The last, and quite likely worst, 'Keys to the NBA Finals'

The last, and quite likely worst, 'Keys to the NBA Finals'

Don’t give up yet, kids, we’re almost there. I know it seems like a hundred years since the Western Conference Finals ended – largely because it has been – but there is actually a new game on the horizon. Finish that last water bottle (with the worm on the bottom; you’re not fooling us with that body-is-a-temple hydration scam) and march forward.

The Finals are finally upon us.

And while there is nothing left on the pregame bone upon which to chew (the price we all pay for excellent finalists and the needs of network executives), there is still the beast to fill. The glorious and agonizing pasts have been re-plowed, the metrics (or as people fluent in simple English say, numbers) have been bent behind their tensile strength, the video analysis has been reduced to dying pixels, and the predictions (almost all of them running the gamut from Warriors in 4 to Warriors in 5) have come and gone with nobody remembering any of them.

In short, there’s nothing left. Well, except this – the last and quite likely worst Keys To The Series.

DRAYMOND GREEN vs. DRAYMOND GREEN’S FACE: There are few more expressive players in the league, and fewer still who do aggrieved better than he does. That said, he knows what is at stake if he allows the moment to bring on the red mist that cost him Game 5 of the Finals and replaced with a reputation. The officials made a great show of early season re-education attempts, but the most enduring memory of the season is of him walking the length of the court to remonstrate with Scott Foster and Foster choosing not to T him up, which he would well have been within the rights of conventional behavior to do. Maybe they’ve all reached détente and Green won’t end up with Rasheed Wallace’s M.O. for disputatiousness.

THE OFFICIATING CONSPIRACIES: Speaking of which, as we know from reading Twitter, the leading source of truth for Wingnut America, every NBA game since 1977 has been fixed by gamblers or the league office, usually through officials who apparently can be bought off with a bag of Tootsie Roll Pops. So here’s what you need to know:

Cleveland is 7-0 this year with Mike Callahan and 3-5 with Monty McCutchen, and Golden State is 7-0 with Foster and 7-3 with Ken Mauer. None of this is of any use to you, but it’s important to note that Mendy Rudolph ain’t walking through that door. Whatever the hell that means.

LAS VEGAS UNCHAINED: Some books have already released odds for the 2018 Finals, and – yes, you guessed it – it’s Warriors followed by Cavaliers again. In other words, you’re being asked to bet on next year’s championship before this year’s championship, and if that isn’t a cry for help, it’s at least a cry for a cricket bat across the throat.

This breaks the old record of looking ahead from the current 344 days (since the end of Game 7 last year), a record for luring degenerates that rivals the books that put out opening NFL lines the day after the 2017 schedule was released.

OAKLAND – CRADLE OF MIGRAINES: This is not about Steve Kerr necessarily, but it has been noticed that he is the second most successful coach in NBA history by winning percentage (.804 including playoffs) behind only Not Steve Kerr (.925). His own record is 201-49, which means we completely overlooked the wins in Games 1 and 2 over Portland as milestones.

That said, the post-mothership history is daunting. Luke Walton, who was 39-4 with Kerr looking over his shoulder last year, got the job of his dreams in Los Angeles, got a bad team and a massive front office upheaval, and now he’s likely to get LaVar Ball as a freelance consultant. Alvin Gentry, the 2015 assistant who took the New Orleans job, ended up with 30- and 34-win teams and DeMarcus Cousins. And Mike Brown (10-0 and running), whose nightmares in Cleveland and Los Angeles are things of reputation-denting legend, is on the verge of being sponsored for new bad jobs. In short, it’s like the old saying, “The grass is always full of scorpions on the other side of the fence.”

JONES v. JONES: How did we all miss the Dahntay Jones-Damian Jones matchup? Because we stink, that’s why. Nevertheless, in a battle of DNP-CDs, I know the Cavs’ Jones (Dahntay) is only making $9,127 this year (courtesy Spotrac), and that isn’t a typo, so at least we know he will sit hungrier than the Warriors’ Jones (Damian).

THE JACKSON-VAN GUNDY SCALE: A televised game’s inherent entertainment value has an inverse relationship to the amount of time spent by Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy arguing on topics like dessert toppings, check-ducking in restaurants, rules complaints, dress shoes v. sneakers in church, whether Jinder Mahal will be a better WWE champion than Randy Orton, throwing dead, pre-flattened and perfumed seafood on the ice as opposed to throwing it on the floor, and the underrated worth of a really top-quality goat. In short, if they’re bored, chances are you will be too.

PARKING LOT WARS: The Warriors are 13-3 when sharing the Coliseum parking lot with the Athletics, while the Cavaliers are a mere 9-3 when doing so with the lots near the Q and Progressive Field. Game-changing ingress-egress issues seem to be a wash here, but Games 2, 4, 6 and 7 are clearly in play.

NARRATIVE WARS: Which will be adjudicated now. LeBron James is not better than Michael Jordan – yet. The Warriors are not the best team ever – yet. If you think you have something new to say, shut up and remember that you don’t (and yeah, the parking lot thing is all mine). Oh, and if you say the word “legacy” during the next two weeks and change, you ought to be jailed and given all the time Neil DeGrasse Tyson can imagine.

There. Now we can all stop worrying about what we’re going to see and finally get around to seeing it. There are finally games coming. Sit back, watch, enjoy, and work really hard not to play smartest-kid-in-the-room – for once. Not everything has to be a matchup debate. Except of course this.

After a hectic few days, Andrew Bogut fares well in reunion with Warriors

After a hectic few days, Andrew Bogut fares well in reunion with Warriors

Insofar as 14 months have passed since he last played in the NBA, Andrew Bogut’s second debut with the Warriors on Monday went about well as could be expected.

For an emergency starter whose head is spinning in multiple directions, it was solid.

“Andrew was great,” coach Steve Kerr told reporters in San Antonio. “It’s great to have him back. He’s a tremendous defensive player. He’s a great passer. He’s a lob threat. He’s going to help us.”

Bogut tried to help against the Spurs – producing  points, seven rebounds, one assist and one steal in 19 minutes – but was unable to prevent a 111-105 loss to the Spurs at AT&T Center.

“Me personally, it was just good to be out there and trying to contribute,” he said. “But I would like to have left with a win.”

Bogut, 34, came out of retirement last week, signing for a second tour with the Warriors upon a March 3 completion of his season with the Sydney Kings of Australia’s National Basketball League. The 7-foot center and his family arrived in the Bay Area over the weekend, giving him four days to find a house, take conditioning tests and prepare to play Thursday against Indiana at Oracle Arena.

But when DeMarcus Cousins sustained a mild injury to his right foot Saturday at Oklahoma City, the timeline moved up three days – to Monday, less than 24 hours after he arrived in San Antonio. Bogut barely knew where he was, much less fully prepared to start an NBA game.

“I felt all right,” Bogut said. “I was sucking wind a little bit in the first quarter, just from flying from Australia the last couple days. But once I got into a rhythm, I felt pretty good.

“I’m just figuring things out like where guys like the ball. That was something I’ve got to still figure out. I’m figuring out a few of our sets, which are new, but for the most part it’s about playing basketball.”

Bogut was signed mostly because he brings much-needed size, familiarity with the systems utilized by the Warriors – he was a member of the team in Kerr’s first two seasons as coach before being traded in 2016 – and his hoops IQ is a seamless fit.

It didn’t take long for Bogut to get his first hello by whistle, as fourth-year official Gediminas Petraitas assessed a foul for an illegal screen nine seconds after tipoff.

“Welcome to the league for sure,” Bogut said. “‘We know you set some hard screens, so we’re just going blow one early.’ That’s how it goes.”

The call “shocked” Kerr.

“It didn’t seem like much,” he said. “He just stood there. He didn’t stick his hip out. It was just a back screen, didn’t impact the play. And, bam, quick foul.”

There were a couple hiccups, as was expected, but Bogut never looked out of place among his new/old teammates. He was minus-2 for the game.

“Obviously, playing with Klay and Steph when I was here last time," Bogut said. "And now throw (Kevin Durant) in there and see how talented he is and how easy the game comes to him, it makes you a little bit jealous. Those guys are really talented.”

Bogut’s return to the Warriors came precisely two months after Cousins was activated. Both are former All-NBA centers. The Warriors won in Cousins’ debut, beating the Clippers, but fell short against the Spurs.

Better days are ahead, according to Bogut.

[WATCH: Steph beats first-quarter buzzer]

“When you get our offense free-flowing, there are so many weapons,” he said. “I can say tonight was a bad night for us, but you can see the potential of this lineup, especially once you throw DeMarcus out there and a few other guys. It’s pretty special.”

The Warriors should benefit from Bogut’s presence. If the first game is any indication, he’ll be a very good backup to Cousins, as dictated by matchups.

Warriors takeaways: What we learned from Warriors' tough loss to Spurs

Warriors takeaways: What we learned from Warriors' tough loss to Spurs


SAN ANTONIO — Following back-to-back solid performances against Houston and Oklahoma City, the Warriors couldn't find their shot in a 111-105 loss to the Spurs on Monday night. 

Despite a late run to get within four points with two minutes left, a late flurry from DeMar DeRozan sealed the win for San Antonio. 

The loss snaps a two-game Warriors winning streak and, with a road game against Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday, makes the reality of a 2-2 trip all the more possible

Here are three takeaways from the game. 

No 'Splash' from the Brothers

In a game that begged for offense, Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson had a hard time providing it. 

Curry finished with 25 points on 9-of-25 from the field, missing a number of shots that could have kept the Warriors in the game down the stretch.

[WATCH: Curry banks in buzzer-beater]

Meanwhile, Thompson, who came into Monday’s game rolling, made just five of his 18 shots on the night. 

Thompson had been averaging 30 points on 50 percent from the field over his last four games. A good shooting performance from Klay would have helped the Warriors' cause. 

Andrew Bogut's return

After being summoned due to DeMarcus Cousins' sore right ankle, Bogut started his second tour of duty in Golden State in an appropriate fashion, committing an offensive foul after setting an illegal screen to free up Curry. 

Following the foul, Bogut gave the Warriors solid play, finishing with seven points, seven rebounds and one steal in 19 minutes. 

The offense seemed to flow well when Bogut was on the floor, giving a glimpse of what the Warriors can expect if the veteran center can recapture his play from his previous tenure in the Bay Area. 

Warriors couldn't stop fouling

The Warriors needed to be disciplined, but they committed 20 fouls on the night, including a momentum-stopping foul from Kevin Durant on Marco Belinelli in the fourth quarter that led to a four-point play. 

For a team that's trying to turn the tide on a subpar second half of the season, unnecessary fouls aren't conducive to that goal.