I feel robbed. I feel cheated. I am upset. I just watched my Utah Jazz lose to the unbeatable Golden State Warriors. I am not surprised. In fact, I would be more surprised if the Warriors lost a single game on their way to the Championship. I would be surprised if the Warriors were not 16-0 when they host the championship trophy. You see, the Jazz shut down Steph Curry for most of the game and he still finished with 23 points. But hey, if you force the two-time defending MVP to shoot 6-for-20 (3-for-11 from three), you will take that every night. The Jazz also held All-Star Klay Thompson to just six points on one-for-nine shooting (0-for-4 from three). The Jazz held another All-Star, Green, to just 9 points. I’d say if you do that, you would win the game, right. Not with this team. See, teams in today’s NBA don’t have just three All-Stars anymore. No, no, if you want to win the championship you need to have at least four All-Stars and maybe a couple of recent MVPs.
Remember when people criticized Michael Jordan for complaining to Bulls management that he needed more help and they brought in a 34-year-old Dennis Rodman and some thought that was “unfair” how stacked the Bulls were? After all, they already had two all-stars in Jordan and Pippen to go with ringers like Steve Kerr and Bill Wennington, Luc Longley and Ron Harper. Can anyone picture, the Bulls going out and instead of signing Dennis Rodman signing MVP Karl Malone and bringing in All-Star Patrick Ewing? Could you imagine Karl Malone, after leading the Jazz to the Finals against the Bulls, to decide that off-season to join the Bulls because it looked like the Bulls loved playing together so much? Could you see Patrick Ewing or Charles Barkley joining the Bulls because they couldn’t get past them in the Playoffs? Some may argue that this isn’t close to the same thing because other than Durant, the Warriors drafted their top three players. You’re right, the Malone example is different in that Malone by then would have been 34 or 35 years old and Durant is still in his prime! My bad!
Because the world has convinced athletes that the only thing that matters is winning rings, players like Kevin Durant, who was one game away from the Finals is willing to bail on his current team to get that ring. I just don’t get it. I know that KD and Westbrook weren’t best friends, but it wasn’t too long ago that MVP players would force management to choose which star they wanted to keep and which star they wanted to run out of town. Kobe didn’t join the Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace on the Pistons after losing to them in the Finals just because he didn’t like playing with Shaq. No, he was a star and stars stay loyal to their teams, so he went to Jerry West and forced him to choose. Shaq was off to Miami and winning a championship to spite Kobe and the Lakers just a year later. That’s what competitors do. Had Durant been kicked off the OKC island and Golden State was the only ones willing to pick him up, that would have been one thing, but Durant joining the NBA’s already best team who, barring a Draymond Green suspension and injuries to Steph Curry and Andrew Bogut, would have been the two time defending champs, is another.
It’s not the championships that matter, it’s the striving. The outcomes are sometimes beyond the players control. There are all kind of examples of a blown call here, an injury there, a coaching mistake in the fourth quarter of Game 7, or an untimely technical on a teammate that could cost any player a championship or even a chance to play for a championship. That doesn’t make them less of a champion. It’s about the effort, the sacrifice, the passion, and the competition. RINGS ARE NOT EVERYTHING! That is why it drives me crazy when people put so much weight in rings. When people call Bill Russell one of the greatest players of all-time because he has 11 rings, it drives me crazy! People don’t want to hear that at the time there were 8 teams in the league and he was playing with half of the all-star team each year because the Celtics made more money and paid its players more. Sure, Russell was a great leader and a great defender, but greatest players of all-time? Sorry, I don’t buy it. Stockton and Malone were somehow less players because they didn’t win a ring? Jerry West wasn’t a great player because he went 1-8 in the Finals during his career? Are you serious!?! The sooner people realize that there is no shame in staying with your current team and striving to win a championship, rather than prostituting your services to the highest bidder who gives you a chance at a ring, the sooner the NBA will return to what it could be–COMPETITIVE.
Because the Warriors had four of the top 15 players in the league, all in the same uniform, the Jazz tonight, despite holding Curry to 23 and Klay to 6, and Draymond to 9, still lost by eleven points. The Warriors can survive those types of performances by three All-Star players because Kevin Durant dominated the game with 38 points on 15-for-26 shooting and added 13 boards. Oh yeah, the Warriors also have a couple of former All-Stars (David West and Andre Iguodala) that combined for 15 points on 6-for-9 shooting, off the bench. How is this competitive? On July 4th, 2016, the second Kevin Durant signed with the Warriors, the entire NBA world was predicting a Cavs-Warriors Finals rematch. So far this post season those teams are 14-0 in the post-season. How are other teams supposed to compete? There are legitimately two or three teams with even a shot to win the title this year and that was as true ten months ago as it is today.
If the Jazz somehow can figure out how to resign Hayward, Hill, and Ingles, they will be at the salary cap without adding anyone to help to improve. How will the Jazz compete with these super-teams? I miss the 80’s and 90’s when star players tried to beat each other instead of join each other. Boy would things have been different then if players thought like the players of today. I can just hear the exchange between Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy:
Jeff: It looks like they called that one on the Celtics. If it’s on Jordan, that’ll be his fourth only three minutes into this second half.
Mark: That’s really going to put a lot of pressure on the rest of the Celtics and Larry Bird is going to need to look to score more if they are going to hold onto this 25 point lead.
Jeff: I would also look for Celtics to look to get it into Patrick Ewing more on the block. He had 18 points in the first half and the Pistons don’t seem to have an answer for him.
Seriously, two of the three best players in the world are on the same team and they are flanked by arguably one of the next best shooters in the league and the likely Defensive Player of the Year.
Yesterday, I was sent this meme and asked who I’d take.
Pretty awesome when the team the Jazz is playing right now breaks the rules of the game. You can spend 15 dollars on your starting five. The five Warriors players listed would cost 20 dollars. The Jazz have three players listed for a grand total of nine dollars. I guess the rest of the Jazz players would be free. Well, ya know what, I’ll take my Jazz team. I don’t care if we lose by double digits to the most talented team I have ever seen in the NBA. I like my teams to earn it. I like my team to get better year after year. I like teams that stick to it and keep trying even if Michael Jordan rips their hearts out. So, I’ll cheer for Gordon, Rudy, and Joe Ingles who even though nobody expects them to win, they are still fighting and competing. Durant, I hope you like your championship ring because it’s going to be just a ring. It will discount Steph, Klay, and Draymond’s second championship. It will not validate their 72 win season. It is expected. You legacy will be the guy who had to join the best team the league has ever seen in order to win. Sure, you made them better. Sure, you helped them win a title, but that doesn’t make you a winner.
All of the sudden, I find myself to be a very big Cavs fan because the only thing I have ever seen stop teams like this is a man named Lebron James and he’ll be waiting for you in the Finals.