Category: NBA

Why This Won’t Be the Warriors’ Last Dance

What are the odds the Warriors are back in the NBA Finals next season?

Pretty damn high, if you ask me, since there’s no reason to believe the smartest, savviest franchise in the NBA won’t make the right moves this off-season to keep the good times rolling.

Before the 2019 NBA Finals kick off in Toronto Thursday night, one of the most popular narratives surrounding the Warriors will be whether we’re witnessing the end of their dynasty. And it’s legit, of course, since we all know the Warriors could experience a seismic shift in fortunes when two of their top four players become unrestricted free agents.

But as long as the Warriors retain the services of their homegrown sharp-shooting star and No. 1 priority Klay Thompson—and there have been zero reports or indications that Thompson and the Warriors won’t come to a lengthy and lucrative agreement—what makes you think Golden State still won’t be one of the best teams in the Western Conference next season? Even if they lose the game’s best player in Kevin Durant. Because keeping the core of Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Thompson intact, while allocating dollars to beef up the supporting cast, easily makes Golden State NBA Finals material, if not the favorites to win it all again. Yeah, the Warriors are undoubtedly better with Durant than not. Anyone making that argument is a clown. The Warriors would be fools not to try to retain him for another year or two. But with Thompson back, they’ll be just fine without KD—who reportedly has his sights set on other squads—and we’re not coming to a knee-jerk conclusion after watching the Warriors dispatch the Rockets and Blazers while Durant was sidelined with his calf strain. Real talk, Durant has always been a luxury item for Golden State. They know it. Basketball fans know it. So spreading the money that could go to Durant and instead dispersing it to a dynamic veteran or two while upgrading a bench that isn’t what it used to be is certainly the fiscally responsible thing to do. It also might be savvier than blindly re-signing KD. With at least two all-time greats ripping nets from long distance in Klay and Steph, and a motivated Green looking to cash in big time as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2020, tell me how Golden State isn’t still going to be a beast. We didn’t even mention the widely respected front office, support staff, and coach that set the Warriors apart from everyone else. Culturally speaking, they are unlike any franchise in the NBA right now. Everyone wants to play for them. Maybe they can even entice DeMarcus Cousins to comeback on another team-friendly contract, since Cousins raved to us about how “first class” the Warriors are. The Warriors loved how he fit into the locker room, and we didn’t really get a great taste of the Boogie experiment as he worked his way back from the Achilles injury midway through the regular season and then went down with a quad injury in the first round of the playoffs. I’d easily contend that the hypothetical version of the 2019-20 Warriors outlined above would be just as formidable as any squad in the league and certainly in the Western Conference—unless maybe, just maybe, KD formed a new super squad with the Clippers. Of course, that’s a big if, and accurately predicting what Durant is going to do is an exercise in futility. Durant could end up in Los Angeles, he could end up in New York, or he could even return to Golden State, since the Warriors have actually planned for years to be able to fit him into their budget—even with Thompson’s significant raise on the immediate horizon. The opening of their new arena in San Francisco is projected to bring in tons of extra cash. They should be able to cover just about any cost they deem reasonable. READ MORE: https://www.complex.com/sports/2019/05/why-this-wont-be-the-warriors-last-dance

For the Warriors, a Lack of Doubt Should Create Some Doubt

2019 N.B.A. Finals Preview
This N.B.A. season has been treated as a foregone conclusion, but Golden State will not want to get too comfortable against Kawhi Leonard and his loaded Toronto Raptors.

Game 1: Thursday, 9 p.m.

The games will air on ABC and will be streamed on Watch ESPN.

The Warriors, for better or worse, have always fed on doubt. No matter how invincible they have seemed, they have managed to find slights to inspire them — often going to somewhat comical lengths to do so.

The last time they faced significant doubt — and even then, it was hardly from a majority of pundits — was before the 2015 finals when, as a group of upstarts, the Warriors had to prove their mettle against LeBron James’s Cleveland Cavaliers. But over the last four seasons, as they made the shift from powerhouse to dynasty, they have used injuries, inexplicably sloppy performances and some apparent figments of Draymond Green’s imagination as ways to make winning feel less inevitable and more like a chance to prove “everyone” wrong.

Even last year, as they pulled off one of the most dominant sweeps in finals history, they seemed to be powered by a reserve of doubt created by the team barely having survived a clash with the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference finals.

As Golden State comes out of a nine-day break, looking to win its third consecutive championship and a fourth in five years, the doubt created by injuries to Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins — doubt that helped inspire some of the best basketball of Green’s career — has faded away. In what should be ringing the “lack of doubt” alarm in Green’s head, the players and coaches have spent the last few days being asked about the possibility that Stephen Curry will finally win a finals M.V.P. Award.

Shaun Livingston and Curry both answered questions about the award on Monday, playing down the importance of Curry becoming the M.V.P., while neither pushed back against assumptions that the Raptors have only a slight chance of winning the series.

Steve Kerr, for his part, seemed to understand that the line of questioning could be counterproductive for his squad. “We’re trying to win” the series, the coach said when asked two consecutive questions about the award. “So we’re not talking about any awards, we just want to win four games.”

This Raptors team, after all, is far more complete than any of the James-led teams that faced off with the Warriors in their previous four trips to the finals.

After five years of watching his team dominate in the regular season only to fall apart in the playoffs, Masai Ujiri, the Raptors’ president, blew things up, trading DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green. The move did not pay tangible dividends in the regular season — the Raptors played slightly worse over the 82-game grind than they had the season before — but the killer instinct they had previously lacked became a defining characteristic of the team once the playoffs began.

You saw it in each series, as the Raptors systematically eliminated Orlando, Philadelphia and Milwaukee, playing suffocating defense as Leonard led the way on both ends of the court.

Leonard, who has a finals M.V.P. Award on his shelf from his days in San Antonio, has already justified the cost of trading away DeRozan, a franchise icon. Even if Leonard signs elsewhere as a free agent this summer, he has taken Toronto farther than it has ever been before.

His buzzer-beater to end the second-round series against the 76ers was the most important shot in franchise history, and Leonard followed it up by averaging 29.8 points and 9.5 rebounds a game against the top-seeded Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals, thoroughly outplaying Giannis Antetokounmpo, the presumptive winner of the league’s Most Valuable Player Award.

And Leonard is hardly alone. Pascal Siakam, who has the makings of a superstar, is a worthy sidekick on offense and defense. Marc Gasol, a rugged veteran acquired during the season when Ujiri sensed yet again that his franchise needed a shake-up, could be a problem for the undersize Warriors. And Kyle Lowry, once a centerpiece of the franchise along with DeRozan, has looked like his old self in spurts, even if he has had more mediocre playoff games than great ones.

Fred VanVleet probably can’t keep up the 82.4 percent he shot from 3-point range in the final three games of the series against the Bucks, but he will still provide a scoring threat from the bench that has to be accounted for.

The Raptors have more length than the Warriors and, at least until further notice, better health. They have home court advantage — a luxury Golden State had in each of the previous four finals — and, with help from their raucous fans, could win Games 1 and 2 before Durant’s anticipated return.

If Green and Curry can pick up where they left off in the Portland series, Durant’s return might be a formality. In the last six games, Curry has quieted talk about his “disappearing” in the playoffs by averaging 34 points, 7.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists. In those same six games, Green, in the best shape of his career thanks to some late-season weight loss, has nearly averaged a triple-double, with 13.4 points, 11.5 rebounds and 8.8 assists, while also playing elite defense at multiple positions. The Warriors’ ability to go galactic, and the likelihood that Thompson has a few big scoring nights in him as well, could make quick work of Toronto.

But Curry’s game is mercurial enough to make one wonder if he is due for a rough stretch, and Green is volatile enough that the task of tangling with Leonard and Gasol could put him in consistent foul trouble — or worse if he were to get three more technical foul points, earning a one-game suspension.

If both of those things happen, the Warriors have to hope they can count on Durant, currently reduced to being an extremely tall fan, to fly in for the rescue, putting the team on his back and securing the three-peat. The only problem, of course, is that Durant’s return has been a moving target. Pinning too much hope on a player who has been out since May 8 seems unwise.

As it stands, these two teams are more evenly matched than the average fan might assume, though a combination of top-shelf talent and finals experience should give Golden State a slight advantage. However, if Green is looking for some motivational doubt, there is no need to manufacture it this time around. The Warriors, the first team to play in a fifth consecutive finals since the Celtics appeared in their 10th straight in 1966, are nowhere near a sure thing.

Privileged

When the police break your teammate’s leg, you’d think it would wake you up a little.

When they arrest him on a New York street, throw him in jail for the night, and leave him with a season-ending injury, you’d think it would sink in. You’d think you’d know there was more to the story.

You’d think.

But nope.

I still remember my reaction when I first heard what happened to Thabo. It was 2015, late in the season. Thabo and I were teammates on the Hawks, and we’d flown into New York late after a game in Atlanta. When I woke up the next morning, our team group text was going nuts. Details were still hazy, but guys were saying, Thabo hurt his leg? During an arrest? Wait — he spent the night in jail?! Everyone was pretty upset and confused.

Well, almost everyone. My response was….. different. I’m embarrassed to admit it.

Which is why I want to share it today.

Before I tell the rest of this story, let me just say real quick — Thabo wasn’t some random teammate of mine, or some guy in the league who I knew a little bit. We’d become legitimate friends that year in our downtime. He was my go-to teammate to talk with about stuff beyond the basketball world. Politics, religion, culture, you name it — Thabo brought a perspective that wasn’t typical of an NBA player. And it’s easy to see why: Before we were teammates in Atlanta, the guy had played professional ball in France, Turkey and Italy. He spoke three languages! Thabo’s mother was from Switzerland, and his father was from South Africa. They lived together in South Africa before Thabo was born, then left because of apartheid.

It didn’t take long for me to figure out that Thabo was one of the most interesting people I’d ever been around. We respected each other. We were cool, you know? We had each other’s backs.

Anyway — on the morning I found out that Thabo had been arrested, want to know what my first thought was? About my friend and teammate? My first thought was: What was Thabo doing out at a club on a back-to-back??

Yeah. Not, How’s he doing? Not, What happened during the arrest?? Not, Something seems off with this story. Nothing like that. Before I knew the full story, and before I’d even had the chance to talk to Thabo….. I sort of blamed Thabo.

I thought, Well, if I’d been in Thabo’s shoes, out at a club late at night, the police wouldn’t have arrested me. Not unless I was doing something wrong.

Cringe.

It’s not like it was a conscious thought. It was pure reflex — the first thing to pop into my head.

And I was worried about him, no doubt.

But still. Cringe.

A few months later, a jury found Thabo not guilty on all charges. He settled with the city over the NYPD’s use of force against him. And then the story just sort of….. disappeared. It fell away from the news. Thabo had surgery and went through rehab. Pretty soon, another NBA season began — and we were back on the court again.

Life went on.

But I still couldn’t shake my discomfort.

I mean, I hadn’t been involved in the incident. I hadn’t even been there. So why did I feel like I’d let my friend down?

Why did I feel like I’d let myself down?


A few weeks ago, something happened at a Jazz home game that brought back many of those old questions.

Maybe you saw it: We were playing against the Thunder, and Russell Westbrook and a fan in the crowd exchanged words during the game. I didn’t actually see or hear what happened, and if you were following on TV or on Twitter, maybe you had a similar initial viewing of it. Then, after the game, one of our reporters asked me for my response to what had gone down between Russ and the fan. I told him I hadn’t seen it — and added something like, But you know Russ. He gets into it with the crowd a lot.

Of course, the full story came out later that night. What actually happened was that a fan had said some really ugly things at close range to Russ. Russ had then responded. After the game, he’d said he felt the comments were racially charged.

The incident struck a nerve with our team.

In a closed-door meeting with the president of the Jazz the next day, my teammates shared stories of similar experiences they’d had — of feeling degraded in ways that went beyond acceptable heckling. One teammate talked about how his mom had called him right after the game, concerned for his safety in SLC. One teammate said the night felt like being “in a zoo.” One of the guys in the meeting was Thabo — he’s my teammate in Utah now. I looked over at him, and remembered his night in NYC.

Everyone was upset. I was upset — and embarrassed, too. But there was another emotion in the room that day, one that was harder to put a finger on. It was almost like….. disappointment, mixed with exhaustion. Guys were just sick and tired of it all.

This wasn’t the first time they’d taken part in conversations about race in their NBA careers, and it wasn’t the first time they’d had to address the hateful actions of others. And one big thing that got brought up a lot in the meeting was how incidents like this — they weren’t only about the people directly involved. This wasn’t only about Russ and some heckler. It was about more than that.

It was about what it means just to exist right now — as a person of color in a mostly white space.

It was about racism in America.

Before the meeting ended, I joined the team’s demand for a swift response and a promise from the Jazz organization that it would address the concerns we had. I think my teammates and I all felt it was a step in the right direction.

But I don’t think anyone felt satisfied.


There’s an elephant in the room that I’ve been thinking about a lot over these last few weeks. It’s the fact that, demographically, if we’re being honest: I have more in common with the fans in the crowd at your average NBA game than I have with the players on the court.

And after the events in Salt Lake City last month, and as we’ve been discussing them since, I’ve really started to recognize the role those demographics play in my privilege. It’s like — I may be Thabo’s friend, or Ekpe’s teammate, or Russ’s colleague; I may work with those guys. And I absolutely 100% stand with them.

But I look like the other guy.

And whether I like it or not? I’m beginning to understand how that means something.

What I’m realizing is, no matter how passionately I commit to being an ally, and no matter how unwavering my support is for NBA and WNBA players of color….. I’m still in this conversation from the privileged perspective of opting in to it. Which of course means that on the flip side, I could just as easily opt out of it. Every day, I’m given that choice — I’m granted that privilege — based on the color of my skin.

In other words, I can say every right thing in the world: I can voice my solidarity with Russ after what happened in Utah. I can evolve my position on what happened to Thabo in New York. I can be that weird dude in Get Out bragging about how he’d have voted for Obama a third term. I can condemn every racist heckler I’ve ever known.

But I can also fade into the crowd, and my face can blend in with the faces of those hecklers, any time I want.

I realize that now. And maybe in years past, just realizing something would’ve felt like progress. But it’s NOT years past — it’s today. And I know I have to do better. So I’m trying to push myself further.

I’m trying to ask myself what I should actually do.

How can I — as a white man, part of this systemic problem — become part of the solution when it comes to racism in my workplace? In my community? In this country?

These are the questions that I’ve been asking myself lately.

And I don’t think I have all the answers yet — but here are the ones that are starting to ring the most true:

I have to continue to educate myself on the history of racism in America.

I have to listen. I’ll say it again, because it’s that important. I have to listen.

I have to support leaders who see racial justice as fundamental — as something that’s at the heart of nearly every major issue in our country today. And I have to support policies that do the same.

I have to do my best to recognize when to get out of the way — in order to amplify the voices of marginalized groups that so often get lost.

But maybe more than anything?

I know that, as a white man, I have to hold my fellow white men accountable.

We all have to hold each other accountable.

And we all have to be accountable — period. Not just for our own actions, but also for the ways that our inaction can create a “safe” space for toxic behavior.

And I think the standard that we have to hold ourselves to, in this crucial moment….. it’s higher than it’s ever been. We have to be active. We have to be actively supporting the causes of those who’ve been marginalized — precisely because they’ve been marginalized.


Two concepts that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately are guilt and responsibility.

When it comes to racism in America, I think that guilt and responsibility tend to be seen as more or less the same thing. But I’m beginning to understand how there’s a real difference.

As white people, are we guilty of the sins of our forefathers? No, I don’t think so.

But are we responsible for them? Yes, I believe we are.

And I guess I’ve come to realize that when we talk about solutions to systemic racism — police reform, workplace diversity, affirmative action, better access to healthcare, even reparations? It’s not about guilt. It’s not about pointing fingers, or passing blame.

It’s about responsibility. It’s about understanding that when we’ve said the word “equality,” for generations, what we’ve really meant is equality for a certain group of people. It’s about understanding that when we’ve said the word “inequality,” for generations, what we’ve really meant is slavery, and its aftermath — which is still being felt to this day. It’s about understanding on a fundamental level that black people and white people, they still have it different in America. And that those differences come from an ugly history….. not some random divide.

And it’s about understanding that Black Lives Matter, and movements like it, matter, because — well, let’s face it: I probably would’ve been safe on the street that one night in New York. And Thabo wasn’t. And I was safe on the court that one night in Utah. And Russell wasn’t.


But as disgraceful as it is that we have to deal with racist hecklers in NBA arenas in 2019? The truth is, you could argue that that kind of racism is “easier” to deal with.

Because at least in those cases, the racism is loud and clear. There’s no ambiguity — not in the act itself, and thankfully not in the response: we throw the guy out of the building, and then we ban him for life.

But in many ways the more dangerous form of racism isn’t that loud and stupid kind. It isn’t the kind that announces itself when it walks into the arena. It’s the quiet and subtle kind. The kind that almost hides itself in plain view. It’s the person who does and says all the “right” things in public: They’re perfectly friendly when they meet a person of color. They’re very polite. But in private? Well….. they sort of wish that everyone would stop making everything “about race” all the time.

It’s the kind of racism that can seem almost invisible — which is one of the main reasons why it’s allowed to persist.

And so, again, banning a guy like Russ’s heckler? To me, that’s the “easy” part. But if we’re really going to make a difference as a league, as a community, and as a country on this issue….. it’s like I said — I just think we need to push ourselves another step further.

First, by identifying that less visible, less obvious behavior as what it is: racism.

And then second, by denouncing that racism — actively, and at every level.

That’s the bare minimum of where we have to get to, I think, if we’re going to consider the NBA — or any workplace — as anything close to part of the solution in 2019.


I’ll wrap this up in a minute — but first I have one last thought.

The NBA is over 75% players of color.

Seventy-five percent.

People of color, they built this league. They’ve grown this league. People of color have made this league into what it is today. And I guess I just wanted to say that if you can’t find it in your heart to support them — now? And I mean actively support them?

If the best that you can do for their cause is to passively “tolerate” it? If that’s the standard we’re going to hold ourselves to — to blend in, and opt out?

Well, that’s not good enough. It’s not even close.

I know I’m in a strange position, as one of the more recognized white players in the NBA. It’s a position that comes with a lot of….. interesting undertones. And it’s a position that makes me a symbol for a lot of things, for a lot of people — often people who don’t know anything about me. Usually, I just ignore them. But this doesn’t feel like a “usually” moment.

This feels like a moment to draw a line in the sand.

I believe that what’s happening to people of color in this country — right now, in 2019 — is wrong.

The fact that black Americans are more than five times as likely to be incarcerated as white Americans is wrong. The fact that black Americans are more than twice as likely to live in poverty as white Americans is wrong. The fact that black unemployment rates nationally are double that of overall unemployment rates is wrong. The fact that black imprisonment rates for drug charges are almost six times higher nationally than white imprisonment rates for drug charges is wrong. The fact that black Americans own approximately one-tenth of the wealth that white Americans own is wrong.

The fact that inequality is built so deeply into so many of our most trusted institutions is wrong.

And I believe it’s the responsibility of anyone on the privileged end of those inequalities to help make things right.

So if you don’t want to know anything about me, outside of basketball, then listen — I get it. But if you do want to know something? Know I believe that.

Know that about me.

If you’re wearing my jersey at a game? Know that about me. If you’re planning to buy my jersey for someone else…… know that about me. If you’re following me on social media….. know that about me. If you’re coming to Jazz games and rooting for me….. know that about me.

And if you’re claiming my name, or likeness, for your own cause, in any way….. know that about me. Know that I believe this matters.

Thanks for reading.

Time for me to shut up and listen.

Playoff Mode? LeBron James and the Lakers Are Failing to Activate A move West came with dire warnings, but the reality is setting in that a James-led team might miss the playoffs.

LeBron James can’t say that he wasn’t warned.

Lots of us were crowing in the summer, and pretty loudly so, about what would greet the unquestioned Lord of the Eastern Conference if he dared to defect.

Sign with the Los Angeles Lakers if you wish, for the sunnier Hollywood life and all the perks, but brace yourself for the most trying regular season of your career if you decide to go West.

That was the gist of the scouting report — which in retrospect could not have been much more prescient.

On cue: The most daunting and, yes, disappointing season of James’s career is right here, right now, for the biggest name in basketball.

And it appears he will soon have to stomach that it’s going on his ledger in the most permanent ink that he was unable to bring a halt to the longest postseason drought in Lakers history — barring an unforeseen resurrection from a fractured group that sits four and a half games out of a Western Conference playoff berth with 19 games to go.

No matter how much culpability you wish to assign James for what is poised to go down as the Lakers’ franchise-record sixth successive trip to the draft lottery, he’s going to have to own this as much as the front-office tandem of Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka as well as the under-fire coach Luke Walton.

The LeBron Way, for years and years, has worked something like this: He inevitably gets most of the credit when his team flourishes; his teammates absorb the bulk of the blame when things unravel. But this is different. This would be the jarring sight of James, fresh off his eighth consecutive finals appearance, actually missing out on the N.B.A. postseason for the first time since his second professional season in 2004-5, when he was just 20.

Even though he can rightly point to his recent groin strain as the biggest standings-altering disruption these Lakers have endured, James surely understands that his maiden campaign in Los Angeles is bound to be recorded in many precincts as a failure to make the playoffs that belongs to him. The Lakers are 4-7 since James returned from the groin injury that sidelined him longer (17 consecutive games) than any previous injury in his 16-year career. They have followed up an unsightly road loss to Atlanta in their final game before the All-Star break with harder-to-rationalize road losses to New Orleans, Memphis and Phoenix since the break.

After Saturday night’s humiliation against a 13-51 Suns team, which dropped the Lakers to 30-33, James’s gang only sports a 1.3-percent chance of reaching the postseason, according to Basketball-Reference.com.

They also have the league’s eighth-toughest remaining schedule, according to Tankathon.com.

We’ll never know if the Lakers, who had risen to a heady fourth in the West at 20-14 when James sustained the groin injury in a Christmas Day rout of Golden State, could have kept building upon that promising start with a healthy LeBron. But we most certainly do know that James’s mere return to the lineup, at 34, wasn’t enough to rescue a roster that has been assailed since conception for its lack of perimeter shooting and its defensive deficiencies. Nor has he been able to galvanize a locker room that was deeply destabilized by the Lakers’ trade pursuit of the New Orleans superstar Anthony Davis, which became all-consuming in late January, and has never recovered.

It obviously doesn’t help that James, after missing two key free throws in the final minute Saturday, is also converting a substandard 66.9 percent of his attempts from the line to give his critics more handy folder.

Leaving his home-state Cleveland Cavaliers for the Lakers last July without the accompaniment of a second superstar meant that James, in a far deeper conference, would have little margin for error just to reach the playoffs. When you combine James’s injury absence with the continuing post-Davis malaise and the team’s declining ball movement since Lonzo Ball (ankle) was sidelined six weeks ago, it adds up rather quickly to a margin that is long gone.

The calls for Walton’s dismissal, as they were in January, remain nonsensical. A coaching change now, much like New Orleans’s decision to fire General Manager Dell Demps shortly after the trade deadline, would have no discernible effect on the Lakers’ short-term prospects beyond providing their frustrated fans with a “See? We did something” sacrifice.

The prevailing assumption in league coaching circles remains that Walton will almost certainly be dismissed after the season, followed by the Lakers resuming their trade quest for Davis. But denying Walton an opportunity to at finish out a season wrought with drama and distraction since James’s first dribble in purple and gold would be cruel and needless.

Changes are coming, though. It’s an open secret that a big off-season reset looms in Lakerland. James always knew that his new club would not be in the title mix until his second campaign as a Laker, but his patience predictably faded quickly — one more reason desperation has become so palpable around this team.

Many of us know-it-alls in the news media indeed wrote in our preseason forecasts that the playoffs were no certainty for these Lakers, as constructed, but very few of us were actually willing to outright predict that they would miss out. Reason being: It’s not very smart to bet against LeBron Raymone James.

Yet we’ve suddenly reached that unprecedented juncture where it would be wholly irresponsible to advise you that James can extricate himself from this jam just because he’s LeBron. Whether it’s the lingering effects from his groin injury, or his own unmistakably waning spirit in the face of increasingly bleak odds, James has been lacking the zip you associate with his well-chronicled playoff mode — which he assured us on Feb. 21 had been “activated” earlier than usual.

I briefly stood beside James on the floor in Charlotte, N.C., before the All-Star Game tipped off and bought into the idea a surge was coming when he insisted he was eager to embrace “the challenge” of hauling the Lakers out of their hole.

“And I’m getting healthy, too,” James said that night.

A mere two weeks later, it’s already time to start imagining the N.B.A.’s first spring without King James after watching him for eight straight Junes — and wondering how on Earth he’s going to cope with not being a part of it.

The scripted chaos of Stephen Curry

curry

Like a seasoned yogi realizing he can deepen his stretch, there is a zen-like quality to Stephen Curry’s exacting hunt for the perfect shot.

On Sunday against the Nets, he continued his streak of making at least five threes in the first seven games of the season, breaking the record George McLoud set in 1995. Curry is on pace to shatter the single-season record in three-pointers made, which he set at 402 in 2015-2016, which shattered his own the previous record of 286 in 2014-15, which shattered his own previous record of 272 in 2012-13.

In the offseason, he told the Wall Street Journal, “I might be delusional, but I feel like I can get better at putting the ball in the basket.” His personal trainer, Brandon Payne, added that “he’s not even close” to his peak. Together, to hear it from Pablo Torre on ESPN’s High Noon, Curry and Payne devised a drill in which Curry had to hit 20 sets of shots, differing in spot and style, from the perimeter, and swish six of 10 free throws. It was called “Perfection.”

Up against the Warriors’ decadence, tried-and-true theories about the professional athlete’s insatiable drive fall away. It’s hard not to wonder why they’re not satisfied when they’re already deemed unbeatable. What an extravagance. And what do they have left to improve?

But the difficulty of Curry’s shots aren’t mere theatre. If he wants to actually shoot the ball, defenses are going to force the world’s best decoy to chase perfection and master chaos.

Consider: Opponents would rather allow Kevin Durant to play one-on-one against mismatches and let Jordan Bell throw down alley-oops than allow Curry to shoot threes. Hell, they’d rather let him get lay ups: the Warriors often free Curry up by running him off screens as he cuts to the rim, usually as a fake-out before he sprints to the corner pocket. Against the Jazz on Oct. 19, Curry was aggressively chased off the three-point line by Dante Exum and hounded on pick and rolls by Ricky Rubio and Rudy Gobert, whose 7’9 wingspan gave Curry pause. They tugged at his jersey and laid him out with hard screens. Royce O’Neale even gave him a nosebleed. Curry didn’t hit a three until more than halfway through the second quarter, on a uniquely unguardable play illustrated by NBA analyst Jared Dubin.

Curry tried to push the game to devolve into chaos, his high-risk way of forcing the issue: boxing out for offensive rebounds, throwing dangerous outlets, whipping rainbow passes across the floor. But the Jazz’s length, athleticism, and discipline tipped the scales in their balance, up until Jonas Jerebko’s game-winning putback for the Warriors.

As though he took note, Curry had, to put it lightly, more success against the Wizards on Oct. 24, scoring 51 points and drilling 11 threes. The Wizards tried to switch and trap Curry mercilessly, forcing the ball out of his hands. The only problem: he got rid of it by flinging it into the basket.

READ MORE: https://www.sbnation.com/2018/10/31/18047242/stephen-curry-highlights-golden-state-warriors-mvp

N.B.A. Power Brokers Gather, With No Men Allowed

LAS VEGAS — As the sun set on another day at the N.B.A. Summer League this month, a group of 60-odd power brokers gathered at an upscale restaurant on the Las Vegas Strip. They were among the league’s elite: executives who help engineer blockbuster trades, salary-cap gurus who devise contracts and scouts who identify prospects.

They sipped wine, nibbled hors d’oeuvres and made conversation; perhaps an unremarkable scene except for one thing: They were all women.

nba women

“This is the first time, to our knowledge, that this has ever happened,” said Liliahn Majeed, the N.B.A.’s vice president for diversity and inclusion.

Long known for its progressive approach toward social issues, the N.B.A. has emerged as an industry leader among men’s professional sports leagues when it comes to hiring and promoting women. Richard Lapchick, the director of the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport, recently released a study that found that the N.B.A. had the highest percentage of women working at the league office and with individual teams, outpacing the N.F.L. and Major League Baseball. Women hold 31.6 percent of team management positions in the N.B.A., according to the study.

SOURCE: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/24/sports/nba-women-hiring