Tag Archives: Los Angeles Lakers

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

NFL17 Pre-Play: Triumvirate Intact, Patriots Grip On Power Remains Firm

1 Jun

Hail the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft!

Never in the history of sport has a tightly-woven triad of money (owner), brain (coach) & brawn (player) so effectively organized and implemented an operation of success over such a long period of time and with so little apparent friction as have these three, compatible personalities.

Historically, the triumvirate has shown mixed results.

The ancient Romans, building blocks to Western civilization, triumvirated a couple of times (Caesar – Crassus – Pompey 60 BC / Antony – Octavian – Lepidus 43BC), without much claim to victory, save brief respites from war.

Jumping forward to the North American pro sport scene, you’d be hard-pressed to find the same owner, coach (mgr) and top player remaining together winning titles for anywhere near as long as the Foxborough Three have been doing it.

There were the Habs (1944-79), Yanks (1923-62), Celtics & Lakers, dynasties we’ve been talking about for generations but none a triumvirate of top-level talent staying intact for as prolonged a period as these Patriots powerbrokers.

There were the Lombardi – Green Bay teams where ownership (EC – BoD), coach and key offensive player in Bart Starr, the way under-rated Bart Starr, won lots o’ titles but in a much more concentrated timeline (1961 – 68). Condensed greatness is potent (70s Steelers / 80s 49ers) and terrific in its own way but not of the championship continuum on topic here and special too itself.

It’s in the NBA where is found the only real comparison to the Patriots trio-of-time-tested-title-takers, that being the San Antonio Spurs.

The trifecta of Peoria native and current owner Peter Holt (1993), coach Gregg Popovich (1996 >) and recently retired center and championship nexus in Tim Duncan (1997-16) garnered five NBA titles (’99, 03, 05, 07, 14) in sixteen seasons, though never back-to-back (NE: 04-05), requisite for the dynasty.

But that was then, this is now, and wow, the Foxborough Three are defending NFL champions again after their Swing Time SB51 OT win over the ‘gotta’ still be stunned’ Falcons, having made the grade even as their starry starter in Brady had to sit the first four on his Deflategate susp’n. The red, white & blue bunch have been setting and maintaining a standard of sport excellence unlikely to be matched for a long, long time. Never say never, right?

Detractors will bemoan, ‘Hey dingdong, don’t forget Spygate, you fool!’ Always class-acts, and never redundant, the bemoaner boys. Rules violations are wrong, some even bad, i.e., failing to cooperate with an investigation (destroying a phone). But the general public, those with no serious rivalry axe-to-grind or having little interest in promoting their own brand of team who seek ’The Greatest’ award (Cowboys, Steelers, Packers, 49ers), just won’t be too bothered by black-marks on a team’s historical ledger that involve spying or stretching of the rules, outside game-fixing and PEDs. Spys have helped us win wars. A bit off-track here but that’s how the more rationally-minded fan will think.

Can they keep it going? Not forever, they can‘t, as hard as that is to imagine in 2017. Someday Tom will hang up his cleats, Bill hand in his headset one last time and Rob just won’t care anymore. All three have accomplished just about everything they can in the business of football, personally and as a team.

With Tom and Bill both having set the new standard in SB tandem wins with five and the team having set the record for Super Bowl appearances last February in Houston with their ninth (9) (5-4) (Pitt – Dallas – Denver all at eight (8)), about the only achievement unattained is to match and then surpass the Steelers league leading six (6) victories in the Big Game.

But as long as Brady stays healthy and the Foxborough Triumvirate keeps itself amused, an NFL bound to get more amusing, and lengthy, if not better, with Raja Goodell’s kow-tow in relaxing celebration rules, Pats should keep winning.

If you’re expecting to read here roster depth-chart chatter, draft break-downs and musings on New England’s 2017 schedule, forget it. Trust, in Belichick & Company’s judgment and future performance, has never been more earned.

Besides, who’s gonna’ stop ‘em? Anyone in the AFC?

Ben’s a trooper but needs sideline help; Denver & Houston have D but the Os are iffy; Colts & Titans have Os but Ds are doubtful; Raiders Las Vegas engagement came at a bad time for a still maturing Carr; Harbaugh & Flacco know how but is owner listening; KC will play out the string with Reid & Smith; Miami has a good QB in Tannehill but no good game-plan and Cincy, well, they’re Cincy.

In the weaker NFC the Cards turned conundrum; Wilson has D but needs a plan from Pete, not protest (CK); Rodgers needs a run-buddy and a D; Saints showed spunk late; Bucs are rising; Cats didn’t claw back in 2016; Eli is locked-in (‘20); Cousins may’ve peaked and that leaves Atlanta who need to shake off the shame.

Maybe it’s like those other eras with one, or two, dominant clubs, Pack in the 60s, Pitt – Dallas in 70s, 49ers in the 80s: Until the big dog (NE) loses its bite, everyone keeps focusing on the leader of the pack, tripping over their tail at the worst possible times. Course, having a defense that can close the deal is key, its absence to continue to be the biggest issue for most teams in 2017.

But in every NFL season there is the unexpected, that turnaround team where everything begins to click (Falcons / Raiders 2016-17), or sustained success sprouts from where no special tillage had been undertaken (Dallas draft).

As long as Robert Kraft, Tom Brady and Bill Belichick remain together in good spirits and keep “calm(ing) the envious spirit” in those sporadic challenges to their predominance, efforts that will require a charmed season aided in no small part by a capricious Sporting God set (See; Carolina ‘15 – Dallas ‘16), this 21st century will remain the Patriots Period, period.

Steven Keys
NFL HunchLine
Photo credit: NFL-wikiproject, wc.cca, Ixnay-Beao; Belichick-Kraft-Kerry, wc, US-Department-of-State, 4.25.15; T.Brady, wc, K.Allison, 8.28.09; W.Wood, Topps, 1970.
Posted: 6.1.17 @ 2:13p EST, edit 6.26; Copyright © 2017

LeBron James’ Lego® Legacy

1 Jul

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To bump the World Cup off the anchor desk teleprompter in late June, well, such a story had better be one bodacious bit of breaking news.

That’s what happened in the AM last week Tuesday. Care to guess what it was?

A beloved star’s unexpected retirement announcement? Not this time.

The sobering, sad news on the passing of a sport icon? Not that either.

Report of a celebrated sport figure having spent time in custody of local police with sketchy details on the circumstance? There were none.

Another wind-gauging politico just announced they’ve come to a belief, after giving tacit approval in silence for decades, that the NFL’s Washington franchise has a racist motif and then proceeded to board the anti-Redskins bandwagon? Nope, not last week.

Rich Sherman contacted Jon Manziel about working part-time crowd control on his front lawn, w/ Leer jet ride included, to occupy the throngs of on-lookers invited to his King County estate by the Seattle Times, so Dick can come & go peaceably? No, didn’t happen.

The big news: announcement that current Mr. NBA LeBron James had invoked the power to conclude his 6-yr. contract w/ Miami and opt for quasi-free agency (7-1), passing on the remaining 2-years of scheduled salary at $21M (avg) yearly.

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Shortly after the report, Heat general manager Pat Riley stated he, the team, expected the opt-out and welcomes the opportunity to sit down and talk with their megastar.

Back in 2010 when Cavalier James (reads like 40s pirate flick) was at a career crossroads pondering whether to stay in Cleveland or find greener pastures, I thought he’d stay put.

He didn’t, of course, and has gone on to forge a formidable legacy in Miami.

James recent opt-out, while certainly a necessary prelude to a decision to move on, is more likely a first step to re-organization of, and re-vesting in, his Miami Heat venture.

Whether he re-signs with MIA or goes elsewhere he’s likely to get much the same deal: a yearly salary upwards of $23 million, for a term of 4 to 5 seasons.

It would be surprising, at this juncture in time, if James got the happy feet again.

He’s had a tremendous run in FLA: four Finals, back-to-back O’Briens and friendships formed. That he wants more (“max?”) moolah and a re-commitment from Heat owner Micky Arison (D1: Napier), is understandable.

Teammates Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Udonis Haslem have reportedly followed LJ’s lead and also opted out of their Miami contracts to become free agents.

One view holds that their actions are designed, not to take full advantage of free agency but rather to create a status that allows restructuring of their deals, some paid more, some less, and make money available for Heat acquisitions this off-season. Team spirit.

Lending credence to that notion may be a realization that presently, it’s not exactly a bull market where Chris & Dwyane’s services are concerned.

Wade is in fade (knee / age), as ‘14 Finals evidenced, having seen his best days, and Bosh didn’t exactly distinguish himself, either, though, not many Heat did (Spurs: 4-1). It fuels speculation on to whom DW might pass the torch, making the C. Anthony acquisition a topic of talk. Carm’s top talent but hasn’t shown same floor savvy as Wade or Nowitzki.

Bolstering belief that Miami’s “Three Amigos” will sit-tite in S. Beach is the fact that, for those with a relocation bent, pickens for top-tier teams in today’s NBA are about as slim as the toy aisle day before Christmas, whether cap friendly or purse-string pursed.

That sparsity of opulent opportunities was likely one of the topics the Miami trio jawed Wednesday when they reportedly met for chow, two trying to keep one (LJ) in fold.

Side-bar: I’ve never liked the clique in Miami, preferring Alex Dumas’ team-take, “All for one and one for all (Three Musketeers).” But it did give me an idea for a TV commercial: McDonalds® drive-thru, Wade at the wheel, LeBron special ordering and Bosh in the back-seat rolling his eyes: ‘Just order already, big guy! It’s all good.’

Irrelevancy is reversible (See; Heat), knowing that ‘some assembly is required,’ but most of those w/payroll play (PHX, PHI, UTAH, DET, CLT & ORL), lack the lustrous lure.

Dallas: That dog won’t hunt. Mark Cuban has the cap-jack but has reportedly stated his Mavericks won’t be paying top dollar for traveling men this round-up;

Midwestern fare: It’s where LeBron’s roots lay, but you can’t go home (Cavs), not until the end game, and Detroit is too close. Besides cap crunch, Bulls limbo’d on Rose and no one wants in middle of Durant – Westbrook thing, not unless ‘dude space’ opens up.

East Coast Bias: Knicks & Celtics don’t have c-space but ‘where there‘s will there‘s a way,’ sometimes. Other Clevelanders have taken to the brightly lite stage that is NYC, i.e., Steinbrenner, and easy to appreciate what Jim Dolan (MSG) is trying to achieve in Jackson’s hire (Riley – MIA), but that world is not for country LeBron, not yet, anyway.

California Dreamin: Still Earth’s top destination, but only Lakers have loot for one of the celebrity & on-court caliber of Mr. James. The Minnesota transplant has become NBA flag-ship, topping Celtics, Spurs, Bulls, Knicks and Heat. Lakers are title laden (16) and Los Angeles world’s capital of all things entertaining. Sounds like James Country.

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And what about Kobe Bryant? It’s still his team.

Could the Lakers’ legend co-exist with the NBA logo that is LeBron? He did it before w/Shaq, and appeared willing with Dwight who proved a bird of a different feather.

And with a healthy Bryant(?), James would have again that which he must: a maestro.

LeBron, like Shaq, is not a natural born leader. Physically, a tremendous talent, he relies on a multi-skilled player like Wade to set a tone, feed the flow. What Wade at times lacks in maturity off the hardwood, he seems to have an abundance of on the court.

Question on Bryant and Wade: How long does that knee, the body hold up? Wade’s fade is why Miami did not three-peat against vintage Spurs. If LeBron set up shop at Staples Center, how long could he count on the current Lakers’ superstar?

It’s a dice roll in workman’s dungarees, were James to relocate again, which brings us to maybe the best reason he doesn’t leave Miami: his family. Florida is home.

LeBron James is still in his prime, and believe it or not, there’s room to improve, i.e., embracing inside presence. That can actually bode well for whomever signs the man.

If it’s Miami he favors, content with his life and having already forged a legacy of note, the Heat remaining viable is important. And in order to nurture that winning way to which James has come accustomed, Wade’s proxy is a big step.

It’s fair to assume Arison plans to keep the party-barge afloat ($) but he may already have memories to last a life-time (See; J. Jones). Don’t count those chickens yet, Heaters.

If by some chance James makes a change, he’ll need a tough exterior and building permit (team $$) to add the structure necessary (roster) to make his new House Beautiful®.

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There’s more than one way to skin a cat, or enhance a legacy, as it were:

1) You can go the usual route: stay put, make house (team) improvements, try to bring home the accolade bacon (titles / MVP) and build your on-court legend, or;

2) Be bold and go Lego®. It’s that rare player who takes on the challenge of helping draft a blueprint to construct a crown palace in a new setting. Ruth & Jabbar did it, Favre & Gretzky tried. Owners & GMs do it, coaches can, but a player, that’s rarified air indeed.

When James NBA story is written, his most telling chapter won’t be of his on-court prowess but instead that which details LeBron’s panache for building winners.

Steven Keys
Straight Shooter
Photo Credit: Bausteine von Lego / 5.28.14 / R. Roletschek / wc.gnu.fdl;  Wade & James / wc.cca / K. Allison / 3.30.11;  L. James / wc.cca / 1.15.14 / K. Allison;  Lego-cube-heights / 11.24.11 / wc.cca / Andreasstoltz