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.

Too Much Talk and Not Enough Play

Lebron-Curry Some Cavaliers have been a little too cavalier with their comments. And some warriors have been a little too wanton with their words. Both teams are posturing and showboating and mudslinging so much that you wonder if they will have anything left when the games begin. There’s been too much work with the mouth and not enough play with the muscles. Of course the Finals haven’t begun yet, so let the talking terminate and let the games begin.

Goliath was a big mouth, and nobody likes a big mouth. Goliath was a loud mouth, trash talkin’, tongue waggin’ somebody. And until David came along, he could back up what he said by what he did. But that all changed. Because David could out talk his taunter because of what his God could do.

Trash talking is and always has been a part of the game. Oft-times players brag and boast about what they are going to do on the court and on the field, yet, only 50% of all trash talkers can deliver; only one team can win the battle for the game, and by extension, the trash talk war.

David and the giant Goliath engaged in what we would call trash talk. “The Philistine said to David, ‘Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?’ And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David, ‘Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.’”

But David was unphazed.  He did not talk trash; he spoke by faith. “Then David said to the Philistine, ‘You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the Lord will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down, and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord saves not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord’s and he will give you into our hand.’ ”  1 Sam 17:43-47, RSV

So many of us talk a good game, and yet we don’t back up what we say.  We say one thing, and do another. In my book, that’s trash talk. We promise but we don’t deliver. That’s trash talk.  Indeed we over promise and under deliver.  That’s trash talk.  We purport and “front” and sell wolf-tickets, yet when it’s time to cash them in, we come up short. We talk loudly and proudly before the game, yet slink silently and pitifully on the sideline; after boasting and brandishing we live unseen and unheard lives and are unable to back up what we say.

Many doubt our faith and our Lord. They are trash talking us.  They are wolfing us down. And so the question is, what is our response to this doubting, doubtful, degenerate generation? Like Goliath they look down on us and decry us and our God. Can we backup everything we say?  Can we do everything we promise? As Christians, can we perform and can we deliver?

No worries. As long as we speak the Word of God, we have no fear of trash talkers. And our Champion and King can back up what he says. He will do just what He says! Contrary to Ali, Jesus Christ the righteous is truly the greatest. What He promises He is able also to perform. So let’s follow our Lord’s example.  Let’s say we’re going to do the right thing, and then let’s DO the right thing. No more saying one thing and doing another.   No more reneging on our word. No more trash talk.

Who Should Be The MVP?

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Westbrook? Harden? Leonard? Curry? Or even LeBron?  Who has carried and cajoled and compelled their team better that all others?  And who has made them better? Who has been the on the floor and the off the hardwood commander and chief and captain and quasi coach?  In other words, who’s been the bossier boss?

The clear favorite seems to be Westbrook, even though Harden and others have somewhat to say about the final vote. No, Oklahoma City will not go far in the 2017 playoffs, but they would be nowhere without the heroics of Russell Westbrook this season. Period. Paragraph.

Do total team wins count towards or count against a player?  I mean, if I’m a great player but my squad is a middle of the road team, does that hurt me or help me? Does it matter how many wins my team gets, as long as it’s more with me than without me?  If I made my team better and they would have been much worse without me, shouldn’t that be worth something?

The Oklahoma City Thunder certainly had every reason to tank and topple this season, with Durant leaving, and especially with the WAY he left. But no; somehow, someway, Westbrook summoned strength and led his team to a winning season and they got into the playoffs. And not only that, but Westbrook broke the single season record for triple doubles, topping Oscar Robertson’s record which has stood for decades.

The Bible is full of MVPs. From Abraham to Amos, and from Zechariah to the daughters of Zelophehad, heroes and heroines of the faith all made their situations better because of their faith and their fortitude. They scored heavenly points, grabbed spiritual rebounds and dished out divine assists in route to leading their respective teams to victory.

So what about you? Is your “team” better with you, or without you? Do you make any given situation you’re in better or worse? Is your job, your group, or your club healthier, happier, enhanced and improved with your talent and your flair and your flavor? If so, you’re an MVP too.

Is It Time To Worry About The Warriors?

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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.

Kevin Durant: If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em?

KD, Curry and Clay

Kevin Durant just left a very good team and has joined a really great team. He left the only team he’s ever known to play for the very team that he’s never been able to beat (figuratively speaking). So why isn’t the entire sports world jumping for joy?

For starters, Oklahoma City fans feel forlorn and forsaken. They feel spurned and scorned and slighted and snubbed, and rightfully so. Durant was the face of the franchise and now he’s gone; and he’s not just gone, but he’s gone to the ENEMY! The very team that OKC almost beat in the 2016 Western Conference Finals now has Durant on its roster. And now the Warriors are the odds on favorite to win the NBA Title next year. Because anything less will be seen as a failure.

And it’s not like this kind of thing hasn’t happened before. Most recently, King James spurned Cleveland for Miami. There, LeBron went to four NBA Finals and won two.  But all was forgiven this year because in the second year of his return to Cleveland, James brought a title to his home town. And before James, Kevin Garnett left Minnesota and went to Boston and won a championship with Paul Pierce and Ray Allen in 2008. So there. 

So before you burn your Durant jersey, remember this: Durant owes no one anything, especially the OKC fans. That’s right. As traitorous as it may sound, Durant has a right to make his own choices and his own decisions, despite the media outcry and the fans outrage. Because life is all about choices and decisions, good, bad and ugly.

So what about you? Will you decide and determine and define and distinguish your life based on what others say and feel? I won’t. And you shouldn’t either. That doesn’t mean that we should make rash and reckless decisions based solely on “me, myself and I.” But it does mean that what others think and feel and want should not be what we base our decisions on.

Durant’s new teammate Draymond Green, may have said it best. Green spoke to Sports Illustrated’s Alex Kennedy and said that he believes Durant paid his dues and earned the right to join a title contender. Green went on to say this:

I’m excited, and I’m excited for KD. He has put himself in the position where he’s done everything he can do. He deserves the right to make his own decision and do what makes him happiest. At the end of the day, he has worked in this league for nine years and he gave OKC nine tremendous years that he’s thankful for and that they’re thankful for. But there comes a time in life where everyone deserves to make a decision that they think is right for them.

Durant A Warroir

So, like I said before, I’m still pulling for Kevin Durant, https://godandsports.net/2016/05/22/why-im-pulling-for-kevin-durant/ 

Will Steph Curry Bounce Back?

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Steph Curry will bounce back, right? I mean, he was the 2016 NBA regular season Unanimous MVP. His team won 73 games. His fans fully expected him to do something heroic or herculean, especially in Game 7, in order to win another title. Unfortunately, Steph and his team went down to the wire, only to lose in the last minute. And just like Draymond Green said, losing the way they lost hurt something awful. His exact words were “this one stings . . . and it’s supposed to.”

Jason Keidel from CBS sports said this: “Since Stephen Curry’s rise was so quick and acute, we haven’t had a chance to find any flaws in his game. Not only did he become the NBA’s darling, the Currys became the first family of basketball. Now he gets a mouthful of the bitter, abject analysis that has dogged LeBron for a decade.

Curry’s stat line is hardly MVP-worthy: 17 points; 4-14 from 3-point range; 5 rebounds; 2 assists; 4 turnovers. He had more turnovers last night than points in the fourth quarter (3). And now comes the ignominy of being just the second reigning MVP to lose game 7 of NBA Finals at home.”

So, let’s ask the question again: will Steph Curry bounce back? Will he get back up and jump back up or will he whine and wallow and stumble and fumble away the rest of his basketball life? I don’t think Steph is the stay down in the dumps type. Curry may not be LeBron James (yet) but he ain’t no Developmental League wannabe either.

If Steph Curry has an ounce of bounce and courage and pluck and grit and spunk, he’ll be back – and back with a vengeance. Because that’s how champions roll. And champions in the game of life all have been knocked down and counted out, but they all bounced back.

Take it from me: I’ve had a lot of bumps and bruises along life’s way, but I always seem to bounce back. I’ve been laid off a good job, been passed over for promotion, wasted money and ruined relationships, lost time, and friends and church members and cars and a house. But thank God I didn’t lose my mind or my faith or my wits or my core. With the help of God and the Grace of our Lord and Savior, I’ve always been able to bounce back.

Steph Curry and “the Warriors were 60 seconds from winning the NBA championship. But they didn’t. This can be a speed bump on their way to a dynasty, or the bookend of a nice, two-year run. How far they go will depend on Steph Curry, as it should.”

Getting knocked down is a given in life. The unknown is if and when you will do a 180° turn and get back on the horse and get back in the fight and get back up to where you belong.

What Went Wrong With the Warriors?

draymond green finals

Lots. Tons. Heaps and mounds and stacks and piles lay at the feet of every player wearing the Warrior wardrobe. Plenty went wrong and there are bundles of blame to go around the Golden State Warriors locker room after losing Game 7 to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Warriors were leading late in the Fourth Quarter, 87-82 and at one point they were leading in the series three games to one; but they let both leads slip away. And now the defeated and deflated 2015 NBA Champs are certainly worse for the wear after this painful, painstaking loss.

Blame and fault go hand in hand with culpability and responsibility. How about this one: Who’s to blame for fouling LeBron James as he attempted a three-pointer late in the Fourth Quarter with the game on the line? The coach, Steve Kerr, who put the player in the game? Or the player who shouldn’t even have been on the court who actually committed the foul? Festus Ezeli, the WORST player on the court, was playing the BEST player on the court, in crunch time! AND they were out on the perimeter, where James hadn’t made a three pointer ALL NIGHT! What’s wrong with that picture? Talk about bad decisions.

And then there’s the Draymond Green factor. Unfortunately, the Warriors will wear this wound like the Red Badge of Courage for years to come. Unfortunately, the Warriors taught us all a lesson in how not to win. And unfortunately, “the Warriors might always be remembered as one of the best teams ever that couldn’t close it out, and Green is taking at least a good share of the blame after he sat out Game 5 on Monday night, June 13, after being suspended for flagrant fouls.”

Who’s to blame for Draymond Green missing Game 5? Who’s to blame for Draymond Green’s multiple flagrant fouls during the playoffs? Draymond Green, of course. But for his part, Green accepted responsibility, at least for his part in the disappointing collapse. Draymond Green said “the loss stings.” And he said, “it’s supposed to sting.” Wow. At least he’s honest. Green went on to say some very respectable things:

I learned a lot about myself as a man. I got to control my emotions. I will always control my emotions now. There is a silver lining in between everything. I’m not a guy that takes moral victories, but I did learn from that. I learned that I can’t put myself in harm’s way and that’s in anything. That’s in basketball. That’s in life. You can’t put yourself in that position.

Everything happens for a reason. I’m not sure what that reason is right now. I know that I’ve learned from [the suspension]. I know it will make me better down the line. But there is still more to it. It will eventually come to me, but I don’t have the answer right now. But the one thing I do know is I’ve learned from it. And if you can learn from something in life, it can go a long way.

Well said. And nuff said.