Warriors

Nick Wright claims LeBron James gets two rings for beating 2016 Warriors

Nick Wright claims LeBron James gets two rings for beating 2016 Warriors

Nick Wright will say anything to try to buttress his belief that LeBron James is the best basketball player of all time.

And the very opinionated TV personality went to the extreme Monday on his Fox Sports 1 morning show "First Things First."

"I'm making a proclamation today. Everyone always tries to say, 'Six rings, six rings -- LeBron can't be the greatest ever until he has six rings.' It's a facile argument but I'll engage in it for this moment," he said. "We all know LeBron officially-unofficially got credit for two rings when he came from 3-1 down and beat a 73-win (Warriors) team -- sent Draymond (Green) crying to his car to call Kevin Durant. So right now he's at four.

"Before the stoppage happened, the Lakers were playing their best ball of the season. They get thrown off course, Giannis (Antetokounmpo) is able to get healthy, other things happen that make it harder. Then they lose (Avery) Bradley, now they've lost (Rajon) Rondo.

"When they win the title this year, it counts as another two -- which means LeBron and (Michael) Jordan will both have six rings."

Yes, this actually happened.

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Conventional wisdom says Wright was 100 percent kidding, and simply got on his soapbox for entertainment purposes. But with him, he probably just was 97 percent joking.

And since Wright mentioned Draymond, here is a friendly reminder: In the 2016 NBA Finals, LeBron averaged 24.8 points, 8.3 assists and 5.8 turnovers the first four games. Then, everything changed when Draymond was suspended for Game 5. Over the final three games of the series, LeBron averaged 36.3 points, 9.7 assists and 2.7 turnovers.

[RELATED: Draymond reveals team he sees as favorite to win NBA title]

It also didn't help that Andrew Bogut missed Games 6 and 7, and that Harrison Barnes went 5-for-32 from the field over the final three games. But we digress. The Cleveland Cavaliers won the series and that's a scientific fact.

You want another fact? LeBron has won three championships and he will have four if the Los Angeles Lakers capture this season's title in Orlando.

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NBA bubble showing Warriors how dangerous future of West will be

NBA bubble showing Warriors how dangerous future of West will be

After enjoying another championship summer, their third in four seasons, the Warriors two years ago embraced the prospect of a dynasty. They’d reduced all challengers to damp piles of ashes, and their core members had prime years remaining.

Why not grab two or three or four more Larry O’Brien trophies? Match or eclipse the Showtime Los Angeles Lakers, the Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls and the Gregg Popovich San Antonio Spurs to become the most accomplished NBA franchise in the modern era. Sounded sweet.

But two years after sweeping the Cavaliers in the 2018 Finals, the Warriors have experienced consecutive seasons without the prize. Examining the current roster and studying the rest of the NBA, talk of a dynasty is delusional.

Recapturing the vibe that made them so fearsome can’t happen without Kevin Durant. The earliest they can return to the playoffs is April 2021, when Stephen Curry will be 33, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson each at least 31. Young enough to be prime, but too aged to anticipate two or three or four more Larry O’s.

That much is apparent in observing Western Conference teams in the NBA restart in Florida.

Any realistic path to another Warriors title requires a top-four seed in the West; only one of 72 NBA champs entered the playoffs outside the top four. The 1994-95 Houston Rockets fell to No. 6 when a March injury cost Hakeem Olajuwon 10 games, seven of which they lost. He returned for the postseason and punctuated it by abusing young Shaquille O’Neal in The Finals.

It’s not that the Warriors can’t win the 52 or so games required to reach the top four in 2021. It’s that as they’ve been hurting and healing, the bubble revealed that the competition was loading up.

In the 26 months since the Warriors last won it all, a lot has transpired to generate a shift in the balance of power in the West. Here is an alphabetical look:

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Los Angeles Clippers

Added Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to a team governed by Steve “I’m not afraid to pay the luxury tax for us to win” Ballmer. Their future draft outlook is dim, but free agents have a tendency to consider LA. Then, too, Ballmer likes to exploit the unique asset that is Jerry West.

Memphis Grizzlies

Added impressive rookies Ja Morant (turned 21 on Monday) and Brandon Clarke (23) to sophomore Jaren Jackson Jr. (20) and had the hubris to invade the playoff race. This team’s zealous youngsters are not firing blanks. Those are warning shots. They’re coming.

Dallas Mavericks

Added 21-year-old Luka Doncic, who is paired with 25-year-old Kristaps Porzingis. They snapped a three-year streak of missing the playoffs. And we all know Mark Cuban, whose ownership sparked a 12-year postseason streak, is salty about being a spectator when the lights are brightest.

Denver Nuggets

Added 22-year-old Michael Porter Jr. to a nucleus – Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, Gary Harris etc. – that makes the strongest argument as the best young bunch in the NBA. They’re deep, have a higher ceiling than the Grizzlies and, thanks to the 2019 Trail Blazers, have developed the emotional scar tissue caused by postseason heartbreak.

Phoenix Suns

Added a solid coach in Monty Williams and a load of young talent to catalyst Devin Booker, who was in his second season as a full-time starter when the Warriors last won it all. He’s not yet 24, but next season will be his sixth. Phoenix went 8-0 in the bubble with only three rotation players over 24. Team governor Robert Sarver might be the likeliest bet to spoil this.

Portland Trail Blazers

Added Gary Trent Jr., who is 21 and already an upgrade over recent young forwards, and Rodney Hood, though his effectiveness is in doubt coming off a torn Achilles tendon. But if Damian Lillard, CJ McCollum and Jusuf Nurkic stay healthy – and they can squeeze another year out of Carmelo Anthony, they’ll be dangerous.

[RELATED: Haberstroh believes Wiggins' game 'will rise' if not traded]

That’s six teams, with no mention of five more: Utah Jazz, Lakers, Rockets, Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. It’s not that those five won’t be factors, because they will be. At least for another year or two, but for most, there is legitimate concern about their futures being better than their presents.

There is no knowing if the Jazz can fix their internal issues; no knowing how the post-LeBron Lakers, assuming Anthony Davis stays, will look; no knowing how long the Rockets can contend with Harden-Westbrook leading a mini-ball outfit and a governor bleeding money; no knowing how the Spurs, with some young talent but missing the playoffs for the first time since the Ice Age, will respond if Gregg Popovich, 71, steps away.

The Thunder are thriving with Chris Paul now, but they can’t be a serious top-four threat until some of their 400 future first-round picks over the next six years enter the league and flourish.

For five consecutive seasons, the Warriors were perfect in postseason series within the conference. Crazy, eh?

Reality indicates those days are over. If the Curry-Green-Thompson trio is able to anchor another team that wins the West, much less The Finals, it will be their most remarkable feat of all.

Kevin Durant gets Finals revenge on Drake in 'Laugh Now, Cry Later' video

Kevin Durant gets Finals revenge on Drake in 'Laugh Now, Cry Later' video

Any Warriors fans who wanted to dunk on Drake before, during or after last year's NBA Finals can now live vicariously through Kevin Durant.

The Toronto Raptors global ambassador and rapper dropped the music video for "Laugh Now Cry Later" featuring Lil Durk on Thursday, with Drake spending most of it on Nike's Beaverton, Ore. campus. Former Raiders star Marshawn Lynch steals the show by tackling Drake in a brief appearance, but Durant absolutely dominates the Canadian star in a 1-on-1 game.

https://youtu.be/JFm7YDVlqnI

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Durant hasn't played in an NBA game since rupturing his Achilles in Game 5 of the 2019 NBA Finals against Drake's Raptors, and his rehab is, at the very least, far enough along to best someone who once air-balled a 3-pointer warming up with Kentucky. By my count, Durant was 5-of-5 from the field with a steal, a block and two dunks over Drake.

Yes, I counted stats from a fake 1-on-1 game in a music video. What did you do with your Thursday night?

Drake traded barbs with Durant and the Warriors when Toronto and Golden State squared off in last year's Finals. There was Drake's "Home Alone" hoodie worn before Game 2, followed by Klay Thompson dropping a "See you in the Bay, Aubrey" after the Warriors' win that night. Then Drake trolled Thompson, and later Draymond Green, but it was all good-natured. Green and Drake met up between Games 1 and 2, while Steph Curry even gave the rapper a congratulatory call after the Raptors won their first NBA title.

[RELATED: Draymond wants you to know he liked Trent Jr. before you did]

Durant's no longer a Warrior, of course, with Game 5 marking his last appearance in a Golden State uniform before he joined the Brooklyn Nets in free agency. Drake said he was "wrecked" seeing Durant get hurt, and he even referenced the NBA star's eventual road back to the court in a verse on Rick Ross' "Gold Roses" last summer. It's fitting, then, that we'd get one of our first glimpses at Durant back on the court in a Drake video.

That it plays out like a fever-dream revenge fantasy written by one of their own has to be a cathartic, added bonus for Warriors fans.