Death of the Dynasty? Not So Fast; Valerie Still; Pac-12 Baseball Blues; Admissions Scandal Victims
It became very fashionable last week to write the Warriors’ obituary.
Some of the headlines read: "Goodbye to Dynasty." "The Dynasty Is Over." "Championship Era Is Ending."
And so on.
But now, after a heroic win in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, the death notices have been revised. Maybe there’s a little gas left in the tank, after all.
Even before last night’s game, I felt that reports of the Warriors demise were greatly exaggerated.
A few pertinent facts to remember.
The Warriors have reached the NBA Finals five straight years. Not the conference finals, not the championship semi-finals, but the Championship Finals. Only one other team in history has ever done that before, the Boston Celtics of the Bill Russell Era, and that was back when the playoffs were two rounds, not four.
Even if they end up losing this series to Toronto (and they still have a real shot), the Warriors will have won three out of five, and they could've easily won all five. If Draymond Green hadn't been suspended for a game, they probably would've won in 2016, and if Kevin Durant (and for one game, Klay Thompson) hadn't been hurt, they would've won this year.
Dynasties end when teams age, lose free agents, experience internal squabbles, then fall apart and get eliminated early.
That’s not happening here.
The Splash Brothers, as they showed last night, are still in their prime. Klay Thompson is going to re-sign with the Warriors. You can take that to the bank. Steph Curry has several good years left (see 47-point performance in game 3), as does Green. Kevon Looney will only get better. And GM Bob Myers will find some adequate bench players to replace those who are aging.
Kevin Durant may leave—although as I’ve written previously, I'm not all that sure it's a slam dunk. I have to believe he was touched by the way his teammates reacted to his injury last night. But if Durant does leave, Joe Lacob and Myers will find another superstar free agent to take his place. You can also take that to the bank.
So calm down people. We may not see five more consecutive finals. But the Warriors will be among the game’s elite for the foreseeable future.
Durant Hypocrisy: Funny how the same experts and media types who were criticizing Kevin Durant for being "soft" and taking a month to heal from a calf injury are now the loudest critics of the Warriors for bringing him back too soon.
It’s easy to second-guess the Warriors for playing Durant after the fact. But the Warriors run a class organization. If he was cleared from a calf injury after a month, no one's at fault. Anyone who has played sports knows that Achilles injuries can happen anywhere, any time, without warning, to anyone…from a recreational tennis player to an NBA superstar.
Getting Technical: Draymond Green, despite his new, self-declared, no-whining approach, got his sixth technical of the playoffs last night. One more and he's forced to sit out a game.
Imagine this scenario. The Warriors win No. 6 at Oracle Thursday night, but Green gets another "T." If that happens, he won’t be able to play in Game 7.
Still the One: One of the greatest players in the history of women’s basketball, Valerie Still, was inducted into the Hall of Fame over the weekend. You may not be familiar with Val’s name, because she was from the era when there was no pro league in the U.S.
Consider this: Val is the all-time leading scorer and rebounder in the history of University of Kentucky basketball—men or women. She averaged a double double for her career, 23.2 points and 11.8 rebounds per game.
With no U.S. league at the time, she went to Italy, where she became not only a huge basketball star, but a TV celebrity as well. She played 12 years in Italy and was recognized as one of the top players in Europe.
When we started the American Basketball League (ABL) in 1996, Val came home and was drafted by the Columbus Quest. All she did was lead the Quest to back-to-back ABL Championships, winning MVP honors both times.
She’s a class act, and I couldn’t be happier for her.
Another Black Eye for Pac-12: All year long, the Pac-12 had three teams ranked in the top 10—UCLA was No. 1 for most of the season, Stanford was consistently No. 2 to No. 4, and Oregon State was usually ranked No. 8-10. None of them were able to advance to the College World Series.
After the conference's embarrassing seasons in football and basketball, many pundits (including this writer) hoped baseball would provide some good news. Instead, another disappointment.
Victimization: Stanford is the latest university to proclaim itself a "victim" in the college admissions scandal, following the lead of USC and other sterling bastions of higher education.
Stanford general counsel Debra Zumwalt issued a "victim impact statement" yesterday to a federal judge in Boston. The one piece of good news is that Stanford will donate to a worthwhile charity the "tainted " $770,000 it received from donors seeking to get their kids admitted by using phony athletic credentials.
The sooner this ugly mess is off the pages of our newspapers the better, but please, enough with this self-serving nonsense about the schools being the victims.
The real victims here are two groups of students—1) those who will be forever tainted because their parents, without their knowledge, orchestrated fraudulent admission to elite colleges, and 2) those denied admission because their places were taken by privileged children of morally-bankrupt parents who successfully gamed the system.
Note: The Inside Track will be on vacation next week so our next column will be posted the week of June 24.