Warriors show full appreciation as Dwyane Wade's farewell tour passes through

Warriors show full appreciation as Dwyane Wade's farewell tour passes through

OAKLAND -- When it was over, the Warriors summoning barely enough to overcome the relentless pluck of the Miami Heat, two legends of basketball and beyond stood side-by-side, grinning and giggling, each holding the sweaty jersey of each other.

Half of that moment belonged to Dwyane Wade, the Heat superstar in the final season of a career spent putting a mountain of respect on his name and his game.

The other half belonged to Stephen Curry, who is in the midst of a career doing very much the same.

These two don’t have much in common except for proud fatherhood, quiet leadership, a deep reservoir of toughness, creative scoring ability, infinite determination, a commitment to a better society and three NBA championships.

That will have to do until they become teammates in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

“Everywhere he has gone, he’s going to be watched on TV, and it’s a different energy when he gets the ball,” Curry said after a 120-118 victory. “We understand how important he has been to the game throughout his career. No matter who you root for in this league, you respect greatness.”

Most every member of the Warriors, players and coaches, went over to share a word or a hug or a handshake with Wade, who scored 10 points on 5-of-14 shooting.

“He’s invested so much into basketball, especially physically, that it’s just time to walk away and pursue what’s next in his life,” said Kevin Durant, who shared an embrace with Wade before the Curry-Wade jersey swap. “As a hooper from Day 1, I can appreciate that about D-Wade, especially battling him in the (2012) Finals and throughout my whole career.

“It’s good to see guys go out the way they want to.”

With the game at stake, Wade had the nerve to, as a help-side defender, anticipate and swat a Durant fadeaway inside the final minute, turning it into a layup that gave Miami its first lead of the fourth quarter.

That’s not what this night was about, even though that single play -- Wade, at 6-foot-4, defying his seven-inch disadvantage -- symbolizes the player he has been throughout a 16-year career.

The Warriors in the first quarter compiled a brief video tribute, with highlights from Wade’s career, with the Oracle Arena crowd cheering along and, once the camera settled upon him standing near the Heat bench, rising for a standing ovation, which he fully acknowledged.

“He’s been incredible,” Draymond Green said. “D-Wade was an inspiration for me. When you talk undersize, when D-Wade came in the league he was an undersize 2-guard. He beat all odds. Finals MVP. Three-time champion, a million All-Star appearances, a million All-NBA teams . . . I think D-Wade made some All-Defensive teams (three times, actually).

“He’s had an incredible career. And what he’s done for that organization, it’s been amazing.”

Wade is to Miami as Kobe Bryant is to Los Angeles, Larry Bird to Boston, Reggie Miller to Indiana or . . . Curry to the Bay Area.

If not for the presence of Wade, LeBron James never would have taken his talents to South Beach. If not for Wade in Miami, Shaquille O’Neal’s championship glory would have been restricted to L.A.

Indeed, there is no reasonable argument against Wade being among the five best shooting guards in NBA history, which is all the more remarkable insofar as he lacked a reliable 3-point shot. He’s a career 29-percent shooter from deep.

That was the knock on him coming in. Couldn’t shoot. So he responded by scoring in every way possible and a few that should have been impossible. In 2008-09, Wade led the NBA in scoring, averaging 30.2 points per game.

In a league that included Kobe and KD and LeBron and Dirk and Melo, Wade somehow was the top scorer while shooting 31.7 percent from deep.

[RELATED: Kerr on Harper: 'I would love it' if he played for Giants]

Curry, of course, wants no part of such paltry proficiency from beyond the arc. That is the most fearsome element of his game. He is to 2019 what Wade was to 2009.

If Curry knows Wade’s journey, it is because so much of it is his own, from draft-night skeptics to championships to franchise icon.

No doubt Curry will find a place for Wade’s jersey and, moreover, he’ll understand as well as anyone what makes it special.

Why former owner didn't allow Warriors to trade 'most popular player'


Why former owner didn't allow Warriors to trade 'most popular player'

Programming note: Watch the pregame edition of Warriors Outsiders Thursday night at 6 p.m. PT, streaming live on the MyTeams app.

In late May 2017, the Hawks hired Travis Schlenk to be their general manager.

Schlenk had worked for the Warriors since the 2004-05 campaign, including his final five seasons as assistant GM.

Over the weekend, he was a guest on The Woj Pod and was asked a specific question about his time with Golden State.

Adrian Wojnarowski: "When you think back to how that team got put together, are there one or two moments where you think, 'Wow, that could have so easily gone the other way, but for good fortune or sound decision-making, we did that?'"

"One instance really stands out in my mind," Schlenk began. "I remember when I first went from the coaching side to the front office side -- Larry Riley was the GM at the time. He came to me and said, 'Hey, you know I could really use you on the front office side.' Don Nelson was the head coach. Nellie came and talked to me and he said, 'Listen, I think you have a great eye for talent. I think you should go work in the front office.'

"And at first, I was taken back. My dream since I was a little kid growing up in Western Kansas in a town of 200 people was to be a coach. And I thought I had a good eye for it with the x's and o's. But my wife and I, we'd just had our first kid and I remember thinking to myself, 'Well there's a lot more stability in the front office side of things than on the coaching side of things, maybe I should do this.' So we did it.

"I told Larry -- we were at the hoop summit up in Portland -- I said, 'I'll come do the front office side with you, but you gotta promise, you know, we'll trade these two guys. We gotta trade these two guys because at the time we didn't have the world's best locker room and we had a young group of guys that we wanted to try to develop.

"And we both agreed that was gonna be our plan and our strategy. Now it took us two years to do it but we got it done."

OK. Now to the juicy part.

"Back to the original question," Schlenk said. "One moment (that) really changed the course of everything -- there was a trade that we wanted to do. And we were sitting down with the owner at that time, Chris Cohan. And we said we think we should do this trade -- we're getting back two guys, it frees up our cap, it's gonna allow the growth of Steph. And Chris said, 'We can't do that trade, player X is the most popular player we have and season ticket renewals (are) around the corner.'

"And I was just like you gotta be kidding me. We are gonna make this decision based on who our fans think should be on our team, not the guys that you've hired to put together the team?"

At this point, Woj interjects and says, 'This was the Bucks, right?"

"No, this wasn't the Bucks," Schlenk answered. "I don't want to name the players. So we didn't do the trade. And then later on we were able to do a trade with that player that brought us Andrew Bogut. And that was obviously a big piece of the championship puzzle.

"As they say, sometimes the best deals you do are the ones you don't do."

[REWINDTravis Schlenk shares story from moments before Warriors drafted Steph Curry]


So without explicitly revealing the player's name, we can all put on our detective hats and determine that Schlenk had to be referring to...

...Monta Ellis.

In March 2012, the Warriors traded Ellis, Kwame Brown and Ekpe Udoh to the Bucks for Andrew Bogut and Stephen Jackson. Let's just say that neither Brown or Udoh were considered Golden State's "most popular player." 

In case you forgot, Monta last appeared in an NBA game in April 2017. He was waived three months later and the Pacers decided to stretch his contract over the subsequent five seasons. So yes, he will make $2,245,400 each year through the 2021-22 campaign.

Finally, the obvious follow-up thought/question to Schlenk's comments is: Who was the other player that he wanted to trade?

Drew Shiller is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders. Follow him on Twitter @DrewShiller

Steph Curry faces long odds to be named MVP again, even if he deserves it


Steph Curry faces long odds to be named MVP again, even if he deserves it

The Warriors return from the All-Star break to host the Sacramento Kings on Thursday, beginning a stretch of the final 25 games leading into the playoffs.

Those 25 games represent Steph Curry's final chance to convince the powers that be that he is the NBA's Most Valuable Player for a third time.

He certainly has a case. But for a variety of reasons, let's just get this out of the way now:

Barring an extended stretch that would seem insane even for Curry, it's just not happening this year.

[RELATED: Curry sneaks in odd phrases at All-Star for Jimmy Fallon]

It's no fault of Curry's own. He's in the midst of arguably his second-best season ever, behind only his unanimous MVP campaign of 2015-16.

That season, Curry averaged 30.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 6.7 assists per game on 50.4 percent shooting from the field, 45.4 percent from 3-point range and 90.8 percent from the free throw line.

So far this season, Curry is averaging 28.6 points, 5.1 rebounds and 5.2 assists per contest on 48.8 percent shooting from the field, 44.4 percent from beyond the arc and 92.2 percent from the charity stripe. And that's after shooting uncharacteristically poorly over Golden State's final four games before the break.

Curry leads all NBA players in average plus-minus (plus-9.7 points per game). He ranks first among all qualifying players in offensive rating (120.1 points per 100 possessions) and first among all qualifying guards in true shooting percentage (66.0 percent). 

Perhaps nothing clarifies Curry's value quite like his importance to his own team. The Warriors (41-16) hold the best record in the Western Conference, but Golden State is only 5-6 this season in games their star point guard has missed.

[RELATED: Outsider Observations: Dubs face questions down backstretch]

Really, the main reason Curry won't win a third MVP this year has nothing to do with him. It has everything to do with who is around him, and who isn't around the other main contenders for the award.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has been a one-man wrecking crew for the Milwaukee Bucks this season, who just happen to hold the league's best record at 43-14.

James Harden leads the league in scoring, and has totaled at least 30 points in every game since Dec. 13.

Paul George sits behind Harden and just ahead of Curry with an average of 28.7 points per contest (second in the NBA), and he's arguably been the best two-way player in the NBA this season.

Assuming each of those three players are the most valuable on their respective teams, that would make the Robin to their Batman a combination of Khris Middleton, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook.

Two of those running mates were All-Stars. The one that wasn't -- Paul -- probably would have if not for missing 22 games due to injury.

Still, none of those guys are Kevin Durant, who was named the MVP of the All-Star Game.

[RELATED: Durant joins exclusive club with second All-Star Game MVP]

Nor do any of Curry's main competitors have a supporting cast with the likes of Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and DeMarcus Cousins.

That's not Curry's fault, but to think it won't matter in the minds of voters is just being naive. The Warriors don't have the record-advantage they've had in years past, so that's one less argument in his favor. Voters also seem to enjoy 'spreading the love', so to speak.

So, yes, barring something insane, Curry will almost certainly have to wait at least another year to add a third MVP trophy to his loaded shelves. Perhaps if their roster makeup changes significantly this offseason -- Durant will surely play a role -- he'll have a better shot at it next year.

Then again, if anyone is capable of something insane, it's the guy who became the first person ever to get all the MVP voters to agree on something.