Tag Archives: Michael Jordan

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: 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: 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