing to that number often enough.

The 27-year old is counting on making this playoff run to it’s conclusion, his second attempt in Cavaliers uniform after suffering injury-exit in 1st-Rd of last season‘s post-regular play.

Kevin was top free-agent on the market two years back when his contract was set to end in Minnesota. Cleveland knew they wanted Kev and made early in-road and signed the 3-time All-Star to a deal which was extended last year.

On most any other team Love is the #1, the prototypical soft-shooter’s touch who’ll bang inside for the boards. Out of the same mold as Jerry Lucas, Bob Pettit, Elgin Baylor, Elvin Hayes, Jack Sikma, Charles Barkley and Dirk Nowitski. Big names all and big shoes to fill but Kev’s played big enough in his NBA career (2008 (UCLA)) to at least slip ‘em on and walk around a bit.

Get Kevin to cut down on the tres and he might lace ‘em up (439 / 5.7 (‘15-16)).

The Santa Monica (CA) native, Oregon-reared (Lake Oswego HS) and UCLA matriculee gave up a #1 status to join a Cleveland team needing a #2 to tandem with James and get that championship ring for himself and the city on the Great Lake Erie, a top priority for LeBron and owner Dan Gilbert.

.....Love.1.25.15.thm.wc.E.DrostThough James (#1) – Love (#2) pecking order was the likely plan but too often it has not been the reality in the 2015-16 Cavaliers’ campaign as other talented teammates seem all too eager to fill that key #2 slot. Nobody ever tried to move Scottie Pippen out his #2 spot and haven’t Kyle Thompson as yet.

Love’s certainly been playing with moxie enough. Making 93% of the RS slate in his two Cleveland tours (152 of 164) and is a Assc’n leader in rebounds (9.9 / 762 (‘15-16)). The ORB is down a bit from Minnesota days and season total has been considerably higher (1112 (‘10-11)). Fair to write that different roster make-up and delegated duties (coach think) play a role there.

It’s the notable downward trend in his scoring average (16.0 (26.1 (‘13-14))) that red-flags and offers insight into why Cleveland may not be getting all it hoped.

Because scoring is interwoven with team play, it suggests his ‘mates are playing more of a role than expected in shaping Love’s play into a form that’s probably not as planned and not to Kev’s nor Cavaliers best advantage.

Love’s not being paid king’s ransom in Cleveland to be 3rd in team scoring, a guy who’s averaged 26 per, twice in his 8-year pro career.

Okay, Kev’s the #2, arguably, and not meeting expectation of that rank, how do you get him there? It’s one thing to be tabbed #2, it’s another to hold onto it.

.....Lue&Blatt.1.25.15.wc.thm.E.DrostSetting that pecking-order is not often verbalized, and for good reason, so Love must assert himself, make clear he wants the job, can carry it off through thick n’ thin (latter which’ll test everyone’s championship mettle), won’t take kindly to usurpers and if succeeds gets good backing. Part of that process now means asking for the ball more often or, if necessary, demanding it.

The FG% is down to lowest in his career (.419) while FT% is one of his highest (.822). Anyone who’s played b-ball knows you’ve gotta’ shoot ‘em to make ‘em, not just to up the total but to find your rhythm, get in a groove (%). Feed the big man the ball more often and watch that average rise to a former rate.

And that’s where first-year head coach Tyronn Lue and LeBron play key roles.

Dishing out possessions (assists) is what James likes to do. I question the tack, believing that whenever this forceful figure gets the ball he aught keep it and take it strong to the hoop. Who’ll stop him? But “a rose is a rose,” as Gertrude Stein would’ve said. The die is cast. LeBron won’t change and can help Love, the team, by-way of his ‘assistance.’

Knowing your role is crucial when mining for the O’Brien metal.

.....straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
Straight-Shooter
Photo credit: K.Love, wc.cca, 11.21.14, K.Allison; Love, wc, E.Drost, 10.1.14; L.James, wc, E.Drost, 1.25.15; K.Irving-Singler, wc, 10.17.13, E.Drost; Love, wc, 1.25.15, E.Drost; Blatt-Lue, wc, 1.25.15, E.Drost; Straight-Shooter, produce-label.
Posted: 4.20.16 @ 6:32pm, edit 8:29 EST; Copyright © 2016

Tim Duncan: Spurs ‘Peerless Leader’ In the Paint

31 Mar

Roundball Recovery Act

They were giants of the sporting world, names like George Mikan, Bob Pettit, Bill Russell, Wilt the Stilt, Truck, Moses, The Enforcer, Mr. Mean, the Big O, the Big E and the Big Redhead.

Basketball’s leviathans in the low post.

Fans thrilled at their combination of size, strength and agility. The battles they waged under the boards defined the National Basketball Association and made sport headlines for over 50 years.

But change is the constant in a consumer democracy.

The Chuck Taylor high-tops and short-shorts are long gone, replaced with hideous foot-wear and a plethora of prison-yard tattoos. Historic but cramped old arenas gave-way to bigger & brighter venues with better seats, paint-happy hardwood and $14.50 nachos.

And no change has been greater than disappearance of the inside game. In particular, the demise of the dominant center and power-forward.

....Duncan.CC-BY-2.0.wc.12.05.thmDifferent from women’s basketball where the tall pivot player still has a place, the menacing man in the middle has become an endangered species.

Since the days Kareem Abdul-Jabbar donned the Lakers’ royal regalia you could count on two hands the number of big men who’ve dominated down low: Robert Parish, Larry Bird, Kev McHale, Bill Laimbeer, Shaq, Magic, Dennis Rodman, Karl Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon, Tim Duncan and Dwight Howard nearly fill out a very short list.

The culprit: NBA’s adoption of the 3-point shot.

The National was sitting pretty in the late 70s. In a State-sponsored legal structure that today embraces monopoly, the Assc’n siphoned what liquidity was left in it’s only competitor, the 10-year old ABA (‘67-76)), negotiated lucrative TV / merchandise deals but then started to get cute in the marketing department.

In 1979 they reached into their former rival’s bag of tricks (the ABA employed the dunk and the tres in 1968 “as marketing tool(s) to compete with the NBA (Wikipedia)”) and pulled out the three-point shot to prime the pump.

And b-ball’s never been the same.

There had been a symmetry, a yin & yang that worked a balance in roundball.

....Cowens.wc.1976.TSN.thm.R.KingsburyFans were treated to two theaters of play: one inside where bruisers like Thurmond, Dantley, Unseld, Reed, Walton, Lanier, Cowens, Maurice Lucas, Gilmore and Issel waged war; the other, out on the key where long-rangers David Thompson, West, Bing, Frazier, “Pistol” Pete Maravich, George “Iceman” Gervin, Brian Winters, James Worthy and Vinnie “Microwave” Johnson could heat up in a hurry. And then marvelous middle-men like Bobby Dandridge, Marcus Johnson and Bobby Jones who could seemingly do it all. A veritable smorgasbord of spectacular.

As long as both theaters had direction there was a symbiosis and the houses were packed. No need to bait with famble (fantasy – gamble), no talk of tank and the game flourished for all ages.

By the mid-90s the physical, combative play which had made the sport so colorful simply vanished. Centers and power forwards devolved into mere supporting cast. Much of the action moved away from the paint and out to the key where guards and wannabes directed the flow and became the stars.

The spotlight swung away from bangers and over to finesse men like Erving and Jordan as the 3-pointer and un-contested dunk became signature plays.

As most NBA rookies are today on the 3-yr maturation plan they’ll not develop the wide range of skills that stylers like Dr. J and Michael would eventually learn.

“You don’t sell the steak, you sell the sizzle (Seinfeld).”

.....Durant.thm.OKC.K.Allison.2.1.14.wcThey don’t sell the game anymore, they sell celebrity, air-time (TV / Twitter), gambling (FanDuel / DraftKings) and merchandise (cantaloupe-sized driver heads and wicked metal bats in Little League (Outside the Lines (Disney); 3.1.11)). If it generates a revenue stream then history, integrity, quality and sometimes safety it would appear, get swept aside until uproar begins.

When big-shots like Kev Love (6’10) and Kev Durant (6’9) spend half their time on the perimeter, averaging around 400 three’s per season, you know the game’s gone soft. Both should live inside 15 feet. Instead, recent seasons have seen a steady up-tick in their 3PAs, surprising, given the fine shooting touch both possess when not launching long ones (FG%: .444 (.360) / .483 (.380)).

Prime example of a tamer NBA: In a 2012 post-season game between the Lakers and Thunder (G2), with 6 ticks left and down by just one, rather than design a drive to the hoop for two, maybe draw the foul for three and even on a 2-pt miss, possessing good rebound capability (Gasol / Bynum), coach Mike Brown opts for the low-% 3-pt’er that Steve Blake rims out. Both got lambasted post-game but what the Lakers did was SOP in today’s basketball.

There are men who keep alive dynamic play in the paint like Tim Duncan, Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah, Kev Love (imagine if he‘d forget the tres), DeAndre Jordan, Andre Drummond and forward Blake Griffin: A dying breed.

.....Chance.1913.Bain-News.LoC.thmClosing in on 40 (4.25.76), the former Demon Deacon (See Also; Chris Paul) and U.S. Virgin Islands native has seen his scoring average dip under double-digits (8.5) and minutes below the 25 mark (24.9 (55g)) for first time in his illustrious 19-year NBA career. But like the original “Peerless Leader” in Cubs’ champion Mgr/ 1B’er Frank “Husk” Chance (1898 – 1914), the savvy & strength Duncan imbues in his Spurs team down the stretch, a roster with no shortage of experience in fellow gray-beards in Tony Parker (14), Manu Ginobili (13), Andre Miller (16), Kev Martin (11), David West (12), Matt Bonner (11) and Boris Diaw (11), may make-up for the decline in mobility & capacity that father time always exacts from the athlete who loves the game and goes long.

For the 3-pointer, it’s time it was bounced outta’ the building. Send it, along with dunk contests and home run derby back to Cartoon Country, i.e., Saturday morning TV. That’s not likely to happen but seeing as how the youthenized NBA has no use for the balanced game, maybe a new adult pro league would. Then watch the roundball renaissance begin.

Don’t ever forget this pointer: It’s their business but it’s our game.

.....straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: T.Duncan, wc, M.Sandoval, 1.28.07; Duncan, 12.05, CC-BY-2.0, wc; D.Cowens, 1976, TSN, R.Kingsbury, wc; K.Durant, wc, OKC, K.Allison, 2.1.14; F.Chance, wc, Bain-News, 1913, LoC; Straight-Shooter-produce label.
Posted: 3.31.16 @ 5;16pmEST; Copyright © 2016