Are you on the Golden State Warriors bandwagon? Not only did the Warriors stun -- to use the word that appeared in most headlines -- the Dallas Mavericks in Game 1 of their NBA playoff series -- they beat them for the fourth time in a row this year and the sixth straight overall.
Game 2 is Wednesday. Game 3 will be sometime this century. Game 4 is set for the year 2525. The NBA's first round is kinda poky.
The normally sane Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News says the explanation is simple: The Warriors own the Mavericks.
The Mavericks say the explanation is their 35 percent shooting in Game 1, which included a festival of missed layups and putbacks. Just about everyone else in the known universe thinks it has something to do with the small lineup Mavs coach Avery Johnson employed.
Charles Barkley spoke for all of us at halftime of Game 1 on TNT's studio show, which incidentally remains the best show on television, especially now that Jack Bauer has -- despite looking like death warmed over at the beginning of this very day after arriving directly from a Chinese prison where he presumably spent every minute of the past two years being tortured -- somehow managed, among his other feats of derring-do, to jump the shark.
Magic Johnson had just led off the halftime show with a kind of rambling analysis of the first half, which ended 38-38. He said, I think, that the half had been kind of chaotic and structureless, and that while the Warriors had done a good job of getting the Mavs off their game, they still needed to come up with a way to control the chaos and implement a plan.
Or something. I'm not sure I followed. I just remember thinking, "Magic, that is the plan."
Barkley then went on a rant about how if you had the best record in the NBA, you don't go changing your lineup to play the No. 8 seed. He kept saying, "You have all these midgets running around," and noted that the way to beat them is to put your big guys in, post them up on offense and pack them into the paint on defense.
When Barkley was finally finished insulting the little people of the world and generally talking smack, Kenny Smith said, "You know, that was funny. But he's 100 percent right." Johnson said to forget everything any other analyst had said -- which was also funny, because only Johnson had spoken -- and just listen to Charles. Which may have been Magic's best bit of analysis in months.
Avery Johnson's lineup gambit was to sit starting center Erick Dampier, who played two minutes, mostly sit DeSagana Diop, move Dirk Nowitzki to center and start Devean George at forward.
Johnson spent only about a decade and a half as one of the NBA's smartest players, if not the smartest, and now, at 42, is its brightest young coach. He didn't win his second straight Coach of the Year award, but he wouldn't have been a bad choice for it. He just had too many strikes against him: He won it last year and his team had the best record.
I know. That's why nobody cares who's Coach of the Year. Toronto's Sam Mitchell, also a fine choice, was named the winner Tuesday.
Anyway, what I'm saying is Avery Johnson clearly needs my advice, so here it is, wisdom picked up from long years of studying the NBA as well as other areas of the humanities in between picking my toes and wondering why I can't go consecutive days without losing my sunglasses:
If the solution is to put Devean George in the starting lineup, you've misunderstood the problem.
Nowitzki said, in so many words, that the Mavericks are good enough to beat the Warriors no matter what ill-advised, cockamamie, batty lineup Johnson throws out there. I suspect he's right. I'll jump on the Warriors bandwagon if Golden State wins the next two games and has a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter of Game 4. But not the third quarter.
Meantime, if Johnson starts Pops Mensah-Bonsu at center one of these games, it may be time for an intervention.
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It isn't money vs. class [PERMALINK]
One of the freshmen who has announced that he's planning to enter the NBA draft after one year of college basketball is University of North Carolina forward Brandan Wright.
"The hardest thing for me is leaving my teammates," Wright said at the press conference announcing his unsurprising and smart decision Monday. "Knowing that we had a great season this year and that those guys are going to have a great season next year, that was the hardest thing. That's the one thing that really made me think, 'What should I do?'"
The next time you hear Dick Vitale or any of his fellow college basketball apologists praising some kid for staying in school and getting his education, or lamenting some other kid's decision not to do the same, remember Wright's formulation: Money vs. fun. Not money vs. education. The Florida players who stuck around, and were much praised for being true to their school and all about the team and whatever else, stuck around for the same reason.
College is fun, that's all. I imagine it's even more fun if it doesn't really matter whether you study.
I went to graduate school for the same reason too. I dug the lifestyle. I figured there'd be time to get paid, and in the meantime I made my own hours, had lots of smart friends, did challenging, interesting work and spent my days in a beautiful place in the company of pretty young women. Nobody lavished praise on me for doing the right thing, and I didn't even get the perks a big-time basketball player gets, including the time of day from any of those girlies. I was allowed to seek part-time employment though.
Of course, Wright's just an immature 19-year-old. Let's listen to his coach, Roy Williams.
"If I paid Brandan the same amount of money on the first and 15th you can bet your sweet bippy he'd stay here an awful long time," Williams said. "I'll bet anybody in here that a year from now Brandan Wright will come back and say, 'Gosh it wasn't as much fun as playing in college.' But the first and 15th erase a whole lot of sorrow."
Pay for a lot of classes too. Wright said he'll return to UNC summers to get his degree, though I've made a lot of promises like that as well over the years. (Note to Mom: I really will wash your new '77 Datsun one of these weekends.)
But that's the choice. It's not NBA riches vs. personal enrichment in the ivied halls of academia or doing the right thing by living up to some imagined four-year commitment. It's NBA riches now vs. another year of goofing off, then NBA riches.
I don't think a year of college is $2.5 million worth of fun, the low end of what Wright figures to make next year in the NBA. Once in a while someone who's in the position of making that decision disagrees with me.
Of course, they're just a bunch of immature 19-year-olds.
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