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16 Bold Predictions For 2016

(photo courtesy of Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports)

(photo courtesy of Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports)

A new year is upon us and there will be many great sports events that will happen. Some will be expected like the Super Bowl, college football championship game and the college basketball national championship game. But there are also things that happen that catch us all off guard. It’s easy to predict things that will happen, but it is not as easy to predict the unpredictable events that can happen. But with that being said, let me take my shot at it. Without further ado, here are my 16 predictions for 2016

  1. The Alabama Crimson Tide will win the National title

Clemson is a worthy opponent for Alabama in the National Title game. They are solid in each facet of the game and can make some explosive plays. But versus Alabama, the game will be won or lost in the trenches. Alabama is a physical football team and they have dominated teams up front for majority of the season. Clemson is a physical bunch as well and they will not wilt when facing the Crimson Tide. But eventually the physical play and the explosiveness of the Alabama front seven will get to the Tigers.

  1. The Golden State Warriors will not win the NBA title this season

The Warriors are again having a great season. And of course they will be a factor in the West this year. But let’s not forget that there are some other teams that can get it going and potentially knock them off. Teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder and the San Antonio Spurs are talented enough to give the Warriors fits. And this season, one of those teams jumps up and gets the job done, ending the Warriors’ season prematurely.

  1. Kentucky, North Carolina and Duke will not make the NCAA Final Four this year

All three teams are very deep and talented. But in this year’s college basketball, each team has some flaws going with them. Of course North Carolina is the most talented of them all and they are shooting the basketball well this year. But eventually the shooting will fall back to earth and they will have to win a game with defense. That will be where they fall. As far as Kentucky, they have been pushed around more in the post than usual. And even though they are talented, that shortcoming will leave them hamstrung in March. And as far as Duke, they may have their tough guy, forward Amile Jefferson, back before the season is over. But they still don’t have enough scoring from inside that will scare someone. And that will be something that eventually catches up to them.

  1. The Chicago Cubs will win the World Series

This past year, the Cubs went further than anyone thought they would. And heading into this season, the expectations are they will go even further. Some may wilt under those type of goals, but this team may just thrive under them. And with the additions they have made this offseason, the Cubs will finally make it back to the World Series and will win one, breaking the supposed curse that was placed upon them.

  1. The Carolina Panthers will win the Super Bowl

Quarterback Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers are sitting on top of the football world right now, sporting the best record in the NFL at 14-1. But that is not the ultimate goal for them. The thing that they are striving to get is the Lombardi Trophy. And for the Panthers, plenty keep speaking on all the reasons this team cannot win the Lombardi Trophy. Well, Cam and the boys have been listening and they will use that as extra motivation to go to the first Super Bowl for Carolina since 2003. And instead of coming up short like they did against the Patriots the last time they were there, the Panthers will seize the day and win their first Lombardi Trophy.

  1. Steph Curry will win another MVP

Curry was in another world last year. He averaged 24 points per game and eight assists last season while locking up the MVP trophy. And just when it was thought he could not get any better, he shows up this season and is putting up better shooting, scoring and rebounding numbers across the board. He has gone from another world to another stratosphere and there is no doubting that he is the best player in the NBA right now. And with the record the Warriors are currently sporting, he will be the MVP again. As much as some want to give this award to LeBron, it just will not happen again.

  1. The Philadelphia 76ers will swing and miss in the Ben Simmons sweepstakes

The talk around Philly is they are in tank mode once again. And the object of their affection this year seems to be LSU forward Ben Simmons. The Australian forward can do everything on the floor and that combination of size and skill has every NFL scout hoping Christmas comes in June for them. It would seem the perfect storm would have Philly getting the first overall pick this year in the draft. But unfortunately, it will not be for them this year either. The 76ers will get the second or third pick, not the first. And with that, they can kiss goodbye to Ben Simmons ever wearing a Philadelphia uniform.

  1. The Jacksonville Jaguars will make the playoffs next season

Head coach Gus Bradley is building something in Jacksonville. He has a quarterback in place in Blake Bortles, a reliable tight end in Julius Thomas, two young receivers that are making it happen in Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson and running back TJ Yeldon. Defensively, the Jags have taken a step forward this year and will more than likely add a pass rusher next season. That combination of things along with the state of the AFC South could have them either winning the division or making the playoffs as a wildcard.

  1. The Oakland Raiders will make the playoffs next season

The team showed growth this season. Derek Carr showed even more improvement this season. And with the weapons he has offensively, the offense should do nothing but get better next season. And defensively, they have a standout player in Khalil Mack. If they are able to add more defensive backfield help, this team will definitely be ready to make the playoffs next year. The Silver and Black will be back next year.

  1. DeMarcus Cousins will not be a member of the Sacramento Kings

DeMarcus is a very talented player. Unfortunately, he has not been able to wrangle his temper on the court. And with the surroundings in the city of Sacramento, it may not be the place for him to have success and mature as a player. So with that being said, Cousins will be out of Sacramento this offseason. Boston would be one place that has assets to trade for him. But there will be plenty that will be vying for his services. Only time will tell, but he will be playing in another city come next basketball season.

  1. Kevin Durant will re-sign with the Oklahoma City Thunder

Much has been said of where Durant will land next year. There have been rumors floated out there of him landing in everywhere from Golden State to Washington next year. But in the end, the prevailing thought is he will end up staying in Oklahoma City. The chemistry he and Westbrook have is something that he will not find anywhere else. And if they can get some consistent scoring from a third option, then this team will be able to make that magical run like they did when they met LeBron’s Miami team in the NBA Finals.

  1. Peyton Manning will not retire.

It was looking like he would be done at the end of the season last year. But instead of doing so, he decided to come back this season. Needless to say, this has not been the most memorable of seasons for him as a starter this year. And despite the thoughts that he will be retiring at the end of the season (and by looking at him right now, he should), he will more than likely try to play yet another season in the NFL. The question now is where he will play because it surely won’t be in Denver next year.

  1. Hue Jackson and Teryl Austin will get head coaching jobs this offseason in the NFL

Both have been excellent coordinators and Jackson never really got a shot when he was in Oakland. Jackson has been very solid as the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati and Austin has been excellent as the defensive coordinator in Detroit. Both are definitely qualified and you are hearing their names mentioned over and over again in coaching searches. It will only be a matter of time before both become head coaches. And this offseason is the perfect time for both to become head coaches in the NFL.

  1. Luke Walton will be named the next head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers

Unexpectedly, Luke Walton has been the interim head coach of the Golden State Warriors. Some may have expected the Warriors to not do so well without their leader, but Walton has led the team very well in his absence. And he has done so well that he will garner some head coaching looks around the NBA. One place that will be looking for a head coach soon will be the Los Angeles Lakers. With his experience with the organization as a player and his familiarity with the team, he would be a perfect fit for them and their young team.

  1. The Kansas City Royals will not make the playoffs this upcoming season

I know this is something that Kansas City fans will not want to hear, but it could definitely happen. The Royals just won the title, so there is always that moment of relaxation knowing you have achieved your goal. And the Royals will be fighting that all season long as they try to repeat as champions. Unfortunately, they will not be able to overcome that as they miss the playoffs this upcoming season.

  1. Fans will continue to show no chill on social media

As time has gone on, keyboard courage has grown more and more amongst fans of sports. You can see on social media all the people that continue to call people out knowing they will never meet them in real life. Unfortunately, this is not going anywhere and there will be more of it to come. A thing I have proposed is that things would change if people had to attach their employer to the things that they say. I bet the fear of losing their job would change the things that people say.

The new year brings some new things and also some new happenings as well. It will be interesting to see if these sixteen things happen or if these thoughts going flying in the wind.

For more sports talk, feel free to follow me on Twitter or check me out on Facebook.

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Sorry Klay. Jimmy Butler Is The Best Shooting Guard In The NBA

(photo courtesy of Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

(photo courtesy of Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports)

Klay Thompson is living the life right now. He is part of the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors, has a max contract and the team is off to a 26-1 start. The way it seems right now, Thompson and the Warriors could possibly break the record for wins in a season, eclipsing the 72 wins the Chicago Bulls put up in the 1995-1996 season. After a slow start to the season, Klay is playing well and showing off that shooting stroke that has made him dangerous. His play combined with the Steph Curry makes them the most dangerous backcourt in the NBA. At a recent launch for his new basketball shoe, the KT1, Thompson was asked to name the best player at each position right now in the NBA. When it came to shooting guard, Thompson said he would name himself as the best shooting guard in the game. Thompson is supremely talented and can take over a game with his excellent offensive ability at any time. But in overall play, there has to be some question whether he is the best shooting guard in the game right now. Klay was exhibiting confidence when he said his answer and that can be commended. Who else would he name but himself? But unfortunately for him, his answer was incorrect. He is not the best shooting guard in the NBA right now. The guy that has that title resides in Chicago and his name is Jimmy Butler.

When Butler was drafted in the 2011 NBA Draft, no one can say with a straight face that they saw him becoming what he is now. Year after year, Butler got better and better until he had his breakout year last season, averaging 20 points per game. Jimmy parlayed that breakout season into a brand new 5 year max contract with the Bulls this past offseason and he is continuing to get better still after getting the money. He is averaging 21.5 points per game and seemingly has taken over as the leader of the Bulls team. He obviously is not the shooter that Thompson is from the field, but he is scoring more than Thompson is so far this season (Thompson is averaging 19.3 points per game this season). Thompson is playing alongside the best player in the NBA right now, so his shots are decidedly easier than the ones that Butler gets. Butler is the focal point of the Chicago offense and he still gets his points. And in the fourth quarters of games, the offense runs through him. That is a far cry from what it used to be in Chicago with Derrick Rose on the team. The Warriors are one of the top scoring teams in the NBA , so the pressure is not as tough on him to produce every single game. But the Bulls are one of the worse scoring teams in the NBA this season. They need Jimmy to show up each and every game. Of course the Bulls don’t have the record the Warriors do (Bulls are 15-11 right now), but Jimmy has been the main reason they are even in the running for making the playoffs. If he does not give them 21.5 points per game, then they would be in the running for the worst record in the NBA. If you take Klay off his team, the Warriors are still a very solid team.

The offensive end of the floor is only one side of the game. Thompson has become a better player on the defensive end over his time in the NBA. He can defend his position and was sometimes used to take on the best perimeter player on the opposing team. But even with his improvements defensively, he still does not have the versatility that Jimmy Butler has. Butler came into the NBA under head coach Tom Thibodeau, who preached defense. So naturally, Butler dug in on the defensive end and became a very good defender. Butler grew on that end while he was growing offensively and many now recognize him as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. He is one of the rare players that can get it done offensively as the focal point and can guard the best perimeter defender on the opposing team. And it does not matter what position they play for him to guard them either. Butler is so versatile that he can guard point guards, shooting guards and even small forwards. He is one of the few shooting guards that can even match up with LeBron James. Thompson tried his hand at guarding him in the NBA Finals last season and got into foul trouble really quickly. But Butler at least can match him physically and can also make LeBron have to work harder to get his points. He is the superior defender to Thompson and it’s not even that close.

Thompson is confident in himself, but the reality is that he is not the best shooting guard in the NBA. When it comes to the total package, Jimmy Butler is a guy that you could put on any team and he would make a significant impact on both ends of the court. When it comes to Klay, he does benefit from playing with a great player in Steph Curry and a versatile defender in Draymond Green. No slight to Klay, but Butler is the best shooting guard in the NBA.

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Luke Walton Will Be A Permanent Head Coach Soon

(photo courtesy of NBC Sports)

(photo courtesy of NBC Sports)

The Golden State Warriors have reached rock star status in the NBA. Everywhere they go, the crowds gather early to see Steph Curry warm up. And to greet them in every arena, there are packed houses of those that come to the arena hoping their team ends the streak the Warriors. Boston was the most recent to try and knock them off. The game went into double-overtime. And even without two starters (small forward Harrison Barnes and shooting guard Klay Thompson), the Warriors were able to pull it out. The 24-0 start Golden State is out to this season is incredible. They approach the game with a passion and play with an ease. Their movements are almost poetic as they singe the nets with their shooting. And on the defensive end, they may not be as potent as they were last season, but they have made stops when they need to in order to preserve their record. The biggest thing to come out of all this is they are doing this without their head coach. Steven Kerr had offseason back surgery and has had complications recovering. The result has been assistant coach Luke Walton stepping in to guide the team. And even though some may have expected a hiccup, the beat has gone on.

Walton was not expected to be as good of a placeholder as he has been. Many expected mistakes to be made when it came to crunch time and crunch situations. But instead of crumbling under the pressure, Walton has made the correct calls in terms of pushing the right buttons. Some speak of these calls and things being something Kerr is orchestrating instead of Walton, but that is not the case. Of course Walton and Kerr talk daily, but it is Walton’s call on the court. And because of the success he has had so far leading the Warriors, his name is starting to get some buzz around the league. Walton definitely has the cool of his former Lakers head coach Phil Jackson on the sideline. That demeanor serves this team well as Walton never exhibits panic at all. Even when the Warriors have been down in games, the same expression lays on his far, believing in his team. And his belief has been justified with the unblemished record this season. There are a few places in the NBA that will be looking for a new head coach. And as the season goes on and Kerr returns, Walton will return to his assistant role. But even though he will return to that role, it will be hard for him to take that step back again. And he eventually will want to run his own organization soon rather than later.

If Walton’s star is on the rise, this season should be his last in Oakland. He may love the success of the team, but he will want to move forward and be the head man. As far as options for Walton, there is one option that stands above them all. The veteran NBA player and current assistant coach played for most of his career in Los Angeles for the Lakers. And that could be a spot that opens up sooner rather than later. The Lakers are still trying to find themselves and Byron Scott is not the most patient in teaching young players. Between the inconsistent minutes for young players D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, the mismanagement of Kobe’s minutes and the misuse of backup big man Brandon Bass, it seems that Scott just cannot put the pieces together. And instead of letting him go, the Lakers continue to hand on to him. But if they can get Walton to come, they can start building a sturdy foundation after Kobe retires. That would include finding the best way for Russell, Randle and guard Jordan Clarkson to co-exist on the floor seamlessly. And with him having the pedigree of being a player and coach on championship squads, Walton could bring a winning culture to the Lakers. Of course Walton isn’t the only change that needs to happen at that time for some (there are some calls for management changes as well). But he is a step in the right direction towards helping make them relevant again.

The timer has already expired for Byron Scott. The team has seemingly not improved. The only building block that people know anything about right now is Jordan Clarkson. And with Kobe Bryant stepping aside after this season, the timing is perfect to replace Byron Scott. And with his Lakers pedigree, the skills he is showing on the sideline, and the potential lure of coming back where it all started, Walton could be coming back to help his former team rise again. For now he is the interim head coach for the Warriors. But soon enough someone will give him a chance. And that someone will be the Los Angeles Lakers.

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It’s Steph Curry’s World. We’re Just Living In It

(photo courtesy of International Business Times)

(photo courtesy of International Business Times)

Many NBA fans have talked about who is the best player in the NBA. One particular name has been synonymous with that title over the years: LeBron James. He is one of the most electrifying players in the NBA. During the last five seasons, James has appeared in each NBA Finals, losing three and winning two. There have been many others that have had popularity in the NBA, but none have reached the level of success over the years that LeBron has. It seemed like every season he would continue to be the man that many felt carried this title. But this year, it seems there has been a change at the top. LeBron is still having a great season to start. He is averaging 27 points, 7 rebounds and six assists a game so far and is doing his part to keep this team in the hunt while they wait on point guard Kyrie Irving to return. And by the end of the season, LeBron will be mentioned in the MVP talk. But there is someone else that is capturing the attention and imagination of many these days. His name is Steph Curry.

The Warriors were a solid team the last few years, getting better and better with each passing season. But last year, they took a big step forward. Golden State was the best team in basketball last season and none other than Steph Curry was the ringleader of their surge to the title. Many thought that he and the Warriors may have some slippage this season due to a championship hangover. But instead of having a hangover, they have made this season a “remember me” one so far. They felt that many discredited their championship and set out to make the league beg for mercy. The Warriors are now sitting at 11-0 and have been handling opponents with ease. And no player has been more impressive than Curry on their run to start the season. To give you an example, he has had more 20 point quarters this season than the all other NBA players combined. He is in a zone that many have not ever seen before. And if you touch him, you may just get singed because he is on fire at all times.

Curry has insane handles when on the court. It’s almost like he has it on a string while he lulls opponents to sleep. And lots of times, he has some defenders checking their ankles after he has put a mean crossover on them. Sometimes he uses his handles to get to the rim or set up his own shot. And other times, he uses his handles to get other guys on his team an easy look at the basket. Whether he is making his own spectacular move to score or to assist, it is all captivating for us to watch. But along with the handles, he has the prettiest shot in the NBA. When watching him shoot, it’s almost like every shot looks like it’s going in. Curry was a marksman last season, shooting 44 % from the field and 44% from the three-point line. But this season, he has taken it up a notch. He is shooting a career-best 52% from the field, including 45% from the three-point line. The handles he has are magnified because of what he can do shooting the ball. People talk about unguardable players, but Curry has truly made himself a player that no one knows how to slow down. And with the weapons around him, you cannot really funnel the ball out of his hands.

With Curry as the driving force, the Warriors are must-see television. LeBron used to be the unquestioned best player in the NBA, but not anymore. Curry is definitely playing at a higher level than anyone right now including LeBron. The King may be the most indispensable player on his team, but there is no doubting that Chef Curry is cooking up a brew for the whole league this year. It will be fun to see what he does next.

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Answers To The Early Season Struggles Of Klay Thompson

(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

(Photo courtesy of ESPN)

The Golden State Warriors came into this season hungry. They won the title last season, but they felt they were disrespected by the talk in the media heading into this season. There was the usage of the word “luck” with them and they took exception to it. Some of the comments were potentially taken out of context by them because, as ESPN NBA analyst says “You have to be lucky to win a title.” But some of the comments were aimed at not giving the credit they felt they deserved. And with a tough Western Conference, they are not the team that everyone is picking to win the title again this year. Beginning the season, it looked like they picked up where they left off. Steph Curry was being a wizard with the basketball and Draymond Green is being his usual self on the court. And even with center Andrew Bogut missing some time with a concussion, backup big man Festus Ezeli has stepped in and held his own. With the rate they are putting up points, some might say they are ripe for another title. The play on both ends despite their head coach missing (Steve Kerr is still recovering from offseason back surgery) has been engulfing each and every opponent. But while the record indicates they are at the top of the league, they still have one issue that has come up to start the year. The issue is not with the team as a whole, but with one player that seems to not have found his rhythm.

Klay Thompson is an extremely talented player. He came into the NBA back in 2011 with the reputation of just being a shooter. And over time, he has developed his game to where he can do a multitude of different things on the court along with defending his position. Some consider him the best shooting guard in the NBA. And last season, he had the best year of his career. He shot career-highs in three-point percentage and shooting percentage overall on his way to averaging a career-high 21.7 points per game. The shooting of Thompson combined with Steph Curry made the Splash Brothers, as they are nicknamed, the best backcourt in the NBA. This season, many wondered what they could do for an encore. Well, Steph has definitely came out on fire to start the year. He has already put up a 50 point game and we aren’t even a month into the season. But if you take a look at Klay Thompson, he seems to be having some issues getting going this year. He is shooting a career-low 36% from the three-point line and is shooting the worst he has in his entire career. And to match that, he is turning the ball over the most he has over his career. His average has dropped 7 points to 14.5 points per game so far.

One thing that could be hindering Thompson’s shot is his shot selection. When watching a few of his games, he is shooting some shots that are highly contested. In the offense that Golden State runs, he does not have to shoot those type of shots at all. Steph Curry could easily create a wide-open shot for him. But instead, he goes out and takes some shots that are seemingly ill-advised or not the best option. Because of that, he misses the shot. Last season, he was hitting those types of shots, but that does not mean those were good shots to take. And this year those shots are biting him. But other than the shot selection, it seems like Thompson is a little off-balance when shooting. Of course some of his shots are fadeaways, but the ones that aren’t have to be concerning. When he goes up to shoot the basketball, it just seems like he has a lean one way or the other. As a result, the trajectory of the basketball is thrown off and his shot is not the perfect, smooth shot it was last season. Both things mentioned are things that can be correctable with focus and repetition. But as of right now, those things are causing some issues.

As far as his turnovers this year, it seems like Thompson is trying a little too much when it comes to being a complete player. He has not been horrible with the ball, but he can try to do too much at times. And as a result, that can get him into trouble. For Thompson to get that in order, he may want to slow down and process the court just a little bit better. Golden State likes to move fast on offense, but it defeats the purpose of doing so if he is turning the ball over. But other than slowing down, he may want to realize that he does not have to be one of the main playmakers on this team. Just looking at the team, the playmakers they have are Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green. To a lesser extent, you can say that Andrew Bogut is a playmaker with his passing ability. Listing all these playmakers for the Warriors lets you know the Warriors don’t need Thompson to be a playmaker on this team. If he just hones in on the things that he can do, then his game will come along this season.

Thompson has plenty of time to get things straightened out. It is still early in the season and he has a talented cast of players surrounding him that can give him time to get it done. But for the Warriors to repeat like they want to do, he will have to get it together on the court.

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Andre Iguodala’s Unselfishness Gets Repaid In A Title

Andre Iguodala hits a big three and celebrates as the Warriors win the NBA title. (photo courtesy of www.cheatsheet.com)

Andre Iguodala hits a big three and celebrates as the Warriors win the NBA title. (photo courtesy of http://www.cheatsheet.com)

The Golden State Warriors are now NBA champions after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games. The feeling of winning the NBA title when many did not expect them to do so beginning the season has to be something that overcame all of them at that moment in time. All the hugs and joy that was seen between players, coaches and families on the Warriors team were priceless things to watch. Going into this series, the battle of Golden State versus Cleveland was viewed as the NBA’s best team versus the NBA’s best player in LeBron James. Cleveland got a huge series out of James, but the strength of the Golden State Warriors team proved to be too much for him to overcome. The strength in numbers was enough to overthrow the King. But more than that, there was one thing that was shown all season with this team. If you have watched the Warriors all season long, they have been an unselfish team that is all in together. In fact, you could say that they all take turns making plays to win games. Obviously players like Draymond Green, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson receive most of the credit, but there were other players and their sacrifices that helped make this team who they are. One player that sacrificed a lot this season is David Lee. He was the starter ever since he came to Golden State, but when he hurt his hamstring before the season, it was Draymond Green who got the call to start. And with him in the lineup, the team seemed to flow better. Green retained the starting nod while Lee retreated to a bench role for the betterment of the team. And in the end, his acceptance of his role helped bring home a title. But there was one man that made a sacrifice even bigger than Lee did. His name was Andre Iguodala.

When Andre Iguodala came to Golden State, he said he was coming there to play for then coach Mark Jackson. Iggy was a starter ever since he came into the league as a rookie back in 2004 with the Philadelphia 76ers. In his first year with the Golden State Warriors, he was thought to add a little more defense and versatility to that team. But instead of adding that, he took a little more than he added. Emerging young player Harrison Barnes, who had played well the previous season, was not the same player he was coming in off the bench. He never played to the level he did the previous season and that ended up being to the detriment of the team. The Warriors would go on not meet expectations as they lost to the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the 2014 NBA playoffs. And as far as Iggy, he would average his lowest points per game since his rookie year (9.3 points per game) while dealing with a hamstring injury that hampered him throughout the season. Going into this season, the Warriors had a new coach. After a managerial disagreement, Mark Jackson was fired and former NBA player and TNT announcer Steve Kerr took over. It was expected by many that Kerr would keep the same lineup and add in their free agent signings, Shaun Livingston and Leandro Barbosa. But Kerr had something else in mind and it involved Andre Iguodala.

One of Kerr’s first visits when he signed on as coach of the Golden State Warriors was to Andre Iguodala. He knew the veteran was a voice on the team that many would listen to because of his tenure in the league. But his reason for meeting with him was not only to get on the same page as him, but to ask him to sacrifice. When taking over the coaching job, Kerr noticed the dip in Harrison Barnes’ play as a result of going to the bench. And in an effort to maximize what he had in Barnes, he asked Iggy to come in off the bench for the first time in his career. From what is reported, it was not an easy decision for Iguodala. He was known as an NBA starter for all of his career. In his mind he had to be wondering what Kerr was thinking when he asked him to be a bench player. But reluctantly, Iggy agreed to the switch and bought what Kerr was selling to him. And during the season, it seemed like Barnes played much better. He only averaged .6 points better than the previous year, but Barnes shot 48.2% for the season (up from 39.9%) and he also posted a career-high in rebounds. And to his credit, Iggy gave the Warriors a boost off the bench all season long, averaging 8 points per game off one of the best benches in the NBA. The sacrifice of Iggy along with the great play of the Warriors helped lead Golden State to 67 wins and the number once seed in the NBA’s Western Conference. And throughout the playoffs, Iggy made timely plays and was one of the glue guys off the Warriors bench along with Shaun Livingston. But his biggest payback for his sacrifice would come in the postseason.

The Golden State Warriors were looking at a 2-1 deficit going into Cleveland for Game 4. Many wondered what adjustments that Kerr would make and how he would combat what LeBron James was putting together for the Cavaliers. Up until gametime, no one really knew what he would do. But then he shocked the world and went with Andre Iguodala in the starting lineup to replace center Andre Bogut. The shocker wasn’t so much that Iggy was in the starting lineup. After all, he was the most consistent player in the series up to that point. When he jumped into the starting lineup, it was his first time being in the starting lineup all season. And with Iggy and Draymond Green starting up front, it was assumed the Cavs would eat them up on the glass. Well, that move surely did so for the first couple of minutes of Game 4. Tristian Thompson was tearing them up on the glass to start the game. But after the Warriors settled in, the small lineup with Iggy started to work its magic. And three straight games later, the magic they found in the small lineup led them to being NBA champions. One player that made an immeasurable impact on this series from the onset is Andre Iguodala. He made LeBron work for every point he got when he guarded him, had some nice assists and hit the open shot when given to him. And because of that strong play, he won the NBA Finals MVP. Some say that Steph Curry should have won the MVP, but Iggy was consistent the entire series and when he was inserted in the starting lineup, he gave the team 20.3 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists per game. And even more than that, he helped make the Warriors defense better along with create big mismatch problems for the Cavaliers. Curry may be the Warriors best player, but Iggy was definitely the most important player and proved to be the most valuable too despite the missed free throws.

Andre Iguodala made a sacrifice that not many would have honestly said they would have made. He willingly went to the bench in an effort to do what the coach said would make the team better. And as a result of his sacrifice and unselfishness, he played a huge part in bringing a championship to Golden State. Not only did he help win the title, but he was a key cog in the turnaround of the entire series. No matter what anyone says about Iguodala after tonight, it won’t matter. Iggy can now be known as an NBA champion and one that was selfless enough to see the big picture for the Warriors. And for that he should be commended.

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The Golden State Warriors Won The NBA Title On Their Terms

The Golden State Warriors celebrate their first title in 40 years. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Golden State Warriors celebrate their first title in 40 years. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The NBA Finals are over in six games and the Golden State Warriors are now the NBA champions. They outplayed and outsmarted the Cleveland Cavaliers as they have won their first championship in 40 years. The Warriors were led by Steph Curry and Andre Iguodala, who had 50 points combined. And not to be outdone, Draymond Green rebounded from a tough stretch to start the series to post a triple-double in the finale. And just like that, they crushed all hope of the Cleveland Cavaliers as they were in total pretty much the entire game. When the Warriors won, it seemed like there was a sense of joy. No, not the joy from the people that hate LeBron James and want him to fail, but joy for a team that made it happen despite everyone counting them out. The Cavaliers were undermanned going into the Finals and had even more to overcome when Kyrie Irving was hurt in the first game of the series and did not play again. But that does not take away from the great accomplishments the Warriors had this season. And it is because of that, the 2014-2015 Golden State Warriors will go down as one of the best teams in NBA history. Now some may say that it is crazy to say they are one of the best teams of all-time, but with all that they have done and the unconventional way they have done so, it is rightful to put them up there with teams like the 72 win Chicago Bulls.

Unlike the Chicago Bulls that season, the Warriors were not picked by many to win an NBA title. In fact, many thought the San Antonio Spurs would put it together again and make a run at repeating as a NBA champion for the first time. And when David Lee went down with a hamstring injury before the season and the Warriors put Draymond Green in the starting lineup, it was thought that their chances decreased even more in the eyes of some. There were many that said they were too small with Draymond at the power forward and that he would eventually get taken advantage of in the paint. Well, the opposite happened all season long. Going into a season where he could play himself into a big contract, Green became the ultimate mismatch on the offensive end of the court. He was only 6’7 (and many would argue that he isn’t even 6’7”), but he could finish inside because of his anticipation, touch and strength around the rim. But not only could he finish around the rim, but he could stretch the defense. Not many power forwards could take the rebound and dribble it up the court and hit open threes. Draymond could do that and more with his unique abilities. On the defensive end he more than held his own as well all year. He gave it his all each and every time he touched the court. And he also played bigger than many gave him credit for. He defended bigger players all year long and did not give up an inch, negating the supposed mismatch that he was put into on the defensive end. And in the NBA Finals, the lineup change the Warriors made put all those abilities on display. He was matched up against Tristian Thompson and Thompson was giving him problems on the defensive end on the boards. But as the series went on, Thompson was not as effective as he was on the glass. He still got his, but it was not at the clip it once was due to the effect of Green. And Green, to his credit, rebounded from a tough start to the series and became a huge piece to three straight wins and a title.

Another thing that made many not believe in this team is their style of play. The Warriors were criticized all year long because of the Style of the Splash Brothers (me included). There were times that many thought they took shots that were awful and depended too much on the three-pointer. They did shoot some bad shots, but they made a lot more of them than they missed. And it was because of that, their shooting opened up the paint more and more as the season went on. But the common misconception about this team is that they are just an outside shooting team. That could not be further from the truth. The Golden State Warriors were also a team that took the ball to the basket. For example, they used backcuts and dribble penetration to setup easy finishes for their big men all years. Countless times you would see Festus Ezeli, Draymond Green or Andrew Bogut getting an easy dunk off of penetration from Steph Curry or Andre Iguodala. But that isn’t the only example of them attacking the rim. The growth of Klay Thompson as a playmaker and a rim attacker was something that has progressed over the years. In the beginning of his professional career, Klay was more of a shooter. He was a one-dimensional player that only played on the offensive side of the floor. But as his career as gone on, he has made more of a concerted effort to take the ball to the basket. His first progression was being able to shoot off the dribble. Once he got that down, he began to get deeper and deeper into the defense, even attacking the rim while working on using his height to his advantage defensively. Fast forward to now and Klay Thompson is considered by many the best two-way shooting guard in the NBA because of how he has completed his offensive game and picked it up tremendously over time with his defense. In the NBA Finals, the growth of the team and the style they played was shown to the entire country. They shot the three-pointer pretty well for the series. But even when they did not do so, they used backcuts and also dribble penetration to breakdown Cleveland’s defense. The constant movement and timely shooting from the Warriors eventually wore Cleveland down, as they could not keep up. And because of that, the Warriors are now celebrating the NBA Championship.

The Warriors started this season with a motto “Strength In Numbers”. As the season went on, many more people believed in them and they carried that on to the title. But what the Warriors exhibited to the world was more than about strength in numbers but mental strength in themselves. They believed in what they were doing and did not care what anyone else said about what they did. And it is because of that, they broke the mold on what exactly is needed to win a title. They did not have a guy to throw it inside to and get an easy bucket. They did not have the prototypical size, especially when they downsized their lineup. But what they did do is impose their will on any and everyone they faced on their way to the NBA title.

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Steph Curry Finds Himself In The Clutch And Helps The Warriors Close In On The Finish Line

Steph Curry pumping up the crowd as the Warriors take the Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. (photo courtesy of www.usatoday.com)

Steph Curry pumping up the crowd as the Warriors take the Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. (photo courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com)

The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers came into Game 5 even at two wins a piece. Statistically, the team that wins game 5 when a series is tied wins the series almost 75% of the time. The importance of this game was something that was very evident. And coming out of the gate, the Warriors came out swinging. But the Cavs, to their credit, came back and made a game of it. But in the end, the Cavs just did not have enough to make it happen, as they fell to the Golden State Warriors 104-91. LeBron had JR Smith show up in the first half, but Smith disappeared in the second half of the game, as he could not even find the basket in the second half. LeBron, the former league MVP, turned it up in the fourth quarter. It looked like the Cavaliers were going to make it happen and come back to win this one. The former MVP had stepped up. But when he turned it on, the current MVP made his presence felt. Curry had 20 points heading into the fourth quarter, but he knew his team needed him and he scored 17 of his 37 points to close out the Cavaliers and put Golden State one game away from winning the title.

Throughout the series, Curry has been up and down. He has had moments that have stood out and others that are forgettable. Who can forget the comments and articles being written (including one on this site) over him not showing up in Game 2? And who can forget the thoughts that Matthew Dellavedova shut him down in Game 2 and most of Game 3? Dellavedova played a solid game against Curry in both those games and he made a great impact against Curry with his physical play, but he does not deserve all the credit for what he did to Curry. Part of what happened was Curry making things difficult for himself by missing shots with a high degree of difficulty. In this game, he took it a little bit more to the basket, but he was hitting those high difficulty shots that he was missing for the first part of the series. And when he is hitting those, there is no stopping him. And in the fourth quarter, Steph cooked up a special meal for Dellavedova. He hit him with the crossover and stepback three. He mixed him up in a screen and roll with the midrange jump shot. And he also took it off the screen and went right to the basket. Curry was the MVP we all watched this season and the Warriors benefited greatly from it. And as far as Dellavedova, he looked like he was trying to two-step but lost his rhythm. All those comments of Curry being locked down by Dellavedova faded away and seemed like a distant memory. This was a great win for the Warriors, but they must still remember that it was only one game. And in the end, it is not three games you have to win but four to win this series. Game 6 will be tough and they must be mentally ready to tackle that one as it comes to them.

Game 6 will be back in Cleveland of course. The crowd will undoubtedly be pumped up for the return of their team. The town will bring their energy to the team and will more than likely fuel the role players in this one. And one LeBron James will be focused on extending this one to a seven-game series. But for the Golden State Warriors, they need to end this one in Cleveland. Even though a Game 7 would be at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, there is no way the Warriors want to face LeBron James in a Game 7 scenario. Anything can happen in those games and when you have a great player involved as the opponent, that makes a Game 7 even scarier. The main person that can help them end this series in six games is Curry. He has found his mojo. And it all goes back to the fundamental change the Warriors made in Game 4 when he got that little bit of rhythm and got some shots to fall. At that point, that is when the Chef made his way back into this series and he has not left it since. Curry has firmly seated himself at the head of this team as its leader. And it is because of his calm demeanor and his quiet fire that this team follows his lead. Many can say that Draymond Green is the heart and soul of this team, but Curry is the real fire and desire behind this team. And over the years, he has assumed the leadership role. This year, he seems to have stepped to the head of the class.

The end of this season is looking to be a culmination of a championship for Steph Curry and his team. They did things their way and never let anyone tell them any differently. And although many wanted them to fall from grace, they stood steadfast in their belief in themselves and their drive of bringing a championship to Oakland. Well, the time is almost here and the moment is about to arrive. Curry is peaking at the right time and he is carrying them at the big moments. The end is near and the finish line can be seen. Can the Warriors cross that finish line in Cleveland on Tuesday?

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JR Smith Has Been Missing In Action For The Cleveland Cavaliers

JR Smith has not been himself in the NBA Finals. Will he ever show up? (photo courtesy of www.sportsworldnews.com)

JR Smith has not been himself in the NBA Finals. Will he ever show up? (photo courtesy of http://www.sportsworldnews.com)

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors head into Game 5 with all the momentum in the favor of the Golden State Warriors. After making a lineup change and getting smaller, the Warriors were able to push the tempo they wanted at the Cavaliers. And when they did so, they were able to speed the Cavaliers up. They also were quicker defensively and that allowed them to be able to trap LeBron James and recover quickly. The Cavs had no answer as they were blown out at home by 21 points. The Cavs and LeBron James looked like a tired team and the Golden State Warriors had that spring in their step. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr won the game of adjustments and now the ball is in Cavaliers coach David Blatt’s corner. Is there any adjustments he can make to help his team? They are down two all-stars and have been playing above their heads for a while now. And like any fantasy story, reality has to kick in at some time. But there is one player that has not shown up to the party all series long. His name is JR Smith. The veteran shooter has not been there to help out his team this series, but what can the Cavs and JR do to get him going?

Smith is a streaky shooter and has been for his entire career. And going into the playoffs, he was expected to be an x-factor for Cleveland should they make a run. At that point and time, JR was the starting shooting guard for the Cavs and he was doing his thing for them, averaging 12.7 points per game and shooting 39% from three-point range. The ability to stretch the floor was a great thing for the Cavs because it made defenses pay when they sent help to guard LeBron James. In the playoffs, Smith got better with each round. He started off slow with the series versus the Celtics (9.8 points per game) and heated up to average 18 points per game versus the Atlanta Hawks in the Eastern Conference Finals. And the shooting from him in that series was ridiculous. He was hitting on 47% from three-point range and he was that other scoring option they needed with Kyrie Irving battling injuries. But in this big series versus the Warriors, it just seems like he cannot find the basket. He is averaging only nine points per game while shooting an anemic 29.8% from the field. And what’s even worse is his three-point shooting has dropped from the 47% the previous series to an atrocious 25% from deep. For a team that needs as much offense as they can get with Kyrie Irving out, Smith is not coming through when they need him. He is a streaky player when it comes to hitting shots, but he had been getting better and better over the playoffs. The defense is definitely better from the Warriors, but Smith has been taking and making tough shots all his career. It just seems like this series he cannot get them to fall. And ironically, he is got some open shots in Game 4 and he just could not knock them down. But he was not alone, as the entire Cleveland team could not hit a big shot when they needed it.

Going into Game 5, Smith needs to make some adjustments in order to be effective. The Cavs need to make some too and that may mean smaller lineups to match the Warriors, but it may not matter if JR cannot get it going. Smith has always been nice with his handles, but at times it seems like he is playing with the basketball too much. He can be a guy that can put pressure on a team, but he seems to let them off the hook a lot of the time. For Smith, he has to realize that the Warriors have no shot-blocking if they are not going to play Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli in the game and attack the rim. Plenty of times he had the opportunity to do so in Game 5. And in those situations, he took it to the rim part of the time. If he takes it to the rim and puts pressure on the defense, then maybe he has a better effect on the game and the basket gets bigger for him. And when the basket gets bigger in Smith’s vision, then we all know what that can mean. Smith can get as hot as anyone when he is seeing the basket well and getting a few shots to go in and getting to the rim may be the thing to get him going. Another thing he must do is stop taking so many high-difficulty shots. Smith has made a living off those difficult shots and many of them come when he is catching fire. But what he must realize is that he can get better shots than that and playing HORSE on the basketball court in the NBA Finals is not the thing that will help Cleveland win. If he curtails some of those bad shots he takes, then maybe he will understand that he will get his shots and that he does not have to hunt them. It is ok for Smith to be aggressive, but being aggressive when it is to the detriment of your team is the problem. There is smart shots and then there are shots that don’t make any sense. Smith tends to take the ones that don’t make any sense.

Cleveland may be down, but they are not out as of yet. Two days of rest with a limited roster is something that could not have come at a better time for the Cavaliers. But for the Cavaliers to win this series, they must have JR Smith hit shots like he did versus the Hawks. In that series he was unconscious. But as for this one, he has been missing in action. Paging JR Smith. Your team needs you and it is Game 5. It’s time to show and prove for your team.

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Gut Check Time Brings Out The Best Of The Golden State Warriors In Game Four

Klay Thompson shushes the crowd as the Warriors dominate the Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. (photo courtesy of USA Today Sports)

Klay Thompson shushes the crowd as the Warriors dominate the Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. (photo courtesy of USA Today Sports)

The Golden State Warriors were in a familiar spot. They were down 2-1 like they were versus the Memphis Grizzlies. At that point and time, it was the Western Conference Semifinals and plenty though the Grizzlies had enough in the tank to beat the Warriors in a series. The questions began to rise as to if the Warriors had enough to win when the game got physical. Well, the Warriors answered that challenge emphatically when they took the rest of the series from the Grizzlies, winning in six games. The play of the inside guys was solid and Steph Curry and Klay Thompson were they usual selves, hitting shot after shot and making plays happen. The Warriors entered game 4 in Cleveland with the same sort of challenge ahead of them. The Cavaliers had won two straight in the NBA Finals after losing the first game out in Oakland to the Warriors. The feeling that many had about the series is that the Cavs would take Game 4 and put the Warriors in the ultimate distress. But someone may have forgot to tell the Golden State Warriors that they were supposed to lose in Game 4. With their backs against the wall, the Warriors made a lineup change that struck most as peculiar. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr decided to take starting center Andrew Bogut out of the starting lineup and replace him with swingman Andre Iguodala. The adjustment looked to be a failing one to start the game, as the Cavs raced out to the early lead while Tristian Thompson was getting loose on the boards. But as the game went on, the change took affect and the Warriors won the game going away 103-82. Kerr won the chess match of this game and potentially could have changed the outlook of this series, but it was more than just a lineup change that made it happen.

The adjustment by Kerr was big, but he also made some subtle adjustments to go along with the lineup change. The thing the smaller lineup did to the Warriors is made the Cavs overthink offensively. The Cavs all series long have been posting LeBron James and running their offense through him. All series long he has been guarded by Harrison Barnes to start the game and then Andre Iguodala would come in and guard him. Well in this game, the Cavs decided they would go away from that when they saw the size advantage that Mozgov had in the paint. Of course Mozgov had a career night with 28 points and 10 rebounds, but he is not the straw that stirs the drink for the Cavs. By going through him and other players at the beginning of the game, the Cavs effectively through their rhythm off and played right into the hands of the Warriors. LeBron was not the same dominant guy he was for the entire game. Some of that can be attributed to just being worn out from being on the floor almost all game every game. But almost all of that can be attributed to the strategy the Warriors put out there. And to the Warriors’ credit, they played gritty defense and besides a few offensive rebounds at the start of the game, they were solid on their boxouts and actually were outrebounding the Cavaliers for much of the game. For the Warriors, the Cavaliers took the bait and played right into their hands.

The Warriors not only made a lineup change but a tempo change. The Golden State Warriors were allowing the Cavaliers to dictate the pace of this series from the beginning. The pace was slow, deliberate and had limited fast-break opportunities. And because of the big man, Andrew Bogut, it wasn’t like the Warriors could pick up the pace any. If they did, it would have be 5 on 4 because Bogut would have still been trying to catch up to the action. With him out of the lineup, the Warriors pushed the tempo more than they have the entire series. With Iggy, Green and Curry out there, there were three guys that could take the rebound and push the tempo. Add backup guard Shawn Livingston to the mix and then there is another guy that can force tempo during the game. The Warriors, who would usually walk the ball up the court on makes or misses, were pushing the basketball right at Cleveland. The result was a lot more easy setups for the Warriors for easy baskets and cross matches that the Warriors exploited in this game. The tempo for the game also lulled the Cavs into pushing the tempo as well. The Cavs were shooting some early shots and that is the one thing they did not want to do. As a result, the depth of the Warriors took effect. The Cavs have been playing shorthanded for a while now and the weariness was evident. The Warriors, meanwhile, were fresh and ready to close the game out with ease. And in the end, the fast-paced start of the Warriors had LeBron James looking gassed and ready to call it a game.

But most importantly, the biggest adjustment made this series is finally putting David Lee back in the rotation. Lee had been a star for the Warriors leading up to this season. He was a very good offensive player for him and the symmetry he had with Steph Curry was a great thing to watch in 2013-2014. But this season did not go as Lee wanted due to injuries early and the emergence of Draymond Green. Plenty were wanting Lee to start in place of Draymond Green for Game 4. But instead, he took the place of veteran center Andrew Bogut in the rotation and produced very well. He had 9 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists in 18 impactful minutes on the floor. The one thing he brings that Bogut and Festus Ezeli do not is offensive skill. The Warriors get a guy that can finish at the rim with ease, has soft hands and makes their offense flow versus the Cavs in Lee and he surely picked up where he left off versus the Cavaliers in this game. He may not have played many minutes, but the combination of Green and Lee at center gave the Cavs fits on the offensive end and made the Warriors a difficult matchup offensively. And one thing that having five offensive weapons on the floor also did is make Timofey Mozgov a guy that was a fish out of water. He essentially could not guard anyone on the court, especially with Green getting his rhythm offensively this game.

The Warriors came out loose and played their best game of the series. And with the adjustments by Kerr, we now have a brand new series. The Warriors have given the Cavaliers a lot to think about as they head back West to Oakland for Game 5 Sunday. After Game 1, it seemed like Kerr was the one that needed to make adjustments to what Cavaliers coach David Blatt was doing. But now the ball is in Blatt’s court as Kerr flipped the script on him this game. It will be interesting to see what he does in Game 5. But after Game 4, Kerr made it happen and the Warriors came out to play.

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