Shootaround (June 10) -- Past moves by LeBron, Durant irk some
Plus, how teams of the past would fare against the Warriors and more from around the NBA
This morning’s headlines:
- LeBron’s mom wanted to stay in Miami
- Durant’s move still doesn’t sit well with some
- Ex stars insist they could beat Warriors
- 95-96 Bulls or these Warriors?
1.LeBron’s mom wanted to stay in Miami: When it came time to make the second biggest decision of his life, LeBron James was out-voted in his own household. Not everyone was on board with him leaving Miami and returning to Cleveland. But in this case, the fans of the Cavs are thrilled that LeBron held veto power. Not only did he win the city’s first NBA title but he extended this year’s series to a Game 5. Here’s Kyle Boone of CBS Sports with the details:
LeBron James’ decision to return to Cleveland in 2014 was popular among many NBA fans. After leaving his home state and winning two NBA titles with the Miami Heat, he declared his new goal was returning to the Cavaliers was to bring a title to the championship-hungry town.
But James’ decision wasn’t made without protest from those close to him. In an informal discussion in a barber shop that took place in February with Draymond Green on hand that aired on YouTube on Friday, James said his closest confidants — his mother and wife — were not supportive of returning to Cleveland.
“I mean for me, personally, when I decided to go back to Cleveland, I had to decide — because our owner at the time when I left decided to put out this [censored] article that we all know about where he completely bashed and disrespected not only me as an individual, but disrespected my name. My name is not just myself it’s my wife, my kids, my grandmother, my mother.
“So for me, when I decided to go back, and I talked to like Mav, Rich and Randy and everyone and I had to let them know cause some people were on the fence – even my wife and my momma was like ‘f*** that, I ain’t with that.’ My mom was definitely like ‘f*** that, we ain’t going back.’For me, it was more, I had to be finally like ‘You know what mom, it ain’t really about that. Me going back is more of a bigger picture, and more about all these kids, all these people who need inspiration and need a way to get out. And I believe I am that way out. So as much as my mom means everything to me, and as much as my wife means everything to me and my kids. My mom was like, ‘You go back, I ain’t going back with you.’ She was like, ‘I’m staying in Miami.’ I had to be like, ‘Let’s not worry about the small s***, and let’s worry about building something that’s bigger than our name.’ ”
The Cavaliers won the NBA title with James last season after overcoming a 3-1 Finals deficit, and are in the midst of their third-straight Finals appearance since he returned to Cleveland.
2. Durant’s move doesn’t sit well with some: It really doesn’t matter what Kevin Durant does the rest of his professional life, some folks just aren’t on board with him leaving Oklahoma City for the Warriors. The latest critic is David Whitley of the Orlando Sentinel, who compared KD to Anna Nicole Smith. Let Whitley speak for himself:
Who does Kevin Durant remind you in the NBA Finals?
Magic Johnson? Michael Jordan? LeBron James?
I have to go with Anna Nicole Smith.
The late, great bombshell started out as a waitress at Jim’s Krispy Fried Chicken in Mexia, Texas, then worked in a Houston strip club.
There she met an older gentleman named J. Howard Marshall. Smith became the World’s Greatest Gold Digger when she married the 89-year-old oil tycoon.
She was 26.
Durant was 27 when he married the J. Howard Marshall of the NBA last July.
By signing a free-agent contract with the Warriors, Durant essentially admitted Oklahoma City was Jim’s Krispy Fried Chicken and he’d never strike championship gold there. So he took his talents to the Bay area to get a ring or two or three.
That will round out one of the all-time basketball résumés. But he’s kidding himself if he thinks a lot of people won’t look at his legacy and see shades of Anna Nicole Durant.
All the dire predictions after he signed are coming true. The NBA Finals have all the suspense of a Globetrotters’ game. The only thing missing so far is Steph Curry pulling the fake-water-bucket trick on Kevin Love.
Sure, LeBron led the Cavs out of an 0-2 hole last year. But Curry is healthy this year and Draymond Green isn’t getting suspended, and this smells like a five-game series at most.
“The Warriors, in my estimation, have a bigger talent difference between them and the next best team than has ever happened in my time in the NBA,” ABC analyst Jeff Van Gundy told Rolling Stone.That’s not a bad thing, unless you like to a little suspense with your championship series. And in Durant’s defense, it’s not as if super teams are a new phenomenon.
The Celtics won 11 titles in 13 seasons in the late 1950s and 1960s. Boston and L.A. owned the 1980s. The Bulls dominated the ’90s.
But those teams were built organically through drafts, trades and occasional free-agent help. Durant going to the Warriors was like Oscar Robertson deciding to join Bill Russell’s Celtics.
The Big O didn’t have that option. At the risk of sounding like an old man yelling at free agents to get off my lawn, I bet Robertson wouldn’t have joined the Celtics even if he’d had the chance.
Think back to P.E. class when teams were picking sides for kickball or whatever. If the best three or four players managed to team up, what was the point?
It’s been called the Man Code, but really it’s a Competitive Code applicable to all currently recognized genders. If a team pushes you around, as Golden State did to OKC, you don’t throw in with the bullies.graph.
3. Stars say they can beat Warriors: Surely you’ve heard it by now: Great players of yesteryear say they could’ve beaten the Warriors in their prime. Do they have a case? It’s always tricky to compare eras, but that doesn’t stop the barber-shop talk. Anyway, Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post says it’s time to pipe down:
As the Golden State Warriors stampeded through these NBA playoffs, the stiffest resistance they’ve faced hasn’t been from their opponents. It’s been from great players of past eras.
From Magic Johnson to Julius Erving to Rasheed Wallace, former players have said that their respective teams would wipe the floor with the presumptive NBA champions.
All of them are wrong. And comically so.
This ridiculousness began with Johnson, now president of basketball operations for the Los Angeles Lakers, who opined at an event Monday that his Showtime Lakers teams would “probably sweep” the Warriors.
“We’re going to win,” Johnson said, seated next to his old coach, Pat Riley, at an event in Los Angeles. “We’d probably sweep them.”
When Johnson explained himself by saying, “They’re too small,” Riley added, “Try to put somebody on Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.”
“Zaza?” Johnson asked, referencing Warriors starting center Zaza Pachulia. “I’m sorry.”Johnson’s boasting was followed up by Erving going on the radio — also in Los Angeles (maybe it’s something in the water there?) — and insisted that, after praising the Warriors, his 1983 champion Philadelphia 76ers would be able to take down Golden State.“This is a phenomenal team,” Erving said of the Warriors on ESPN LA 710. “They can put up points, and they do play team defense. They hustle, and they scrap.”
“But when you have a team with the makeup of our team that year? We could play slow, we could play fast … we had four centers, four guards and four forwards, so a lot of the parts were interchangeable,” Erving said.
“We would have figured out how to play against this team and how to beat this team.”
The most insane boast, though, came from Wallace, who declared his 2004 Detroit Pistons would win against Golden State without a problem.
“Oh, we’d run through them,” Wallace said on the “Timeout with Taylor Rooks” podcast. “Not even close.
“We play defense.”None of these claims hold up under scrutiny.
Let’s go through them:
— Of Johnson’s Lakers teams, let’s use the 1987 edition, which beat the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals after winning 65 games. Sure, those Lakers were a tremendous team, with Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy and a host of outstanding role players such as Byron Scott, A.C. Green and Michael Cooper — not to mention Riley.But that group also attempted just 447 three-pointers — almost exactly half the number of threes Golden State made this season (982).
No matter how much firepower the Lakers could throw out there in such a matchup, three points per shot always beats two.
4. 95-96 Bulls or these Warriors?: Would any team featuring the incomparable Michael Jordan give the Warriors fits? Of them all, maybe the 1996-96 team with Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman would prove to be a solid matchup, (and they featured Steve Kerr, current Warriors coach) but again, this is all speculation. KC Johnson of the Chicago Tribune tackled the subject and came up with his own conclusion:
“There’s only one Michael,” Kerr said during the Warriors’ 73-9 run last season, referencing Jordan and the 1995-96 Bulls’ 72-10 record.
The Warriors’ collapse to the Cavaliers in coughing up a Draymond Green-suspension-aided 3-1 lead seemed to make the debate moot. It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t got that ring.
But here come the Warriors again, on the precipice of perfection. They’re a Friday victory away from the almost unthinkable, a 16-0 postseason mark and their second title in three seasons.
With Kevin Durant on board, where these Warriors rank among the league’s all-time best could be an annual affair. Much like the Jordan versus LeBron James debate, it’s as much fun as it is inconclusive.
But in taverns and on talk radio, in chat rooms and clicks to newspaper websites, most want a winner and argue for it with passion. Rules changes and other variables make that impossible. Just as Stephen Curry doesn’t have to deal with a Jordan hand check on the perimeter, Jordan doesn’t live in this age of 24-7, social-media driven news cycles.
But heck, let’s play the 1995-96 Bulls versus this season’s Warriors out just for fun.
First, some numbers: If the Warriors win Friday, they will cap an 83-15 regular season and postseason combined. The 1995-96 Bulls went 87-13.
This season’s Warriors boasted a regular-season point differential of plus-11.6, the fourth-best in league history behind the 1971-72 Lakers, 1970-71 Bucks and, yes, the 1995-96 Bulls. Their postseason point differential stands at plus-16.2, which substantially would shatter the 2000-01 Lakers’ record of plus-12.8. The 1995-96 Bulls raged through their 15-3 postseason with a plus-10.6 differential.The 1995-96 Bulls ranked first in scoring at 105.2 points per game, third in points allowed at 92.9 per game and first in both offensive and defensive rating (points scored and allowed per 100 possessions) for a net rating of plus-13.4.
This season’s Warriors finished first in scoring at 115.9 points per game, 11th in points allowed at 104.3 per game and first in offensive rating and second in defensive rating for a net rating of plus-11.6.
The 1995-96 Bulls featured three Hall of Famers in Jordan, Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, two All-Star starters in Jordan and Pippen, two All-NBA first-team members in Jordan and Pippen and three first-team All-Defensive players in Jordan, Pippen and Rodman.
This season’s Warriors project to at least two Hall of Famers in Durant and Curry, featured two All-Star starters in Curry and Durant and two All-Star reserves in Draymond Green and Klay Thompson, two All-NBA second-team selections in Curry and Durant and one third-team selection in Green and project to have at least Green on an All-Defensive team when they’re announced in June.
Now, some matchups: Jordan versus Curry? Yes, please. Pippen on Durant? Oh yeah. Rodman and Green brawling, er, boxing out for rebounds? Bring it on.
This is where the different eras and rules come into play with the most significance.
This season’s Warriors attempted 2,563 3-pointers and played at a pace averaging 99.8 possessions per 48 minutes, fourth in the league. The 1995-96 Bulls shot 1,349 3-pointers — 1,214 fewer! — and averaged 91.1 possessions per game to rank 20th.
In the mythical matchup, the Warriors surely would be playing small often. So while Luc Longley would start on Zaza Pachulia, Rodman and Green likely would be playing center and Toni Kukoc and Andre Iguodala would be closing games.
That sound you hear is Ron Harper hyperventilating with excitement to try to guard Klay Thompson. Harper, after all, is the one who opined that the 1995-96 Bulls would sweep last season’s Warriors.
We won’t go that far. The prediction here is Bulls in seven. And not because of homerism or any mythologizing of Michael or to pooh-pooh the Las Vegas oddsmakers who set the Warriors as 6.5-point favorites.
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Don’t be mislead by what you read and hear all the time, there’s plenty of Warriors love out there … Folks in Miami are still captivated by LeBron, based on the high ratings being generated by South Florida watchers during the NBA Finals … Surely you want to know what the Hornets are thinking during the offseason and leading up to the draft, right? Well, look no further … The Jazz say Jeff Withey has been cleared of charges stemming from an alleged domestic violence incident … The son of ex-Suns center Tim Kempton will get a tryout with Phoenix … For those thinking the Nuggets already have a decent big man with Nikola Jokic, well, they’re looking for more size in this draft.