Tag Archives: Steph Curry

The New Kevin Durant

Earlier this week, Kevin Durant told the media that he didn’t get out of bed for days after signing with the Golden State Warriors. Unless he twisted his ankle and couldn’t walk, It’s hard to buy that story.

Durant was completely entitled to choose Golden State and more power to him for doing what he wanted, but amid Gary criticism for his decision, this is nothing more than a plea for sympathy. He wanted to go there. People got upset, but it’s over now. It’s almost like he can’t decide whether he wants to be the villain or the misunderstood hero. Anyways, the dust has settled, Kevin Durant is now a Golden State Warrior, and somehow, a sense of normalcy has returned to the NBA. Now, smoke is pouring out of Steve Kerr’s ears as he figures out how to maximize Durant’s output on the revamped Warriors’ squad.
The honeymoon is over in this new marriage of superstar and super team, and it’s time to go back to work and start paying the bills. Surely, Kerr and his staff already had a rough idea of how they would use Durant before the signing, but now that he’s on board, the real planning can begin. Everyone knows it won’t be easy to get maximum production from everyone when there are 4 great players on the court at once, but the trick is to ensure that each of them are placed in a position where they can thrive. Unfortunately, that trick is, well, tricky.

We saw firsthand in the 2010-11 season what it looks like when a super team is still ironing out the kinks, as the Miami Heat struggled out of the gate. You may recall there were even rumors that they could fire Erik Spoelstra, a coach who went on to win two titles in the big three era.

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On the court, the problem begins with chemistry. While Steph Curry in the past two seasons alone has solidified himself among the top three players in the league, it is impossible to know how he will be affected by the presence of another superstar. Durant’s arrival could place Curry between a rock and a hard place, having to choose between asserting himself over Durant as the alpha dog, or conceding and settling for second best. Curry is a player that thrives when he gets in a groove. How many times have we seen stretches in the third or fourth quarter where you think “no way he will hit this one”, and he does it. Every. Damn. Time. With Durant getting his share of touches, maybe there is less room there for Curry to get in that rhythm.

Aside from the starters, it will be interesting to watch how the bench performs under these new changes. In acquiring Kevin Durant, the Warriors have sacrificed depth for dynamite. When their stars are clicking, it’s hard to make a case that anyone could beat Golden State, but suppose they lose a star for a prolonged period of time. Is their bench capable of picking up the slack? It’s not that their bench is necessarily bad, but compared to the stellar bench of the past two seasons that aided them in back-to-back Finals appearances, it certainly pales in comparison.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the Golden State Warriors out of the gate will be keeping everyone’s ego in check. Despite everyone on the Warriors being completely cool with Durant, having 4 all-stars on one roster lends itself to an ego conflict. It could be like the movie Rat Race. You have all these hilarious actors but at the end of the day, it’s kind of an awful product once you put it all together. People have compared the Warriors lineup to an all-star or Olympic lineup, and while that is great on the court, there could be issues.

Picture Team USA playing an entire season of basketball together. A lot of talent, but also a lot of ego. What if Durant misses a few game winning shots and Curry gets upset because he feels he would’ve made them? Everything is rainbows and butterflies before the season starts, but seeing how the Warriors react to conflict will be very interesting.

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Speaking of Olympics, it will be interesting to watch Durant have the opportunity to play with Thompson and Green on Team USA. You think Steve Kerr is texting Coach K throughout the entire Olympics with a “psst, try this play with KD and Draymond”? Those guys are going to look really good against the rest of the world (who obviously isn’t very good). It could be a preview of what’s to come for the Golden State.

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Cavaliers Defeat Warriors 93-87 to win first NBA Championship: Reaction and Reflection

Minutes after the final buzzer sounded at Oracle Arena to give the Cleveland Cavaliers their first NBA Championship in franchise history, LeBron James collapsed to the floor.   James, surrounded by players he recruited, was finally victorious in the Cavalier wine and gold uniform. It wasn’t a likely outcome, and it almost didn’t seem real, especially given the fact that the Golden State Warriors had hardly lost a game in their building all season. In fact, just days ago, the Warriors were so close to a title that the narrative had already begun to shift to the fallout of The Finals. People talked about whether Tyronn Lue would be coaching next season, whether Kevin Love would still be on the team, and how a lackluster 2-5 record in the NBA Finals impacts a player who desires to be mentioned with all-time greats such as Jordan, Magic and Russell.

Now, after an improbable 3-1 series comeback, Cleveland is a championship city for the first time in 52 years.

Many people will look at the Draymond Green suspension as the turning point in this series, and that may hold some truth. However, it is unfair to blame Draymond Green for the overall failure of the Warriors in the final 3 games. Green played excellent in Game 7, and deserves a lot of credit for what he was able to do. In all likelihood, however, winning on the road in Game 5 gave the Cavaliers some confidence going into Game 7, and they needed every bit of it.While the Cavaliers may have won Game 5 even if Green was on the court, the suspension served as motivation for the Cavaliers to seize on an opportunity, a philosophy they carried through to the next two games.

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If there’s any individual blame to go around, it has to go to Steph Curry. As the back-to-back MVP, 6 for 19 with 17 points in an NBA Finals Game 7 is unacceptable. Curry shot 4 of 14 from 3-point range, well below his usual average. For perspective, if Curry shot his 2015-16 regular average for 3-pointers (.454), he finishes with six more points, and the Warriors win this game. Something was off with Curry, and he wasn’t draining the shots we are used to seeing him make. Many times throughout the night, Oracle Arena was ready to explode with excitement from a clutch Curry 3-pointer, just to be disappointed when it clanged off the rim. Even after Kyrie Irving hit what proved to be the game-winning shot with just under a minute left, you still felt like the Warriors were going to find a way to win. There was no way they were going to go down like this with the historic season they had. Nevertheless, they couldn’t pull it off, and now one must wonder how something like this could’ve happened. Maybe they were fatigued from the strenuous regular season and back-to-back 7 game series. Maybe it was injury. Even if it was, Curry would never hide behind that excuse. The truth is, we will never know what exactly caused this series to end the way it did, but the Cavaliers deserve all the credit in the world.

While so much attention is paid to LeBron James and his accomplishments in the final games of this series, an equal amount of attention should be placed (but sadly, probably won’t) on the players around him. Trailing 3-1 in the series, it would have been easy for a guy like Richard Jefferson or JR Smith to pack it in for the year. Why should it matter to them? Obviously, no player is going to just stop trying, but when so much of the narrative is focused solely on LeBron James, as a supporting player you might begin to wonder how much credit you’re actually going to receive. On the flip side, there is very little blame handed down to guys like Smith or Iman Shumpert with a loss, they are just pieces, easily moveable and replaceable. When it comes down to it, the supporting cast decided the fate of this series just as much, if not more, than LeBron James and Kyrie Irving did. Their dedication and commitment could not have been more clear than when J.R. Smith let out all his emotions following the win and also in his press conference.

So, this is the fun part; what does the future look like for LeBron James and Steph Curry? While the sting is still very fresh for Curry, there is nothing but optimism for his future. While LeBron may have temporarily stolen back the imaginary throne of current best player in the NBA, Curry and the Warriors are poised to be contenders for years to come. In fact, Vegas already has them as the favorites to win it all next year. When Golden State says they will use this loss as motivation for next season, I’d take their word for it. A 73-9 team doesn’t reach that mark out of pure chance. This team has dynasty potential, and how they respond next season will show if they are up to that caliber. With the predictability of the current NBA, my money is on a third-straight Warriors vs. Cavaliers finals next season, and even more bragging rights will be on the line.

For LeBron James and Cleveland, their future won’t start for at least another month. They will spend a good chunk of time enjoying this one, but expect them to be back next year. The makeup of the team is another question, and it remains to be seen whether Kevin Love will be back next season. One thing’s for sure, we have a long offseason to talk about it.

NBA Offseason Odds Meter

What are the odds LeBron James bolts Cleveland?

10%

Wow. Can you imagine? This percentage would definitely be a little higher if they lost, but deep down would anyone really be that shocked? I’m not sure anyone would burn his jersey this time if he left, but they might at least stomp on it a little bit and put it in a box for when he inevitably returns again.

What are the odds the Warriors get Kevin Durant?

20%

I can’t think of anything that would shake up the NBA world more than the Warriors somehow landing Kevin Durant. Personally, I question whether or not he would want to go to a team he just lost to in an emotional 7-game series, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem for a lot of people with much more knowledge about the NBA than myself. If that were to happen, you would think the Warriors would have to part ways with Draymond Green, but once again, anything is possible in the NBA offseason.

What are the odds Kevin Love leaves Cleveland?

40%

This has been a rumor for too long to not be of at least some risk. Love’s poor play throughout much of the playoffs only fueled rumors, but perhaps his decent Game 7 combined with an NBA Championship might smooth things over between Love and Cleveland.

What are the odds the NBA is rigged?

2%

I bring this up because there is a growing number of people (including Ayesha Curry) making comments about the league being rigged. While it sometimes seems like a logical explanation for the inexplicable, the NBA is not rigged. Tanking might be a real thing, but there are too many people around this league to keep such a colossal secret quiet. However, my friend (who is a football maniac and probably cares more about NFL mini-camps than the NBA Finals) offered an interesting viewpoint; what if it’s the refs that are fixing it?

What are the odds that Drake is now a Cavalier fan?

50%

I leave this one at 50% because with Drake, you always need to leave room for the other option. Maybe that option is Golden State, maybe it’s Toronto. Depends on how he feels when he wakes up. Clearly, Drake only cares about associating himself with anything successful. It makes sense, considering he’s been so successful lately, but it kind of makes you wonder, when Drake’s run finally ends, will he root for a bad team instead? I hear 76ers season tickets are going for pretty cheap these days, Drizzy.

Cavaliers Take Advantage of Draymond Green Suspension to Force Game 6, So What Now?

There is a common saying in the NBA that a playoff series doesn’t begin until a team wins on the road. While this is usually the case in most situations, it appeared to be the exact opposite in the 2016 NBA Finals. The Golden State Warriors went to Cleveland up 2-0 in the series, already crowned presumptive NBA Champions by many. While the Cavaliers were able to dominate in Game 3, a strong road win by the Warriors in Game 4 behind a 38-point performance from back-to-back MVP Steph Curry had most basketball fans agreeing the series was essentially over. Instead of starting a competitive series by winning on the road, the Warriors ended it.

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Or so we thought.

Big news came out Sunday night when the NBA announced Draymond Green would be suspended for Game 5 after his altercation with LeBron James in the later stages of Game 4 was upgraded to a flagrant-1 foul. Green had already been under the microscope this postseason for three previous flagrant fouls, and the most recent one warranted an automatic one game suspension.

This suspension was met with much controversy from the media, fans and players. Klay Thompson, reacting to the news, said “I guess his feelings just got hurt. I mean, we’ve all been called plenty of bad words on the basketball court before. Some guys just react to it differently.” When asked about Thompson’s comments, James chose to take the “high road,” a statement that was mocked by Ayesha Curry, wife of Steph Curry, who tweeted “High Road. invisible bridge used to step over said person when open floor is available left to right.”

James received harsh criticism for this response, primarily from Mychal Thompson, father of Klay Thompson, who continued the recent trend of former NBA players in their mid-50’s complaining about everything, said “LeBron couldn’t have survived in the 80s with the physicality and the words guys said to each other back then.”

I understand that LeBron should have shrugged this off, but given the intensity of the series and the fact that he was probably pissed off with how the game was going, you can see why he did it. That’s not to say it was acceptable, but if LeBron played nice and walked away, Draymond could have been in Game 5 and we could be talking about a series recap right now. The truth is, the suspension to Green may have been the small springboard of momentum the Cavaliers needed going into Game 5 to earn themselves a chance to fight again.

Despite Draymond Green being out of the lineup (and out of the building for that matter), it was hard to envision the Cavaliers winning this game. The way in which Golden State won Game 4, raining down three-pointers and stealing the game in front of the Cleveland faithful, appeared to take away any heart this Cavaliers team had left. The Warriors hit 17 three-pointers in Game 4, the most in NBA Finals history. With each drained bucket, the body language for every player on the Cavaliers went from bad to worse. Game 5 began with a flurry of offense from both teams, with the score 32-29 Golden State at the end of the first quarter. In the second, Klay Thompson seemingly draining a shot every time he touched the basketball, with four deep 3-pointers highlighting his performance in the first half.

However, once the second half began, the Cavs hit the gas. More importantly, LeBron James and Kyrie Irving caught fire. Both finished with 41 points, handling most of the heavy lifting for a Cavaliers roster that has struggled to match the depth of the Warriors. In similar situations last year during the Finals, LeBron had to churn out a solo effort in order to get the job done. Now, he has a wingman.

So, does this win shift the outlook of this series? Sure. Kyrie Irving finally had the game he needed in order to establish himself as a star in big moments, something we haven’t necessarily seen on his resume thus far in the league. Shades of it were present in Game 4, but this 41 point night had much more of an impact. In previous games, Irving appeared to fade under the spotlight, but somehow, he found a hot streak in the hostile confines of a rocking Oracle Arena. Additionally, we saw a killer instinct from LeBron James that hasn’t come out in a long, long time. That being said, none of it will matter if the Cavaliers can’t get it done on Thursday night. Despite the great game, they will still have a monster to contend with when Draymond Green returns. Despite 41 points from LeBron and Irving, the pressure is still on the Cavaliers, and they will have to prove they can handle it.

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Where is the Love?

Since returning from his concussion sustained in Game 1, you would think Kevin Love hasn’t actually returned from his concussion sustained in Game 1. He’s not doing himself any favors in proving he isn’t the odd man out on this Cavalier’s roster, and in Game 5 he finished just 1-5 with 2 points in 33 minutes of action. Someone needs to start a search party in Cleveland for this guy, because his picture is about to show up in the missing persons report. Love’s poor play has only fueled local Bostonians’ hopes of landing him next season, so it could shape up to be one interesting offseason.

Warriors, Thunder Set to Clash in Colossal Game 7

After taking a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Finals, it seemed all but guaranteed that the Oklahoma City Thunder would advance to the NBA Finals. The Warriors were failing horribly against the dynamic duo of Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, and it appeared as though the Thunder finally had the team they envisioned after trading away James Harden a few seasons prior.

Then, the Warriors got to work.

There was a sense of desperation for Golden State heading into Game 5, an emotion that likely hasn’t been felt by the 73-win squad in a long time. Warrior’s coach Steve Kerr wanted to get the energy in Oracle Arena pumping early, encouraging fans to come early and make plenty of noise. The Warriors were hot most of the game, and though the Thunder were able to grab a lead after a Westbrook 3-pointer with 6:06 remaining in the third quarter, Golden State was able to roar back for a decisive 120-111 victory.

For the Thunder, Game 6 was supposed to be their time to shine. They could afford to drop a game in Oakland, but coming back home, they were supposed to seal the deal. Things looked good for the Thunder throughout much of the game; they outscored the Warriors in the first three quarters and went into the fourth with an 83-75 lead. The finish line was right in front of them, and they tripped over their own feet. Actually, saying they tripped over their feet doesn’t do justice to the gravity of the situation. They were 15 minutes and an 8-point lead away from a ticket to the NBA Finals, playing in front of their home crowd, and they absolutely imploded. It’s a shame nobody in the audience knew how to perform the Heimlich maneuver, because the Thunder, specifically Russell Westbrook, were putting on an absolute choke job. Klay Thompson scored more points (19) than the entire Thunder roster (18) in the fourth quarter.

So, after a game like that, what are we in for tonight? Well, the general consensus is that it will be a closely contested game that will be replayed on NBA Hardwood Classics for years to come. It’s Memorial Day, everyone will be watching, and there is huge names on both teams. It has all the makings of an instant classic, but for some reason, I’m not so sure about that. The Warriors have only lost twice at home all season, and in a game like this with so much on the line, it’s very hard to see them faltering.

Obviously, the Thunder have proven that they are capable of beating the Warriors on their home floor, but this game is a whole new animal. Game 1 was the beginning of a feeling-out process. The Thunder didn’t carry much pressure at all going into that game, and that attitude carried all the way through to their 3-1 lead in the series. After losing game 5, they at least had a home game to look forward to, but now, there is no room for error.

It’s easy to make a statistical argument for why the Thunder could win this game. The combination of Durant and Westbrook certainly has the potential to outscore Curry and Thompson, and if Steven Adams can grab anywhere around his usual 10 rebounds, they could be in decent shape. That being said, when I say there is no room for error for the Thunder, there is literally no room. At all. If Curry gets hot and gets the crowd going, good luck. Once they get a double-digit lead, they become an invincible machine with no off-switch. Perhaps the scariest thing for the Thunder, however, is that Klay Thompson is just as equally capable of going on a hot streak from downtown as Curry; the Thunder learned that the hard way Saturday night. The only way the Thunder win this game is if they get off to a hot start and never look back. Chances of that are slim, however, and I’m only giving them an outside shot at winning this game. The way in which they lost the previous two games does not bode well for them playing on the road, and I expect the Warriors to pounce.

PREDICTION:

Warriors: 115

Thunder: 109

 

Curry 32, Thompson 27

Durant 25, Westbrook 34.

Westbrook will be fueled by his mistakes in the final minutes of Game 6, but the supporting cast around him and Durant won’t be able to produce. Adams and Ibaka will both finish with 8-10 points, and the rest of the team will fail to reach double digits.

Should Steph Curry Really Be The MVP?

Wednesday night, the Warriors will look to make history against the Memphis Grizzlies. With a win, they will become the first team to ever win 73 games in a season, surpassing the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ 72 wins led by Michael Jordan. This is by far the biggest story of the regular season this year, but I’d like to focus on something else. The reigning MVP, Steph Curry, is likely to repeat his status as most valuable player this season, becoming the tenth player in NBA history to win back-to-back MVP awards. While the decision may be close to unanimous, I think there’s someone else more suited for this year’s most prestigious seasonal award.

Steph Curry has a league leading 29.9 points per game, a full point per game higher than the second best in the league. He’s also tied with three other players for most steals per game with 2.1. Curry cracks the top ten in the NBA in assists per game as well. So with numbers like these why wouldn’t Steph win his second MVP award? It’s because there’s another Western Conference point guard that is more deserving of the privilege. That’s right, not only do I not think Steph Curry was the best player in the NBA this year, I don’t even think he was the best at his position.

Russell Westbrook is more deserving to win the MVP with the season he’s had than anyone else in the NBA. Westbrook averaged 23.5 PPG, which is impressive when you look at the fact that his teammate, Kevin Durant, averaged 28.2 PPG, the third most in the league. Even with a teammate putting up the bulk of the team’s scoring, Westbrook still finds a way to score the ninth most points in the league. Westbrook also averages 7.8 rebounds per game, which makes him the only guard in the NBA to crack the top 50 in the NBA in rebounding. Curry averages only 5.5 rebounds. But that’s not all. Westbrook is second in assists per game, averaging double digits with 10.4 ASP. Curry averages 6.7 assists, which doesn’t even lead his team. When it comes to steals, Westbrook only trails by 0.1 per game, placing him just behind Steph and the three other league leaders in that category.

There’s no denying Steph Curry’s greatness. I believe he was well deserving of the MVP award last season, and there is certainly a case for him this season. With that being said, I just think Westbrook is a much more well-rounded player. He is in the top ten for scoring, assists, and steals, while grabbing the most boards out of any guard in the league. Not only that, he is also a triple-double machine. He has 18 triple-doubles on the year, tying him for the most in NBA history in a single season. He shares that feat with Magic Johnson, and any time you can be in the same category as Magic, you are doing something pretty special.

Westbrook’s athleticism is far superior to Curry’s as well. Though that doesn’t necessarily tell the story of an MVP, it’s hard not to notice. Pound for pound, Westbrook is on the same level as LeBron James when it comes to being a freak athlete. His combination of size in speed makes him a nightmare for defenders in the half court offense and the fast break. His ability to grab a rebound and take it coast to coast for a monster dunk is unlike any point guard I’ve ever seen. Though it probably shouldn’t be a factor, that kind of excitement could get some votes from basketball writers for the MVP award.

That’s not to say Curry isn’t an exciting player to watch. In fact, most people will argue he’s the most exciting player in the NBA right now. His ability to hit a three from 35 feet out is the best in NBA history. He can shoot off the dribble and with a hand in his face, and at times it seems like nothing the opposing team does is enough to stop him. But you also need to look at the teams they play for. Steph is playing for possibly the best team in NBA history. Klay Thompson is one of the best shooters in the NBA and Draymond Green has emerged as a superstar this season. They also have depth not only in their starting five, but also on the bench. Last year’s Finals MVP, Andre Iguodala, is a bench player for Golden State. Again, the former Finals MVP comes off the bench for Golden State.

But I know what you’re thinking. Russell Westbrook plays with Kevin Durant, a former NBA MVP. Well that’s what I feel makes Westbrook even more impressive. He isn’t the go-to scoring option for the Thunder, but yet he still finds a way to score over 23 points per game. And he’s still able to dish out more than ten dimes a game, while putting up rebound numbers unheard of for point guards since the Magic days. And after Durant, the Oklahoma City Thunder don’t have nearly as much depth as the Warriors. Their next leading scorer after Durant and Westbrook is Serge Ibaka, who scores 12.6 PPG. This is down from his previous three seasons, while his rebound and block totals are also down for the once promising big man. The Thunder are nowhere near a bad team, sitting at third in the Western Conference with a record of 55-26, but they just don’t have the overall talent that the Golden State Warriors do.

As I mentioned before, Westbrook is the complete package of size and speed. This makes him more of a threat to opposing offenses than most point guards. He can keep opposing point guards in front of him that like to drive to the rim, while also having the speed to get out and contest shooting point guards. Curry on the other hand, does not have these abilities. He is much weaker than the average NBA player, and while he is quick, when it comes to shear speed, he is not as fast as other point guards around the league. As the old saying goes, defense wins championships, and Westbrook has a much better defensive game than Curry. Sure, Curry has emerged as the most popular player in the NBA, but writers should not think like fans do. They need to be more objective and look at who truly was the most valuable player in the NBA after taking all aspects of the game into account. After doing just that, I think Westbrook needs to be given more consideration for MVP than he has been.