NBA Week in Review: Warriors' chase for 73, Blake's return and more
Welcome back to the NBA Week in Review. Today, we’re talking Warriors, Blake Griffin, Grizzlies and more. You can read last week’s installment here.
Stories of the Week
• The Warriors should go for the regular–season win record, and they should go for as many wins as possible. Here's the thing: If Golden State doesn’t win a title this summer, will it really be because their players were tired from playing the entire regular season? Maybe in the future, when the core is older, Steve Kerr should consider a season-long rest program. But—and this is a really hot take here—we may just place a little too much importance on the Finals. A historic record over 82 games is just as, if not more, impressive than winning four seven-game series. We’re just conditioned to think the latter is somehow the true measure of who is a champion. The Warriors’ have been historically great this season and have made the regular season matter in a way it almost never does, so I want to see them finish with 75 wins.
• I’m pretty excited to see Blake Griffin return once he serves the final three games of his suspension. I’m still holding out hope for the Clippers to make a playoff series with the Warriors interesting, though they could almost easily get swept. The Clippers have become almost universally disliked over the last few seasons, but if this team gets broken up after these upcoming playoffs, I’ll legitimately miss watching this group play together. The Clips’ starting five has always been one of the best in the league, and it was always fun watching them try to make up for their bench. I’m glad Blake is back and hopefully this group has some compelling playoff basketball left in the tank.
• Speaking of compelling ball, how about the Grizzlies? Lance Stephenson lives! Matt Barnes recently had a triple double! Vince Carter is playing key bench minutes! The Grizzlies never broke through in the West these past few seasons, and they almost certainly won’t again this year, but what an incredible story they’ve been the last few weeks by staying afloat in the West despite seemingly a new injury every day. The Grizz have had some crazy playoff series since 2011—including wins over the Spurs, Clippers and Thunder, but what they’re doing right now may be the most fun they’ve ever been.
Tweet(s) of the Week
The Snapchat generation provides a plethora of head scratching laughs!— Andrew Bogut (@andrewbogut) March 25, 2016
Vine(s) of the Week
Andrew Sharp spoke to Amar'e Stoudemire for a Q&A ... The numbers say the Cavs can be beat in the East ... Security still asks Jeremy Lin for his ID ... Rajon Rondo wants the Mavs to miss the playoffs ... How LeBron can team up with his superfriends ... I hope the NBA moves next year’s All-Star game ... Dr. J reflects on Moses Malone’s birthday.
The Ben Golliver YouTube Corner
Inside the NBA may not have the best analysis, but it has the best analysts.
The Fashion Outlet
LeBron is wearing dad hats now.
The One-Question Interview
Mixing it up this week with SI NBA writer Ben Golliver, who asked me not to cut down any of his answers. For more with Ben and me, check out this week’s episode of Give and Go on SI.com.
Rohan Nadkarni: Do the Cavs really need fixing? What do you do with a team that's already favored to win the East? Should they be looking to overhaul the team if they don't win the Finals again?
Ben Golliver: I’m definitely not in the camp that thinks the Cavaliers are fundamentally “broken.” Every year leading up to the playoffs, LeBron James’s teams get picked apart in hopes of generating true drama and intrigue in the East bracket. Every year, of late, James responds by exerting his will against the rest of the conference. How quickly some forget that he swept the Hawks out of the East finals last year without Kevin Love and without much from Kyrie Irving. How quickly some overlook the fact that James is averaging 26/9/7 in March. How quickly some ignore the East’s reality: None of James’s likely playoff opponents has a good positional match-up for him and none of the other projected top seeds is as fearsome as the 2012 Celtics or 2013-14 Pacers.
Despite the recent drama, I’m basically ready to pencil the Cavaliers into the Finals yet again. Cleveland’s go-to lineup (The “Big 3” plus J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson) boasts a healthy +11 net rating in 400+ minutes, and the Cavaliers have the parts to play big or small, and anything in between. They’re ready to pounce if injuries or bad luck strike the Warriors or Spurs.
At the same time, though, I am a big believer in the importance of organizational alignment. The owner and GM must be on the same page, the GM and the coach must be on the same page, the coach and the superstar must be on the same page, and the superstar and his key supporting players must be on the same page. Prior to David Blatt’s firing, I never believed the Cavaliers were truly aligned. While I think they’re closer now with Tyronn Lue, I’m not sure the James/Irving/Love trio has meshed personality-wise like it needs to if the Cavaliers are going to truly push the Warriors or the Spurs. For that reason, and because James’ clock is ticking at age 31, I wouldn’t be surprised if Irving and/or Love was moved during the offseason should James fall in the Finals for the third straight year.
RN: You watch a lot of basketball, what teams, other than the obvious ones here (Golden State, San Antonio), do you think are fun to watch? Who should fans be paying more attention to?
BG: My go-to answer to this question has been the Jazz all year long. When I put together my Entertainment Value Rankings at the start of the season, I tend to prioritize scoring, pace, ball movement and star power. That’s what’s so exceptional about the Jazz: they really have none of those things and yet they’re still really fun to watch. Quickly: Utah has a below-average offensive efficiency, it averages fewer points than 28 other teams, it plays at the league’s slowest pace, it has a bottom-five assist ratio and none of its core players has made it to an All-Star Game (yet).
The Jazz are fun to watch precisely because they are zagging so hard when everyone else is zigging. The NBA is a point guard’s league and they spent like three-quarters of the season without anything approaching competence at point guard. Instead, they’ve molded two wings—Gordon Hayward and Rodney Hood—into intriguing playmakers, they’ve milked the strong interior tandem of Derrick Favors and Rudy Gobert for everything they’re worth, and they’ve built an up-and-coming roster whose best theoretical five-man lineup probably includes three wings and two traditional bigs. If any team has a shot at replicated what the Grizzlies accomplished from 2011 to 2015, I think it’s the Jazz. It’s remarkable that Quin Snyder’s squad might land in the playoffs given its incredibly young roster and the sheer quantity of injuries it sustained this season.
RN: What's up with the manual retweets?
BG: The great American philosopher Cormega once wrote that, “The only time I chase the past is when Jordans come out” and I love that line because it really gets at the heart of targeted nostalgia. No one is trying to go back in time to 1994 or 1954 or 1900-anything. I love 2016, I love wondering what’s to come in 2017, I love having the ability to watch 13 NBA games simultaneously on a Wednesday night, I like getting text messages and weather reports from my wristwatch, and I’m not even ashamed to utter the words, “Well, like I said on my podcast last week…” in public.
But, at the same time, sign me up for retro Jordans and Air Maxes, all Mitchell & Ness everything, traditional barbershops, and every last “[Current superstar] is the first player to do [XYZ statistical accomplishment] since [former superstar a long, long time ago]” factoids. Some things were right the first time, they continue to resonate today and they will continue to resonate into the future.
That’s essentially how I feel about manual retweets. Simple, short, clean, everyone knows what RT means. The person’s name comes right at the front as the proper way to give credit and show love. Their wording stays intact. None of the ensuing updates have stood out as improvements to me and some just add clutter. That’s the practical side. There’s an emotional side too. Twitter remains a completely awesome, funny and informative social media network after all these years, but the “Wild, Wild West” feel that existed in its earlier days has mostly dissipated. So I manual RT as a callback to the “Good Old Days” and, every once in a while, I wish I could go back to Yellow Tweetdeck too.
And, yes, I fully realize that the counterargument to this entire answer is: “You’re so old and washed, bruh.”