Tag Archives: basketball

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

NBA.F16: Cleveland Rocks But Kyrie Irving Just Won’t Role

8 Jun

Ball of Confusion

“All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances. And one man in his time plays many parts.”
        As You Like It, Act 2, Scene 7 (1599?), Edward de Vere (‘Shake-a-Spear’)

Like the Bard wrote, we all play roles in this life, shaped by our surroundings and circumstance and riding a rollercoaster of emotions all along the way.

And their dispatch is just as certain as the Stratford-upon-Avon shop-a-thon will sell upwards of 1,000,000 beakers kilned with the image of a ‘whosit’ whose “expression of a bladder” is purported to be the Shakespeare author to millions of tourists that flock yearly to the cozy & quaint make-believe mecca, though about 30 miles off course northwest (See; Oxford), to pay homage to the greatest writer Earth has ever known.

And as team sport is a microcosm of life, the defining roles of its players and then of course execution of those parts are the keys to a long, successful run.

..........Irving.wc.K.Allison.11.21.14.thmFinalist Cleveland Cavaliers, like all b-ball troupes, have their hardwood roles to perform in a multi-act production.

They have scorers, defenders and rebounders.

They have starters and reserves who come off the bench quick and ready to rock.

They have specialists in the 3-point launch, blocking shots, stealing inbounds passes and free-throw finesse to dissuade those late-game hack-attacks.

They should have a pecking order: A leading man in LeBron James and his co-stars in no fixed order, Kevin Love, Kyrie Irving, J.R. Smith and various other talented thespians of roundball.

And then they have the all-important play-maker. Almost always the point-guard but can be a wily forward with ‘wots and wots’ of wherewithal.

Or do they?

.......James.Love.Irving.wc.E.Drost.thm.10.1.14He, she is a person with ball-handling savvy, court vision, a coach’s appreciation for the skills & needs of his co-workers and a check-able ego who forsakes the 20-point tally to better feed the flock and hit the open man, so to speak, i.e., assists and lots of ’em (10-12 per). This floor leader is a ‘must have.’

But for Cleveland it’s a ‘must fill’ before Cavs’ carriage turns to pumpkin (0-2).

Fifth-year guard Kyrie Irving has been the man best suited to fill this role.

But piling points is his mission, leaving Cavs other big point producers in #1 James, #2 Love and shooter J.R. Smith failing to fulfill their production quotas in these 2016 finals. And against the high-scoring Warriors that just won’t do.

Admittedly it’s a little late in the game to be defining roles but when you’re struggling in the NBA Finals, filling voids cannot be an off-the-table topic.

While James and Love have shooters touch from the perimeter, their size and board ability make ’em serious inside threats that pin-point pass can facilitate.

Which also raises the question, why has a 6’8” power forward in James been leading the team in assists (LJ: 6.8 – KI: 4.7)?

........James.K.Allison.4.2.9.charge.thmLeBron has his critics. They come outta’ the woodwork when he falls short of a title. But he can never be accused of shirking responsibility. Unfortunately, that’s led him to the erroneous belief that he can be handle most of the assist duties to free up Irving to fire away. But James is neither Magic Johnson nor former Miami teammate Dwyane Wade, both power forwards who could transition to point guard on the fly, the latter whose skill in pass, board and score made him a veritable Paul Robson on the hardwood and the key additive to James drive to his first NBA title (2012 & 2013 (MIA)).

Cleveland’s strength is not the tres and, with all due respect, this is not the Allen Iverson show. Unfortunately, James, coach Tyronn Lue, nobody with authority it seems, or without, has had the foresight or gumption to impress the point upon the Westbrook-like, superstar wannabe, Mr. Irving, whose scoring talent is quite impressive but rostered first & foremost to help hoist an O’Brien for Forest City.

Cavs’ owner Dan Gilbert did not spend $21M+ per on multi-skilled Love, a 3x All-Star who came to snake-bit Cleveland willing to subjugate his top-dog status (MIN) to James in order to have him pull Dennis Rodman duty in rebounding, as important as it be (KI: $17.6M). Cavaliers should’ve been dominating the Wars with Curry & Klay catching Zs and acting bystanders to booyah benchmates.

.......Irving.E.Drost.1.25.15.wc.thmWere the Eastern Conference ranks not so lacking in serious contenders (QoC (WC’s not so hot itself)), the talent laden Cavaliers and their indecisive game plan might’ve missed out on these Finals altogether.

Cleveland’s precarious state tends to make the role issue and their 2016 NBA title hopes moot points, even were Love 100% and suited for play in G3 (out concussed). Good to keep in mind that when given a chance to shine, reserves can sometimes dazzle. It’s been known to happen.

Irving is a media favorite, gracing Sports Illustrated’s tip-off cover (6.6.16). But every player on a championship team needs a clearly defined role and Irving’s seems to’ve been scripted by his own hand. In his defense, whatever it may in fact be, it’s been validated throughout the season by Cavaliers’ leadership.

“To be, or not to be, that is the (championship) question” facing these Cavaliers. This one not as all serious as the Bard had in mind (Hamlet), but big doings nonetheless if you revel in sport and have an urge to hoist a few, O’Briens.

......straight_shooter.thmbSteven Keys
MacroSport
Photo Credit: K.Irving, wc.cca, 10.17.13, E.Drost; Irving, wc, 11.21.14, K.Allison; Love-Irving-James, wc, 10.1.14, E.Drost; L.James, wc, K.Allison, 4.2.9; Irving, wc, 1.25.15, E.Drost; Straight-Shooter, produce-label.
Posted: 6.8.16 @ 6:07pm 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

NBA15 Tip-Off: Top Storylines

29 Sep

“An old Indian game. It’s called put-the-ball-in-the-hole (“R.P. McMurphy“ to “Chief (One Flew Over the Cuckoo‘s Nest (’75))).”

* * * *

NBA 2015-16 is about to take the court.

Camps have opened with pre-season play beginning on October 2nd. The regular season is slated for tip-off at month’s end (27th). The opening act is a cross-country twin-bill pitting last season’s Finalists against a pair of playoff opponents, both with new head coaches.

The reigning champ Warriors get to unfurl their championship banner in hosting 1st-Rd foe New Orleans (0-4 (Alvin Gentry)), while the Cavaliers head due West to face the Chicago Bulls (Fred Hoiberg) at the banner-filled United Center.

1) Golden State Warriors

You can’t pen a piece about an upcoming season without first giving the champs their due. It’s made easy by the fact that the Warriors are expected by many to get back into the Finals, given the woeful competition and barring the dreaded injury influenza.

What 1st-year head coach Kerr and team accomplished still feels a bit fantastic.

His court leader in guard Steve Curry took regular season MVP honors and became the first 3-point specialist to lead his team to a title. All pretty special stuff that must’ve left victory parade participants Al Attles (coach) and Rick Berry (superstar) beaming with pride (’75 NBA title).

But a smoother roadway to title-town hath never been paved.

The Warriors breezed by the Pelicans (R1 4-0), did get tested by Memphis (4-2 (R2)) but then swept hot-house orchids Atlanta (4-0) and faced a Finals opponent in the Cavaliers who were without their #2 in Kev Love and hobbled elsewhere. LeBron James is special but he ain’t that special. Even Magic (Jabbar-Cooper-Wilkes-Worthy) and Larry (Parish-DJ-Maxwell-McHale) needed their buds.

2) Cleveland Cavaliers

Love re-signed in the off-season. What else do you need to know, except that LeBron James (2y ext’sn) is, if not giddy with optimism, fairly content with State of Cavalier-land and should fully expect a return visit to the Finals next May.

Mr. Blatt was a little shaky in the playoffs (“Not alot you can do (Curry)”), but then Eric Spoelstra came under frequent fire before guiding the Heat to a couple of O’Briens. And the East is pretty barren of serious contenders these days, the West not much better. That points to a quality of competition issue that was in all likelihood absent from everyone’s agenda this off-season. And that’s a shame.

3) Kobe Bryant

He’s denied having decided this’ll be his last run as a player, in opposite of GM Kupchak‘s public musings. Instead, Bryant speaks of a personal renaissance (“rebirth“). He did live in Italy. But Kobe’s body may have more to say about the decision than does his desire. And then planning on a final season absent formal annoucement may simply be his way of forgoing what he and many fans disdain, that being the “farewell tour,” aka, attendance-enhancer & memorabilia-booster.

Like the pantheon of pinstripers populating the long, mostly successful history of the Yankees, Kobe’s been a part of a similar near unbroken chain of great Lakers links since big George Mikan (d.‘05) and “Kangaroo Kid” Jim Pollard (d.‘93) were filling the peach-basket (it was steel rimmed) in the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Some nicknames have surfaced over the 19 seasons he pounded NBA hardwood after enlisting straight from high school (Lower Merion, Ardmore, PA (‘96 R1-13 (Hornets-to-Lakers)), “Black Mamba” being the oddest. But like Wilt, Yogi & Cher, the worldly lad from Philly has always been known by one name, Kobe.

Suffice to say Bryant has scored lots o’ points and garned plenty o’ personal hardware in his long NBA tenure (MVP, All-Star, etc.), but it’s the title haul (5), equaling 80s Showtime, that will define his b-ball legacy.

To his character, well, let’s just say the sexual assault arrest (‘03), then case dismissal (‘04), a Bryant apology (sans admission of guilt) and final civil settlement, will likely afford the Lakers great the privilege of not having a statue erected outside Staples Center (x6) in his honor. Then again, these decisions aren’t cast in stone: 2030?

4) Spurs Forever?

There’s been discussion recently as to whether or not the Gregg Popovich Spurs have constituted a true dynasty. My initial view was that five titles in sixteen seasons was qualification aplenty and denial of such was stingy (P.Jackson).

Thinking more on it, a reflection triggered by the baseball Giants failure to once again defend their World Series or even Pennant titles, I’ve come to the belief that San Antonio’s inability to win back-to-backs or even get back to a Finals the season following a championship may very well disqualify them of the dynasty tag. No big whoop.

What owner Peter Holt (‘93) and his Spurs have accomplished since they took their first title in ‘98-99 may be more significant than achieving the dynasty thing: a space-time continuum (Poe). Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue but weighty matters seldom do.

The core for 4 of the 5 O’Briens, Tim Duncan (C), Tony Parker (PG) and Manu Ginobili (G), all return for one more season as the Argentinian hints this one will be his last. When any of the three exit it won’t be long before the others follow.

Can the Spurs hold form and fashion one more title run in this staggered 2015-16 season? The infusion of more young talent with the vets didn’t take them too far last spring, bowing out to the Clippers in R1. But the door to title-town is wide open in this NBA and the humble Spurs seem to never stop learning.

5) Commissioner Adam Silver

Commissioners rarely rank high on those most-admired lists. Making money for the owners (and college Presidents), presiding over draft events and dolling out player punishment is what they devote majority of their time. Rarely, one will take the job to heart and go beyond the money rake (Landis / Giamatti (MLB)).

But don’t include Mr. Adam Silver in that select group. The name is apropos.

What can you say that’s inspirational about a point-man Silver who seeks to co-mingle gambling with sport (“good for business”) and handled the sad, multi-sided Sterling matter with all the finesse and courage of a corporate raider? He’s a media darling?

It can’t be an easy job, Commissioner of a major sport. But some leaders are more suited to the task than others who have no more love for the game than the politician who dons whatever ball-cap the campaign whistle-stop dictates.

Bold moves like paring down of an excess of franchises that might pump life’s blood in quality of competition back into the sport, and elimination of gimmickry like the 3-pointer (ABA) that’s destroyed b-ball’s dichotomy, could work wonders for a popularity of that’s ebbing at lowest in decades. Odds on that: 1000 to 1.

6) Team Potentiality

Before the 2015 Conference finals, if you asked me to name-off teams likely to contend for next season’s showcase venues, I’d have included the Houston Rockets and Atlanta Hawks with no hesitation. That was four months and “a 1000 years ago.”

Both front-runners flamed-out in their respective CFs, winning one measly game between ’em both (4-0 (ATL v CLE) / 4-1 (HOU v GSW)).

While the Grizzlies and Clippers didn‘t advance as far in 2015 post-season play, both showed something to build upon. Los Angeles’ addition of wily vet Paul Pierce may be the binding-agent they truly need to become a cohesive crew.

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo credit: S.Curry, wc.cca, 2.24.15, K.Allison.
Posted: 9.29.15 @ 2:18pm EST; Copyright ® 2015