Wednesday, October 5, 2016

4 reasons the 2016 Warriors would lose to the 1996 Bulls (and 2 reasons they would win)

Once the 2015-16 Warriors lost to Cleveland in the NBA Finals, diehard fans were forced to unfog their glasses. That Golden State team was not the best in history. 

They did not win the title. At best, they deserve a place in the conversation. But because they didn’t win it all, it’s a game of musical chairs the Warriors cannot win in a serious discussion.

During the Warriors’ recordbreaking season, people said things like “this is the best team I’ve ever seen.” Perhaps another and better description would be the most aesthetically pleasing team. Steph Curry and friends could look oh-so pretty.

Golden State does own the single season record, with 73 wins. That’s different than the ‘best team ever’ or even ‘best regular season team ever.’ The 1995-96 Chicago Bulls have a far better claim to both titles. Why? Because they won the actual title. It’s difficult to get around that fact.

Some longtime observers might include the 2001 or 1987 L.A. Lakers in the best-ever convo, along with a few other champions.

The Warriors’ eventual record, with regular season plus playoffs, turned out to be 88-16 (.846).

The 1996 Bulls combined record was 87-13 (.870).

Like any historical matchup, we’ll never really know what would happen. But like the others, it is entertaining to imagine a series between these teams. Golden State gets home court advantage by way of their regular season record. The Bulls get to play in the style which they’re accustomed; an age when the game was more physical.

Game 1: The Bulls storm out, intent on proving that their team is better top to bottom. Strong benches don’t matter a lot here—can your starting five beat mine? With both teams at true Finals strength, season fatigue and nicks and bruises and all, the match ups tonight look about the same throughout this series.

The key is at the forward position, between Scottie Pippen and Klay Thompson, a theme that affects the whole series in hindsight. Pippen is capable of steering Thompson around the court on defense, and saves his energy on the other end. Many times he acts as a decoy on offense, to keep Thompson, also an outstanding defender, out of play.

Andrew Bogut and Luc Longley are a wash. “Bogut is much better than Longley,” some argue, and maybe it’s true over a season. But some of Longley’s unexpected playoff appearances, like in Game 3 against the Seattle Sonics in the ’96 Finals, have confounded better players than Bogut. Bulls win and lead the series 1-0.

Game 2: The “microwave factor” is in effect. There are games when everything a team wants will join together fitly. When that happens with Golden State, they look like the Globetrotters, swishing thirty footers like no one else is in the gym. The basketball flicking around the court like a pinball, in search of the open man. Sometimes there is simply nothing you can do with Curry, Thompson and Draymond Green in lockstep, not even these Bulls. This is one of those nights. Warriors win and tie the series at 1-1.

Game 3: Physicality vs. skills is the argument for tonight’s game, the first in Chicago. The skills of shooting and dribbling is thought to have taken a quantum leap in the 2010s. Unfortunately for the Warriors, the Bulls has skills, too—and they are tougher. The only player Golden State has who qualifies as anything of an enforcer is Draymond, and Chicago does not fear him.

Curry was projected as the protoype for Generation Blech. We are meant to keep watch for a thousand little Stephs, mesmerized into idolizing Curry. Trick-dribbling and three point tossing into the future. But the finer points of basketball aren’t that superior to twenty years prior. Maybe we confuse improved technology with improved everything. “What, you want to watch Charles Oakley in 2016?” one sports radio talking head sneered. “I want to see skilled players out there, not bangers.”

Except those bangers can knock your skilled one down and keep him mentally and physically off. You say you don’t want to watch that kind of basketball? You got no choice. Buck up, Sally. Bulls win and lead the series 2-1.
Oscar Robertson's claim that more physical play would slow Steph Curry was widely mocked by Sports Talking Head Central. But the Big O was vindicated as Curry became fatigued late season.

Game 4: Turning point in the series. This is not a “must-win” scenario. That would be Game 5, if Golden State loses tonight. The star of the Bulls decides that it is a good idea. Michael Jordan wears Steph Curry out. There is a microwave factor… and then, there is an MJ factor.

It’s not always about scoring bunches of points. It is an all-around domination of skill and will. It is knowing the moment, and better, knowing how to seize that moment, that intangible substance. Nerds and people with too much time on their hands can crunch all the analytics they want. In a time when players run untouched on the perimeter, Curry grasps the moment well. But no one does it better than Mike. Bulls win and lead the series, 3-1.

Game 5: Back at home, Golden State is focused and yes, taking it one game at a time. Anything is possible. GSW got beat by LeBron and the Cavaliers three straight games in the Finals. Maybe lightning could strike twice (better, thrice).

People think of Draymond Green as mercurial and talkative. Troublemaker and instigator. A reckless punter of other men’s inseams. Rodman looks him up and down and thinks, “Amateur.” Draymond plays the hardworking everyman card, but the bright spotlight reveals him as Rodman-esque. The problem is that he still thinks we’re fooled.

Rodman, on the other hand, is always open about his entertaining buffoonery. He is flagrant with his crazy and serves an agenda. He is more honest than Draymond. Even Rodman’s arms-out-mouth-agape denials to the referees always contained a kind of winking smirk. He knew that you knew that he knew it was all a game, an experiment on his part.

“Was the rest of this simply designed as a marketing aspect?” media personality Jim Gray asked Rodman once.

Rodman said, “You don’t market stuff like this... the only reason people like this is because of who I am. I’m a basketball player.”

Draymond Green is neutralized by Dennis Rodman throughout the series—with the exception of tonight. He draws the Worm outside with three pointers, then transforms into a point forward. He has so far been frustrated, and this triple-double feels good. Warriors win and trail the series, 3-2.

Game 6. Chicago hosts. Phil Jackson and his protégé Steve Kerr engage in what is most definitely a “must win.” The student cannot best the teacher this time. Golden State was the king of small ball in the seventy-three win. However, ’96 Chicago did it first.

A locked-in Bulls squad wins this series, four games to two (4-2). No one on the Warriors has the indomitable will of Michael Jordan. No, we cannot quantify that. But those of us who were there, we have eyes.

sports trading cards: Dalton Hilliard

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

NBA 2K16-10: Eastern Conference Finals, Roanoke Railguns v Chicago Bulls

To begin the Eastern Conference Finals, Chicago was a 92 overall; the Roanoke Railguns were 77. Perhaps the team got some rest after their sweep. There is not much talk of repeating such a feat in this round.

Game 1, at RoanokeRoanoke wins, 93-54So... the Bulls seemed dangerous on paper. And not only because they have one of
our doppelgangers, Panthro Wang. But the team was fired up to start well. Alexandr Vikayanov was most ablaze, with 20 points, 3 reb 3 assists. Our Panthro was not far behind, as usual. He had been upset since the Joe Johnson trade, which knocked him out of the lineup. But the anger had translated into strong play on the court.

Game 2, at Roanoke.  Roanoke wins, 82-64. Joe Dumars's return signaled better things than anticipated. Another time for clobbering... even though the Bulls defense was supposedly set at 99 for today's game. Might be a sweep after all, was the thought in the locker room. But no one wanted to speak too soon...

Game 3, at Chicago.  Roanoke wins, 86-57. The Railguns broke out to an 18-4 lead. Big mistake--the boys got lax, and soon the score was 20-15. Sloppy passes. But they were reminded of the mission at halftime. Dumars had 13 and 7, steady as usual. Stevens
put in 19 including four threes. Derrick Rose had us shook with some of his dribble stutter-steps but he got stuffed a few times and finished with 8 points...

Game 4, at Chicago. Roanoke clinches, 80-56. Oklahoma City was up 3-0 in the Western Finals, against the West's #8 seed New Orleans. Plan was to dead this series in a sweep so we could practice and rest... The Bulls were tough early. But Stevens had 18 at the half on 8-10 shooting and the Railguns were up 49-26. We had more in the first quarter (28) than Chicago's first half... Not much to see. Motivation and execution and another sweet win.

The Thunder swept the Pelicans over there. So on to the Finals. Our team had just about mastered the shooting stroke (except for the Rodmans and Hansbroughs of the world). Coach aims to keep the team in season for the last series of the season.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Political Distractions: Is Donald Trump our Lex Luthor?

Presidential candidate Donald Trump confounded lots of people during the run-up to the 2016 election. The focus on Trump never waned as waning as so-called political experts thought it might.

Media consumers see pundits smirking at the mention of Trump.
Perhaps this eye rolling is an affectation by political talking heads, so we will think they feel cheapened; that Trump makes a mockery of their jobs.

However, most of the public has already lost faith in media and in politics, knowing the mainstream is laughing all the way to the bank.

Donald Trump is an entertaining and profitable distraction. Here are a few ways they are similar.

They’re billionaires. This is obvious and rightfully first on the list. Trump and Luthor have more money than you and me. Love makes the world go ’round, but money greases many a wheel. The first incarnations of Lex Luthor showed him as a fully-coiffed mad scientist. Over time, he became a power-hungry businessman, which is how the casual fan knows him today. And, in one Justice League animated series, Luthor angles all of his resources to run for president!

They’re ruthless. Goes along with having money. Maybe there have been a few extremely righteous, sweet men and women who’ve made huge fortunes and amassed power on many levels. However, that just isn’t the norm. “I'd trip my mother (to win),”
said baseball legend Leo Durocher. “I'd help her up, brush her off, tell her I'm sorry. But mother don't make it to third.” To succeed in the world’s systems, Luthor and Trump long ago decided what was important. That decision to win the competition is reflected in their bearing, and what they say and do.

They are surrounded by beautiful women. When Trump said that long-time model Heidi Klum was ‘no longer a 10’, he gave us a clue as to his lofty standards. He has been married to and dated many, many beauties. The women will keep coming as long as he is Donald Trump. Yet Lex Luthor trumps Trump. Not only does he marry and date goddesses, two of them (Mercy and Hope) are his deadly bodyguards.

Their heads command attention. Much is made of Donald Trump’s ’do. But many people don’t know the twisty history behind Lex’s slick-bald head. The story goes that an artist forgot to draw Luthor’s hair a couple of times, and to cover, the producers of the comic created a backstory where the permanent baldness is Superman’s fault. Multiple versions aside, we do know that Luthor and Trump are instantly recognizable because of their noggins. For very different reasons.

Your opinion doesn’t register. Lex’s rudeness is legendary. He once told Superman, “They say ‘Keep your enemies close’… in your case, I’m willing to make an exception.” Not many people get the last word with Luthor.

Neither is Donald Trump a shrinking violet: He infuriates people from Fox News to The View to Congress to Mexico, and everywhere between. “We are led by stupid people,” Trump told CNN once. ‘Trump Won’t Apologize For (fill-in-the-blank)’, trending headlines keep telling us. Does he seem worried that you’re angry? No. Luthor doesn’t care, either.

Unlike Lex Luthor, Donald Trump doesn’t pilot experimental planes nor encase himself inside battle exosuits. He is certainly not a crazed, villian with plans to subjugate the world.

But, if Superman existed, Donald Trump would probably try to humble him, too.