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Archive for the tag “San Antonio Spurs”

The General’s Top Three Teams In The Joe Johnson Sweepstakes

(photo courtesy of www.fansided.com)

(photo courtesy of http://www.fansided.com)

The trade deadline has come and gone and some players that could affect teams were moved. One notable one is now-Pistons forward Tobias Harris. But after that, is the season where veteran players get to pick the team they want to go to. Yep, buyout season is upon us now and after the trade deadline is usually when it happens. Of course, some players get traded and get bought out with no one to pick them up. But there are some that are coveted but not coveted at the pricetag they were being paid at. Joe Johnson was getting paid 21.9 million this season for the Brooklyn Nets. Plenty of teams were interested in him, but the pricetag was just too high for them. Many teams were hoping instead of trading for him, that the Nets would reach a buyout with him eventually. It may not have happened when many expected it to, but now Joe Johnson is a free agent on the open market. The Nets and Johnson agreed to a buyout of his contract on Thursday. And assuming he will clear waivers, Johnson will be able to pick where he wants to go. More than likely, a contender will take a chance and bring him in for the rest of the season and the playoffs. But the question is which team will he choose? The answer to that question is still up in the air, but here are the three teams (in no particular order) that are expected to make a run at the 34 year old veteran.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been better under the leadership of Tyronn Lue. The teams seems to be more in tune defensively and Kevin Love is more involved offensively. Even with some of the struggles that they have had this season, they are still the best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. But even with that, there seems to be an issue with the shooting they have coming in off the bench. Channing Frye was acquired to add to the shooting off the Cleveland bench, but anytime you have Richard Jefferson coming in off your bench to backup LeBron James, then there is an issue. Johnson is not a small forward, but at 6’7”, he can play the small forward position. He and Iman Shumpert coming in off the bench would be a solid duo because they both have length and size defensively and offensively Joe could balance out the inconsistent shooting that comes from Shumpert and some of the backup guards. Johnson would be a shot in the arm for the backup crew in Cleveland and could also run with starting crew sometimes with LeBron James. And with LeBron’s propensity to break down defenses, Johnson could spot up and nail the three (Johnson is a career 37% three-point shooter). He essentially would help create even more lanes and space for LeBron, especially if they go to the small lineup with LeBron at the power forward position. And more importantly for Johnson, he could play on a team that could potentially get him to the NBA Finals for the first time.

Johnson could definitely help the Cavaliers’ bench, but he could also help the Thunder whether it be off the bench or in the starting lineup. The Thunder have been carried all season long by their superstars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. But what they have had all season is a hole at their shooting guard spot. They filled it earlier in the season with Andre Roberson. The young wing player is in the mold of former Thunder guard Thabo Sefolosha in that he is a defensive player and can spot up offensively and can occasionally hit the open shot. But in a playoff series, he helps other teams play four on five. His offensive game is not respected and that causes things to be harder for Durant and Westbrook in crunch time. The other shooting guard the Thunder have is Dion Waiters. The young guard out of Syracuse has been inconsistent at best for his entire career and you never know what you will get out of him, whether it be off the bench or starting. Johnson would give them a career 17 point per game scorer that is feared scoring the ball and could help some of the playmaking pressures off Durant and Westbrook in the playoffs. If he decides to go with that team, that gives them a veteran presence that could conceivably give them enough to challenge for the Western Conference crown.

Johnson would be heading West, but there is another team that should take a look at him. That team: the San Antonio Spurs. Many will probably wonder why he would fit that team. They are pretty deep as it stands right now. But Joe would fit in seamlessly on that team. Manu Ginobli will be back momentarily with this team and they have the energetic Jonathan Simmons coming in off the bench as well. But Johnson adds something that they miss when they look down the bench. Johnson can play the small forward position off the bench in San Antonio and give them some much-needed shooting there. And he can also play the backup shooting guard position as well if Ginobli does not make it back like they expect him to. There will not be huge minutes for Johnson to be had there, but he would be on one of the best teams in the West and a team that some think can knock off the Golden State Warriors. Having a guy like this coming in off your bench is never back for a team that covets guys that can shoot and move the basketball. Joe can become a Black Hole at times with the ball, but I’m sure he could adapt to the play in San Antonio pretty easy.

This decision for Joe Johnson is a huge one for him. It could be the difference between winning a title and going home earlier than expected. Johnson may not have this type of opportunity again in his career, so he may want to examine his fit to each team before making his choice. He brings some good things to all three of these teams and it will be interesting to see which one he chooses, whether it be one of these three or another wildcard team.

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The Wrong Coaches Are Coaching In The NBA All-Star Game

The NBA All-Star game in Toronto is quickly approaching. For the West, we will have Spurs coach Gregg Popovich coaching the team. His Spurs are second in the Western Conference only to the Golden State Warriors, who are winning at a record-breaking pace this season. And for the East, former Cleveland head coach David Blatt was supposed to be coaching the All-Star game as a representative of the Cleveland Cavaliers. But after the surprise firing of Blatt before the All-Star break, his lead assistant will now be the coach. Tyronn Lue will be stepping in to coach the Eastern Conference All-Stars since he is the newly named head coach of the best team in the East. And with that, we have two coaches coaching in the game that should really not be. But due to rules the NBA has, both of them are now the coaches that will be leading two groups of the best players in the NBA.

Coach Popovich could probably care less about the All-Star game. The thing he is more than likely thinking about is the playoffs and how to get his team ready for that time of the year. But because of a rule that does not allow coaches to coach in an All-Star game two years in a row, he is the coach that was blessed with the honor of leading the Western Conference All-Stars. And what was even stranger about the whole thing is the coach that would have been leading the All-Star game, if the NBA did not have a rule against it, would have been a coach that missed a good majority of the season before recently. NBA rules say that Steve Kerr would have been the coach should the rules allowed him to coach back-to-back All-Star games. But let’s be realistic here. He may have been with behind the scenes, but this team was not being led to this historic start they are on by him at all. While Kerr has been trying to get healthy, assistant coach Luke Walton took over and pushed this team to the best record in basketball. And for his reward, he got a nice seat next to Kerr and no more fanfare around the league. Essentially this team was under a different head coach. And even though he was not the permanent head coach, he earned that spot as the All-Star game head coach. Rules say that he should not be head coach, the rules in this case punish one of the great stories in the NBA’s first half of the season. Eventually Luke will get his own team where he does not have to be in this type of situation. But for right now, it just seems wrong on a couple of fronts. Let the coach of the best team every year coach the All-Star game no matter if that team was the best team two years in a row. And make the exception that Luke should be able to coach the team. It’s just that simple.

As far as the East, Lue got the chance of a lifetime. Not many times do you see a first-place team in the Eastern Conference fire their head coach around midseason. While Lue is finally getting a chance to prove his worth as a head coach, the whole scenario with him becoming the head coach does not look very pretty. But with him as head coach, the Cavaliers have won four straight after losing the first game he coached in at home versus Chicago a little over a week ago. He has the Cavs dialed in just a little bit more defensively and has their Big Three playing well together. But even with all that, a 4-1 record does not mean he should be coaching in the All-Star game. Lue just took over the job and has not earned the All-Star game nod. And for that, he should actually step aside for another coach even though we know he will not do so. The coach of the game should actually be the coach of the team that is hosting the All-Star game. Toronto coach Dwane Casey has the Toronto Raptors playing some of their best basketball right now. They are second to the Cavaliers in the East currently and they are on a major role, winning eleven straight games to date. And more than just them being second in the East and on a hot streak, Casey has been there the entire season coaching his team. Lue may have been in Cleveland as an assistant coach, but he was not the one calling the shots the entire time. Casey has earned that opportunity to be the head coach and if you ask any coach in the NBA, they will probably say that Lue has not earned this one at all.

Lue and Popovich will be coaching the All-Star game, but neither should be standing on the sideline at all. But because of rules that are in place, the real All-Star coaches will come nowhere near the benches. Of course the coach of each team really does not matter in this one. Neither team will really be running sets in this game anyway. But what does matter is the recognition both Walton and Casey would be getting in this game. And for Casey, it would be huge because this is his second head coaching job in the NBA and by far his best job to date. The NBA needs to examine their rules so this type of scenario does not happen again.

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The Acquisition Of LaMarcus Aldridge Recreates The Past For The San Antonio Spurs

Tim Duncan is hoping to win another trophy with the addition of LaMarcus Aldridge. (photo courtesy of www.hngn.com)

Tim Duncan is hoping to win another trophy with the addition of LaMarcus Aldridge. (photo courtesy of http://www.hngn.com)

The San Antonio Spurs have been one of the best teams in the NBA over the last few years. They have been written off time and time again, and yet they continue to come back stronger and stronger. After this past season and the Game 7 loss, plenty began to write them off yet again and wonder how they were going to rebuild. Well, this offseason was especially different due to the Spurs actually in pursuit of one of the big-name free agents, LaMarcus Aldridge. The veteran big man has been special throughout his entire career in Portland but has never been made it past the second round in the playoffs. Some may say it is more due to Aldridge, but he has done all that is possible to make it happen in Portland for the Trailblazers. At this juncture of his career, Aldridge had a choice to make. He had teams like Los Angeles, Phoenix and New York coming for him in free agency and willing to pay him max contract money. All the while Portland could have actually gave him more money and years. In the end, it was about the money and the winning that could happen as well. Aldridge has decided to play for the San Antonio Spurs. And now he and Kawhi Leonard are two of the highest paid players on a team that has its sites set on winning another title. But what makes this signing even more important is the pairing of Tim Duncan with a guy who some scream is similar in Aldridge. Examining their relationship brings some similarities to a previous relationship between two players in San Antonio.

When Duncan first arrived in the NBA, many were already aware of him and his talents. But what some wondered is how Duncan would fit beside veteran David Robinson. The Admiral, as Robinson is called, had been the focal point of the Spurs offense for most of his career. He had carried the Spurs offensively and set the tone defensively for them. But entering Duncan’s rookie season, Robinson was beginning to slow down and injuries were starting to limit him. Robinson could have been disgruntled and not wanted to give some direction of the offense up to Duncan. But he realized that Tim Duncan could have been the piece needed to help the Spurs reach the ultimate achievement: a championship. And in his rookie season, Duncan was definitely let know he was the man in the paint. In his first and second years in the NBA, Duncan averaged 21 points per game. But it was in the 1999 postseason that Duncan became the man for the Spurs. He would go on to average 23 points per game along with 12 rebounds per game as the Spurs won their first title. At that official point, the torch was officially passed. No more was there Mr. Robinson. Instead, the Big Fundamental took over the scene and it became his team over the time. That never would have happened if David Robinson did not see the big picture. And two championships later (1999 and 2003), the Spurs transformed into the standard bearer of winning in the West.

Duncan is now the elder statesman in San Antonio. And because of the age of Duncan, it is starting to look like it’s time to transfer the focus of the offense to someone else. With LaMarcus Aldridge there, Duncan’s role will decrease. Duncan is still very effective offensively and that is something that will benefit the Spurs. But in order for them to take the next step, Duncan has to relinquish the power he once had in San Antonio. The amazing thing is almost 18 years later, Duncan is playing the elder man in this situation. Although Aldridge is 30, he has never won a ring or advanced beyond the second round. What Duncan’s role will be now is to impart his wisdom onto Aldridge. For his part, Aldridge brings more versatility to the Spurs offense and could probably cover more ground. But the new Twin Towers is something that can be beneficial as Duncan is winding down. Imagine the amount of punishment the Spurs could dish out with all the pieces they have. And ultimately this move just put the Spurs back in the hunt for a title. But for them to make it, Aldridge has to be ready to take over the reins.

The Spurs are definitely making good moves to make it happen come playoff time. But the sacrifice of Duncan and Robinson are things that really make these types of things work contractually-wise and personnel wise. The first baton was passed from The Admiral to The Big Fundamental in Tim Duncan. And now the baton is about to pass on to Aldridge. San Antonio is now known for not only winning, but the unselfishness of its star players. And with that, you end up with a team that has multiple championships.

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The Best And Worst Fits For LaMarcus Aldridge’s Services

It's decision time for LaMarcus Aldridge. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Stewart/US PRESSWIRE)

It’s decision time for LaMarcus Aldridge. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer Stewart/US PRESSWIRE)

There are many free agents out there that have some decisions to make. Some, like Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies, are only taking meetings with the team he has played for in the NBA and no one else. While others have decided to open up the field and take meetings from everyone. There are some enticing names out there, but one that rings a bell for many is Portland Trailblazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge. Last offseason, the Portland Trailblazers tried to lock up the talented forward to an extension. And although it was believed by many that he would stay there and sign a more lucrative extension with Portland this offseason, there was some speculation as to him potentially leaving Portland this summer. This belief came to fruition a little bit more when Aldridge opened up his recruitment this summer as of the last few weeks. There are as many as seven teams that are reportedly interested in him and want to add him to their rosters. Aldridge, although he has not really won a lot in the playoffs, is a big man that many consider dominant and that can change a team’s fortunes just with a signature. And expectedly, he is the most coveted free agent out there (subtracting LeBron James from this one because we know he isn’t leaving Cleveland again). But where would be the best fit for him?

The list of teams interested in Aldridge are the New York Knicks, the Toronto Raptors, the Los Angeles Lakers, the Dallas Mavericks, the Houston Rockets, the San Antonio Spurs and the Phoenix Suns. Looking that list of teams, there are a couple that stand out in regards to his talents. If you have taken a look at Aldridge’s game, it is very versatile in terms of his range. The 6’11” power forward can post very well when he wants to. He can face you up and take the jump shot as well as drive the middle of the lane or the baseline to attack the rim. But what makes Aldridge even more special is his ability to stretch the defense for a man his size. He can shoot all the way out to the three-point line and he can also be a good pick-and-pop big with as well as he shoots the jumper. At times he can get too comfortable shooting the jump shot, but he is effective with it nonetheless. The team that would obviously benefit from having him the most is the San Antonio Spurs. Tim Duncan is not getting any younger and with Kawhi Leonard getting ready to accept a big extension from the Spurs, San Antonio needs another piece to go along with him. By adding Aldridge, that helps stabilize the team down low once Duncan decides to hang it up. In essence, you would be replacing Duncan with a player that is very similar to him but more athletic. Add him to what they have coming back next year reportedly (Duncan and Manu Ginobli are reportedly coming back on cheaper salaries to help the team) and this team could be hoisting the trophy again in 2016 with Aldridge. And the good thing about the Spurs is that they can pay Aldridge as much as they want due to the sacrifices of Duncan and Ginobli. At this point in their careers, they know they are playing more for rings than salaries. And for Duncan, that can help them potentially get one more before riding off into the sunset. For Aldridge, it would help him add a crowning achievement to his career and also help the Spurs bridge the gap successfully into the next era of San Antonio basketball. Imagine the motion offense they run with Aldridge and Kawhi being the main options. But for the here and now, Aldridge and Duncan would remind many of the original Twin Towers that San Antonio had when they won it the first time with a young Tim Duncan and a veteran David Robinson. Amazing how things can change over time as Duncan would be the veteran in this scenario.

The Spurs would be an excellent fit for Aldridge and he could very well land there. But like there is a best fit for Aldridge, there is one fit that would be the worst for him. The Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are clamoring for the services of Aldridge. Both are looking at him as the missing piece to what they want to accomplish. But in reality, both teams are a tie for the worst fit for his services. In Dallas, the team there is a jump-shooting team for the most part. And even though Aldridge can shoot the jump shot, he would basically be asked to be the post presence for that team. That is fine and dandy on the offensive end of the court, but on the defensive end that would be trouble. Imagine Aldridge having to be the rim protector for the Mavericks. Even though Chandler is older, he is still far and away a better rim protector than Aldridge will ever be. The only way the addition of Aldridge could work is if the Mavericks can send Dirk to the bench and allow Aldridge to start with a guy like Chandler as the center alongside him. But the reality of that happening is slim to none and even if it did, the Mavericks still would not have enough in the West to win a title. As far as Houston, they seemed to be run by James Harden. And that can be a good thing and a bad thing. Harden is a playmaker on the offensive end of the court and a lot of the offense runs through his hands. But Harden has said that he would like for Houston to bring another playmaker in besides him next season. Looking at the Houston Rockets as they are (when healthy), there are devoid of another playmaker and need one sorely to take the load off Harden a little bit more. In the draft, they had the opportunity to add a playmaker and chose to add Sam Dekker instead. So with the addition of Aldridge, that would not address the need they had. Dwight Howard occupies the post and that would take away from the touches Aldridge would have in there. And as far as him pairing with Harden, he would become exclusively a pick-and-pop guy, and that would not be what the Rockets needed. Ironically, Josh Smith actually fits this team better than Aldridge because he has the ability to be a playmaker, although he is inconsistent at times. Aldridge going there would not make this team any more dangerous unless they got rid of Dwight Howard or he found a jumpshot, two things that are not likely to happen anytime soon.

Of course there are four other teams that fit in this scenario and the Lakers are reportedly the leading candidate for his services. The fit there would be nice, but with the fluidity of the situation there in regards to the potential trade for Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, there is no telling what kind of team will be there. If they get Cousins, the team would be tough provided Kobe can stay healthy this season. If they don’t trade for Cousins, then he could potentially have to play center and that would not be a good thing defensively at all. In the end, Aldridge will get paid one way or the other. The decision is his ultimately, but if he is seriously thinking about getting a ring along with getting paid, San Antonio is the spot where he needs to go. They have the best coach, system and scenario for him to succeed immediately.

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The Small Market Excuses In The NBA Need To End Right Now

Small market teams can compete and compete on a consistent basis. The fallacy that they cannot is something that needs to end. (photo courtesy of www.usatoday.com)

Small market teams can compete and compete on a consistent basis. The fallacy that they cannot is something that needs to end. (photo courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com)

The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers met for a great clash in the NBA Finals. The best team in the NBA versus the best player in the NBA. In the end, the best team wore down the team with the best player and won the title in six games. Both teams played each other pretty tough for the first few games, but the last three games were lopsided in the favor of the Golden State Warriors. They just wore down the Cavs, who were playing short-handed due to the losses of All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. And even though LeBron James had a great series from a numbers standpoint, he could not guard all the weapons the Warriors had nor could he score efficiently on most of them. The Warriors erased 40 years of futility with the win. And the even more interesting thing is a guy that was a starter-turned-sub for the Warriors in Andre Iguodala played well off the bench and starting in games 4-6 to earn NBA Finals MVP. But the game was just the background to all that has been going on in the NBA the past few years. And amazingly, no one wants to say much about it.

The Golden State versus Cleveland series had the best viewership on television since the days of Michael Jordan when he won his sixth championship almost 20 years ago. Pretty unbelievable that the ratings have not been as good since then being that we have had teams like the Lakers win the championship five times since then. But what this also speaks to is the power of the players here. If you just look at the markets both NBA Finals participants are in, there is a stark differnce. The Oakland/San Francisco market is considered one of the biggest markets out there in the NBA. But when you take a look at Cleveland, that market is one that is not very big at all. In fact, it is smaller than the Miami, where LeBron James left to go to when he exited Cleveland for four years. The idea has always been that in basketball, the big teams are the ones that will continue to show up and be in the championship year after year after year. When, in fact, that is not the case at all. Sure, Oakland/San Francisco is a big market, but San Antonio is not a big market and neither is Cleveland. The fact of the matter is big markets are needed in terms of exposure perhaps, but are not something that is needed to make the NBA exciting and watchable.

In the NBA, it is more about the teams that are on the floor than the markets they are in. As the NBA has grown, the market teams and players are in has matter less and less. Just a few years ago, it was something that small-level owners were worried about as if they could not build a good team in fear of losing a great player to a big market. When in all actuality, that was the supposed small-level owners giving the fans of that team something to let them off the hook. Time and time again the small-level owners have been crying they have been losing money in regards to trying to keep up with the bigger cities. And in all instances, the numbers have not ever been shown to prove that. But in basketball terms, there have been small-market teams that have competed. Look at the teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers and others. They are there all the time because their owners actually spent money and put together a team that could make some things happen, not because they were big spenders in a big market. As the NBA has grown, the excuse gets more and more overdone by the minute. The fallacy of small-market teams not being able to compete only comes about when it comes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. And in all reality, that is just a ploy for the owners to make more money while keeping the players and fans at bay. How else can it be explained that the Milwaukee Bucks being sold for $550 million despite being in one of the smallest NBA markets? That’s right folks. We have been blinded by some propaganda and a lot of us have fell victim to it without even knowing it. When a team is bad or has to make a tough decision, if it’s a small market team, they get the benefit of the doubt because of that. A perfect example of that is when James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets because the team could not pay him what he wanted. Of course they could have paid him and it would have potentially locked up their cap space. But the main thing that many were saying was that a small market team could not afford paying him. And that is when the propaganda begins. The sympathy for a smaller market begins to roll in and owners began to trick you into thinking they are sympathetic figures. But the reality is the owner does not want to spend money to pay the luxury tax. They want to line their pockets with the monies in terms of profits and also want to fool you into thinking the teams are still as good as they were. They present all the information, but in the presentation they fool many.

The presentation by the NBA shows us year after year that small market teams are really not at a disadvantage at all. Players will play where they can get a chance to compete and win. But it is up to the owners and the teams to create that marketability to make that happen. Marketing is not something that just happens when you go to a big city. With the internet as big as it is these days, you don’t have to be in a big market to even succeed. The biggest examples of that are Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Both have been in small markets and have thrived when it comes to off the court endorsements and things of that nature. So, when a team is losing or has to lose an impact player because of they don’t want to pay them, quit letting the small market teams off the hook because they don’t want to pay. When a team is not competing year after year, stop letting them off the hook because of the small market they may play in. Take the finger-pointing and aim it at the owners and the front office for making poor decisions to make the team competitive and for not wanting to pay. The decision falls on them and them only. They did not want to pay or build a good team. They did not want to satisfy their fans and instead wanted to line their pockets. The excuse of being in a small market is just that: an excuse. Cleveland just proved that it is an excuse, San Antonio has been proving that it is an excuse for small market teams for years.

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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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Doc Rivers’ Labor Of Love Helping Propel The Los Angeles Clippers

Doc and Austin Rivers share a moment. (photo courtesy of www.espn.com)

Doc and Austin Rivers share a moment. (photo courtesy of http://www.espn.com)

Doc Rivers had a decision to make this season. Plenty in the Clippers organization felt it would not be a bad idea for him to trade for his son, but Doc had to think about it. He did not want it to appear like he was doing something to hurt his team. He thought about it decided to make the deal. After Austin Rivers was traded to the Celtics around the trade deadline, Doc made the move to get his son on his team. The Los Angeles Clippers, Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics made a trade that brought together Austin Rivers with his dad and new coach, making NBA history being the first father to coach his son in the NBA. But this move was not met with the open arms and great, warm feelings that some thought it may have been. Doc was looked at as a man that had too much power with the organization by some. After all, he is the big basketball decision-maker in the Clippers organization and he was taking a chance on his son, who was a struggling guard that had not found his niche in the NBA. Many could not get over the fact that Doc did not make a move for a small forward the Clippers needed. But Doc made the decision to help his son and maybe save his NBA career.

Austin Rivers was a dynamite guard out of the Duke University when he was a freshman. Plenty looked at his ability to make plays and score the basketball and assumed he would be a good player in the NBA immediately. The then-New Orleans Hornets were one of the teams that were sold on his skills and they took him with the 10th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft. But instead of a great scorer or contributor, the Hornets got a guy who was inconsistent with his play on the court and his shooting. And at 6’4”, the Hornets felt he was a tweener on the basketball court. They just could not find a way to use him consistently on the court. And the numbers of the younger Rivers reflected the inconsistencies. He would never average over 10 points per game with the Hornets/Pelicans and he would also never live up to the promise some thought he had coming out of Duke. He needed a lifeline and a fresh start to his career. And that lifeline came in the form of his father, watching his son from a distance. The opportunity came about for Doc to revive his career and he took it. When Austin arrived in Los Angeles, many wondered how he would be. Would he come out of his shell and go back to the guy everyone saw as a freshman at Duke or would he continue to falter in his NBA career? At first, he seemed timid and would not shoot the basketball as much. It seemed like he was trying to fit in more from a distance than just playing basketball. At times, it seemed like Doc’s love for his son had conflicted his decision as a coach. And as the Clippers were doing well, it seemed he like he was still trying to figure out who he was as an NBA player. But little did we know that we would be in store for a coming out party for Austin Rivers in the playoffs.

Plenty had wondered not only what Chris Paul would do in the playoffs, but what would happen if he went to the bench during the game. There were not many players that were sold on the fact that Austin Rivers was the backup. There were concerns about his play and what he could do out there. But the younger Rivers put that to bed in the 1st round of the playoffs. Rivers had been solid for the Clippers when Paul went to the bench, but in Game 4 he definitely stepped up. The Clippers entered that game down 2-1 to the San Antonio Spurs and needed a win in the worst way. They needed someone to step up and play big and unexpectedly Austin Rivers showed up. The young guard from Duke had 16 points on 7/8 shooting and hit both free throws he attempted. It was evident that he was not ready to go home and he was ready to announce he could play in the NBA to the world. Ever since that game, it seemed like the hate and jokes that Austin Rivers received has started to fade away. And now he is not just known as Doc Rivers’ son, but as a basketball player trying to make his mark in the NBA. He cemented that he was a guy to look out for in Game 3 versus the Rockets Friday night when he spearheaded a great run by the Clippers. Rivers had 25 points and was on fire. His numbers have been getting better by the series. He only had two games of double-figures versus the Spurs in the 1st round and in this round, he has been averaging 17 points per game off the bench for the Clippers versus the Rockets. Undoubtedly he has been the shot in the arm that Los Angeles has needed and could be one of the big keys to them heading to the Western Conference Finals perhaps. Who would have thought what looked like a labor of love by Doc Rivers towards his son would be a move that could help propel the Clippers even further? Austin Rivers has finally arrived ladies and gentlemen. And the potential that all saw when he came out of college is finally getting tapped into. All it took was the words and coaching of his dad and the confidence of his teammates in his abilities.

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