Tag Archives: Draymond Green

NBA Needs to Drastically Crack Down on “Resting”

I guess the Warriors schedule is too hard for a professional athlete. Photo Credit: NBA.COM

When the 2016-2017 NBA schedule was released and the schedule makers blessed us with a March 11th game where the San Antonio Spurs would host the Golden State Warriors in a late season push for the number one seed, it was expected to be the most interesting and viewed regular season meeting this side of each of the Kevin Durant versus Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder meetings. Especially after the 29-point manhandling the Spurs put on the defending Western Conference Champions on opening night with their new Big Four.

A potential preview of the 2017 Western Conference Finals was ruined when Warriors coach Steve Kerr decided to “rest” the healthy Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala, with Kevin Durant already out with a Grade 2 MCL injury in his left knee, because Golden State was on the second night of back-to-back games and having played ten games in the last seventeen days (February 23rd to March 11th). Seven of those were on the road, and the last four of that streak in five days.

Add to that that Kawhi Leonard (concussion protocol) and LaMarcus Aldridge (minor heart arrhythmia) also missed the game killed any excitement the league was building by having these two juggernauts face off in primetime in the first season of their highly promoted venture with ABC/ESPN to broadcast the most compelling games of the week on Saturday nights.

Instead we got an unwatchable game that was a 20-point blowout at halftime, with a final score of 107-85 San Antonio, while the Warriors trotted out a bunch of dudes you wouldn’t watch play pick-up at the playground if you just happened to be walking by.

This was clearly Kerr’s attempt to throw up a middle finger at the Association and its schedule makers. He could have easily looked ahead and staggered resting his top guys earlier in the streak when they played inferior teams like the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, with an eye on a big finish to end the 10-game span at full strength against the Spurs. Instead he basically said “F*** You” to anyone who cared about the game.

It’s time for Commissioner Silver to do something drastic end this trend. This isn’t good for the sport, the fans and business.

Why should fans pay hundreds and thousands of their hard earned dollars on tickets, travel, concessions and merchandise at any NBA game with the thought in the back of their mind they may or may not get to see their favorite player play or favorite team at full strength?

And why should fans across the country, that can’t attend the game in person, continue to pay a premium for League Pass and carve out time in their schedule to watch D-League quality?

So here’s what Commissioner Silver should do, NEEDS to do.

First, reduce the schedule to 65 games, similar to the format from 2011-2012 when the league was in a lockout that delayed the season. I’m cool if the owners want to take some money back from the players because of this, serves them right. Just back loading key divisional and conference games that will affect playoff seeding near the end of the season like the NFL did a couple of seasons ago isn’t working.

Limit preseason games if you have to as well, and spread the 65-games out over late October to mid April, and eliminate back to backs as well as three games in four night deals, giving no coach or player an excuse to “rest.”

Finally, heavily fine players that aren’t active for any reason other then a disclosed and diagnosed injury if they continue to “rest”. Instead of levying a hefty fine on teams like the one given to the Spurs when Coach Gregg Popovich did something similar as Kerr against the Miami Heat in 2013, dock from their salary cap which will hurt their ability to build a competitive roster. That will fix it.

Resting healthy players is also an insult to the history of the game and past players that so many of today’s players say inspired them. As ESPN/ABC analyst Michael Wilbon, said on ABC during Halftime of the Spurs-Warriors game, “twenty years ago forty-four NBA players played all 82 games. Last season only 18 players played all 82.”

For more perspective, arguably the greatest of all-time Michael Jordan played every game scheduled in a season nine of his fifteen seasons, including his final season at age 39-40. He also played 81 and 80 games two other seasons. By comparison, LeBron James, the best player in today’s era, has NEVER played all 82 games and has only reached 80 games two times in his fourteen-year career.

Today’s players are supposed to have better nutrition and better training, so what’s the problem?

How healthy and great would Kobe Bryant have played at the end of his 20-year career if he took so many nights off?

This is another reason why Shaquille O’Neal, Charles Barkley, Tracy McGrady, Kevin Garnett and other legends of the game say today’s players are soft. And I’m starting to think they’re right.

Jalen Rose, Wilbon’s co-analyst on ABC’s Halftime show hosted by Sage Steele, also a 13-year NBA vet, pointed out that the Association is followed on Twitter more than any other sports league, the NBA also has thirteen current players followed on the social media site that are in the Top 100, while the NFL has none despite being the most popular sport in America. The NBA also has two current players in the Top 5 on the Forbes Endorsement list while the NFL has none.

NBA players are more popular and make more money based off their notoriety than any other sport. So figuratively and financially speaking, they’re spitting in the face of those who they’ve made their fame and fortune off of, the Consumer.

Mister Silver, you’re the only one that can fix it. You’re the most proactive leader in sports, so I trust that you will. Until then, hopefully when these two meet again on March 29th we’ll get something closer to what we expect to see come playoff time. But I doubt it. Got rest up for that playoff run.

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Small Forward is the New Center-piece Position 

Kevin Durant & LeBron James have revolutionized the game from the small forward position. Photo Credit: NBA/Getty Images

In the NFL the saying goes, “If you don’t have an elite QB, you won’t be an elite team.” Which basically means you can forget about winning the Super Bowl. In the NBA, many have compared the point guard position to the single caller on the gridiron and used that as an indicator of a team’s chance at success.

Right now the NBA is the golden age of point guards. Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kyrie Irving, Chris Paul, James Harden, Dame Lillard, Tony Parker and John Wall to name a few.

While many may say if you don’t have an elite PG you don’t have a chance at winning a title, I can argue that if you don’t have an elite small forward, you can give up any chance of holding Larry O’Brien.

To me, top elite small forwards have become as scarce as elite centers in the days of Kareem, Olajuwon, David Robinson, Patrick Ewing, up to Shaq. In the 1980s and 90s, general managers built their teams around the big man.

In this age of position-less basketball, we are actually moving into the era of the multi-skilled small forward and GMs will do whatever it takes to acquire one. The mantra of “its a guard league”, is soon to end.

First-time NBA All-Star The Greek Freak’s potential is as wide as his wingspan. Photo Credit: NBA/Getty Images

Look at these names; LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kwahi Leonard, Paul George and Jimmy Butler. Then there are those coming up in Ben Simmons, Brandon Ingram, Andrew Wiggins, and Giannis Antetokoumnpo. These hybrids have point guard playmaking skills, as well as the elite scoring ability on the perimeter and in the post are hard to come by.

The last five NBA Finals MVP’s have been LeBron James (2012, 2013, 2016), Kawhi Leonard (2014) and Andre Iguodala (2015). All three are multiple time all-stars, who are versatile on both the offense and defense ends of the court.

If that doesn’t wet your beak, check out these numbers from the 2016-17 John Hollinger’s NBA Player Stats. Yes it’s analytics that so many old school players and fans hate.

At the time of this post (2/17/17), two of the top five players and 5 of the 12 in Player Efficiency Rating (PER) are small forwards, the most of any position.

  • #2 Kawhi Leonard 28.23
  • #5 Kevin Durant 27.62
  • #8 Giannis Antetokoumnpo 26.71

Just barely outside the top ten at #11 and #12, LeBron James at 26.34 and Jimmy Butler 25.51, respectively.

Four of the previous mentioned are also in the top ten in Estimated Wins Added (EWA) which measures the estimated number of wins a player adds to its teams season total above what a “replacement player” would produce.

  • #3 Kevin Durant, 16.3
  • #4 Giannis Antetokoumnpo, 15.4
  • #4 LeBron James, 15.4
  • #7 Kawhi Leonard, 15.1

Just outside the top 10 in the number 11 spot is Jimmy Butler at 13.6

The Chicago Bulls are down right now, but their climb back will be headed by Jimmy Butler. Photo Credit: NBA/Getty Images

Take a look at ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus. Once again five of the top ten are small forwards, if you count Draymond Green, who at 6’7″ is more of a small forward with his swiss-arm knife playmaking ability even though he’s listed as Golden State’s power forward. That playmaking was on full display on February 10th when Green became the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double without double-digit points (12 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 steals, 4 points).

  • #2 Draymond Green, 6.90
  • #3 Jimmy Butler, 6.41
  • #5 Kevin Durant, 6.21
  • #7 LeBron James, 6.00
  • #9 Kawhi Leonard, 5.89

Also on ESPN’s real-plus minus, in the wins categories these small forwards hold 6 of the top 12 spots.

  • #2 Kevin Durant, 11.52
  • #5 Draymond Green, 11.38
  • #7 LeBron James, 10.94
  • #8 Jimmy Butler, 10.83
  • #10 Kawhi Leonard, 9.29
  • #12 Giannis Antetokounmpo, 9.14

These five guys make up half 2017 All-Star starters. It’s no wonder their teams have three of the best overall records in the NBA.

In the coming seasons, you’ll start to see the teams who are talented in every area but the 3-spot not being able to stay with the teams who are blessed to have a future Hall of Famer, perennial All-Star or future superstar in tow.

Take the Los Angeles Clippers for example. While the Clippers have their own all-star big three of Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, their glaring hole at the 3-spot has been their downfall in the past three or four seasons. They’ve tried Matt Barnes, Caron Butler, Wesley Johnson, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson and Jeff Green. With the exception of Barnes and Butler, all those acquisitions flamed out.

It’s why the Golden State Warriors passed them up when they acquired Iguodala and the emergence of Green, who as I mentioned early is effectively their other playmaking small forward, especially in crunch time.

As the Association continues to trend toward making post play obsolete, big men will have to improve their perimeter skills to keep up and stay on the court. That means more players coming into the draft with the body types of Antetokoumnpo, Durant, James and throw Kristaps Porzingis into that mix as well, that will also attempt to emulate their those guys style of play.

Like the old days when teams built around rare dominant 7-foot big men who patrolled the paint, teams will now scourer for the next great versatile, athletic, Swiss Army knife wingman to build their championship dreams. The present and future is in the three spot, no matter how littered the Association is with all-star PG’s.

The Close Calls That Could’ve, Should’ve Cost The Warriors 73 Wins

 

A Photo Credit: Mario Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

 
What is 73-9 without a few close calls? You can’t make history without a little luck. While most people will say the Golden State Warriors historic record of 73-9 doesn’t mean anything without the ring, I disagree. They have plenty to be proud of by accomplishing this feat, especially when you look back at the season and the close calls that could’ve cost them any chance at breaking the 95-96 Chicago Bulls record of 72-10. Here are five games that were in the balance and could have thwarted the Warriors record setting season. 

12/11/15: the Golden State Warriors defeated the Boston Celtics (13-9) in a hard fought double overtime game in “Beantown” without two starters in Klay Thompson and Harrison Barnes. 

The Celtics held a 5-point lead, 96-101, with 2:06 remaining in the 4th quarter. Steph Curry would go on to score 5 points on two free throws and a 3-pointer, along with a signature mid-range jumper from Shaun Livingston to put the Warriors up 103-101. The Celtics tied it up on an Isaiah Thomas layup sending the game into its first overtime. Both teams scored 7 points in the first OT to send it to a 2nd overtime where Golden State pulled away. Curry finished with 38 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists despite shooting 9-27 and having 8 turnovers. Draymond Green finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds, 8 assists, 5 block shots, 5 steals becoming only the third player in NBA history to surpass 20 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks and 5 steals in a game. The Victory extended their record setting win streak to 24 games. 

1/2/16: The Denver Nuggets (12-21) were down 77-90 to begin the 4th quarter and trailed by as many as 28 points (45-63; 2nd quarter) in the game with Steph Curry sitting out to nurse a left shin injury that had been bothering him for quite a while. Denver went on a 20-10 run to cut the lead to 3 (100-97) with 3:21 remaining in regulation. Will Barton made a short jumper with one second on the clock in the 4th quarter to tie the game at 102 and send it to overtime. In the extra session the Nuggets took their first lead of the night 104-102 on a pair of Danilo Gallinari free throws with 4:11 left in overtime. The Warriors closed the game out on a 9-4 run to move to 31-2 on the season. Draymond Green led all scorers with 29 points and added 17 rebounds and 14 assists for his sixth triple-double of the season.

1/30/16: The Warriors next close call was a huge surprise as they were pushed by the 7-40 Philadelphia 76ers at the Wells Fargo Center in Philly. The 42-4 Warriors had a 19-point lead (91-72) to start the 4th quarter, but the young Sixers stormed all the way back outscoring Golden State 33 to 17 to tie the score at 105. Harrison Barnes made a 3-pointer from the corner in front of the Philadelphia bench with .2 seconds remaining to seal the 108-105 victory and the 43rd on the season for GSW. Bay Area fans are wishing right now they had THAT clutch version of Barnes in any of the last three games of the 2016 NBA Finals, maybe they’d have another Larry O’Brien Trophy to go with this record. 

2/27/16: Who can forget the Instant Classic at the Oklahoma City Thunder? This was the second meeting of the season between the two Western Conference powers. The 42-17 Thunder had the game all but wrapped up ready to hand the Warriors their sixth loss of the season and end their six game win streak. OKC had a 4-point lead with 14 seconds left in the game. But after a Klay Thompson jumper that put the score at 101-103, the Thunder inbounded the ball to Kevin Durant with 11 seconds remaining, all he had to do was hold it and get fouled then make two free throws, instead he threw the ball away and on the subsequent Warriors possession fouled Andre Iguodala while he was shooting with no time remaining. Iguodala went on to make both free throws to send the game into overtime. 

In overtime, Durant fouled out with 4:13 remaining and the Thunder had a 5-point lead 108-103. Golden State never led in OT until Steph Curry hit the shot heard round the world, a 37 footer with less than a second remaining. Warriors win game number 53, 121-118. 

3/30/16: The Utah Jazz were 37-37 coming into the matchup with the Warriors, hoping to hold on to the eight spot in the Western Conference Playoffs. After a close 1st half that saw Golden State take a 42-40 lead into the locker room, the Young Jazz took control of the game in the 3rd and early in the 4th quarter leading by as many as 8 points before the defending World Champions made their move to tie the game at 85 with 2:17 remaining in regulation on a Draymond Green layup. Utah continued to stay in front by no more than 3, when Klay Thompson made a 3-pointer with a little over 15 seconds left in the 4th to tie the game at 89. The Champs took back control in overtime and won their 68th out of 75 games 103-96. 

4/9/16: The Warriors went into Memphis to face a wounded Grizzlies team that wasn’t playing for much since their playoff position was already solidified. Memphis was already without staring point guard Mike Conley Junior, and All-Star center Marc Gasol. Golden State was down by as many as 10 points in the 4th quarter and didn’t gain the lead until 1:39 remaining on a Harrison Barnes 3-pointer that put them up 98-97. Yet still, they had to fight off Memphis as there were two more lead changes in the final 1:13 before the Warriors sealed their 71st win 100-99. 

As you can see if one or two of these games goes the other way, the Warriors would either be tied with the 95-96 Bulls at 72-10 or not even having a shared piece of history. It proves how relevant the regular season is as the San Antonio Spurs were nipping at their heels for the number one overall seed with their own 67-15 record. How many close calls will or won’t there be now that they’ve added Kevin Durant? Expectations with this super team are going to be higher than 73-9.

Draymond Green, You Remind Me of…

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Draymond isn’t the headliner in Oakland, but he is the spark that ignites the Warriors Championship engine. Photo Credit: CBS Sports

Draymond Green isn’t supposed to be here. That’s if you ask the experts. Where is here? NBA Champion, All-Star, and a 1st-Team All-Defensive Player. The product of Saginaw, Michigan was a highly productive four-year player for the Spartans at MSU; winning a B1G Tournament Championship, 2012 National Player of the Year award, 2012 B1G Player of the Year award, 2012 B1G All-Defensive team selection, three times an All-Conference selection, and making two Final Four appearances.

Even as accomplished as he was, Green still had to wait until pick 35 of the second round of the 2012 NBA Draft to hear his name called. Those experts said he was too small to be a pro power forward and not quick enough to be a perimeter player.

However the Golden State power forward, is the back-to-back runner up for NBA Defensive Player of the Year and a first-time All-Star in 2015-16, has become the heart and soul of the defending champion Warriors who just completed the greatest regular season win total in Association History.

The four-year pro is finally getting his due. As his game continues to flourish, his style of play is starting to remind me of a few guys I loved watching back in the day. Many of who also dealt with the same naysayers and bogus critiques when they entered the pro ranks.

This is the third in my installment of my you remind me series. The first two were on Steph Curry and Russell Westbrook.

Draymond’s ability to defend against guys 3-5 inches taller and 45 pounds heavier all while being able to switch off on the more athletic perimeter players in the NBA reminds me of Hall of Famer Dennis Rodman. Rodman is mostly known for his rebounding prowess, but he guarded Shaq during his days in Chicago, and Michael Jordan back when he ran with the “Bad Boy” Pistons in their two championship seasons.

Draymond has also held down the center position for the Warriors in the playoffs guarding Dwight Howard and at times other dominant bigs during the season in the likes of Boogie Cousins, Anthony Davis and Tim Duncan. In last year’s Finals, he took his turn guarding this era’s current best player in LeBron James. His versatility on the perimeter has made it easy for Golden State to switch every thing on D because he can also clamp down on the James Harden’s, Russell Westbrook’s and Damian Lillard’s of the world.

Green’s offensive skills remind me of James Worthy’s ability to play inside and outside, while having the playmaking skills to set up teammates. Even though he was the top pick in the 1982 draft, “Big Game James” is often overlooked because he played with two of the top ten players of all-time in Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Magic Johnson. But, he was named one of the fifty greatest players in NBA history because of his championship contributions. Green is playing a similar role behind the consensus best backcourt in the Association in two-time NBA MVP Steph Curry and Klay Thompson.

Robert Horry. While obviously Green doesn’t have the size and length of the 7-time NBA Champion, Draymond brings the same defensive versatility and ability to make tough timely baskets that often are only trusted to the Superstars of the team. Horry was the perfect compliment to Legends Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler with the Houston Rockets and Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant with the Los Angeles Lakers. As Shaq always says, “you need the others to play well to be champs”, well Big Shot Bob was the perfect “other” and Draymond is proving to be the same for the Warriors emerging dynasty.

Anthony Mason. The late “Mase” was the enforcer on those Patrick Ewing led New York Knicks teams that gave MJ’s Bulls a run for their money in the 90’s and became Eastern Conference Champions in 1994. Coach Pat Riley often used the 13-year power forward as a point forward during their time in the Big Apple and with the Miami Heat. It wasn’t odd to see him bring the ball up court and initiate the offense by dumping it down to the big fella on the block, or stop and pop an elbow jumper. While Mason didn’t have the all around range of Draymond on offense, both are similar as irritants on defense for opponents. The 2001 All-Star was a stellar defensive player throughout his career even making the All-Defensive team in 1997.

Cliff Robinson. “Uncle Cliffy” was a key contributor to those early 90’s Clyde Drexler-Terry Porter led Portland Trailblazers teams that challenged MJ’s Bulls, Magic’s Lakers and Isiah’s Pistons for NBA titles. Robinson, the 1993 Sixth Man of the Year did all the dirty work for those Portland teams during his eight-season there. He also was one of the original stretch power forwards who had range from deep shooting 35% with the Blazers. He also had a knack for mixing it up with trash talk and the occasional borderline physical play to gain an edge over his opponents. Sound familiar?