Tag Archives: Kevin Love

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

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: 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

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

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