Tag Archives: Kevin Durant

Thoughts on the NBA Finals

Game 3 thoughts here. I haven’t posted my feelings on game 1 and 2 but those are sooo last week. So let’s get on with my feelings on the series thus far.

– its been fascinating to see the public clamor over a Lebron James vs. Kevin Durant Finals when it’s merely a subplot. It’s a subplot to the bigger picture of Lebron’s career which includes validating his greatness with championship trophies that he promised the citizens of Miami the moment the “big 3” came. James is the biggest star and the villain once again in his third trip to the Finals and second in the black and red of the Miami Heat uniform. This is his second consecutive trip to the Finals and yet he by himself has earned the Yankee treatment: anything short of a championship trophy would be a failure. The pressure put on his shoulders makes us, those hoping Lebron fulfills his destiny- Star Wars style- the ridiculously overbearing parent who chides his child whenever he does something wrong. Who ridicules him when he misses a key free throw in the late stages. Who scream obscenities at him when he passes the ball to a teammate who is surprised by the pass because of his own expectation of Lebron. It’s a fascinating case study on the way we root for the best players in the game.

It’s interesting personally for me, who grew up bitter during Michael’s spectacular run through the NBA Finals during the 90’s because he made it his personal mission in life to eliminate the Knicks. Little did I know that he made it his mission in life to destroy everyone who stood in his way.

As I grew up and got older my feelings about Jordan changed. Age had brought me wisdom I suppose but it brought me perspective. My eyes were more open to the other Jordan. The brand. The shoes. The sheer greatness that I had witnessed and never got to relish because when you’re young you don’t appreciate shit unless your team wins. I couldn’t like Jordan. My blue and orange blood wouldn’t allow it. Of course that wisdom hasn’t allowed me to appreciate Pat Riley after he left since he continues to stick it to the Knicks even a decade later.

But now I look at Lebron and see a lot of the animus and bias I had when watching Jordan come to fruition in the shape of Lebron James. Yes, his story is far different from the glorified Michael Jordan years, but the NBA is still the same: market the heck out of the biggest star. Hope he makes good decisions and leverage the player’s greatness to global branding profits. More than any other sport: basketball markets the crap out of its players and makes no apology off profiting from that. The lesson here: we’re gonna make money off you, if you want to make money you’re more than welcome to.

And alot of the financial cache translates to on court favoritism. Though it was said in jest, the Jordan rules were very real. Ask Byron Russell how much of Jordan’s game 6 final shot in a Bulls uniform was push off and how much was good basketball move. Much of it is still alive in Lebron. He is now the financial cash cow that the league exploits and in turn allows to play under a different set of rules.

To say the referee missed the call standing five feet away in game 2 would be tough enough but throughout the playoffs the instances of favoritism are too numerous to mention. The argument then becomes: isn’t that what is supposed to happen? Shouldn’t superstars get favoritism anyway? Yes, but then how do you reconcile Kevin Durants foul woes? My favorite response is: Durant hasn’t paid his dues. Why? Because he’s 23? Is he pledging a fraternity? Is he climbing the corporate ladder? Perhaps he is. Maybe this is his rite of passage. Durant is only going to enter his prime in 4 years which should also begin Lebron’s decline. A perfect passing of the refereeing baton and the NBA’s full scale global push.

So this series isn’t just Lebron vs Durant, it’s the NBA doing what it does best: putting its star in a position to shine; he need merely to take the baton and run with it.

– The biggest loser here is Russell Westbrook. The Heat’s biggest problem these last two years has been its inability to figure out its power chart. Lebron came to Wade’s team. Lebron is the better player so why isn’t he the defacto leader? So I found Dwayne Wade’s admission that he was in fact deferring to Lebron as a calculated moment of catharsis. No superstar of Wade’s ilk admits that without there being some deeper motive behind it. And usually it’s organizationally endorsed. It tells me more about Lebron and how sensitive he is to the question than anything.

So why is Westbrook the loser? Because he wants to be the man. He is physically gifted enough to be fooled into thinking he could be the man. But it’s so clear that Kevin Durant is the man. Westbrook is in a lose lose situation. Shoot and miss and feel the wrath of a fan base that ONLY wants you to pass to the other guy. Shoot and make it and the fans are just happy they got away with it. It’s a thankless job for one of the game’s brightest young stars.

It will be interesting how deep the emotional scar will be if the Thunder lose this series. This is clearly Kevin Durant’s team and their success will ultimately be at his feet while it’s failure will be laid at the footstool of the point guard who refuses to subjugate himself to the amazing powers of Kevin Durant. How long will Westbrook carry the baggage of being a lackey? Will he yearn to be the man somewhere? He’s been playing good sport for a while now but it’s clear he wants to be the hero and who knows if sometime in the future it leads to discord and a request to be traded. Its not inconceivable.

Remember also that James Harden emerged as a better secondary option than Westbrook who is miscast as a point guard. The looming decision of whether to sign Harden to an extension could mean that Westbrook has to take a backseat even more.

Which is why as important as this championship is for the future of the Miami Heat, it could be equally important to the future of the Thunder.

– Scotty Brooks rejecting a 3 year $11 million extension seems bizarre given Sam Presti’s ability to get the best deal at the end of the day. The gears in my brain started working and I put Phil Jackson’s recent comments regarding the Knicks and rejuvenation his chance to re enter the fray as a coach. His penchant for entering already established teams is well known. What about the triangle for OKC? It’s a nice thought but lets be honest: Phil would have to take a pay cut to come to OKC. I don’t see Presti handing out a contract upwards of $40 million to a coach approaching 80 but we know Phil’s ability of handling egos and managing young talent and bringing it all together to win a championship. Apart from the Laker job, I can’t see any other job catching his interest. Miami makes sense purely from a basketball point of view but he and Pat Riley don’t seem be a good fit. Riley would take over that team before Phil ever came to town.

I believe he had real interest in the Knick job but given James Dolans lack of common sense being a huge deterrent to winning championships rather than box office I believe Phil will stay away. I think it was in poor taste for Jackson, not to say what he said but to say it the way he did. Calling them clumsy seems more like a personal attack on the regime than the players. Saying Carmelo is a ball stopper or that Amar’e and he don’t fit are not moments of epiphany for Knick fans. This is something we painfully found out despite suspending our common sense over a season. Thats just sour grapes over the Knicks not even giving uncle Phil a courtesy call. That was admittedly dumb on the Knicks part but my suspicion is that the Knicks went cheap and refused to give Phil his money. The cheap shot may be Phil’s way of further driving up his price and letting the Knicks know: thanks but no thanks. Which is what he could’ve done from the beginning but…..

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Sports round up 12/1/2011

So we’re gonna try this daily newsfeed thing again for however long I can convince myself that this is a good idea.  I figured why not have a re-release date of December 1 and try to keep it up for as long as I could.  So here goes nothing.  Basically I check out noteworthy sports stories (hey that rhymed) and give you my take on them.  I can’t get every story I know but I will try to be as national as I can but I’m not going to lie, my East Coast bias will be very difficult to mask in light of the fact that New York makes enough stories.

Bobby Valentine has his fair share of enemies.  But as Bob Hohler writes he has his fair share of supporters as well.  His charitable works are well known around his hometown of Stamford, Connecticut and he’s a well traveled man as we know.  He now takes over a Boston Red Sox team who frankly aren’t too thrilled with the idea of Bobby V in their clubhouse, but as ESPN Boston’s Joe McDonald writes, the Red Sox players who may have problems with it have only themselves to blame.  Joel Sherman of the New York Post believes that Bobby V’s hire makes the AL East the new Big East, you know since we won’t have a Big East after next year.  

Look, I’m not gonna lie.  I’m very jealous of Boston right now as a Met fan because I was always a huge Bobby V. fan.  In 2007 when the Mets collapsed I said this would’ve never happened under his watch.  Even in 2008.  2009 I said even through injuries Bobby would’ve found a way and in 2010 the same.  That’s because the structure in the clubhouse was never there that was so crucial to the Mets.  They had the talent and the skill players from 2006-2008 to compete for a title, but never had the right man leading them.  Here’s what we know.  He’s well prepared, analytical, a thinking man’s man and a person who will not stand for the kind of stuff that reportedly went down in that clubhouse at the end of last year while the Red Sox were collapsing.  He’s a disciplinarian and frankly I think Red Sox players look at this as management’s way of punishing them which if that’s the case means there’s a LOT more work to do in that clubhouse.  Veteran or not, the Red Sox needed a shake up and more than that, a guy who would not be afraid of managing in Boston under the limelight and the pressure.  That’s Bobby V.  Plenty will be waiting for the first sign of trouble to begin playing the old “He’s wearing out his welcome” card but I predict this move will either be a tremendous success OR colossal failure.  Either way, it will be how the players respond to him that will ultimately decide that.

The Collegian’s Courtney Pruitt sat in on the Town Hall forum held on the Penn State campus which had many of the University’s power structure on hand to take student questions.  Many wanted answers to questions they had but more so this was an attempt at setting minds at ease and promising that the university will be held to a much higher standard from here on.  Don’t look now, according to Kevin Johnson of USA Today, there’s a new accuser who has filed suit.  Speaking of well renown coaches who may soon be taken down by disgusting long time assistant coaches, Aman Ali of Reuters wire services reports that Bernie Fine, former assistant head coach of Syracuse, had a visit from the feds and his house was searched by them.  Meanwhile Pat Forde of Yahoo Sports says that Jim Boeheim’s comedy routine during his first press conference after his long time assistant coach’s firing was in poor taste.

I lump the two together not because I believe that the two are linked somehow but that’s how it will be viewed nationally.  That’s how people will see it while it plays out because these are both assistant head coaches who served on the staff of two iconic head coaches in the college ranks and if Joe Pa was the head cheese in Penn State and didn’t do the right thing here by those children, and got fired for it, then don’t we need to hold Jim Boeheim to the same standard?  Won’t they deserve the same penalty in the end?  And if Boeheim is pretty much done at Syracuse, where he is an institution, should the Big East really care that they are losing these programs when they still have UConn to represent them nationally?

It is however comical that Boeheim who as soon as Fine’s allegations emerged came to his defense so vigorously and made such a passionate statement against the alleged victims that it seemed as though he were somehow pleading for his own innocence and let’s be honest, with just cause.  Because as soon as Jerry Sandusky’s violations became public, the attention turned to Joe Paterno and how much he knew and when the charges came out that Paterno was notified years earlier and did virtually nothing the cavalry came and escorted Paterno out of his throne.  The biggest difference here is that the investigators are only putting together charges now while the Penn State charges from Pennsylvania’s DA came like a thief in the night and shocked just about everybody.  Pat Forde was not impressed by Boeheim’s answers but not for the reasons you think.  He was more let down that Boeheim was Boeheim in the midst of this investigation because this case will now be followed nationally by scribes and types that don’t know his personality and will view his attitude and overall demeanor as insulting while a pedophilia case, a charge that will never have a grey area to it, is going on especially when the nation just went through what it went through with Penn State.

My only thing is, where’s the NCAA in all of this?

Drew Sharp of the Detroit Free Press was his namesake in this column as he was unimpressed by Commissioner Goodell’s soft sentence of 2 games for stomping on a Packers offensive lineman’s exposed arm.  Ndamukong Suh is appealing the suspension and a hearing will take place today.

Ndamukong Suh is one of my favorite players and Drew Sharp brought up some really good points that need to be brought up.  The fact is, Jim Schwartz came to change the culture of losing in Detroit by building a tough, hard nosed defense.  We know this because that’s what he did.  He has given the Lions relevancy but he’s enabled guys like Suh who’s crossed the line a few times with his actions and was in need of a tougher, stiffer penalty.  Instead, he is now facing a two game stint which may not affect his availability for Sunday’s game against the Saints because of his appeal.  I have a problem with this for two reasons, one because Roger Goodell advised that Suh appeal the suspension knowing that it would allow him to play Sunday and two because Goodell knew that it would be the flexed Sunday night game on NBC, a nationally televised game in which he needs Detroit to have compelling figures in it as well aside from Calvin Johnson the too good(y, goody) receiver and Matthew Stafford to oppose Drew Brees and Sean Payton and the super nova Saints coming off their 49-24 waxing of the Giants on Monday night.  It seems Goodell is playing both sides of the fence: wanting compelling action for his national television partners while doing a disservice to his position as authoritarian of the NFL by giving Suh a free pass.  Its a double standard which I don’t like.  Don’t EVEN get me started on the ridiculous $10,000 fine on Stevie Johnson for his TD celebration mocking Plaxico Burress.  Give me a break Commissioner.

Before we get into NBA trade rumors let’s get into one interesting one in baseball which came up: Are the Cubs REALLY interested in Albert Pujols?  Like fo real?  Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports thinks that it could bring collateral benefits for MLB not just the Cubs, but Bernie Miklasz of St Louis Post-Dispatch says don’t believe the hype, this is Pujols’ agent trying to drum up interest in his client.

I’m more Bernie than Jeff on this one.  Everyone loves to think about the possibility of Albert Pujols pulling a Lebron and leaving behind his old team, a team he led to two world series titles (unlike Lebron), to go and get the riches of a big market (like Lebron).  But this is all a mirage.  This is an agent trying to get somebody to bite on his client and who can blame him?  No one sees Pujols leaving the Cardinals and all the big market teams like the Yankees, and Red Sox have their first basemen tied up in long term contracts.  Meanwhile the two that don’t, the Mets and Dodgers, are so broke that Pujols would probably be asked to help out with payments.  I’ve always seen the Angels as a possibility but Arte Moreno talks a big game but never pulls out his wallet when its right to.  The Cubs though are a possibility but Theo knows he will need more than a star 1st baseman to resurrect this moribound franchise from its doldrums.  He’s trying to build from within and so putting a $25 million per year contract for Pujols probably doesn’t make all the sense in the world when you see his priority list.  It will be interesting to see where the Cards and Pujols draw a fine line and compromise to bring him back. The timing couldn’t have been better for the defending world champions given the financial shape of all the other teams that would’ve made the list had they not had their own issues/players locked in to deal with.  Score one for the small market guys.

– Ok NBA fans, want your trade rumor fix?  Here it is:
Sam Amick of Sports Illustrated lists the Pacers, Warriors, Hornets and Wizards as possible destinations for two time All Star David West.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports lists The Nuggets, New Jersey NetsGolden State WarriorsHouston RocketsIndiana PacersLos Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers as possible destinations for Nene. He also delivers on news for Nick Young, who Mike Wilbon of ESPN Chicago agrees would be a perfect fit for the Chicago Bulls who may need to get creative to fill the slasher/scorer need they clearly have.
Finally, Darren Arnovitz of ESPN’s TrueHoop blog poses the real question that needs to be asked for all the Dwight Howard rumors: would a Lebron for D-Howard deal make sense?

I purposefully left out the two bigger rumor mill deals being floated.  The Celtics front office is having serious discussions about trading Rajon Rondo in a deal that would ultimately net them CP3.  They have the financial room considering that other than Paul Pierce they won’t have anyone else making any big dollars as Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen will come off the books for 2012-2013 season and they could make a run at two of the top 3 free agents.  Only problem is sources are saying that this deal is contingent on Paul signing a long term extension which would be 3 years for traded players and he’s not going to do that which rules any trade out unless he changes his mind.  The most obvious rumor is that he wants to come play for the Knicks which it looks like given their lack of prospects would have to come after this season doesn’t hurt Paul in any way other than the fact that he won’t make as much money as he could in the previous CBA which we all know.  The next two years will be cap friendly for the Knicks as the stiffer luxury tax penalties won’t come until year 3 of the CBA so the Knicks can take on payroll for this year and the next.  

The Dwight Howard rumor mill begins and ends with the Nets who have been trying to pair Deron Williams with a superstar to convince him to stay.  IF the Nets get Dwight Howard over here in a trade and ESPN’s Marc Stein is supremely confident that the Magic WILL trade their superstar Center before December 9th, then there’s a good chance that next year the Nets will have their superstars in place to make a strong run and Howard will be able to play in the big market which he’s always dreamed about and hinted at.  Of course rumors are circulating that he will ONLY look at the Knicks and Lakers who I think will make a strong run at acquiring Dwight Howard so they won’t see Kobe’s last run at a championship go unfulfilled with lackluster role players.  Most disconcerting has to be Pau Gasol’s disappearance at the end of last season.

One interesting trade rumor I’ve heard is the Lakers making a run at CP3 AND Dwight Howard where the Lakers would give up Andrew Bynum, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom and 1st round draft picks in two separate packages for the aforementioned superstars so they can pair them with Kobe.  The Lakers just signed a mega TV deal with Time Warner which gives them $150 million EVERY YEAR for the life of the agreement.  That’s before a single ticket is sold so just imagine the benefits of that?  By comparison the Knicks make $64 million and that’s because Cablevision owns the Knicks.  So they could afford the luxury tax hit and go all Yankees on us.  BUT, the problem is CP3 seems more comfortable in taking the Knicks offer which would be equivalent to anything the Lakers can give him.  So how about the Lakers, instead of trying to get CP3, make a run at Russell Westbrook and bring back the former UCLA star to his old digs?  Kobe could rein in Westbrook and supervise his development and give them the slasher/disher/scorer and have the young PG that they so crave and the Thunder could firmly give the team over to Kevin Durant.  News leaked that there may be a power struggle in the works between Westbrook and Durant and let’s face it, the only person who can’t see that this is Durant’s team is Westbrook and the only guy who can put him in his rightful place on the totem pole may be Kobe.  Now obviously people would look at this as the OKC giving up their star player to the Lakers for an aging Gasol OR an injury prone Bynum but Bynum is a young guy who’s health can improve given the right medical treatment and Gasol can be a number 2 as he’s displayed during his time in Los Angeles playing back up singer to Kobe Bryant.  This trade works out on all fronts because the Lakers can get the star PG and pay him and OKC can afford to trade Westbrook because they have James Harden who they believe will emerge this year as a true number 2 scoring option behind Durant.  Don’t be surprised if this deal happens.  Sam Presti, OKC’s general manager is known to be creative and will do what’s best for the team in the long run.  They can’t afford to pay Durant, Westbrook, Harden, Ibaka etc and so I believe the best thing to do is trade Westbrook to the Lakers and get back what you can, including a few first round draft picks, something he loves to get and knows what to do with.  

 

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