September 24, 2016

Go home Vegas, you're drunk

Well, Las Vegas has weighed in on the Warriors' upcoming season, and it looks like they are supposed to win...let's see here...whoa:  66.5 games this year.

This is great except for one thing - the Warriors are going to stink this year.  Not by NBA standards, of course...they will win lots of games and go to playoffs, and there will be dunks and threes and highlight reels and t-shirts and a new arena.

But the greatest team that ever played is over, done, finished.  Here is the exact moment when that team peaked:

Curry, it hardly needs to be said, was not making that shot in June, when it might have helped defeat a determined and resilient Cavaliers squad.  A lot of things weren't happening in June.

Problem #1:  Heart Trouble
Draymond Green is falling apart.  The heart and soul of the lovable underdog champions of 2015, Green was always a walking morality play, an inferno of internal contention between a simple man with a winner's will and an adolescent loon.  By the end of the '15-'16 season the id had won the battle, burned the huts, killed the women and children, and taken over the kingdom:
I look forward to Draymond's upcoming tour of North Korea, but not to the next twelve months with the Warriors.  Once this stuff gets started in the NBA, there's no end to it.  The genie's not going back in the bottle. Green, whose game relies on focused intensity, has peaked.  It's a long way down.

Also not getting better will be Steph Curry.  Asked about Curry's status late last season, coach Steve Kerr said simply, "he's fried."  As the Warriors entered the playoffs Jerry West had to take Curry aside and talk to him about his focus.  Curry is 28.

Problem #2:  Soft Serve
The '15-'16 Warriors probably were the best team in history at a particular kind of basketball:  NBA regular season basketball.  It is a game that is played like a marathon, at about 90-95% intensity, with relatively close officiating most of the time.  The goal is to entertain, keep the players from hurting themselves, and put on a good show.

The problem is that you don't win the NBA Championship in the regular season.  This ain't Premier League...there are these things called Playoffs.  This is a different game.  Intensity goes to 99.9%, and late in a close Game 7 to eleventy one percent or more.  Referees who during the regular season scrupulously call foul line violations and hand checks now look on nonchalantly as defensive players throw caltrops on the court and beat opposing shooters with truncheons.  Here is what Jerry West had to say about that in February:
Once you get into the playoffs, it’s a completely different game. I would be concerned with our team because, No. 1, we need to be healthy. And the strength of our team is our backcourt. No question about that from an offensive perspective. Those guys are going to get challenged every night in the playoffs. Teams are going to try to take Curry and Thompson out of the game in terms of doubling them all over the place. That’s when it’s important that the other players on the team respond in a positive manner.

It's now in the historical record that the Warriors did not excel at playoff basketball in 2016.  Yes, Steph Curry was hurt, and played hurt, and sometimes played well hurt.  But the Warriors had trouble even with Portland, were taken to near-death by the Thunder, and were ultimately bested by a less-skilled team with a greater desire to win, and a greater willingness to explore the limits of defensive mayhem.

#2 Son states that "the Warriors only lost because the referees wouldn't call a foul, and no one cared except California."  Yes.  Welcome to the Association, sir.

The Warriors have addressed this problem by trading Andrew Bogut, the only player on last year's team who is not a big fat sissy.  This was an error, and they will surely pay, unless JaVale McGee is the second coming of Maurice Lucas.  Mmmm...Maurice Lucas...

Problem #3: 3 + 1 makes 3.5
So yes, the Warriors have added an All-Star and former MVP to their roster.  This gives them four of the former and two of the the latter, and makes them the favorite in every game they will play between now and the Fourth of July 2017.

It says here it will not go well.  Who's gonna pass?  Who's gonna rebound?  Who's gonna guard someone?  Who's gonna take the ball out of bounds?  Here are last year's field goal attempts per game from this year's top four Warriors starters:
  • Steph Curry:  20
  • Kevin Durant:  19
  • Klay Thompson:  17
  • Draymond "I Have Sacrificed Enough" Green:  10
The Warriors top four shooters averaged 57 shots per night last year, 65% of the team total.  This group averaged 66, or 75%.  Someone's gotta take fewer, smarter, shots.  No one's going to volunteer to do so.  The coaches will have to deliver the bad news.

It will not. Go. Well.

So ends the run of the team that, from the middle of the '14-'15 season to the middle of last season was a good as any that ever played the game.  They had it all:  youth, skills, energy, a relentless work ethic, cagey veterans, and a burning desire to prove themselves.  And let's not forget that great bench, mostly gone now...Andrew Bogut, Festus Ezeli, Leandro Barbosa, Brandon Rush...  

Ok, they still have a bench

Perhaps I'll be wrong.  Maybe this new team will be even better than Dynasty 1.0.  Maybe they'll get along fine.  Maybe they'll find a way to perform better in the playoffs.  

But it won't be my team...that Golden Team that played together every night, that took the NBA by storm and imposed its will, winning in a way no team had ever won before.  That chapter has ended, and we are the poorer for it.  

That's the downside of's temporary, it goes.  As Bulgakov reminds us, the bank notes that fall from the ceiling will, sooner than we would like, turn to scrap paper.  Well, I can't complain - with the Warriors and '85-'86 Celtics I've seen it twice now.  I'm not asking for a refund.  

But dang...Bogut.  Durant, you've got BIG SHOES TO FILL.  Show up in shape, pal.

Look at this, already distracted


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