Steph, Klay, and the Warriors

The Golden State Warriors are going to the NBA finals after beating the Oklahoma Thunder last night. For most analysts the return of the defending champions to the finals was unexpected after the Thunder went up 3-1 in the Western Conference finals. What changed the series’ momentum, dynamics, and outcome was, first of all, the Splash Brothers – Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. They are the best long range shooters the league has ever seen. Ray Allen was really good, great in fact. And Reggie Miller and Larry Bird could shoot the lights out at times. But no one has done it quite as well as this pair of marksmen. Steph and Klay have raised the bar and set a new standard.

What many people don’t appreciate is that their shooting prowess not only puts points on the scoreboard at a rapid clip, as it did in this series, but it also spreads the floor. This opens up driving, passing, and cutting lanes for the whole offense, while creating nightmares for the defense. Last night 7 foot Thunder center Steven Adams more than once found himself in the unenviable position of trying to defend Steph beyond the 3 point line and the results were predictable – 3 points for the Warriors.

But it would be a mistake to explain the Warriors success in this series (or the record breaking 73 wins this season) to the Splash Brothers alone. Steve Kerr, the Warriors coach, would be the first to admit that the Splash Brothers are incredibly gifted, but he would also add in the same breath that they win (and lose) as a team. At times overlooked, because of the brilliance of their two superstars, is their outstanding complementary players, some of whom are stars in their own right and all of whom make essential contributions to Golden State’s winning ways. A misconception of many basketball fans is the belief that it is enough to have two mega-stars to win a championship. Well, it isn’t.

Look at the great teams in the modern era – Bulls, Lakers, Celtics, Spurs, and Pistons. Each of them had outstanding role players too. And their play complemented the play of the stars, including at crunch time in the 4th quarter, when the outcome of a game rested on a timely shot, rebound, stolen pass, or defensive stop of a role player. John Paxon, Robert Horrey, and Mario Ellie are a few names of role players who won playoff games and championships for their team at game’s end.

Perhaps the most unappreciated aspect of the Warrior’s success is their defense. A refrain heard last night and this morning on sports talk is that the Thunder either collapsed under the pressure of the moment or reverted back to “Hero Ball” (which means that the two Thunder stars – Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook – attempted to win games 6 and 7 on their own without involving their teammates in the offense).

While there’s some truth here, it also gives too little credit to the Warrior defense. In the 4th quarter of both games, the Warriors shut down the Thunder offense, including its two stars. They clogged driving and passing lanes, forced hurried shots and turnovers, came up with timely rebounds and steals, and contested everything.

When the pressure was on the Warriors did what great teams do – play good fundamental basketball, albeit Warrior style, on both ends of the court. That may sound easy enough, but when you’re in the spotlight and feeling the pressure of the moment, keeping to script and doing what got you there in the first place isn’t as easy to do as it might seem. Ask the Thunder, if you doubt me.

Moreover, whoever does this in the finals that begin Thursday night will more than likely be crowned the NBA champion. My guess is that the Warriors will.

Memorial Day and friendship

This is an article that I wrote a few years ago, honoring my friends who didn’t return from Vietnam. Much time has passed, but still miss them.

Just Thinking

I’m happy to hear the “Two Boys” aren’t going to battle/debate it out, wrestlemania style, before an audience of fervid supporters. The amount of sexism that has poured into the primary process with little opposition is surprising to me. Can you imagine what the reaction would have been if Hillary at this time in 2008 had floated the idea of a debate with John McCain? I assume there would be been a lot of outrage – and correctly so.

March for Farmworker Justice

Joined farmworkers and their supporters on Day 13 of their march. It began on Long Island and concludes in Albany – New York state’s capital – later this week. Yesterday we walked (at a pretty good pace) 13 miles to Kingston, NY. It was very hot and humid, but no one complained, in fact, we had good fun along the way and were welcomed by honking horns from passing cars and applause from bystanders. By the end I could claim two sore feet, but whatever discomfort I felt eased as I hoisted a freezer chilled IPA – named Road to Ruin – to my lips and poured promptly down my throat.

On a more serious note, I couldn’t help but recall that I got my start (as did many other young people at the time) in social activism with the grape boycott organized by Cesar Chavez and the United Farm Workers Union not quite 50 years ago. The struggle continues.

Dylan at 75

Couple days late, but happy birthday to the songwriter and poet extraordinaire – Bob Dylan

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