Dodgers hit Home Run with Deadline Deals….

 

Sure, some problems still remain but the Los Angeles Dodgers front office did what they could to right some of the wrongs with their deadline deals, all while not sacrificing the franchises’ glorious looking future.

The two most pressing needs this team faced going into the deadline was acquiring some quality arms at the back-end of the Dodger rotation and adding solid arms to a fledgling bullpen. Andrew Friedman, Farhan Zaidi and Josh Byrnes hit a home run at the deadline and they didn’t even acquire Cole Hamels, David Price or one of the other big names moved this week.

The cost of getting a Hamels or Price would have dented the Dodgers future and thankfully Friedman and company wasn’t willing to do that. The organization has considered shortstop Corey Seager and left-handed 18 year-old pitcher Julio Urias as untouchable. This has been the stance with Ned Colleti and has also been the stance of Friedman. The Dodgers know what they have in those two cornerstones and weren’t willing to trade for pitchers that would only enhance a strength. Now, there is no denying Hamels or Price would have emboldened the Dodgers rotation, but it would have only solidified a strength. By opting for Mat Latos and Alex Wood the Dodgers added length to their rotation and gives them two superstar starters and two very good third-and-fourth starters.

What some may overlook were the acquisitions of Luis Avilan and Jim Johnson from Atlanta’s bullpen. The names aren’t sexy but they were vital in the Dodgers post-season hopes. Avilan is a 26 year-old lefty that sports a career ERA of 2.77 with a WHIP of 1.16. Avilan struggled last year (4.57 ERA; 1.57 WHIP) but has righted the ship this season with a 3.58 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Avilan will be a reliable situational lefty that will compliment JP Howell. Howell has been fantastic this year, but does the southpaw doesn’t throw with the velocity that Avilan brings. Avilan is a nice addition.

Jim Johnson had back-to-back 50 save seasons for the Baltimore Orioles in 2012 and 2013. Since then he just hasn’t been the same pitcher. He struggled to get anyone out in 2014 and was almost out of baseball. But Johnson has regained his form this year with the Braves and will serve as a solid right-handed arm setting up Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen. Johnson was serving as the Braves closer for the last month after Jason Grilli was lost for the season with a knee  injury. Johnson registered 9 saves and an ERA of 2.25. The Dodgers are not asking Johnson to close, but they will ask him to get some big outs in the 7th and 8th innings. He is experienced and has been tested. This was exactly the type of acquisition the Dodgers needed. Friedman had littered the Dodgers bullpen with former wash-out infielders who were converting to power arms out of the bullpen. Friedman and the Dodgers brass had come into this season believing  this would be the “answer” to the Dodgers bullpen woes. But, since May 1st the Dodgers pen had the second worst bullpen ERA in the National League. Friedman saw the writing and the wall and fixed it.

One of the deadline moves that didn’t address immediate need but may prove one day to be biggest of moves was the inclusion of Jose Peraza. The 21 year-old speedster was in the middle of a conversion from second base to center field. The Dodgers see Peraza as a second baseman and he may be the man they peg for the job sooner rather than later depending on their free agent dealings with current second-sacker  Howie Kendrick. By all accounts Peraza is not ready for the big leagues now, but his time should come. Last year Peraza hit .339 with 60 stolen bases between High-A and Double-A for the Braves. This year he is hitting .294 with 26 stolen bases in 96 games for Triple-A Gwinnett. His offensive game may need some refinement but many analysts say he is already the Dodgers 4th or 5th best prospect. And, at 21 years-old he has some time for growth.

The moves weren’t without some pain, most it financial which Guggenheim seems willing to eat and toss into the sea. It sure is nice to have an ownership group that doesn’t mind taking on salary while acquiring pieces that bring the team closer to a championship. The Dodgers did have to part with highly touted Cuban infielders Hector Olivera. The Dodgers gave Olivera a 28 million dollar signing bonus and had planned on paying him 34 million more dollars over the next six years. That responsibility now lies with Atlanta. Braves GM John Hart says they are ecstatic to get a player of Olivera’s talents. Hart told media members if Olivera hit the open market he would command a much bigger contract so Atlanta sees bargain in Olivera.

The Dodgers had high hopes for Olivera but with Justin Turner’s emergence at third and reports indicating Olivera was not playing second base as well as they thought, Olivera was a chip the Dodgers could dangle.

Do the deals make the Dodgers World Series favorites ? Probably not, but despite some of the team’s inadequacies they did become a much more formidable team on the bump.

 

Deadline Drama: Dodgers Brass is on the Spot

 

Here we sit at the Major League Baseball trading deadline and wouldn’t you know the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants are within a half-game of one another.  Oh what a wonderful world.

As the deadline approaches many amateur General Managers are vociferously stating what the Dodgers need to do before Friday to improve their team. Like most teams the Dodgers have short-comings. I believe these “holes” are like numerous breaks in the dam and to fill them all at once is nearly impossible. Unlike many calling for reinforcements, I see a structural problem in the dam that makes any move merely a stop-gap measure that will ultimately lead to a massive breach and an ensuing flood.

Speculation reigns that the Dodgers must find a way to get a front-line starting pitcher to go along with Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke. Cole Hamels and David Price are the big names while Jeff Samardjzia and Yovanni Gallardo are on the second-tier. I am not opposed to getting any of these pitchers to help shore up the Dodgers rotation, but it better not come at the expense of prospects Corey Seager, Julio Urias and Grant Holmes. I do not want to see any of these names in a deal to bring an arm to Chavez Ravine.

While starting pitching is a problem, it is primarily a self-inflicted wound. It was a huge mistake to spend 61 million dollars on often injured and currently injured pitchers Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. I am not just pontificating about this now, I have been on this train since the signings. Injuries have crippled the Dodgers rotation and it was predictable, even from the most novice of baseball fans.

The one thing the Dodgers need to address at the deadline that they didn’t address adequately in the off-season is their porous bullpen. Even if the Dodgers acquire Hamels or Price, what does it matter when the bullpen gives the game away in the 7th or 8th inning ? The Dodgers best chance to flourish in October came and went last December when Yankees closer Andrew Miller was a free agent. Many of us in Dodger-land begged and pleaded with the front office to over-pay for the talented and versatile lefty. Instead the Dodgers shunned him in favor of multiple washed-up infielders who were converting into pitchers (i.e. Chris Hatcher and Pedro Baez.) This massive faux pas by the newly installed brain-trust has left the Dodger bullpen woefully inefficient. This has been a problem for the last three years and continues to be a problem.

The structural problems the Dodgers have can not be fixed with a few trades. The Dodgers score most of their runs by hitting the long-ball. Teams that can’t run, hit-and-run, move runners with productive outs, bunt and play small ball rarely win in October. This team is structurally flawed in how they approach the game.

Throw in some of their trouble spots defensively with Justin Turner at third and Yasmani Grandal’s inability to consistently block balls in the dirt giving away the game 90 feet at a time. It is all topped off with Don Mattingly who continues to either over-manage or remain oblivious the need to situationally manage a spot and the Dodgers are a lot of bluster and with not a lot of bang.

Deadline deals will be made, fans will cheer, fans will jeer but when it’s all said and done the Dodgers foibles will have us wondering “what happened” by mid-October.

 

Clippers Clown-Show Reaches New Heights

 

The antics shown by the Los Angeles Clippers organization on Wednesday showed us all why they will never win an NBA Championship with this group.

In a day unlike any other in the history of the Association the Clippers put on a full-court press/kidnapping of one of their former players to suddenly bring him back into the fold and make themselves relevant again. It was a stunning turn of events where a hand-shake agreement had as much use as a pay toilet in a diarrhea ward.

Last Friday DeAndre Jordan shook hands with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban on a 4 year contract worth 80 million dollars. It was reported that Jordan had grown tired of playing third fiddle to the drama-king himself Chris Paul and the flop master in Blake Griffin. It had been reported that Griffin wanted more touches in the paint and wanted to be a featured offensive option within the Clippers offense. Griffin also had lost patience with Paul over the star point guards constant haranguing and “freezing out” of the 7-foot post.

The marriage between Jordan and the Mavericks seemed like that proverbial match made in heaven. Cuban promised Jordan he would be a focal point of the offense, and with Dirk Nowitzki prepared to cede the spotlight and the addition of Wes Matthews and return of Chandler Parsons, the Mavericks had put themselves in the discussion of Western Conference contenders.

Enter the Clippers full court press……

With word that Jordan was having second thoughts the Clippers pounced. Paul hopped off the banana boat he was riding with Melo and LeBron and flew to Texas from the Bahamas. Blake Griffin cut his vacation short and flew in from Hawaii. Newly-signed Paul Pierce hopped on a plane from Los Angeles to court his new teammate. Daddy Warbucks (Steve Ballmer Clippers owner) along with Clippers coach and General Manager Doc Rivers hopped on a jet to Houston as well. As long as Jordan was having second thoughts, the Clippers were going to try to convince him to stay.

After barricading Jordan’s door (as seen above) and some tense moments where Chris Paul feigned exasperation at Jordan’s discontent and promised to treat him better, and Rivers promising to make him more of a focal point, Jordan changed his mind and was back in the fold. But, the drama was just beginning. Reports had surfaced that Jordan would not make a final decision until he had spoken with the Dallas Mavericks. The Clippers and their brain trust were not going to allow that. Instead  they set up a pseudo-barricade inside Jordan’s home. According to Ramona Shelburne from ESPN the Clippers were not going to allow Jordan to change his mind again. In fact they were going to stay with their center until 12:01am EST. The first minute Jordan could sign a contract the Clippers would be there to hand him 87 million dollars.

During this clown-show Jordan wouldn’t even take phone calls from Dallas stars or owner Mark Cuban. So, in the end, the Clippers got their man, promising to change their ways and catering to the sensitive psyche of their 7-footer.

It’s truly a bad look for the NBA. The biggest loser in this fiasco is not Mark Cuban. I believe it is Dan Fegan the agent for Jordan. Who will believe this guy moving forward ? Will teams want to negotiate with an agent whose clients shake their hands, look them in the eyes, and then bolt at the first feel of freezing temperatures on their tootsies. What’s to keep teams from employing the same strategy now ? Negotiate with a player in good faith, make on offer in good faith during the eight-day moratorium period. And then as soon as a better option may come around, renege on the offer and chase another prize word.

The Clippers and their fans are relishing the change of heart from their big guy but this is still the team that choked away their NBA Playoff semi-final series against Houston blowing a 19 point lead with 14 minutes to play in the clinching Game 6.

This is still a team that is high on talent but short on character. This is still a club with a high maintenance point guard and center who shoots 37 percent from the free throw line. And, this is still a club that plays in an arena (Staples Center) with 18 championship banners hanging from the rafters, 16 of which belong to their fellow tenant the Los Angeles Lakers with two of them belonging to the Los Angeles Kings.

In the end, the Clippers are all about floppilicious drama and they are still only the 4th or 5th best team in the West. Fun to watch, entertaining but they still won’t get out of the 2nd round

Dodger fan urgency stems from SF Giants’ success….

 

My increasingly negative attitude about my first place Dodgers has me doing some self-evaluation on a weekly basis. Why am I so frustrated with a team that has one of the best records in baseball, and is 4 games clear of the rival Giants in the NL West ?

It’s the Giants. It’s those dastardly San Francisco Giants. Yeah, I know they just lost their seventh in a row tonight. Big deal. Their fan base can dry their tears with the same handkerchief they use to buff their three World Series trophies. They have flipped the script on the rivalry and now there is a sense of urgency for the free-spending Dodgers to win pennants and World Series. I certainly want the front office to be patient with the kids and not force quick fixes, but the interminable off-season of having the Giants continually win World Series titles while the Dodgers spit up moth-balls in October has cast a pall over this rivalry for me.

It’s probably my fault, but deep down I have always judged the Dodgers by how they are doing against the Hated Ones. So, even as Jack Clark was taking seven weeks to round the bases in Game 6 of the 1985 NLCS to eliminate the Dodgers, this 14 year-old could take solace in the fact that the San Francisco “You Gotta Love These Kids” Giants were losing 100 games. Things just weren’t that bad. Then, when Jose Oquendo gutted the Giants in 87′ and then Gibby and Hershiser led the Dodgers to an improbable title in 88′ I was in heaven. That made two titles and 5 NL Pennants in my 17 years on this planet,  while the Giants had done diddly-squat.

Now, the tables have not only turned but there is pressure being applied. Since 1988 the Giants have 3 World Series titles and 5 NL Pennants. Those three titles have come in the last five years making the off-seasons misery. Dodger fans like myself have always believed we were the better franchise with the better organization, but I can’t argue that right now. The words simply won’t form. The terminology to make those arguments are not in my lexicon. The Giants have scoreboard. They have put-up, therefore making me shut-up. And please Dodger fans, don’t come at me with Division titles. Division titles are like getting a ticket into the dance with the pretty girls. Just because you are at the dance doesn’t mean the girls will bat their eyes at you.

So, forgive me for my negativity. I’m sorry. I simply have been watching the Giants add hardware while the Dodgers throw 270 million dollars at a team that has only two serviceable starting pitchers, spent 48 million dollars on a pitcher that has spent much of his career injured, has employed a bullpen filled with washed up infielders that throw hard and an offense that is the worst in the league at manufacturing runs, a skill that is not just needed but required in October. Forgive me if leading the NL West doesn’t have me in a lather……

Dodgers have me in a quandry

 

On one hand this organization is making all the right moves in player development. Then they fail to adequately address their bullpen.

On one hand this team is hitting home runs at a record pace for a Chavez Ravine squad, and then they show they can’t generate a run to save their lives.

On one hand (we have numerous hands; stay with me here) the Dodgers are trouncing terrible baseball teams and playing at a near .750 clip against bad teams, and then they go 8-20 against teams over .500 including 3-9 against the rival Giants.

I just don’t get this club.

With today’s San Francisco Giants loss and sweep at the hands of the Miami Marlins the Dodgers have a three game lead in the National League West. It feels incomprehensible that the Dodgers could have a division lead while getting waxed by the Giants this year, but that is par for the course with this odd version of the Dodgers this year.

The loyalists amongst us continue to view Dodgers baseball as the glass that is half full. They argue, the team is in first place, the Dodgers are playing great at home, they are winning the games they are supposed to win. While this line of thinking is nice and dandy it tells an incomplete story. It tells a story with a familiar refrain and I know it ends ugly.

The things that championship teams MUST DO the Dodgers do not do well. First, they do not generate runs using small ball. This is not conjecture this is a real number. The Dodgers produce the highest percentage of their runs via the home run. They produce fewest amount of runs with the base hit, the walk, the sacrifice fly, the situational ground out etc……This is a precursor of post-season doom. Teams that can’t generate runs with small-ball do not win in October. I have grown tired arguing this fact with certifiable novices on social media. They don’t get it, and all the haranguing in the world will never convince these people that they are out of their scope. In the post-season when you are facing teams ABOVE .500 you can not rely on the long-ball to win games. The pitching is better, the mistakes on the mound are less frequent and as a hitter you must be able to generate runs by working counts and having productive at-bats.

The misnomer here is that the Dodgers have the best on-base percentage of any team in the National League. That statistic would tell you the Dodgers are good at producing runs with productive outs. That is not the case. They don’t score bushels of runs with stolen bases, hit-and-runs, stolen bases or productive outs. They don’t need to lead the league in small ball, but they at least need to be proficient at it. So far, it’s a gaping hole in their game. They need to change that for October success.

Second, the Dodgers bullpen is a sieve. They aren’t the worst in the league but they are closer to the #BoxOfPain instead of the 1990 Cincinnati Reds “Nasty Boys.” General Manager Andrew Friedman believed three washed up infielders could be anchors to the bullpen. Chris Hatcher throws 96 mph but his ball is straight and he gets lit up. Pedro Baez throws 98 but has yet to develop a serviceable breaking ball. Joel Peralta has been on the shelf for much of the year but his latest returns have not been encouraging. JP Howell has been effective but you better not push him past three or four batters because hitters will get a read. Yimi Garcia burst upon the scene like gang-busters but then lost his release point and started serving up gopher balls. You can’t really rely on him at this point. Surprisingly Juan Nicasio has been consistently good this year and Adam Liberatore gives the Dodgers a reliable left-handed reliever with a WHIP below 1.00.

I am not convinced the Dodgers pen has the depth to venture deep into the post-season. It was the primary reason why I was huge proponent of the Dodgers signing Andrew Miller in the off-season, but I digress.

Picture this, Game 5 of the NLCS, series is tied at 2-2. Dodger starter has a high pitch count and is in trouble in the 6th inning in a tie game with runners on base. What pitcher in the Dodgers bullpen, other than the closer Kenley Jansen, would you trust to save the day ? I don’t trust anyone in that bullpen.

As hard as this is to state, the San Francisco Giants and Bruce Bochy has had three or four arms that he had total and complete belief in to get out of that type of jam. The Dodgers just don’t have that. It is another intangible the Dodgers need, yet don’t have if they are to win their first pennant in 27 years.

Dodger fans are not thrilled with me. They say I am too negative, not enough rah-rah and am not focusing on the good things they are doing. Sorry but not sorry for my negativity. Winning the National League West is not my goal. I am trying to project a team that can A) beat the Cardinals. B) Win a pennant. C) Win a World Series.

This club is good, but I fear good won’t cut it.

Being a Dodgers FAN doesn’t mean I have to blindly believe

 

Being a Los Angeles Dodgers fan does not mean I have to blindly believe this team is championship quality. Some believe that fans should just root for their team, believe in the front office and management and enjoy the game. Well, that is not how I am wired. I used to be wired that way, but in case you haven’t noticed our biggest rivals are running circles around us in terms of pennants and World Series titles.

As I watch another game that the Dodgers fritter away I am perplexed by this undying blind adoration and complete acceptance of a 270 million dollar team that has nothing but flaws all around the diamond. Yet, those that profess this team is championship quality keep believing that this team is better than the San Francisco Giants and the St. Louis Cardinals.

They aren’t

The Dodgers are 2-7 versus the Giants and 2-5 against the Cardinals. One clear thing those teams have that the Dodgers don’t have, TOUGHNESS. The Dodgers are just a mentally weak ball club. It’s funny listening to other Dodgers fans who think this team is “BUILT” for a championship. Are you kidding ? The Dodgers have three effective pitchers, Kershaw, Greinke and Jansen. The back-end of their rotation is horrific, and it was terrible before McCarthy got hurt. Their bullpen is a collection of washed up infielders converted into pitchers, and left-handed thumbers that General Manager Andrew Friedman believed would work out. What a colossal miscalculation.

The Dodgers hit a lot of home runs, but that doesn’t mean anything when you can’t generate runs using small ball. In the playoffs you score runs by piecing hits and situational outs together to score runs against superior pitching. The Dodgers simply can not manufacture enough runs consistently. That is not conjecture, that is fact. The Dodgers have scored the highest amount of runs in baseball via the home run, the fewest runs in baseball by simple base hits or sacrifice flies.

Throw in the fact that their manager is not a master tactician and this team has all the makings of an 85-90 win team that loses once again in the first round of the playoffs. Now, if that’s OK with you Dodger faithful, have at it and enjoy the show. But, if you are like me and are getting sick of watching the Giants have  parades while we keep watching Kirk Gibson’s home run from 27 years ago, then let’s have some honest dialogue about how this team can get better and be a championship quality team.

NBA FINALS: Warriors as national villains ??

 

Not only has the NBA Finals not gone according to plan but something almost unthinkable has also transpired. LeBron James and his merry band of complementary pieces have turned into sympathetic figures on the national stage. Think about that, LeBron James as a sympathetic, “woe is me” figure.

I am seeing story after story painting the Cavaliers has this little train that could and building up the story-line of this upstart little Cleveland team taking on the big, bad Warriors. What kind of alternate universe am I living in ? When the did the Warriors and their run-and-gun style turn into what’s wrong with basketball ?

The LeBron love is at an all-time high. The gushing in a lot of circles is over the top. I can also understand it. He is doing something that has never been done before. He is leading a band of role players toward a possible NBA Championship. He is inspiring ordinary and mediocre players to play spectacularly. He has them believing they are better than they really are. It is quite the story.

With that said, the Dubs have suddenly turned into the villains. The nation wants to see LeBron lead his band to an improbable title. Everyone wants to see it except for us long-suffering Bay Area basketball fans. The vitriol and even the hate towards the Warriors is quite alarming. I haven’t seen so many national media members and fans of the game denigrate the Warriors like this……EVER.

I hope the national media is lamenting this Warriors title. I hope when the Warriors win this championship there is frustration, angst and anxiety among national fan bases. I don’t care what they think or how they feel. This is our team. This is our quest. We are told to recognize LeBron’s greatness. I say recognize us, the DubNation.

Cleveland has had their fun. Reality sets in tonight.

Warriors in 6

NBA FINALS: Cavaliers grab 2-1 series lead as listless Warriors cede control

 

At the outset of the series I wrote that the team that was more mentally tough would win the series. So far the Cleveland Cavaliers have shown the Golden State Warriors how a championship team should compete for basketball’s biggest prize.

The media experts will try to convince you that there is some strategic genius to what the Cavaliers are doing, there really isn’t. They are winning this 2015 NBA Finals with guts and guile. A willingness to play as hard as they possibly can and leaving the rest for the weary. Matthew Dellavedova epitomizes the grit of this team. He is out-manned and out-gunned at every turn yet his hustle and determination wins him possessions and helped the Cavaliers grab control of the series

LeBron James was super again with 40 points 12 rebounds and 8 assists, but Dellavedova’s 20 points gave the Cavaliers that second option to give them a 2-games-to-1 lead.

What has to be infuriating for Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is it appears the Warriors aren’t exerting the same effort as Cleveland. Kerr wasn’t about to bury his team in the post-game, instead he simply praised their effort in the 4th quarter. We all know how he felt about their effort through the first three-quarters. Despite only losing the game 96-91, the Dubs trailed by 20 late in the third quarter and simply dug to big of a hole. Kerr said he didn’t like how his team began to feel sorry for themselves in the waning moments of the 3rd.

Tell me about it Coach……

Steph Curry even intimated that the Warriors are not coming out with enough energy at the starts of these games. How does that even happen ? How do you play nine months of basketball at the highest level in the world. You are suddenly playing for the sports biggest prize and you aren’t playing with enough energy, not playing hard, getting out-worked and out-hustled by a team with inferior talent. I can not begin to comprehend how that is even possible.

Kobe Bryant had this amazing tweet in the aftermath of the Game 3 carnage for the Warriors tonight……

‏@kobebryant
Cavs playing as if their life is on the line G.S playing as if they have more #NBAFinals down the line #ThisIsNOW #competitionIsEverything

Nuff said.

The Warriors scored 35 points combined in the second and third quarters. They scored 36 alone in the 4th quarter when they played with a sense of frenetic energy and pace. Unless this team is prepared to expend that 4th quarter like energy then they will be in trouble in Game 4.

Draymond Green is nursing a sore back after a hard fall in the 4th quarter of Game 2. He certainly didn’t look like himself in Game 3 and that is bad news for Golden State. The Warriors have relied on his stretch-4 abilities all year to make shots, board and make decisions off of the Curry double-team. David Lee filled in admirably and gave the Dubs a shot in the arm with some spirited 4th quarter play. He is sure to get more minutes in Game 4.

Harrison Barnes was beyond awful. He missed wide open jumpers off of creative dribble attacks by his mates. He even missed a bunny lay-up with no one near him. Barnes must be better.

Andrew Bogut is getting dominated by Timofey Mozgov. At the start of the series I thought the combination of Bogut and Festus Ezeli could play that to a draw at least. Bogut looks worn down and slow and Ezeli has great energy but sometimes his decision-making on the offensive and defensive ends is lacking.

The Warriors bench is playing well but with such sub-par performances by starters Green, Barnes and Bogut the Warriors are in deep.

The troubling aspects of this series so far from the Warriors perspective have nothing to do with X’s and O’s. It has everything to do with the Warriors heart, guts, energy, will-to-win and belief. If they don’t find it, and find it soon they will be on the losing end of one of the great upsets in sports history.

Game 4 is Thursday in Cleveland

NBA FINALS GAME 2 Post-Script: Simple Adjustment Will Change Series for Dubs

 

Furrowed brows and consternation will turn to joy and happiness after Steve Kerr and staff have a chance to survey the damage of the first two games of the NBA Finals.

First and foremost all the credit in the world needs to go to David Blatt and his staff for devising a game plan that has taken Steph Curry out of his comfort zone. As I wrote before the series started, the only way Cleveland can win this series is to make the game ugly and slow. They have done a masterful job of disrupting the Warriors rhythm by mucking the game up. Here is how they are doing it…..

Cleveland is suffocating Curry once he gets past the time line. This isn’t a soft double-team or a funnel to help side defense. This is a furious trap after the predictable high screen. Once they trap, they are being physical with Steph, pushing him to the sidelines. Steph is not handling this trap well because to be honest, no team has done it better this season than the Cavaliers against the Warriors. If Steph tries to dribble out of it there are three defenders there. The goal is simple, “get the ball out of Curry’s hands and make the other guys beat you.” Curry has been inconsistent in getting the ball to his other play-makers and this has hurt the overall continuity of the offense.

Curry needs to attack and be more decisive in getting rid of the ball after the high screen. Usually the screener is Draymond Green. Green has not handled this situation well at all. His hesitancy on whether to shoot or attack the lane exemplifies that dis-jointedness of the Warriors offense. Draymond is wide open…….WIDE OPEN. He never hesitated during the regular season. He can’t hesitate now. If the Cavaliers are going to trap as hard as they are, you need to confidently knock down the jumper if you are open, or attack the lane. Once you drive the ball to the middle, Cleveland has to help and when that help comes he can become the play-maker he has been all year. Dish it to Klay Thompson or Harrison Barnes for the corner three or lob it to Andrew Bogut. What Green can’t do is hold the ball and try to figure it out. Cleveland is willing to give open looks to complementary pieces, the Dubs need to knock them down like they have all year. If the Warriors act decisively and swiftly off the high ball screen, they will have open shots.  Cleveland’s defense  will be jumping all over the place. Good ball movement will beat good defense every time. But, when you move the ball you must knock down the open shot.

I think Cleveland has played wonderfully in this series. The first two games have gone exactly according to plan for them. I could care less about all the missed shots for LeBron James. He is all the Cavaliers really have offensively. James had 11 assists in Game 2. The Cavaliers had 14 TOTAL assists. He is the best player in the world and is playing like it. The post presence of Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson is problematic for the Warriors but certainly not something that is their death-knell. When the Dubs go small the Cavaliers can only stay big for so long before good ball movement will negate the size advantage and Blatt and staff will have to match the Warriors smaller line-up.

Cleveland can win this series if they continue to muck up the game. James continues being James. And if Matthew Dellavedova continues perpetrating his hex upon Steph Curry.  I think it’s really simple. Cleveland is riding their super-star and the supporting cast is following his lead.

The Warriors win this series if they revert back to the ball movement that made them an 80-18 team entering these NBA Finals. Make Cleveland pay for the aggressive double-and-triple teams. Attack the lane, make Cleveland commit and move the ball. Remember, the Warriors had similar issues with Memphis but when they figured it out, it was game over. I fully expect film session to be valuable in righting the ship. I also expect David Lee to make appearance. Two of his better games over the last two years have been against Miami last year and Cleveland this year. Lee might be rusty but I think he can help if the offense becomes bogged down.

The Warriors have the best road record in the NBA at 33-15 including the playoffs. This series is not about James and his greatness. This series is about whether the Warriors are truly a championship team and are willing to make the adjustments that will lead to a title.

NBA FINALS GAME 2 PREVIEW: Irving out for Finals; LeBron presented with rare opportunity

 

If you are to believe the national media the 2015 NBA Finals are now over and there is really no need to play the remainder of the series……how disappointing.

Despite the clear advantage the Warriors have with the season ending injury to Kyrie Irving, this series is far from over. The last I checked a bad dude by the name of LeBron James is still healthy and still plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers. The moment, the circumstance the scene was made for this guy and now he will have something he has never had to play with before…….the expectation of NOT winning.

No one expects Cleveland to win. No one. Not a soul in their right mind thinks the Cavaliers minus Irving, Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao can win. But, there is one bad dude who will see this as the opportunity of a lifetime. Even people who don’t normally cheer for LeBron will now give him the benefit of the doubt with his decimated club lying in tatters around him.  If James can somehow pull this off I believe it would be one of the great sports feats in the history of team sport.

The national media was really pouring it on today. From ESPN to the NBA Sirius/XM channel to Mad Dog Radio. Not one host was giving the Cavaliers a shot to win the series. In fact they were declaring if Cleveland got this thing to six games it would be a minor miracle.

I’m not buying it.

I love sports because of the unpredictability. No one knows what will happen. That is why we love it. Did any of us see the Seahawks throwing the ball from the one-yard line in the Super Bowl on 1st down? Did anyone see the San Francisco Giants win six elimination games on their way to the 2012 World Series? Did anyone see a band of bandits run through the ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament against bigger and badder teams in 1983 and win the national tournament like Jim Valvano’s NC State Wolfpack?

Sports is not scripted. We don’t know how it will turn out. We have a feeling. We think we know. On paper it says the game should turn out a certain way. But, we watch because sometimes we are shocked and stunned by the result.

If LeBron can do this, we should start etching that profile into the Mount Rushmore of all-time greats. If he can do this it would be one of the great feats in the history of sport. For the first time in his athletic life, LeBron James is being given no chance. The Warriors better take notice. They do not need to become the Baltimore Orioles of 1969 or the Washington Bullets of 1975. The Dubs have come too far over the last 40 years for this 80-18 team to become a footnote in basketball lore.

FINISH THEM……..