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Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant 2019 NBA Finals game 5

By Going All-In The Warriors Sabotaged Their Dynasty

It’s admirable that Golden State fought to the very end of the NBA Finals, never giving up hope, but by going all-in the Warriors have sabotaged their dynasty and opened the door for the rest of the West to stake their own claim next season.

And it didn’t have to happen. Whether Kevin Durant stayed or left in free agency this team had a chance to get back to the Finals again next season if only they could have accepted their inevitable defeat at the hands of the Raptors.

Now, instead of trying to re-sign a healthy Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson to new long-term deals in July, the Warriors are now faced with some very difficult decisions.

There should be no argument that the dozen minutes Durant gave to the Warriors in game five before he was injured wasn’t critical if not the major reason their season was extended to a game six. However, it doesn’t even take hindsight to question if Durant should have played at all. The words coming from head coach Steve Kerr the day before made it obvious this was a bad idea.

“He’s going to practice with us today,” Kerr said when asked if Durant was any closer to being able to play. “He’ll get some extra work in with some of our younger players. We’ll gauge it from there.

“what he’s going to do today he hasn’t done”

So Durant, who hadn’t played since the second round of the playoffs and had just been cleared to practice with some of the young guys for the first time since then, was under serious consideration to play in the NBA Finals. If that isn’t rolling the dice, what is?

Even Kerr had words of caution, words he choose to ignore, immediately prior to the start of  game five.

“We’ll start him and play him in short bursts and see how he responds physically,” Kerr explained.  “I don’t want to put too much of a burden on him. It’s been a while, we don’t know how it’s going to go.”

Well, now we know.

Durant started and played six minutes before Kerr subbed him out for a brief 2 minute 17 second rest before putting him back in for his final six minutes before tearing his Achilles.

It’s easy to understand the pressure Kerr was under, the Warriors were a lot better with Durant on the court, but those weren’t short bursts, Durant was carrying a heavy burden and everyone knew it.

The Warriors had gone all-in for a chance to turn a Finals on the verge of slipping away around and while no one could have predicted the specific terrible injury that Durant suffered, it’s hardly a stretch to say everyone knew there was a real risk of something bad happening.

There never should have been a game six back in Oracle. This series should have ended in Toronto in game five and no reasonable person would have blamed Durant for not playing or Kerr, the medical staff or President Bob Myers for holding him out.

“You can blame me,” Myers said after the game.

No problem, as the person responsible for Warriors basketball operations, Myers is ultimately to blame.

The unforeseen impact of Durant’s sacrifice in game five was the Warriors would lose Klay Thompson to a torn ACL in game six. While there’s no one to blame or even second guess when it comes to Thompson’s injury, it occurred in a game that, but for going all-in, never would have been played.

Both Durant and Thompson are expected to miss most of, if not the entire, 2019-20 NBA season and while Durant could opt in to his $31 million player option and potentially allow the Warriors to cover part of his salary with insurance, both players are anticipated to enter free agency expecting max deals to be on the table for them.

Without at least one of Durant or Thompson playing next season the Warriors will be knocked down a peg and the the cost to keep both players on new max contracts represents a financial burden even a billionaire will find tough to swallow. Ownership will face some very tough decisions this July.

However, you can’t be mad at Golden State for going all-in, that’s what every fan hopes their franchise is willing to do when it comes to winning Championships, but it came at a cost. This five year dynasty has been sabotaged and it will take a huge financial commitment and no small measure of luck to get it back to the level it was at prior to game five in Toronto.

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant

Warriors Kevin Durant Doesn’t Look Ready To Play Yet

The Warriors are in trouble. Down 3-1 with game five in Toronto on Monday night, the mantra remains, just wait until Kevin Durant gets back. But after today, don’t hold your breath. The early indications are he doesn’t even look anywhere near ready for a red shirt scrimmage let alone an NBA game.

“What he’s going to do today he hasn’t done,” head coach Steve Kerr said about Durant on Sunday.

“He’s going to practice with us today, and he’ll get some extra work in with some of our younger players. We’ll gauge it from there.”

The comments from Nick Friedell of ESPN put what happened crystal clear,

If Durant did get substantial work in Sunday, it wasn’t much.

Durant was not on the floor while the rest of his teammates got up some shots in the open part of Sunday’s practice, but made his way to the court as soon as media and cameras were cleared away.

he was one of the first players back into the Warriors’ locker room after the team’s brief workout. The 30-year-old reappeared a few moments later with two big ice packs wrapped around the lower part of his right calf and his right Achilles tendon.

Well, gauging it from what Friedell saw, Durant isn’t ready for a light practice, but that shouldn’t come as a surprise. Kerr told us he was going to try something he hadn’t done yet. Apparently taking a few practice shots in front of the media is still too much to ask as the ice bags after “giving it a try” seem to indicate and a light practice is a long ways from a regular season NBA game.

Got to love the gamesmanship from Kerr during the NBA Finals though. He really does know how to play the media. Maybe we should just stop asking until we actually see Durant running around on the court?

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at Scotiabank Arena and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Golden State Warriors Kevin Durant

Durant Explains Why DeRozan Is The NBA’s Best ISO Player

The Toronto Raptors take a lot of flak locally for their isolation style of play even though they have one of the NBA’s best and most efficient iso scorers in DeMar DeRozan. However, the league’s active leading scorer Kevin Durant recognizes what the Raptors have in the Eastern Conference’s second best points producer and he would like to add some of DeRozan’s moves to his game.

“DeMar DeRozan’s probably got the best footwork I’ve seen in a long, long time,” Durant said on the Bill Simmons Podcast ‘Kevin Durant IV Ask Kevin Anything, Part 2 (Ep. 252)’ at the 38.21 mark.

“I’ve been trying to watch him to see how he does it. He’s just way more athletic than I am first of all, so his body can move a little different, but his pace is amazing. He’s a guy I’ve been studying lately just because of his footwork. Every time I see him I’m just looking at how his body, his footwork. I think that’s where I can get better.”

NBA L.A. Lakers Luol Deng

DeRozan by no means has a strangle hold on the league’s lead for the most frequent use of the iso play and the Raptors aren’t the league leaders in this area either. That honor belongs to the Cleveland Cavaliers who run iso plays almost 12 percent of the time versus 8.5 percent in Toronto and the Cavs scored over 300 more points than the Raptors off those plays last year.

The Cavaliers had two of the top five iso players in the NBA in LeBron James (5.1 possessions, 20.3 percent frequency) and Kyrie Irving (5.1 possessions, 21.4 percent frequency per stats.NBA.com). DeRozan checks in at 4.6 possessions and 17.1 percent frequency. The next Raptor on this list, Kyle Lowry, is way down at 2.3 iso possessions per game.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony had the most iso possessions per game last year.

What may come as a surprise is that of the 15 NBA players with the most iso possessions per game only Irving, DeRozan and Damian Lillard scored over a point per iso possession and only DeRozan had a score frequency over 50 percent.

The reason the Raptors use DeRozan in iso plays as often as they do is because it works and it works because, as Durant volunteered, “DeMar DeRozan’s probably got the best footwork I’ve seen in a long, long time.”

 

  

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini

 

 

NBA Oklahoma City Thunder Kevin Durant

Fixing The 2011 NBA CBA

The NBA didn’t foresee creating the Golden State Warriors super team when they signed the 2011 CBA, but a few small changes might have helped prevent it even with the new National TV contract causing such a massive increase in the Salary Cap. In the owners rush to parity, they changed how teams compete for their own players after the first contract past the rookie deal and combined with a rising Salary Cap, made unanticipated super teams possible.

“Part of the discussion today was how much of what happened this summer was an anomaly in terms of the system,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said at the Board of Governors press conference. “As I’ve made clear before, we did not model for such a large spike in the cap, which is what we saw this summer, and so it enabled teams to make moves that they would not otherwise have been able to make.

“And then the question becomes what corrections should we make in the system. As I’ve said before, from the very beginning, we had two priorities when we went into the last collective bargaining agreement. One was to correct the finances of the league and put every team in a position where if they were well-managed they had the opportunity to be profitable.

“The other issue was we wanted every team, regardless of market size, regardless of how deep the pockets were of the owner, to be in a position to compete for championships.”

Well the owners are certainly making out like bandits under this version of the CBA, competitive balance? Not so much.

The new CBA made extensions for players nearing the end of their first contract after their rookie deal a non-starter. The restrictions were just too tough and the benefits almost non-existent. So, not surprisingly, nearly every player about to become an unrestricted free agent (UFA) declined extension discussions and played out their contract.

Under the old CBA, players in these circumstances could sign extensions that would be comparable to what their own team could offer them after their contract ended. Teams could sell their own players on eliminating the risk of injury entailed by waiting until their contract expired without the player having to give up future income, but not anymore.

The 2011 CBA has definitely made things more interesting in the off season. Free Agency is more exciting because more players are “forced” into becoming an UFA in order to get paid. More UFAs equals more excitement, but it has also become mind-numbingly difficult on general managers who really don’t know for sure what to do at the trade deadline with their star players that will become UFAs in the summer.

The new CBA has also nearly wiped out Sign-and-Trade scenarios as players can no longer get any more money in a sign-and-trade than they can as a free agent signing directly with another team. This has almost wiped out any chance at compensation like draft picks or the sometimes valuable traded player exceptions that were often acquired when another team signed your team’s UFA prior to 2011.

“Of course we discussed the activities from the last two weeks for free agency,” Silver said. “I would say we had a robust discussion in the room of various views of player movement that we’ve seen.

“I think we can make the system even better, and I think it is critically important that fans in every market have that belief that if their team is well-managed that they can compete.

“Certainly it’s important to me that markets in this league, those that are perceived as small, as those that are larger, all feel like they have an equal chance.

“My sense is that some of the player movement we just saw is not necessarily a function of market size. It’s clearly, in the case of one particular player, a desire to be in a situation with a group of players who have already proven that they can win. And by the way, I don’t mean to be so cryptic; in the case of Kevin Durant, I absolutely respect his decision, once he becomes a free agent, to make a choice that’s available to him. In this case he operated 100 percent within the way of the system, and same with Golden State.

“Having said that, I do think to maintain those principles that I discussed in terms of creating a league in which every team has the opportunity to compete, I think we do need to re-examine some of the elements of our system so that I’m not here next year or the year after again talking about anomalies. There are certain things, corrections we believe we can make in the system.”

Free agents changing teams is exciting. It keeps the NBA in the news cycle when their isn’t much basketball being played. However, not giving teams, especially small market teams, a chance to extend their own star free agents at maximum salaries prior to the start of free agency means general managers will often be forced into taking the risk of hanging onto players past the trade deadline and losing them for nothing in July.

If the NBA wants to give small market teams like Oklahoma City a chance to fairly negotiate with their own pending UFAs like Kevin Durant, they need to be able to offer an extension on similar terms and at similar dollars to what that free agent could sign for in the summer.

At least then when their pending free agent declines to discuss an extension, the general manager knows for sure prior to the trade deadline that he is facing a very real risk of losing his star player for nothing.

Also, by bringing back the ability for an UFA to obtain the same contract in a sign and trade as he would by re-signing with his old team, teams losing an UFA could at least obtain some compensation when the player forces his new team’s hand by asking for the better deal.

There are no perfect solutions to obtain competitive balance, not with unrestricted free agency a reality that’s here to stay. However, the new CBA took things a step too far when striving to limit players’ contract options and salaries, and the unintended consequences were the best regular season team in NBA history obtaining yet another superstar player and the small market team losing Kevin Durant getting the shaft.

As Silver says, “There are certain things, corrections we believe we can make in the system.” The union wouldn’t even fight you on these two.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

Featured image courtesy of Paul Saini
Instagram:  @fylmm.lifestyle and  @paul_saini