Entries by: Gunnar Ludwig

3 adjustments the Cavs need to make after game one

Written by :
Published on : June 2, 2017

 

 

The NBA Finals have finally arrived, but apparently seven days of rest wasn’t quite enough time to prepare for the Cleveland Cavaliers. As bad as game one went for the Cavs, many of their problems are fixable. After a first half that was littered with sloppy possessions and defensive breakdowns, the Cavs were very fortunate to only be down by eight. If head coach, Tyronn Lue, made some seemingly obvious halftime adjustments, I thought Cleveland would have a chance to steal a game on the road. Instead, the Warriors outscored the Cavs 33-20 in the third quarter and ran away with the game.

 

Now, the pressure is on Lue to get his team on the same page and make the necessary adjustments, two things he failed to do in game one. LeBron James also deserves some blame, as he tied a season high with eight turnovers, despite otherwise finishing with great stats. Since Lue took over as head coach, there’s been speculation over whether he is really coaching the team, or he’s just a figurehead who falls in line with LeBron’s commands. Regardless who’s calling the shots, here’s three things the Cavaliers need to do differently in order to avoid complete and utter disaster.

 

James Curry Finals 2017

 

Smarter possessions, simplify offense, limit turnovers

One mistake the Cavs were making, LeBron in particular, was overthinking things on offense. Their offense was at it’s best when LeBron and Kyrie Irving attacked the basket, as it normally is. Despite that, they were determined to get the ball to Kevin Love whenever he was guarded by Kevin Durant, but Durant was up to the task and Love shot 4-13 from the field. Much of Love’s bad shooting was due to him getting the ball in difficult positions. LeBron had at least two turnovers on plays where he forced very difficult lob passes to Love when he wasn’t open.

 

LeBron had another near turnover attempting to lob a pass to Irving from half court. Somehow Irving came up with the ball, but the long pass gave the defense time to swarm him and the possession did not result in points. LeBron did this because Irving was being guarded by Steph Curry and the Cavs liked the matchup, but Cleveland will have many opportunities for Irving to attack Curry without lobbing him the ball in the post. They can simply give Irving the ball on the perimeter, where he’s comfortable, and let him attack Curry one-on-one, as he did in the final three games of the 2016 Finals. Forcing lob passes to a guy who’s 6’3” in high heels, or a guy with a four inch vertical, doesn’t seem necessary when you have two players who attack the basket and create offense as well as LeBron and Kyrie.

 

James dunk 2017 finals

 

Another LeBron turnover came late in the 2nd quarter, on a play where he made a great drive to the basket, could have had a layup, but instead threw the ball right to Klay Thompson, leading to fast break points for Golden State. At halftime, one would think Tyronn Lue and the Cavs would adjust their game plan to stop forcing the ball to Love and various role players because they like the matchups, and start attacking the basket with LeBron and Irving regardless who is guarding them. Conversely, on the first possession of the 2nd half, the Cavs went to JR Smith in the post. Again, he was being guarded by Curry and they liked the matchup. Not surprisingly, Smith made a few sloppy dribbles and lost the ball.

 

The head-scratching possessions continued for Cleveland. On one play, Irving forced the ball to a well-guarded Tristan Thompson who was immediately tied up for a jump ball. In a fourth quarter possession, Deron Williams took the ball down the court, tried to beat his defender off the dribble and forced up a contested fadeaway. Tyronn Lue needs to tell Williams this is the 2017 LeBron James/Kyrie Irving Cleveland Cavaliers, not the 2010 Deron Williams Utah Jazz. I don’t care who’s guarding them, JR Smith, Tristan Thompson and Deron Williams creating their own shot is NEVER a higher percentage play than LeBron James or Kyrie Irving creating their own shot. Instead of focusing so much on the Warriors perceived weaknesses, and good matchups for bad offensive players, the Cavs should play to their own strengths. James and Irving need to attack the basket as often as humanly possible. Then they can kick it out to open shooters when the defense starts overcompensating for them. That’s when guys like JR Smith and Deron Williams can get some easy baskets.

 

Less switching and rotating, more guarding the guy with the ball

This one may seem obvious, but the Cavaliers didn’t seem pick up on it all game. Amid their constant frantic mess of switching and rotating, Cleveland either didn’t have a strong defensive game plan, or they didn’t understand it well enough to execute it. It looked like no one on the Cavs knew who to guard all game, and as a result they basically didn’t guard anyone. I’m not a basketball coach, but if I was going to pick the most important person to guard, I’d start with the guy who has the ball. The Cavs were so caught up in their rotating ways, the nearest defender opted to rotate off the guy with the ball on several fast breaks, leaving the Warriors with easy dunks and layups. Most notably was a second quarter play where Kyrie Irving was dropping back to pick up Kevin Durant on a fast break, then he inexplicably ran away from Durant to double-team a three point shooter, as Durant took a free pass to the hoop. Even Durant smiled in disbelief after the easiest dunk of his NBA career.

 

Durant dunk 2017 finals

 

I realize Cleveland wants to avoid playing traditional man, since they don’t like a lot of the one-on-one defensive matchups, and it would be hard to keep up with Golden State’s ball movement, but Tyronn Lue needs to find a way to simplify Cleveland’s defensive approach and make sure everyone understands who to guard. Minimize the the switching and rotating, because while the Cavs were switching and rotating, the Warriors were shooting and scoring. And if all else fails, for god sakes, just guard the guy with the damn ball!

 

Less JR, more Jefferson

Last year, Tyronn Lue earned his respect by adjusting his lineup based on which role players were working best in any given game or series. This year, Lue has kept JR Smith in the starting lineup as long as he’s been healthy. Smith started in 35 out of the 41 games he was available during the regular season, despite shooting a career low 34.6% from the field, and scoring 8.6 points per game, his lowest in eleven seasons. While his field goal percentage has risen in the playoffs, he’s scoring a measly 6.4 points per game in 26.4 minutes. That’s not very good for a guy who’s main asset is scoring. Smith apparently played 28 minutes in game one, although you probably didn’t realize that unless you checked the box score, since he essentially did nothing to help the Cavs.

 

Meanwhile, Richard Jefferson was Cleveland’s third best player in the limited minutes that he was on the court in game one. Jefferson was one of the unsung heroes of the 2016 Finals, playing 24 minutes per game and providing great defense and savvy veteran experience. At 36 years old, I understand why the Cavs haven’t used him a lot this season, but this might be the time to start. He can guard Kevin Durant better than any Cavalier aside from LeBron, he makes good decisions with the ball (like passing to LeBron and Kyrie), and he knows when to be aggressive. Cleveland can’t start Jefferson because he plays the same position as LeBron, but they need to play him a lot more than his current postseason average of 11 minutes per game, and start getting him in the game before garbage time.

 

The Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson (11) drives against the Cleveland Cavaliers' Richard Jefferson (24) in the second quarter of Game 1 of The Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., on Tuesday, June 1, 2017. (Nhat V. MeyerBay Area News Group)

 

In the 2016 Finals, Cleveland proved they’re never out of a series when they were down three games to one against Golden State and came back to win the championship. This year, the Warriors added Kevin Durant, and the margin for error is even smaller for the Cavs. The Warriors have one of the best teams ever assembled, and they deserve a lot of credit for how well they played in game one. But you can’t beat a team as great as Warriors if you’re busy beating yourselves. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what the Cavs were doing wrong in game one, their mistakes were glaringly obvious. Hopefully Tyronn Lue realizes this and makes the adjustments the Cavaliers desperately need. That way the Cavs can at least make the series interesting enough to force Jeff Van Gundy to talk about what’s happening on the court instead of his awkward schoolboy crush on Rihanna. Otherwise, Lue could be packing his bags to join David Blatt as assistant in Turkey while LeBron is picking a new head coach in the offseason.

 

 


MVP or not, no one is more valuable than LeBron

Written by :
Published on : April 15, 2017

 

 

I normally don’t get too worked up about MVP awards in any sport. They are fun to argue about, and I’m sure they look nice in a man cave, but true great athletes strive for championships, not personal awards. And in the NBA, we’re reminded who the best player is in the playoffs and the Finals, and it’s pretty much always LeBron James. This year the NBA MVP conversation has been particularly interesting. No player has averaged a triple-double at the end of a season since Oscar Robertson in 1962. Russell Westbrook just did it while leading the league in scoring. James Harden’s stats were equally impressive (29.1 points, 11.2 assists, 8.1 rebounds). So they’re the top two scorers in the league, one averaged a triple-double, the other led the league in assists. One of these guys is going to win MVP. But should they?

 

First, let’s define the “V” in MVP. I often hear people claim that the award should go to the player who is most valuable to their specific team. In this case, it would be Westbrook, since he doesn’t have the talent around him that the other candidates do and his team would be out of the playoffs without him. I interpret the word “valuable” as the player who has the most value in the league in general, and that player is LeBron James. I think we all agree that the Thunder and Rockets would both be better teams if they swapped Westbrook or Harden for LeBron, and either team would make that trade in a heartbeat, because LeBron is simply more valuable than any other player in the NBA.

 

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I know what you’re thinking, even though LeBron is the best player in the league, Westbrook and Harden had more impressive regular seasons. Just look at the stats! Not so fast.

 

In an episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Dennis called out Mac for only working out his glamour muscles. Much like Mac, Westbrook and Harden have been padding their glamour stats all year. Let’s just compare LeBron and Westbrook. It’s hard to get past the fact that Westbrook is ahead of LeBron in all of the three major categories (Westbrook: 31.6 points, 10.4 assists, 10.7 rebounds vs. LeBron: 26.4 points, 8.7 assists, 8.6 rebounds). But let’s take a closer look and find out who’s been working out their core. Westbrook is shooting 42.5% from the field vs. LeBron’s 54.8%. A pretty massive difference. Harden comes in at 44%, just under the league average of 45.7%. And while so much attention has been paid to Westbrook’s record-breaking year, LeBron quietly became the first player in NBA history to average over 25 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists, while shooting over 54% from the field. I know, that’s an obscure list of numbers to combine in order to create a milestone, but a triple-double is no more relevant to success in the NBA.

 

With all the positive milestones Westbrook and Harden have reached this year, there’s one record they would rather not hear about. James Harden’s 464 turnovers were the most in a single season in league history. In case you were wondering who was number two on that list, it was Russell Westbrook, also this year, with 438. That came out to 5.7 per game for Harden, and 5.4 for Westbrook, compared to 4.1 for LeBron. Typically the guys who lead league in turnovers are the guys who are asked to do the most on offense, so it makes sense that two players with such historic offensive numbers would break this record. On the other hand, if other players were asked to keep shooting and creating offense on every play, even if it meant shooting below the league average and giving the ball to the other team more frequently than anyone ever has, maybe we would see more players average triple-doubles.

 

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No, I’m not trying to discredit the incredible seasons Russell Westbrook and James Harden have had. Nor am I trying to claim LeBron James should win the MVP. If I had a vote, it probably would go to Russell Westbrook because he tried so damn hard to win it. My point is, if LeBron James really dedicated a season to averaging a triple-double regardless how many shots he missed, or how many turnovers he committed along the way, he would’ve done it three times by now. Russell Westbrook will likely win the MVP, but LeBron James is the most valuable player, and has been for over a decade.

 

Oh, and I almost forgot about the all-important “rest” debate. LeBron only played in 74 games out of 82 this year, while Harden and Westbrook both played 81. If he was more devoted to the game, and not so soft, he wouldn’t take so many games off, right? Let’s not forget, LeBron James has played 199 career playoff games, compared to 82 for Westbrook, and 77 for Harden. If resting in an occasional regular season game against the Hornets is what it takes to stay fresh for six-straight NBA Finals runs, I think we can all live with that. As for Westbrook and Harden, they’ll get plenty of rest after the second round, when they can kick back with a cold one and watch LeBron make yet another run at an NBA title. Sure, in the regular season it was all about Westbrook and Harden, but in the playoffs, it’s always all about LeBron.

 

 


Who will be McGregor’s next opponent?

Written by :
Published on : November 19, 2016

 

 

Conor McGregor rarely ceases to amaze us, and UFC 205 was no exception, as he dominated Eddie Alvarez in a performance that ended in a second round knockout. McGregor is now the first fighter in UFC history to hold two belts at the same time: the 145-pound featherweight belt that he earned last December by knocking out Jose Aldo. An effort that took one punch and twelve seconds, and the 155-pound lightweight belt that he took from Alvarez on Saturday. It’s impossible to deny that the UFC has given McGregor superstar treatment. They’ve allowed him to hold on to his featherweight belt for nearly a year now without defending it. They gave him a lightweight title shot despite never having fought in the division. However, he did prove to be more than worthy of both of those championship fights.

 

So good for Conor, he got to live out his fantasy of holding one belt over each shoulder and acting like an asshole. And good for the UFC, they’ve sold the shit out of their biggest star to date, and their fame and fortune, along with McGregor’s, continues to grow. Things took a little detour with the Nate Diaz fights. That was fun, but kind of a novelty. Now they got back on track with the Alvarez fight and Conor is once again fighting for championships as he should be. There’s only one thing Conor McGregor hasn’t done in his career: defend a belt. Now it’s time to do that.

 

 

As badly as Jose Aldo would love to get his rematch against McGregor, Conor isn’t going back down to featherweight. Getting to 145 pounds is an insane weight cut for a guy Conor’s size, and he already did everything he needed to do in that division. He knocked out Jose Aldo faster than you can say Khabib Nurmagomedov (spoiler alert), and he beat Max Holloway in 2013, who is widely considered the most dangerous contender in the division. The UFC allowed McGregor hold the featherweight belt hostage for long enough, now it’s time they tell him to give it up and move on. Tell him that if he ever wants to go back down to 145, they’ll give him a shot to get his belt back, but until then, it’s time to let Conor McGregor and the featherweight division go their separate ways.

 

There’s already rumors swirling about McGregor taking a shot at the welterweight title, which would give him three belts (because who wants just two championship belts). But Conor had enough trouble beating Nate Diaz at 170, he has no business fighting Tyron Woodley. And he’s never going to fight Floyd Mayweather in any platform other than social media, so lets just end that discussion right now. The only way Mayweather is willing to fight McGregor is in a straight up boxing match, and Conor has absolutely no business doing that.

 

Conor McGregor doesn’t need to get cute with his next fight. He doesn’t need to jump to another division, or another sport, or convince some washed up star to come out of retirement, or fight Nate Diaz for a third time. All he needs to do is look at the top two contenders in the division, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson.

 

Nurmagomedov

 

Both Tony Ferguson, who has won nine straight UFC fights, and Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is 24-0 in his MMA career, have great cases to land the title shot against McGregor. Neither would be an easy out, but Nurmagomedov’s well-balanced skill set, size and power, and incredible wrestling make him a very difficult matchup for McGregor. Khabib might actually be the one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, he just hasn’t had a chance to prove it yet.

 

If Conor wants to satisfy all the hardcore MMA fans and prove just how good he is against the best competition, Khabib Nurmagomedov is the fight. Then Tony Ferguson can fight Nate Diaz with the assumption that the winner gets the next title shot. Although you know what they say about assumptions, and Conor McGregor loves to make asses out of people, just ask Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez.

 

There’s really no predicting what the UFC or Conor McGregor will do at any time, but let’s hope this time they do the right thing for the sport, and book a fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov.

 

 


Kaepernick is starting, and still protesting. Deal with it.

Written by :
Published on : October 14, 2016

 

 

This NFL season has been as much about protest as it has been about football. San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, brought the NFL to the forefront of a major civil rights discussion when he decided to sit for the national anthem in the preseason. Kaepernick claimed he was not going to “stand up and show pride for a country that oppresses black people and people of color.” Kaepernick specifically brought attention to the police brutality against black people and people of color. “There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

 

Immediately after Kaepernick’s protest, there was a waive of negative reactions accusing him of disrespecting the military. But Kaepernick quickly debunked this, saying “I have great respect for the men and women that fought for this country,” making it clear that his protest has nothing to do with the military. After all, it is the U.S. national anthem, not the U.S. military anthem. He’s been clear from the beginning that he is protesting one specific issue he has with the country he lives in. A country that’s best attribute is that it gives its citizens the freedom to speak their minds and stand up for important causes. Kaepernick even decided to change his approach and take a knee instead of sitting for the national anthem to continue supporting his cause while showing respect to the military.

 

 

Many NFL players have joined Kaepernick in his protest, and many others have said they respect his cause and right to protest, but they still choose to stand in respect for their country. All of the above are very reasonable reactions. But there have been many other unreasonable reactions, mostly from people who don’t want to think about the idea that racism and police brutality against black people are real problems, and would rather redirect the discussion by arguing that his protest is offensive or troublesome for reasons completely unrelated to race.

 

Exhibit A: Trent Dilfer.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, Trent Dilfer is the worst quarterback ever to win a Super Bowl, riding the heels of a Ravens defense that was one of the best in NFL history. Now he makes a living screaming into the camera at ESPN while veins pop out of his perfectly round bald head, as he harshly criticizes players that are much better than he ever was. Dilfer’s issue was not that Kaepernick was anti-American, or anti-military, but that Kaepernick is a “backup quarterback.” Dilfer claims a backup quarterback’s job is to “be quiet, and sit in the shadows, and get the starter ready to play week one.” Funny coming from a guy who left football to talk for a living when he was no longer wanted as a starter or backup quarterback by any team in the NFL. Kaepernick quickly fired back at Dilfer, appropriately labeling his comments as “ridiculous.” Kaepernick explained, “You are telling me that my position as a backup QB and being quiet is more important than people’s lives.” This is just a small sample of Kaepernick’s verbal beatdown of Dilfer.

 

Dilfer’s off-base concept was echoed by Lowell Cohn of the Santa Rosa Press – Democrat. Cohn is a longtime whiney curmudgeon, and terrible sportswriter, who has been attempting to smear Kaepernick since he began his protest, with weekly factless articles overselling the idea that Kaepernick has somehow had a negative impact on his team. In a press conference in September, Cohn tried to force 49ers coach Chip Kelly into belittling Kaepernick’s cause. Kelly firmly denied Cohn’s efforts, while somehow managing to keep his cool during Cohn’s extreme dickishness. The exchange, as well as Lowell Cohn’s impressive level of unprofessionalism, can be seen here:

 

 

Yes Chip, that is the great thing about this country. But like Trent Dilfer, Cohn tried to hide behind the safety net of claiming he respects Kaepernick’s cause, but… he should be more focused on football instead. Yes, if only Martin Luther King had focused more on sports the world would be a better place… No, I’m not saying Colin Kaepernick is MLK, but he has made it clear throughout this process that he is dedicated to an important cause. But people like Trent Dilfer and Lowell Cohn continue to argue that his fight for human rights is overshadowed by his lack of devotion to football, despite the fact that Chip Kelly and 49ers CEO Jed York have praised Kaepernick for bringing attention to an important issue, and for his football work ethic.

 

In fact, Chip Kelly announced this week that Kaepernick will take over as the 49ers starting quarterback on Sunday. So obviously his devotion to football has been strong enough to win back the starting job for one of the most iconic franchises in the NFL. It looks like Trent Dilfer and Lowell Cohn will have to come up with new reasons to disrespect Kaepernick’s protest.

 

If disrespect is what you’re looking for, look no further than Donald Trump. After Kaepernick called Trump “openly racist,” which is hard to argue, since blatant racism has pretty much been his entire political platform, Trump responded by saying, “maybe he should find a country that works better for him.” The great thing about America is, he doesn’t have to. He can stay right here, love his country, but still exercise his right to protest. It’s kind of ironic that a man who is running for president with the slogan “Make America Great Again,” suggesting that our country isn’t great, and constantly bashing our current president, is telling someone peacefully protesting a very important issue that he should leave this country if he doesn’t like it.

 

 

So if that’s how Trump feels, maybe he should take his own advice. If America is really in such a terrible state, and the president is really such a disgrace, do what you just told Kaepernick to do, and get the hell out! Otherwise, deal with the fact that people in this country are allowed to voice their issues with the government, the police, or any other problems they have, even if those people aren’t old white racist billionaires.

 

The most recent angry old white person with harsh words for Colin Kaepernick was Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Ginsberg, who has spent much of her life on the forefront of women’s rights issues in America, called Kaepernick’s form of protest “dumb and disrespectful,” in an interview with Katie Couric for Yahoo Global News. “I would have the same answer if you asked me about flag burning. I think it’s a terrible thing to do.” Ginsberg continued to condemn Kaepernick and other NFL players who have exercised their right to protest by sitting or kneeling for the national anthem, but refused to address the race issues they are actually protesting.

 

Colin Kaepernick had a strong response to Ginsberg, as he has to all of his detractors, saying, “it is disappointing to hear a Supreme Court Justice call a protest against injustices and oppression ‘stupid’… the flag is just a piece of cloth and I am not going to value a piece of cloth over people’s lives.” I never thought we would see the day that an NFL player would be schooling a Supreme Court Justice and a presidential candidate on human rights issues, but here we are.

 

 

It’s time to start respecting the fact that Colin Kaepernick has a great reason to be protesting. He has made it clear that the only part of America he is protesting is police brutality against black people and people of color. His message is not that all police are bad, but that police who use unnecessary violence need to be held accountable. It’s possible to admit this is a problem and still support the police, just like it’s possible to want your head coach fired but still be a fan of your team.

 

And it’s important that we acknowledge that white privilege exists and that people of color deal with much more difficulties in America than white people do. That doesn’t mean white people never have to struggle in America, it doesn’t mean that your accomplishments are less significant if you’re white, and it doesn’t mean you have to spend your entire life apologizing for your race. No one is asking for that. Just try keep it in perspective and be respectful of what Colin Kaepernick and many others are standing for. Can you honestly say he doesn’t have a point? Can you truly tell yourself that America doesn’t have a problem with police brutality against black people?

 

 

If you have an intelligent comment on this discussion, I think you should feel free to express it no matter what your race or background is, which is exactly what I’m trying to do now. But if you really want to join the discussion that Colin Kaepernick is trying to encourage, then join that discussion. The discussion about police brutality against black people in America. Don’t hide behind the anti-military argument, or the anti-flag argument, or the devotion to football argument, or anything else that detracts from his cause.

 

This Sunday, when Kaepernick takes back his job as the 49ers starting quarterback, he’ll be the focal point of the NFL. Unfortunately many people will try to tie the relevance of his protest to his success on the football field, where the cards are stacked against him playing for a 1-4 team that’s in rebuilding mode. But Kaepernick’s cause is much more important than football, and win or lose, starter or backup, he’s using his fame to stand up for something he thinks is important. He’s willing to take all the controversy, criticism and anger being thrown his way, and he’s continuing to fight for his cause. I think that’s something everyone should be able to respect.

 

 


Tebow and Punk: Don’t quit your day job… whatever that is…

Written by :
Published on : September 17, 2016

 

One is a Jesus-obsessed former college football star who couldn’t cut it in the pros. Now he’s switching to baseball, a sport he hasn’t played since high school and wasn’t very good at to begin with…

 

The other is a pro-wrestling superstar in his late 30s who’s sick of people telling him his sport is “fake.” Now he’s going off script and stepping out of the ring and into the octagon to fight in the UFC!

 

It sounds like the plot of a terrible 90s buddy comedy, but those are actually two of the biggest stories in sports right now, whether or not they deserve to be. Tim Tebow, the Heisman-winning Florida Gators quarterback, is taking a shot at baseball after he finally came to terms with the fact that his NFL career is over. And CM Punk, once one of the biggest stars in the WWE, made his much anticipated UFC debut on Saturday night. It went about as well as I expect Tebow’s baseball career to…

 

 

You may be old enough to remember the great Bo Jackson, an NFL Pro-Bowler and MLB All-Star who serves as the gold standard of dual-sport athletes. If you’re REALLY old, you may remember Jim Thorpe, who won two Olympic gold medals in track and field, and played pro football, baseball and basketball. I’m assuming the practice schedules were a little more flexible in those days…

 

Two problems here: The times have changed, and to be a successful pro athlete in this era, you have to be completely devoted to one sport from childhood until retirement. Also, Tim Tebow and CM Punk are not Bo Jackson and Jim Thorpe. Jackson and Thorpe didn’t fail at their primary sport, then try to arrogantly jump back into a sport they were mediocre at in high school. Jackson and Thorpe didn’t get a chance to go pro in a sport they had never tried because they were famous entertainers who played pro athletes on TV. At the end of the day, this is just one big publicity stunt. Well, two big publicity stunts, but you get the idea…

 

For as much credit as he gets for being a clean-cut, good ol’ Christian boy, Tim Tebow loves being the center of attention. For most of his adult life, he was a constant topic in sports media headlines. At Florida, Tebow was one of the most dominant players in the history of college football, winning a Heisman trophy and two National Championships. After stepping into a starting role his rookie year in the NFL, Tebow showed flashes of greatness (or at least goodness), and threw a game-winning touchdown pass in a playoff game, giving the loyal alliance of Tebow fans a lazy argument for why he should still be a starting NFL quarterback. But his somewhat encouraging rookie year was littered with red flags, none more glaring than his awful 50% completion percentage (which was followed up by an even more atrocious 46.5% in his second season with Denver).

 

 

After being traded by the Broncos, benched by the Jets, refusing offers to change positions or sign with a CFL team (because he takes too much pride in being a shitty NFL quarterback), Tim Tebow returned to his college roots by joining the SEC Network as an analyst. Four years removed from an NFL roster, and beginning to accept the fact that he sucks at football (He won a playoff game! And Rex Grossman went to a Super Bowl. Give it up Tebow fans), Tebow was upset that he was’t getting any undeserved attention, so he decided to arrange a publicity stunt and announce his intention to play major league baseball. So not only is Tebow’s arrogance level so high that he scoffs at playing in the CFL, or switching positions in the NFL, it’s so high that he thinks he can go pro in a sport that he hasn’t played in over ten years. The force is strong with this one.

 

Tebow insists this is not a publicity stunt and he is “all about baseball.” Of course any team that signs him would need to allow him to continue his broadcasting job on the side, and he’s already selling autographed bats on his website for $175 a pop, but those are just things that you do when you’re a minor league baseball player fighting for a shot in the bigs. Like he said, “all about baseball.”

 

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In an attempt to boost ticket sales at Columbia Fireflies, or Brooklyn Cyclones games, and sell a few thousand “Tebow” jerseys during a spring training stint that will likely make Michael Jordan look like Ken Griffey Jr, the Mets have signed Tim Tebow to a minor league contract. Of course, the Mets official reason for signing Tebow was an “opportunity to associate with excellence.” They went to the World Series last year, but that’s nothing compared to signing a washed up college football star.

 

I know, this isn’t really a big deal. We shouldn’t get too excited, or too angry about it. Tim Tebow will look lousy in the minors, bat under .200, and hit one big home run that all his fans will overreact to. He’s a winner! He’ll get his name back in the press, where he likes it, and when the Mets decide it’s time to stop parading this failed football player around as a real baseball player, Tebow will say something like, “It was a humbling experience. I gave it my all and I have no regrets. I just want to thank my lord and savior Jesus Christ for giving me this great opportunity,” and it’ll all be over… But I can’t help but be a little irked when I see the updated version of Tim Tebow’s wikipedia page:

 

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Is he though? Is he?

 

While Tebow’s publicity stunt is disingenuous both on his and the Mets behalf, CM Punk’s publicity stunt is really only disingenuous on the UFC’s behalf. You may think it’s a bit odd that I’m referring to him as CM Punk and not his real name, which apparently is Phil Brooks. Well the UFC didn’t bill him as Phil Brooks, his real name, as they have every other fighter in UFC history, they billed him as CM Punk. After the UFC decided to sign a 37-year old WWE wrestler with virtually no martial arts experience to the most prestigious mixed martial arts promotion in the world, one would think they would start using his real name instead of billing him in his wrestling character nickname. But Dana White and the UFC have often embraced the publicity stunt aspect of their sport, which is why Dan Henderson is fighting for a championship at age 63 after losing his last 21 fights (note to self: fact check those numbers).

 

Despite the UFC treating this like a total sideshow, CM Punk went about his business the right way, unlike Tim Tebow. Punk did a few initial press conferences, “Yeah, I know people are going to think it’s a joke, but I’m taking this shit seriously, and I’m gonna put in the work.” Something like that, I’m paraphrasing… Then he went away for about two years, stayed fairly quiet, went out of character, took the shit seriously and put in the work, linking up with veteran trainer Duke Roufus who has led many UFC stars to victory. He did the necessary promotions leading up the fight, did a few TV specials, but for the most part, he stopped being a pro wrestler, and did everything in his power to become a pro fighter.

 

 

He walked away from making millions for pretending to fight other pretend fighters, to take on the challenge of actually fighting the best fighters in the world. For that alone, he deserves a lot of respect. Sure, he got his ass kicked and submitted in the first round without landing a single strike, so it may not have showed up in his performance, but he took the shit seriously! After his loss to Mickey Gall on Saturday, hopefully he learned he seriously shouldn’t be doing this shit.

 

Basically, Punk’s fight showed us exactly how Tim Tebow’s baseball career will go. In both Tebow and Punk’s case, they are being handed an opportunity to do something they have no business doing based solely on their fame. The difference is, Punk was inspired to challenge himself, Tebow was inspired to get his name in the headlines again. Where Tebow is only risking a few minor league strikeouts and spring training errors, Punk risked getting brutally beaten by a professional ass-kicker. So if I had to pick a winner of this publicity-stunt-off, I’d go with the guy who just got his ass kicked, CM Punk. But Tebow was once actually great at an actual sport, so he has that… I’m not saying wrestling isn’t a sport… but it is scripted television…

 

Either way, Jim Thorpe and Bo Jackson are probably rolling in their graves… Well Jim Thorpe is rolling in his grave. Bo Jackson is alive and well. He’s probably rolling in a deer hunting blind in Alabama. Or maybe Thorpe and Jackson are smiling down from heaven, knowing they are still the greatest multi-sport athletes who ever lived… Again, Bo Jackson is NOT dead, it just makes for a more dramatic ending.

 

 


What’s next for McGregor? Diaz 3? Mayweather?! WWE?!?!

Written by :
Published on : August 23, 2016

 

As the dust settles from Conor McGregor’s majority decision victory over Nate Diaz in the best fight of the year, it’s time for the most fun part of being a UFC fan: playing matchmaker. What seems logical for McGregor, what UFC president Dana White wants for McGregor, and what McGregor wants for McGregor can be very different things. Before the fight, Dana White said Conor’s next fight would be defending his featherweight belt in a rematch against Jose Aldo. But after the fight, White also offered McGregor the option of fighting Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight championship, with the stipulation that McGregor would have to give up his featherweight belt.

 

But after achieving a level of global superstardom that no UFC fighter had previously reached, the hard-hitting, trash-talking Irishman now has the bargaining power to basically get whatever he wants, as long as he shows up to press conferences. He can even be late, he simply has to show up at some point during the press event… So what will be Conor’s next move?

 

Nate Diaz: Complete the Trilogy

 Think Diaz wants another shot?

 

In the post fight interview, McGregor offered Diaz a third fight to settle their score once and for all. Since this victory wasn’t nearly as decisive as Diaz’s second round submission in their first fight, it’s understandable that Conor feels there is still unfinished business between the two. After this epic battle, who wouldn’t want to see them fight again? McGregor’s one term was that the fight would have to take place at 155 pounds instead of 170. But when does Conor want this fight to take place? In the final pre-fight press conference, he said their would be a trilogy between the rival fighters, but that it would not be McGregor’s next fight. With the excitement still in the air, it’s very possible that all the options below will have to yield to Diaz once again before cashing in on their big McPayday.

 

Jose Aldo: Defend the Belt

 Does Jose Aldo want some more?

 

Much to the chagrin of Jose Aldo and Dana White, I don’t see this happening for two reasons. First, Conor hasn’t fought at 145 pounds in more than nine months, taking two fights at 170 since. He was always very big for a featherweight and had to undergo extreme weight cuts before fights. He probably feels much healthier fighting in higher weight classes. Second, after knocking Aldo out in 13 seconds in their first fight, McGregor has the bragging rights to walk away from the division for good. While the Aldo vs. McGregor rematch would definitely be a huge draw, I think the main reason Dana White wants McGregor to come back down to featherweight is to setup a superfight between Conor and current bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz. There’s a lot of intrigue in Conor dropping back down to 145 to defend his belt, but I just don’t expect him to grind out that insane weight cut ever again.

 

Eddie Alvarez: Get a New Belt

 This guy and McGregor together could be ratings gold.

 

Eddie Alvarez was relatively unknown before knocking out Rafael dos Anjos for the lightweight championship in July. The amazing performance, along with his humble, relatable personality, has instantly turned Alvarez into a fan favorite. Alvarez immediately pointed to the winner of the McGregor vs. Diaz rematch as his preferred next opponent. Alvarez even jabbed at McGregor and Diaz, saying that would be an “easy fight” after facing more difficult opponents like dos Anjos and Anthony Pettis in his most recent bouts.

 

Alvarez has made no secret of the fact that he’s chasing the money, and he knows that fighting McGregor is the best way to get paid. While Eddie Alvarez doesn’t quite have the star power of the other guys on this list, it’s the best way for McGregor to land a title fight without cutting back down to 145 pounds. Since 155 seems to be Conor’s preferred weight, I think will be his next fight. Alvarez is a much better public speaker than Nate Diaz, and while he’s not the seasoned trash-talker that McGregor is, he could certainly hold his own with Conor at press conferences and interviews. By the time fight night arrives, Alvarez will be a UFC star. Well, co-star… we all know who the star is.

 

Floyd Mayweather Jr.: Boxer vs. Fighter

 Does Conor really want to test Floyd?

 

The rumors of Floyd Mayweather Jr. fighting Conor McGregor in a boxing superfight have been floating around for almost a year. Both Mayweather and McGregor have expressed interest in an event that would likely break every pay-per-view record held by any boxing or MMA event in the history of the world. So why not make it happen? Think about how difficult it is to negotiate with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Now think about how difficult it is to negotiate with Dana White AND Conor McGregor. Since McGregor is under contract with UFC, any deal would have to be agreed upon by White and the promotion. Mayweather, White, and McGregor all putting their signatures on the same contract seems nearly impossible.

 

Even if it did happen, it would be a huge disappointment. Mayweather knows the boxing ring is his happy place where he won’t have to worry about kicks, elbows, or takedowns. He knows he can dust off the gloves, come out of retirement and dance around Conor for 12 rounds, tapping away and scoring punches for a unanimous decision victory in a fight that would probably come up short of Mayweather vs. Pacquiao and Suicide Squad in entertainment value. In all honesty, McGregor probably knows this too, but he also knows he’ll make more money than most of us even dream about. In the end, this will be something we continue to speculate for the next few years. It will result in plenty of verbal bullets fired back and forth between Mayweather and McGregor, but it will probably never happen.

 

The entire WWE roster: Royal Rumble!

 The 1988 Royal Rumble. Just imagine Conor in that mess!

 

Conor has become an enemy of every wrestler in the WWE by calling them things like—I’ll try to keep it PC here—weak men… and threatening to “slap the heads off their entire roster.” McGregor didn’t start trashing pro wrestlers just to piss them off. It’s a all part of his masterplan. After going through a brutal fight like Conor just did, any fighter has to think about how long they want to keep putting their body through this punishment. Conor McGregor already has the perfect persona for WWE. If anything he’ll have to tone it down a bit… And if I had to choose between a career in getting punched and kicked in the head for a living, or a career in pretending to get punched and kicked in the head for a living, I’d probably lean towards the latter.

 

Don’t get excited wrestling fanboys, McGregor is probably far from finished in the octagon, but he did hint that some of his options “might not be this sport.” I don’t think he’s trying out for the Knicks anytime soon. If he’s not talking about Mayweather, maybe he’s considering a brief hiatus from MMA to jump into Royal Rumble (which I just googled to confirm it is still a thing), January 22 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, and give every one of these “pussy” wrestlers a chance to settle the score once and for all! Every man for himself! Screw it, every man vs. Conor! As long as they guarantee McGregor the victory in the contract…

 

 

Conor McGregor is so big he can do whatever he wants at this point. Only time will tell which fight he will choose, but whatever he does, he will do it the only way he knows: Conor’s way!

 

 


What’s next for UFC 200 winners?

Written by :
Published on : July 15, 2016

 

 

The UFC held their biggest event to date over the weekend with UFC 200, marking the promotions 200th pay-per-view card. UFC President and figurehead, Dana White, made sure to stack this card like no other before, but ran into a series of misfortunes when it came to the main event. Originally, the plan was to headline 200 with a rematch between legendary trash-talking Irishman, Conor McGregor, and legendary face-slapping American, Nate Diaz. But when McGregor refused to attend promotional events, the UFC stood their ground and pulled the fight from the card, replacing it with a rematch between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones for the Light Heavyweight championship.

 

This was actually a more deserving main event, since Jones has proven to be the best fighter in the world and Cormier is also one of most accomplished athletes in the UFC. Not to mention these two have a longstanding hatred for each other that far predates the McGregor/Diaz rivalry. But this headliner also fell apart just days before the event when Jones failed a drug test administered by USADA.

 

The card was saved by Anderson Silva, who held down the title of greatest fighter alive for several years before Jon Jones took over. Silva offered his services to fight Daniel Cormier on just two days notice, allowing UFC 200 to boast five epic fights on the main card as they originally planned. While Silva is definitely past his prime, and it seemed very unlikely he’d beat Cormier on short notice, this was still an exciting matchup between two all-time greats. For MMA fans, it was kind of like learning your girlfriend who you want to marry is breaking up with you, but the cougar who lives across the street is down for casual sex. While the event didn’t really produce a classic fight, there were some very impressive performances and each fight had major implications for the future of the promotion. So what’s next for the big winners of UFC’s massive event?

 

Cain Velasquez

 

For most of his career, Cain Velasquez was a nearly unbeatable heavyweight. But in recent years, he’s struggled to stay in the octagon. Due to a series of injuries, Velasquez’ only fight since 2013 was a disappointing loss to Fabricio Werdum last summer at UFC 188. Leading up to his return to MMA, fans didn’t know if the once dominant Cain Velasquez would show up. He most certainly did. Cain annihilated Travis Browne, taking control of the fight early and scoring a knockout in the finals seconds of round one. Now we know the Cain Velasquez that once ruled the heavyweight division is back. As long as he can stay healthy, Cain should get the next title shot against the winner of the Stipe Miocic vs. Alistair Overeem fight, set to take place in Miocic’s hometown of Cleveland in September. Both Miocic and Overeem are excellent fighters in their own right, but no one in the UFC is stopping a full-strength Cain Velasquez from reclaiming his heavyweight belt.

 

Jose Aldo

 

Like Cain Velasquez, Jose Aldo was recently considered one of the best fighters in the UFC. Aldo had a stranglehold on the featherweight belt for almost four years before he was knocked out by Conor McGregor last December, in a fight that lasted all of 13 seconds. An ill-timed bathroom break meant $60 down the drain! Aldo clearly let McGregor’s months of hard trash-talking get in his head, as he charged Conor off the opening bell and was uncharacteristically careless. But Jose Aldo put the McGregor knockout behind him on Saturday night, and took full control of Frankie Edgar, who came in with a five-fight winning streak. Aldo stuffed all of Edgar’s takedown attempts, kept the fight in the middle of the octagon, and consistently landed clean strikes to earn a unanimous decision victory.

 

Aldo now holds the interim featherweight belt, which means his next fight should be the rematch against McGregor that he wants so badly. McGregor is taking a break from defending his featherweight championship to fight Nate Diaz two weight classes up, because McGregor wants to prove a point and McGregor gets what he wants (except UFC 200 I guess). As long as Conor is still interested in cutting back down to 145 pounds to defend his belt, that will be Aldo’s next fight. If for some reason McGregor decides to move on from the featherweight division and continues to fight in bigger weight classes, he would have to give up his belt, and Aldo’s champion status would change from interim to full-blown. In this case, Aldo would likely face Max Holloway, who has won his last nine fights in the division. Regardless, based on what we saw Saturday night, Jose Aldo and Cain Velasquez are looking like dominant fighters once again.

 

Daniel Cormier

 

Daniel Cormier is the Rodney Dangerfield of the UFC. He’s beaten everyone in his path except for Jon Jones, who is widely considered one of the best fighters in MMA history. Yet for some reason, fans never show him any respect. He was booed after beating Anderson Silva, which was partially because UFC fans love Silva, and partially because it was not a very exciting fight. But Cormier did his job. He smothered Silva for three rounds, using his expert wrestling skills to prevent the dangerous striking Brazilian from landing big blows. For all the fans complaining that DC is boring, his job is to win, which is what he does. And he has won some very exciting fights. If you want proof, watch Cormier’s epic battle against Alexander Gustafsson, where DC stood on his feet with the much taller striker and beat Gustafsson at his own game, earning a unanimous decision victory in one of the best fights of 2015. Cormier is becoming the Tim Duncan of UFC. He’s not the most exciting guy, he’s not the most popular, but he has quietly become one of the all-time greats and he has always gone about his business with class.

 

After defeating Anderson Silva, Cormier said his next opponent should be the winner of the Anthony Johnson vs. Glover Teixeira fight on the UFC 202 card in August. Whoever wins that fight would be the most worthy contender for Cormier, assuming Jon Jones is temporarily out of the picture, but beating Jones is the only thing left on DC’s bucket list before he hangs up the gloves. Unfortunately, Jones could be facing a two-year suspension. At 37, it’s hard to tell if Cormier is going to hang around long enough to get another shot at his biggest foe.

 

Brock Lesnar

 

Fake wrestler turned real fighter, Brock Lesnar, caused a major stir during UFC 199, when the announcement came out that he would be returning to the octagon for UFC 200. Lesnar’s brief, but exciting, previous run with UFC came to an end over four years ago after suffering consecutive knockout losses to Cain Velasquez and Alistair Overeem. Before those losses, Lesnar shocked the MMA world by knocking out the great Randy Couture for the UFC heavyweight championship. He then followed up that victory with two title defenses. Now returning at 38, fans weren’t sure what Brock Lesnar they would see. Facing Mark Hunt, who’s known for his heavy punches and walk-off knockouts, Lesnar came in with a patient approach. He eventually took control of the fight by taking Hunt down several times and scoring shots in the ground-and-pound as he went on to win by unanimous decision. While Hunt was a top ten heavyweight and certainly not an easy out, Lesnar still looked a little rusty. Despite his god-like stature, his strikes weren’t doing a ton of damage for UFC heavyweight standards.

 

With his WWE stardom, Brock Lesnar is quite possibly the biggest draw in the sport. This explains why the same Las Vegas crowd that booed Daniel Cormier for smothering his opponent with wrestling techniques cheered wildly when Lesnar did the exact same thing. Former champion Junior Dos Santos called out Lesnar on Twitter, looking to cash in on a huge payday, but that’s a fight Brock would be wise to avoid. If Lesnar puts his massive foot down and says he won’t fight again unless it’s a title shot, the UFC would likely give it to him, knowing Brock’s return to the fighting could be brief and they want to take full advantage of it.

 

The smartest move for Lesnar, and he is a smarter than your average muscle head, would be to schedule a fight with Derrick Lewis, who just beat Roy Nelson in a controversial decision two nights before UFC 200, or the winner of the upcoming Josh Barnett vs. Andrei Arlovski bout. Derrick Lewis does have scary knockout power, but Roy Nelson (known for his incredible chin and even more incredible beer belly) was able to expose Lewis’ lack of takedown defense and endurance, which could give Lesnar the edge. Arlovski and Barnett are both seasoned MMA vets, but like Brock, they are both in their late 30s and their best days are behind them. Much like Conor McGregor, Brock gets what Brock wants. In this case, Brock would be wise to take another winnable fight before messing around with the guys in the top five.

 

Amanda Nunes

 

The only shocker on the main card came in the main event, as Amanda Nunes defeated Miesha Tate by first-round submission for the women’s bantamweight championship. Although we shouldn’t be too surprised, since Tate shocked the world when she beat Holly Holm last March, who had just shocked the world even more by knocking out the seemingly unbeatable Ronda Rousey last November. The constant passing of the belt is starting to become a trend in the women’s bantamweight division. At 28, Nunes is in her athletic prime and she’s riding a four-fight winning streak, so maybe she’ll be the one to break that trend. The question is, who will she face?

 

Dana White has made it clear that Ronda Rousey will fight for the title as soon as she’s ready to return from her personal hiatus that involves remaking Roadhouse and terrifying Paige VanZant. But Rousey seems to be taking her time, and Nunes probably isn’t a big enough draw to bring her back any faster. That leaves Nunes with two options: Holly Holm, assuming Holm wins her upcoming fight against Valentina Shevchenko later this month, and Juliana Pena, who just beat Cat Zingano on the UFC 200 undercard. Holm is the bigger name, due to the Roadhouse-style beatdown she put on Ronda Rousey, which means that’s bigger payday. This is also what the UFC wants, because if Holm gets the belt back, Rousey will most likely come back for revenge! (I wanted to make another Roadhouse reference here, but it wasn’t exactly a revenge movie…) As long as Holly Holm takes care of Shevchenko, she will be in position to face Amanda Nunes for the title. If Holm gets her belt back, it’s Swayze time! I mean Rousey time!

 

 


How does joining the Warriors affect Durant’s legacy?

Written by :
Published on : July 8, 2016

 

Like many of you, I was expecting to wake up on the 4th of July and see that Kevin Durant had re-signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Instead, after I rolled out of bed and grabbed my phone and opened my ESPN app (because the SBS app hasn’t launched yet), I rubbed my eyes and did a double take and saw that Durant actually did sign a two year deal to play for the Golden State Warriors. This came as somewhat of a shock. When the rumors came out during the regular season that the Warriors were the biggest threat to steal Durant from Oklahoma City, it seemed like a pipe dream. But that pipe dream became a pipe reality, and the Warriors pulling off such an unlikely deal left me with several questions…

 

If it weren’t for two of the most incredible comebacks in NBA playoff history, do the Warriors land Durant?

 
When the Thunder took a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Finals against the Warriors, it looked like Oklahoma City had the series sealed up. But the Warriors fought back, winning the next three games to get back to the NBA Finals. All three of those wins were by single-digits. All three came down to the final minutes, with the Thunder having several opportunities to close out the series, in particular in Game 6 when they blew an 8-point fourth quarter lead on their home court. In that fourth quarter, Steph Curry and Klay Thompson combined for seven threes, while Durant and Russell Westbrook gave up six turnovers.

 
In the Finals, the Warriors got a taste of their own medicine, as the Cavaliers orchestrated an even more shocking comeback after also trailing three game to one, then winning the next three led by unbelievable performances from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to give the city of Cleveland it’s first championship in 52 years.

 

 

Much like the Thunder in Western Conference Finals, the Warriors certainly showed they could beat the Cavs, they were just outplayed by a very slim margin over the course of seven games. It’s hard to think that Durant and the Warriors would make such major decisions based on losing by such a slim margin. But it’s even harder to imagine that Kevin Durant would have joined the Warriors if he and the Thunder had just defeated them, or that the Warriors would risk messing with a team that has such great chemistry to spend a ton of money on Durant if they had just won their second straight NBA title. If it weren’t for Splash Brothers shooting the lights out in the 4th quarter of Game 6 in the West Finals, OKC’s turnover-filled collapse in the same game, LeBron’s amazing block and Kyrie’s amazing three in Game 7, along with several other incredible events that led to slim margins of victory, Durant would still be wearing a Thunder uniform next season.

 

Was Durant move more about hurting Thunder than helping Warriors?

 
After relying on an amazing comeback to beat the Thunder, then losing to Cleveland in the Finals, Golden State had a reality check: despite breaking the record for most regular season wins, there was one team in each conference that would pose a serious threat to them for many years to come. The Warriors wanted to do everything they could restore the notion that they are lightyears ahead of any other team in the league. The best way to do that was not only to get the best player available in free agency, but take the best player away from their toughest competition in the Western Conference. Sure, this trade made the Golden State much better, but more importantly, it made Oklahoma City much worse.

 

Does this help or hurt Durant’s legacy?

 
As a player, Durant has every right to sign with whatever team he wants. As a fan, you have every right to lose respect for him as a player. I personally want to see the top players in the league battle against each other rather than join forces and create nearly unbeatable teams. Kevin Durant is one of the three best players in the league and he is good enough to lead his own team to a championship, rather than joining a team that won a championship without him just one year ago and already has the best roster in the NBA, including the two-time MVP.

 

 
Sure, NBA greatness is measured mostly by rings, but many people will see Durant’s potential rings as somewhat tainted by riding the coattails of Curry and the already dominant Golden State squad. Just one championship for Oklahoma City could earn him even more respect than three or four in Golden State, where he will always be viewed as Sideshow Bob instead of Krusty the Clown. Because the Batman and Robin metaphor is just played out… Although Durant never tried to murder anyone, so lets go with Cameron Frye and Ferris Bueller…

 

How is Durant’s decision different than LeBron’s?

 
Naturally there’s comparisons to LeBron leaving Cleveland for Miami. While Durant learned from LeBron’s mistake and made his decision quietly, the real difference here is the supporting cast. In LeBron’s first seven seasons in Cleveland, the Cavs best effort in finding his Cameron Frye was bringing in Mo Williams and a washed up Antwan Jamison. That’s not quite Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka and Enes Kanter.

 
Oklahoma City improved last year’s roster with a great trade on draft day, sending Ibaka to the Orlando Magic in return for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and Domantas Sabonis, who the Magic took with their first round pick. The deal gave OKC a much needed third scorer and ball-handler in Oladipo and the depth to make up for parting with Ibaka. It was widely expected that the Thunder would trade one of their three very talented big men, but no one saw them getting this big of a haul in return. If Durant had decided to return to Oklahoma City, he would have the supporting cast in place to contend for a championship. The same cannot be said for LeBron when he first left Cleveland.

 

What are the Warriors risking?

 
I don’t think they have much to worry about in terms of on-court chemistry. Although they all like to shoot, Curry, Durant, Thompson and Draymond Green are all very unselfish players who don’t seem to be concerned with their numbers taking a minor hit in exchange for winning. The real concern is when the egos start to kick in off the court. The NBA announced today that the projected salary cap for the 2017-18 season is currently $102 million instead of $107 million, which was the previous projection.

 

warriors-trio

 
The Warriors were counting on using every dollar of that initial $107 million (perhaps even more) when they signed Durant, knowing that Steph Curry will hit the free agent market next summer. Curry will obviously demand a massive contract and Durant will likely decline his player option to maximize his earnings as well. There’s no way the Warriors will let Curry get away, and he probably isn’t interested in leaving a team and city that has been so good to him. This means the Warriors could face the dilemma of either accepting Durant as a 1-2 year rental, or essentially gutting their entire bench and completely letting go of their “strength in numbers” identity to retain their big four. Whether or not they can keep this together long term, the Warriors are riding on the logic that it will be worth it while it lasts.

 

Can anyone compete with the Warriors?

 
Probably not. Certainly not in the West, where the Warriors just beheaded the Thunder (I’d throw in a Game of Thrones reference here, but I’m the one guy in America who doesn’t watch the show), the Spurs are getting even older and slower, and the Clippers have done nothing to improve a roster that has already failed to compete with the top teams in the conference. A third straight Finals matchup between the Cavs and Warriors almost seems like a guarantee at this point.

 
It took unbelievable performances by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving to lead Cleveland to their miraculous comeback this year. It could take that and even more next year, which is a lot to ask, even for players of James and Irving’s caliber. For the Cavs to have a serious chance at repeating, they might have to bank on an injury to Curry or Durant, who both have had some injury problems in their careers. Even then, the Warriors still have a good shot at reclaiming their status as NBA Champions. Since we basically already know who will play in the Finals in 2017, it’s pretty hard to get excited about NBA basketball until next June. But that’s only 11 months away…

 

 


Three Key Players in the NBA Finals

Written by :
Published on : June 2, 2016

 

 

If you read my Conference Finals previews, you know that my predictions were pretty damn accurate (not to toot my own horn, whatever the hell that means). I predicted the Warriors in seven, when many NBA experts thought they would beat the Thunder in five or six games. I predicted the Cavaliers would beat the Raptors in five games in the Eastern Conference Finals. It actually took six games for Cleveland to beat Toronto, but the Raptors’ two wins at home were largely due to the Cavs getting Bismack’d, which I also predicted (sort of). My NBA credibility is pretty solid right now. I could just sit back and rest on my laurels, but instead, I’m putting that credibility on the line!

 

The Cleveland Cavaliers vs. the Golden State Warriors. This is the NBA Finals series that the people wanted to see. We were somewhat robbed of it last year, when the Cavs came in shorthanded with no Kevin Love, then lost Kyrie Irving in game one. But this year, both teams are fully healthy and coming in hot. The stakes are huge, as LeBron James and the Cavs have a chance to break Cleveland’s 52-year championship drought. Steph Curry and the Warriors have a chance to cement their place in NBA history with an unbelievable two year run that pays off with back-to-back Larry O’Brien Trophies.

 

In the NBA world, fans and the media like to advertise the finals as superstar vs. superstar (in this case LeBron vs. Curry). But as we’ve seen recently, these guys rise to the occasion in pretty much every game. We know LeBron will dominate in a variety of ways. We know Steph Curry will score a ton of points, as he’s proven that his knee injury is no longer a concern. We know Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson will be great, as they both consistently have been throughout the playoffs. These are knowns. I’m looking at the unknowns. There are three guys who have been very unpredictable lately who need to step it up for their team to win the championship.

 

Kevin Love

Cavaliers at Wizards 11/21/14

 

Kevin Love hasn’t exactly been a model of consistency in his first two seasons with Cleveland. We’ve seen moments of greatness; scoring in the post, stepping out to the baseline and hitting threes, grabbing rebounds, and making amazing outlet passes to LeBron for easy dunks. But at times he lacks confidence and aggression; passing up open shots, failing to get into post scoring position, and shying away from physical battles with intimidating bigs. In the first two rounds of the playoffs, Love did what the Cavs needed him to do, averaging 18.9 points and 12.5 rebounds.

 

In the conference finals, those numbers dropped to 15.2 points and 5.7 rebounds. Love took the bulk of the blame for the Cavs losses in Toronto, shooting 5-23 from the field, for a combined 13 points and 11 rebounds in those two games. Clearly Love was one of the biggest victims of the vicious Bismacking that occurred in the Air Canada Centre. Love has often been the scapegoat when the Cavs struggle, but this could be his chance to get that monkey off his back once and for all. Cleveland can live with mediocre defense from Love, but he can’t be afraid to take open shots and assert himself into the game. If the Cavs are going to win a title, Love needs to be aggressive and be willing to fight Draymond Green for rebounds. Speaking of Draymond Green…

 

Draymond Green

draymond-green-nba-playoffs-los-angeles-clippers-golden-state-warriors-850x560

 

While Green has typically been a great all-around player that Golden State can rely on, he’s coming off a very rough series against Oklahoma City. Green was brilliant in the second round against Portland, boasting 22.2 points, 11.2 rebounds and 7.4 assists per game. But his numbers plummeted to 11.3 points, 8.9 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game against the Thunder.

 

Like Love, Green was at his worst in the first two road games of the conference finals, shooting an atrocious 2-16 from the field. He also failed to be his disruptive self, as he seemed to let the Thunder bigs get in his head, particularly Steven Adams. Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love aren’t nearly as physically intimidating as Steven Adams and Serge Ibaka, but we did see that Green’s confidence can be broken and he can be taken out of games. The margin for error is very small for both teams in this series, and the Warriors won’t be able to win many games if Draymond isn’t playing up to his potential. Golden State is going to need more just bodyslams and kicks to the groin from Green in order to win another championship.

 

J.R. Smith

JRSmith

 

J.R. Smith has never found a shot he didn’t like. In fact, I’m guessing right now, J.R. is somewhere in America taking a contested three with a hand in his face. The Cavaliers, on the other hand, only like the shots that go in. Smith is the epitome of a streaky shooter. When he’s hot, he’s on fire. We’re talking NBA Jam-style on fire. But when he’s cold, he can’t buy a bucket.

 

When these teams met in the finals last year, Smith was coming in hot, averaging 18.0 points and shooting 47.1% from beyond the arc in the conference finals against the Hawks. He then went ice cold (and not the good kind) against the Warriors, averaging 11.5 points and shooting 31.2% from the field. With no Irving or Love, the Cavs were asking way too much out of J.R. Smith. This time around, there won’t be nearly as much pressure on him. Smith’s job is simple, make the good shots, and cut down on the bad ones. When Smith gets in an offensive rhythm, he gives the Cavs one more guy that can handle the ball and create his own shot, taking some pressure off LeBron, Irving and Love. He has a chance to make up for last year’s awful finals performance, and a few big games from J.R. Smith could turn this series heavily in the Cavs favor.

 

When I watched the Finals last year, I felt like the Cavs could’ve beaten the Warriors if they had a full deck. Even as I watched the Cavs meander through this season, at times looking mediocre and firing their head coach midseason, all while the Warriors were putting together the best regular season in NBA history, I still thought Cleveland would eventually figure it out and win a championship. With all due respect to everything Golden State has accomplished over the last two years, I think the Cavaliers are built to beat any team in the NBA in a seven game series, but they are going to need Kevin Love and J.R. Smith to step up in order for that to happen.

 

Cavs in 6.

 

 


3 Improbable ways the Raptors can beat the Cavs

Written by :
Published on : May 17, 2016

 

You may have read my Western Conference Finals preview, highlighting three reasons the Thunder will beat the Warriors, and three reasons the Warriors will beat the Thunder. I’m obviously a man of clear, concise opinions. Well this one is going to be a little different. With my apologies to Drake, I just don’t think the Raptors have a realistic shot to beat the Cleveland Cavaliers. I know, Toronto fans feel like they get no respect. They’re playing up in Canada with no nationally televised games and no one is taking them seriously, even with second best record in the Eastern Conference.

 

But the fact is, you’re going up against a team that has LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Your answer to that is DeMar DeRozan, Kyle Lowry, and Jonas Valanciunas, who’s out for game one and doubtful for game two. Don’t get me wrong, those are good players, but Cleveland has great players. You’re running into a Cavs team that’s playing their best ball since bringing LeBron back to Cleveland and assembling their big three. The Cavs swept their way through the first two rounds with ease, while out-Warriors-ing the Warriors by shooting a ridiculous 46.2% from beyond the arc while knocking down 16.8 three-pointers per game.

 

There’s always one big question for any team preparing for a series against LeBron James: Who’s going to guard him? Toronto’s big offseason free agent acquisition, DeMarre Carroll, will likely take the bulk of this task, as he did as a member of the Hawks last season when they were swept by the Cavs. LeBron averaged 30.3 points, 11.0 rebounds and 9.3 assists in that series (not too shabby). Carroll is an underrated player, and he’s capable of playing the lockdown defender role at times, but that tends to change when the man you’re trying to lock down is LeBron James.

 

I’m not trying to bring you down, Raptors fans. I just see two teams that are on completely different levels right now. Is it possible that the Raptors could knock off the Cavaliers and advance to the NBA Finals? Sure. But a lot of crazy stuff would have to happen to lead to that result. So here it is…

 

 

3 Improbable ways the Raptors can beat the Cavs:

 

1. LeBron retires

LeBron press conference
                                         We just hope he wears that hat to the retirement press conference.

 

LeBron James never really runs into serious injuries, so it might be more likely that he retires before, or during, the Eastern Conference Finals. Maybe he pulls a Michael Jordan and wants to try another sport while he still has some good years left in his body. There’s always been talk that he could play in the NFL. OTAs start in about a week for most teams, so if he wants to take a shot at a football career, now is the time. Or maybe he decides he wants to leave Cleveland again and go back to Miami, but he wants to get it over with before Cavs fans get their championship and become that much more attached. If, by some unforeseen circumstance, LeBron James doesn’t end up playing in the series, the Raptors would have a pretty good shot. Unfortunately, they will likely be facing a Cavaliers team that will feature LeBron James playing a lot of minutes in every game and doing a lot of incredible LeBron James things. This means Cleveland will likely be coasting back into the NBA Finals. Unless…

 

 

2. The Cavs get Bismack’d!

Get Bismack'd!
                                                                                  Get Bismack’d!

 

Ok, I’ll admit, I just wanted to work Bismack’d into an article… But the Raptors backup center, Bismack Biyombo, will actually be a key factor in this series. Not only does he feature one of the best names in the NBA, but he proved he can be a force down low against Miami. When starting center, Jonas Valanciunas, went down in game three with a sprained ankle, Biyombo stepped in admirably. Starting the final four games of the series, Biyombo averaged 11.0 points, 12.0 rebounds, and 2.5 blocks per game.

 

Biyombo has shown he’s up for the challenge before. In the 22 games he started in the regular season, he averaged 12.2 rebounds and 2.0 blocks. He also led the league in Bismacks, but apparently that’s still not an official NBA statistic. He’s an athletic, high energy big man who can rebound on both sides of the court, swat shots, and find ways to get points down low. Sure, it may be overly optimistic to think Bismack Biyombo could be the secret weapon that gives Toronto an edge against Cleveland. But with Valanciunas expected to miss the first game, and likely more, the Raptors will need to rely heavily on their Congolese big man. I’m just hoping he plays well enough to keep his name relevant so I can keep saying Bismack Biyombo. Try it: Bismack Biyombo… Watch out Cleveland, or you might just get Bismack’d!

 

 

3. The Raptors make the Cavs a one-man show

Can they make him do it alone?
                                                              Can they make him do it alone?

 

I’ll admit it, the odds of LeBron James retiring in the middle of the conference finals are very slim. The odds of Bismack Biyombo putting the Raptors on his shoulders and leading them to a major upset over Cleveland might be even slimmer, regardless of how cool his name is. Unless the Raptors are counting on a series of shocking misfortunes to strike the Cavaliers, much like the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant softball team faced, causing Mr. Burns to lose all of his MLB ringers leading up to their big game against Shelbyvillle, Toronto will have to find a way to limit the effectiveness of as many Cavs as possible.

 

They’re not going to stop LeBron, but they can do their best to tempt him into shooting instead of letting him drive to the hole, draw fouls, get dunks and lay-ups, and make amazing passes to open shooters. If they clog up driving and passing lanes and limit LeBron’s ability to rack up assists, he’ll still do some damage in other ways, but it will at least help take guys like J.R. Smith and Channing Frye out of the game. It will also force Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to create offense on their own instead of relying on LeBron’s playmaking abilities.

 

Kyle Lowry can potentially outplay Irving and win the point guard battle, and Love can be mentally taken out of games when he gets frustrated. Bottom line, the Raptors need to do a much better job limiting the production of Cleveland’s ensemble cast (we’ll call them the LeBronnettes) than the Hawks did, and they are certainly capable of doing that. But even if Toronto does turn Cleveland into a one-man show, that one man is still LeBron freaking James! Remember, when Springfield lost all their ringers, they still had one left: Darryl Strawberry. That one man was still able to lead them to victory (I know, Mr. Burns pinch-hit Homer for Strawberry and Homer got beaned with the bases loaded to score the winning run, but that totally ruins my analogy).

 

Cavs in 5.

 

 


3 Reasons the Thunder will beat the Warriors, and vice versa

Written by :
Published on : May 16, 2016

 

 

The Western Conference Finals begin Monday night, but it’s not the matchup everyone was expecting after the Oklahoma City Thunder upset the San Antonio Spurs in the conference semi-finals. The top-seeded Golden State Warriors have been taking care of business with or without two-time MVP Stephen Curry, ousting the Blazers in just five games. While the Warriors are the overwhelming favorites, no one gave the Thunder a shot against the Spurs, so I wouldn’t rule them out against Golden State either. This a series featuring two extremely talented teams with completely different playing styles. There’s a lot of different ways this one could play, so I’ll make a case for both sides. Let’s start with the underdogs…

 

3 reasons the Thunder will upset the Warriors as they did San Antonio:

 

 

1. Durant and Westbrook are locked in

KD Russ

 

After getting blown out by the Spurs in game one, much due to uncharacteristically bad performances by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, the Thunder’s lethal duo bounced back with authority. In games two-through-six, Durant averaged 31 points, while Westbrook put up his usual ridiculous numbers, averaging 27.4 points, 10.8 assists, and 7.4 rebounds. Of course, we all know these two rack up incredible stats, but it was the way they took over the series and continued finding ways to generate offense against the best defensive team in the NBA that made this so impressive.

 

Durant and Westbrook are playing with better rhythm and harmony than ever before. Rarely have these two stayed healthy deep into playoff runs, and when they have, they’ve made it to the conference Finals or beyond. Right now, they are healthy and clicking better than ever. Westbrook is dialing back on the circus shots and over-dribbling, and Durant is proving he can handle the pressure on the biggest stage. While Golden State has quite possibly the best player in the NBA, Oklahoma City is the only team in the league that can truly claim to have two of the best five.

 

2. Size matters

Adams Ibaka

 

After Durant and Westbrook, the Thunder’s next three leading scorers in the playoffs are all traditional big men (power forwards and centers): Serge Ibaka, Steven Adams, and Enes Kanter. Very rare for the current NBA era, where teams are going with smaller, more athletic lineups stacked with three point shooters that can run, spread the floor and hit open shots. While there is certainly a reason to be concerned about OKC’s ability to handle Golden State’s speed and shooting, they should be able to cause equally difficult matchup problems with the post-scoring, shot-blocking and rebounding abilities of their three big men.

 

No matter how tempting it may be for OKC to go small to try to run with the Warriors, they can not beat Golden State at their own game. The Thunder have to play into their own strengths, and that means giving plenty of minutes to Ibaka, Adams and Kanter, often playing two at the same time. They will have to deal with giving up some fast break points in exchange for getting some offensive rebounds and easy post-up baskets, but Oklahoma City has to stay dedicated to beating Golden State with size and physicality.

 

3. Curry’s injuries could still be a problem

Curry hurt

 

While two weeks of rest is plenty for a grade 1 MCL sprain, the fact that the Warriors took such a cautious approach with their superstar, combined with the fact that he missed two games in the first round due to a sprained ankle in the same right leg, suggest that Steph Curry might not be entirely in the clear. Typically when the team favored to win it all sits their best player for two weeks in the playoffs, it’s a somewhat serious injury. Obviously he’s still capable of playing as well as anyone in the league, as proven in games four and five against Portland, but there’s still fear that at any moment he might tweak, twist, or turn something in that pesky right leg again and need to hit the bench for extended time or even miss more games. This wasn’t a major issue against mediocre competition like the Blazers and Rockets, but if Curry isn’t on top of his game against Oklahoma City, the Thunder will be moving on the Finals.

 

C’mon man! We’re talking about the defending NBA Champions, who are fresh off the best regular season in league history. The Warriors are a damn-near unstoppable force, led by back-to-back MVP Steph Curry. You’re just gonna throw out three half-assed reasons on why the Thunder will beat them and say that’s a wrap?!

 

Calm down angry Warriors fan who doesn’t understand the concept of my fair and balanced article. First of all, I’m using my whole ass. And now, without further ado…

 

3 reasons the Warriors will beat the Thunder and get back to the NBA Finals:

 

 

1. Recent history

Golden State

 

The Warriors had the best record in the NBA last season and went on to win the championship. They had the best record in NBA history this year and they coasted through the first two rounds the playoffs, despite missing their best player for much of the run. That player is also just won his second straight MVP award. These things tend to mean something. In this case, it means they deserve to be considered the best team in the NBA, and they should be favored in any series.

 

Sure, Oklahoma City just knocked off a tougher opponent than Golden State has faced in the playoffs this year, which makes the Thunder a little hotter in the “what have you done for me lately” department. But there’s a reason OKC had to face the Spurs in the second round; they were the three seed and the Warriors were the one seed. Golden State won 18 more games than the the Thunder this season. That’s a lot more wins. Even if Oklahoma City somehow bought all of the Lakers wins in the 2015-2016 season, they would still have one less than the Warriors. The Warriors have the much more impressive track record over the last two years, and one impressive series win does not make the Thunder the favorites.

 

2. They have creators

Warriors high five

 

The Thunder’s biggest strength are listed in points 1 & 2 in the section above: They have Durant and Westbrook, and they have three really good big men. But their weakness is just as glaring: lack of players who can handle the ball, create space and get open shots and generate offense for others. It’s nice to have bigs that can get you double-doubles, but those guys generally need help from guards and wings to get them the ball in position to score. In the playoffs, Golden State has six players in the small positions (point guard, shooting guard and small forward) that average over 6 point per game, and that’s not including Draymond Green who plays power forward, but can stretch the floor and do just about everything on a basketball court.

 

Oklahoma City only has three players at the small positions averaging over 6 points per game: Durant (27.4), Westbrook (25.5), and Dion Waiters (9.4). Looking at the assist numbers is even more alarming for Thunder fans, as they only have two players averaging over 2 assists per game in the postseason: Westbrook (10.8) and Durant (3.6). Dion Waiters is their third assist leader with a measly 2 dimes per game. Golden State, meanwhile, has five players averaging over 2 assists per game. The Warriors as a team are dishing out a league-leading 27.1 assist per game to the Thunder’s 20.2 (9th among the 16 teams in the playoffs). The Warriors also have the edge in three point shooting (12.2 per game vs. OKC’s 8.5).

 

What this means (for those of you who haven’t figured it out) is Golden State can move the ball and shoot regardless who’s on the court, giving them the freedom to give Steph Curry, Draymond Green, and Klay Thompson some much needed rest. Oklahoma City on the other hand, will struggle to score and be very turnover prone any time Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook are on the bench. If either of these guys have an off night, or get into early foul trouble, it will be nearly impossible for the Thunder to find a way to win.

 

3. He’s back baby!

curry steph

 

You may have read my article a few weeks ago explaining why Steph Curry’s injury was more serious than the team lead on. While that could still be true, he showed no reason for concern in games four and five against Portland. Curry logged 37 minutes in each contest, the most he’s played since April 5. In game four, he came off the bench, looking rusty for much of the game, until he got hot in the fourth quarter, then got hotter in overtime with an NBA-record 17 points, finishing with 40 in the game. He looked like his usual self again in game five as well, scoring 29 with 11 assists and helping put the Blazers out of their misery. Yes, he just sat out for two weeks with sprained right MCL. Yes, he missed two games before that with a sprained ankle in the same leg. And yes, it’s possible that he’s in a fragile state right now and has some nagging injuries, but he certainly gave us the confidence that he is back to MVP form. He also gave himself another four days of rest by finishing off Portland in just five games.

 

Three of the best players in the world will be on display. Both teams will cause matchup problems for the other: Oklahoma City with their size, and Golden State with their ball movement and ability to spread the floor and shoot. In the end, I think the Golden State will have the edge. They just have more guys at the wing and guard positions that can create offense. The Thunder will demand a little too much out of Durant and Westbrook, and the Warriors will be more consistent and efficient on the offensive end. This could all change depending on the status of Steph Curry’s right leg, but until then, I’m picking the Warriors in seven games in what should be the best series in of 2016 playoffs so far.

 

Enjoy.

 

 


Impact of Curry and Clippers injuries

Written by :
Published on : April 27, 2016

 

 

It has quickly turned into the talk of the NBA playoffs: Golden State Warriors megastar point guard, and soon-to-be back-to-back NBA MVP, Steph Curry, exited Sunday’s game in Houston with a knee injury. On Monday, the Warriors revealed that he sprained his MCL and the team ruled him out for at least two weeks, at which point he will be reevaluated.

 

The fallout from Curry’s knee injury likely won’t take affect in the first round, as Golden State went on to destroy the Rockets 121-94 without him on Sunday and took a 3-1 lead in the series. The Warriors should have no problem finishing off Houston without their best player. In all likelihood, the Warriors could bench their entire starting lineup and still beat the embarrassingly underachieving Rockets.

 

I was in the process of writing an article explaining why the Warriors would need Curry to return at some point in the second round in order to beat the Clippers. But when Chris Paul broke his hand on Monday night in Portland, likely ending his season, the tone of this article changed significantly. Then on Tuesday, in more shocking news, the Clippers announced that all-star forward Blake Griffin would miss the remainder of the playoffs after reaggravating a left quadriceps injury. Now the tone of this article has changed drastically.

 

chris-paul-hand

 

Not only are Chris Paul and Blake Griffin the two most awkwardly funny pitchmen in the NBA, they’re also the two best players on the Clippers. Without Paul and Griffin, and with the series knotted at two games each, the Clippers will probably drop the next two games against the Blazers and see yet another season end disappointingly early.

 

The Warriors may be breathing a slight sigh of relief since the Blazers are a much more beatable foe than the Clippers would be at full strength. Still, this is no gimme for Golden State. I’m not discrediting the Warriors sans Curry, they obviously have a great team. But if you take the best player off of any NBA team, their chances of winning a championship are close to zero, and their chances of winning any playoff series drop significantly (as supported by my prediction of the Clippers crumbling). Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are very good players. But if you remove Steph Curry from that roster, the Warriors go from a team that just set the NBA record for wins in a season, to a team that would probably be the fourth or fifth seed in the Western Conference right now.

 

When Kevin Durant missed most of last season with a foot injury, the Thunder failed to even make the playoffs, despite an MVP-caliber year from Russell Westbrook. This year, Durant stayed healthy and got back to elite form, and Oklahoma City is one of the top four teams in the NBA. It’s a team game, but it’s also a star driven league.

 

KevinDurant hurt

 

It’s hard to predict how this is going to play out for the Warriors, because of how the team is handling Steph Curry’s injury. He was diagnosed with a Grade 1 MCL sprain, which is the least severe type of sprain, and seemed like the best news possible for Warriors fans. But declaring him out for at least two weeks before being reevaluated is a reaction fit for a more severe injury.

 

Houston-based orthopedic surgeon Mark Adickes joined SportsCenter on Monday to discuss the injury. Adickes was surprised the Warriors were ruling Curry out for so long. He explained that typically a player can return within days from a Grade 1 MCL sprain and might not even need to miss a game. Adickes then speculated that Curry may be dealing with a bone bruise, or a more serious injury. And his speculating got me speculating…

 

The second round is scheduled to start May 2, at which point Steph Curry will still be a week away from his reevaluation. If Curry is ready to return as soon as he hits his two week mark, he will likely only miss the first three games of that series. Factoring in the recent bad news from Los Angeles, Golden State should be fine without him for the for the first three or four games against Portland, but they will probably need some help from the Baby-Faced Assassin to finish off the Blazers. And they will definitely need him to be close to 100% to beat the San Antonio Spurs, or the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference Finals.

 

Portland Trail Blazers v Sacramento Kings

 

The NBA Playoffs typically come down the best team that stays healthy. The fact that the Warriors are taking such a cautious approach with Steph Curry tells me there is reason to be concerned. When players suffer serious (or even semi-serious) injuries in the playoffs, they’re rarely able to recover quickly enough to perform at their best. I have a bad feeling that Curry’s injury will linger, forcing him off the court sporadically. There’s also the fear of Curry reaggravating the injury and missing more games, or being shut down for the season.

 

The uncertainty surrounding Steph Curry is enough for me to switch my Western Conference Champion pick from the Warriors to the Spurs. It might seem like I’m overreacting, and sure, I might alter this prediction if Curry shockingly returns in game one of the second round, scores 45 points and shows no sign of being affected by his knee injury. But in the NBA Playoffs, you only go as far as your star players take you. And when the biggest star in the league gets injured, it changes the whole picture.

 

 


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