Why does Berry Gordy get all the good singers? From Evy Tourgeman:
As the 3rd episode of this rivalry is unfolding before us, with the core of the Warriors still young and on the other side we can still very much see LeBron James continuing to be at his prime; one starts to wonder if perhaps what we might be witnessing here is maybe 'a-best-of-seven-year' rivalry between these two powerhouse teams …
Personally, I'm not a fan of the direction in which the NBA is headed, of stacking superstars in prime markets as this obviously creates an uneven playing field for the majority of the other teams in the league. I understand the business side of it all, however as an average basketball fan, this direction takes away the purity of competitive sports from the game. What are your thoughts on this?
I get that if you’re not a Warriors or Cavs fan, you may feel like your team has little chance of beating them right now -- and that’s the essence of being a fan, having hope that your team can win. I would say what I’ve consistently said about this in the context of NBA history: in this league, there has never been competitive balance. This league has always been dominated by super teams, going back to its beginning, when the Minneapolis Lakers won five titles in seven years behind the first great big man, George Mikan. Bill Russell’s Boston Celtics, by any definition, were a super team, as was the team they consistently beat in The Finals, the Los Angeles Lakers of Jerry West and Elgin Baylor (and, later, Wilt Chamberlain).
The only thing that’s different today is that players like LeBron and Kevin Durant are choosing to form those teams, rather than teams putting those groups together through trades and drafting. As noted above, I just think teams have to stop whining and get to work. Recently departed Pistons GM Jack McCloskey built a championship team in Detroit that beat the Celtics and Bulls. He didn’t complain about how unfair it was that Boston had the Big Three and that Chicago had Michael Jordan. He did something about it.
Part II. From Travis Stephens:
The NBA has always had super teams. From the Celtics in the 1960s to the showtime Lakers in the 1980s to the current Warriors and Cavs. I don't think there's any way to eliminate super teams from forming. That said, it seems like many fan bases, players, and even front offices are getting frustrated with the lack of parity in the league the last few years (or maybe the frustration is just more visible now). Barring a devastating injury or major roster shakeup, it looks like The 2018 Finals will also be between the Cavs and Warriors ... and we're not even to the Draft yet.
I know the league has been making efforts to increase parity, like the super-max deals, but it doesn't seem like they've done much yet. Do you think it's just a matter of time before the changes show results, or do you think more changes are necessary? With the salary cap expected to jump over $100M for the first time, do you think the league would now consider switching to a hard cap and no max contracts? Do you think the player's union would accept that if it came with an increased minimum salary?
The league would love a hard cap, Travis. But the union will fight that until the end of time; if the NBA were to insist, a season-long lockout would almost surely follow. And while having no max contracts would obviously be great for the superstars -- can you imagine what LeBron or KD would get with no limit on their salaries? -- they’d strangle the rank and file, who are now reaping the benefits of the TV contract-driven cap spikes we’ve seen in the last few years.
Threemendous. From Brad Shapiro:
…Yes, I will always #trusttheprocess. As I'm thinking about the upcoming Draft, what are your thoughts on Jonathan Isaac? I would love to see the Sixers take him at No. 3. Some call me crazy, but I believe he has the biggest upside in the Draft. He can guard the 1 through 4, and the Sixers won't be contending for at least another 2-3 years. I'm very interested to see what you think about him.
I think that’s too high for Isaac, who scouts like a lot -- but don’t have ahead of Josh Jackson, for example. But there’s no question Isaac potentially has a ridiculously high ceiling as a defender with his length, and his offensive game is just developing. I can’t dismiss the possibility that the Sixers could see him as a Jaylen Brown kind of flyer that high in the Draft, but it would surprise me if they passed up Jackson or Jayson Tatum or DeAndre Fox in favor of Isaac.
Are they not taking their Ball and going home? From Chris Burch:
My question is, do you honestly see any legitimacy to the reports the Lakers would pass on Lonzo Ball? He seems like a no-brainer, yet people keep talking like they might actually not take him!
A few sources tell me that Ball has not had great pre-Draft workouts. Now, to be fair, his game is not conducive to one on none workouts; that is, doing drills and things by himself out on the floor. Ball isn’t going to wow you with incredible athletic feats. Where he shines is with other players, when he can get them the ball in rhythm and on their hands with pinpoint passes. It’s ultimately hard to see Magic Johnson passing on such an L.A.-centric player like Ball.
Recalculating route. From Andrew Stolowitz:
If you're the Celtics, and were blown out by a team on verge of getting swept in Finals, doesn't it make you realize how far away your current roster is from contending for a title and make you want to trade the No. 1 pick for immediate help? These 'windows' can close sooner than anticipated.
Again: all available evidence indicates Danny Ainge is thinking long term, not quick fix. Getting a player like Paul George or Jimmy Butler would cost at least both of the unprotected Brooklyn picks Boston has, along with a couple of role players. And would a team of, say, George, Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford beat the Cavs? I have my doubts. So does Ainge, I reckon. So he’s planning for three or four years from now, when LeBron (maybe) will be slowing down. I get your notion, but I’m swayed by the idea of using those picks to take players who can potentially be difference makers for the next decade.
Send your questions, comments and other examples of people who, after all this time, are still unclear on the concept firstname.lastname@example.org. If your e-mail is funny, thought-provoking or snarky, we just might publish it!
POSTSEASON MVP WATCH
(Last week’s averages in parenthesis)
1) LeBron James (35 ppg, 10.5 rpg, 10 apg, .531 FG, .688 FT): The Cavaliers, literally, cannot play without him on the floor.
2) Kevin Durant (33 ppg, 6 rpg, 4 apg, .475 FG, .917 FT): Pullup three in Game 3 would have been derided as hero ball if KD hadn’t made it. But he did, perhaps changing the narrative of his career forever.
3) Stephen Curry (20 ppg, 9 rpg, 8 apg, .375 FG, .900 FT): Hitting the boards an underrated key asset for Curry against Cleveland, keeping the Cavs from getting out on the break.
4) Kawhi Leonard: Season complete.
5) John Wall: Season complete.
BY THE NUMBERS
32 -- NBA players on Forbes Magazine’s list of the top 100 paid athletes last year. LeBron James (an estimated $86.2 million in salary and endorsements) was number two overall, behind soccer’s Cristiano Ronaldo ($93 million), with Kevin Durant ($60.6 million), Stephen Curry ($47.3 million) and James Harden ($46.6 million) also in the top 10.
30 -- Years since Magic Johnson’s “junior junior” skyhook beat Boston in the pivotal Game 4 of The 1987 Finals. With the win, the Lakers took a 3-1 lead on the Celtics en route to a 4-2 series win and their second Finals win over the Celtics in three years. This came after the Los Angeles franchise had lost eight straight times to Boston in the championship series dating back to its last Finals appearance in Minneapolis.
$190,373 -- Auction price of game-worn Michael Jordan shoes, sold Sunday morning, reportedly the highest price ever paid for a pair of game-worn shoes. Jordan’s shoes came from the gold medal game in 1984 against Spain.
I’M FEELIN’ ...
1) These Finals have not been great, at least so far, from a competitive standpoint, echoing the lack of drama that marred the first three rounds of the playoffs. But they have featured several breathtaking plays from both the Warriors and Cavaliers, with Kevin Durant, LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Stephen Curry each having bravura moments. The challenge both for these teams and the others who make the postseason next year is to make the games more than a backdrop for their individual players’ brilliance.
2) Question: will the 3-on-3 hoop teams that try for the Olympic Games in 2020 have coaches? And wouldn’t Luke Walton be the perfect coach for one of those squads? Can’t you see him -- wearing flip flops, an “I’m With Stupid” t-shirt and cargo shorts?
3) Always am happy to see The Mecca (Milwaukee Exposition, Convention Center and Arena)back in circulation, if only for one game next season. The Bucks’ old arena, which is now used by the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, hasn’t hosted its former team since 1988, when the Bucks moved into BMO Harris Bradley Center.
4) Rafa. What a career. A 10th French Open title for Nadal on Sunday only further burnishes what has been one of the great runs in tennis history.
NOT FEELIN’ ...
1) The world, seemingly, is divided into two camps: those who think any great team from the ‘80s or ‘90s would beat today’s Warriors, and those who think the Warriors would dispatch any great team from the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Message to both camps: shut up. Your mouth pollution is poisoning my air supply and wasting my time.
This is among the most pointless, stupid “arguments” in recent human history -- and Lord knows we’ve seen some stupidity in the public discourse in the last couple of years. You cannot compare Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls or Magic Johnson's Los Angeles Lakers or Larry Bird's Boston Celtics to today’s Warriors. Each team played in a completely different era, with completely different rules. And thus you can’t just pick up, say, the ’85 Lakers, and plop them down against the ’17 Warriors and say ‘who ya got?’
What rules are we playing under -- the old rules, where handchecking and contact/holding in the lane and dislodging in the post were allowed, or today’s rules, where no one can touch anyone? And even if you agreed on what rules to use, the argument remains pointless, because you’re arguing a theoretical point without historical context.
For example: Michael Jordan played in an era where the 3-pointer was, while part of the game, not the single emphasis of the game, as it is today. And the Bulls teams on which he played were constructed with the rules of the time in which they played in mind. A Chicago team built around Jordan today, with today’s emphasis on the 3-pointer and with today’s rules, would not have a Bill Cartwright or Luc Longley at center. It may have played Toni Kukoc at the four exclusively rather than Dennis Rodman. And it well may not have had Phil Jackson, with his emphasis on the triangle, big guards, etc., as coach. And so you wouldn’t even have the Bulls team that won six championships in place. Which makes the whole exercise ridiculous.
And: knowing what we know about Jordan -- his drive, his reliance on fundamentals, his work ethic -- do you really believe that, if he was playing in an era where the 3-pointer was the predominant offensive weapon, that he wouldn’t have made himself into a great 3-point shooter? But it doesn’t matter.
His era is his era; the Warriors era is their era, and whatever team dominates the league in 20 years, with whatever rules and play emphasis are triumphant at that time, will be in its era. Stop wasting everyone’s time trying to determine which one is better.
1a) It’s that time of year: Lather, rinse, repeat.
2) I’ve thought about what to say about Todd Harris, the NBA’s Vice President of Broadcasting,who died suddenly last week at 47. Todd spent so much time in the production trucks of both TNT and ESPN, was always present at All-Stars and Finals game, worked tirelessly with Tom Carelli at the league office to work out the postseason schedules, did the WNBA schedule and worked closely with those teams as well -- and did all of that with a smile almost always on his face.
I never saw him short or rude to anyone, and he had a job that made that almost impossible not to do on occasion. He loved his kids and always talked about them, and he always asked you about yours. The word “kind” is viewed by some today as meaning weak or soft. But Todd was neither. He was, simply, a kind person who was a pleasure to see. I will miss the man I called Toddissimo, for some reason. He never seemed to mind.
3) Sad to hear that Draft prospect Jonathan Jeanne will have to stop playing for the foreseeable futureafter being diagnosed with Marfan Syndrome. But Marfan, which leads to a weakening of the tissue surrounding the aorta, leaving patients susceptible to aortic ruptures and aneurisms, is very serious: several athletes who were ultimately diagnosed with Marfan died while playing ball, including University of Maryland basketball players Owen Brown and Chris Patton in the 1970s, and volleyball star Flo Hyman in the ‘80s. Draft prospect Isaiah Austin had to sit out the 2014 Draft after being diagnosed with Marfan, though he was cleared to return to the court and play at the end of last year.
4) RIP, Adam West -- who got the joke about his campy portrayal of Batman on the iconic ‘60s TV show, and, after some time struggling with such a ridiculous stereotype, continued to play along with it for most of the last three decades of his life.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
-- Cleveland guard J.R. Smith (@TheRealJRSmith), Thursday, 12:04 a.m., moments after the Warriors’ improbable comeback win in Game 3 of the Finals Wednesday night. Of course, after the Tweet was deleted almost as soon as it appeared, Smith said that his Twitter account was hacked. I suspect Putin.
THEY SAID IT
“My dad asked me what position I wanted to play. I told him point guard. He was like, ‘all right, if you’re gonna play point guard, you gotta get the ball up’, and ever since then I’ve just been passing.”
-- Lonzo Ball, long expected to be one of the top three picks in the Draft later this month, after working out for the Lakers last week and being asked by reporters how he developed his point guard skills.
“They would all kill us. The game gets worse as time goes on. Players are less talented than they used to be. The guys in the ’50s would’ve destroyed everybody. It’s weird how human evolution goes in reverse in sports. Players get weaker, smaller, less skilled. I don’t know. I can’t explain it.”
-- Steve Kerr, with a healthy dollop of sarcasm, on the notion held by some players from past championship teams that their old teams would have defeated -- and, some of them say, dominated -- Kerr’s current Warriors squad.
“I like to say the first sign of a bad boss is that he wins every argument. I don’t want to be that guy, so I want to listen. I want to understand where everyone’s coming from, and I just believe that if we have talented guys working together we’ll make the right decision.”
-- Jeff Weltman, the new President of Basketball Operations for the Orlando Magic, at his introductory news conference last week.
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