That’s That

Wow. Warriors in five games. If only somebody had warned us that the series would be over so qui— oh I did predict? Well I’ll be damned (feigns humility for brief second before continuing), maybe it was just a lucky guess. Or maybe it was just as simple as adding Kevin Durant and subtracting Harrison Barnes.

People forget that the Warriors came within a minute of repeating as champions last year with Harrison Barnes as their starting small forward no Andrew Bogut to clog the middle of the paint. Although the Warriors couldn’t quite replace Bogut this year, they made a significant upgrade at the 3 position. Golden State didn’t even need KD to perform as scintillating as he was against the Cavs, they just needed him to play better than Harrison Barnes (who may actually have turned out to be the biggest loser in this whole saga–you know if making 94 million dollars is considered losing).

Except for ill timed rashes of mental lapses, the Cavaliers actually played decent defense this series. While the occasional mental lapse may not hurt Lebron and co. against teams like Toronto, Indiana, or Boston, it only takes a couple of poor possessions for a 4 point deficit to become a double digit lead against the Warriors. The margin of error against them is extremely thin.

Lebron is the best basketball player I have ever seen, but he is a terrible general manager. Remember his first tour of duty with the Cavs when he said that forward J.J. Hickson was not an expendable piece around the trading deadline? Then shortly after that he had to have an over the hill Antawn Jamison on his squad. Right before he left Miami, he lobbied for the Heat to draft Shabazz Napier at the point guard position. This time around he leveraged his power to make Cleveland sign Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson to huge contracts.

Now Tristan Thompson (who only pulled down 8 rebounds last night) would probably have commanded that kind of money eventually, being one of the few legitimate 7-footers left in the league, but Kevin Love did not play like a max contract player in this series. In fact, we may have seen the last of Kevin Love in a Cavaliers uniform. In a must win game, the guy takes only eight shots–missing three free throws and scoring only 6 points in the process. His plus/minus ratio was a -23 when he was on the court, and only three of his ten rebounds were on the offensive glass.

J.R. Smith surprised me this series. He had two stinkers in games 1 and 2 in Oakland, but managed to rebound and play well the last 3 games. Last night he put in 25 points on 9 for 11 shooting.  Still, the Cavaliers are going to need more wing players who defend to even have a chance in next year’s Finals (against either Golden State or San Antonio).

Cleveland’s biggest personnel problems stem from having too many one way specialist on the court. Though Kyle Korver, Channing Frye, Richard Jefferson, and Kevin Love can add a little life to the offense, none of those guys can defend.

Isn’t it too bad that Andrew Wiggins begged for Cleveland to trade him because he didn’t think Lebron could help him be a better player? Wait. That’s not what happened? Oh well, its not like he was a wing who could score a little bit right? Oh he does have some offensive skills? Well, even if he can score, its not like he can defend. What’s that you say? He’s an elite defender at his position? Fuck outta here! I’m not tryna hear that. Lebron wouldn’t push for the team to trade a guy like that now would he? WOULD HE? Yea I didn’t think so either.

All you have to do is compare the Cavaliers’ bench production to the Warriors’ and you will see where this series was lost. 7 points from their bench last night and we didn’t see much of Channing Frye, or Derrick Williams. Backup point guard, Deron Williams, is beyond washed. I bet he gives his retirement papers to the league by Friday.

Shaun Livingston and Andre Iguodala played consistently well–better than anyone on Cleveland’s bench (Iguodala had a +60 rating for the entire Finals). Javale McGee had moderate success the first 2 games, and he and the rest of the second unit contributed just enough to make Cleveland feel it. Tyronn Lue had no one he could bring off the bench and have any kind of impact defensively. Lebron averaged 42 minutes a game this final round; logging 46 minutes total last night.

Kevin Durant put on such a beautiful display of dominance that Draymond Green’s own inconsistent performance was overshadowed; coming nowhere close to how he played in game 7 of last year’s instant classic.

 

It is understandable that many people found this season to be unsatisfactory. No one was able to match the beautiful basketball on display up in Oakland, and the only team that could come close to competing had its hopes dashed by an overzealous Georgian. Despite what you might hear, the Spurs were in fact, the second best team in the NBA. I don’t expect much to change for next year. Washington is two moves away from me taking them seriously, so they loom in the background as a potential troublemaker.

I’m extremely curious to see if a) the Celtics finally use their chess pieces to put a championship team together next season and b) who the Cavs bring back next year.

Outside of Lebron, I think everybody can be had at a price. As outstanding as Kyrie Irving is, I don’t think he is the right guy for the kind of offense that can beat Golden State. Before you start tweeting me, take a second and think about how much more deadly Kevin Love would be if Mike Conley or John Wall were running that offense. Kyrie doesn’t get his teammates involved easily, and typically passes when its his only option.

I’m sure second best doesn’t sit too well with James, so something will have to be done to at least give the appearance that maybe they can beat Golden State four times in a series.

We still don’t know if this is the beginning of a dominant era for the Warriors or just a vacuum, but we’ll soon find out this off-season. Shaun Livingston and Stephen Curry will be free agents and we’ll likely see a few new faces on the roster next season. The beauty of the off-season is that up until next season’s tip, all 30 teams have a legitimate chance at being champions. Maybe things won’t be as predictable as they were this season, but I highly doubt it.

 

BM

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @goodassgame. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

 

 

 

 

 

Warriors Fan Fiction: Steph Curry’s Summer Vacation

Illustrations by Louis Eastman

Scene 1

It is a bright and sunny afternoon in the Hamptons, where the Curry family are taking their summer vacation. The house they are renting on Airbnb happens to be only 2 blocks away from the house Kevin Durant is holding his free agent talks. Steph Curry sits alone in the living room,chilling in his Under Armour shorts, Under Armour  T-shirt, and Under Armour socks while the rest of the family is out. Steph’s mother, Sonya has taken Sydel and Ayesha (and the babies) out to the beach. Dell and Seth are out at the local country club finishing the back nine from an 8 AM tee time.

Steph declines. He is still sour from his team’s Finals performance–especially about his own play down the stretch. Steph realizes that this is his first moment alone since the end of the post-season. He turns on the television. As luck would have it, Kansas vs. Davidson is on ESPN classic. Steph immediately locks in, stretching out on the couch watching himself from 2008. 2008 Steph shoots a three pointer after being left open on a defensive switch. The game clock reads 14:48 in the first half.

“Damn.” He thinks, “I didn’t even get to take the final shot in this game. We were so close to making the Final Four against North Carolina. That would have been bananas.” Just another time that he was so close to a title. His mind wanders to an imaginary pick roll, with Tyler Hansborough guarding him on a switch.Just before he has a chance to cook Hansborough, he hears the doors of a minivan close in the driveway.

The women are back from the beach. Steph can hear them laughing in unison. Riley Curry’s voice is the most audible. She is holding court and the women are loving it. The door to the kitchen opens and they all enter. The first one inside is Riley, with a black Barbie doll in her hands and her aunt Sydel right behind her. The Barbie’s hands are outstretched, but its legs are bent, as if it too were sitting in the car.

Ayesha walks in next with Ryan in her carseat. Sonya walks in last, holding a paper bag full of groceries. She lays the car keys on the kitchen counter and immediately opens the pantry and refrigerator doors.

Steph sits up, pausing the television.  

“Hey! Ya’ll back already? Mama is there anything else in the car to bring in?” Steph kisses Ayesha on the lips. Riley runs up to Steph and slaps his bare kneecap and yells, “Where is my kiss Daddyyyyyyyyy?”

He grabs her by the torso, beneath her armpits and lifts her up to his chest, then cradles her against his body and kisses her right eyelid. She immediately wipes at her eyebrow with the back of her hand.  “Ugh that’s my eyeball daddy. Don’t kiss my eyeball. That’s gross.”

Everyone laughs.

“I’m sorry baby.” Steph gently places Riley onto the floor feet first. He repeats his question to his mother. “Mama. Is there more stuff out there?” He leans his head in to investigate the contents of the bag.

“Move boy.” says a laughing Sydel. Steph fakes as he if he is going to touch her hair. Sydel flinches. “Stop playing Steph.”

Sonya shakes her head. “No Steph we got it all. You can go back to what you were doing.” Steph turns his head towards the paused television screen. It is stuck on an image of a white haired man in a KU shirt hi-fiving what could easily be his younger son–who is also in KU garb.

“What are you watching Steph?” Ayesha asks as she walks into the living room. She sits on the couch with baby Ryan in her arms. She lifts Ryan up to smell the back of her diaper, then lays her down on her back, rifling through a diaper bag with one hand while removing the baby’s onesie.

“The Kansas game from 2008 just happened to be on, but I wasn’t really watching it.”  Everyone freezes. Ayesha looks up at Steph who is standing at the base of the couch. Sydel and Sonya exchange knowing looks in silence. Riley throws her Barbie into the air singing, “SUPERRRRR Black Barbieeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

Ayesha returns her attention to changing the diaper. She measures her words before speaking, as if she wants to say the right thing. “Baby you sure you alright? Its gotta be tons of stuff that you can watch that isn’t going to remind you of……”

“Of what?” Steph interjects. “Failures in the clutch?” He laughs weakly. “Baby I said I’m good. It is just a game. We past that now. I’m living in the moment with youuuuuuuuuu.” He leans over and kisses her cheek. Ayesha smiles. “But yo! I think I am gonna go for a quick run though before thangs get too hectic round here.” Steph grabs his phone and earbuds from off the coffee table and pats Riley on the head as she plays on the kitchen floor.

“Don’t mess up my hair daddy!” she yells without even looking up. Everyone laughs.

“Mama you need anything while I’m out? I’m gonna go for a quick job before daddy and Seth get back.”

Sonya walks towards Steph and gently pats him on his abdomen. “No son. We are good. We’re just gonna start chopping stuff to make a salad to go with this leftover Salmon.” Steph’s eyes light up and he smiles. “Ooooooowwweee. We got that dressing that I like to go with it?”

“You talking about that Green Goddess? We might be out. Don’t worry. I’ll whip something up that you’ll like even better. Ayesha showed me a new recipe. It’s delicious. AND fat free.”

“Alright ya’ll. Call me if you need anything. Riley! I’m leaving you in charge of things. Call me if NANA acts up okay?”

Riley drops her toy onto the tile lets out a high pitched squeal. She touches her face with her tiny hands “You’re silly!”

Steph throws a wink at Sonya and Sydel. Then runs down the stairs leading to the driveway. He stops to find his jogging playlist, titled “Drizzy off the Hizzy”, then resumes jogging.He runs out the driveway and into the street.

Inside the house, Sonya and Sydel stare out the window, watching him until he disappears out of view. Sonya sighs. Then she runs a bell pepper under the running faucet. Sydel begins chopping carrots on the cutting board. Neither of them say anything as they work in silence. Riley runs over towards the couch and hugs Ayesha’s knee. Ayesha responds by grabbing the remote control. “Wanna watch Blues Clues Riley?”

Riley’s face is buried in her mother’s pant leg. She gives a muffled “no.” Ayesha feels a wet spot on her knee. Riley has deposited a spot of saliva on her jeans. “Girrrrrrrrrrllllllllllllllll What is you doing?” Riley laughs.

[End of Scene]

 Scene 2

The Curry family is sitting at the dinner table at a restaurant. Drinks have been had. Food has been consumed, and coffee is being served with the dessert. Ayesha and Steph are sharing a chocolate mousse. Sydel is eating a cheesecake with a drizzle of strawberry puree. Dell declines a refill on his cup of black coffee and discreetly hands the waiter his credit card while Steph isn’t looking.

Ryan is strapped into her highchair and baby seat. She is fast asleep. Riley animatedly yawns. Her uncle Seth seizes the opportunity to tickle her tummy. “Stoppppppppppppppppppppppp” she pleads. Seth guiltily laughs and grabs his fork, snagging a bite of his sister’s cheesecake.

Sonya quietly sips her glass of wine. She stares at her half empty plate for a moment; smiles, then whispers in Dell’s ear. “You should probably talk to him Dell. He seems a little down. Ayesha says he has been listening to nothing but Drake for almost 2 weeks now.”

Dell winces and places his hand on her knee. He whispers. “I’ll talk to him. I promise. We gotta give him some time to process this. The Finals just ended. We can’t force him to talk about it until he’s ready.”

Sonya nods and gently plants a kiss on Dell’s lips. “Okay. I guess you’re right.”

The waiter returns to the table. In his hands is a black book which holds Dell Curry’s credit card and receipts. “Top copy is yours sir.”

“Thank you” Dell says as he takes the pen and pad from the waiter.

Steph seeing that his father has paid, says “Dad what are you doing? I told you I had this.”

Dell smiles. He gives  the stop gesture with his hand. “Son. Don’t worry about it. Just because you make more money than me doesn’t make you too grown to let your dad pick up the check. Besides, I haven’t had a chance to treat you for having such an outstanding season.”

Steph drops his fork. The light mood suddenly shifts into a slight tension. Steph looks pained. “What are you talking about dad? We blew a 3-1 series lead. We had a chance to dance on MJ and Scottie’s graves, and we didn’t get it done. I let the team down.”

Sonya’s mouth falls open. Seth’s eyes grow big in astonishment. Riley throws her napkin in her uncle’s lap, then reaches across the table for her sippy cup. Ayesha grabs a hold of Steph’s hand and starts rubbing his palm with her fingertips.

“Aw son. I know it hurts. But you can’t let it get in the way of appreciating what you accomplished this year. You’re the last guard to win back to back MVP’s since Steve Nash, and you beat the Bull’s regular season record. You have nothing to be ashamed about.”

“But we didn’t finish the job. And Lebron was so mean to me. I hate him dad. He thinks he is the king, but he’s just an overgrown prince. He should be 1-5 in the Finals at this point. Now I know how the 2013 Spurs feel.” Steph is visibly agitated. His hands are shaking. He looks as if he is about to cry.

Seth speaks up. “Aw Steph. We all know how you feel bruh. But look at it this way. You probably woulda won if Dray hadn’t gotten suspended.”

Steph gently pushes his mousse to Ayesha and stands up. He releases his wife’s comforting hand. “What do you know huh? Duke didn’t win a doggone thing when you were there. In fact, you’ve never even sniffed a championship game. You giving me advice is like Ozzie Canseco trying to help Jose with his batting stance. It’s like Billy Ripken showing Cal Ripken a new way to take grounders. It’s like Chris Penn—”

“Wardell! Stephen!!! Curry!!! That. Is. Enough!” Everyone’s mouths are agape with eyes turned toward Sonya. She dabs at her eyes with a kleenex. The pregnant pause is broken by Riley, who bangs her sippy cup against the table. She awkwardly tries to remove the top off her cup so that she can pour her juice in Seth’s lap.

Steph knows that he has gone too far, and walks away from the dinner table. He grabs a toothpick from the host stand, and walks outside the restaurant. Beneath the awning are two valet attendants. One of them is on his phone, swiping Tinder matches. The other is practicing his crossover with an imaginary ball. Neither one of them see Steph Curry walk up beside them. Steph waits a beat before planting himself on the curb of the sidewalk.

The rest of the Curry family are inside grabbing their stuff and preparing to go back home. Dell is the first one to approach the valet stand. The young man practicing his basketball moves only notices him in the midst of a putting up a layup attempt. He stops, says hello, then embarrassedly taps the other guy on the shoulder and hands him the keys to the Curry’s Escalade.

The valet runs off to grab the minivan while the other Currys amble outside and hang out by the curb. Steph lets out a deep sigh and walks back over to the family. Sonya walks towards him and embracing him. Steph meekly mouths “I’m sorry” before collapsing into his mother’s arms. He cries silently as the entire family engages in a group hug.

Dell stands stoically on the outside holding baby Ryan in her baby seat. Ayesha runs one free hand along Steph’s back. Riley somehow avoids the huddle and is attempts to grab a set of keys from the valet stand. The valet attendant doesn’t see her because he is trying to pull up the video function on his Iphone. The minivan arrives and the family slowly piles into the car once baby Ryan and baby Riley are securely fastened into their car seats.

[End of Scene]

 Scene 3

Steph is shooting baskets in an empty, well lit gym at a nearby high school. Once again, he is adorned in his Under Armour gear. He takes three dribbles with his left hand then takes three dribbles with his right hand. He brings one final dribble behind his back with his left hand, and then hoists up a  mid-range jumper that hits nothing but net.

“There you go!” a voice says as the ball hits the wooden floor. It is Dell. Dell grabs the ball as it is rolling towards him and hoists up his own deep jumper. It hits nothing but net. Steph shags the make and throws it back out to Dell. Dell hits the front end of the iron and Steph rebounds it, dribbling the ball back out to the top of the key.

“I guess I was kind of a diva back there wasn’t I?” says Steph as he shoots and makes another three pointer.

“Aren’t most point guards?” Dell responds. He jogs into position to catch the ball and pass it back to Steph. “Your brother knows you didn’t mean it. Just apologize to him when you get back to the house.”

“I shouldn’t have said that about his college team though. He cherishes his time with Coach K. That was kind of a low blow.” Steph puts up another shot. It goes through the net without even hitting the rim.

Dell smiles. “It wouldn’t get you suspended for a Finals game, but it was definitely dirty.”

Steph loses it, laughing so hard that he has to put the ball down. “Yeah Dray did put us in a spot didn’t he?’

Dell picks up the ball, pump fakes it, dribbles, then shoots a turnaround fadeaway shot that J.R. Smith himself would be proud of. It goes in, making a “thwack” sound as it hits the net. Steph grabs the ball after a couple of bounces and hits his old man for another three. Dell swishes this one too.

Steph throws another pass to Dell. Dell pump fakes. He dribbles. Then he hoists up a brick that misses badly, hitting the right corner of the orange backboard square. He misses so badly that Steph doesn’t even need to rebound it. It bounces right back to the elder Curry. He makes the next shot though. “Son. I played in the league a long time, and you know how many conference championships I played in?”

“None?”

“That is correct son.” Swish. In goes another basket. Dell takes two dribbles towards the paint and lofts up a floater. It rims out. Steph dribbles the ball towards the left corner (where he once shot 95 % for the playoffs) and tickles the twine. Dell shags the ball and throws it back to a planted Steph, who releases it almost as fast as he receives it. They repeat this process in silence four more times before Steph misses long and to the right.

Finally Dell continues. “You know basketball is a team game. It takes a lot of breaks for a team to even get to the Finals–much less win one.” Steph moves to the left elbow after taking a pass from his dad. He dribbles, spins to his left, and then floats a left handed shot that kisses the left corner of the backboard before falling in. He grabs his own rebound and starts spinning the ball off his index finger.

“Dray getting suspended hurt the team. Those extra games didn’t help Andre’s back, and Bogut getting hurt didn’t leave you guys much rim protection. But you can’t dwell on that son. You’ve been in the league not even half as many years as I have and you’ve already played in 2 NBA finals. Do you know how proud that makes me son?”

Steph stops spinning the ball and looks at Dell. The ball drops with a thud, bouncing on the floor twice before rolling towards the gymnasium wall. “You mean you’re not ashamed to be the father of a choker?”

Dell shoots an incredulous look at Steph. “Wardell Stephen Curry. Are you kidding me? Son, you have surpassed any and all accomplishments that I could have even dreamed of achieving as a player. You could have hung it up after your rookie season with those ankle injuries, taken the money and become a stockbroker. I would still be proud of you. Not only did you not rest on the laurels of being Dell Curry’s son, but you revolutionized the way the league plays. All your mother and I wanted was to see you succeed in life Steph. It didn’t matter what you chose as a profession. Not only are you a fantastic son, but you’ve been an incredible role model for your brother and sister, and an excellent father and husband. The Warriors could go 0 for 82 and I’d look at you like this shit gravy.”

Steph’s eyes light up as he goes to hug his father. Dell embraces his son and smiles.

“And believe me when I tell you this, you will play in many more Finals to come. Don’t sweat it. Even Magic had to come back and prove himself after blowing one against the Celtics. This isn’t over by any means. You’ll get back to the Finals next year against Cleveland, and then you’ll be the one saying mean things about Lebron and his mama.”

Steph takes a step back, breaking their embrace. “You really think so dad?”

Dell laughs. “Of course I do. But I’m not the only one. Just ask KD.”

Steph shoots his father a puzzled look. He musters up his best Gary Coleman impersonation. “What you talkin bout Dell Curry?”

“He is saying that there is no way we are going to blow this next one.”

Steph whips around and can’t believe his eyes. “KEVIN DURANT???!!! So you ARE going to sign with us?”

“HEHE” KD hoists up a 40 ft. jumper as if it is a free throw. It sinks into the net as cleanly as dime into a piggy bank. He slowly struts towards the Curry duo. “Like your dad says, basketball is a team game. I need the Warriors as badly as the Warriors need me dawg.” Durant extends his elbow and offers a high five that Steph has jump towards to complete. Durant then shakes Dell’s hand. “Yup my agent is handling all the paperwork right now as a matter of fact. My cousin is on the twitter and IG sending out cryptic messages. By tomorrow, it will be official dawg.”

image1

Dell’s face breaks into a smile the size of Mike Conley’s 153 million dollar contract. He watches as Kevin and Steph take turns re-enacting the Draymond Green kicking Steven Adams in the junk. KD argues that there is no way that it could have been an accident while Steph tries to insert “The Magic Bullet Theory” into the argument. This soon leads to good natured ribbing as Steph, Kevin, and Dell decide to have a 3 point contest. Dell considers texting Seth to come and join them, but remembers that Seth is only a 32 % shooter (at best) from behind the arc.

Outside the gym, in the teacher’s parking lot, is rapper and business mogul, Jay-Z. He is smoking a Cuban cigar that his buddy Barack gifted him. Jay-z smiles at the sound of the ball hitting the wooden floor. He is in the middle of texting a photo to his other buddy, rapper E-40. The photo is of Durant’s Escalade parked next to Steph Curry’s minivan. Jay-Z captions the photo with a message. I told you I’d make it happen. Just take care of me and Bey’s tickets for the season and we’ll call it even. #CHAMPIONSHIPBANNER #YAYAREA #ROCNATION.”

A navy blue Bentley pulls up. The driver gets out out of the car and opens the rear passenger door. The Geto Boys’ “Damn It Feels Good to Be A Gangsta” is playing on the stereo. Jay-Z ashes his cigar, then steps into the vehicle, but not before throwing one last look at the building. He takes a puff of his cigar, and he exhales. He reaches out and closes the door, then nods for his driver to take off.

Jay-Z checks his voicemail as the car pulls out of the parking lot. He realizes that he somehow missed three phone calls from his wife Beyonce. Her last voice message sounded urgent–something about finding a buyer for their extra Hamilton tickets. He exits out of his inbox and begins to dial her back, but then decides against it. “Hey turn that shit up B!” He excitedly yells. “This my favorite part of the song! Scarfaccccceee! You crazy for this one–HAHA!”

                        THE END

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at FullsassStudios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

Skeptical Optimism

Though there were a lot of positives to take from last night’s blowout win over the Warriors, Spurs fans are well advised to temper their expectations and curb their enthusiasm. Before the season began, I predicted the Spurs would win around 53 games, and despite last night’s performance, I am sticking to that prediction.

Don’t get me wrong, San Antonio looked fantastic (at times) last night in Oakland, but there were a few concerns raised throughout the game. For half the game they looked sloppy on offense giving up 13 turnovers (luckily the Warriors didn’t capitalize on them). The Spurs were in the minus column anytime Pau Gasol (-13) or Tony Parker (-12) were on the court. Gasol looked lost defensively, and I’ve written Ad Nauseam about Parker’s decreased mobility, as he approaches his mid-thirties.

San Antonio’s lack of rim protection may not hurt them against most of the league, but against strong physical teams like Cleveland and Oklahoma City, they may encounter some challenges (one could argue that a team like the Clippers could provide some headaches with their frontcourt as well).

There was plenty to be happy about, but to paraphrase what Reggie Miller said during last night’s telecast, “It is just one game.” The score is not indicative of how good either team is.

Though Warriors fans should be concerned, there is no reason for them to panic. Other than Durant’s offensive performance, people should consider this game an aberration. If Golden State gets outrebounded by 20 boards on a consistent basis, it will be a long season, but I don’t realistically see that happening. As a team they shot 46 percent, but only fared 21 % from the 3 pt. line (You won’t see them shoot that poorly from 3 too often), while the Spurs shot 50 % from the arc and 48 % from the field

Other notes:

  • Kawhi Leonard has shown himself to be worthy of being in this year’s  MVP discussion with 35 pts (a career high) on 10-21 shooting, and 5 steals–including one cookie theft from Steph Curry that ended spectacularly.
  • I’m still not sure how the Spurs are going to keep David Lee on the court, but he played decently last night. In 11 minutes of play, he managed to get a +13 rating with 6 points and 6 rebounds.
  • Although they will miss Danny Green’s defense, these next two weeks present an opportunity for wing players like Kyle Anderson and Jonathan Simmons to get more minutes. Anderson was one of the few players to nab a minus rating with a -3, but Simmons played brilliant minutes (+33), with 20 pts on 8-14 shooting, one filthy block on Steph Curry, 3 steals, and 4 rebounds.

Once again, Spurs fans have a lot to look forward to this season. They look younger, faster, and more athletic than last year’s team, but younger teams see both bigger spikes and dips in play. No rational basketball fan really thinks this is how San Antonio plays for the rest of the season, and Golden State has no choice but to get better. With 7 new players on the Warriors roster, moments of confusion and miscommunication are expected as players work on their chemistry.

The Warriors looked like they were still in preseason mode. I would be very surprised if they don’t pick up some players off later in the season (either through waivers, or trade) to supplement their Big 4. Their lack of depth showed, as their bench got outscored 56-16. That doesn’t happen to championship teams.

No matter if you are a Spurs or a Warriors fan, the thing to keep in mind is that it is one game–the first game, and that it is a long season. Making a prediction either way for either team would be akin to marrying someone immediately after your first date. It’s the NBA, and a lot of things will change between now and April.

 

profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at FullsassStudios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

2016-2017 Season Preview: Top 26 Storylines Part One

[This preview also appears as a post on fullsass.com. What does Fullsass mean? Well check it out for yourself.] 

All Illustrations by Louis Eastman

We are only a few days away from the beginning of training camp, time to dust off the cobwebs and fire it back up. Although the biggest story of the off-season was the Kevin Durant free agency, there are plenty of other story lines to follow this year. I’ve listed (from A-Z ) the ones that I find the most compelling for the 2016-2017 season.

Amin Elhassan fullsizerender-4

ESPN’s most merciless twitter troll is a must follow this season.

Amin is great not only for his tendency to roast any unlucky soul stupid enough to tweet some dumb shit, but also for his great insight into how things operate behind the NBA scenes. Having worked in both the Knicks and Suns front office before his stop at ESPN, Elhassan is a wealth of insider knowledge.

What I love most about him is that he does not hold back in any of his funny–but often wickedly straight forward analysis. His creation of the #Pitino game is one the more underappreciated social media phenomenons you’ll experience during playoff elimination games. #Pitino game is just as a part of the playoff pageantry as TNT’s Gone Fishing segments, but more interactive and way more clever. 

Buddy Hield

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Back in 2015 he simply slid into place. Buddy Buddy Buddy All up in my face.

Is Buddy Hield the Real Deal Holyfield? Inquiring minds want to know. It is a little too early to anoint him as the sidekick to Anthony Davis, but if Hield shoots as well as his reputation suggests, then this could be a good working relationship for the two. Hield wasn’t exactly a defensive stopper in college, but that hasn’t kept James Harden from receiving tons of (mostly deserved) accolades. He could be a nice small ball option for Pelican’s coach, Alvin Gentry, who is looking at a very thin back court-especially with Jrue Holiday absent from the team for personal reasons. 

Celtics Are Legit Contenders

Had the C’s managed to get Horford and Durant this off-season, you could have  penciled them in for the NBA Finals (and I doubt anyone one would have argued with you). As it stands, they only have two reliable scorers, Isiah Thomas and Horford (who has never averaged a 20 and 10 at any point in his career). Isiah Thomas is great at getting his own shot, but he isn’t much of a distributor.

Avery Bradley is an all NBA defender, but anything he gives you on offense is considered icing on the cake (Bruce Bowen 2.0?), and their outside shooting is too reliant upon Kelly Olynk shooting a high percentage. I think they are still two really good players away, or one superstar and a role player (probably a backup pg) away from being in the conversation to knock off the Lebrons for the Eastern Conference crown.

Draymond Green

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Steph Curry may be the league MVP, but I think the team MVP for the Golden State Warriors is Draymond Green. Klay Thompson, Curry, and Green are all irreplaceable, but the intangibles that Dray provide for that team are immeasurable. The league’s decision to suspend him changed the course of that series, as the Warriors were dead in the water after game 5. Regardless, had Dray kept his head, the hometown of Jive Ass Don King would still be without a title today. 

Had we laid money on “Finals player most likely to send pictures of their ding-dong to all their Snapchat followers”, most people would have place their bets on J.R. Smith. I think the public opinion of Draymond Green will be cemented for the rest of his career, according to how he performs both on and off the court this season. The Warriors need his fire, but he has to learn to harness it if they are going to get back to the Finals.

Everybody Eats This Season 

The NBA has never been a better league to play in. Owners are making money hand over fist. The league just signed a lucrative television deal that allows even scrubs *ahem* players like Matthew Dellavedova to cash in a meal ticket. Allen Crabbe made 70 million to stay in Portland.

The Grizzlies’ Mike Conley leveraged his way into a 153 million dollar contract and for a couple of months, was the highest paid player in league history. This year’s 90 million dollar salary cap is only going to get larger (reportedly $118 million next season), so dudes are about to get paid. Now that everybody is eating, let’s start taking bets on who will eat themselves out of the league.

Finals Rematch (Again)

We can just stop this right now huh? No need to even play the season out. Forget preseason. Let’s put it on simulation mode like NBA Live 95? Barring any major injuries, I don’t see how anyone out west beats Golden State, or anyone out east beating Lebron.

I’m looking forward to the rubber match between these two teams. Kevin Durant is going to be the deadliest 4th option you’ve ever seen in the NBA Finals. The running thread all season will be “If Lebron beats the GSW super team will he be the greatest?” or “Will this championship validate KD’s career even though he joined a super team?” I personally don’t blame Durant or the Warriors for signing him. I bet it sucks losing to Lebron, but I bet it sucks even more losing to him after getting spotted a 3-1 series lead. This is the best reoccurring story line since Lakers vs.Celtics last decade. Stay tuned.

Giannis Antetokounmpo Playing The Point 

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I’m not saying the Bucks will be in the Eastern Conference Finals. I’m not saying that I think they will get back in the playoffs. I’m not even saying they will be fun to watch, but there will be at least 20 nights this season where Giannis does something to make Sportscenter top 10 highlights. 

Harrison Barnes: The 94 Million Dollar Man

I personally think Barnes will do well in Dallas. The city has a way of being a decent stop for exorbitantly rich black athletes (if they perform decently ). Of course, you have to wonder what is considered reasonable expectations for a contract like the one Barnes signed. For what it is worth Mavs fans, he will be a better investment than Roy Tarpley, Cherokee Parks, Erick Dampier and Shawn Bradley all put together. He can’t be any worse………right?

Iggy’s back  

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No I am not talking about the Nick Young’s ex fiancee’s booty (although it makes for an interesting google search #therabbithole). If Andre Iguodala is unhealthy, forget about the Warriors getting a chip for Kevin Durant. Iggy is one of their best defenders, and he was the guy who guarded both Durant and Lebron down the stretch of last year’s playoffs. By the time games 6 and 7 of the Finals came around, he was gassed (who is to say that a healthy Iggy doesn’t try and dunk the ball on that infamous Lebron chase down block?). 

Now that Durant is a teammate, there is no one in the west (outside of Kawhi Leonard) to push him defensively. Theoretically, he should be fresh for his Finals dance with Lebron. Then again, 30-year-old backs are more fickle than 23-year-old girlfriends. You never know how things will flare up from night to night. 

 

The 3 J’s (reboot)

My dude Joakim Noah is back in his hometown playing for the Knicks. No matter how he does on the floor, homie is going to be slaying it off the court. It is good to see Jeff Hornacek get another head coaching shot. He got a raw deal in Phoenix. Robert Sarver pulled the old bait and switch with Hornacek. The Suns front office didn’t bring back key players, but kept expecting the same results . It was unfair to everyone involved; Hornacek, the players, the fans, and League Pass subscribers who were unexpectedly treated to a near playoff run in 2014.

As for Phil, no one could figure out why the hell he hired Derek Fisher; but he corrected that mistake by firing D-Fish midway through the season. This is his third and most pivotal season as Knicks GM, because if they suck again this year, it will be tough to lure free agents to sign with the club next season. 

Are they going to make the playoffs? Maybe, if 40 wins is enough to get in the Eastern Conference playoffs. Courtney Lee was a good pickup, and Derrick Rose may be able to add some punch if he can find the basketball court, and stay out of the criminal court. Rose thinks they have a super team in New York, but kind of like the word consent,there may be some confusion as to what the definition of a super team is.

40 wins for this roster would be the equivalent of making the Finals. I’d play with them on NBA2K, because you don’t really need subs on a video game, but in real life, their bench is thin. Pencil them in for 30 wins.

Klay “ I’m Not Sacrificing Shit” Thompson

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I’ll fight anyone who says he isn’t the best 2 guard in the league. He may not be able to attack the rim like Demar Derozan (apparently the 46th best player in the NBA), but the man is the best defensive 2 guard; and his shot is wet. He is Ron Harper with a knock down J. Klay Thompson only benefits from the arrival of Kevin Durant.

TO BE CONTINUED:

 

BM

 

 profile pic b mick  Bobby Mickey is the alter ego of writer and poet Edward Austin Robertson. When he isn’t involved in some basketball related activity, actively looking for parties to deejay or venues to perform comedy, he can be found recording podcasts with Craig Stein at Fullsass Studios. Follow him on twitter @clickpicka79. For booking inquiries, send contact info to thisagoodassgame@gmail.com. 

 

 

 

 

 

Believeland Pt. 3 : The Cleveland Curse Has Lifted

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We finally got the #Goodassgame we all deserved. With so much history on the line, game 7 of this year’s NBA Finals felt like an NCAA title game on steroids. Conventional NBA wisdom states that the home team usually wins because role players don’t travel. Well this was not the case last night. Everyone who played chipped in for Cleveland.

Kevin Love got 7 rebounds in the first quarter alone, pulling in 14 total for the game. J.R. Smith, who’d been playing solid defense all series, played 38 minutes and threw in 12 points on offense. Kyrie Irving started out slow, but picked it up in the second half, scoring whenever the Cavs needed an answer on the court.

Tyron Lue shortened his bench to an 8 man rotation, with Mo Williams logging a team low 4:45. Lebron an ironman with an iron will logged a team high 46 minutes and 49 seconds. The man looked absolutely gassed during one TV timeout and yet still, he managed to pull off one of the sickest chase down blocks in playoff history.

Say what you will about Lebron James (and I have–he’ll never live down lobbying for suspensions of both Steph Curry and Draymond Green #fuckboishit), but you can’t ever say he never shows up for big games. After logging another triple double (don’t get too hung up on the 9/24 shooting) to put the Kyrie in a position to hit the game winning three pointer, with less than a minute left, Lebron won what should have been his second of back-to-back  Finals MVP’s.

All that being said, the Warriors should not have let the game get this close. They threw away possessions, they couldn’t squeeze the 50-50 balls, they had turnover after turnover during fast breaks where they had numbers, and gave the Cavs too many extra possessions. Golden State had been playing with fire all post season, and it finally caught up to them. I just had this feeling the whole game that if the Warriors were not leading by at least 5 baskets during crunch time, that the Cavs were going to find a way to win.

While Tyronn Lue  wasn’t exactly Coach of the Year material, he did enough to give Cleveland a chance to win this thing. You could tell around game 3 that he finally figured out how to use his chess pieces. Shortening his bench was a very smart move, Matthew Dellavadova was a liability every time he was on the court. Channing Frye gave up more backdoor than–never mind that’s just too easy of a joke to make.

Keeping Tristan Thompson on the floor kept the Warriors from going small, and when Andre Bogut got hurt (an underrated passer in addition to his defense and rebounding), it spelled trouble for the Warriors. Festus Ezeli is a much better player when he can just catch lobs, and any time Anderson Verajao touched the ball for more than a second, a disaster occurred.

The lack of contribution of the role players in the last two series really surprised me this post season. All season long, this was Golden State’s biggest advantage over teams, and for whatever reason, they showed up to the party without even bringing a case of beer. Harrison Barnes stunk up the joint, and probably played his last game in a Golden State uniform (Kevin Durant to the Warriors may not be as far-fetched as it originally sounded–he was exactly what they needed against Cleveland. There would have been no answer for that puzzle piece).

The role players who seemed to make the most impact didn’t get much run. Leandro Barbosa (+5), Shaun Livingston (+8), and Mo Speights (+3) only played a combined 20 minutes; with Livingston getting 16 of them. I ride for Steve Kerr. He possesses one of the most intelligent basketball minds in the game today, but he made some head scratching decisions down the stretch–mainly playing Ezeli, Verajo and Barnes too much, when it was clear they weren’t going to get it done.

For my money, the turning point in that game was when Festus Ezeli got caught on a switch, and bit on the Lebron James pump fake (way out on the perimeter) that netted James three free throw attempts. Lebron hit all three, the Warriors failed to score the next time down, and then Cleveland scored with a Kyrie Irving bucket to tie it on the next possession. That was the last time in the game that Golden State had command, as things got tight for both teams for a 4 minute scoreless stretch. The Warriors quit passing, and quit moving without the ball, and became a jump shooting team that couldn’t get shots to fall. Which again, maybe the bench guys should have played more, because you know, starters get tired in these type of games.

This was akin to the Seahawks-Patriots Super Bowl 2 years ago, where Seattle should have blown New England out, but the minor details allowed Tom Brady and company to hang in there long enough to figure out a way to win.

It is hard to feel sorry for Golden State. I can see why they were becoming so hated outside of Dub Nation. The bandwagon fandom surrounding their hype machine was getting tiresome (half of them Lakers fans wanting to latch onto a winner). They were depending on Andrew Bogut to remain healthy for 2 years in a row, with a front court that even the ’93 Suns would think was suspect. Their owner went on the New York Times bragging about how their organization was “light years ahead of everyone else”, and even hinted about a menage a trois with last year’s Finals Trophy (and to think people put their lips on that thing). Their star guard kept tempting the basketball gods with his circus plays and trick shots, haughtily laughing every time he ripped out the hearts of teams and fan bases alike. To be up 3-1, and to lose in this matter, is the most excruciatingly extreme serving of humble pie that can ever be served to a team. The Warriors got what they deserved, and if there is anybody I do feel for, it is the true blue fans who were coming to the games even when they sucked–the ones who seemed crazy for believing that they could beat the #1 seeded Mavericks in 2007.

I’ll be the first to say that the Draymond Green suspension was horseshit. How Dellavadova’s nutshot constituted a common foul and Draymond’s incidental contact merited a flagrant foul is beyond me. We can say that is why they lost, but there is a reason teams employ the “next man up” philosophy (NFL careers were birthed from this philosophy at the “U”). Golden State just wasn’t as good as we (or they) thought they were.

You have to give credit where credit is due. Cleveland stepped up their game when they needed to,and the Warriors played as if they were still facing the Blazers (no disrespect). Years from now, we will remember that Lebron James took a shoot first, one assist having ass point guard, an embarrassingly bad, and one-dimensional power forward, J.R. “You trying to get the pipe” Smith (someone who Chauncey Billups once famously asked George Karl to “get him the fuck out of the game”) –the textbook definition of an NBA knucklehead, Richard Jefferson’s honeycomb eating looking ass, and a bunch of other nobodies, and won a championship for one of the most cursed sports cities in the history of cursed sports cities.

If Lebron retired tomorrow, this would be enough to get him in the Hall of Fame. Last year, Lebron was John Henry, this year he is Paul Bunyan. Even a hater like me has to respect that. This man has not missed an NBA Finals since 2010, and guess what people? Barring a seismic shift in the east, he’ll probably be back next year. I would not be surprised if it is against Golden State again either. But that is for an NBA Preview to be written later.

Despite all the hullabaloo about Cleveland and Lebron and curses, let us not forget who the real winner was last night: Oscar Robertson. To borrow a phrase from Jason Whitlock, he was probably “watching last night’s game, cackling while rolling up a blunt.” Cleveland’s perimeter defense smothered the Splash Brothers by getting up in them and picking them up at half court–exactly the type of defense Robertson said was needed to contain those beige muthafuckas. Respect to the “Big O” and his hating ass.

Since we are at it, the biggest L goes to Under Armour, whose poster boys, Cam Newton and Steph Curry could not get it done this year when it counted the most. To quote Mars Blackmon, “is it the shoes?”

All jokes aside, this has been year 3 of this blog, and thanks to all of you who take the time to read this bullshit. This was easily the least work, and most fun of all the seasons of writing this. I may actually be getting the hang of this. Also big ups to my podcast partner, Craig Stein for starting the FullSass Podcast with me. It has been both a fun and invigorating project, and I look forward to stepping up the sass level to something fuller next season. One last shout out goes out to the PDXPats crew for all the inspiration and competition. I look forward to being on the show again, and I promise we won’t write anymore diss records if you don’t give us a reason to.

It’s been real folks. Now go out there and get some sunshine and fresh air, and live like normal folk. #Ballislife, but there is also life outside of ball.

 

Peace,

BM

#fullsass #thisagoodassgame

@clickpicka79

thisagoodassgame@gmail.com

 

REMATCH

Before I break down the NBA Finals rematch between the Cavs and the Warriors, I gotta give it up to the Oklahoma City Thunder. As busterish as they have become, they balled out this post-season.

Steven Adams may have been the biggest surprise. He went from role player to key player this year, and he may soon be the third most important player on this team. Like most people, it was easy to get blinded by the fast start of the Spurs and Warriors. Oklahoma City was a threat to both of those teams, but it was difficult to take the Thunder seriously because of the way they lost games to inferior teams in the regular season.

Even if Andre Roberson spends the summer taking 400 3 pointers a day, I don’t see him being more than a Thabo Sefalosha 2.0. They could use a consistent 3rd scorer, and they can bring Kanter and Waiters off the bench next year and be back in the Western Conference Finals next year (assuming Mike Conley doesn’t go to San Antonio).  But for real, I got a little bit more respect for the Thunder after this post-season.

 

Good Ass Games of the Week:

Cleveland vs. Golden State  Best of 7

Games 1,2,5,and 7 in Oakland

Games 3,4, and 6 in Cleveland

 

People are saying that these are the same teams from last year, except that Cleveland is healthy. This is true to some degree, but both teams are actually better than last year. Cleveland not only has a healthy Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, but they also have Channing Frye to bring off the bench as a 3 point threat. Now that Cleveland has these three weapons on offense, I’m going to ask this question: Who are they going to guard?

People assume that Game 1 of last year’s Finals would have automatically gone to Cleveland had Irving not been injured, but he was getting roasted on the other end of the court by Steph Curry. Kevin Love should send a Derek Jeter style gift basket to James Harden for taking attention away from his own poor defense. One could argue that they were better defensively up front last year when Love hurt his shoulder.

In order not to get swept in this series, Cleveland needs to do 3 basic things:

  1. Win the 3 point battle. Easier said than done right? Besides chasing the Dubs off the 3 point line and forcing them to take 2’s, Cleveland will need Channing Frye and J.R. Smith to stretch the Warrior D by continuing to hit from outside the arc. This would of course, open up the floor for Kyrie and Lebron to attack the rim and put the Warriors bigs in foul trouble.
  2. Force the Warriors to turn the ball over. The Cavs love to get out running in transition and get easy baskets (dunks). This is exactly how the Thunder pushed the Dubs to the brink of elimination. The Warriors can’t be casual with the ball like they were last round. Hopefully that was their wake up call.
  3. Get Big. Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love need to get double-digit boards every night if they hope to have a chance. Thompson’s effectiveness as a rim protector may be compromised if “Mo Buckets” Speights can get loose with his jump shot. I’m curious what counter will Tyronn Lue uses if this problem arises. Timofey Mosgov may or may not get some run this series.

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I’m interested how the cupcake opponents and long layoff will affect the Cavaliers. It is hard to simulate the kind of intensity that the Warriors had to muster to come out of the last round. I would not be surprised if the first half is won easily by the Warriors. I don’t see Game 1 being an overtime thriller like last year (I’m also the same guy who said Warriors in 5 last round). Also would anyone be surprised if Kevin Love or Kyrie Irving got injured and missed a game or two this series?

I think the Warriors will in this in 5 games, and I’m only saying 5 out of respect for Lebron James. They’ll win at least one at home in Cleveland.

 

BM

@clickpicka79

#thisagoodassgame #fullsass

thisagoodassgame@gmail.com