Kawhi Leonard: 2019 NBA Champion & Finals MVP

Kawhi wins NBA Championship with Toronto

His hands are raised Heavenward, his eyes looking upward, his heart and soul certainly looking onward, all the while celebrating the moment inward,  Kawhi can now say “mission accomplished!”  How spiritual is that? Kawhi is the example of how we should be; our hands lifted up and our mouths filled with praise, celebrating the Victory.

Kawhi came to Toronto for one reason and one reason only — to win an NBA Title.  Done.    

Kawhi crushed and killed every living opponent that came a calling by playing lights out night in and night out. At times he played like a rabid wild animal, demanding the ball from friends and commanding the attention of his enemies. Most times he played consistently excellent and masterfully brilliant, dicing and slicing his way to nightly double doubles from game to game and from series to series as he led his new team to the NBA’s promised land.

The Toronto Raptors defeated the Golden State Warriors, 114-110, in Game 6 of the 2019 NBA Finals, the last Game at Oracle Arena, sealing the first title in franchise history and claiming Canada’s first championship in a major American sports league since the Toronto Blue Jays won the 1993 World Series.

Kawhi Leonard, who posted 22 points, six rebounds and three assists, was named Finals MVP for the second time in his career, joining Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and LeBron James as the only players to win that award while representing multiple teams. The all-star forward, who sealed the title with three free throws in a surreal closing second, previously won in 2014 with the San Antonio Spurs, who traded him to the Raptors last summer

Now, Kawhi can demand whatever he wants from whomever he wants. And now he’s got his newly stocked resume to back up every commanded penny. From his four bounce buzzer beater against the Sixers to win Game 7 of that series to overcoming and overpowering and overtaking Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference Finals to outperforming and overwhelmingly whupping the defending champs, Kawhi and the Raptors earned every bit of this championship. Every bit.

On the other hand, we must mention and acknowledge the wounded Warriors. The hobbled and humbled defending champions fought like cornered canines but in the end it wasn’t enough.  In the end, anything and everything the Warriors did or even tried to do wasn’t enough. Even the injured Klay Thompson running back out of the tunnel onto the playing floor to shoot his two free throws wasn’t enough.  The weary and well-worn Warriors were well on their way to defeat long before Klay went down,  for the SECOND time. Physically dent and emotionally spent, the W’s were tired and they were beat long before the final buzzer sounded. Curry was not himself and the team was reduced to a shell of their former championship form. But fight they did.

Here’s how ESPN Senior Writer Ramona Shelburne put it:

“This season has been a war of attrition and attention for the Warriors. At times, the team seemed to be dragging itself along — too talented and proud to surrender, but too tired and injured to mount the kind of fight it has become known for.  Five straight years of breathing the same air with the same group of human beings can wear on the most gentle soul. Five years of doing that under the spotlight that accompanies being the best team in the NBA is when pipes start bursting.”

But surely we digress. This is Kawhi’s time. This is Kawhi’s moment. So Congrats to the Raptors who ripped Kawhi from San Antonio. Congrats to first year Coach Nick Nurse who came from out of nowhere to do what previous and banished head coach Dwane Casey couldn’t do. Speaking of Coach Nick Nurse, what about him? He’s got a feel good, upsets, comebacks and turnarounds story all of his own as well.

“Coach Nick Nurse’s team Toronto defeated Orlando, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Golden State in these playoffs. That means Nurse got his team past ones coached by Steve Clifford, Brett Brown, Mike Budenholzer and Steve Kerr. That foursome is about the toughest draw a first-year coach in the league could get in his maiden postseason voyage.

‘He’s one of the hardest-working coaches I’ve seen,” Raptors assistant Jamaal Magloire said during Toronto’s victory celebration after the title-clinching win. “When it comes to this team’s success, he deserves every bit of it.” Nurse played at Northern Iowa, started his coaching career there as an assistant and wound up becoming a head coach at Grand View when he was 23. He coached in Belgium and Britain. He won a pair of British Basketball League titles as a coach, in Birmingham in 1996 and London in ‘00, then got a couple of titles in what is now called the G League.

The second G League crown got Nurse noticed. He was at Rio Grande Valley, guided them to a title in 2013 and that’s when the Raptors called and wanted to talk to him about offense. They ended up hiring him as an assistant.” And the rest is history.

Finally, congratulations to this Raptors team that made it work. Kawhi’s teammates, from Pascal Siakam in Game 1 and certainly to Kyle Lowry Game 6 — with Serge Ibaka and Fred VanFleet and Marc Gasol mixed in between — they all pitched in. And whenever they would and wherever they could, each did their part, and it amounted to a total team win.

So always remember, it’s “Team, team, team;” that’s what it always takes to pull off a quantum victory  like this.


Oh Cananda!

The Destiny of A Dynasty

We are witnessing the wonder and the glory of the golden age of the NBA. Some would argue that the age of Wilt and Russell or the years of Dr. J and Larry Bird and Ervin “Magic” Johnson or the decade of Michael  Jordan and Isaiah Thomas may well have been the best years basketball has even known.  Yet Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, a.k.a the “Splash Brothers,” and the rest of the Warriors have been destined to show us just how the game of basketball should be played. And Its played as a team.

As of this writing, the Golden State Warriors are up two games to none over the Portland Trailblazers in the Western Conference Finals and chances are they are only a few games away from winning their fourth championship in five years. And it doesn’t look like there’s any team that can stop this run away train.

So let’s just sit back and watch this wonderful, colorful, incredible run that should lead to the crowning of the current reigning kings of basketball. Again.

Every Good Player Needs A Good Coach

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Every good player needs a good coach. And every great player needs a great coach. And such is the story of the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors won Game Six of the Western Conference Semi-Finals — IN HOUSTON, mind you — on the strength of their best, leading role players, namely Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. But/and they needed help, and they got big help from their supporting cast:  Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green and Shaun Livingston, plus the rest of the bench.

And therein lies the lesson: In Game 6 against Houston, Steve Kerr employed his bench superbly. Maybe he should have used them more earlier in the playoffs, but as they say, “better late than never.”

Steve Kerr is a great coach.  And he has to be to coach the band of brothers that he has on his roster. Greatness needs greatness to succeed.  And we’re seeing the secret of Golden State’s success in the chemistry between the players and the coach.

Here’s a case in point: Steph Curry received his second foul early in the first quarter of Game Six, and Kerr immediately took Steph out of the game, much to his chagrin. When Curry got back to the huddle, Kerr was blunt with the two-time MVP.

“He keeps it real with us,” Curry said of Kerr after the game. “There was a moment tonight where I had my second foul when I fouled James on the three, and I saw on the board that he had put Quinn in. Obviously, I had a reaction to that. I walk into the huddle and he keeps it real.” 

“He’s like, ‘How can I trust you to not get your third when you know how big this game is right now and you put yourself in a situation — a predicament to get your second foul? So, I got to make a decision.’ Put Quinn in. Quinn was ready. Obviously, I didn’t like it, but we have a strong relationship where he knows I’m not going to lose confidence in that moment, and whenever I get back on the floor, hopefully good things will happen.” https://sports.yahoo.com/steve-kerr-had-blunt-message-223457898.html 

Steve Kerr knows which buttons to push and he knows when to yell and when to whisper. He knows his players. He knows their strengths and weaknesses and their bents and their dents, and he knows how to get the best out of them.  Sounds a lot like Psalm 139, right?

Psalm 139 speaks of how well God knows us. He knows our ins and our outs and our ups and our downs. And He wants to see to it that we are victorious in every situation. That’s why we must believe and rely on our Heavenly Head Coach. He knows us, and He wants to see us be the best we can be.

Here’s how Mike Cruz from ClutchPoints reported on the Warriors Game Six win:

“Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Andre Iguodala were the stars of the Golden State Warriors’ series-clinching victory over the Houston Rockets on Friday night. But as much as they led the defending champs to their Game 6 win sans leading scorer Kevin Durant, the Warriors banked on their motto, “Strength in Numbers,” to propel them back to the Western Conference Finals.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said he was proud of how each of the Warriors’ supporting cast made their mark in their Game 6 win and wondered why he didn’t deploy them earlier in their 2019 postseason, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic:

‘Houston puts the fear of God in you,” Kerr, halfway through a postgame Corona, told The Athletic. “So we played it very close to the vest the first five games, just allowing our best defenders to be out there the whole time, thinking we got to do this. Then look, we’re forced to play the bench and they’re fantastic. And I’m like: ‘Well, what the  . . . ? What was I thinking? I should’ve played them earlier.’ But I’m just proud of them.’

The Warriors’ bench has been its thinnest since the Steve Kerr era began in 2015. Kerr has played his stars nearly 40 minutes per game over this playoff run so far. But with Kevin Durant slated to miss the rest of the series against Houston, he had no choice but to dig deep into his rotation, going 11 deep in Game 6.

Needless to say, Golden State’s unsung heroes delivered in every way possible. Kevon Looney continued his impressive play with his hustle, rebounding, and improved ability to finish around the rim. Veteran guard Shaun Livingston, likewise, turned back the clock and gave them an offensive spark off the bench.

Andrew Bogut started in place of Durant and was part of their solid start to Game 6. Jordan Bell gave them a spark with his defense and athleticism, while backup guard Quinn Cook gave quality minutes with Curry struggling and saddled with foul trouble in the first half.

The Warriors could possibly get injured stars Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins back at some point during the Western Conference Finals. Kerr could definitely try to use his bench more moving forward to give his stars fresher legs as they get deeper into another championship run.”

The 2018 NBA Finals: Leftovers Warmed Over

LebronCurry

We’ve seen this movie before, right? I mean, remakes are great, but by the time they got to Rocky XV, I fell asleep during the credits– the PRE credits.  I love watching a favorite movie again and again, don’t you? (Matrix fans unite!) But some people want something different all of the time. Don’t get me wrong, because the Warriors and the Cavs absolutely deserve to be in the NBA Finals.  Correction — LeBron, a.k.a. King James and Steph Curry and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson and all of the rest of the Warriors deserve to be in the NBA Finals, with an honorable mention to Jeff Green of the Cavs for the way he played and helped LeBron in Games 6 and 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

If the 2018 NBA Finals are must see TV,  why are some people tired of eating Cavs/Warriors leftovers? Becasue they want something different. Their tired of eating manna every morining (or every year).  Get it?  The spiritual tie in is so surreal. We get to watch high level, high caliber basketball, yet we’re tired of the same ole, same ole. But it’s still good. It’s absolutely still good.

Oh well. You can’t please everybody. So the Warriors and the Cavs will play and we’ll watch the Warriors win another Larry O’Brien Trophy.  Right? 

So who ya got?

Durant and Warriors: “Be The Best You Can Be”

Warriors

That’s what the Golden State Warriors are showing us and teaching us; they’re schooling us on how to be the best. They are undefeated in these 2017 Playoffs. They are winning games by double digit margins. They have the best shooters, and they are playing the best defense. The Warriors won Game One of the 2017 NBA Finals 113 – 91, and they won Game Two 132 – 113. That’s pretty impressive.

After Golden State’s Game 2 thrashing of the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, the questions abound:

How is it that last year the Warriors lost Game 7 at home in a close, contested contest that saw LeBron James lead a pretty good team against a really good team and win? How is it that the best team (a 73 game regular season win squad) in the NBA last year got even better? How is it that this year the Kevin Durant led Warriors, made an already great team an instantaneous juggernaut? And how is it that the Cavaliers are playing really close but then are getting really blown out?

Now, the questions get fewer and finer; can the visibly vulnerable and discernably dejected Cavaliers mount a charge against the mighty Warriors? Can the defending champions (that’s right, they ARE the defending champions) summon the stamina to withstand this relentless, oncoming tide of three pointers and pick and rolls and more points than they can find? And can LeBron save face and win at least one game? I say no.

The Warriors look borderline unstoppable through two games of the 2017 NBA Finals. And, to add insult to injury to the rest of the League, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and the rest of the Dubs looked poised to dominate the Association for the foreseeable future.

The Warriors are dead set on proving to the basketball world in general and to the sports universe in specific that last year’s loss was a fluke. The fact that they should have won is fairly debatable. The fact that they didn’t win is forever undisputable. But now these Durant led Warriors are bent on proving that they are the undisputed heavyweight champions of the basketball world.

Not even the great and mighty LeBron James can carry his team up this mountain. Not this time.When these Warriors play their best they’re at their best, and they’re simply unbeatable. Period. 

And the same goes for you and me too. When we are at our best and when we do our best and when we display our best, we are relying on God and not on our own strength. When we “walk by faith and not by sight;” when our “love is sincere and we hate what is evil and cling to what is good” and when we “trust in the Lord with all our hearts, and don’t lean to our own understanding,” we are at our best and we are the best we can be.

Is It Time To Worry About The Warriors?

stephen-curry

The Warriors are everybody’s favorite NBA team, right? They have Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, and Steve Kerr, not to mention Kevin Durant. They’re blowing their opponents out left and right, and they have the chutzpah and charisma we all love.

But wait – this just in: the golden goose, Golden State Warriors are in trouble.

They’ve lost 4 of their last 5. They’re losing the close games they used to win. There is no timetable for Durant’s return, and KD doesn’t know when he’s going to come back. And last night, Coach Kerr rested Curry, Klay, Green and Iggy. It was an impulsive reaction to the challenge of playing the Spurs on the road in prime time because they look worn and weary, forlorn and leery.  And their locker room ranting sounds as bad as they look.

The Warriors are (or were?) the favorite to win the title this year, but that was when Durant was healthy. Now they’re fighting to win home court in the West, so their cake walk to a championship just turned into a challenge of running across burning glass. So is it time to press the panic button if you’re a fan of the Dubs?

If it’s not time to pound on the panic button, it’s at least time to tap it. The season is winding down, and the Warriors are going to have to gear up and figure out a way to win until Durant gets back. If not, the Spurs and the Cavaliers are waiting in the wings to snatch a title from the presumptive favorites.

But we’re not supposed to worry, right? We’re not supposed to fear or fret or sweat or swoon. Instead, we need to exercise faith and fortitude. When things aren’t going our way, we need to hunker down and buckle up. We need to endure the hard times with just as much courage and composure as we display during the good times. Right? And, hopefully, that’s what the Warriors will do.

When the chips are down and our friends are few and the clouds hang low and our pace is slow; when the vultures are circling and the predators are prowling, digging deep and standing strong and holding on and looking up is what we need to do too.

Can Golden State Win Without Their Wounded Warrior?

Golden-State-Warriors-Steph-Curry-1

For those who haven’t heard, Steph Curry, the reigning MVP of the NBA and the best player on the best team, is out for two weeks. That puts him on the bench for the Fifth Game of the first Round of the 2016 Playoffs. And presuming that they shoot down the Rockets, Steph will be down and out for most if not all of the Second Round series against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Players play hurt all the time, but it’s not good for them or for their team in the long run. So, sitting Steph is the smart thing to do. That said, this leaves it up to his teammates to carry the load and continue the fight without him. And so the question is not can the Warriors win another NBA Title, it’s “can they even win playoff games without Steph?” That’s a whole different question that begs an entirely different answer.

“What does this mean, potentially? Curry is tremendous and more valuable to this team than anyone else in the league is to theirs, but the Warriors roster is filled with talented stars who can assume larger roles if he’s out for the foreseeable future. The most recent piece of evidence came in the second half of Sunday’s game, when the Curry-less Warriors exploded all over the Houston Rockets, outscoring them 65-38 in the final two quarters.” Michael Pina, Fox Sports http://www.foxsports.com/nba/story/stephen-curry-mri-results-golden-state-warriors-knee-injury-042516

Sean Deveney of Sporting News said the same. On Sunday April 24th in Houston, “the Warriors proved up to the task, responding to another injury suffered by the reigning (and soon-to-be repeat) league MVP with a masterly performance in a third quarter in which they scored 41 points, knocked down eight 3-pointers in 13 attempts, dished out 12 assists on 14 made shots and saw Klay Thompson and Draymond Green lead the way with 25 combined points.

So with Steph Curry out for anywhere between a week and two weeks with a sprained MCL, suffered in a slip just before halftime in Sunday’s Game 4 in Houston, all the Warriors will need to do is continue to put together quarters like that until Curry comes back. Simple enough.” http://www.sportingnews.com/nba-news/4703250-stephen-curry-injury-update-warriors-playoffs-draymond-green-klay-thompson-steve-kerr-rockets-clippers 

Biblically, we believe that we are stronger when we are weak; we are fiercer when we are faint, and we are full of God when we are empty of ourselves. It sounds crazy and silly and stupid and senseless and outrageous and outlandish, but it’s as real and rational and standard and statutory as can be, if you are spiritual.

So, it may sound funny, but it’s the formula. When we are weak, we are made strong. When we decrease, God gives us increase. When we humble ourselves, He exalts us and lifts us up. Yes it’s counterintuitive to conventional wisdom, but then again, everything spiritual is.

Submitting to the power and providence of God is the formula for winning when you think all hope is lost, and triumphing when you don’t seem to stand a chance. It’s the answer to the questions we ponder when we have unpaid bills and overdue notices and we are short on supply and long on demand. But that’s how Heaven helps. Heaven gives the most help when earth has the most need. And for the Warriors, now is the time to dig deep and to believe way beyond the stars, and for some of us it’s that time too.