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Archive for the tag “Steve Kerr”

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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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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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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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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The Fourth Quarter Of Game Three Was Exactly What The Golden State Warriors Needed

LeBron James takes David Lee to the basket (Photo courtesy of Tony Dejak)

LeBron James takes David Lee to the basket (Photo courtesy of Tony Dejak)

The Golden State Warriors were the team riding momentum heading into Game 2 versus the Cleveland Cavaliers. They were up 1-0 and playing at home. They were trending in the right direction. And to add to everything, the Cavaliers lost Kyrie Irving to a season and series-ending knee injury. They had the Cavs right where they wanted them. But a certain number 23 and his crew of merry men decided that they would not lose Game 2. LeBron James took over in Golden State in Game 2 and he got his teammates involved, leading to their clutch win in Oakland. The pressure had then switched from Cleveland to Golden State and it was going to be interesting to see if the Warriors could respond like they did against the Memphis Grizzlies. Well, the Warriors not only did not respond, but they actually did not show up for most of the game in Game 3 in Cleveland. The Warriors looked to be lacking energy for most of the game and the Cavaliers were making everything happen as they entered the fourth quarter with a 17 point lead. But in the fourth, it looked like the Warriors found some rhythm and made things interesting. While the Warriors were playing with confidence in the last quarter while trying to make a mad dash back in the game, the Cavs were grasping for air while trying to close out the game. The Cavs eventually did enough as a team to close out the game and win it 96-91, but it was not easy at the end. And because of that big finish by the Warriors, there are a few of glimmers of hope the Warriors can take from this one.

David Lee was a forgotten man on the Warriors bench. He has been sitting over there collecting dust on the Warriors bench for most of the playoffs and the entire NBA Finals series. And in Game 3, it seemed that Lee was going to sit the entire game as well. But with Draymond Green struggling, Bogut disappearing and Festus Ezeli struggling as well, Warriors coach Steve Kerr finally went to Lee and the results were excellent. The biggest thing that was hurting the Warriors all game long was their lack of weapons at the post position. The aforementioned Green has been struggling to shoot the basketball all series long and Bogut and Ezeli are not really offensive weapons. Lee, although he can struggle on defense, can make it happen on the offensive end. And because of his presence, he puts pressure on the Cavaliers big men. He almost scored as many points tonight as he scored in the entire playoffs with his finishes around the rim and his active body. Going into the next game, the Warriors bring in Lee ahead of Festus Ezeli off the bench. In fact, if Draymond Green is struggling again as the starting power forward, then Kerr should bring him in for Green as well. Of course the defense will suffer, but the Warriors need offense and the Cavs have been mucking it up for them for the last two games.

But Lee is not the only weapon that could make it happen off their bench. Leandro Barbosa was a forgotten man in Game 2. He played less than ten minutes and did not have the effect that was desired. In Game 3, Kerr again went to his bench and brought in Barbosa to play alongside Curry and Thompson. The result was a pickup of tempo. We all remember the Brazilian Blur and the things he did in Phoenix over his career. Well, he isn’t quite as fast as he was back then, but he still does push the tempo and his stroke is pretty good from three-point range. If Harrison Barnes is going to disappear again like he did in Game 3, then Kerr has the option of bringing in Barbosa alongside Iguodala off his bench or leaving him in with Curry and Thompson to put more pressure on the offense. And with the added shooting and ball-handling, Barbosa can free up Curry to run off screens and can also allow more pressure to be taken off Curry to be the ballhandler and scorer for the Warriors.

Another positive sign from the Warriors in the fourth quarter was the play of Steph Curry. For most of the game, Curry was getting outplayed by Matthew Dellavedova, a backup point guard that has had to step in for an injured Kyrie Irving. Delly, as they call him in Cleveland, was making it happen and had outscored Curry for most of the game. But when the fourth quarter came around and the Warriors made their changes, it seemed like Curry played with the looseness that he played with in Game 1. The results were Steph hitting those high-difficulty shots that he was hitting all season long. And with each shot he hit, you could see his confidence growing more and more. Steph ended the game with 27 points and 7 three-pointers made. Sure, the Warriors still lost the game, but Curry gained back some of that magic he had been missing since the first game of the series. Going into Game 4, look for Steph to play with the same bounce that he played with previously enroute to the MVP. And if he is hitting these types of shots with regularity, then he will have the Cavaliers on their heels and the Warriors will have taken back momentum. And grabbing back all the momentum they lost in two games in Game 4 would be huge for them. Green has not played well, but if they can get Curry going then the team could pickup behind his momentum. Like it or not, he is the MVP and the team is following his lead. Klay Thompson has been playing well, but they get nowhere without Curry being the electrifying player that he can be at all times. In fact, there should be no way Dellavedova could guard him. But the combination of hard-nosed defense and passive offense from Curry has allowed Delly to grow in confidence.

The Warriors may be down, but they are definitely not out of this series. After all, they are down only one game this series. Momentum can change addresses with lightning speed, just like it did from Game 1 to Game 2 of this series. The main thing the Warriors have to do is take what they did in the fourth quarter and duplicate it over four quarters. Pushing tempo will definitely be the key to all that happening. We shall see if they do so or if they continue to let the Cavaliers muck up the basketball game.

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The NBA Finals Have Been A Game Of Adjustments Between Steve Kerr And David Blatt

David Blatt and Steve Kerr have added to this series with their adjustments and lack of them as well. (photo courtesy of the AP)

David Blatt and Steve Kerr have added to this series with their adjustments and lack of them as well. (photo courtesy of the AP)

When the Cleveland Cavaliers versus Golden State Warriors NBA Finals started, plenty looked at the matchups and how they would pan out. The thinking were the Warriors were the deeper team and they could wear down the Cavs with their limited depth. But one thing that some talked about could be the difference is the coaching. Both coaches were first-year coaches in the NBA. Former player Steve Kerr took over for Mark Jackson in Golden State. And although some thought it was a bad hire over Jackson, it proved to be the best move they could have made. Meanwhile in Cleveland, the Cavs hired longtime international coach David Blatt as their new head coach. And then after that, the surprise that LeBron James was coming home made his new job even better. The Cavs with LeBron James were expected to be the best team in the East. And although it started off rough, a few trades and some team comradery made them a force to be reckoned with in the East when the playoffs started. Out West, Steve Kerr opened up the Golden State offense all year long while maintaining the tough defensive mentality that Mark Jackson installed in the Warriors team. Kerr ended up leading the Warriors to the best record in the West improbably. And the funny thing about these two Finals coaches: Blatt was almost a member of Kerr’s staff in Golden State. Blatt had actually agreed to become the assistant head coach for the Golden State Warriors under Kerr last offseason. But when Cleveland called, Blatt took that job and that allowed Alvin Gentry to step in as the assistant coach. These two coaches are connected in more ways than one as coaches, but in this series, both have made some moves that have made you scratch your head and made you give them praise.

In the first game of this series, Golden State was single-covering LeBron James the entire game. They switched defenders on him almost the entire game but kept the integrity of their defense. This move allowed for the Warriors to make LeBron only a scorer and not the playmaker that he usually is each and every game. In response to the things the Warriors were doing, you would expect Blatt would make some effort to make some adjustments to the things they were doing. But instead of doing so, Blatt continued to lead LeBron in the post, basically letting the Warriors know where he would be at all times. The result was a floor that was cut in half or a third due to LeBron being placed in one place of the floor. LeBron had only six assists in Game 1 and that helped limit the involvement of his teammates on the floor, mainly JR Smith and Iman Shumpert, who were basically just there to watch the game. Another adjustment that Blatt failed to make was the minutes on Kyrie Irving. Honestly, there was no way to predict that injury was going to happen, but Blatt could have recognized that he was coming off an injury and could have tailored his minutes more. And if he was not comfortable going with Matthew Dellavedova more minutes in Game 1, he could have made it happen with James at point guard with Shumpert and Smith flanking him. But instead, he plays Kyrie more minutes than he was physically prepared to do. Injuries happen and cannot be predicted, but even if he still is playing in this series, he may not have been the same with the minutes that he played in Game 1. But not to be left out, Kerr had one more adjustment that he had to make in Game 1. Kerr saw that Cleveland was going big with their lineup and felt the team needed more traction going down the stretch. His adjustment: he went to the smaller lineup that had Draymond Green playing the center position. The result: the Warriors came back and won tied the game along with outscoring the Cavaliers 10-2 in overtime. The Cavs never made that adjustment to what he was doing and that proved to be the difference in their Game 1 win. But in Game 2, it seemed like the coaching brilliance seemed to switch sides.

Coming into Game 2, the Cleveland Cavaliers were desperate for a win. Even though many had counted them out due to the loss of Kyrie Irving with a knee injury, the Cavs were confident in their team and what they had to work with against the Golden State Warriors. One of the main reasons they must have been confident was because of the gameplan that was laid out for them. The first adjustment they made this game, besides having Dellavedova to start in place of Irving, was to move LeBron James around. In Game 1, LeBron could be found on the left for most of the game. And as a result, it allowed the Warriors defense to single-cover him all game long and hug the shooters. In the second game, Blatt had LeBron in different spots to start the game. He started with him on the block some, but then he had him bringing the ball up the floor with a pick waiting from big man Timofey Mozgov or Tristian Thompson and that is when the Warriors defense began to feel the pressure applied by LeBron James. The screen in the middle of the floor meant the Warriors had to help more than they had to in the first game. And as the game went on, it allowed James to get others involved and get them open shots. The person who seemed to benefit from the screens in the middle of the floor and the Cavs moving LeBron around the most early was Timofey Mozgov. He was owning the Warriors big men. And with LeBron on the move, Mozgov got to the right spots for the finish around the basket. The rest of the game, the Warriors defense was running to help on LeBron James and that allowed him to get more assists and be the playmaker he is. But that was not the only adjustment that Blatt made. On the defensive end, Blatt made one defensive switch that messed with the Warriors offense a little bit. Andre Iguodala had one of his best games of the postseason in Game 1 versus the Cavs. He was going to the basket and hitting some shots on his way to 15 points off the bench. Well, in Game 2 the Cavs had something for him that threw him off rhythm. The Cavs made a switch to put Timofey Mozgov on him and he laid off of him when Iggy would catch the ball outside the three-point line. As a result, that defense and Mozgov sagging off of him allowed Iggy to shoot the open three, which is not a shot that he consistently knocks down nor comfortably feels good shooting. The results were an uncomfortable Andre Iguodala and it seemed like that subtle switch that Cleveland did for a small segment of time threw him off his rhythm and he was not the same. He had seven points off the bench, but he was hesitant to shoot the basketball for most of the game and that kind of defensive switch seemed to play with his mind a little. And finally, the last adjustment that David Blatt made was an excellent one. Blatt began to put Steph Curry in pick-and-roll situations some in the later stages of the game and overtime. He was the guy getting screened in a couple of those situations and that allowed for Matthew Dellavedova to get a couple floaters off in the paint for four points in the fourth quarter. And when Dellavedova was used as the screener, he was screening LeBron’s man and putting Curry in a compromising situation defensively. One time Curry lost Dellavedova and the result was a wide-open three for him. And in other situations, LeBron ended up on Curry and forced the Warriors to send help. The result: open shots for other Cavs players. That adjustment alone accounted for at least ten Cleveland points right then and there. Honestly, it seemed like Kerr did not make many adjustments at all in Game 2. The one adjustment he did make was not understandable. The Cavs were down one more player and had a short bench in Game 2. The one thing that was expected from the Warriors was for them to use their excellent depth against the Cavs. Well, someone forgot to tell Kerr to use that depth to wear on the Cavaliers over the course of the game. It seemed like he used his bench an even shorter amount of time than he did in the first game of this series. You would think he would have used his bench even more to tire out the Cavs, but he went the opposite way and that could have potentially helped his team be fresher down the stretch of Game 2.

Both coaches have had their moments in the first two games of this series. And of course there will be more adjustments to be made as more film is watched. The series is now split at one game apiece due to the play of the players and also the adjustments of the coaches that seem to be rarely talked about. Some may put more stock in what the players are doing on the court and they obviously decide the games. But the subtle adjustments that have been made from game to game have been paramount in the success of each team. And going forward, it should be interesting to see what wrinkles can cause the game to swing in which direction. Blatt and Kerr may be first-year coaches in the NBA, but both have made some adjustments that have made the other team uncomfortable. In the end, the coach that makes the better adjustments before and through the game will help his team hoist the trophy. The only question remains is if Kerr will be the one to make the better adjustments or will Blatt use his international coaching experience to outsmart Kerr.

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Andre Iguodala Was The Unsung Hero In The Golden State Warriors’ Game One Win

Andre Iguodala flies in for an impressive dunk versus the Cavaliers in the first quarter of Game 1(photo courtesy of www.abc7news.com)

Andre Iguodala flies in for an impressive dunk versus the Cavaliers in the first quarter of Game 1(photo courtesy of http://www.abc7news.com)

The Golden State Warriors were a really deep team this year. In fact, you could say they had strength in numbers the entire year. But the thing about this team is that it never would have happened if it weren’t for the willingness of one particular vet on the Warriors team. When Steve Kerr was hired as head coach, he went and visited the veterans about some things that he wanted to change. And in those visits he made one huge stop to see Andre Iguodala. The veteran forward out of Arizona had been a starter his entire career in the NBA. But what Kerr was going to propose to him was going to test whether he wanted to be a part of something or get what he wanted. Kerr went to Iguodala and asked him about accepting a role off the bench. Kerr envisioned Iggy being his utility knife off the bench while freeing up Harrison Barnes as the starter. He was not the most receptive to the thought at first. In fact, he reluctantly accepted the proposition from his new head coach and moved to the bench for the team. And as a result, he helped the Warriors form a deep and bench with veterans Marreese Speights, Leandro Barbosa, David Lee and Shaun Livingston and a young big man in Festus Ezeli. And with Iguodala leading the way, all accepted their roles off the bench. The results were the Warriors wearing out teams all season long on their way to the top seed in the NBA’s Western Conference. But as the season has gone on, Iguodala has shown to be the most important member of the depth Golden State has. And in Game One of the NBA Finals, he showed his worth even more for the Warriors.

Coming into this series, Iguodala was one of the many that were going to be guarding LeBron James. Even though he is shorter than LeBron (standing at only 6’6”), he was considered one of the best matchups the Warriors had against LeBron. After all, they could not take Draymond Green off Tristian Thompson with how much damage he was doing in the paint. Harrison Barnes got his shot at LeBron first and it seemed like LeBron was catching a rhythm. And even though the shots were contested, it looked like Harrison was just overmatched the entire time he was up against LeBron. Steve Kerr and his coaches must have been watching and saw that as well. And when they did, they sent in Iggy to defend LeBron James. The result was LeBron only getting 7 points on Iggy while shooting 13 shots. Of course LeBron exploded tonight, but it was not on the watch of Iggy, who has been known as a very good defender his entire career. LeBron got the best of Iggy a few times, especially when he was in the post, but there was a number of times when LeBron had to contort himself in all types of angles to make it happen. Of all the defenders, Iggy was by far the most effective and could have potentially done even more guarding LeBron if given the opportunity. But true to his play all season for this team, he did what was asked of him. His goal is not to be the star of the team but to fulfill a role that was asked of him when he was first asked to come off the bench. And as a result of his sacrifice, he is now coming up big in the postseason.

But not only did Iguodala come up big on the defensive end of the court, he even hit some shots and made some excellent offensive plays. Iguodala was as aggressive offensively as he has been throughout the entire postseason on his way to 15 points. Two great moves he made stood out bigtime tonight in regards to the aggressive nature he possessed Thursday night. When LeBron James was guarding him to close out the 1st quarter, Iggy hit him with the crossover between his legs that left LeBron standing like he had on cement shoes. The result: a two-handed dunk at the rim. Iggy also had a steal and Eurostep for a dunk in the third quarter as well. It was the most impressive Iggy had looked the entire postseason, even hitting a three-pointer with one shoe on. He played with reckless abandon the entire night. And even though he hoisted some two bad shots, the aggressiveness was something that head coach Steve Kerr appreciated and allowed enroute to his 32 minutes of court time. If the Warriors get this type of play from Iguodala on the offensive end of the court throughout the rest of this series, then it could be huge issues for Cleveland, who struggle a lot to find offense off their bench. And it could also mean a quick NBA Finals appearance for the Cavaliers, especially if point guard Kyrie Irving’s knee injury he suffered is serious.

Iguodala did not have to sacrifice for the team this season. He could have easily asked the Warriors to trade him once the new coaching staff approached him about taking him out of the starting lineup. But instead of thinking about himself, he sacrificed himself for the betterment of the team and the chance to have something special. Well, something special is definitely brewing in Oakland and Iggy is a huge part of it. And in Game One, he had his imprints all over the game and was a huge factor in the Warriors’ comeback win.

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Jerry West: A Legacy Of Front Office Success

Jerry West's legacy of success has been legendary as a front office guy. (photo courtesy of www.goldenstateofmind.com)

Jerry West’s legacy of success has been legendary as a front office guy. (photo courtesy of http://www.goldenstateofmind.com)

The Golden State Warriors were a mess in 2010. Head coach Keith Smart had some players on his team that were for real like Steph Curry and Monta Ellis. But he also had some players on his team that were not really NBA players like point guard Acie Law and forward Jeff Adrien. The team finished 36-46 that season and missed the playoffs again. A change was needed and one was needed immediately. The team seemed to be going nowhere fast and had no direction at all. Owner Joe Lacob knew the team had to make something happen. So in 2011, the plan to make the Warriors a better team took off. And ironically, the plan started with the hiring of Jerry West to an executive position with the team. The 1st year of the plan started off rough with under the leadership of Mark Jackson as coach, but just as of 2015 and under the leadership of 1st year head coach Steve Kerr, the team is now in the NBA Finals. For the Golden State Warriors, this is their 1st appearance in the NBA Finals in a long time. And this team is much deeper and more talented than they have been in a while as well. Amazing that Steph Curry was just finding himself in the NBA at the time of the restructure and now he is the main player and the MVP of the league. But to West, this is what he has done his whole career. He is a winner through and through and that can be shown even past his playing days.

West was very successful as a player in the NBA. He was the only player to ever win a NBA Finals despite losing the NBA Finals and he also was a 14-time All-Star along with making the All-NBA 1st team 10 times and the NBA All-Defense team 4 four times. “The Logo”, as he was nicknamed due to his silhouette being the logo of the NBA still to this day, had a highly successful career and could have retired and lived off his legacy. But instead of doing so, he began another legacy of building teams. West, after his playing days, was the coach of the Lakers for three seasons, sporting a 145-101 record. He made the conference finals once, but never was able to win a title as a coach. After leaving the coaching position to become a scout, West returned to the frontlines as a general manager for Los Angeles in the 1982-1983 season. And to this day, his scouting and moves as a general manager have him receiving most of the credit for the five titles the Lakers won in the 1980’s (1980, 1982, 1985, 1987 and 1988). He was not only brilliant for what he did with those teams, but what he did after them as well. He knew which buttons to push with the organization and when to get rid of players. He rebooted the Lakers after the team lost some steam in the early 1990’s by putting together point guard Nick Van Exel, forward Cedric Ceballos and center Vlade Divac along with head coach Del Harris and making the Lakers a Western Conference semifinalist. He would go on to win the Executive of the Year award the first time in that season (1995). But it was the move he made the following offseason that would set up the Lakers for their next title runs. West would make a play and successfully get center Shaquille O’Neal to leave Orlando to play in Tinseltown. And along with getting Shaq, West traded established center Vlade Divac for a talented young guard from Philly named Kobe Bean Bryant. Of course there were some growing pains when these two got together in Los Angeles, but eventually they became one of the most dominant duos to ever play the game. And they would go on to win three titles in a row together as a tandem before these two also parted ways from each other. West would leave the Lakers and resurface as the general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies, but that was not the end of the success that he had.

When West joined the Grizzlies organization in 2002, he was said to want to join Memphis because he “wondered how it would be to build a winning franchise that has not experienced much success.” Of course it would be almost impossible for him to reach the level of success he did with the Lakers, but he did something that some thought was impossible in Memphis. When West got there, he had his work cut out for him. The Grizzlies were a team that many thought could eventually fold in Memphis due to the lack of success and the lack of support at times. But with acquiring veterans like Jason Williams, James Posey and getting the most out of Pau Gasol at the time, the Grizzlies were able to make the playoffs. And since that time, it seems like the team has been a staple for the playoffs ever since. The Grizzlies, once known as the team that picked a player in Steve Francis that frowned upon them, had transformed into a team expected to make the playoffs every year and West was the key cog in that transformation process. The success all came to a head when he was named Executive of the Year for the 2nd time in his career. But what was even more impressive about this award the second time around was he did it with a smaller budget and with players that some teams did not even want around. The best move by far that he made for that franchise was hiring an older coach that many thought was done in the coaching game. When he hired Hubie Brown, the team responded and played well under him, culminating in an NBA Coach of the Year award in the same 2004 season. West would go on to retire as the Grizzlies general manager in 1997 and he turned over his managerial duties to Chris Wallace. West was there in Memphis for a short time, but his impact there was immeasurable. And he will forever be thought of as the guy that helped turn Memphis into a team people took seriously.

West is on the cusp of being a part of another championship run in his career after his playing days. Not many former players can say they have had the success he has had after his playing days. But West is just a basketball junkie and he still gets it after all these years. Of course he is not the main guy behind the management there in Oakland, but where he goes, success usually follows. And this situation with the Golden State Warriors isn’t any different. After all these years, the 77 year old West still is having a lasting impact on the NBA.

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