NBA

News flash: Golden State is a pretty good team

News flash: Golden State is a pretty good team

Reaction and overreaction to Game 1 of the Finals:

  • It stinks to be Kevin Love sometimes. I'm hearing people say that he wasn't very good Thursday night, but 15 points and 21 rebounds isn't exactly a bad night, is it?
  • The Warriors won with ease even though Klay Thompson and Draymond Green combined to go 6-28 from the field. That doesn't bode well for the Cavs.
  • Don't ever go overboard on Game 1 of a seven-game series. Cleveland will have a better game and the Warriors may have a worse one. It takes some adjusting when you play the Warriors.
  • There were some Trail Blazer fans who were upset with me when I told them they'd have to be patient until the Warriors' reign of terror abated in a few years. But I wasn't talking about just the Trail Blazers. The way it looks now, there's really nobody in the league who can look ahead and figure they have a shot at stopping Golden State next season. That team is too good.
  • Yeah, I know, people think it's just terrible that one or two teams can dominate the NBA like this. But welcome to pro basketball. It's been pretty much like this forever. The Celtics, the Lakers, the 76ers, the Spurs, the Heat -- they've all taken their turn. Golden State waited 40 years in between championships and is getting its run now. In a game where there are only five players in action at a time, it's pretty easy for one or two players to create a big advantage. It's one of basketball's historic problems.
  • I'm convinced that the Warriors are one of the best teams I've ever watched in the NBA. They move the ball like the 1977 Trail Blazers and defend like some good Spurs teams. They are so deep that when they go to their bench, players you've never heard of before they became Warriors look terrific.

Three things to monitor during the NBA Finals

Three things to monitor during the NBA Finals

The NBA Finals (finally) start tonight in Oakland and here are three things to keep an eye on during the series, three things that could decide the Finals rubber match between these two superteams:

  • How will this series be officiated? Last year the Cavaliers were able to get very physical with Steph Curry -- holding him, bumping him and keeping him from the constant movement that helps him get free. If that happens in this series, not only with Curry but the other players who make the Golden State motion offense the best in the league, the Warriors are going to have trouble.
  • Can the Warriors bring down Cleveland's three-point field-goal percentage? The Cavaliers are making an impressive 43.5 percent of their threes and if that continues it's going to keep Cleveland in this series. And that percentage is not based on a small sample size. The Cavs have made 45 more three-point shots than the Warriors have in the playoffs. And people wonder why LeBron James is playing so well this postseason? He's got help in the form of shooters who have spread the floor, allowing him to get to the basket easier than ever. People talk a lot about Kyrie Irving but Kevin Love is critical for this team. So far, he's averaging 17.2 points per game in 32 minutes, with 10.4 rebounds per game and a 47.5 shooting percentage from three-point range. If those numbers hold firm in the Finals, the Cavaliers have a real shot.
  • How much coaching is Steve Kerr going to do in the Finals? I have tremendous respect for what he's done for that team and I think the Warriors can only reach their maximum potential with Kerr on the sidelines. Mike Brown is probably a very capable replacement but he's a replacement -- and substitute teachers are never as good as the real thing. Kerr has created a team that is superior on offense and very good on defense and it would be a shame if he couldn't be there to guide it to the end of the season. And it could also be detrimental to the Warriors' chance of capturing the championship.

Who do I think will win? Golden State. This is one of the league's all-time great teams and if Kevin Durant doesn't crack under the pressure of the Finals the Warriors should win. But I'm not sure it's going to be as easy as many people figure. Cleveland is the one team that can match Golden State's three-point production and that's a big key in the modern game. And to beat Golden State, you better score a whole lot of points.

It's high time for the NBA to rid itself of the incentive for teams to lose games

It's high time for the NBA to rid itself of the incentive for teams to lose games

OK, so Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban went public Wednesday morning, becoming the first owner I can recall to admit that his team tanked games:

"The Mavs, once we were eliminated from the playoffs, we did everything possible to lose games," he admitted Wednesday on the Dan Patrick Show.

Wow. I suppose we should salute the man for his honesty and he certainly didn't admit to doing anything that we know a substantial number of teams in the league do every season.

But really, shouldn't we take a more global view of the whole situation? I mean, what does it say about a league where a significant number of teams are trying to lose as many games as possible for a good part of the season? Is that fair to the paying customers? I don't think this happens in any other sports league. But the way the NBA lottery is set up, there is so much incentive for teams to get high draft picks in the rare sport where one player can turn a franchise around.

I don't like tanking and think any league with a conscience would do everything it can to stop such things. How? Well, there's a decent idea out there that's been around for a couple of years. It's been called "The Wheel."

I'm not going to attempt to get into the mechanics of it (you can go to the above link for that) but suffice it to say it involves simply rotating the draft order each year with everyone getting an equal shot at top picks. I didn't like the idea at first but I'm convinced now it's the best way to combat a league full of teams willing to temporarily dismiss the moral responsibility of trying to win every game.

Am I the only one in the world who is offended by a league half-full of teams intentionally trying to lose games? Honestly, I find it appalling and always have.

And maybe the wheel would help some of the mid-level teams escape the limbo of not being good enough to compete for a title and not being bad enough to hit the lottery. It might also help those borderline teams battle the super teams, which are dominating the league. You worried, with the wheel,  about one of the league's best teams ending up with the top pick every three decades?

Well, wake up! It has happened this year under the current system, with Boston holding the No. 1 choice.

I know this, as someone who watches a ton of NBA games every season, I think I saw more lousy regular-season games this year than ever before. There is too big a disparity between the bad teams and average teams. And too much difference between the great teams and the good ones.

Something must be done and it has to start with doing away with the incentive to lose games.

"Pop" is engaging in some situational ethics with his rant about Pachulia

"Pop" is engaging in some situational ethics with his rant about Pachulia

I've always kind of liked Gregg Popovich. But I've respected him even more than I liked him. He is one heck of a coach who has been able to adjust to changing times and players.

But he's been getting on my nerves lately.

I'm not a fan of the way he treats sideline reporters during games, seemingly turning ridicule into his favorite sport. And is it just me or does he seem to pick on the women more than the men? Either way, every other coach in the league has to put up with those in-game interviews and I'm not sure why he thinks he's so special that he shouldn't have to do them. And he seems to treat the people doing the interviews as if they were the ones compelling him to do the chats. Trust me, Coach, they are no more excited to talk to you than you are to them.

But Popovich's rant about Za Za Pachulia stepping under the airborne feet of Kawhi Leonard, which resulted in a Leonard ankle sprain, bothered me. Popovich, of course, is trying to intimidate officials into giving him a few more calls during Game 2 of the series against Golden State and intimidating officials is something the Spurs' coach does better than anyone in the league.

But he's also engaging in some situational ethics.

Bruce Bowen used to play for Popovich in San Antonio and he slid under so many sneakers that the ploy used to be called "the Bowen." But Popovich, when he heard the league had called Bowen and threatened his player with a suspension for such actions, sprung to Bowen's defense:

“So why did they call Bruce? Because it’s happened to him twice? Bruce guards an All-Star every night. If he was doing what they’re accusing him of doing, wouldn’t it have happened a higher percentage of times?”

And:

“The league is just trying to cover its ass,” Popovich said. “I told Bruce, ‘You be Bruce Bowen. You’re the best (expletive) defender in this league. You will NOT change the way you play defense.’

In other words, keep doing it Bruce. If they don't like it, too bad.

Now I will say that I've seen more incidents of this thing happening in recent seasons than I ever did in the old days. But is it intentional? Probably not, in most cases. But I would go along with Popovich that it doesn't matter if there is intent or not, players should not be allowed to slide under jump-shooting players.

Not that Popovich felt that way when his own player did it.

History tells us Rockets' margin of victory means nothing

History tells us Rockets' margin of victory means nothing

Not many people picked the Houston Rockets to defeat the San Antonio Spurs in their second-round playoff matchup that began last night in San Antonio. But I did. So you would think I'd be feeling pretty good about the Rockets after their 126-99 thrashing of the Spurs Monday night.

And even though San Antonio appeared to be way overmatched in Game 1 of the series, I feel worse about my prediction than you might think. That's because I was in the old Boston Garden on May 27, 1985 for the first game of that season's Finals when the Celtics ran the Los Angeles Lakers out of the gym with a humiliating 148-114 defeat. They called it the Memorial Day Massacre.

I was one of many people after that game to write about how washed up the Lakers -- and 38-year-old center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar -- looked in that game. Abdul-Jabbar finished with 12 points and three rebounds and just didn't look as if he could keep up with Boston's talented front line. I thought the series was over right then and there.

And I was very wrong. The Lakers won four of the next five games and closed out the Celts in Boston in Game 6 -- behind Abdul-Jabbar, who won the MVP award for the series. It was the only time the Celtics ever lost an NBA championship in that arena.

So that whipping Houston put on San Antonio didn't make me feel all that much better about its chances. It was just one game and next one doesn't start with the Rockets holding a 27-point lead.

I'd say the series hinges on the play of LaMarcus Aldridge, who scored just four points Monday night. When Aldridge left Portland for the Spurs, I'm sure he was satisfied with the salary he'd be making and the winning tradition of his new team. But I'm wondering now if he understood the sort of responsibility he'd be having to shoulder as the Spurs moved through the playoffs. Tim Duncan isn't going to be walking through that locker room door during this series.

There were times in Portland when I thought Aldridge wanted very much to be a superstar but didn't always respond like one. He had the talent... but did he have the heart?

He better find his way in a hurry for the Spurs because Kawhi Leonard can't be expected to carry that team by himself.

WARRIORS HEAD COACH STEVE KERR OUT INDEFINITELY WITH CHRONIC PAIN

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USATI

WARRIORS HEAD COACH STEVE KERR OUT INDEFINITELY WITH CHRONIC PAIN

Still suffering with chronic pain after multiple back surgeries nearly two years ago, Warriors coach Steve Kerr will step away from his duties for an indefinite period.

Kerr made the announcement Sunday afternoon, one day after he was unable to attend Game 3 of the first-round playoff series against the Trail Blazers at Moda Center. He conceded the possibility he could miss the rest of the postseason.

“This past week for whatever reason, things got worse,” Kerr said from the team hotel. “My symptoms got worse. And I was not able to coach. The last few days have been difficult.

“With things getting worse, I just made the decision I couldn’t coach. As of now, I’m consulting with my doctors. I’m hoping for some improvement. If I can get some improvement, I’ll get back on the sidelines. But I’m not going to do that unless I know I can help the team.”

CONTINUE READING

BREAKING NEWS: Steve Kerr, Kevin Durant OUT for Game 3

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USATI

BREAKING NEWS: Steve Kerr, Kevin Durant OUT for Game 3

In a stunning development just hours before tip-off of Game 3 between the Trail Blazers and Warriors at the Moda Center Saturday night, Golden State announced they'd be without their head coach. 

Kerr did not attend Saturday morning's shootaround because he was “under the weather,” according to a Warriors spokesman via NBCS Bay Area. He stayed behind at the team hotel.

Mike Brown, a three-time head coach, will assume head-coaching duties.

“Obviously, it’s different,” Draymond Green said via NBCSN, talking of the possibility that Brown would take over for Game 3. "It’s two completely different personalities. But at the end of the day, the beat goes on.”

This is at least the second time this season Kerr was unavailable for a morning shootaround on game day. He also missed one last month in Chicago.

Kerr missed 43 games during the 2015-16 season after continuous discomfort related to multiple back surgeries he underwent during the summer of 2015. 

Kerr has not missed any games this season.

DURANT, LIVINGSTON, BARNES QUESTIONABLE FOR GAME 2 VS BLAZERS

DURANT, LIVINGSTON, BARNES QUESTIONABLE FOR GAME 2 VS BLAZERS

Kevin Durant hates to acknowledge injury, which is why he said he was OK Sunday despite being examined by a member of the Warriors training staff in the third quarter of Game 1 against Portland.

“I’m cool,” Durant said when asked about it after a 121-109 Warriors victory.

Durant is not so “cool” after all, as the Warriors announced the 6-foot-9 forward missed practice Tuesday because of a left calf strain and is questionable for Game 2 on Wednesday.

Backup guard Shaun Livingston also is listed as questionable, with a hand contusion and sprain of his right index finger. Reserve forward Matt Barnes, who missed Game 1 with a right ankle/foot sprain, also is listed as questionable.

CONTINUE READING

Yes, Westbrook averages a triple-double -- but they're a lot cheaper these days

Yes, Westbrook averages a triple-double -- but they're a lot cheaper these days

I've heard a lot of people saying that Russell Westbrook should automatically be the NBA's Most Valuable Player simply because he's averaging a triple-double this season.

That's a great achievement, without a doubt. But this is also a season when triple-doubles have been more plentiful than any other time in NBA history.

On March 4, when Ricky Rubio recorded a triple-double, it was the 79th of the season in the league -- which broke a record for triple-doubles in the league set during the 1988-89 season. And as of right now, there have been 108 triple-doubles this season. That's an incredible jump over the old record of 78. And 10 players have had multiple triple-doubles, 22 players have had at least one.

Why has that happened? I'm not sure but I would guess it has something to do with the court being so spread in the league right now. Teams are attempting so many three-point shots that it has resulted in the court being more wide open than ever. I would assume that means it's easier for guards to get rebounds these days than it was when the big guys packed the paint and dominated the scoring. And after all, rebounds are the toughest category to crack for guards, who have the inside track on piling up assists and points.

So, what I'm saying, I guess, is that triple-doubles are so much cheaper now than they EVER have been in the NBA. Why suddenly make them such a big deal?

Oakley some sort of martyr? I don't think so

Oakley some sort of martyr? I don't think so

By now, you all know about the Charles Oakley incident at Madison Square Garden.

I'm not sure exactly what to believe about the events of that night. The story linked above gives both sides of it. Garden officials say Oakley was "abusive" and "disrespectful" from the moment he walked through the doors of the arena. Oakley called the accusations "outrageous." The video, also in the above link, shows Oakley getting physical with security guards who were attempting to escort him out of the arena. His actions toward those people certainly did not make him a sympathetic figure. And neither did witness reports obtained by TMZ.

Particularly when his reputation as a player was as an enforcer and frequent fighter. It was obvious security people were handling him with great caution.

Public and media outrage have followed, most of it, predictably, critical of Knicks/MSG owner James Dolan and his treatment of a former player. I assume a lot of the media is attacking Dolan simply because this incident gives them another chance to do so. But when I watch the video of the incident it's pretty hard for me to sympathize with Oakley, who seemed to escalate his problems by physically confronting the security people. Should he have been ejected from his seat and the building? Hard for me to judge, but if the stories are true about his conduct in the arena, he should be treated like anyone else whose actions are threatening to those around him.

Many in the media are turning him into a martyr.

I've always sympathized with sports franchises when it comes to the way they are expected to treat former players. In a good many cases the players are paid handsomely for their tenure with a team, then upon retirement, return to the franchise and expect special treatment and some sort of paid position -- oftentimes a job that requires little work and high salary. I have heard, over the years, front office people in just about every sport complain about players who have earned big bucks from a team and then expect special treatment when their playing days are over.

VIP treatment? You get plenty of that as an active player and anything beyond your retirement is a bonus. I'm a big fan of employing ex-players if they are willing to earn their pay. But beyond that, I don't see a responsibility for a team to have to continue the sort of pampering these guys get while playing.

Oakley, by the way, is not one of those players who has squandered his salary as a player and is expecting a handout. His net worth, according to one source, is $52 million. He has been at odds with Dolan for years for reasons not entirely known. But Oakley earned more than $15 million from the Knicks during his tenure there. The franchise owes him respect for what he gave his teams, but nothing more.

To me, he's just another disgruntled ex-player running around whining about how "soft" the NBA is today:

The coaches in this league, in this day and era, are soft; the players are soft, how can you build something? They put all these stat guys, these analytic guys, and put them on the bench and make them GM because of numbers.

Or worse:

“When we played in the ’80s, it wasn’t OK [for European players to play in the NBA]. They weren’t coming over here. They were scared. The game was tough and they weren’t tough.

I believe if he walks into that building and is responsible for making people feel uncomfortable or threatened, he ought to be removed from the building, whether he played for the Knicks or not -- just like you or me. Oakley made a big deal about buying his own ticket for that game, but so what? He did so, apparently, to sit near Dolan, for whatever reason.

To me, Oakley having to buy his own ticket is not a great hardship and it buys him nothing more than the same rights and responsibilities of any other ticket holder. I have very little sympathy for him.

The NBA has been very, very good to Charles Oakley -- and I'm not sure he was in Madison Square Garden the other night with the idea of returning the favor.