San Francisco Chronicle - (Sunday)
NBA returns to big men, but are Warriors game?
It wasn’t so terrible. As the Warriors squared off against the league’s leading MVP candidates last week, they won both games and gained a ton of selfrespect. It’s the leaguewide trend, symbolized by the 76ers’ Joel Embiid and the Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic, that has observers sorting out Golden State’s strategy for next season.
In a refreshing development when measured against the increasingly tedious obsession with 3point shooting, the NBA has gone big. Turned back the clock. Embiid has Philadelphia in position to win a title, and the Western Conference is stunningly loaded with Jokic, the Lakers’ Anthony Davis, Utah’s Rudy Gobert, Phoenix’s Deandre Ayton (coming on fast), New Orleans’
Zion Williamson, Portland’s
Jusuf Nurkic, Minnesota’s
KarlAnthony Towns, Houston’s Christian Wood and Dallas’ Kristaps Porzingis (once he forgets the 27footers and plays around the basket).
Beyond that, it’s all about reinforcements. The Clippers picked up DeMarcus Cousins and rave about his latest resurrection. The Lakers added Andre Drummond and can put him up front, on occasion, with Davis and
LeBron James at playoff time. And here comes Evan Mobley, USC’s 7foot center and perhaps the top college player in the country, declaring for the draft.
Would the Warriors choose to ignore this mountain of evidence and take the Brooklyn route, looking into a trade for Washington’s Bradley Beal or another top wing player? It sounds awfully nice — imagine Beal on the court with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green — but you wonder if they’d eventually run short on muscle, rebounding and general inside presence. The way the Nets’ wounded superstars keep retreating to the sidelines, you wonder whether they’ll even have a chance to realize their dream.
Now that Warriors rookie center James Wiseman is out for the season, and scratched once again for summer league play, there are serious doubts about him developing rapidly enough to be part of a championship run next season. None of the top centers will be available in trade, and the freeagent crop will be decidedly short on big men. To swing some kind of blockbuster deal, the Warriors would probably have to give up Wiseman and whatever treasures they land between Minnesota’s topthree protected pick and their own in the draft.
That just doesn’t sound right. Better to let Wiseman relax, anticipate many more seasons of Curry’s brilliance and take time to appreciate Green, who totally held his own against Embiid and Jokic and produced a startling 19 assists against Denver, or
chestrating the offense like no forward who came before. Things are going to get better around Chase Center, if you can stand the suspense.
One of the league’s most respected players, Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday, has been blown away by Curry’s longrange shooting. “He’s an alien,” Holiday told host JJ Redick on “The Old Man & the Three” podcast this week. “I don’t understand. I’m like, ‘What is wrong with you? What do you take? Can I get some of it, please, because you’re insane, dude.’ ”
It’s worth noting that
James Harden once had 32 straight 30point games. It’s just that, unlike Curry, he never stirred the soul. Every one of them looked the same.
Explayers Matt Barnes and Robert Horry had it right on ESPN: In a spectacular field including Harden, Beal, Chris Paul, Luka Doncic, Donovan Mitchell and
Ben Simmons, the firstteam allNBA guards should be Curry and Damian Lillard.
Historyminded fans should look into Drazen Petrovic, the Croatian star who died in a 1993 auto collision after four seasons in the NBA. Reggie Miller has often said he needed a long look at Curry before calling him a better shooter than Petrovic.
Around the NBA
Insiders fantasized about a WarriorsPelicans matchup in the playin tournament, just to watch Curry and Williamson in the spotlight. That seems unlikely in light of New Orleans’ recent slide. Blustery coach Stan Van Gundy ap
pears to be losing the locker room, especially Eric Bledsoe, who appears “mentally checked out,” according to NOLA.com beat writer
Christian Clark. After the club’s fourth straight loss Thursday, Williamson said, “There were times in the huddle when Coach was looking at us and saying, ‘You guys look like you have dead faces right now.’ I don’t think there should ever be nights where he should feel like that.” What the playin really needs: LaMelo Ball, an instant sensation in his rookie year, coming back from his wrist injury for Charlotte. He puts on a hell of a show. Badly missing the point, the NBA fined the San Antonio Spurs when coach Gregg Popovich rested DeMar DeRozan, Patty Mills and
Jakob Poeltl for a game April 17 (a victory over Phoenix). The league can’t have a clear picture what’s going on with players, especially in a pandemic. “I didn’t give it much thought,” Popovich said of the sanction. “I think we know better what our players need.” A different time: Even though the San Francisco Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers needed to win two playoff series before reaching the Finals — showcasing Wilt Chamberlain and Rick Barry, who averaged 40.8 points along the way — the 76ers’ titleclinching Game 6 victory at the Cow Palace took place on April 24.