It looks like Jerry West is packing his bags once again.
It has been more than 40 years since Jerry West has played in a NBA game, but his legacy lives on. West played his entire 14-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers which included him helping the franchise win an NBA Championship in 1972. West was also a 14-time NBA All-Star and he’s gone on to literally become the logo of the league. And as good as West was on the court, he has been even better as an executive. West was the Lakers general manager from 1982-2001, and during that time the franchise won five NBA Titles. West would go on to become the general manager of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2002 as helped the franchise make their first three trips to the postseason. West would remain with the Grizzlies until 2007 before he stepped down, but it wouldn’t take him that long to resurface on the basketball scene.
In 2011, West became a member of the Golden State Warriors executive board not long after Joe Lacob and Peter Guber purchased the team. And since then the Warriors have gone on to be one of the better teams in the NBA as they won a championship in 2015, while setting a single-season for wins last season with 73.
West turned 79-years of age earlier month, but he doesn’t appear to be slowing down. And as West still possesses one of the sharpest minds in basketball he is still a very wanted man.
West’s contract with the Warriors is set to expire at the end of this season and he has reportedly drawn interest from the Los Angeles Clippers for his services. West is a legend in the City of Los Angeles after what he did with the Lakers, and now the Clippers want in on the fun.
The Clippers have made the playoffs in each of the last six years, but they have never been able to make it past the second round. Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has owned the team now for three years and is a person who is committed to winning. Ballmer has the ability to sell water to a whale if need be, but could he persuade West to leave Oakland for Hollywood?
Whereas the Clippers have been a competitive team, they are currently at the crossroads. The Clippers have a pair of perennial All-Stars in point guard Chris Paul and power forward Blake Griffin, along with shooting guard J.J. Redick who are all set to become unrestricted free agents this summer. And the Clippers ability to maintain all three players could come down to whether or not that Ballmer can get West to come on board. But as much as Ballmer may want West to return to Los Angeles, don’t expect Lacob and Guber to go down without a fight.
West might be an executive board member by title for the Warriors, but he has a keen eye for finding talent. The Warriors core trio of point guard Steph Curry, shooting guard Klay Thompson, and power forward Draymond Green who helped the franchise win an NBA Championship in 2015 were not top-five selections in the NBA Draft, and in the case of Green, he was a second-round pick. West joined the Warriors after Curry was drafted by the team, but he did have a hand in the selection of Thompson and Green who have gone on to be two of the better players at their respective positions. And the Warriors ability to woo small forward Kevin Durant last summer in free agency last summer cannot be omitted either.
The Lakers only missed the playoffs once during West’s tenure, while he built the Grizzlies into a contender. And after helping to make the Warriors into the modern day version of the “Showtime” Lakers, Lacob and Guber cannot afford to simply allow West to leave town, and I see the duo leaving no stone unturned in order to keep him happy in order for him to remain in Northern California.
So now let the bidding war begin as West who is already wealthy is set to become wealthier as there will be some billionaires who are ready to open up the vault for his services. West has walked away from a winning situation before when he left the Lakers which makes joining the Clippers not that far-fetched. However with what the Warriors have accomplished along with what they still could do, it would be difficult to see West walk away from that in order to team up with Ballmer.
When power forward Draymond Green entered the NBA in 2012 as a second-round pick of the Golden State Warriors, he had the reputation of being a hard worker. Green spent four years playing under head basketball coach Tom Izzo in his Michigan State Spartans basketball program. And by Green’s senior season, he was the Big Ten Conference’s Player of the Year, along with being a first-team All-American. In Green’s first two years with the Warriors, he was a bench player who barely averaged 20 minutes per game. However when the decision was made to fire Mark Jackson and replace with him with Steve Kerr as the Warriors head coach in 2014, Green now found himself in the starting lineup. In Green’s first season under Kerr, he would average 11.7 points and 8.2 rebounds as he would be key in Golden State winning their first NBA Championship since 1975. Green has gone on to become a two-time NBA All-Star, and although that his teammate in point guard Steph Curry is the reigning two-time NBA MVP, there is a consensus that feel that Green is Golden State’s best player due to the fact he can facilitate, rebound, score, and play defense. However as good as Green can be, there are some negative attributes that he brings to the table as well.
Green has taken it upon himself to become the NBA’s bad boy. Green has received his fair share of flagrant fouls and fines in the past few years due to his unnecessary contact with opponents. Two of the most infamous incidents occurred last year during the NBA Playoffs. In Game Three of the Western Conference Finals, Green kicked Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams in his groin. Green was assessed a Flagrant 2 foul and fined $25k by the NBA, and even with that some people felt that he got off light. In the Game Four of the NBA Finals, the Warriors were well on their way to taking a 3-1 series lead over the Cleveland Cavaliers when Green got himself into a tussle with Cavs small forward LeBron James. Both players would be assessed technical fouls, but since it was Green’s fourth technical of the postseason, he would be suspended by the NBA for Game Five. The Cavaliers would have new life as they rallied to win the NBA Championship, and many pointed to Green’s blunder as a big reason why.
And after the Warriors blew a 3-1 series lead, you would think that Green would have had a new outlook on things coming into this NBA season, but that hasn’t been the case. Green is still the glue for what the Warriors want to do, however he continues to make boneheaded decisions.
In the Warriors 132-127 loss to the Houston Rockets on December 1, Green could be seen kicking Rockets point guard James Harden in the face while attempting to secure a rebound. Green was assessed a Flagrant 1 foul, but he was not suspended by the NBA. During the Warriors 123-113 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on February 23, Green kicked Clippers power forward Blake Griffin while tussling for a loose ball which resulted in no fine or suspension by the NBA.
Green has yet to learn his lesson as gone are the days in the NBA when teams had enforcers who would be put into the game simply to retaliate against players such as himself. Early in the Hall of Fame career of Michael Jordan, if anyone were to breath on him in the wrong way, they had to deal with Charles Oakley. The Detroit Pistons of the late 1980’s were the ultimate intimidators who dared opponents to cross them. But ever since “The MalIce At The Palace” in 2004, the landscape of the NBA has changed with a no-nonsense policy as far as fighting goes, and Green has taken full advantage of it.
Green knows that he can continue his on-court antics because there aren’t that many players left in the league who are willing to confront him. And at this point the only way to slow Green down is a physical altercation due to the fact that fines and a suspension in the NBA Finals have not made him change his ways. However it will only take Green to try his luck against the wrong player in the NBA that would escalate into brawl before the league would be forced to sit him down.
There’s nothing wrong with playing with intensity in order to win. But there is a fine line playing hard and being stupid. Green is taking the latter approach and I don’t understand why this is being allowed to happen. Once again the Warriors have a very good chance of winning the NBA Title. However if nobody is able to get Green under control, all of the fantastic shooting ability that is possessed by Curry, shooting guard Klay Thompson, or small forward Kevin Durant won’t mean a thing.
It isn’t that often in which an NBA team will come along and do what the Golden State Warriors are currently doing. The Warriors went 67-15 en route to winning the NBA Championship in 2015. Last season the Warriors would set a new single-season record by going 73-9, but they fell one victory short of repeating as NBA Champions. And although that the Warriors fell one victory short of their ultimate goal last summer, they still have a have a huge bulls eye on their backs during the current NBA season.
As if having two of the best perimeter shooters in the NBA in point guard Stephen Curry and shooting guard Klay Thompson wasn’t enough, the rich got richer when the Warriors signed small forward Kevin Durant last summer. Now it’s a classic game of “pick your poison” as either Durant, Curry, or Thompson can explode for 40 points on a given night as this is a team that has embraced the spotlight.
The Warriors entered this NBA season with Curry being the two-time reigning MVP, along with the fact that there’s a huge consensus of basketball fans that are upset about Durant’s decision to leave the Thunder as a free agent in order to sign with the team that eliminated him in the Western Conference Finals last June. And once you factor in that the Warriors are very good, along with the notion of power forward Draymond Green not being Mr. Popular due to his questionable play on the court, Golden State might be the closest thing to a hated team that the NBA has right now. But if there’s a group guys who aren’t concerned about this, it is indeed the Warriors.
This NBA season didn’t begin like the previous one did for the Warriors when they won their first 24 games as on opening night, they fell at home to the San Antonio Spurs. And by Golden State’s sixth game, they had tasted defeat for the second time as the young Los Angeles Lakers got the best of them. But then Golden State would get on one of those vintage runs as they would reel of 12 consecutive victories and since then they have not lost two games in a row. Each time that the Warriors have lost a game, they followed it up by winning at least their next four in a row.
There were people who wondered how the Warriors would be able to make things work with Durant, Thompson, Curry, and Green all in the starting lineup. But Warriors head coach Steve Kerr has one of the most unselfish teams in the NBA. Each of these players have seen their points per game diminish this season, but it’s all for the greater good for the team in order to win another NBA Championship.
Durant led the NBA in scoring on four separate occasions with the Thunder which included a career-high 32 points during his MVP campaign during the 2013-2014 season. But Durant isn’t a one-dimensional player who is focusing on scoring as he wants to win which is what led him to joining the Warriors over the summer. This season Durant’s points per game are down as he’s average 26.2 per contest which still leads the team, however he has become more efficient.
With the Warriors, Durant is averaging a career-high in rebounds (8.4), along with blocks (1.7), while he is also shooting over 54% from the floor. Each time that Durant takes the court you can see the hunger in his eyes as he wants to win an NBA Championship, while also proving to people that he didn’t join the Warriors to merely ride the coat tails of Curry, Thompson, and Green.
Curry’s points per game (24.6), and three-point field goal percentage (40%) are each drastically down from last season. However Curry is still one of the best shooters from long range as teams around the NBA still have reservations as far as leaving him open from beyond the three-point arc.
Thompson might be the forgotten man on the Warriors this season as he’s still averaging 21.1 points per game. But on December 5, Thompson torched the Indiana Pacers for 60 points in just 29 minutes as the Warriors crushed them 142-106. And if teams want to focus on Durant and Curry, Thompson could still be Golden State’s ace in the hole.
Then there is the case of Green who is the Warriors omnipresent player. Curry may have won the NBA’s MVP last year, but there were people who made the case that Green was the best player on the team. This season Green is once again leading the Warriors in assists with 7.5 per game while he is also averaging 8.5 rebounds, 1.9, and 1.4 blocks. Green is still that guy that does the dirty work as any championship needs a player like that. But at times Green can be his own worst enemy as he has been known to make bonehead decisions on the court.
Green racked up several flagrant fouls in the NBA Playoffs last year which led to him ultimately being suspended for Game 5 of the NBA Finals. And Green’s absence was the momentum needed for the Cavaliers to get back into the series and ultimately win the NBA Title. But Green has yet to learn as he kicked Houston Rockets shooting guard James Harden in the head earlier this season, and you get the feeling that his antics could cost the Warriors once more when the chips are down in the playoffs.
In signing Durant, the Warriors sacrificed some size as they traded center Andrew Bogut to the Dallas Mavericks, while also allowing center Marreesse Speights to leave in free agency as he signed with the Los Angeles Clippers. And whereas there were some detractors who felt that the Warriors would have issues because of their perceived lack of size, they are currently sixth in rebounding as they are averaging 45.2 per contest.
The Warriors have a commitment to defense and rebounding which includes the likes of center Zaza Pachulia, power forward David West, point guard Shaun Livingston, and small forward Andre Iguodala who is still one of the better perimeter defenders in the NBA.
It’s late January, but the Warriors have all but clinched the Pacific Division for the third consecutive year as they should not be tested until they reach the Western Conference Finals where they will more than likely face the Spurs. The Warriors have lucked out for the fact that they’ve not had to face the Spurs in the last two years in the playoffs, but this season it is almost inevitable as they are clearly the top two teams in the Western Conference. And if the Warriors can escape the Spurs, the Cavs are once again lurking in the NBA Finals.
But this Warriors team appears to be different from the one last season that was all glitz and glamour when they set an NBA record with 73 wins. This Warriors is more business like as the wins are still piling up. And Golden State knows that what they are doing now won’t mean a thing unless they are the last team standing in late June.
It’s still early in the NBA season, but that doesn’t mean we cannot begin to look at who’ll take home some hardware in the spring as the league’s MVP. And although that Christmas has not yet arrived, here are some players that are right now a cut above the rest.
DeMar DeRozan-Shooting Guard-Toronto Raptors
Since the Toronto Raptors made shooting guard DeMar Derozan the ninth overall selection of the NBA Draft in 2009, he has been a work in progress. As a rookie, DeRozan averaged 8.6 points per contest, but he would make a huge leap in his second season as he netted 17.2 points per game. And by 2014, DeRozan had elevated his game to that of an NBA All-Star.
Last season saw DeRozan help the Raptors make the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in franchise history, and he’s doing his part to help Toronto take that next step in order to win an NBA Championship.
This season DeRozan is averaging 28 points per game, which has included a pair of 40-point performances. In all but three games this season DeRozan has scored at least 21 points as he is the focal point of the Raptors offense.
DeRozan deserves a ton of credit as after signing a five-year, $139 million extension to remain in Toronto over the summer, his production has increased which goes against the norm as athletes tend to regress after agreeing to a mega deal. But DeRozan is mentally tough and as he has the Raptors poised to make a title run, he cannot be overlooked in regards to being the NBA’s MVP.
LeBron James-Small Forward-Cleveland Cavaliers
Cleveland Cavaliers small forward LeBron James falls into that rare air. James has been one of the best players in the NBA since he first came on to the scene in 2003 which is evident by him being a four-time NBA MVP. James is always in the discussion to be the NBA’s MVP, and although that he’s only averaging 23.9 points so far this season, he is averaging 9.1 assists, and 7.6 rebounds per contest as he is still the game’s best all-around player.
Russell Westbrook-Point Guard-Oklahoma City Thunder
Since Oklahoma City Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook made his NBA debut in 2008, he has been one of the league’s most explosive players. Westbrook is a five-time NBA All-Star in spite of the fact that he has spent his entire professional career playing out of position as he was always a shooting guard prior to joining the Thunder.
I expected Westbrook to have an increased role in the Thunder’s offense after small forward Kevin Durant left last summer in free agency and he has lived up to the expectations and then some.
In Westbrook’s first game this season, he dropped 32 points, 12 rebounds, and 9 assists on the Philadelphia 76ers. Westbrook follwed this up by torching the Phoenix Suns in the second game of the season for 51 points, 13 rebounds, and 10 assists.
For the season Westbrook has 11 triple-doubles to his credit which includes recording one in his each of his last six games. Westbrook is currently averaging 31 points, 11.3 assists, and 10.9 rebounds as he is seeking to become the first player in the NBA to average a triple-double for an entire season since Oscar Robertson in 1962. And if Westbrook is able to pull off that feat, he should receive very strong consideration to be the NBA’s MVP.
Kevin Durant-Small Forward-Golden State Warriors
Small forward Kevin Durant shocked many people last summer when he left the Oklahoma City Thunder as a free agent to join the Golden State Warriors. And when Durant joined the Warriors, it was going to be interesting to see how he would play alongside point guard Steph Curry and shooting guard Klay Thompson who are two of the premier scorers in the NBA.
But so far Durant hasn’t skipped a beat with his new team as he is averaging 26.5 points, 4.8 assists, and 8.4 rebounds which are a career-high. Durant has been consistent for the Warriors as he has scored at least 20 points in every contest in all but two for the Warriors. And as the Warriors once again find themselves in the title hunt, Durant’s contributions cannot be overlooked.
James Harden-Point Guard-Houston Rockets
Before this NBA season began, new Houston Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni announced that he would be shifting James Harden from shooting guard to point guard. And whereas people such as myself laughed at the notion, D’Antoni has been right on so far.
Harden has still maintained his status as one of the better scorers in the NBA as he is averaging 28.5 points per game. But the amazing feat is that Harden has done this while he is leading the league in assists at 11.4 per contest. Harden has four triple-doubles on the season. And in those contests the Rockets are 3-1 which includes victories over the San Antonio Spurs, along with the Golden State Warriors.
D’Antoni has maximized the ability of Harden which is leading to victories for the Rockets and the elevation of the all-around game of one of the best players in the NBA.
Anthony Davis-Power Forward-New Orleans Pelicans
Being that the New Orleans Pelicans are not one of the better teams in the NBA, the exploits of power forward Anthony Davis could go unnoticed to the casual fan. Davis was the first overall pick of the 2012 NBA Draft by the then New Orleans Hornets, and he has been as good as advertised. Davis is a budding superstar which began to recognized as he was named to his first All-Star team in 2014. That season Davis averaged 24.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 2.9 blocks as he helped the Pelicans reach the postseason for the first time since 2011.
Injuries limited Davis to just 61 games last season, but this time around he is currently averaging 31.6 points, 11.4 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks.
On the season Davis has 10 games in which has delivered at least 30 points and 10 rebounds which was highlighted by going for 50 points and 15 rebounds in an opening night loss to the Denver Nuggets, along with a 41-point, 16-rebound barrage last Tuesday in a victory over the Los Angeles Lakers.
The Pelicans don’t have a good team around Davis which will hinder his chances as far as making the postseason goes, but what he is currently doing the season cannot be discredited.
1. Cleveland Cavaliers
2. Indiana Pacers
3. Toronto Raptors
4. Boston Celtics
5. Detroit Pistons
6. Atlanta Hawks
7. Chicago Bulls
8. Washington Wizards
Eastern Conference Quarterfinals
(8) Washington Wizards vs. (1) Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavaliers win series 4-0)
The Washington Wizards won’t be able to derail the express that is the defending NBA Champions.
(7) Chicago Bulls vs. (2) Indiana Pacers (Pacers win series 4-2)
The Chicago Bulls will spend most of this NBA season not being on the same page which will finally catch up to them against the Indiana Pacers.
(6) Atlanta Hawks vs. (3) Toronto Raptors (Raptors win series 4-2)
The Atlanta Hawks will be tough, but the Toronto Raptors are looking to build off of their momentum from making the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
(5) Detroit Pistons vs. (4) Boston Celtics (Pistons win series (4-2)
The size advantage of the Detroit Pistons will be on display in this one as the Boston Celtics are still unable to win a playoff series under head coach Brad Stevens.
Eastern Conference Semifinals
Detroit Pistons vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavaliers win series 4-2)
The Pistons are an improving team under head coach Stan Van Gundy, but they are still not on the level of the Cavaliers.
Toronto Raptors vs Indiana Pacers (Pacers win series 4-2)
This is a rematch of a gritty first-round series from last spring, but this time around, Pacers small forward Paul George has more help around him which should be the difference.
Eastern Conference Finals
Indiana Pacers vs. Cleveland Cavaliers (Cavaliers win series 4-2)
Pacers small forward Paul George still will be unable to solve the riddle that is Cavaliers small forward LeBron James.
1. Golden State Warriors
2. San Antonio Spurs
3. Los Angeles Clippers
4. Portland Trailblazers
5. Oklahoma City Thunder
6. Dallas Mavericks
7. Memphis Grizzlies
8. Utah Jazz
Western Conference Quarterfinals
(8) Utah Jazz vs. (1) Golden State Warriors (Warriors win series 4-0)
The Utah Jazz won’t be a match for the Golden State Warriors as they will merely be happy to have their first postseason appearance since 2012.
(7) Memphis Grizzlies vs. (2) San Antonio Spurs (Spurs win series 4-1)
It’s that time of the year when you have to be weary of the San Antonio Spurs as they are simply laying in the weeds for another title run.
(6) Dallas Mavericks vs. (3) Los Angeles Clippers (Clippers wins 4-3)
The Dallas Mavericks have the heart and determination, but it won’t be enough to overtake the Los Angeles Clippers.
(5) Oklahoma City Thunder vs. (4) Portland Trailblazers (Trail Blazers win series 4-3)
Hands down this will be the toughest first round series in the playoffs as it can go either way.
Western Conference Semifinals
Portland Trail Blazers vs. Golden State Warriors (Warriors win series 4-2)
The Blazers are an improving club, but they still aren’t on the level of the Warriors.
Los Angeles Clippers vs. San Antonio Spurs Spurs (Spurs win series 4-1)
The Clippers are a good team, but right now they have to take a backseat to the Warriors and Spurs who are clearly the two best teams in the Western Conference.
Western Conference Finals
San Antonio Spurs vs. Golden State Warriors (Warriors win series 4-3)
The Spurs defense will slow down the Warriors, but it won’t be enough to stop them.
Cleveland Cavaliers vs. Golden State Warriors (Warriors win 4-3)
The hunger of losing the NBA Finals last summer to the Cavaliers will be enough for the Warriors to get back to the top of the mountain.