Tag Archives: Steph Curry

James Harden, You Remind Me of….

James Harden is leading the Rockets to heights not seen since the mid-1990’s. Photo Credit: Troy Taormina/USA Today

The race for the 2016-2017 NBA MVP race is a dead heat between four men. LeBron James who is clearly the best player in the League, Russell Westbrook who is having the most historic season seen in over five decades, Kawhi Leonard who has ascended to a superstar, and James Harden who is having a redemption season.

Harden is the leader in the NBA in assists per game (11.3) and second in scoring per game (29.5) with a real chance to become only the second player in Association history to finish the season number one in both categories (Nate Archibald, 1972-73). He can also be the first player in Association history to score 2,000 or more points, while assisting on 2,000 plus points in a season. He also averages 8.0 rebounds per game, so he’s doing it on both ends which has been the knock on him in his career.

Most importantly, the Rockets currently hold the 3rd seed in the Western Conference with 51 wins, after winning only 41 games last season and finishing with the 8th seed.

The Rockets All-Star is the leader to grab the Maurice Podoloff trophy this season after a dismal 2015-2016 season where he didn’t make one of the three All-NBA teams shouldn’t be much of a stunner. “The Beard” actually was the inaugural players selection for Most Valuable Player in 2014-15 the season when the writers selected Steph Curry to his first of back-to-back MVP wins.

Also, playing in offensive innovator Mike D’Antoni’s system has turned Harden and the Rockets into legitimate title contenders. The smooth lefty’s talent is on full display now that he’s been converted from shooting guard to point guard in the hypercharged offensive system. The same system that turned future Hall of Famer Steve Nash into a two-time NBA MVP.

Harden’s reemergance as one of the top tier players in the game has me watching him more closely. The more I do, the pieces of his game reminds me of a couple of players we’ve seen before.

A Hall of Famer, a future Hall of Famer and a former NBA Finals MVP.

This is latest edition of my “You Remind Me of”… which includes LeBron James, Steph Curry, Draymond Green and Russell Westbrook.

Chris Mullin is another smooth crafty lefty without explosive athleticism, but great playmaking ability for himself and others. Each play at their own pace and never let the defender get them out of their style. Mullin is mostly known for his precision shooting from mid-range to the 3-point line, but “Mully” could definitely fill up the stat sheet like the Beard does today.

In his five All-Star seasons from 1988-89 through 1992-93, Mullin averaged 25.8 points per game on 52% shooting from the field, while grabbing 5.6 rebounds and dishing 4.1 assists per game. For the young fans who don’t know, Mullin is a two-time Olympic Gold Medalist and a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Manu Ginobli. This comparison isn’t new to hear for hoop fans. Actually, this is one of the legends Harden has be known to say he modeled his game after as youth growing up in southern California. They both have that devastating, for defenders, euro-step. Although, Ginobli probably does his with more force and speed.

Another player that Harden reminds me of is 2004 NBA Finals MVP Chauncey Billups. He and Harden are both bigger than the average point guard (6’3″ 210 & 6’5″ 215 respectively) with the ability to post up and get easy buckets on the block, but also carry the responsibility to spread the ball around and decipher which teammate’s hot hand to ride.

Billups was the maestro for those Detroit Pistons teams that won an NBA title, was 48 minutes from a repeat, and played in six consecutive Eastern Conference Finals. “Mr. Big Shot” was Detroits best offensive player while making sure fellow All-Stars Rip Hamilton and Rasheed Wallace’s offensive talents were maximized.

The success of Harden’s team may give him the votes needed to win the MVP over his good friend Westbrook. But, I wouldn’t be mad if this one time the voters coped-out and split the award between them.

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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.

NBA 2016-2017 Predictions 

The NBA Regular season tips off in less than a month, and with the storylines created by this summer’s big free agent move by Kevin Durant, plus the unprecedented Monopoly money-ish like signings that had players moving from team to team more than Taylor Swift changes boyfriends, this season is sure to be one that rivals your favorite reality show.

The combination of KD, Steph and Klay could be the most efficient offense in NBA history. Photo Credit: NBA.com

The Association stole the summer headlines at a time when fans have put their tank jerseys away for the ones with sleeves, as they usually prepared for the boys of the gridiron.

I’ve been thinking about this coming season since game seven of the 2016 NBA Finals ended. So here are my predictions for the 2016-2017 season that I’ll be watching and waiting to happen all season.

  • All eight teams in the Eastern Conference playoffs will have winning records, my even bolder prediction is the eighth seed will be at least 5 games over .500 (46-36).
  • The teams that will take the biggest leaps this season will be the Utah Jazz, who missed the playoffs by one game last season, and the Minnesota Timberwolves will both make the Western Conference playoffs. The Jazz will challenge for a top 4 seed and home court advantage thanks to all the veteran leadership they’ve added in former San Antonio Spurs Champion Boris Diaw, George Hill and Joe Johnson. The T-Wolves will hold off another squad for the 7th or 8th seed. My two teams out from last season’s playoffs will be the Memphis Grizzlies and Houston Rockets.
  • The Southeast Division which had three of its five teams qualify for the 2016 playoffs–#3 seed Miami (48-34), #4 seed Atlanta (48-34), #6 seed Charlotte (48-34)–will only have one team make the playoffs in 2017. The Washington Wizards or Orlando Magic will make it as a 7th or 8th seed.

The Thunder is all Russell’s, and you know he relishes that. Photo Credit: NBA.com

  • Russell Westbrook will average a triple double (27 ppg, 12 apg, 10 rpg) for the Oklahoma City  Thunder. He will lead the Thunder to a top 4 seed in the Western conference playoffs and win the League MVP, which would be his first.

The Pelicans Rookie Buddy Hield’s should benefit from a healthy Anthony Davis. Photo Credit: NBA.com

  • In (somewhat of) an upset, Buddy Heild of the New Orleans Pelicans will win Rookie of the Year. Especially now that the early favorite Ben Simmons will miss significant time with the Philadelphia 76ers due to a broken foot. Brandon Ingram will had to contend for shots with D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Julius Randle who will all be a little too hungry to fill the Kobe scoring load. I really like Minnesota T-Wolves point guard Kris Dunn—and I think he’ll be the starter by seasons end—but everything will revolve around the big three of Wiggins, Anthony-Towns and Lavine. Heild, however, will get the opportunity and have the numbers thanks to all the attention drawn by Anthony Davis, helping New Orleans get back into the playoff mix after a disappointing setback of a year in 2015-2016.

LeBron is still chasing MJ, it will help if he adds a DPOY to his resume. Photo Credit: NBA.com

  • The Cavs will challenge 70 wins. Just like last season, LeBron will get annoyed that the Golden State Warriors are getting all the attention with their new addition Kevin Durant. This will be enough to keep the Cavs motivated to dominate the East and not take nights off for “rest.” I predict the Cavs will go 69-13.
  • LeBron James will finally win the Defensive Player of the Year award he probably should’ve won twice already. Why? Because what else is there left for him to accomplish individually? He always leads his team’s in blocks, steals, and is usually top two in defensive rebounding, while often guarding the opponents top wing or power forward. No further analysis needed, he is due.
  • LeBron will earn a seventh consecutive NBA Finals birth after defeating the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.
  • The San Antonio Spurs will beat the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals, then face Cleveland in the NBA Finals. San Antonio has added key veteran pieces with championship experience in Pau Gasol and David Lee. The Warriors made the big splash signing, but the Spurs signings added to the mix of young talents in Kwahi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge will make them the better DEEPER team. Something the Warriors lost in their quest to sign KD.
  • LeBron and the Cavs will win their second consecutive title. LBJ has a pattern, he loses two Finals (’07, ’11), then wins two (’12, ’13). He lost in 2014 with the Miami Heat, and 2015 with the Cavaliers. Now that he’s won in 2016, next is a win in 2017. It’s his trend. Cavs in another epic seven game series, and Kyrie Irving takes home the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player award.

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.

The Evolution to Steph

As popular as Steph Curry is with hardcore and casual fans, he and his Golden State Warriors teammates run through the record books isn’t as well received by those who were a major factor in writing those records. The defending champions’ dominant 2015-2016 season has brought out the curmudgeons and so-called “purists” who long for the way the game was played yesteryear.

In February when 11-time NBA World Champion coach Phil Jackson tweeted….

It created a small brush fire through the sports world and media, but it was nothing compared to the inferno unleashed by Hall of Fame great Oscar Robertson when he called out today’s coaches and players for not coming up with better game plans and execution to defend Curry.

In a scathing tone, the “Big O” said on ESPN’s Mike & Mike, “[Curry] has shot well because what’s going on in basketball today. In basketball today, it’s almost like if you can dunk or make a three-point shot, you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread…If I’ve got a guy who’s great shooting the ball outside, don’t you want to extend your defense out a little bit?… These coaches [today] do not understand the game of basketball, as far as I’m concerned.”

Mr. Robertson sounded like grumpy old Mr. Wilson scolding Dennis the Menace after catching him throwing the ball to close to the cars in his driveway.

While Phil’s tweet badly missed the mark he was shooting for, he may be on to something. Yes, no one has done it as efficiently and with the same flare as Steph, but several have in small doses. He is now what the point guard position has evolved into.

The dictionary defines the term evolution as the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form. The following names are the players from the past who Wardell Stephen Curry got the ingredients for what he’s cooking.

Bob Cousy, the “Houdini of the Hardwood”, was the first showman in the history of the Association with his slick ball handling and flashy passes. Cousy wasn’t just style, he was substance, winning the 1957 NBA MVP and helping the Boston Celtics win 6 championships and averaged 7.5 assist per game for his career.

“Pistol Pete” Marivach was a scoring machine with Harlem Globetrotter-esque handles, and before his time creativity with his shot taking and making. His scoring exploits began with a stellar 3-year career at LSU {freshman were ineligible to play varsity during his time} where he scored 3,667 points, averaging 44.2 points per game for his collegiate career.

In eleven professional seasons, the “Pistol” averaged 24.2 points per game on 44% shooting from the field and 67% (10/15) from three {the 3-point line was instituted in 1979-80 season} and 5.4 assists per game for his career.

Nate Tiny Archibald, the first diminutive player—by comparison to his opponents— to dominate the NBA in scoring while still having the innate ability to set up teammates. He’s the only player in history to lead the Association in scoring and assists in the same season at 34.0 points and 11.4 assists per game on 49% shooting for the Kansas City Kings.

Isiah Thomas, had the handle to put his opponents on skates, right before elevating into his deadly mid range jumper that was as lethal as Curry’s deep 3’s. Thomas averaged 19.2 points and 9.3 assists per game for his 13-year career with the Detroit Pistons. Four consecutive seasons Thomas averaged 20+ points and 10+ assists per game, leading the Association in assists with 13.9 per game in 1984-1985.

Ray Allen. People forget about Milwaukee Bucks/Seattle Supersonics Ray when they annoint Curry as the greatest shooter ever. In his first seven seasons in the NBA with the Bucks, Allen averaged 19.6 points per game on 45% from 2-point range and 41% from beyond the arc. When he was traded to the Sonics and became the number one option, he averaged 24.6 points per game on 44% from 2’s and 39% from downtown. The 6’6″ Allen, in his prime, did much of his damage taking defenders off the dribble and sinking pull up J’s from mid-range and deep, albeit not with as many attempts as Steph. The most three’s he attempted in a season was 653 (8.4 per game) in 2005-2006. The last two seasons, Steph has averaged 8.1 and 11.1 3-point attempts per game, and has shot more than 600+ 3-pointers for the last four seasons

Dell Curry. I can’t ignore half the DNA in which Steph comes from. As the saying goes, “he is his father’s son.” The Curry’s elite shooting ability is similar to the Manning’s passing skills in the NFL. The father Curry was considered a dead-eye shooter at 40% from 3-point range and 48% from the field during his 16-year career with the Charlotte Hornets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks and Toronto Raptors. His best years came in Charlotte, but his career best 48% 3-point shooting percentage in 1998-99 with the Bucks led the NBA. He obviously shared his knowledge, work ethic and skills with his sons. Even younger brother Seth with the Sacramento Kings has the gift. He’s a career 47% 3-point shooter in his 46 games played over 3 seasons in the NBA. 

I’m not saying any of these guys are better than Steph or not. It’s just they have similarities in certain areas or skills. I do agree with LBJ’s overall point. Never before have we seen anyone DO IT in the way Steph is doing it. As time goes on, many will try to emulate him as the game of basketball evolves.

Just like with those before him, one day we’ll be looking back at Steph as another plot point in the evolution of greatness.