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. 

On the Legacy of LeBron James, the Future for Kevin Durant and the Zenith of Busterism

 

Kevin Durant should be celebrated. He is a fantastically gifted scorer who possesses the skills of an elite guard, but has the wingspan of a center.The University of Texas product is certainly on the way to the Hall of Fame, if not the top of the Association’s all-time scoring register. He can shoot, he can create, and as this year’s Western Conference Finals showed, he can actually play some defense.

Yet public opinion on Durant has been waning for years, long before his aptly-timed Independence Day heel turn that saw fans – and sportswriters – roll their eyes in disgust and revolt from his side en masse. The timeline of how this happened, or more accurately, how Durant let this happen, is a complicated one.

Because of his prodigious talents and the timing of his league entrance, KD will always (probably unfairly) be compared to LeBron James. Although both players are nominally small forwards, with the blurring of positions and roles in the modern NBA, the two couldn’t be any more different.

“Bron-Bron” has never been a deadly spot-up shooter like KD, just as Durant has never possessed the world-class court vision and passing ability of James. LeBron thrives on creating for others in the Magic Johnson point forward role; KD is at heart; a volume shooter (albeit a brilliant one). Their respective games are markedly different, a fact that’s always been understated in comparing the two.

But those die have been cast. James and Durant are both super-duper-megastars, they’re of a similar age, they play the same position; therefore, they have to be measured against each other. This is product of fan culture, of media culture and of the pressure former players put on current stars. Durant is not to blame for that.

He’s far from blameless, though. When LeBron signed with Miami following the infamous “The Decision” special in 2010, the public opinion of him plummeted. Never mind that the Cleveland team(s) he left had embarrassingly weak supporting casts (more on this later). He was abandoning his hometown (more or less) team to create a super team and was roundly derided for it.

In that first season in Miami, James tried to double down. Tired of being the calm, collected superstar, he attempted to play the bad guy on the Heat. It didn’t work. It was forced, and later, he admitted that he was mentally exhausted by the act. Notably, the next season, Leron returned to his normal personality en route to his first title. This is where Durant should have been better.

Writers have said for some time that Durant is impressionable and emotional, that “he sometimes makes decisions rashly” and, more alarmingly, “with the intent of choosing the course of action that will please others.” In that context, it is easy to see how a marketing team in KD’s ear could have watched James’ struggles over the first year in Miami and seen an opportunity – one that Durant was all too quick to embrace.

kevindurant

With LeBron as the league’s new villain, KD tried to position himself as the NBA’s new golden boy. Aided by sycophantic writers eager to buy into the idea of Durant as the humble superstar, public opinion of KD soared. He bought into his own mythos, signing a contract extension with the Thunder in a clear attempt to make himself the anti-LeBron: soft spoken, nice, loyal, and team-first.

LeBron gained some supporters back by defeating Durant soundly in the 2012 Finals, but with the Thunder positioned as the West’s team of the future, the loss didn’t seem particularly significant. A group as talented and as young as OKC would surely be back.

History played out differently. Trading James Harden was a massive mistake, yes, and injuries derailed the Thunder at various points. But as this past season showed, the team has copious talent and is still a championship contender. The excuses started to wear thin, and public perception of the team slowly pivoted from “celebrated young upstarts” to “brash loudmouths without a ring.”

This was helped in no small part by the team’s behavior, from publicly claiming things would have been different with a healthy squad, to the actions of individual players. Serge Ibaka plateaued, and fans got tired of being told he was an elite defender. OKC kept bringing in unlikable, or overrated role players (Caron Butler, Dion Waiters, Kendrick Perkins). And as the lack of ultimate success continued, the team’s constant complaining – which manifested in the form of three consecutive top-two finishes in team technical fouls – got old (a Thunder player led the league in T’s in three of the past five seasons).

There’s a word for this kind of stuff: buster. OKC saw the public gradually turn on it because a team can’t be unlikable AND unsuccessful. If you’re going to be loud and defiant and claim you deserve respect as one of the league’s best teams, you’d better back it up. Failing to do so qualifies you as posers. Durant, as the team’s leader, was deservedly the face of that failure.

From an individual perspective, KD didn’t do himself any favors. As LeBron reestablished himself as (unquestionably) the best player in the world, and Durant continued to promote himself at the expense of another player, fans became less receptive. His impressionable, eager-to-please nature likely made it easy for his handlers to convince him this was the best course. He didn’t make that decision in a vacuum.

However, he did choose to tweet “Now everybody wanna play for the Heat and the Lakers? Let’s go back to being competitive and going at these peoples!” just days after “The Decision”. He chose to sign that big extension, knowing how it would look. And in the absolute nadir of blatant nice-guy pandering, he told Bill Simmons he wanted his nickname to be “The Servant” because he made his teammates better.

It was phony, it was obvious, and it was widely rejected. People don’t want to be told how humble you are. A move that transparent, combined with the rest of the Thunder’s collective busterism, soured fans tremendously. This brings us to KD’s decision to leave OKC and sign with Golden State.

To be clear from the outset: Durant has every right to leave. OKC management drafted well and was reportedly player-friendly, but it also made several questionable personnel decisions– headlined by the Harden trade and the curiously long tenure of one Scott Brooks. Without a doubt, the media-and-fan-created stigma of retiring without a championship loomed large in his mind.

It’s the destination he chose that solidifies Durant as a first-team All-Time Buster. Had he left for San Antonio, his hometown Wizards, or some other team with a decent roster, it would be understandable. Moving on for a better chance at a ring is a respectable business decision. What isn’t respectable is leaving for the team that broke the regular-season wins record, just beat you in a thrilling seven-game conference finals and was likely the best collection of talent the NBA has ever seen (if not the greatest basketball team of all time).

It is the ultimate cop-out, the ultimate admission of defeat and disinterest in carrying a team. This isn’t LeBron leaving for Miami. Look at the roster Bron was playing with his final season in Cleveland. Look at the list of corpses he dragged to the 2007 Finals against the Spurs. No wonder he couldn’t get it done before he went to Miami.

By contrast, this year’s OKC team featured a great young center in Steven Adams, a halfway decent bench and another one of the top five players in the world in Russell Westbrook. The Thunder just made a fantastic trade for Serge Ibaka that landed them Victor Oladipo as well as a pair of bigs to add depth in Ersan Illysova and (rookie) Domantas Sabonis. With KD, that team was possibly going to be as good as the Warriors next year, and the Thunder knew they really should have knocked off the Dubs this season.

When LeBron went to Miami, the Heat’s Big Three had never played together. They had spacing issues and chemistry issues and no real center on the roster. It was a remarkable collection of stars, but there’s a reason it took time for the team to learn how to play together.

Golden State will face far less of a challenge in adding Durant. The Warriors have already won a championship and should have won a second. They were, despite the end result of these playoffs, probably the best team of all time. All they’re doing is replacing a good player in Harrison Barnes with an elite one in Durant. It’s a significantly smaller obstacle that will in turn make winning a title significantly less meaningful for KD.

This move isn’t close to LeBron going to Miami. It’s the equivalent of an alt-history in which Lebron signs with Boston after being eliminated by the Celtics in 2010 (upgrading the position manned by Paul Pierce) and riding the coattails of Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to a ring. It’s the equivalent of Michael Jordan throwing up his hands after being eliminated by the Pistons three straight seasons and signing with Detroit in 1990. It’s disappointing, it’s weakness personified and it’s the ultimate endgame of the busterism KD signed on for way back when he agreed to be the foil to LeBron no one needed.

LeBron, on the other hand…

Where did last year’s Finals leave us with Lebron? To start with, it re-solidifies his place among the very best the game has ever seen, and his status as the current top player in the world. It makes the MVP’s of Derrick Rose (2010), Durant (2014) and Steph Curry (2015) look even more ridiculous in retrospect (Curry’s 2016 nod is acceptable). Most importantly, and thankfully, it finally closes the absurd argument that somehow Bron hasn’t done enough in his career to be included in “Greatest Ever” talks.

I get it. It’s natural to be threatened by change. People dislike when something new challenges their preconceived notions of what is and what should be. It’s why aged stars like Oscar Robertson claim players like Steph Curry would get crushed “back in their day.” It fuels the insecurity in Scottie Pippen when he claimed his Bulls would sweep this season’s Warriors. Ex-players don’t want to be forgotten or have younger players rewrite their accomplishments. Fans are no more rational than the players they support. But there seems to be a particular bent on diminishing James’ accomplishments.

That’s undoubtedly because James is the best player we’ve seen since Michael Jordan. He might end up being considered greater than MJ, or he might not, but it’s the mere notion that he COULD be that strikes so much unnecessary fear in the hearts of some fans. Why is this such a big deal? It comes back to insecurity.

If LeBron COULD one day be better than Mike, then what have all these fans been wasting their time with, stanning for a guy who isn’t the best player ever? It’s a particular fetishism of “The Best And Only The Best” that permeates so much of American culture, and when intertwined with personal identity it creates some truly inexplicable results.

LeBron James

You’d think that LeBron dragging a garbage fire to the Finals against San Antonio in 2007 would be a feat worth celebrating, but no, it makes him a choker. Ditto for the crippled six-man team he willed to a 2-1 lead last year against Golden State – one of the best teams of all time in their own right. What matters is that LeBron lost, and MIKE NEVER LOST IN THE FINALS SO Lebron is a fraud!! Apparently he’d have been better off losing in the first round like Jordan.

 

Never mind that LeBron was just 22 years old, and in his fourth season, when he took a bad team to the Finals. Never mind that it took four seasons for Michael Jordan to get out of the first round of the playoffs (and he promptly lost 1-4 in the second round). The sheen of a six-for-six Finals record is rightfully celebrated, but it tends to distract from MJ’s playoff struggles before he got to that point. Do you know how many playoff GAMES Jordan won without Scottie Pippen?

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The answer is one. MJ went 1-9 in the first round in his first three seasons, making the playoffs each year despite a losing record. The latter, of course, was a result of a smaller league, featuring talent consolidation on fewer teams and a near-total lack of quality international players (but that’s a discussion for another time). It’s an ugly mark, but Jordan’s later achievements overshadow those early years, as they should.

If it’s down to rings and rings alone, as some fans attempt to use as a trump card, then neither Michael Jordan nor LeBron James is the best player of all time. Bill Russell’s 11 rings are more than MJ and Bron combined. Yet even the most ardent old-guard supporters would likely concede that Russell is not the greatest player ever. Different eras are difficult to compare, even back-to-back ones like Jordan and James’.

All this of course, misses the point. There is not, nor will there ever be, a consensus greatest player ever. The subject is too subjective and emotion-based to have an “answer.” The most a player can do is put himself in the conversation. If a reasonable argument can be made for a player’s inclusion on that short list, he’s in the conversation. Jordan is there. LeBron is too (and by the way, his career is not over).

That’s what makes Durant leaving for Golden State so disappointing. Michael Jordan broke through in 1991 after struggling for years to get out of the east and rewrote the end of his story. LeBron James went to Miami, learned how to be truly great, then came home and did the same.

No matter how many championships KD wins as a Warrior, he’ll never be the leader of his team the way MJ and Bron were. The Warriors belong to Steph Curry. Durant going along for the ride will only diminish respect for what he accomplishes.

 

img_3186 Devon Singrey is a Portlander and creator of the college football blog, Making Sense of Saturday. His interests include basketball, football, history, mythology, funky music, and all things Prince.

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. 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

Everything We Could Have Asked For

This Western Conference Finals has given us drama, great soundbites, and (what do you know?) great action on the basketball court. This series has been the saving grace for this year’s playoffs. The Spurs-Thunder and Blazers-Warriors rounds had their moments, but this year’s Western Conference Finals has lived up to the hype that was percolating even as far back as last year (before Kevin Durant hurt his foot up in Oakland on the last possession in the first half of a regular season matchup).

I’ve spent most of the season bashing the Thunder for their histrionics, style of play, and lack of depth (for good reason), but they have been nothing short of impressive this postseason.

To many Thunder fans, the team fell into what felt like a mid-season swoon. This organization  faced some real life adversity;with deaths close to team members, front office heads and assistant coaches. Billy Donovan lost his best bench coach, Mo Cheeks (the Russ whisperer) to a hip surgery, during this difficult period (a lot of people are quick to praise Billy Donovan for making all the right moves. I agree that he has gotten better with his rotations and substitutions, but I also don’t think it is pure coincidence that Cheeks’ return had nothing to do with their success).

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Oklahoma City’s role players have really stepped up their games. Enes Kanter and Anthony Morrow have been put into situations where they can succeed (a product of good coaching). Dion Waiters has cut down on his bone headed plays. Kyle Singler is sitting on the bench where his ass belongs. The biggest leap, however; is Steven Adams’ sudden ascension as the third member of OKC’s “Big 3”.

Adams’ impact on the game has been the most  visible factor of this playoff run. Adams has influenced the rebound margins, defensive efficiency, and he is making a contribution on the offensive end; catching lobs, getting garbage buckets on offensive boards, and making nasty baseball passes for layups. When you think about all the front office moves made after the 2012 Finals run, (Perry Jones III, Jeremy Lamb, Mitch McGary, Kevin Martin) it may not be a stretch to think that the Adams draft pick (acquired in the James Harden trade) may have saved GM Sam Presti’s  job.

For the majority of this series, OKC has outplayed Golden State. Golden State’s role players have struggled this round–especially from the Oracle. The good news is that there is a game 7. Warriors blew game 1 with careless turnovers, and bad body language. People were shocked, but they deserved to lose that one. I didn’t care for their casual approach going into game 1, the way they played was disrespectful to the game, and the basketball gods made them pay for it.

The team returned to form in game 2, but they ran into a buzzsaw in games 3 and 4 (man those fans were loud).

The “Dray-gate” controversy and Warriors going back home with a 3-1 series deficit was exactly the type of drama this playoffs needed. Despite it being a “good ass game”, I knew there was no way they would lose in Oakland. draymond-green-030216-getty-ftrjpg_11yxu7bourk4613knzedu46jtp

Game 6 was going to be the true litmus test for both teams, with the Warriors facing an elimination game, on the road, in one of the most hostile environments in the NBA (Sorry Oakland, but the true Warriors fans have been consistently priced out ever since your team started winning again). Needless to say, game 6 delivered.

Klay Thompson put on one of the most memorable playoff performances I’ve seen that didn’t involve a certain young man from Akron, Ohio (no not Steph). The Warriors needed every one of the 41 points he put up, but the fact that he also played great defense, makes it even more impressive. He has been the playoff MVP for the Warriors this year.

The adage about road players not traveling well held true to form, as Klay Thompson, Steph Curry, and Draymond  Green did the heavy lifting. Andre Iguodala played timely defense, and had a clutch basketball to tie it up at 101-101. The reason I feel so confident about the Warriors wrapping it up tonight is that “No Buckets” Speights will turn into “Mo Buckets” Speights, Sean Livingston will contribute more offensively than he did on Saturday. I also think Harrison Barnes is going to show up. With the postseason Barnes is having, he may have cost his agent a family vacation in Rome this summer. I really thought he was going to make himself some money in April. I really wanted to see him take that leap this year (I’m sure I’m not the only one).

I think the game will be close until about the 4th quarter, and then the Warriors will go on a run to ice the game. I think the role players will be too much in this game. I knew the Thunder were in trouble during game 6 when they went to the half winning only by 5 points.

They’d dominated the entire half, and gotten the majority of the favorable calls, and still did not win. I would be incredibly shocked if the Warriors dropped this one tonight. Oklahoma City had their chance and they just couldn’t make it happen.

You can call it a meltdown, or you can say that Golden State was clutch. I’ll believe either narrative. No matter what happens tonight, I dare anyone to dispute that this series saved the NBA postseason this year.