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.
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:
- He won’t sign with a bad team, because he wants to win, and bad team want young guys.
- He won’t sign back with the Warriors, because that would be awkward.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- Knicks – Phil Jackson is going to reload the roster this summer, not next summer. Lee will be a year too late to that party.
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.
I can’t help but notice that David Lee does not have his own Food Truck commercial.
— Scott Gamon (@gswblog) February 24, 2015
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.
It’s a poor workman who blames his tools. And yet…
If I haven’t been around lately, it’s because much of what I have to say can be said compactly, on twitter. And tweeting from TweetDeck is so much easier that logging in here and writing a blog post.
In fact, Dave Winer’s product, Little Pork Chop, has changed my habit. Little Pork Chop helps you write tweetstorms: a thought that spans multiple tweets. I find that, for the most part, my thoughts on basketball span less than 1,000 characters, which is perfect for a tweet storm. So, if I can dash off a quick thought, I do it in TweetDeck. If I need a little more room, I retreat to Little Pork Chop. It’s only when I have an essay waiting that I open WordPress.
So it is that I sense an opportunity, or at least an opening. WordPress needs a light-weight editor. Something that encourages quick thoughts. And maybe a theme that displays the two separately. And, for bonus points, a way to tweetstorm.
The Warriors are just ridiculously good. I do not know how to feel about this. It’s undiscovered country…
2-way players are now a thing. For the longest time, we had offensive and defensive specialists. We could celebrate them separately, and debate their value individually. A few good teams are still split like this. But the best teams are stacked with 2-way players…
Kevin Love – not a two way player. And you are always better off with 2-way players. That’s why Mo Speights is suddenly the best center on the Warriors. He scores, and plays D…
Jeff Van Gundy gave away the secret on Friday’s broadcast: if you want to rebuild quickly, skip the fruitless pursuit of stars. Instead, sign hard-hat, 2-way players in their prime. He listed four, including Draymond Green. I agree. If someone is smart enough to make Green a max offer, I think they will pry him away from the Warriors, and reboot their franchise. Ahem… Lakers?
What an upside-down season we are having. Best 2 teams in the West? Try Warriors and Blazers. Best in the East? Would you believe Hawks and Raptors? In a few more months, conclusions will be drawn, and the league will re-configure around those conclusions. Best to get on the bandwagon now…
Speaking of getting on the bandwagon now… There is an unprecedented number amount of player movement so early. The trade deadline has been dull for two years, so now teams just pull the trigger early. The deadline will be dull again, I’m sure…
Playing for next year (or 3 years hence, in some cases) is now a thing. A bunch of teams do it. Makes you wonder if a soccer-style 2-tier system would be best for the NBA…?
Mark Jackson – the story that will never die. At this point, Warriors fans just have to embrace it. It is one of those awkward situations where both sides are right. Jackson had a huge impact, and earned an extension, in any normal universe. But Steve Kerr is taking the Warriors to the next level, proving that Qui-Gon Jinn was right: there’s always a bigger fish…
Lebron’s image, and legacy, would be better served if he returned to Cleveland, which now has Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson to support King James.
Michael Malone was sacked last night. Apparently due to philosophical differences between him and the Front Office. Weirdly, a big part of the King’s Front Office is the owner, Vivek Ranadive. Who personally hired Malone the second he bought the team.
You know what else is weird? In this super-saturated media world, no one saw it coming!? There are a bunch of articles today saying something like “yes, of course, we all knew he was on the hot seat…” Wait! What? It’s possible to follow the NBA more closely than I do, but not by much. I heard nothing about this.
I wrote once about having a sense of the moment. It’s about knowing that the end is already upon you, and winding things up before it gets ugly. Only a few lucky people have this sense. Apparently, Ranadive is not one of them. He could have replace Malone in August or September, but instead threw away a quarter of a season on a guy he had no faith in.
Like the Lakers in 2012, the Kings had deep reservations about their coach going into the season. They used an early losing streak as an excuse to fire him. Which is all well and good, but it wipes out the rest of the season. I can only think of two times that replacing your coach early led to success: 1979-80 Lakers (won the title, but the league was very different then), and the 2004-5 Nuggets (went 32-8 under George Karl to reach the playoffs).
And guess who the supposed leading candidate for the Kings opening is? Yep, gorgeous George Karl. This could get interesting.
One of the other names mentioned as a replacement is our old friend, Mark Jackson. I think that’s a big reach. Jackson’s principle qualifications are: 1) he is friends with Chris Mullin, and 2) he’s available. But if, as is now reported, Malone was fired for not playing up-tempo small ball, why would the Kings hire MJax? Even ardent supporters have to confess that he was offensively limited, and preferred to pound it inside, just like Malone. I guess Jackson’s name will keep coming up, for every opening, for the next couple of years. It will be interesting to see if he gets another job. Steve Kerr is killing Jackson’s brand with the hot start.
What if time.What if Malone stayed with the Warriors last season? Jackson’s staff retains credibility. Perhaps there is no division on the staff, out of respect for the Jackson/Malone tandem. The Warriors win 51 and still lose in 7 to the Clips, but it seems like less of a failure, more of a “reached-their-peak.” Jackson gets his big extension after all.
Here’s another: What if Ranadive fired Malone after watching Joe Lacob’s latest magic trick: firing his 51-win coach and replacing him with an even better one? Malone and Jackson, coaching’s Odd Couple, still connected.
This issue was beaten to death last year, by Tim Kawakami (TK). But it keeps popping up, so let’s address it.
Even now, some mystery remains about all the moving pieces and roads almost taken that night.
I thought that the Warriors had a deal in place to send the 7th pick, plus Andris Biedrins, to the Suns for Ama’re Stoudemire . Turns out, I was wrong. TK reveals that the only deal on the table, from Sun’s GM Steve Kerr’s perspective, was Curry (+ Biedriens, for cap reasons), for Stoudemire . And Don Nelson/Larry Riley were never doing that.
What’s new is a NYT article from Harvey Araton, that recaps events from the POV of the Knicks. The Warriors had the 7th pick in 2009, and the Knicks were next at #8. Knicks GM Donnie Walsh conspired with Curry’s agent to get him to NY. The Warriors were not allowed any contact with Curry, in hopes of scaring them off. That’s all old info.
Here’s the new stuff:
- Walsh was convinced that the Warriors would pass on Curry anyway, because they already had Monta Ellis, and they really needed a power forward. That’s not crazy. The very next year, Larry Riley used the 6th pick on Ekpe Udoh, now barely in the league.
- Dell Curry says the Warriors “had some questionable characters on their team.” Eh? Here’s the list of guys nominally on the roster at the end of the season:
Not sure who the “questionable characters” are.
- What-ifs, from the Knicks end: If they landed Curry, would they have signed Stoudemire the following year? Or would they have re-signed David Lee? With Curry and Lee playing for Mike D’Antoni, do the Knicks trade away their team for Carmelo Anthony?
There are what-ifs on the Warriors end, too. In 2009-10, The Warriors won just 26 games, after which Don Nelson was fired. Before the draft, Monta Ellis and Steven Jackson were promised a big man. When that failed to materialize, Jackson demanded a trade, and Ellis went into a funk. What if the Warriors traded #7 and Biedrins to the Suns for Stoudemire? Remember, Stoudemire helped the Suns to the conference finals in 2009-10. A motivated Ellis, Jackson, Stoudemire, and Coach Nelson would have stormed back into the playoffs. And if that happens, would Chris Cohan sell? Surely, Nellie keeps his job and eventually ascends to the Jerry West role.
Would the Warriors have re-signed Stoudemire at the end of that year? Bobby Rowell was a bargain shopper. If Cohan keeps the team, it’s easy to imagine that Stoudemire ends up in NY anyway, on a max deal, and the Warriors grab David Lee as a consolation prize.
Update: the Warriors won #20, 15 in a row, against the best offense in the NBA.
The Warriors beat the Bulls tonight. In Chicago.
The Warriors won their 12th-game-in-a-row. They are now 17-2.
This is no longer a “We believe” or “fullsquad” situation. This is no little-train-that-could. This is a deep and dangerous team. If you are a fan of another team, you don’t want to see the Warriors coming up on your schedule.
How deep are they? Festus Ezeli can’t get off the bench this year, after starting 41 games in a playoff season. David Lee has barely played due to a hamstring injury. Andre Igouadala, on last-summers’ world championship Team USA roster, does not start.
This team reminds me of those 1980’s era Lakers teams that brought guys like Bob MacAdoo and Mychal Thompson off the bench.
As a longtime Warriors fan, this sounds crazy, but… Are the Warriors championship contenders?
So many things have to go right to win a championship, even if you are really good. See: Suns 1993, Jazz 1997-98, Mavs 2006, Thunder 2012, Spurs 2013. And what about teams that never reached the championship series, even though they were also really good?
So I’m not predicting championships. but I will say this: the Warriors are good enough to survive the West playoffs this year. And that makes them title contenders.
Steve Kerr – wow. So many things to admire about our rookie coach. Here are a few:
He had to mend fences with guys that had pledged their loyalty to Mark Jackson. That’s a hard, thankless task for a proven coach. Kerr was not proven. Still, there were allies in the locker room too. Some guys saw through Mark Jackson.
The resurrection of Mo Speights. Remember just a couple months back when we were all counting down to the day the Warriors could refuse his option?
The transformation of Steph Curry into a 2-way player. Curry takes hard defensive assignments on top guards now. Kerr does not hide him on defense. It makes the game easier on everyone.
Talking Andre Igouadala into accepting the 6th man role. Really, Andre brought it on himself the prior year, when he just stopped producing offense.
Kerr’s media personality is the same as a coach as it was as a broadcaster. Mark Jackson is goofy and fun as a broadcaster, but a taciturn grump as a coach.
I got swept up in the hunt for Kevin Love last spring, like everyone else. Like the Dwight Howard chase the previous summer, I got star-struck, and temporarily lost my mind. It’s not that I believed in Klay Thompson (good for you if you did), it’s that I never have liked Kevin Love. The way I see it, great players drag their teams to wins. Fakers pile up stats while losing. Kevin Love is a faker. And if you were paying attention, you would have noticed that he cannot defend (David Lee killed him in the post), he poisons the locker room, chases off coaches, and misses lots of games.
And, yes, Klay Thompson is a really good two-way player, in a position that is thin in the league (RFA bidding on young wings has been bananas the last few summers), and with a skill (3-point shooting) prized league-wide.
OTOH, note that I was right when I wrote How the Warriors can get Kevin Love. If Glen Taylor insisted on winning now (rather than years from now), he could be rolling the balls out to David Lee, Harrison Barnes, and Draymond Green. Who have been pretty good so far this year, yes?