Basketball Season Is Over

I didn’t write about the Warriors at all this season, and I feel OK about that, because look what happened? Last night they won their fourth title in eight years, and this one might have been the sweetest of all. “Holy cannoli,” said Klay Thompson, who came back from the two worst injuries that can happen to a basketball player — torn Achilles and ACL — to win himself another ring. And he was right, you know?

Conspicuous in his absence was Kevin Durant, who left after the 2019 season to play in Brooklyn, choosing Kyrie Irving over Steph Curry as a running mate for some reason that still mystifies me. In his place was Andrew Wiggins, the former #1 overall pick who everyone had given up on, and was at the times the best player on this team. Which, let me repeat, won the championship.

I’m happy for them all, especially My Personal Savior Steph Curry, who started ugly-crying before the game clock even hit 0.0. The idea that it meant something that he’d never won MVP of the Finals was stupid to begin with, and can now thankfully go away for good. And Klay and Wiggins and Jordan Poole, and Gary Payton II, who has been bouncing around the league for years and finally found a home with the Dubs, making key contributions down the stretch despite having his elbow broken in the first round of the playoffs.

And Draymond. Draymond, my wayward son. Loudmouth, lightning rod, provocateur, basketball genius. The Celtics fans were chanting “Fuck you, Draymond” during the games; his teammates did the same while spraying Champagne around the locker room post-game. These are the kinds of strong emotions he inspires. Without him, Steph is probably another great player who never won a title.

Most of all though, I’m happy for myself. I spent the whole season telling anyone who would listen that we were going to win it all. I didn’t just have a feeling — I did the math. (Nate Silver, BTW, can kiss my ass. Wrong again!) I got some funny looks in return, especially when the W’s were stumbling through the end of the regular season. So, I cannot tell a lie: It feels good to win, and it also feels good to be right. I have to love myself for that.

The only downside is, now basketball season is over. How shall I be entertained? Your suggestions are welcome.

What Balls

Last Friday night I was sitting outside at the Oakland Athletic Club watching My Golden State Warriors thump a hapless-looking Chicago Bulls when Andre Iguodala bent the fabric of spacetime and threw a basketball through it.

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In one sense this was just another play in another regular-season game in another long, long NBA season. In another sense it is the most stunning example you will ever see of split-second decision-making combined with physical dexterity and sheer chutzpah. As Willard said of Kurtz, “He just thought it up and did it. What balls.”

6/13/2019: Raptors 114, Warriors 110

Yup.

If beauty were indeed truth, and truth beauty, I would be sitting here right now writing about how Steph Curry hit a buzzer-beater last night to send the NBA Finals to Game 7. That is undoubtedly the better story.

Things were all set up for it to happen. The Raptors, nursing a 1-point lead in the waning seconds, committed a horrible turnover to give the W’s one last shot. Steph received the pass, got a good look at the basket, and let it fly. It should have been glorious.

Unfortunately, in the timeline I currently find myself in, the shot clanged off the rim and caromed back toward halfcourt. All 10 of the large men in short pants scrambled for the ball; Draymond Green ended up with it and the W’s tried, as one does, to call time out before the clock expired. Unfortunately, they were out of timeouts, which resulted in their being assessed a technical foul. (In basketball this is known as a “Webber.”) And that was pretty much that. The dream was over.

After years of being lucky as well as good, the Warriors found themselves rolling snake eyes over and over in this series. First they brought back Kevin Durant and quickly lost him to a torn Achilles; then in the 3rd quarter last night Klay Thompson went up for a dunk, was fouled in the air by Danny Green, and came down awkwardly on his left knee. After writhing in pain for awhile he headed back to the locker room.

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6/10/2019: Warriors 106, Raptors 105

“We’re alive!”, Steph Curry was heard to say as he jogged through the tunnel to the visitors’ locker room after Game 5 of the Finals.

It is true. And so are the Dub Nation’s hopes for a third straight title, after a tense, hard-fought game came down to Kyle Lowry on the left wing in the final seconds, Raptors down one. He rose to take a jump shot that could have won the game, and the trophy, for the Canadian upstarts. But Draymond Green, who was lurking nearby, extended one long arm and brushed the ball, causing it to fall way short. The clock expired and the Warriors lived to fight another day.

This came after the W’s found themselves down 6 with three minutes to play. Toronto had all the momentum and their fans were starting to celebrate — prematurely, as it turned out. It was at this point that Raptors coach Nick Nurse chose to take a timeout — a decision that has been hotly debated all day today by those who care. He says that he wanted to give his team a rest, but he gave the Warriors one too, as well as a much-needed moment of calm amidst the frenzy.

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6/7/2019: Raptors 105, Warriors 92

All of Canada and most of America is rejoicing today, after the two-time defending champion Warriors were laid low by the upstart Toronto Raptors. The Raps now lead the series 3–1, and historically such a lead is all but insurmountable.

That “all but” is important, though. Both Warriors fans and haters are acutely aware that back in the 2016 Finals, the W’s held such a lead against Cleveland and let it slip away — a loss both painful (leading to endless mocking memes) and productive (prompting Kevin Durant to join the team).

Speaking of Kevin Durant — a lot is riding on that right calf of his. It’s now been a full month since he sustained what was initially called a “mild sprain,” and has apparently turned out to me more than that. News from the team about the injury has been sparse and cryptic; outside sources reported that he went through a workout before Game 4, that “it did not go well,” and that he “suffered a setback.” All coach Steve Kerr would say was,

“We’re hoping [Durant] can play Game 5 or 6. And everything in between I’ve decided I’m not sharing because it’s just gone haywire. There’s so much going on, and so it doesn’t make sense to continue to talk about it. He’s either going to play or he’s not.”

And I don’t have much more to say either. I don’t necessarily care to talk about the subpar performance by My Personal Savior Steph Curry, who managed 27 points but on 9 of 22 from the field and 2 for 9 on threes in what could end up being his last game at Oracle Arena.

Or not. With or without KD, the Warriors will have to reach deep down inside and find the best version of themselves if they want to win Game 5 in Toronto. In a situation like this you can’t even think about winning the series; you have to focus on what’s right in front of you and hope to live to fight another day. That’s all we can ask for.

6/5/2019: Raptors 123, Warriors 109

Some nights are just like that.

Acceptance of what is, and of what must be, is an important life skill. The Dub Nation is getting a chance to practice ours today, after our shorthanded team dropped Game 3 of the NBA Finals to the Toronto Raptors.

Kevin Durant remains sidelined almost a month after suffering a “mild calf sprain.” Kevon Looney sustained a season-ending rib injury in Game 2. And Klay Thompson, who tweaked his hamstring the other day, was listed as questionable right up to gametime. “I don’t see myself not playing,” quoth the Klay; but alas, he is a basketball player, not a doctor or a soothsayer. He ended up sitting on the bench, in uniform but inactive, as his team went down double-digits early and never really threatened afterward.

This despite a heroic performance from Steph Curry, who poured in a career-playoff-high 47 points to go with 8 rebounds and 7 assists. But No One Does It Alone — Steph desperately needed some help on offense, and none was forthcoming; only Draymond Green (17) and Andre Iguodala (11) reached double figures.

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