The NBA Finals: A Dream Match-up

By Lamar Battle

Time to prepare for a match-up that has been in the works since the beginning of the 2016-17 NBA season.

The Golden State Warriors (67-15) and the Cleveland Cavaliers (51-31) are on a collision course as they meet in the NBA Finals for the 3rd straight time, the series is tied 1-1.

This series has a number of ramifications at stake. To name a few, Cavaliers star LeBron James is sitting smack dab in the middle of a debate as to who is the G.O.A.T. ( Greatest of all time) between him and Former Chicago Bulls player Micheal Jordan.  Opinions vary as voices from all over the internet and networks take sides.

I like what Fox Sports 1 host Colin Cowherd said and I paraphrase, imagine if Micheal Jordan were McDonald’s and LeBron James were Starbucks who had just started making fries better than McDonald’s what would that mean?  In other words the one thing Micheal did better than LeBron was score but LeBron is on pace (as the All Time leader in playoff points) to surpass Micheal in that aspect too.

Warriors forward Draymond Green, so hungry for revenge and redemption (after last years defeat) more or less said that they want to crush the Cavaliers and considering the Warriors undefeated run through the 2016-17 playoffs crushing the Cavaliers is a real possibility.

One aspect rarely mentioned is the opportunity for this series to not only provide the Warriors Kevin (generally considered to be the #2 player in the world) Durant his first title but more important remove him from LeBron’s  considerable shadow.

Durant failed in his first attempt as a member of the Oklahoma City Thunder to wrest the title from James but this time he returns armed with a 73 win team  at his back and the desire to beat the man (many have jokingly  referred to as his big brother).

This series represents a crossroads of sorts for both teams and the stakes are extremely high.  For LeBron it represents a chance to test his limits and put himself firmly on the path to becoming the G.O.A.T. as winning a second title against the Warriors would pretty much guarantee.

For the Warriors this represents an opportunity to prove that their 73 win season last year was no fluke and they can be one of the NBA’s great dynasties.

The psychological advantage of winning this title would be so great that a loss for either could mean the end of their hopes period.

Hollywood central casting could not have done a better job.

 

Photo courtesy of the Associated Press.

 

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How To Beat The Golden State Warriors.

Respectful pause……..for those of you that are cracking your sides.  But how can one say outside of  maybe Tomahawk Missiles can this team be beat?  To even approach this notion we have to determine who

The Warriors Are:

A collection of parts that appear to mesh perfectly on offense and defense. It doesn’t hurt to have four All-Stars and two sure fire Hall Of Fame players on your team.

They have improved on the vaunted pace and space offense originally introduced by Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni to such a degree that their execution is almost at art form level. Without question in Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Kevin Durant they boast the top outside shooters in the game and quite possibly in history.

The Warriors move the ball they move their bodies, they drive and dish and when it breaks down they just hand the ball to Kevin Durant to go one on one.

The Warriors front office deserves a lions share of credit for assembling a roster of players that are smart, versatile and competitive.  Those qualities show perhaps on defense more than in any other area.

The Warriors are aggressive they play the passing lanes with active hands and most importantly play on a string meaning they back each other up (help and recover) with precision over and over.

Having said all of that I’ve just about talked myself out of this piece but to beat this team the opponent should

Know Who They Are:

What does that mean?  Well to start the opponent cannot be a better version of the Warriors.  The opponent has to control the pace of the game and manage turnovers that usually come from passes to the wings and futile attempts at drive and kick-outs.

On defense the Warriors have Draymond Green, an All Defense 1st team player that is aggressive, smart and extremely mobile.  The one thing he is not is big so he has to be occupied down in the post by a player  with credible post up skills.  This approach would also serve to wear Draymond down but most importantly keep him out of the passing lanes.

The Warriors have the best team defense in the league so the opponent has to attack their players individually.  Klay Thompson is a better than average defender so skip him but in addition to posting up Draymond Green, Steph Curry and Kevin Durant have to be attacked off the dribble.  Durant is an excellent help defender but not as mobile in one on one situations.

Forcing the Warriors into one on one situations would serve to control tempo and wear down key players down the stretch.

On defense when battling an offensive powerhouse smart teams know they cannot take away everything so they pick their poison.

The Warriors are so formidable an outside shooting team that they can drop a double digit deficit on you in mere seconds so one has to choose.  I say you stay home on Stephen Curry and most importantly Klay Thompson…..I did say stay home on Klay Thompson ? right.

Now that means that All Everything forward Kevin Durant will be allowed to roam the earth free..or whatever one on one coverage amounts to.

Providing an opponent can control pace, occupy Draymond Green, successfully shadow Steph and Klay and maintain their poise during  yeoman efforts from supporting players and an occasional 50 points from Durant then you can achieve what most can only hope for.

A close contest at the end.

 

Photo courtesy of google images

 

NBA Playoff Roundtable

A meeting basketball neo-experts (and pod cast contributors) convened to discuss some of the issues surrounding this seasons (2016-17) NBA playoffs.
Joining Lamar are Mike Brown, A.J. Campbell and Greg Powell.
Lamar: Any surprises in the playoffs thus far?
Mike:  None in terms of the teams at the top doing what they were expected to do.  I did hold out hope that the Bulls could upset the Celtics especially after jumping out to a 2-0 lead.
A.J.:  Speaking of the Bulls the Chicago Media spoke on how Bulls Vice President John Paxson was quiet regarding the future of star player Jimmy Butler during the final press conference.
Apparently that gave the impression that the Bulls may be looking to trade him and if that is the case they blew a great chance last season when his value was at it’s highest.
Greg: For a long time I thought the Bulls should have built around Butler given how he has developed into a two time All-Star but now I suspect that Jimmy will require another front line player along side him to return the Bulls to contender status.
Mike:  Most observers feel that the bottom line always comes first when it comes to the Bulls and team development and for a long time I gave them credit for astute business moves but fact is teams like San Antonio, Cleveland and now Boston have made money maintaining a winning record and culture.
Lamar:  Well at least the Bulls have been a top three team in attendance for the last 18 or so years.
Greg:  That , my friend can attributed to the Chicago fans who can be knowledgeable and loyal but also extremely naive.
Mike:  Well Jimmy may not lead the Bulls to the promised land at age 27 but he may command a 200 million dollar extension and Mr. Reinsdorf, you can take that for data !
Lamar:  I think we can all agree that the NBA title will be won by either Golden State, Cleveland or San Antonio, but who are some of the other teams making a name for themselves going forward?
A.J. :   In the east the Bulls, Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons are heading south.  On the upswing we got the Washington Wizards, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat and Philadelphia 76ers.
Greg:  I believe in Boston’s Isiah Thomas who has been playing out of his mind.  The Celtics are small but they got a lot of dogs.  Avery Bradley is really a glue guy and rookie Jalen Brown is going to be real good.
If Boston can pick up Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz in free agency they will be dangerous in the east.
Lamar:  What about the “Greek Freak” Giannis Antetokounmpo?  This cat is a starter on the All Star team in just his second year.
A.J. I have a theory/test for new young players and that is if a young player cannot lift his/her team at least past the first round then they are not ready and will need more seasoning prior to super-stardom..
Mike:  Well look at Micheal Jordan, It took him 7-8 years before he won his first title.
Lamar:  How about the Western Conference?
Mike:  Houston is definitely on the rise, OKC and the L.A. Clippers are a couple of moves away.  The Utah Jazz are showing great strides but they may lose their best player Haywood next season.
Greg:  The L.A. Clippers better jump on Melo before it’s too late.  They have a severely flawed roster and could probably get him now for J.J. Redick.  Paul George from the Indiana Pacers could also be available via trade.
As far as the Spurs go they got Kawhi Leonard and a bunch of old dudes. I can see improvements though from the Minnesota Timberwolves, the Portland Trailblazers and the Denver Nuggets.
Lamar:  Who wins the Title?
A.J.:  Just like last year I am riding with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Mike:  There is still room on the Warriors bus for all of you (laughs).
Greg:  Well you all know that I am leaning towards LeBron as the G.O.A.T.
Lamar:  Interjecting, that will be different session for another time.
Greg:  Even though I rate LeBron as the best player walking the earth I find difficult to pick him over a Warriors team adding Kevin Durant (generally considered to be the 2nd best player alive) and so I have to choose the Warriors.
Lamar:  Since my beloved L.A.Lakers are not quite ready I will have to pick the team sporting the best organization in sports,  The San Antonio Spurs.

What’s Wrong With The Cavaliers?

By Gregory Powell and Lamar Battle
What is going on with the once powerful Cleveland Cavaliers, losers of the last three games (most recently to the ninth place Chicago Bulls) and  have slipped out of first place in the NBA’s Eastern Conference.
I spoke with writer and pod cast contributor Gregory Powell to get his thoughts on his beloved Lebron James and the Cavaliers.
What follows is a pretty thorough breakdown of what ails the Cavs and delivered at a scatter gun pace:
1. I said when the Kevin Love trade was made that LeBron would get a title but might have cost himself a dynasty.
2. J.R. Smith is lost, Kevin Love can’t jump, Deron really can’t jump, Frye is just a shooter, Kyrie can’t play point. Tristan Thompson is being sapped by kryptonite, Imam can’t shoot and all Korver can do is shoot.
Tyron Lue is speaking of secret plans and Golden State just beat the Rockets and Spurs in back to back games on the road.
And nobody plays defense which puts LeBron in the familiar position of having to be the Black Panther for the team to have any chance at all.
3. The team is helpless when LeBron is off the floor and I suspect he was having some Boobie Gibson flashbacks last night against the Bulls.
One of those wild ass teams from the east could take the Cavs out if LeBron isn’t superhuman.  I’m thinking most likely the Washington Wizards though the Boston Celtics will be tough too.
The question remains, will the Cavs have enough left for the NBA
finals?
4. Big problem, when the Cavs go small they play slow and by the way they have no center.
Let me add it was nice to see Bron pass Wilt on the all time scoring list but classless of the Bulls to not acknowledge it at all.
Of course the King is still quite capable of making me eat my words…you know…like last year.
5. The Cavs need to get younger bigger and quicker. No wonder LeBron was yelling for another play maker.
In the off season the Cavs better get rid of all those cast offs and old guys and find some athletes and shooters.
They better plan for LeBrons  golden years before he spends them in LA.
Mr. Powell, why don’t you tell us how you really feel about the Cavaliers?
Let the playoffs begin.

Dempsey Willard, A Coach Who Gives Back To The Community.

 

By Lamar Battle
Former Saint Paul College student Dempsey Willard (Class Of 76) Has made quite the name for himself in Chicago coaching circles.
The Whitney Young High School boys and girls head coach has achieved success on and off the tennis court by putting the needs of his students first and plain old fashioned hard work.
The Remnant Magazine caught up with Coach Willard and his wife Toni to talk about his career and the influences that have propelled him.
RM:  First off, It’s good to see you again.  How are things since your days playing basketball at SPC ?
DW:  Good to see you to my brother, I am doing well and I am eternally grateful for what Saint Paul’s College has done for me.
RM:  I remember you as a basketball player, how did you get started in tennis?
DW:  Well during my time teaching in Virginia (Elementary Education Major)  I made lasting friendships with some of the business leaders in Lawrenceville V.A.
After winning a bet with one of the business owners I decided to give tennis a try.
I spent time in Richmond V.A. playing and working with the tennis coach O.G.Walker, credited for working with and helping Arthur Ashe.
I also traveled to Maryland where I played against NBA star in the making John Lucas, who also  happened to be an outstanding tennis player.
After graduation I took a teaching position in Chesterfield V.A. while while coaching three teams and eventually I earned my certification as a tennis pro.
RM:  Do you have any coaching influences?
DW:  Moses Gollatt, James Price and Pernell Sims.
RM:  You mentioned Saint Paul’s College, What are some of your memories in terms of how Saint Paul’s prepared you?
DW:  Most all I learned how to get along with others, to be worldly but most importantly to view all of life as an opportunity to always grow and learn.
One thing I will always remember is the impact religion professor Father Easley had on me especially when as part of an assignment in his  class I completed a paper on Infinity which I learned later explains tennis to a degree as a sport that utilizes continuous motion.
RM:  I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that this year you coached teams that finished 2nd and 4th in the State.  You were also the 1st African American in State history to win Coach of the Year, keeping that in mind how do you prepare your teams to compete?
DW:  I would lead by example by always being prepared and on time.  I also utilized my captains to the fullest.
RM:  Would you say that during your time at Whitney Young High School here in Chicago that you have received the support you needed?
DW:  Yes, when I served as an assistant to head coach Ed Cruzat the tradition of winning was established.  Principle Joyce Kenner has always been there with support and assistance.  Parents like Will Hobert have never failed to provide support and I have to also credit people like Kamau Murray of the Excess Foundation for Inner City Youth.
 There have been many others but none more important than my lovely wife Toni who is always there for me. Toni has helped me through tough times with her love and affection.
RM:   Do you see tennis as a growing sport in the inner city?
DW:  I really hope so and I am doing all that I can to raise awareness and participation in the sport.
RM:   Can you provide an example?
DW:   Well, Ed Cruzat and I always made a practice to bring on any kid that was interested in tennis.  We never told a kid no and to a large degree we experienced a lot of success in developing our young people on and off the court.
I also strongly believe in education and growth so I take every opportunity to learn and develop myself as a coach and role model.
RM:  Any thoughts on the violence that impacts the lives of young people in Chicago and around the Nation?
DW:  The violence makes me sad and I wish that I could do more but we cannot overlook the impact of social media in the lives and choices of our children.
RM:   Let me ask a couple of closing questions?  Who was the best player you ever coached?
DW:  Gabby Moore.
RM:  Why ?
DW:  Because of her heart and desire.
RM:  Do you still play yourself?
DW:  I do, in a 40 and older league and I provide individual lessons.
RM:  Federer or Nedal?
DW:  Federer.
RM:   Why?
DW:  He plays the whole court and he has the heart of a champion.
RM:   As an individual who puts it all on the line for others I guess you would know.
DW:  Thank you.
Reprinted courtesy of the Remnant Magazine.

Who Is The NBA’s 2016-17 MVP ?

By Lamar Battle,
Note to all the purist out there, Lebron James will not be considered in what I believe is a two player race.
Like Micheal Jordan before him there is a school of thought suggesting that Cleveland’s James could win the award every year. However the contest takes into consideration the player most valuable to his particular team and not necessarily the best player in the league.
Who are they?
James Harden, Houston Rockets:
Already the best shooting guard in the league Harden has exploded under new coach Mike D’Antoni who installed a system that utilizes Harden’s natural abilities to the fullest.
Playing the point guard position Harden has powered the Rockets to 3rd best record in the NBA’s formidable Western Conference.
Harden averages 29.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg and a league leading 11.0 apg.
Those numbers combined with ten triple doubles and a recent victory   where Harden out dueled Cleveland’s LeBron James make him the odds on favorite to win the award.
Russell Westbrook, Oklahoma City Thunder:
How can one vote against a man on the verge of breaking the supposed unbreakable record held by NBA demi-god Oscar Robertson who averaged a triple double ( double figures in any statistical category, in this case; points,rebounds and assist.) for an entire NBA season?
Westbrook is within eight more triple doubles of surpassing a record (41) that no one has even come close to, up to now.
His season averages up to this point are 31.7 ppg, 10.7 rpg and 10.4 apg.
The Thunder, ( currently 6th place in the Western Conference ) came within one game of beating the Golden State Warriors (winners themselves of 73 games ) in last seasons playoffs.
Since that time Thunder star Kevin Durant left the Thunder to join the Warriors for this season and more or less left the Thunder in the hands of Westbrook who re-signed with the team.
The Verdict ?
James Harden headlines a team matched perfectly to his skill set, they run, spread the floor and shoot three point shots.
Harden is masterful as the maestro who orchestrates every thing including the odds of this team upsetting the entire apple cart and winning this seasons championship.
Russell Westbrook is UN-relenting in aggression and intensity.
He astounds even casual observers who marvel at his fearlessness and  refusal to take even a play off, let alone a game.
So who wins?
James Harden seems to at this point have a slight edge according to most observers but I would like to employ what I would like to call the (Hoiberg Metric).
Allow Chicago Bulls head basketball coach Fred Hoiberg (nothing personal) to coach the Rockets for a few games and then the Thunder for the same.
The player still thriving at the end of this episode would be the one truly able to adapt to any program and your 2016-17 NBA MVP. (See Photo)
Photo by Layne Murdock / Getty Images.