Good times ahead for Warriors if they reach the Finals
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
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?
The Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard (2) and 76ers’ Jimmy Butler would be worthy opponents for the Warriors in the Finals.