I got a crick in my neck Saturday from standing under a basket after the Warriors’ practice, watching Stephen Curry jack up three-point shots.
Curry was the last Warrior off the court, and the other players would probably tell you, hey, if I could shoot like that, I’d stay out there all day, too.
At one point, Curry made 15 consecutive threes, mostly from the right corner. Then he moved around the arc, and I counted a 22-in-a-row run. He said he doesn’t know what his record is, but it’s somewhere north of 30 in a row.
This shot is one of the league’s great offensive weapons.
It is Exhibit A in making the case that the Warriors could go to the NBA Finals. It’s also Exhibit A in making the case that they could miss the playoffs.
That’s where Warriors fans are right now, wondering if this is a miracle team or a mirage. Could go either way, right?
If you’re looking for a limo ride to the NBA Finals, you’ve got the wrong team, the wrong conference, the wrong century and the wrong transportation. This will be a roller-coaster ride.
The Warriors could slump and miss the playoffs. They could catch fire and barge into the Finals, ready to rumble with the nervous and vulnerable Miami Heat.
This is still new territory for Warriors fans, as grizzled old-timer Curry reminded me when I asked how he feels about fans riding their emotional roller coaster.
“It’s a good thing to me, actually, when you think about it,” Curry said. “I was here five years ago, and if we lost by two at home to a playoff team, it was like a minor victory, because we probably played an exciting game, and fans loved to watch that. But now we’re 41-26, and it’s the end of the world when you lose a winnable game at home. So the expectation has increased each year, and that’s a good thing.”
It was more relaxing in the old days, and if the current uncertainty drives fans crazy, the players understand.
Andrew Bogut says he checks in on the fans and the media, but he and his teammates don’t take the wild mood swings seriously.
“We just laugh it off,” Bogut said. “We love our fans, we love fans in the NBA in general, but the good thing about social media is, you go on there after a loss and it’s the end of the world for a lot of fans, they want to trade the whole team, and you win a game and they want to put you on a pedestal.
“That’s just part of it. You gotta take your hits, take your bumps, and obviously enjoy the good times, too. So we don’t worry about it too much. That’s just the reality of it today.”
The reality is that the free ride deep into the playoffs doesn’t exist in the Western Conference. Hasn’t since the Lakers of Magic Johnson, and then of Shaq and Kobe.
During Magic’s decade of glory, the Lakers never popped a Champagne cork until someone handed them a Larry O’Brien trophy. Every step below that was just another day at the office.
The Warriors have their best team since the Rick Barry days, but stuff can happen. Their go-to scorer is a relatively frail point guard. Curry working for a money shot might be the most fun moment in the NBA right now, but he’s not as likely to get off a good shot as would LeBron James or Kevin Durant, who are huge and basically unguardable.
That said, considering how important the three-point shot has become, if you asked NBA coaches and players what point guard they would most want to lead their team right now, Curry might get the nod.
It’s not all about Curry, of course. How well the Warriors do depends on how all the players handle the emotional ups and downs, and in that department this team is set up beautifully, maybe the most mature team in the NBA.
–Scott Ostler, San Francisco Chronicle
Get rid of conference tournaments.
That seems like a bit of college basketball blasphemy, especially for those money-grubbers whose pockets are filled on account of them, but it’s an idea whose time has come. Just because it won’t come — cash rules everything in college sports — doesn’t mean it shouldn’t.
The tournaments are tired, redundant and competitively unfair.
Other than that, they’re great.
They are promoted as hoop celebrations, but they hurt the college game in a major way.
Every good coach in America knows it. Every fan knows it, at least deep down, somewhere under 10 layers of hype.
Those tournaments sometimes create cool moments, when a last-minute game-winning shot snaps the net, or when a terrific individual performance is posted, but they really are concocted events carrying much more significance than they should.
Think about it: Why should the entire league regular season be reduced to little more than a means to seed teams for a four-day postseason tournament? At many conference tournaments, there’s not even any kind of home-floor advantage for a regular-season champion. Just a number assigned that presumably offers an easier path to the title, but often those edges are negligible.
In the case of smaller leagues, a tournament eclipses everything that came before, transforming a season’s worth of work, with the winner moving on to the NCAA tournament. A team’s regular-season championship means squat.
In the case of bigger leagues, most of the teams that deserve to go dancing have already proved it through earlier games. A few pieces might be moved around by way of the league tournament, but why is that a good idea?
In both cases, teams that may have underperformed all season hit a big shot or two in the conference tourney and suddenly some sort of redemption is found.
That argument could be made to denounce every playoff scenario in every sport in college and in the pros, but there are differences. The NFL, for instance, has a fantastic postseason, and in that league champions play the entire regular season and then face a game-by-game, do-or-die playoff grind en route to their titles at the end.
But conference basketball tournaments add another unnecessary layer on the path to the NCAA tournament. It would be like the NFL having postseason playoffs among teams within each and every division before moving on to the rest of the postseason, all of which would compromise the regular season even more.
The conference tournaments seemed like a good idea at the time.
Modeled mostly after the ACC’s original, which started back in 1954, they came on strong — some leagues held out for an extended period — in subsequent decades, with conferences everywhere eventually jumping aboard. The idea was fresh — at first. The parties attendant with the play were a gas for basketball fans. There’s a reason presently there are four league tournaments — WCC, WAC, MWC and Pac-12 — held in Las Vegas.
But a good time doesn’t equate to good competitive reason.
–Gordon Monson, Digital First Media
Just for experimental reasons only, we wonder what would happen if the black jerseys worn by the Miami Heat were pulled off and switched for a Kings uniform, and the NBA’s two-time world champs were moved to Sleep Train Arena.
Would they, too, start playing selfish, undisciplined basketball, as Sacramento fans have grown accustomed to seeing the past seven seasons?
Would LeBron James bark at his teammates during halftime for not getting him the ball enough, even though his team is winning? Would Dwyane Wade dribble the ball down to the end of the shot clock and take an off-balance jumper that had no chance of even hitting the basket? Would the team forget how to play defense?
Would the Heat play like the Kings?
Because it doesn’t seem to matter what player you put in a Kings uniform, the results are usually the same.
The Kings have only three players left from last year’s 28-win team – DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Jason Thompson. Otherwise the roster, including the coaching staff, management and ownership, is completely different.
And with so many new pieces to begin the new era in Sacramento, with Vivek Ranadive and his group dedicated to improving the team, you’d think the result would be somewhat better.
–Victor Contreras, Sacramento Bee