Igouadala as MVP

by on Jun.22, 2015, under Warriors

Andre Igouadala was named the Championship MVP, an unlikely, a feel-good story that will surely be recalled for decades to come.

Since there is a little dispute about the selection, I will weigh in…

  • Iggy was the primary defender of LeBron (who had a ridiculously high usage). And he made him inefficient.  (BTW – Iggy, a renowned defender, gives up just 2 inches, 35 lbs, and 11 months to LeBron. The matchup is not as as mis-matched as you might think.)
  • Iggy was suddenly promoted to the starting lineup in game 4.
  • Iggy scored 25(!) in game 6. That sealed the deal. Curry also had a great game 6, but the Cavs surely didn’t game plan for Iggy’s points!
  • Underdog! Everyone loves those guys.
  • Curry already has a MVP. That counts for something, among the cigarette-smoking-men who pick the finals MVP.

Bottom line:

As Bill Simmons has noted,  the definition of a MVP is squishy, and the league likes it that way. I like the Igouadala pick.

 

 

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The complex and fascinating Lakers draft pick

by on Jun.21, 2015, under Lakers

Thanks to the Lottery, the Lakers surged to the 2nd overall pick. Who will they take?

I’m not actually making any predictions. I just want to point out how complex and fascinating the pick will be.

The pick will, in part, signal their plans for the future. Do they want to be a 4-out, ball-movement team? Or a 1990s-style inside-out team? Don’t laugh! The Grizzlies win lots of games with their 1990s-style game. The Cavs reverted to superstar isolation in the championship, and scared the Warriors with 2 consecutive wins. Many styles are possible.

Here’s what we know:

  • Jim Buss is on the clock. He promised a turnaround in 3 years. This will be year two. He needs help.
  • Byron Scott is coaching the Lakers. He is not sympathetic to current innovations.
  • Kobe will come back this year, then retire after the season.
  • The Lakers have chased top-shelf free agents for two summers, and come away empty handed.
  • This draft is deep, but may not have any superstars.

Given that, here are some scenarios:

If he only had more time!

Jim Buss is on the clock. He is stuck with Kobe and Byron next year. The obvious choice is Jalil Okafor. If Mitch K can backfill with two or three 3-and-D vets, the Lakers can contend for the 7-8 spot (alongside the Mavs, Pellies, and Suns).

Taking the long view.

The Kristaps kid could grow into the next Dirk Nowitzki. Or not. But imagine having the next next Dirk! The Lakers could switch to a 4-out, or 5-out system. As they say on the Mio commercial, “they could change everything.”

Stall for time.

Next summer, the Lakers will have windfall cap space. Kobe will be gone. Byron could be gone. For now, they should draft a great wing player, because wings are the future of the NBA. Frankly, off-guard is in critically short supply right now. Kobe will retire, leaving them with nothing. They will not see a pick this good for 20 years.

Trade down.

This never happens in the NBA. Never. I can’t recall the last time a top 10 pick was traded down. The cost/benefit of young guys is just too compelling.

If the Lakers want to stall for time, they could easily swap down to 5-6 and still get a quality wing in this draft. Recall this: in 2012, the Warriors drafted Harrison Barnes, Festus Ezeli, and Draymond Green, all on one night. That’s the kind of draft the Lakers could use.

Split the difference.

The Lakers could grab a wing this year, and backfill with 3-and-D vets, and pretend to chase the playoffs this year. Next year, they will still have cap space to chase a star, and the chance to make a coaching change (Thibs?!).

See you next week!

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Champions

by on Jun.18, 2015, under Warriors

The Warriors won it all. Without a doubt, they were the best team in the NBA this year. I am, of course, pleased. And exhausted.

And yet…

Being a Warriors fan is not really about championships. That’s what Lakers fandom is for. Warriors fandom is about constantly trying to figure out how to get over the hump. What are the missing pieces, and how can we fill them? The goal is not championships, the goal is to get over .500, and contend for a playoff spot.

Warriors fandom is also about falling in love with the guys on the roster, because they are Warriors. We can’t bear to trade anyone, because we love them like our own sons.

And now, with the Warriors poised to at least contend for the next many years, I have to change my approach. The way the Warriors are set up, with their youth and cap situation, they will resemble the Pistons of a decade ago. Or the Spurs of the last 15 years. It’s a train that will just keep chugging.

 

I’m glad the Warriors won. For sure. It just feels like the end of an era.

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Sam Presti

by on May.15, 2015, under NBA

Andrew Sharp, on the legacy of Sam Presti:

“You have to credit Presti for hitting the jackpot in the draft seven years ago. Since then, he’s been sitting at the table with a massive stack of chips, and he’s played a lot of bad hands. This year, he’s all in.”

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Scott Brooks get Kerr’d

by on May.02, 2015, under NBA, Warriors

When Mark Jackson chided the Bay Area media for looking down on 51 wins, he was not wrong…

But Joe Lacob fired him anyway, and replaced him with Steve Kerr. Who won an NBA historic 67 games!

I believe this created a “Kerr affect” across the NBA. Scott Brooks is the second victim.

The first victim was Mark’s old assistant, Michael Malone. I have no doubt that Vivek Ranadive, who hangs on the Warriors’ every move, noticed that Kerr was instantly better than Jackson. And that gave him the courage to move.

Scott Brooks is the second victim of the the Kerr affect. His players loved him, he went to the playoffs every year (except this one!). But Sam Presti thinks that another coach can take them to the next level.

As Tolstoy says, every unhappy happy family is unhappy in its own way. That’s what makes OKC fascinating. Clay Bennet was apparently content to eke out a profit while making the playoffs. Durant and Westbrook liked Brooks. Sam Presti spontaneously changed the rules of the game.

So now, OKC, and Sam Presti, are on the clock. If OKC does not advance to the championship round, Presti has failed. If one if his stars bolts, Presti has failed. There are not a lot of good outcomes for Presti, short of a championship.

 

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Bob Myers – Executive of the Year

by on May.02, 2015, under Warriors

Bob Myers  is executive of the year, according to NBA media voters.

Here’s how I rationalize this:

Danny Ferry is on Double-Secret Probation. So you can’t vote for him.

The active, swing-for-the-fences GMs didn’t actually achieve much this year. Only one of Danny Ainge, Sam Presti, Ryan McDonough, and Donnie Nelson over-achieved this year: The Celtics shocked the world by making the playoffs. Everyone else flamed out.

Flip Saunders should win the award, for stealing Andrew Wiggins from Cleveland. His genius will not be acknowledged for several more years.

David Griffin can’t win for a) having Lebron fall into his lap; b) exploiting fire-sale deals from Denver and NY.

Similarly, Pat Riley can’t win for “discovering” Hassan Whiteside and blundering into Goran Dragic.

So that leaves… the GM of 67-game-winner-GSW: Bob Myers!

Make no mistake, the 67 wins loom huge. As the NBA hands out awards, the lack of recognition for the season-champ is embarrassing. If James Harden is announced as the MVP next week, how will the national media explain GSW?

So… Bob Myers. The thing is, from my perspective, no front-office I can recall has been less ego-centric. The Warriors are a true committee of voices: Lacob, Lacob, Schlenk, Myers, West, and Riley.

Let’s review the current, roster, shall we?

Bob Myers can claim full credit for exactly two guys: Shaun Livingston and Brandon Rush. Enough said.

Steph Curry was drafted by Larry Riley, under the thrall of Don Nelson, and while working for owner Chris Cohan.

David Lee was acquired by Larry Riley, during the ownership transition from Cohan to Lacob.

Klay Thompson was also a Larry Riley selection, now working for Joe Lacob et all. Most people credit Jerry West with that selection.

The Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut trade, was, ostensibly, another Larry Riley trade. Bob Myers would be named GM shortly thereafter.

Myers gets credit for Harrison Barnes, I suppose. Although that looks like a consensus decision.

Igouadala was a Myers acquisition. It cost two 1st-round picks to make that happen. Jury is still out…

Mark Jackson was hired on Myers’ watch. And fired, as I wrote earlier, for reasons above Myers’ pay grade.

But Steve Kerr, technically, is a Bob Myers hire. Again, I’d call it it a consensus pick (or a Joe Lacob pick). But let’s give a dog a bone.

Maybe Larry Riley is the Executive of the Year?

 

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Playoff Weekend

by on Apr.20, 2015, under NBA

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I love the first weekend of the NBA playoffs. Finally, 8 games that count, between teams that care. Sadly, this year, most of the the games were dull.

I suppose Wizards over Raptors counts as an upset. Except, I happen to agree with Paul Pierce: nothing about the Raptors scares me. Both teams are incredibly bad at playing offense. No ball movement, no apparent plan. They both pound the ball for a while, then make something up. Dull, dull basketball.

The interesting series are:

1) Mavs/Rockets. Interesting that Carlisle hurled Stoudemire repeatedly against Dwight Howard in the first half. Amar’e didn’t score much, but Howard racked up 3 fouls and had to sit. After that, Rondo drove  without resistance.

The Mavs made so many mistakes it was comical. Dirk kept pausing to yell at his team-mates. I think they will turn it around, and make this series competitive.

2) Cavs/Celtics. Cavs started to pull away in the 3rd quarter, then Kevin Love picked up his 3rd foul. Incredibly, Blatt did not take him out, and Stevens did not attack him! After a couple of understandably tentative minutes, Love just went off. If the Celtics had spent those two minutes driving at him, he may have either let them off the hook, or committed his 4th foul. Either way, the game changes.

I think the Celtics have the right guys to beat the Cavs, but they don’t start. Jae Crowder gives Lebron problems, defensively. IT2 can’t be stopped by anyone on the Cavs. Kelly Olynyk can’t guard anyone, but I don’t think Love can stay with him either.

3) Spurs/Clippers. It’s a fascinating chess match when Popovich is coaching in the playoffs. Most likely, the Spurs are emotionally spent after 2 straight trips to the finals. But they will not go down easily.

 

 

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David Lee, tragic hero.

by on Apr.05, 2015, under Warriors

Hey, no surprise that I am a David Lee fan. I wrote this.

To my mind, David Lee is a tragic figure. Like, as in, Greek tragedy.  That’s how tragic.

The basketball world passed him by. During the shank of his career. That is not his fault!

We want our big guys to be 3-point threats now. I understand that. The 3-point line has changed basketball, not necessarily in a good way. Analytics is part of the story. Lee does not shoot 3’s. And he does not block shots (the so-called “help-defense” issue).

All of which makes Marcus Thompson II’s post particularly poignant.

Look – Lee is a great Warrior. It is easy to dismiss him now, when the game has passed him by, and the Warriors have a durable, capable replacement for him. But let’s not forget that Lee played hard for Keith Smart, and then again in the tank year. He is the best power forward the Warriors have had since Chris Webber. Coaches love him, owners love him, and everyone in the locker room loves him.

That’s why I really hope that the Warriors win him a ring this season. For brutally practical reasons, they will work hard to trade him in the offseason. To do that, they will have to send him to a re-building team, along with draft picks. If he is lucky, the new team will offer a mid-season buyout, so he can go join a playoff team.

In any case, the rest of his career is going to look like Amare Stoudemire with the Mavs: back-up forward on a cheap contract.

Here’s a fun question: Where will David Lee end up in 2016-17? It’s tricky, because you have to project out 2 years. Let’s assume:

  1. He won’t sign with a bad team, because he wants to win, and bad team want young guys.
  2. He won’t sign back with the Warriors, because that would be awkward.
  3. He won’t sign with a good team that won’t play him. He is not quite ready for elder-statesman duty, although I could imagine that in his future.

So… here are my guesses:

Starter minutes:

  • Spurs – if Duncan retires after next year, and the Spurs want to do a quickie-rebuild around Kawhi Leonard. This is Lee’s dream scenario.
  • Hornets – because Michael Jordan is re-committed to veterans, and still thinks it is the 1990s.
  • Celtics – because Danny Ainge will be looking to win in 2 years, and no one on that roster today looks like a great power forward.

Backup minutes:

  • Blazers – Need a backup for Aldridge.
  • Rockets – because Morey will continue to shuffle the deck chairs.
  • Thunder – because Sam Presti likes good-guy vets to ease the workload on Scottie Brooks.
  • Griz – because Z-Bo is already old, and Lee would give them a nice platoon.

Teams that will be bad going into 2016-17: Wolves, Kings, Sixers, Nets, Mavs.

Teams that are only interested in stretch 4s: Cavs, Heat, Warriors, Suns, Spurs (if Duncan is still there).

Teams that have young guys they’d rather develop: Lakers, Magic, Bucks, Pistons, Pelicans.

Special cases:

  • Knicks – Phil Jackson is going to reload the roster this summer, not next summer. Lee will be a year too late to that party.
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Rick Barry Bobblehead!

by on Mar.22, 2015, under Warriors

rick-barry-bobblehead

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David Lee’s Farewell Tour

by on Feb.24, 2015, under Warriors

Feltbot:

The showcase is over, and yet Harrison Barnes is still starting, and getting 29 minutes to David Lee’s 18.

My mind boggles, but that’s not the point. The point is that David Lee is gone. This is his last season as a Warrior.

 

Me:

 

NBA fans have short memories. So let me walk you though the storied career of David Lee.

Lee was drafted by Knicks’ GM Isiah Thomas. Isiah ruined the franchise in a series of trades. But he drafted surprisingly well. Lee was picked #30 in the 2005 draft, a bargain by any measure.

By 2010, Lee was playing for Mike D’Antoni. He hit career highs of 20-12 that year. David Stern named him an All-Star, as an injury replacement.

In the summer of 2010, the Donnie Walsh Knicks were looking to lure LeBron and friends. Lee was expendable. At the same time, Joe Lacob et al had won an auction for the Warriors (surprisingly out-bidding Larry Ellison). With the tacit approval of yet-to-be-approved ownership, Warriors’ GM Larry Riley arranged a sign-and-trade that sent fan ( and media)-favorite Anthony Randolph to the Knicks. (Donnie Walsh shuffled Randolph off in less than a season.) This was the biggest steal for the Warriors this century (so far).

There were critics. Tim Kawakami said the Warriors should have pursued Kevin Love. Good idea! Except Love was not actually available at the time.  TK also loved Anthony Randolph, who has turned into a true bust.

Here’s what I wrote a couple years after he was acquired:

Anyone who hates this guy is forgetting the long, sad history of Warrior’s power forwards. Here some guys the Warriors have tried in the last decade:

* Anthony Randolph
* Corey Magette
* Al Harrington
* Troy Murphy
* Danny Fortson
* Jason Caffey

David Lee, one-time All-Star, soldiered bravely for the Warriors:

  • 2010-2011 – Coach Keith Smart, Monta Ellis, sophomore Step Curry  – 36-46
  • 2011-12 – Coach Mark Jackson, tank year – 23-43
  • 2012-13 – Coach Mark Jackson, Curry, sophomore Thompson, Andrew Bogut – 47-35
  • 2013-14 – Coach Mark Jackson, Curry, Thompson, Bogut – 51-31

All the while, Lee was relentlessly supportive of Golden State, the owners, the team, the coaches. A true company man.

In 2013, he was prestigiously  selected to the All-Star game on the coaches’ ballot.

Last season, he was praised for his improved defense.

More than most guys, David Lee is a victim of the changing of the guard. David Aldridge wrote today:

I fell in love with basketball because of the flow between the power of a Karl Malone down low and the grace and ballhandling of a Steve Nash out front. That is no longer the NBA game.

Indeed. While David Lee was plying his trade, the league changed. Having a scoring power forward was important right up to, basically, the last two seasons. That’s when the “stretch 4″ (anticipated decades ago by Nellie) became ascendant. David Lee is not a stretch 4.

The Warriors currently have of choice of two stretch 4’s (Barnes, Green), or David Lee. Lee has done everything he was asked. He has played with efficiency. He did it with dignity. He deserves a better end. But I fear he won’t get it.

 

 

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