Posts Tagged ‘Golden State Warriors’

Dear Kevin Durant Haters: Let It Go!

Saturday, June 17th, 2017

by Gus Griffin

gus

 

 

 

 

KD

Russell Westbrook averaging a triple-double this past year brought much deserved attention to the great Oscar Robertson, who previously had been the only player to accomplish such a feat, way back in 1962, his second year in the league.  Robertson came close to doing it his first 5 years in the league, usually missing because he would “only” average 9 assists one year or 9 rebounds another year.  He also had 5 different seasons in which he averaged over 30 points a game.

But as for rings for NBA titles with the Cincinnati Royals, he had nothing to show for his greatness.  While his teams made the playoffs 6 straight seasons from 1962-67, they lost to either Bill Russell’s Celtics or Wilt Chamberlain’s 76ers in 5 of those six seasons.   Four of those 5 defeats were to the eventual NBA champions.

It was not because he did not elevate his game in the big moments.  He averaged a triple-double in the 1962 playoffs.  Over that 6-year period his average playoff numbers were 29 points, nearly 10 assist, and over 8 rebounds a game.  Oscar Robertson spent his first and best 10 years in the NBA losing year after year in the playoffs because his team was simply not good enough.

Here is my question for the Kevin Durant (KD) critics who insist that he should have never joined the team that he could not beat: do you honestly believe Oscar Robertson would have stayed in Cincinnati all those years with the same foreseeable outcomes if he had the choice to join Wilt in Philly or Bill in Boston or even Elgin Baylor and Jerry West in LA?

Would you have?  If your GPS tells you that you can shave 10 minutes off your commute to your destination, can you honestly say you would ignore it and insist on going the hard way?

The fact is he didn’t have a choice because free agency at that time was a mere shadow of what it is today.  As a matter of fact, Robertson would go on to become the National Basketball Players Association president and in that capacity, in 1970, would file an anti-trust suit under his name against NBA owners which challenged, among other things, to do away with the option clause which bound a player to one team.  Though the suit was eventually dismissed as part of a collective bargaining agreement, it was an important piece of leverage that led to the free agency today enjoyed by players like KD.

With this important piece of historical context and the larger issue of LABOR RIGHTS, I am at a loss for why all this shade is being thrown at KD for joining the Warriors?

Whatever happened to “if you can’t beat them join them”?

That’s what Deion Sanders did when he left the Falcons to join the division rival 49ers to win a Super Bowl ring.  That’s what Greg Maddox did in leaving the Cubs to join the Braves to win the World Series.  What KD did is not new in sports.

Ok, if KD tweeted criticism of LeBron for going to Miami, he set himself up for some of this.

Furthermore, admittedly there is a competitive romantic side of me that would have admired KD even more as a champion had he done it from Oklahoma City.  There was an additional gratification when seeing the long-suffering likes of Andy Murray in tennis and Phil Mickelson in golf finally win major titles after multiple heart-breaking disappointments.  The same feeling came watching the Cubs in baseball and of course the great Akeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler with the Houston Rockets.

But that romanticism will always be trumped by the necessity to appreciate the struggle, yes even among professional athletes, for labor rights.  The fact that most of us in our lifetime will not have the leverage to impact our compensation and place of labor the way professional athletes do is not a basis to begrudge them.  After all, the simple reality is that millions of people have no interest or willingness to pay to watch you nor I do our jobs.   It should be an incentive to improve our own collective 99% lot and not hate on them, be it John Elway or Eli Manning maneuvering out of Baltimore and San Diego, or KD leaving Oklahoma City.

I suspect that the common sports myth of loyalty is a factor of the KD hate.

Weather we as fans want to continue to deny getting the memo or not, sports loyalty has always been at best the exception and not the rule.  Don’t let the final chapters for Kobe Bryant and Derek Jeter fool you.  The more common finality between a player and a team is that of Babe Ruth who ended his career with the Boston Braves when he could no longer hit homers for the Yankees.  Or Johnny Unitas who ended with the San Diego Chargers when he could not throw enough TD passes for the Colts.  The reality is under capitalism, even the all-time greats are mere commodities for the enrichment of the owners.  And yet you can find more needles in a haystack than you can fans that hold never-ending grudges against teams for their lack of loyalty to players.

Chris Rock once declared that men are only as loyal as our opportunities.  That bit of truth is not restricted by gender or other aspects of life to include sports.   So, I urge you KD haters; chill, get your favorite mind-altering substance, plug in some Toni Braxton, and LET IT GO!

 

Gus Griffin, for War Room Sports

NBA Opening Day: Western Conference Preview

Tuesday, October 25th, 2016

by Joel Rodriguez

 

NBA

Western Conference:

This was actually a little easier than the East.

NBA

Golden State Warriors: o/u 66.5 wins

They are going to win the title. I don’t know what else to say about them. I just know this will happen. I can see them losing more games than last year and people saying Durant makes them worse… Whatever. It would be nice if they found a big man who can protect the rim for about 20 minutes a game. Either way, no one in the west is going to beat them or be the 1st seed. We are all waiting for Round 3 against Cleveland.

Over at 67 wins.

NBA

Los Angeles Clippers o/u 53.5 wins

If they can ever get out of their own way, this is the 2nd most talented team in the West. This might also be their last chance to make a big run together, as Blake and CP3 are both free agents. They have every element you would want in a team. Maybe a little more shooting or scoring from the wings, but that is about it.

Over at 58 wins

NBA

San Antonio Spurs o/u 58.5 wins

I wanted to put this team 4th. They are aging, they are slow, they don’t have a lot of spacing, Tony Parker is cooked and probably not a starter in this league anymore. They have a good top 3 though and they don’t lose at home. It should be enough to keep people thinking they are a threat only to be bounced by the 2nd round.

Under at 57

NBA

Houston Rockets o/u 44 wins

This team is tailor made for Mike D’Antoni. They have a player who is all about high usage but still kicks the ball out. They have a stretch four who can knock down 3-4 3’s a game easy, they have bigs who share the ball and don’t need to score to make an impact, they have guys who can knock down that corner 3… Perfect team for him. If they buy into it, they will kill the Vegas predictions. I also would love to see them play GS in the playoffs, just to see a 150-143 playoff game.

Over at 52

NBA

Utah Jazz o/u 49 wins

This is the most fun boring team in the league. Gordon Hayward is probably going to opt out, which is interesting, because he is terrific and entering his prime. Injuries… that is the only thing that kept them out of the playoffs last year. Not going to happen to this team. They have more veteran depth, the young guys should be better, and Rudy Gobert is ready to dominate everything in the post on defense. They do need to move Favors though. Trey Lyles just fits better. I can see them being the team to give Golden State the most trouble in a few years. Not this year though.

PUSH at 49

NBA

Portland Trailblazers o/u 45.5 wins

This is where the Western Conference starts to drop. We used to see 50 win teams be an 8 seed. Not the case anymore. Portland is a solid team with a crazy-high payroll, mainly on guys who still have really good basketball ahead of them. They overachieved and while they are still a postseason team, I do not see much progression here. Utah and Houston are better.

Under at 45

NBA

Oklahoma City Thunder o/u 43.5 wins

There will be very few times I want to be wrong. This is one. I want to see OKC as an 8 seed for one very obvious reason. It can very well be anti-climatic, but I wanna see it anyway. This is guaranteed to happen. Russell Westbrook is going to put up numbers we have never seen from a PG his size. He more than anyone in this league has a set of fans who irrationally fall in love with these stats and forget about EVERYTHING ELSE. OKC is going to give up a lot of points this year. They might be able to make up the scoring from a combination of Oladipo, Adams, and Kanter, but they just lost a top 3 player in this league. That is never good. It will be fun to see if Westbrook can give us a 20-20-20 game. but that is all this team is good for. I still wanna see him attack GS though.

Under at 42 wins

NBA

Minnesota Timberwolves o/u 40.5 wins

I am sipping this Kool-Aid. Tom Thibodeau is back in the league coaching probably the most exciting team outside of Golden State. We are all expecting them to do well and push for a playoff spot. I have them in. I think Ricky Rubio is underrated. He helps Minnesota more than he hurts them. Towns should keep getting better and proving to be the alpha of the team and Wiggins is a problem in his own right. No reason why they shouldn’t at least fight for the 8th seed.

Under at 40 wins

____________________________________________________

NBA

Memphis Grizzlies o/u 42.5 wins

This is a team that always seems to find a way in no matter how hard they get hit with the injury bug. Don’t see it this year. They should have let Conley go and started over. It was a good time to make that move. Instead, they have Conley and Gasol locked in for a few years with nothing to really show for it. They might still get in. The Grizz and the Mavs seem to always make it happen, but I think their run is over.

Under at 39

NBA

Dallas Mavericks o/u 38.5 wins

Another team you used to be able to pencil in somewhere in the top 8. I don’t see it. Harrison Barnes might be more available than Chandler Parsons, but he is not a better player. Bogut should be fine. Dirk is an all-time great. I want to put him in the playoffs again but I do not think he has the talent this time around. I wouldn’t be surprised though. Rick Carlisle is the best coach in the league in my view. He gets the most out of everyone.

Under at 37

NBA

Denver Nuggets o/u 37 wins

This might be the most underrated team in the whole league. They have a lot of talent that has yet to be fulfilled. They kinda remind me of Orlando a bit, just they haven’t made that all-in trade yet. They also have what a friend of mine likes to call an “All Medicaid” team. They are always hurt and scrambling for more players. If they can somehow put it all together, they can win some games. I am going to be conservative with them, but I can see them making a push.

Under at 35 wins

NBA

Phoenix Suns o/u 30 wins

Why does it feel like Phoenix always has a logjam at the guard spot? How do they keep getting all these good guards and do not benefit from it? Booker, Knight, Bledsoe. They can all ball. Len should be better too. Tyson Chandler was that one signing every summer that screamed buyers remorse ( NOAH THIS YEAR) and now they are stuck with him. I cannot see them making any headway in this conference. Sorry.

Under at 28

NBA

New Orleans Pelicans o/u 37 wins

This team stinks. Jrue is out indefinitely to take care of his wife. Ty Evans is finished. Anthony Davis is always hurt. Buddy has the ROY all to himself. Tim Frazier is going to be a big assist guy too until Jrue comes back, but who cares?

Under at 27

NBA

Sacramento Kings o/u 34 wins

No one gives a shit about this team. DeMarcus Cousins might finally put it all together and lead them to an 8 seed, or he might be 20 seconds away from punching Dave Joerger in the face. They need an overhaul in the worst way.

Under at 26 wins

NBA

Los Angeles Lakers o/u 24.5

D’Angelo Russell! He is gonna have a Jeremy Lin type of year. All types of usage. Walton is going to let him ball and he is going to thrive. They still need a little more time though. They might have the worst record in the West, but their future is brighter than a few teams I have above them. Just have to keep drafting well.

Under at 23 wins.

 

Eastern Conference Preview

 

Joel Rodriguez, for War Room Sports

LEICESTER CITY, STEPH CURRY, AND THE ALL MADRID FINALS II

Monday, May 16th, 2016

by Nwaji Jibunoh

Nwaji Blog

 

 

 

 

As we get into the business end of the sports season, you find that times are changing with some intriguing accomplishments occurring.

Denver's stingy defense helps "The Sheriff" ride off into the sunset a champion. (Photo courtesy of FoxBusiness.com)

Denver’s stingy defense helps “The Sheriff” ride off into the sunset a champion.
(Photo courtesy of FoxBusiness.com)

In the 2015/2016 sports calendar year, we have already seen Peyton Manning and The Denver Broncos crowned Super Bowl Champions after an incredible defensive display against the Cam Newton-led Carolina Panthers.

In as much as the lead up to the Super Bowl was quite exciting and the emergence of Cam Newton as an elite Quarterback was something to note, special mention needs to go out to other fascinating accomplishments occurring in other sporting events.

EPL Champions - Leicester City

EPL Champions – Leicester City

Let us begin with the English Premiership. At the conclusion of the 2014/2015 season, a little known club located in the East Midland of England finished in 14th place in a league with only 20 clubs. A little known club that nobody truly ranked and were given a whopping 5000/1 Odds to win the title the following season. That little known club are currently the champions of England and that little known club is Leicester City. To put things in context, let us use a case study for the odds that the bookies put in play at the beginning of the season. A lifetime Leicester City supporter put a 50 pounds ($30) bet on those odds of 5000/1 to win the title. That lifetime supporter cashed out on a take home prize of 250,000 pounds ($166,000). What has been accomplished by this club who had a spending budget of 52m pounds ($32.5M) in comparison to the likes of Manchester City (411m – $274M), Manchester United (391m – $260M), and Chelsea (298m – $198M) is something that has never ever been witnessed in British football. Leicester City took advantage of a slow methodology of playing every single game to win and taking advantage of lackluster performances from the other big clubs. Credit goes out to their manager (Claudio Ranieri) and star players James Vardy (who only a few years ago was combining his playing time while working part-time as a technician making medical splints) and Riyad Mahrez (a relatively unknown Algerian now among the English Premier League elites).

As we talk about this great accomplishment in sports by Leicester City, we cannot go any further without mentioning what Wardell Stephen “Steph” Curry has done in the NBA this year. Let us look at some quick numbers to put things into perspective. In the 2014/2015 season where he was crowned MVP and also won the NBA championship, his numbers were as follows:

Regular Season – 23.8 ppg. Playoffs – 28.3 ppg. Total number of three pointers made – 286.

This season, his numbers are:

30 ppg and he made 402 three pointers. I will say that again….402. The only other player to come close was Ray Allen with 289 and we all know him to be a three point genius. Steph Curry has

Stephen Curry hoists his second consecutive MVP trophy prior to Game 5 of the second round of the Western Conference Semifinals vs. the Portland Trail Blazers at Oracle Arena.  (Photo courtesy of Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

Stephen Curry hoists his second consecutive MVP trophy prior to Game 5 of the second round of the Western Conference Semifinals vs. the Portland Trail Blazers at Oracle Arena.
(Photo courtesy of Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports)

completely redefined basketball and the point guard position, and he makes shots from pretty much anywhere he wants to. He controls the tempo of the court and pulls out perimeter defenders, allowing other players such as Klay Thompson and Draymond Green to make significant contributions. The Conference Finals this year will see some exciting matchups with Golden State taking on Oklahoma City Thunder as perennial All-Stars (Curry, Thompson, Green, Durant, Westbrook, Ibaka) will dominate the highlights in the best of 7 series. On the East Coast, it looks like Cleveland with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, back at this stage of the competition healthy, will compliment the enigma that is LeBron James. We will most likely see the Cavs steamroll pass the Toronto Raptors to meet the best of the West.

UEFA Champions League Final - Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid - May 28th, 2016

UEFA Champions League Final – Real Madrid vs. Atletico Madrid – May 28th, 2016

Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid both finished in second and third positions in the Spanish La Liga. They were edged out by Barcelona but not before Barcelona suffered successive defeats to both clubs in the El Classcio and Champions League semifinals. These two clubs are Spanish power houses and are getting ready to battle it out in the Champions League Finals. This is not the first time we are going to have an “All Madrid Final”. In 2014, we saw these two clubs battle it out with Real Madrid emerging victorious. The Star man then and now and 3 time Ballon D’or (World Footballer of the Year) recipient, Cristiano Ronaldo is of course the centre of attraction. The last time these two teams met, Ronaldo was breaking records with an astonishing 51 goals. He has achieved that milestone again this season and goes into this final fully charged and poised to pick up his 3rd UEFA Champions League trophy. It will not be easy as Diego Simeone and his Atletico Madrid team, that play a high tempo coordinated style of Spanish football, will be looking to get revenge against their 2014 finalist fellow city rivals. These two teams have already met twice this season with Atletico winning one game and the other game ending in a tie. The UEFA Champions League Final which will be played at the San Siro Stadium in Milan, Italy will be an explosive encounter come May 28th.

All in all, it has been an exciting year so far with so much more to play as we have the NBA Finals, UCL Finals, and the European Championships.

Sports fans, eat your heart out as the games will always continue to bring nothing but sheer entertainment and exhilarating excitement….

 

Nwaji Jibunoh, International Correspondent for War Room Sports

Located in Lagos, Nigeria, Nwaji Jibunoh is War Room Sports’ International Soccer Contributor.  Nwaji also contributes commentary on U.S. sports from an international perspective.  He’s an Atlanta Falcons fan, Howard University alum, and former tight end for the North Atlanta High School Warriors.

Genius Contained: Bernard King vs. Hubie Brown

Tuesday, April 9th, 2013

by Chuck Modiano

Part III of Bernard King: The NBA’s Invisible Genius

“Hubie, do I have the right to take the ball myself?” – Bernard King

For Knick and Golden State Warrior fans, King’s 1984 rise from star to sublime was not surprising or meteoric. Don’t call it a hot streak, Bernard had been there for years.

Lost Prime (1980-1983):

During King’s first three years in the NBA (1977-79), his only barrier was himself (see alcoholism and drugs). During his next 3.5 prime years (1980-83), his barrier was only 33 minutes and 16 shots per game. Bernard the Warrior needed a sacrificing point guard like Tiny Archibald or Dennis Johnson, but he got gunslinger World B. Free[1].  Bernard the Knick needed a coach like Phil Jackson, but he got superstar stopper Hubie Brown[2]. King should have been treated like Michael Jordan (23 shots per game), but until 1984 never got the scorer’s respect of Monta Ellis.

Lost Warrior (1980-1982): 

Outside of Golden State, Bernard rarely gets credit for two fantastic seasons with The Warriors. Despite being led the previous year by Robert Parish [HOF 2003], the team was pitiful, and Parish was traded. King was named “Comeback Player of the Year” in his first year, made the All-Star team in his second, and shot an astonishing 58% over both. Each year, the Warriors missed the playoffs by a single game. Why? King never took the most shots (see Free). Just how good was Warrior King? When San Francisco columnist Bruce Jenkins made up his all-time Warriors team a few years ago, his forwards were Rick Barry and Bernard – not Chris Mullin [HOF 2012].

“Bernard turned the Warriors franchise around. We went from 24 wins in ’80 to a winning record in ’82, the year Bernard became a starter.” — Pete Newell [HOF 1979]

Lost Knick (1982-1983):

When it comes to squeezing every last drop from mere mortals, Hubie Brown is a coaching genius. When it comes to teaching the game, there is none better. When it came to stopping superstars, he made Dean Smith’s North Carolina teams seem like the Showtime Lakers. Our greatest strength often doubles as our greatest weakness, and Brown was a unwavering “system coach” who called every single play, walked the ball up, and refused to budge from his signature 10-man rotation which he played every quarter. Yes, every quarter. What if Bernard was on fire? Too bad. Here comes Louis Orr!

“[King] was absolutely devastating in transition, which made it such a shame that he was stuck on Hubie’s plodding Knicks teams for those peak years.” – Bill Simmons, ESPN Writer

How Louis Orr Scored 100 Points:

On the day David Stern became the NBA commissioner, Bernard completed his famous back-to-back 50 point games. With two Knicks sidelined, Brown was finally forced to abandon his 10-man rotation, and Bernard dropped his 100 point combo meal on 40-58 shooting (note: Wilt’s shot 36-63 on his 100).  Had Bernard’s back-up Louis Orr not caught the flu, 50-50 would have never happened. Had Orr caught mono, the record books would have been shredded. King’s flu in Game 5 of The Showdown in Motown has become part of his legend, but Louis Orr’s flu is also a reminder of legend lost. Golden State and Knick fans knew that 1984 could have been happening for years. And now Hubie Brown knew: some birds you just can’t cage.

“The 50-50 games were the turning point as far as being noticed”.  – Bernard King

The Turning Point (January 1984):

Bernard began January 1984 by being named Knick captain and ended it with a 50 point game. While both dates are significant, the biggest turning point came in between. On January 13th, King took only nine shots – the Knicks fourth close loss that season where King had no more than nine shot attempts. The very next night King would score 42 points on 18-26 shooting, and Bernard would never shoot less than 10 times again (save injury). After 3.5 prime years, King would finally receive 40 minutes and 20 shots. January 14 is also the very same day when King’s 30 points @60% for 40 games was born. The turning point wasn’t 50-50, it was 40-20.  Bernard didn’t really change — Hubie did. But there would be flashbacks.

“Put Bernard back in the game!” and “Get the ball to Bernard!”
– This author and 10,000 fans at my first Knick game in 1983

Hubie’s Last Stand (April 1984)

Scene:           1984 Playoffs, Knicks vs. Pistons, Knicks Huddle
Act:                 #5 – The deciding game of historic series
Time:              36 seconds left in regulation, Knicks ball
Score:             Knicks 112, Pistons 111
Context:         Bernard King is Shredding History

This is crazy. This is crazy. This is crazy. Via Dennis D’Agostino’s must-read “Garden Glory”, let Bernard tell it:

“We were in a timeout, and the play was designed for Billy Cartwright. I’ve never questioned the coach’s authority… You just don’t question the coach. The coach is the coach, and you’re a player. But Hubie was designing a play for Billy Cartwright, and the game was on the line…. Well, I had a problem with that [King laughs.] Here I am playing with two dislocated fingers and I’ve averaged 40 points a game for five games, so if the game is on the line, give me the ball. That’s always been my history as a player, so I couldn’t understand in that intense moment how the play could be designed for anyone else.”

So… I said: ‘Hubie, do I have the right to take the ball myself?’ And he didn’t answer me. Then I spoke up even louder, ‘Hubie! Do I have the right to take the ball myself?’ I was emphatic. Finally, he looked up at me and said, ’Yeah’.  Because what I was saying… was ‘Hubie, I’m gonna break your play’. But I had to ask first; I’m not the type of guy to break a play in my professional career. I always did what was designed for me to do, so I had to ask the question before I could actually do it.”

These were Bernard King’s working conditions.

Imagine if Michael was denied that chance to shoot over Craig Ehlo? Would that ever happen? With Jordan gone in 1994, Scottie Pippen [HOF 2010] was averaging just 24 points on 41% shooting in his playoff series when coach Phil Jackson called the last shot for Toni Kukoc. Pippen famously refused to go back in the game.

In contrast, the surreal huddle exchange reveals both a phenomenal handling by Bernard, and a glaring flaw within Hubie. But it also arguably exposes a lesser flaw within King. For Bernard – who learned his work ethic and coach deference under legendary Brooklyn take-no-crap disciplinarian Gil Reynolds [see Genius Explained] — it took King until that moment in that huddle in that series to respectfully demand to be treated like the superduperstar he had been for years.

When Phil Jackson joined the Bulls, Michael Jordan was just a little less deferential. Jordan said:

“He’s the coach, I’ll follow his scheme, but I don’t plan to change my style of play. I’m sure everything will be fine if we win, but if we start losing, I’m shooting.”

Just how long would Jordan have lasted in Hubie’s 10-man rotation?

Today, Bernard and Hubie have a great mutual respect for one another, and Brown often speaks with great reverence for King’s “professionalism” and how he “never broke a play”. But what if King didbreak more plays? What if he was a little less professional, and a little more like Mike? Would his teams have won more games?  When does “playing the right way” become the wrong way?

One clue is when your star is shooting 60% and can’t be stopped. For younger Knick fans, it is when coach Mike D’Antoni asks Carmelo Anthony just to “fit in” as stretch spot-up shooter while he hands Jeremy Lin the keys to the Knicks. Had Anthony just went along to get along, he and the Knicks would likely not be flourishing today. Bernard’s growth cannot be separated from Brown changing, and  Carmelo’s can’t be separated from D’Antoni leaving (and Mike Woodson arriving). Sometimes the boss is wrong.

That Game 5 playoff timeout huddle has been the story of Bernard King’s career. He has been kindly asking for permission for his genius to be recognized ever since, and this week the Hall of Fame looked up and said “yeah”.

Oh yes. Back to Game 5.

After the timeout, King took the pass, demonstratively waved off Bill Cartwright from the post, and went down the left side for one of his patented baseline jumpers for his 40th point. Isiah’s subsequent 3-pointer would now only send the game into overtime instead of sending the Knicks home.

“In that 4th quarter and into the 5th quarter, Bernard King would just not let us lose”
– Hubie Brown

 

Chuck Modiano of POPSspot, for War Room Sports

 

I.   “Who is Bernard King”: The NBA’s Invisible Genius
II.   
Genius Unchained: Bernard King vs. Isiah, Larry, and History 
III.  Genius Contained: Bernard King vs. Hubie Brown
IV.   Genius Explained: Bernard King vs. Youtube (coming Wednesday)
V.     The King of Peers: Bernard King vs. Media (coming Thursday)
VI.   The Jordan Rules: Bernard King vs. Michael Jordan (coming Monday)

 

The King is Dead! Long Live the King!

Monday, June 13th, 2011

By Jason Parker

The King is dead.  Long live the King!

Or should I say The Kaiser?  King James, with a little boot in the backside from Dirk Nowitzki and a brand of defense the likes of which Mavericks fans have never seen, has abdicated his NBA throne to the “Ghost-Faced Drilla” from Wurzberg, Germany.  That’s right, the man so many had perhaps unjustly labeled soft and unable to lead a team to a championship now sits in the top spot of The Association’s monarchy. 

Mavericks’ legend Mark Aguirre paid Dirk perhaps the highest compliment, “Answer me this: If you switched Dirk with Wade, or Dirk with LeBron, would the Mavs be in the Finals?  No way.”

I must admit, during the first half of the series-clinching Game 6 victory, I was thinking I wouldn’t be able to publish this article; what with Nowitzki languishing in an unfathomable 1-12 shooting funk.  But like so many times before, when the stakes were highest, Dirk was at his best, shrugging off the slump to seal the victory with five clutch buckets in the last 7:22 of the game.

“We’re world champions,” Nowitzki said after taking a private moment to wipe away a few tears of joy in the locker room.  “It sounds unbelievable.”

It wasn’t always this way.  I’ve been an avid Dirk defender over the years, but there have been moments when he just wasn’t able to put this team on his back and lead them over the hump.  In the final three games of the 2006 Finals, Dirk went 20-55 and missed a number of key free throws down the stretch.  In 2007, his MVP season, Nowitzki shot 38% from the field (2-13 in the clinching Game 6) as the Mavs became the first #1 seed to fall to a #8 (Golden State) in a seven-game series.  2008 saw another first-round playoff exit against Chris Paul and the upstart Charlotte Hornets.  The next two seasons would end with second and first round losses, respectively.

This year, there was something different about Dirk.  Perhaps galvanized by past failures, Nowitzki would not be denied.  After a pedestrian regular season by his standards, Dirk turned it up a couple of notches once the playoffs started, playing his best basketball when it mattered most.  When the Mavericks needed a big bucket or clutch free throws to overcome a huge deficit or seal a victory, Dirk delivered.  He was clearly the best player in a postseason that culminated in a championship.     

LeBron's series was sub-par by his standards

Now on to the man Nowitzki supplanted as king.  Last season, in game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Lebron James looked up and came to the perhaps premature realization that no matter how good he played, no matter how many spectacular dunks he threw down, he could never win a championship with the collection of talent around him in Cleveland—so he checked out of the series mentally, and the Cavaliers quickly followed suit.  Lebron will deny it, but if it looks like a duck, sounds like and duck, smells like a duck…

Fast forward a little over a year to the NBA Finals, and the situation is very different, but it’s also the same.  Lebron is a member of the most talented (if not the deepest) team in the league, yet he frequently distanced himself from the front lines of this pitched battle for the NBA Championship, deferring to Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh whenever possible. Actually, James’ fourth-quarter game of hot potato throughout the series was worse than deference, it was desertion.  Pat Riley, Wade and Bosh, are thinking of asking for a $14.5 million refund.  They’re thinking they recruited the wrong superstar.

James was not gracious in defeat, lashing out at his and the Heat’s critics:

“All the people that were rooting me on to fail, at the end of the day they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life they had before,” James said. “They have the same personal problems they had today. I’m going to continue to live the way I want to live and continue to do the things that I want with me and my family and be happy with that.”

“They can get a few days or a few months or whatever the case may be on being happy about not only myself, but the Miami Heat not accomplishing their goal,” James said. “But they’ll have to get back to the real world at some point.”    

James’ latest big-moment disappearing act prompts us to reevaluate his motives for running out on his home-town-team instead of sticking it out through good times and bad, for better or worse (a-la a certain seven-foot German). Lebron claimed he joined Wade and Bosh in Miami so he could win multiple championships, but now there appears to be more to the equation than that.  It looks more like Bron-Bron couldn’t bear the burden of leadership, of being his team’s hoops messiah.  How else can you explain his habit of fading, no, sprinting into the background when the spotlight is squarely focused on him and him alone?

Compare this to the play of Nowitzki and his own teammate, Dwyane Wade, who combines physical brilliance with mental fortitude and inspirational leadership.  Wade demands the ball at the end of games and James is all too willing to give it to him, especially on the game’s biggest stage.  Confession:  I wrote two versions of this article; the one you are reading, and one proclaiming Wade king if the Heat had won the series.

To be fair, perhaps LeBron James never wanted this mantle that was foisted upon him at the age of 18.  He never dubbed himself “King.”  Whether he wanted it or not, as the most physically-dominant player this game has seen since Wilt Chamberlain, the crown was his to wear.  But now it appears that it was too heavy for those chiseled shoulders to bear.  Who knows, maybe by the time the Kaiser is ready to cede the throne in a few years, LeBron will be ready to take it back.  He need only look at the evolution of one Dirk Nowitzki to find a role model.

But until then, the Mavericks and their fans hope to win another title or two during Dirk’s reign.    

Jason Parker, Blogger for War Room Sports

Monta for Iggy???

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

By Brandon Pemberton

This morning I wake up to check my email and I come across a report by Mark J. Miller of Yahoo sports (http://goo.gl/YsEgH) saying that there are strong rumors going around that the Golden State Warriors would be willing to trade guard Monta Ellis to the Philadelphia 76ers for forward/guard Andre Iguodala.   ESPN’s and former NBA point guard Mark Jackson was named head coach last night and the Warriors are looking to make changes to their franchise.  The trade makes some sort of sense for both teams and I’ll tell you why from my point of view.

The Warriors started a talented backcourt of Ellis and 2nd year point guard Stephen Curry, and they were effective offensively.  But their lack of size and defensive ability was a hindrance all season.  Both of them are only 6’2”-6’3” and teams would use their bigger guards to post up and put them in pick and roll situations.  A trade for Iguodala would give the Warriors a bigger wing player to go alongside Curry and a legit defender that this team desperately needs.  Golden State plays an up-tempo type of basketball and Iguodala would be the perfect fit.

The Sixers lacked a legit number one scoring option this season and because Iguodala was the highest paid player, most Sixers fans thought he should be that.  But he’s not, and he caught hell during his career here after he signed that big contract a few years ago, for not developing into the player the Sixers thought he would.  Monta Ellis would give the Sixers a legit scoring option on the perimeter and go to guy.  Ellis has averaged 24.5 ppg over the last two seasons, but has the tendency to take shots early in the shot clock and makes no effort on the defensive end.  He also has three years left on a contract paying him $11 Million per year.

I’m in favor of moving Iguodala for sure, but I don’t want another big contract back in return (like Rudy Gay).  Monta Ellis is a good player, but is he good enough for the Sixers to avoid being a 7 or 8 seed yearly, and make it out of the first round of the playoffs?  The right medley of front office decisions can take you from a laughing stock to a game away from the conference finals (check out the Grizzlies), and even though the Sixers will have to deal with the Miami Heat for the next five years, along with the Bulls and Knicks, they need to make progress.

I’m all about winning it all, not making lateral moves to just stay in the middle of the pack or stay afloat.  The way the NBA is currently structured, the only way to get out of purgatory is to dump salary and/or get lucky in the NBA lottery and make the right draft pick.  The Cleveland Cavaliers have a $14 Million trade exception they can use and if I were the Sixers, I would try my best to ship Iggy’s ass there.  But hey, I’m not the General Manager.  I’m just tired of the circle of mediocrity this franchise has displayed since the trip to the Finals in 2001.  It has been a damn decade and it has to stop.

Brandon Pemberton of Brandon on Sports, Blogger for War Room Sports

Can Dirk Win It All and Take His Place as a True All-Time Great?

Thursday, May 26th, 2011

By Brandon Pemberton

I have been one of the biggest critics of Dirk Nowitzki over the years and I have no problem admitting it.  Whether it was he and the Mavs being up 2-0 in the 2006 NBA Finals and losing four straight to lose the title, or winning the MVP, along with 67 games, only to be knocked out of the 1st round of the playoffs by eighth seeded Golden State in 2007.  It was hard after those two seasons not to label Dirk “soft” and as one of those guys who came up short in big spots.  I thought he relied too much on the 3-point shot when he could post guys up on the block and use his size.

This year in the playoffs Nowitzki has taken his play to a new level and it’s amazing to see him play this well.  In my eyes he was already a first ballot hall of famer and the greatest foreign player the NBA has ever seen, but he is on a flat-out tear.  In fifteen playoff games, he is averaging 28.4 ppg and 7.5 rpg, while shooting 51% from the field, 51% from the three point line, and 93% from the foul line.  I have to say, in my lifetime, this has been one of the better playoff performances I’ve seen.

There has been a transformation of sorts in Dirk’s game.  He relies less on standing at the three point line and shooting spot up jumpers like he did in his previous years.  He now operates in the mid-post area and abuses defenders by using his 7 foot frame and high release to score with ease.  His array of fall-away and off-balance shots he has mastered is like nothing the NBA has ever seen.  There has never been another player at his size with this style of game in NBA history, with his ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot, and face up from 16-20 feet out.  He has even become a better rebounder and puts forth more effort on the defensive end as well.

Now that he has led the Dallas Mavericks back to the NBA Finals for a second time, he has the chance to mark his place as one of the NBA’s all-time greats with a win over the Miami Heat or the Chicago Bulls.  I would love to see him finally win a title personally, but if the Heat holds on to win the East, it’s going to be tough.  But let it been known, Dirk is playing the best basketball of his career and will give the Mavs a legit chance at winning it all.

Brandon Pemberton, Blogger for War Room Sports

Mavericks Fans Still Carry Scars From The Past

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

By Jason Parker

Dallas Mavericks (L-R) Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd, Shawn Marion, Tyson Chandler

Like a jilted lover, long-suffering MFFL’s (Mavs Fans For Life) still find it hard to put their trust in this team.  Count this writer, a native “Dallas-ite”, among the jaded.  Despite promising signs of change, the ghosts of the past still haunt those who back the “Boys in Blue”. 

Dirk shoots over LaMarcus Aldridge in Round 1 of the 2011 NBA Playoffs

After a colossal choke job in game four of the first round against Portland had us all thinking, here we go again; the same old Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry – the only holdovers from the 2006 team that spit the bit when a championship was imminent – assured their fans that this Dallas team was made of tougher stuff than those of the past.  This brought about a collective “surrrrre” from all within earshot of this seemingly hollow rhetoric.  We heard similar promises after the number-one-seeded Mavericks suffered a historic first-round flameout against the Warriors in ’07, and again in ’08 after being upset by the Hornets in the opening round of the playoffs.   So when Dallas closed out the Blazers, whom many prognosticators had picked to upset the aptly-named “One-and-Done Boys,” in one of the most difficult arenas to win in as a road team, most saw it as an anomaly. 

Mavs sweep the defending champion Lakers in Round 2

Next up were the two-time defending champion Lakers.  Needless to say, the Mavs were getting longer odds than Buster Douglas had against the indomitable Mike Tyson some twenty years ago.  After Dirk and his band of NBA castoffs (Chandler, Marion, Peja, Stevenson) miraculously left the champ bloodied and broken, scoring what amounts to a first-round knockout, everyone chalked it up to some sudden dysfunction within the Laker locker room.  It certainly couldn’t have been anything the “Two-and-Through-Crew” did to earn the victory. 

The Mavs are on the cusp of another trip to the NBA Finals with a 3-1 series lead over Kevin Durant and his Thunder

Now here we are on the cusp of another trip to the Finals after an improbable five-minute, fifteen-point comeback in probably the second-hardest arena to win in on the road, and the national perception of these Mavericks, who have been known to fold up like a cheap lawn chair in the face of adversity, is slowly beginning to change.  This is evident when you listen to the national media talk about this team and its much-maligned, future hall-of-fame-leader, Dirk Nowitzki.  The “S” word (Soft) is only uttered in the past tense these days.  When discussing the sweet-shooting German, you are more likely to hear “all-time great,” or “man on a mission” than that four-letter epithet.  But let me be frank.  It will take nothing less than a championship to truly change how we as fans view our hometown hoops team.  We’ve been here before.  We all thought this team had turned the corner after vanquishing the Spurs in the loaded Western Conference during the ’06 playoffs; and we all know how that season ended.  So until David Stern begrudgingly hands Mark Cuban the Larry O’Brien trophy, I and every other realistic “MFFL” will stop just short of giving our hearts completely to this team for fear of having it ripped out again.

Will the Mavs fly out of Miami or Chicago as NBA Champions this year?

Jason Parker, Blogger for War Room Sports