Every now and again I would depart from mundane politics and write a column on contemporary basketball during the NBA (male) season; and it has been awhile since I last wrote one: so here goes. If you check my archives on Room Eight New York Politics (www.r8ny.com), you will see that I cautioned the New York Knicks management not to “overpay” for bringing Carmelo Anthony back home; but they didn’t listen to me; and since then the Knickerbockers have been mired in mediocrity and futility. The hiring of Phil Jackson as General Manager was nothing but a continuation of front-office mistakes that go all the way back to Marvin Webster and Jesse Dark. If you want me to put it in better perspective: let’s just say that these mistakes go back to the “Dark-age”/lol.
The owners of the Knicks should be fired for ineptitude, inconsistency, incompetence and fan-abuse. Any true Knick-fan will agree. Today -for at least the fourth time in recent years- the management of the team will pass on making Mark Jackson the new head coach, by announcing the hire of Jeff Hornacek. Good luck with that. Although I must say that Hornacek is one of the better coaching-choices they have made in the past two decades.
As I write this column the NBA finals for the 2015-2016 season is about to start; and in the words of the famous -now deceased- sports philosopher named Yogi Berra: “it’s deja-vu all over again. The defending champions (the Golden State Warriors) will again play against the Cleveland Cavaliers in a redux. I predict that the warriors will win. I think they can even sweep the Cavaliers. The sanest prediction is probably to take the Warriors in five or six games: and you can bet the rent.
I remember the first time I bet on the contemporary Golden State Warriors basketball team. It was during the 2013-2014 NBA season. I selected either one of two teams to win the championship that year. The other one was the San Antonio Spurs (the eventual winners). That year, I won a bottle of Drambuie. When the Warriors won last year, I again profited another bottle of Drambuie. This year I am going for the hat-trick. This year I have a bottle of sherry added; plus dinner; plus a few bucks too.
Truth be told is this: I became a Warriors fan after they drafted a kid in 2009 named Steph Curry. He had led the nation’s colleges in scoring that year with a 28.6 average. The New York Knicks wanted to draft him; but many felt he was too small; and that his “built” wasn’t suited to the rigorous eighty-two game NBA (excluding the playoffs) schedule. To me, Steph Curry’s stroke reminded me of a Knickerbocker shooting-guard named Allan Houston; of whose jump-shot I was enamored. Two years later the Warriors drafted a kid named Klay Thompson with their first round pick (number eleven). He too was another sweet-stroking-shooter. They eventually made Thompson and Curry their backcourt tandem by trading away guard Monta Ellis for another college favorite of mine: Australian-born Andrew Bogut/center.
What many fans don’t know is that Bogut is one of the best passers amongst contemporary centers. Go back and view his college tapes and you will be amazed. His addition to this young team came late in the 2011-2012 season. I kept telling friends that once Bogut stays healthy the Warriors will challenge for the
NBA title. Most of my friends thought I was back to smoking pot. When he was in Milwaukee he was injury-prone. I suspect that’s why Milwaukee made the trade.
By the time the Warriors acquired Bogut, their head coach was Brooklyn-born Mark Jackson. As a die-hard Knicks fan I kept rooting for Mark to succeed. This native New Yorker played his college ball here at St. John’s University and was drafted by the Knicks as the eighteenth pick of the first round during the 1987 draft. As a point-guard he won “rookie of the year” honors in 1988. To further strengthen my liking for him, Mark married a young lady who sang and danced at the same arts program my daughter (Reeza) attended as a youngster growing up in Queens Village back in the 1980s.
Somewhere around 2012 Mark Jackson posited that Curry and Thompson had the potential to be the best shooting-backcourt in NBA history. Many thought he was using these remarks as a motivational tool. I believed him to be as serious as a heart-attack. Plus, he was too religious to be on crack. Anyone watching the Warriors play, saw two shooters who were as deadly as William Munny (“Unforgiven”/Clint Eastwood).
Along the way, the Warriors front-office added players like Andre Iguodala (formerly a star player with the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers); David Lee from the Knicks; Shaun Livingston from the Nets; and Brazilian-born Leandro Barbosa, who has played with eight NBA teams to date. These four latter-mentioned players became key parts of the nucleus of an underrated Warrior-bench. By 2014 Mark Jackson had led the Warriors to two consecutive playoff appearances for the first time in the previous twenty years. And for his successes Mark Jackson was fired. Some say racism had a role in it; others say it was because of Jackson’s religious tendencies try this site.
To this day I feel that Jackson was unfairly treated by team owners and the overall management group. Rumor has it that Mark became one of those overbearing proselytizing “born-again” Christians; which turned-off too many folks within the organization. It is said that near everytime there was a problem in the locker room, Mark was always ready to say:”let us pray”. The suspicion is that Jackson was building a tabernacle moreso than a championship team.
To Jackson’s credit he was already developing a young stud named Draymond Green, who the Warriors chose with their second-round pick (#35) of the 2012 NBA draft. Draymond Green not only turned out to be the icing on the cake for this team; but also an elite NBA player, via his phenomenal development over the past four years. In 2014 Steve Kerr took over the coaching duties after Jackson was fired. Kerr luckily inherited a team ready to burst into NBA history and glory. In the 2014-15 season the Warriors won 67 games on the way to the championship. This 2015-2016 regular season saw them break the record for regular-season-wins with 73. Even teams led by basketball greats like Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and others during their prime, never accomplished this feat.
Along the way Steph Curry and Klay Thompson have closed in on what Mark Jackson predicted. They are definitely the best shooting backcourt in the game today. They have both won the three-point shooting contest, which is annually held during the NBA All-Star festivities. They have both broken scoring
records in numerous categories. And they are both on their way to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Folks, we are watching history unfold in front of our very eyes; so strap in.
If the management of this Warriors team continue to make good trading and drafting choices then they will win more championships soon. If they get lucky in the free-agent market, and furthermore get lucky in escaping serious injuries to key players, then this is a dynasty being constructed which is about to last for a very long time.
Stay tuned-in folks.