Good times ahead for War­riors if they reach the Fi­nals

3-Dot Lounge

San Francisco Chronicle - - PAGE 2 - More heat for KD Bruce Jenk­ins is a San Fran­cisco Chron­i­cle columnist. Email: bjenk­[email protected]­i­cle.com Twit­ter: @Bruce_Jenk­ins1

David Stern’s prophecy fi­nally has seen the light. When peo­ple ar­gued for re­seed­ing in the NBA play­offs, lock­ing the 16 best records into the post­sea­son, the league’s com­mis­sioner al­ways said “things are cycli­cal” and to just calm down.

Stern is in re­tire­ment now. Some would say we’ve waited too long for change — per­haps since the last time Magic Johnson’s Lak­ers met Larry Bird’s

Celtics in the Fi­nals (1987). But the blessed day is here. The East­ern Con­fer­ence not only holds its own in star­dom, mar­quee value and ap­peal to the tele­vi­sion net­works, it holds a clear edge over the West.

Cer­tain num­bers can­not be ig­nored. West­ern Con­fer­ence teams have won about 60 per­cent of their games against the East this sea­son. Only three West teams have sub-500 records, and six of the NBA’s seven worst teams are in the East. That’s par­ity?

Come May and June, when it re­ally mat­ters, ab­so­lutely.

If the 3-Dot were asked to name the four most in­trigu­ing op­po­nents for the War­riors in this year’s play­offs, they would be Bos­ton, Philadel­phia, Toronto and Mil­wau­kee — in any or­der you like. It’s all about

Kyrie Irv­ing, Gor­don Hay­ward, Jayson Ta­tum, Joel Em­biid, Ben Sim­mons, Jimmy But­ler, Gian­nis An­te­tok­oun­mpo Kawhi Leonard,

and get­ting bet­ter by the day as the Rap­tors stake a claim as an NBA elite. It’s all fresh and in­vig­o­rat­ing, af­ter too many years of LeBron James-led

Cleve­land.

The loaded West might have its most com­pelling stretch drive in years, with so many teams hav­ing a post­sea­son shot, but for how many teams would you drop ev­ery­thing to watch? The Lak­ers qual­ify, strictly be­cause of LeBron. Ok­la­homa City has the 1-2 punch of Rus­sell West­brook and Paul Ge­orge. That’s as­sum­ing ei­ther team even makes the play­offs. The most fas­ci­nat­ing sto­ries are those of fail­ure: San Antonio de­scend­ing into me­di­ocrity and Hous­ton an out­right dis­grace.

(Nice job by the Rock­ets Thurs­day night. Utah’s Rudy

Gobert got ejected 2:47 into the game, and the Jazz still won by 27. “We just have to play bet­ter,” Hous­ton’s Chris Paul said af­ter his team trudged through the mo­tions, a tepid cri­tique if there ever was one.)

At the on­set of the sea­son, the Celtics’ Jaylen Brown told MassLive, “To be hon­est, I wanted LeBron to stay in the East. I wanted to be the team to go through him. When peo­ple say, ‘Now that LeBron’s gone, y’all are the fa­vorite,’ that irks me.”

You can see Brown’s point, but in truth, the East has been lib­er­ated. We’re dis­cov­er­ing that it was worth the wait.

Kevin Du­rant talked to Bleacher Re­port about James, how it’s un­der­stand­able why a lot of play­ers wouldn’t care to play with him, and it caused quite a stir. The si.com head­line read, “Kevin Du­rant’s End­less Search for En­e­mies.” L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke re­ferred to “a bunch of whin­ing” from Du­rant, writ­ing, “All he can see is James’ shadow, and he wants no part of that . ... Just guess­ing, but I be­lieve the Lak­ers will sur­vive with­out a guy who is clearly not up for the chal­lenge that play­ing in the en­ter­tain­ment cap­i­tal with one of bas­ket­ball’s great­est show­men en­tails.” ... So that rules out Du­rant with the Lak­ers? Who can read the mind of any po­ten­tial free agent at this early stage? I wouldn’t go that far, just as I don’t take agent Scott

Bo­ras’ word as the gospel about Kyler Mur­ray. He’s not an out­right lock to show up for the A’s spring train­ing. When Mur­ray takes flight on the foot­ball field, he’s the fastest and most ef­fec­tive run­ning quar­ter­back since Michael Vick.

Scouts feel his arm is strong enough to make him a firstround draft pick. He has to weigh the NFL against spend­ing a cou­ple of years rid­ing buses in the mi­nor leagues . ... And here’s to the re­fresh­ing take from A’s gen­eral man­ager

Dave Forst, who ob­vi­ously wants Mur­ray in an Oak­land uni­form but says he’s look­ing for­ward to watch­ing him face Alabama in the Dec. 29 play­off game . ... Great call on that, by the way. Mur­ray is the best show in col­lege foot­ball, his Ok­la­homa Soon­ers have lost just one game, and Ge­or­gia has lost two. End of ar­gu­ment — and bet­ter to have the CFP en­joy a bit of ge­o­graph­i­cal ex­panse in­stead of pack­ing so much of it in the south­east.

With the bowl sched­ule com­plete, let’s take a stab at rat­ing the some of the Pac-12’s berths. Wash­ing­ton-Ohio State in the Rose Bowl: Per­fect. A vin­tage matchup. Wash­ing­ton StateIowa State in the Alamo Bowl: Big drag for a 10-2 Cougars team that de­serves bet­ter. Ore­gon-Michi­gan State in the Red­box Bowl (Dec. 31 at Levi’s Sta­dium): Ex­cel­lent. The Bay Area got lucky. Stan­ford-Pitts­burgh in the Sun Bowl: Bor­ing. Be­low the Car­di­nal’s stan­dard. CalTCU in the Cheez-It Bowl. First off, let’s cut the non­sense and go back to its pre­vi­ous name, the Cac­tus Bowl. The Bears look just fine in any bowl game . ... It’s good to know that quar­ter­back Justin Her­bert plans to play for Ore­gon. He’s had a num­ber of in­juries in his ca­reer, but he has a sense of pride, and he’s not about to save him­self for the NFL draft (should he make that choice). Dis­turbingly, at least nine front-line play­ers have an­nounced they’ll skip their teams’ up­com­ing bowl games, in­clud­ing Ari­zona State wide re­ceiver N’Keal Harry. Chris­tian McCaf­frey made that call (by­pass­ing Stan­ford’s 2016 Sun Bowl ap­pear­ance), and he’s a gem of a hu­man be­ing, but still — that’s weak. Your team fought hard all year to get in a bowl game, and now you’re just a lit­tle too spe­cial to com­pete?

Frank Gunn / As­so­ci­ated Press

The Rap­tors’ Kawhi Leonard (2) and 76ers’ Jimmy But­ler would be wor­thy op­po­nents for the War­riors in the Fi­nals.

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