As it has for virtually every title-winner past in NBA lore, luck played a big part in Golden State reaching the top of the mountain
POSTED: Jun 23, 2015 10:40 AM ET
Through the Lens: Warriors Celebrate
Watch at the Warriors celebrate winning their 2015 NBA Championship in super slow-motion!
Luck is not something to be dismissed, scorned or ridiculed. Luck is important.
The Golden State Warriors are lucky.
When you say that, people believe you're trying to trivialize or diminish the accomplishments of these Warriors, worthy NBA champions for the first time in 40 years after dispatching the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games. And that's exactly what you are not doing. Luck is as vital as talent and coaching to a championship team.
San Antonio was lucky when it beat Miami in 2014. Miami was lucky when it beat San Antonio in 2013.
The Spurs' AC conking out in Game 1 in '14 starched everybody who played, but it took out LeBron James, who cramped up and couldn't finish, allowing San Antonio a come-from-behind fourth-quarter victory. (Conspiracy theorists will posit the deed was purposely done, but leave out the obvious other shoe: how could the Spurs know that their hot building would debilitate only James instead of, say, Kawhi Leonard or Tony Parker? And didn't the Spurs want to play fast, with pace? The oppressive heat slowed them down immensely. San Antonio's pace only picked up after Game 3, when the Spurs put Boris Diaw in the starting lineup ahead of Tiago Splitter. Sorry to interrupt your tinfoil rants with facts.)
James Impacted By Heat
LeBron James is rendered ineffective by the heat in Game 1.
The year before, Miami was down and out in Game 6, 28 seconds away from being ousted again in The Finals on its home court. Down three, James forced a 3-pointer that banged off the rim. But instead of his miss bouncing left, where Diaw and Leonard were waiting to secure the championship with one final rebound, the ball bounced right, to Chris Bosh, who found Ray Allen. He took two steps back to the 3-point line, and somehow got enough lift while moving backwards to get a shot off -- and, somehow, made it.
All-Angles: Ray Allen's 3-Pointer In Game 6
Take an all-angles look at Ray Allen's clutch three-pointer from Game 6 of last year's NBA Finals against the Spurs.
Luck has been accepted among the seamhead stats community in baseball as a real, tangible thing -- a broken-bat flare into right field that falls for a single is the product of good fortune, not skill. Over the course of a season, in any sport, the team that is healthiest when the playoffs begin has a much better chance at victory. It is why Spurs coach Gregg Popovich manipulates the regular season to his will, sitting his healthy but aging trio of Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker whenever possible.
Those in the arena understand that they are not being insulted when told they've been the recipient of good fortune.
"So many teams had injuries this year," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said in the afterglow of his team's victory Tuesday night.
"And we were pretty healthy all year. And we were able to grow and win a lot of games, but we never really had the setback that can come from one of your guys going down for an extended period. I think that carried through to the playoffs. We played teams that had injuries. Houston was without Patrick Beverley and (Donatas) Motiejunas, and Cleveland obviously was without (Kevin) Love and (Kyrie) Irving. Every team goes through this -- Memphis without (Mike) Conley for a couple of games. And yet we stayed healthy. There's definitely a certain amount of luck that comes with winning a championship, and we certainly had our share of that this year."
But if there is good luck, there must also be bad luck. If Detroit's Adrian Dantley and Vinnie Johnson don't collide with one another and bump heads in Game 7 of the 1987 Eastern Conference finals against Boston, and if Isiah Thomas doesn't sprain his ankle in Game 6 of the 1988 Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Pistons may well have three-peated before Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
Isiah's Ankle Game
Relive this iconic moment from the 1988 Finals in the NBA TV premiere of ''Bad Boys'' - a documentary on Detroit's legendary Pistons teams - Thursday, June 19 at 9 p.m. ET.
And when it comes to Wardell Stephen Curry II, the Warriors may have been luckiest of all.
How could Minnesota, with picks No. 5 and 6 in the 2009 Draft, bypass Curry twice, in favor of Ricky Rubio (in fairness to former GM David Kahn, Rubio looked like he was going to be a superstar) and Jonny Flynn (ummmmm)? How close did Golden State come to pulling the trigger on that proposed Draft-night deal with Phoenix that would have sent Curry's rights to the Suns for Amar'e Stoudemire?
And who knew, even after the Warriors cleared playing time for Curry by trading Monta Ellis to Milwaukee for Andrew Bogut in 2013, that Curry would ever overcome the ankle problems that plagued him his first two seasons? Those bad wheels, though, led to another astounding piece of luck: with his injury history, Curry couldn't ask for anything approaching a max deal when he could be extended in 2012. So it was hardly viewed as unfair when Golden State offered him a four-year, $44 million deal; in fact, many thought the Warriors were crazy to give him that much.
Fast forward three years, though. The Warriors have already gotten six seasons -- including two All-Star appearances, an MVP and an NBA title -- out of Curry at a ridiculous discount compared with the game's other superstars. They will get two more years out of him before he hits free agency again in 2017. And by then, the salary cap is almost certain to be nine figures, and the Warriors will be just a year away from moving into their new revenue-inhaling San Francisco arena.
That's remarkably good fortune.
But there's another aspect to the Warriors that is as time-tested in the NBA world as Quick Change. The nexus of that comes from Phoenix, and the Suns' Seven Seconds or Less teams. The Warriors were supremely motivated to triumph that this season, and a cause is a powerful thing.
GameTime: Stephen Curry
Stephen Curry joins the GameTime Crew to discuss the Warriors' winning the NBA Championship.
People never understood that former Suns coach Mike D'Antoni, while fast with a quip, quick to laugh at himself and amazingly accessible to the media, had a major red ass. Dude wanted to win as bad as breathing.
He was desperate to prove that his system, which in all other ways revolutionized the NBA game, was solid enough to win a championship. And that up-yours philosophy carried over to the Warriors, whose now former associate head coach, Alvin Gentry, is a D'Antoni acolyte -- and who was instrumental in fitting the Warriors' pieces to D'Antoni's old style.
"You make sure and tell 'em that Mike D'Antoni is vindicated!," Gentry screamed in the champagne-soaked Warriors locker room.
It was the same with Steve Nash, who understood that there was a real world out there that needed to be engaged, who understood his great good fortune in becoming an NBA player, who always deferred to other athletes like the late runner Terry Fox as examples of true heroes. But despite being a well-grounded person, Nash burned to win. He lived to compete. He stayed on an extra two years to make absolutely sure he wouldn't wring one last season out of his body.
And it is the same with Kerr -- who also came from Phoenix, where he was GM from 2007-10, and was one of the few teammates with the guts to stand up to Michael Jordan as a player. (He lost his celebrated fight with Jordan in practice, but he didn't back down.) He may smile a lot and joke with reporters, but he wants to kick your butt when he gets on the floor. Amid that Happy Warriors stuff was a spine of hard-nosed toughness, which Kerr gained from a lifetime playing with assorted Bulls and Spurs.
Warriors Locker Room Celebration
The GameTime crew go inside the Warriors locker room celebration.
Owner Joe Lacob had famously tired of coach Mark Jackson after just three seasons -- the last two of which were playoff seasons (marking the first time the Warriors had made the postseason in back to back years in two decades). But he and GM Bob Myers knew Kerr, and believed Kerr was not just capable, but had a give-a-damn meter than was off the charts.
"He wouldn't have accomplished all he did as a player in college and the pros without an edge," Myers texted Sunday. "He had to work to earn all his opportunities and accolades. That competitiveness stays with you in whatever occupation you choose."
Kerr was prepared, with folders full of after-timeout plays he'd remembered from teams, coaches and opponents over 20 years. The Warriors got layups, dunks and open threes time and again out of timeouts against the Cavaliers.
"He's got a stack about (four inches) thick," Gentry said. "He'd pull out an old Phoenix play, or something from Chicago nine years ago, and say 'I think this would be good for us.' "
Kerr also challenged Curry to get away from what Kerr termed "plays of insanity" -- the one-handed, cross-court passes Curry threw during games the previous two seasons, which led to easy turnovers and empty possessions. There were still ups and downs, but the Warriors dropped from ninth in the league in turnovers in 2013-14 to 13th last season, and their offense became so lethal that they could overcome the occasional bad nights.
Film Room: Warriors Close
The Film Room crew look at how the Warriors defended Cleveland to seal the win and the 2015 NBA Championship.
"We didn't know what to expect, but the key was to trust the process," guard Shaun Livingston said. "Every day, hammer in on what we're trying to do, who we are, really, our identity. Fast, loose and disciplined -- that's kind of our motto."
They found magic in playing Draymond Green at power forward, where his versatility allowed them to switch almost everything out front defensively with Thompson and Harrison Barnes, while still having Andrew Bogut to protect the rim. Like the others, Green was motivated to show he deserved starters' minutes (he wasn't going to get them until David Lee got hurt), and Barnes was driven after being benched last season by Jackson in favor of Andre Iguodala.
And Iguodala was driven, having given up his starting small forward gig at Kerr's request so that Barnes could get his mojo back with the starters. Iguodala is a proud vet, with superlative knowledge of the game. Sometimes his smarts have gotten him sideways with coaches, who have believed he believed in his guile a little too much. Yet it was his insertion back into the starting lineup in Game 4 that ignited Golden State's rally.
2015 NBA Finals: What Will You Remember?
The Starters each pick what they will remember from the Cavs-Warriors 2015 Finals.
The Warriors have everything in place for an extended run. Green is a restricted free agent, but there's rapidly increasing belief he's staying in town, having picked up his game after three straight subpar Finals games ("I was terrible," he lamented) to help Golden State get off the deck. The Warriors will have to decide if they want to keep Lee, who has a year left on his deal, but that's really the only heavy lifting they'll have this offseason.
Are they the vanguard of something new? Maybe there's more of an emphasis on small ball and 3-pointers. But only because the Warriors have unusual, historically good personnel to do so. Jackson was right -- Curry and Thompson are the best-shooting backcourt of all time. It's hard to debate that any further. And thus, Golden State would be silly not to spread the floor and let them fire away.
It's a different paradigm, driven by unseen toughness -- and, some luck. Nothing wrong with taking a different way to the promised land every once in a while, as long as you get where you're trying to go, you know?
(Final 2014-15 Standings)
1) Golden State: NBA Champions. (I used to write "World Champions," but would get indignant e-mails/comments from basketball lovers abroad who would remind me that there's something called the FIBA World Championships that decides that sort of thing in basketball, thank you very much.)
2) Cleveland: One gets the sense the Cavs have just been delayed, not denied.
3) Atlanta: Good to see the Hawks' new ownership group led by Tony Ressler resolve Danny Ferry's status with what I hear is a very generous settlement of his contract. Again: Ferry's words about Luol Deng, even if paraphrasing someone else, were hurtful. But that does not make him a racist. He has shown genuine remorse and a desire to try and expand his worldview. And he should have the opportunity in due time to get another GM job, given his great success in putting the Hawks together so quickly.
Top 10 Plays: Atlanta Hawks In 2014-15
Here are the Atlanta Hawk's Top 10 plays of the 2014-15 season.
4) Houston: Dwight Howard gets a lot of bad ink, but he reached out to a community that needed it last week.
5) Memphis: Jeff Green opts in for next season at $9.2 million, which should surprise no one -- he gets a solid payday next season, a chance to win a ring and becomes unrestricted in '16.
6) L.A. Clippers: A huge gamble bringing in Lance Stephenson, and it's all on Doc Rivers to make it work.
Stephenson Addresses The Media
Doc Rivers and Lance Stephenson address the media about Stephenson becoming a new member of the Los Angeles Clippers.
7) Washington: As I reported as likely to happen a couple of weeks ago, Paul Pierce will opt out of his Wizards contract. The expectation among many around the league remains Pierce will wind up in L.A. with the Clippers.
8) Chicago: Good hire for Fred Hoiberg bringing Jim Boylen to his staff from San Antonio as associate head coach.
9) San Antonio: Tim Duncan takes old financial advisor to court, claiming he was cheated out of $20 million.
10) Dallas: Melvin Hunt becomes Rick Carlisle's top assistant for next season after Nuggets pick Mike Malone for their coaching spot.
11) Portland: With Arron Afflalo expected to opt out of the last year of his contract today and become an unrestricted free agent, Blazers have big calls to make at shooting guard -- re-sign Afflalo, hope they can re-sign Wesley Matthews, rehabbing an Achilles' tear, at reasonable numbers, or let them both go and give the starting two gig to C.J. McCollum next year?
13) Toronto: Raptors talking to former Bulls assistant Andy Greer and former Thunder assistant Rex Kalamian about vacant assistant coach position, per sources.
Top 10: Toronto Raptors In 2014-15
Here are the top 10 plays of the season.
14) Brooklyn: Like seemingly every team after Miami at 10, the Nets are inquiring about trading their first-round pick.
15) New Orleans: Eric Gordon, also unsurprisingly, opts in for next season at $15.5 million.
What do the Cavaliers do now?
The morning of the last game of the NBA season, I was asked a question by a sober reporter from an Israeli TV network: had I ever seen the level of disrespect by a player to his coach like LeBron James had shown David Blatt this season? Part of me, I must admit, loved the audacity of the query, the total lack of objectivity that the reporter had. He had made up his mind about what he saw and believed, and asked accordingly. There is great freedom in that.
The question, and all it implied, is at the heart of what the Cavaliers will have to do going forward.
Cavs GM David Griffin said Thursday at the team's season-ending media availability that Blatt would return next season, that continuity would be critical for Cleveland to again compete for a title. That would also mean the Cavs want and expect Kevin Love back, even if he opts out of the last year of his deal for purposes of securing a bigger contract in 2016 or 2017 -- even though Cleveland's defense became almost impregnable when Love was injured in the first round against Boston and Tristan Thompson was put in the starting lineup.
David Blatt On Offseason
David Blatt addresses the media about his first season as the Cavaliers head coach.
Blatt was a great coach in Europe and he rightly earned a shot at an NBA gig with his excellence over two decades. No, he did not know he would be coaching LeBron when he was offered the Cavaliers gig (though he surely had an inkling from management/ownership that that was possible). But he did not resign when James agreed to return to the 216. He accepted the challenge of coaching one of the game's all-time greats -- one who has been given free reign in Cleveland not once, but twice. Blatt is a grownup. He knows what the deal is.
There can be no surprise registered about James' behavior patterns when he has, for a second time, been allowed to bring his close friends with him into the organization, in prominent roles, as a condition of his employment. That's fine with me, by the way: almost every team in the league (with the exception of Pat Riley's Heat, which James left, and maybe Gregg Popovich's Spurs) would have taken the same deal to have James on the team payroll. Actors and musicians have riders in their deals with movie companies and concert promoters; Lord knows LeBron is no shrinking violet when it comes to being a celebrity.
Cavaliers' Offseason Moves
Cavaliers' general manager David Griffin speaks on his plan for Cleveland's roster next season.
More to the point, James' on-court acumen has rarely been challenged by any coach since he's joined the NBA -- his self-described "hard drive" of a basketball brain sees actions two and three rotations before they occur. Not only is he more physically gifted than just about anyone else who's ever played the game, he's smarter about basketball than many who have (and who do) coach the game. That doesn't mean James doesn't need coaching; it certainly means that there are few people with the chops to do so in a manner that will compel him to listen to them before trusting his own instincts.
That doesn't mean the Cavs have to fire Blatt. Yes, there's a potential replacement in Mark Jackson, who now has the same agent -- Rich Paul -- as James. But cashiering Blatt by James' hand would stain the almost-perfect recasting of James as Cleveland's Prodigal Son, lost in Miami but found again in his hometown. (Yes, James won two rings in Miami with the SuperFriends, and had a grand old time while on South Beach by all accounts. It's a parable. Work with me.)
Respect is earned, not given. Blatt surely knows he will never win a PR battle with James in Cleveland, so he takes the perceived insults. But with a year of NBA experience now under his belt, he should be able to express himself more forcefully when necessary. Nobody else is going to make James listen to Blatt except Blatt.
Cavaliers React to Loss
David Blatt and LeBron James react to the Game 6 loss to the Warriors.
And here, one pauses.
Many in the media have championed Blatt for years, as is their absolute right, thinking he will be an outstanding NBA coach if just given the chance. And they remained sympathetic to him all season, noting (correctly) the passive-aggressive behavior pattern James displayed toward him.
But the James-Blatt contretemps, such as they were, must also be viewed in the prism of history.
Superstars are difficult. There's a reason Jerry West gave Phil Jackson run of the joint in L.A. -- to, somehow, keep Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal from killing each other while competing for rings. For every Tim Duncan, ready and willing to let Popovich cuss him out in practice, there's...well, there's everyone else, and that's the point. Superstars always think they're right, about everything. (Karl Malone didn't cross swords much with legendary Jazz coach Jerry Sloan about Xs and Os, but his constant unhappiness with his contracts in Utah was hardly an NBA state secret.)
Still, as wrought by injuries as Cleveland was, and as raw the relationship between coach and star, the Cavs were still just two wins away from that elusive ring. Surely, a healthy Love, a healthy Kyrie Irving and a 2015-16 season with slightly less attention on James may be enough to get those additional two victories -- assuming Love and James stick around.
Both are expected to opt out of their respective deals by the end of the month. There is no intel to suggest James is doing it for any reason other than to set himself up for max paydays in either 2016 or 2017. Love may well be doing the exact same thing by opting out, but he didn't have the run all year that James had. He struggled to find his way on offense and struggled on defense until late in the regular season, when the Cavs turned things around.
Only Love knows what he wants, whether he found the secret to his success in Cleveland during that late-season surge or whether he wants to end the experiment after one year and move on. If he stays, the Cavaliers would likely be a prohibitive favorite to repeat as east champs next season.
Irving got hurt, again, for much of the season. But he had the single most impressive game of any player in the league this season -- his 57-point overtime masterpiece in San Antonio against the Spurs. His skills are as devastating as anyone in the game when he's healthy.
Kyrie Irving's Incredible 57-Point Performance
Re-live Kyrie Irving's amazing career-high 57-point performance against the San Antonio Spurs with some of the best angles and calls of the night.
Griffin pointed out Friday that Cleveland was 33-3 in its last 36 games this season with James, Irving and Love on the floor together. But for sustained postseason success, the Cavs will surely need a wing defender and/or a rim protector on the floor to help Irving and Love. Shumpert is a natural fit at the two, but Cleveland would have to decide whether Timofey Mozgov, who excelled defensively in the paint and is a Blatt favorite, or Thompson would make the most sense playing next to Love.
When Thompson and Love played together with James and Irving this season, they had one of the best four-man plus-minus scores of any quartet the Cavs played together, according to basketball-reference.com, at +23. Only Dellavadova, Shumpert, James and Thompson were better together, at +25, and that was the defense-first unit that played most of the postseason together.
But the Cavaliers believe that Love can play with Mozgov as well, and next season, Cleveland should get Anderson Varejao back from a torn Achilles' suffered last December. How much they can count on Varejao, who's been injured most of the past four seasons, remains a question.
Anderson Varejao fights for the rebound and comes down awkwardly on his left leg and would sustain a leg injury.
There is, though, one area in which the Cavs simply must assert themselves: they must improve their bench.
Even without Irving and Love, James got Cleveland really, really close in The Finals. But Blatt plainly had little to no confidence in the thirty-somethings he saw in reserve -- James Jones, Mike Miller and Shawn Marion, all James-approved players -- and rode his Big Six almost into the ground. The Cavs have to rebuild their bench for next season with vets who have more tread left on their tires.
Cleveland held onto Brendan Haywood's team-friendly contract -- a non-guaranteed $10.5 million for next season, which can be expunged from the books of whatever team he's on if he's waived by Aug. 1 -- precisely for use this summer. The contract should bring back a contributing player for next season, though it's probably not quite as enticing to other teams as it was a year ago, before the cap explosions of 2016 and 2017 became obvious to everyone.
But there are still possibilities, especially if Cleveland is willing, as was reported late last week, to throw in its first-rounder as part of a Haywood deal.
The Hornets, for example, aren't interested in Matt Barnes long-term. They're holding onto him for now, I'm told, in hopes they can move him before June 30, when his 2015-16 salary would become guaranteed.
A combo of Barnes and Marvin Williams -- like Barnes, entering the last year of his current deal -- to Cleveland for Haywood's contract and the Cavs' pick would be a low-risk, one-year rental for the Cavs of two players who combined to average better than 17 points and 9 rebounds last season. They would be much more productive off the bench than what Cleveland had this season.
(Such a trade would also get Charlotte far enough under the cap to sign its first-rounders while still being able to either make a credible, mid-level offer to a quality free agent like Indiana's Rodney Stuckey -- or take a flier via additional trade on a vet like Minnesota's Chase Budinger or the Wizards' Martell Webster.)
Barnes may be 35, but he's still capable of first-rate perimeter defense. Barnes and Iman Shumpert, along with Williams, would provide Blatt with any number of wing options to play alongside James. (This does not include J.R. Smith, who has a player option for next season for $6.9 million. One assumes he'll opt in.)
James came back to Cleveland with a team that was a lot less experienced than the one he went to in Miami in 2010. But this team reached the exact same point the Heat did his first year there -- Game 6 of The Finals. The Cavaliers have all the pieces in place to return next season, and they don't need a new coach to go further.
Your forest does not equal my trees. From Ray DeCampo:
Kerr Lies to Media
Steve Kerr admits he lied about Andrew Bogut starting Game 4 and instead started Andre Iguodala.
I am writing to respectfully disagree with you re Steve Kerr lying about planning a change in the starting lineup in The Finals. First, I don't have a problem with sports figures lying to the media concerning future tactics or strategy. The element of surprise should be open for them to take advantage of. I would compare it to lying while playing poker.
More importantly however, I would like to take issue with the following statement:
To be okay with Kerr's falsehood is to accept the idea that lying is wrong -- unless it's about something really, really important.
I do not think the starting lineup in the NBA Finals qualifies as something really, really important. In the past you have provided moments of perspective in your writing so it is especially disappointing that you seem to have lost perspective over this.
Whether or not the US has tortured prisoners; whether or not there was a good-faith belief that Iraq had WMD; racial profiling by police; these are things that are really, really important that the American people may have been lied to concerning. I trust that you agree that Steve Kerr's lies are meaningless compared to these issues and that being OK with his lies concerning the starting lineup in no way condones lies about the above subjects.
Yours is a leap of Snake Canyon proportions, Ray. Of course I am not equating a basketball coach's decision with the Iraq War, or anything else that involves people dying. That is a straw man. I was referring, obviously, to the importance of winning to an NBA coach. Wins and losses are how they are judged, paid and the basis upon which they remain employed. So it is, indeed, really, really important to them that they win games -- especially Finals games. The point I was making is that you can make anything important enough to you to lie about it -- which is wrong. And, before you ask: I am guilty of lying, too, about things that were important to me at the time. And it wasn't right when I did it, either.
The Law of Diminishing Marginal Bench Guys. From David Coleman:
After Game 4, I am trying to understand the rationale for using short rotations. Do coaches favour them to build cohesion amongst the select core? I don't understand why Coach Blatt only used 7 players when he knew fatigue was an issue, given the experience he has on the bench (Perkins/Miller/Marion). Is the point of a deep squad to get you to the post season, at which point the starters effectively take over?
Basically, that's how most coaches operate. There are a few -- Hubie Brown and Rick Carlisle come to mind, though I'm sure there are more -- who have stayed longer with the deep rotations they used during the regular season into the playoffs. But more coaches follow the old Pat Riley mantra of playoff basketball: "dress 12, use seven, play six, trust five." Starters' minutes tend to increase in the postseason because they are viewed, with some logic, as a team's best players. And coaches want their best players on the floor as long as possible.
Because one cannot both shop for and cook the ingredients at the same time without a third hand. From Stuart Davidson:
I understand the need to recognise the accomplishments of excellent coaches and to demonstrate loyalty and commitment to them by providing them with more responsibility, however, is there not a real risk that the role of president could detract from their core strengths? It's not to say that Stan Van Gundy, Mike Budenholzer etc can't excel in the role of president of basketball operations, but they've proven to excel in their position of coaches and I imagine, having no experience of this whatsoever, that a coach has enough on his plate without adding more responsibility. Factoring in trade negotiations, etc., whilst still trying to run a team and prepare suitably for games during the season must add a lot more stress and work to an already high-pressured, intense job.
Interestingly, the opposite seems to be starting to trend in European soccer. More recently, soccer managers at European teams are keen to work with teams that have presidents in place (as Jurgen Klopp, one of the top managers in world soccer, stated not too long ago) to ensure that they focus on what's important on the pitch, i.e. team performance, tactics, preparing for the next game effectively. This distances them from the negotiations of transfers etc, which can cause some tension between players and their club. The manager gets to maintain his relationship with his players without being distracted by off the field issues.
This to me seems a sensible approach, and one which I think most of the teams in the NBA are following because it's a good way to run a team.
I agree, Stuart. I believe it is imperative that there not only be division of labor in a basketball department, but division of thought. It is not whether a coach has the acumen or can properly divide his time well enough to do both jobs, it's whether he should. A coach who acts as his own GM has to, being human, develop loyalties and blind spots to players that he picked, in whom he believed and to whom he gave playing time and/or money. That is not healthy.
There has to be someone with a different voice and a different opinion in the room -- preferably, several -- who can talk the coach off a ledge when it comes to wanting to get or get rid of a player. There has to be a person who looks at the potential of a Draft pick differently -- not better or worse, just differently. There has to be someone thinking about winning three years from now, not tonight, which every coach, rightly, does. There has to be creative tension for an organization to make complete decisions. It doesn't mean they will, of course, but it makes the odds for success greater. Phil Jackson and Jerry Krause came to loath one another during the Bulls' glory days, but they needed one another, too.
Send your questions, comments, criticisms and floor plans for your dream spot in the Nation's Capital to email@example.com. If your e-mail is sufficiently funny, thought-provoking, well-written or snarky, we just might publish it!
(2014-15 playoff averages in parentheses)
1) Stephen Curry (28.3 ppg, 5 rpg, 6.4 apg, .456 FG, .835 FT): Riley's Dad didn't win Finals MVP, but he had so many of the playoff moments that mattered for Golden State, it hardly registered.
Curry's Top 10 Playoff Plays
Check out the Top 10 playoff plays from Golden State Warriors and NBA MVP Stephen Curry.
2) LeBron James (30.1 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 11.3 apg, .417 FG, .731 FT): Bryce, LeBron, Jr., and Zhuri's Dad carried an Stygian burden throughout the playoffs, and almost won Finals MVP honors despite being on the losing team.
LeBron's Top 10 Playoff Plays
Check out the Top 10 playoff plays from LeBron James of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
3) James Harden (27.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 7.5 apg, .439 FG, .916 FT): James Harden, Jr.'s son had a horrible, horrible last game of the season, with 15 turnovers against the Warriors in Game 5 of the Western Conference finals. But he was the main reason the Rockets were in that game.
4) Chris Paul (22.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg, 8.8 apg, ..503 FG, .941 FT): Christopher II and Camryn's Dad had one of the best seasons of his career, but still has yet to reach a conference finals. If the 2013-14 playoffs gnawed at his heart, the Clippers' collapse to Houston in the semifinals will eat at his soul.
5) Blake Griffin (25.5 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 6.1 apg, .511 FG, .717 FT): Ford's Dad takes the lumps for the less-than-stellar rollout of the new Clippers' logo on Funny or Die.
34 -- The number of international and college players that pulled out of Thursday's Draft. There are 47 U.S. college underclassmen and 11 international players that remain in the Draft. Kentucky, naturally, has the most underclassmen (seven) in the Draft of any school.
59 -- Consecutive games that the Warriors won without a loss when they led by 15 or more points in any game this season. Considering that Golden State won 83 games total this year (67 in the regular season; 16 in the playoffs), the fact that they led 69.9 percent of their games this season by 15 or more points speaks to how dominant the Warriors were.
78 -- Players, per the website LakersNation.com, that have worked out for the Lakers, who have three Draft picks, including the second pick overall, in anticipation of Thursday's Draft. The Lakers have reportedly worked out Jahlil Okafor, D'Angelo Russell and Emmanuel Mudiay twice each.
1) The playoffs were great. Just great. But it's good to be (mostly) home for a while.
Craig Sager's 2014-15 Season Essay
TNT's Craig Sager recaps the NBA season, capped off by the Golden State Warriors winning the 2014-15 NBA championship.
2) It appears everything in life, including NBA games, are a series of random events.
3) The Sixers' new uniforms are...classy. Good job, Philly.
4) Some remarkable journalism this week. This is a great piece of writing by The Cauldron's Tim Baffoe, juxtapositioning the joy of the Blackhawks' victory parade in Chicago Thursday morning with the massacre in Charleston, S.C., Wednesday night.
4a) And this is incredibly poignant stuff from Atlanta Journal-Constitution sports columnist Jeff Schultz, on his son's drug addiction and how the entire family was laid low -- then rose to deal with it honestly, bravely and soberly. Pun very much intended.
1) There are people who do things, and we'll never understand why. That is not the case with the premeditated assassination of nine black people last week in Charleston. There's one reason that person (I will not contribute to his infamy by writing his name) did what he did: racism. Nothing else. Not mental illness, though he may well be found to be insane. But there are lots of clinically insane people who don't shoot up a church full of black people. This person said he wanted to start another civil war, that he was there to shoot black people, that wore the colors of Apartheid Rhodesia on his clothing. He was a racist. And that's why he was there, on that day, in that church -- which he drove two hours to get to, passing lots of other churches with Christians engaged in Bible study on Wednesdays, so this wasn't about shooting Christians. There is no other explanation, no "lone wolf nut job" fallacy to make some (far from all) people feel better. This mass murder was the product of a society that has yet to come to grips with the racism that has permeated this nation for 400 years and still does. Two things can be true at the same time. Have we made substantial progress as a society toward being more just and fair and less overtly racist, toward judging people by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin? Yes. Is this country still virulently racist? Yes. Do we have to continue to work to make it better? Same answer.
2) As a person who misses typewriters, I am not in the demographic that the Clippers are trying to reach with their new logo. I get it. They'll sell a billion new jerseys to kids and millennials who no doubt were surveyed and focus grouped within an inch of their lives, and laugh at old people like me who impotently shake our fists at the newfangled things. It's all good. It's just not for me.
3) Twenty-nine years since Len Bias died. Hard to believe.
4) I don't obsess about golf. I don't play five times a week. I think I know what a handicap is. But I love watching Tiger Woods play. So, is there someone smarter than me, more knowledgeable about the game and its history, who can put Woods's collapse as a player into context? Has this ever happened so quickly, and so forcefully, to someone who was, maybe, destined to be one of the top two or three players ever to play the game?
5) Is Ed Rooney moonlighting at the Korea Times in his post-Bueller life?
He is the son of Malcolm and Ann Kerr, and that is the best explanation of who Steve Kerr is and why he lives life the way he does -- completely, intelligently, passionately. Theirs was an academic family, whose four children have been comfortable living all over the world, at home in different cultures, able to think on their feet and thrive. That inner strength and confidence allowed Steve Kerr to play 14 NBA seasons with both a sense of the dramatic and a sense of humor -- making The Finals-winning jumper in 1997 vs. Utah for Chicago and winning five titles as a player for the Bulls and Spurs.
Open Court: 1997 NBA Finals, Game 6
How Steve Kerr and the Bulls won the title in 1997, with his big last shot in Game 6 of the NBA Finals.
Upon his retirement he was able to go immediately from the court to the TV booth, back to the game as general manager of the Suns (2007-10), and back to the booth after three years in Phoenix. But the lure of the game has always stayed there, and when both the Knicks and Warriors offered him their coaching job last year, Kerr had a choice to make, between his mentor Phil Jackson and the chance to be closer to his family in California, where his kids were still in school.
He chose his family and the Splash Brothers, but for those who believed his choice was merely picking Golden State's young backcourt over Jackson's empty shelves in New York, Kerr's choice ran much deeper. Family would always come first. It had to.
For his family suffered the most awful and grievous of losses when Malcolm Kerr, the President of the American University of Beirut, was assassinated in 1984, when Steve Kerr was 18 years old and had just made the varsity at the University of Arizona. It is a subject he almost never discusses in public, understandably. No one could ever begin to understand the impact of such horror.
Extra Stuff: Kerr's Coaching Style
Steve Kerr explains his coaching style to Grant Hill.
But Steve Kerr has always had perspective, whether a player or broadcast colleague. You compete as hard as you possibly can, but you don't get consumed. And during his first season as a head coach, he took those lessons to heart, driving the Warriors on the floor while staying honest. He never tried to make them forget how much they learned from former coach Mark Jackson, only that they could get even better. The Warriors' triumph over Cleveland in The Finals is testament to Kerr's vision, and his completeness as a person: father, husband, brother, son. Malcolm and Ann Kerr's son.
Me: You won five titles as a player. How does this feel to you in comparison?
Steve Kerr: It feels different. You know, the joy and the relief is the same. But as a coach, you never take a shot. You never get a rebound. You never do anything on the court. But you just feel responsible for everything. And you want people to do well. You want people to succeed. And when it happens, and you see all these joyous faces, it's an incredible feeling of satisfaction, knowing you at least played a part in it. You didn't do anything on the court, but you had to do a lot off the court to try and get the right atmosphere and all that stuff. So I'm just happy for a lot of people.
GameTime: Aldridge With Kerr
TNT's David Aldridge sits down with his former TNT colleague, now Warriors' rookie head coach Steve Kerr, after winning the NBA Championship.
Me: What did Pop or Phil or Pete Carroll, who you also spoke with, tell you about the emotion of winning a championship, and how does the reality compare with the words they said?
SK: Well, because I felt it as a player, I knew about the emotion. What I had sort of forgotten about was just the grind of the two straight months of this. It seems like our first game against New Orleans in the first round was like three years ago. And what happens is, especially as a coach, but also as a player -- at least in my experience as a player -- is you win. You celebrate for five minutes, and then you start thinking about the next game. And then that goes on for two months. And it's this roller coaster ride. And you never, ever feel liberated and free. You just feel like, oh my gosh, we've got to win the next one. Then you lose, and you feel awful, and you're up all night, and you're thinking about every possible adjustment you can make, and you talk to your staff, and you try to keep your players going. And after a while, it just wears you out. So, I'm looking forward to doing nothing. And I won't start until noon each day. That was a Bum Phillips line. Bum Phillips retired, and they said, they said 'what are you doing with your life?' And he said 'I ain't doing nothing, and I don't start 'till noon.' That's going to be me for the next month. I'm tired. We're all tired. But that's what makes it so gratifying, just the amount of work that goes into it, and the relief that comes with winning.
I think Mike was already vindicated. Miami winning the title, even San Antonio, you think about the way the Spurs won -- 3-point shooting, floor spacing -- I think Mike changed the league.
– Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr
Me: Did your team change during the playoffs?
SK: I think we grew. My biggest concern going into the playoffs is that we have a very young team. We have some vets -- Andre Iguodala, and (Andrew) Bogut, and (David) Lee. But our four young guys -- Klay, Steph, Harrison (Barnes), Draymond (Green) -- they're remarkable human beings, great players. But they walk this fine line between recklessness and aggressiveness. And I was very concerned going into the playoffs that our carelessness was going to cost us. And you fast forward a couple of months, and we're down 2-1 in The Finals, and we have seven turnovers in Game 4. And in the closeout game, we had like eight or nine. I think this team grew dramatically in terms of awareness, executing. Very gratifying to see.
Me: You always hear on championship teams that the players took ownership. Did that happen here, and if so, when did it become clear to you?
Inside Stuff: Shooter to Shooter
Steve Kerr never talks to Klay or Stephen about their shooting technique.
SK: I think that on every great team, the players ultimately take ownership. It's not the coach's job to own the team; it's the coach's job to guide the team. And (the players) ultimately take it over themselves. And it only happens if you have great talent and great character, guys who understand the responsibility. I think that happened this year as we went. We got off to a great start. Andre sacrificing his starting role set a tone. David Lee willingly stepping back, all those things happened early on, and we were winning. So it, I think the momentum sort of carried us through some of the inevitable adversity. But in the end it's all about having talent and really having high-character, hard-working guys who care -- who care about winning, who care about each other. And that's what we have.
Me: Do you think Mike D'Antoni is smiling somewhere tonight, because the style he brought to the league has been emulated by a team that finally won a title?
SK: I think Mike was already vindicated. Miami winning the title, even San Antonio, you think about the way the Spurs won -- 3-point shooting, floor spacing -- I think Mike changed the league. He was so close in Phoenix to winning a title. But timing is everything in this league. We kept running into San Antonio when we were in Phoenix together, and, frankly, I don't think the Suns had the defensive personnel to get over the hump. But, the style changed the league. Now, teams the last few years, like Miami, San Antonio and us are able to play that style -- only with the personnel that's necessary to defend at the highest level. I think we've sort of taken what Mike introduced and tried to expand it. That's the way everyone's trying to play now, and Mike deserves a lot of credit for that.
Kerr Speaks to Warriors Fans
Warriors coach Steve Kerr speaks to the fans at the Warriors Championship Parade.
Me: In the third quarter of Game 6, you scored 28 points as a team, but Steph and Klay just scored one of those 28. Is that kind of the quintessential Warriors quarter?
SK: Yeah, and I think we had 12 assists, too. And that's the thing we emphasized from day one training camp: ball movement. We've got to move the ball. We, everybody knows Steph and Klay are the Splash Brothers, and all that. But ball movement that could lead to the other offensive opportunities, because defenses were going to be way out at the three-point line on those two guys, we just felt like we could get great shots as a group. And that was a good example of that -- those guys not really rolling early, and yet we were moving it and finding good shots.
Me: What did you find out about yourself this year?
SK: That I still get really nervous. Honestly, the reason I left TV and went into coaching was I wanted to feel nervous again. I wanted the skin in the game. Because what comes with those stakes, when you're in it, is the fear of failure, the fear of losing. But the flip side is the feeling I have tonight, which you can't find anywhere else.
Inside Stuff: Grant Hill and Steve Kerr
Steve Kerr talks to Grant Hill about his relationship with his players and how that helped bring them to this historic season.
Me: Who do you share this with?
SK: My family. I have the greatest wife and children. I'm going to go celebrate with them right now. I've just been incredibly lucky in my life, to grow up in an amazing family, and now to have a wonderful wife and children. We have so much fun together.
Me: Sunday is Father's Day. I know how much you love your kids. But it has to feel awfully special, and I know you must have some thoughts about your dad now.
SK: I think about my dad all the time. He would have loved to have seen all this unfold. He wouldn't have believed it. But I am so much like my dad. I lost him when I was 18, but I think about him all the time. Our dispositions are very similar. He was very patient, but passionate. So I'm very proud that I'm a chip off the old block.
Me: And your mom?
SK: Just how much I love her, and how proud I am of her, and how thankful I am to have had her my whole life.
-- Thunder 2014 first-round pick Josh Huestis (@jhuestis), Tuesday, 10:29 p.m., echoing the sentiments of a troubled and deeply concerned nation when it comes to that creepy Darrell Hammond, Jr. resuscitation of the old Kentucky Fried Chicken character.
"My mentality is a lot different now. I feel that I have to rebuild my body and get stronger and make sure I don't get all those little injuries that I had last year. I'm very excited about it. Hopefully it will pay off and I'll be in shape when I come to camp."
-- Tony Parker, to local reporters in San Antonio last week, disclosing that he's changed his offseason routine from previous year and has been working out since the beginning of the month in order to be better prepared physically for next season. Parker said he will also play for the French national team this summer after taking last summer off from international competition to be rested for the NBA season.
"The roster we have today will not be the roster we have in training camp."
-- Nuggets Coach Mike Malone, to the Denver Post, indicating that Denver will be active in the trade front this offseason as it was before the trade deadline in February, with guard Ty Lawson a likely candidate to be dealt before the start of next season.
"I couldn't believe that there was some kind of hue and cry over whether I should have been there to watch what in effect had taken place in a back room, where they had some balls rolling around in a hamster cage."
-- Phil Jackson, to the New York Times, on why he didn't sit on the stage for the Lottery drawing last month, sending team president Steve Mills to be the public face of the team instead. New York wound up with the fourth pick overall in Thursday's Draft. During the interview, Jackson said he should have gotten consideration for NBA Executive of the Year based on his ability to clear contracts and cap space last season in New York.
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