I’m finally ready to give my take on the matter: the Warriors are Good

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Last night was the exact reason I was fine with the Celtics losing in the Conference Finals. The Cavs played well the majority of the night, and lost by 20. It wasn’t that close. Celtics would have lost by 60. This series is #done. It’s over. There’s not many teams in NBA history that could beat this Warriors team four out of five games, and this year’s Cavs team sure as hell ain’t one of them.

I mean, I don’t even know what else the Cavs can do at this point. I guess they could start by slowing the game down. I have no idea why they’re insisting on playing a million miles and hour against the best fast-break team in 30 years. They just open themselves up to get gashed time and time again. If you’re playing so fast that the only chance you have of winning a single game in this series is gassed in the third quarter, you’re doing something wrong. They could also stop playing Iman Shumpert, like, at all. Everything about him was always overrated because he played in New York, but he’s arguably the worst player in the league. He’s a defensive specialist who can’t guard anybody, and his offense somehow gets worse every season. They could stop throwing lineups that include exactly zero (0) members of the LeBron-Kyrie-Love big 3. But, hey, LeBron likes Tyronn Lue, so who needs a real coach, right? It’s mostly seen as a joke of a question, but are the Cavs actually missing Matthew Dellavedova? He’s not Gary Payton, or anything, but at least he provided some resistance and tried the whole time. Kyrie, who everyone keeps telling me is better than Steph, was absolutely invisible all game. For all the talk of Steph not guarding him, Kyrie doesn’t guard Steph either, even though he “tries” to. Deron Williams might as well be a mannequin on defense. I don’t know what’s going on with J.R. Maybe last year’s carriage of a performance finally turned back into a pumpkin. And the aforementioned Shumpert is bad. Their guard defense is atrocious. LeBron attacks the rim every time, doesn’t get a call, then stands there berating the official as Kevin Durant comes down for an uncontested dunk. Why can’t the Celtics ever face this horrible version of Tristan Thompson? They always get the guy who dominates the boards and commits to defense. All non-LeBron Cavs have totally quit and I’ll be shocked if they win a game this series.

As for the Warriors, I’m still wrestling with how I feel about them. This is one of the greatest team ever, and probably the best since the ’96 Bulls. But they’re the most widely reviled team this side of the Patriots. People hate that Durant pulled the ultimate ring-chasing move. People hate their antics, lead by Steph and Draymond. People hate the new-fangled 3-point shot and how “soft” they are (despite the fact that they have the best defense in the league and the fact that they shoot just as well at the rim as from deep). I’ve mentioned this before, but the Warriors were always kind of my “second team” when they sucked. I loved their at-the-time quirky playing style (Al Harrington revolutionized the stretch-4 I don’t care what you say), I loved their raucous home crowd before it became a corporate, Silicon Valley wine and cheese, go there to be seen crowd, and, most of all, I loved Monta Ellis-era Steph Curry. The one who wasn’t a two time MVP. The one who wasn’t one of the two-or-three most popular players in the league. The one who no one knew about. It felt like being an exclusive club when you were watching and he got a random triple double or 40-point game. You just never knew what you were going to get. I didn’t have League Pass or anything, so watching the Warriors was a rare treat. Sometimes Steph would get hurt or have a crappy game. Sometimes C.J. Watson would take over. It was basketball-roulette. They were a bad team, but they were the most fun team in the league. Then they drafted Klay Thompson, adding another fun heat-check guy. Then Draymond Green developed. Then, in the blink of an eye, they won 73 games and were on the verge of back-to-back titles. They were a national obsession- both during their rise and during their fall. People looked for any excuse to discredit them. Steph Curry was suddenly overrated. Spend enough time on Twitter and you’ll find plenty of people who think he’s flat-out bad. Any time he wasn’t perfect of defense or had an off night shooting the eye emojis would come out in full force. Steph suddenly sucked because he wasn’t a Russell Westbrook level athlete. No matter if people loved him or hated him, they couldn’t keep his name out their mouths. His fame was so extreme I started to dislike him myself. Draymond started kicking and punching everyone in the nuts. And then Kevin Durant added an almost universal hatred. It’s become so extreme that if you don’t think the Warriors are singlehandedly ruining the sport of basketball (despite the fact that LeBron himself created the free-agency-created Super Team era), you’re an idiot and a social pariah. But, like, when I watch them play, I’m sorry but I kind of enjoy it. They play perfect basketball. They move the ball better and more unselfishly than any team in the league. They’re the best shooting team and have some of the best finishers in the NBA. They play some of the best defense in the last 20 years. I don’t really love that Durant signed there, but he’s so great, especially now that he’s blocking shots left and right. I’ve secretly held on to some of my Steph Curry stock, and nights like last night, when he dominated and Kyrie STINKS, make me happy. I love Klay, and wouldn’t mind seeing what he could do on a different team (Celtics?). I could do without the dick punching, but Draymond’s defense can’t be ignored. So, yeah. I guess I still like the Warriors. Sorry I can both appreciate LeBron’s greatness and the overwhelming greatness of the Warriors. I still feel a little dirty about it, but I’m going to love watching them celebrate.

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NBA Finals Preview

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Wait, basketball is still happening? I almost forgot about it it’s been so long since a game has been played. But, finally, the Finals start tomorrow night. It’s a surprise matchup this season, as no one really saw the Cavs and Warriors clashing for a third straight Finals. But that’s why I say the NBA is the best league: the pure unpredictability of it all. The NHL could learn a thing or two from the NBA, I’ll tell you that much. Like what’s the point of even playing the regular season in the first place? Everyone knew it was going to be Pittsburgh-Nashville in the Finals the whole time. Makes me sick thinking about it. What a joke the NHL is. Worst league EVER.

I love when people go on long rants about how bad the NBA is and how everyone knew what the Finals were going to be the whole year. First of all, the last two Finals were amazing, so if this year is anything like the first two, I’ll be fine with it. Oh, man, I hate seeing LeBron, at worst the second greatest player ever, pushed to his limits by the ultimate super team which was built specifically to beat him. What a bummer. These incredibly exciting games get old fast. I sure wish I could be watching Jazz-Raptors right about now. And this is the thing the “90s were the best NBA era” crowd somehow doesn’t get- this is how the NBA has always been. Basketball, more than any other sport, is controlled by the best players. It has the least amount of active players at one time, and the luck factor (random deflections in front of goal, bloop singles, Edelman/Tyree type catches, etc.) is way, way lesser than other sports. It’s dominated by skill and athleticism, and, surprisingly, the very best players are the most skilled and athletic. So, the teams with the best players win. If you don’t like it, the Stanley Cup Finals are on, and it’s looking like a pretty good series. And spare me the same, tired “The 90s were more competitive!” bullshit. You mean the same 90s where, if Michael Jordan hadn’t taken two years off, one team would have won eight championships in a row? I repeat: the same team would have won EIGHT titles consecutively. As in, one (1) out of the 27-29 teams would have won a championship. “But he beat so many great teams!” Really? If they were so great wouldn’t they have beaten him at least one time? If the Knicks were just so good, wouldn’t they have managed to beat MJ one out of the million times they played? “The 80s were more competitive!” Either the Celtics or Lakers won 8 of the 10 titles. The early 2000s was either Lakers or Spurs. I’m not sure there were any other teams besides the Celtics in the 60s, and the 50s don’t count since black people weren’t allowed to play yet. The 70s is literally the only period of time in NBA history with anything resembling parity. 10 out of 67 NBA seasons, that’s 15% of the time, there were no “super teams.” It just seems worse now because we can see every second of every game and we have infinitely more access. You think the Bullets were going all out every game in 1986? Probably not, because they knew they weren’t beating the Celtics in the East. It’s just so stupid when people complain about the state of the league. The players are better than ever. There’s more good players than ever, and I know it doesn’t seem like it, but more teams have good players than ever. Yes, the game is less physical now. Man, I hate that people aren’t getting injured anymore or that now that teams don’t have a designated roster spot for some thug who takes people out when they’re going to the rim, there are more skilled players than ever. God, I miss the 90s, am I right? And, of course, the the competitiveness argument. Sorry the all-star game sucks. Does it really affect your life that much? And at some point, there’s a line between competitive spirit and futility. I could try as hard as I can against a 54-year-old Michael Jordan in a game of 1-on-1, but I’ll still never beat him. Why should the Hornets go out and make short-sighted signings and trade everything for a fringe all-star because they just gotta win now and be competitive!, when it will make absolutely no difference against LeBron. So, instead of missing the playoffs, you lose second round and no longer have any kind of future or salary cap flexibility. But, at least you tried, right! So stupid. The NBA is smarter now. At least 10 teams now actually know what they’re doing, which is like, five times more than what it usually is. Teams aren’t going to mortgage their future chasing some golden goose that isn’t leaving Cleveland any time soon. I realize it goes against the mindset you need in literally every other sport, but ruling the NBA landscape when you don’t have one of the greatest players or miraculous collection of homegrown talent is an extreme long game. You need patience. You need foresight. You need to make intelligent moves that set you up to win when there’s a vacuum of power. You can only beat today’s version LeBron, Kyrie, and Love if you have three or four All-NBA level players. You know who else has that? Unless you’re the Warriors, the answer isn’t you. That’s why there’s so much tanking and asset-grabbing going on. Teams realize the best way to come out on top in ten years is by having the best young talent, and the best way to get the best young talent is by having the best draft picks. Listen, there’s not another LeBron-level player on anyone’s radar right now. Theoretically, he’s going to retire at some point. That’s when the Celtics moves pay off. That’s when (maybe) the Sixers moves pay off. That’s when the league becomes wide open. That’s when you get your precious competitive balance. For now, this is just the way it is. If you’re going to be mad at anyone, be mad at the league for rigging a million straight lotteries for Cleveland so they could get Kyrie Irving and, by trading Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Love. Besides Kevin Durant, all the Warriors best players were drafted by the team (and not in the top-5, either). As much as everyone hates them, the Warriors have achieved the platonic ideal of a title contender- they drafted excellently, spent money wisely, and added all the right pieces. That’s not the same formula the Cavs, Heat, or even late 2000s Celtics used. So before you start bitching about how many super teams there are and how they’re ruining the game, maybe consider the fact that the Warriors are just smarter than everyone else.

Anyway, with that rant out of the way, we come to the series at hand. Cavs-Warriors Round III. What will happen? Who will rise to the occasion? Who will choke? Well, I’m willing to bet LeBron will show up. Kevin Durant has spent the last year getting yelled at by people online. He’s been called soft. He’s been getting called out for his playoff failures. He’s been called a coward. Don’t you think he’s had enough? This might come back to bite me James Harden style, but I think Durant will absolutely go off this series, But those two will just cancel each other out. Steph Curry has been sizzling all postseason and has his own Finals demons to expel. He’s going to be big. But, despite the fact that I don’t really like him (it’s probably just his face. Or the fact that he fabricated the fact that he’s a flat-earther just to get some attention), I fully expect Kyrie Irving to match everything he does. Facing Steph always brings out the best of his considerable ability. Then there’s Klay Thompson, who’s icy shooting so far this postseason is either a sign of things to come, or the sign of a pending massive breakout. Honestly, in my mind, he’s going to be the key to the whole series. Somehow, one of the greatest shooters of all time’s jumpshot is the biggest variable. We know what LeBron and Durant and Steph and Kyrie will do. Kevin Love, when not guarded by Draymond Green, will provide his typical reliable shooting, passing, and rebounding. Tristan Thompson is going to completely dominate the glass, and may single-handedly win a game or two. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston should dominate the game when the bench units are in. J.R. Smith and Javale McGee have improbably become consistent, known commodities. We’ve seen how these teams match up. We know their strengths, we know their weaknesses. Literally the only thing we don’t know is if Klay Thompson is going to show up. Listen, the Cavs have spent long portions of this season, both regular and post, looking horrible on defense. If they play that way against the Warriors, they’ll get scraped. But, I bet they’ll be a little more attentive to that side of the ball in the Finals. The Warriors have dominated the competition so soundly that it’s lead people to assume they have an extra gear they haven’t gotten to yet. Really, that just means Klay has been cold. Again, if he gets it going, this could be over fast. But what if he doesn’t? What if they play to another draw? What if it goes seven games? Well, I’ll take the team that has LeBron.

Prediction: Cavaliers in 7

The Celtics are Finally Dead

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Well, that was close. I almost, almost, starting getting my hopes up. Celtics lead by 10 at the half in last night’s game 4, after winning game 3, without Isaiah Thomas. The Cavs looked like the shitty team that they were all season. They didn’t care on d. The offense was just “give it to LeBron or Kyrie and get out of the way.” Celtics were playing lockdown defense, the ball was zipping around, and they were actually making open 3s. But, the universe soon corrected itself and the Cavs won going away. Kyrie took over, proving that, despite what people may tell you, it’s possible for a team to have more than one good player. In fact, that usually what makes the good teams good. Honestly, it’s better this way. About two minutes into the second half, I could already see the end result coming, so I knew better than to start dreaming of a possible sweep of the Warriors. This series couldn’t be going better from my perspective. They got dominated so badly the first few games that it showed they weren’t just one guy away. They somehow didn’t get swept, saving some pride, but also didn’t get me too invested in their actual chances of winning the series. Now just get through game 5 without Al Horford, Jaylen Brown, Avery Bradley, or Brad Stevens suffering a life threatening injury and we’re all good. Draft Fultz and look forward to 2020. But man, what happened in game 3? Supposedly LeBron was fighting an “illness” so he sucked, but I don’t buy that for a second. Unless, of course, the “illness” is just the standard aftermath of what happens when you spend a late night out with J.R. Smith. Had the Cavs swept, there would have been nine days or something between last night and the start of the Finals. Why can’t they just move it up? Well, it’s hard to say. Maybe David Stern the league made it worth the Cavs while to drag this series out as long as possible so that all the talk about how bad and one sided these playoffs have been is quieted a little bit and to minimize the dead period. Maybe they said they’ll be even more lax on LeBron’s drug test results how frequently they sit their players next year. Maybe they told them they’ll get even more calls in the Finals than they usually do. Maybe they just told LeBron that they’ll ensure he doesn’t have to hang out with Kevin Love for a while. Either way, I’m keeping my eyes open on this. I’m officially calling the validity of game 3 into question, regardless of the fact that it benefitted me.

Of course, all of this has presented quite the dilemma: what to do with Isaiah Thomas. Next season he’s still the best bargain in the league, only making $6 million. The year after? Whooooo, baby, is he going to get a lot of money. Will it be from the Celtics? Honestly, I don’t know if I’d want to commit to him long term. Listen, he’s proved me wrong a million times on the offensive end. He can score on anyone and everyone, no matter what. And, obviously, he’s tough as nails, physically and mentally. But, he really is horrible on defense. Like, really really bad. And the way this team is currently constructed, does it really benefit them to give max money to someone who can’t play d? Last night was a perfect snapshot of what the Celtics without Isaiah look like: in the first half, everyone was playing great d, the ball was moving, and everyone was looking confident. Then, in the second half, the other team adjusted, clamped down on defense, and no one could create their own shot anymore. It was the ultimate examples of his strengths and weaknesses. That’s why, for the millionth, billionth time, I really hope they stay patient. Listen, Isaiah is great. But isn’t Markelle Fultz just a taller Isaiah? If you’re going to take someone number one overall, aren’t you expecting him to be the best player on your team? They don’t need to make an Isaiah decision just yet. If Fultz displays he has the same type of skills as Isaiah does right away and shows flashes of actually being able to play some defense, you can just trade Isaiah midseason. If he looks lost like Brandon Ingram did this year, then bite the bullet and resign Isaiah because you need at least one person who can score. My money is on Fultz being good right away. Kyrie Irving has displayed time and time again why you invest in an offensively gifted guard. He can replace Isaiah. It’ll make all the other fans unhappy, but, honestly, most Celtics fans are pretty stupid because they think a team built around Isaiah, Jimmy Butler, and Serge Ibaka can win a title. Luckily, I think Danny Ainge is smart enough to stick with his long game. It’s worked absolutely perfectly so far. Don’t throw it away for second tier stars. Please.

Isaiah Thomas is a God Amongst Men

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I don’t even know what to say after last night. 53 points. 18-33 from the field, 5-12 from 3, 12-13 from the line. Most points in an NBA playoff game since his spiritual predecessor Allen Iverson in 2003. Second most points in a game in Celtics playoff history, and, last time I checked, the Celtics have played a lot of playoff games. He had 29 points in the fourth quarter and overtime. The Wizards had 30. And he did it on his sister’s birthday? He’s just unreal. I have absolutely nothing but respect for him. All he does is prove people wrong and make them look stupid. I got caught up in the “worst one seed ever” hype and was way too critical of him. He’s ripped up his previous reputation for underwhelming playoff performances and taken a big, fat dump on the h8trs. He keeps proving time and again that he’s a legit superstar and can figuratively stand eye to eye with the most talented players in the league. Is he perfect? No. Is he great defensively? No (but, unless my eyes deceived me, he completely locked up John Wall the few times he was on him in the fourth). Is he in the long term picture for the Celtics? I’m not sure. But, unless they really botch the draft or make a panicky win-now move, I’m not really going to worry about that right now. I’ll just enjoy the ride.

While we’re talking Celtics-Wizards, I’d like to congratulate John Wall for having one some of the best three quarters of point guard play you’ll ever see. Too bad there’s four quarters. He let Isaiah Thomas (a.k.a. the Worst Defender in the League) shut him down. He let rookie Jaylen Brown lock him up. Avery Bradley is so far in his and Bradley Beal’s kitchens that he’s making them breakfast and walking their dogs. Marcus Smart is bullying everyone on the Wizards when he feels like rebounding. Kyle Lowry thinks Beal is nowhere to be found. This series is O-V-E-R. The Wizards have quit. They might not even show up for the games in Washington. They held the Celtics’ funeral during the season but in the playoffs the Celtics rose from the dead and are burying the Wizards so deep their bones will turn to oil within the next 50 years. I’ve never heard a better summary of D.C. sports. The Wizards love to act like this tough team who everyone disrespects and they’ll fight everybody and they have this weird sense of entitlement, as if they’ve ever done anything of note, but none of that works if you blow double digit leads every game and have real trouble beating the Hawks. Whatever Morris they have is such a try hard. Every bump is cause for war and every word is an attack against his apparently very fragile manhood. We get, you think you’re tough. Why don’t you actually swing on someone if you care about your image so much? I mean, it’s not like it’ll matter if you’re suspended or since, since, judging by last night’s second half, you’ve been planning your offseason vacation for a while now anyway. John Wall yaps the entire game and stares down everyone after doing anything, but then becomes a wallflower when Bradley starts stripping him every time down the floor. Get this bum-ass team out of my sight and bring me LeBron.

Some Other Playoff Thoughts Since I Didn’t (Forgot To) Do a Second Round Preview:

  • Not to rub it in or anything, but everyone saw that Russell Westbrook was pretty much the reason the Thunder lost, right? Just checking. Say his team sucks all you want, but it’s hard to be good when you’re only allowed to shoot at the end of the shot clock.
  • Can someone explain the upside of playing with Westbrook to me? Like if I’m a free agent, why would I even consider playing with him? You’re telling me I’m no allowed to rebound, I only get the ball twice a quarter, I’m only allowed to shoot directly off a pass from him, and I’ll get cussed out if I miss (even though I’m ice cold since I haven’t shot in 10 minutes) for ruining his assist? And I’m not even allowed to answer questions asked directly to me in press conferences? And my entire existence has to be devoted to keeping him happy? Taj Gibson looked like Dom in Fast 8. I kept waiting for him to blink twice to show he was okay. It just seems like a miserable life for anyone not named Russell Westbrook. Why would anyone want that?
  • I really really really really really hope that was the last time my poor eyes have to watch another Lob City game. It’s over, fellas. Blow it up. Get rid of Doc Rivers, who is somehow still not viewed as the worst coach and GM in the league despite mountains of evidence. Let Blake escape the tyranny of Cliff Paul. Actually, I don’t care what you do as long as I don’t have to listen to how the Clippers are ready to contend next year. No team with CP3 will ever contend. Period.
  • Allow me to join the infinite chorus of people saying watch out for the Bucks. But, their path to greatness isn’t an open freeway. They still don’t have much shooting (they sure could use someone like Malik Monk in the draft. If only they could have done something like cut out the middle man and gotten the rights to the Lakers’ pick this year instead of taking Michael Carter-Williams. Oh, well), they need another ball handler, and no one knows what they’re going to with Jabari Parker. The people saying they’ll run the East seem to have forgotten the Celtics are set up perfectly to be good for a long time.
  • Got to feel for the Grizzlies, who, because of things like cap situation and draft position, are pretty much resigned to having the exact same team until the end of time. Doubt the people of Memphis would have it any other way, though.
  • I fully expect the Spurs to somewhat bounce back after getting completely annihilated in game 1, but other that that, this entire round sucks. Thankfully, it’ll be over soon. The Warriors will sweep Utah easily. The Raptors STINK and stand absolutely no chance whatsoever of finishing any of the four games down by less than 15. The Wizards are dead. The Spurs will probably lose in 6. Let’s just fast forward to the conference finals.
  • I don’t want to get my hopes up, but the way the Celtics are playing, they might be able to win a game or two against Cleveland. Hard to be disappointed if you don’t dream too big.
  • The Hour of Reckoning is nigh. Less than two weeks until the Draft Lottery. It’s legitimately one of the biggest moments of my life. Last time the Celtics were in this position I convinced myself they’d get Kevin Durant and wound up with the 5th pick. If the NBA rigs it so the Lakers get to keep their top 3 pick and the Celtics get 4th, I’m going to write a strongly worded letter to the league office.
  • Choosing the right representative to send to the lottery is key. I don’t know if the Celtics have chosen one yet, but I’m free that night.