by John Walters

Game 5

Quick thoughts from a fan who must get to work soon…

–Before we do the 21st-century-social-media thing of missing the forest for the trees by worrying more about whom to blame than just being appreciative and grateful for what we witnessed (and I’ll be guilty of this in a few minutes myself), can we please state for the record what an epic Game 5 that was. Heroes, fallen heroes, even a goat (who’s also a Nurse). This is the stuff of Homeric poetry. Game reminded me of Game 5 of the 1997 Finals (which took place 22 years ago today), the Jordan Flu Game, which Chicago had no business winning in Salt Lake City but did because they were reigning champs, they had that mettle, and they simply absolutely needed to win it so they found a way. Goddamn, that was an epic contest.

Before the Splash Brothers, there was Michael and Scottie. And hey, who is that dude in the background?

–Warriors: Has a team ever been more aptly named? Down 6 on the road with three minutes left versus a franchise seeking its first NBA (IBA? Toronto is in another nation, after all), and the Dubs step up. The Splash Brothers demonstrate once more why they are legends, as Steph Curry and Klay Thompson bury three threes without a miss in a two-minute span. It’s what they absolutely had to do to win, and they did it.

This is the shot Kawhi took to win Game 7. Don’t tell me he should’ve passed last night.

–Kawhi. Ka-WHY???? I don’t care if a Klay-Iguodala double-team was staring him in the face, or if this was a “smart” basketball play. You’re up 3-1 in the NBA Finals and at home, and you’re down one point with a last-shot opportunity. It’s HOUSE MONEY. You take the shot.

You’re Kawhi Freakin’ Leonard. This has been your postseason. This is your MOMENT. Drive to the hoop and draw the foul or pull up and shoot somehow over or around the double team. If I’m WE THE NORTH, I want YOU taking that shot. Excuse me, does anyone remember the Game 7 dagger against Philly? Don’t give me this “It was a smart basketball play” b.s.

–Kevin. Again, the heart of a Warrior, but the tendon of Achilles (a Trojan). KD came out after sitting out 33 days and he came out with zero rust. Took three threes right off the bat and buried all three. Wasn’t laboring. This wasn’t a Kevon Looney situation.

In hindsight, did the strained calf likely accelerate whatever happened with his Achilles. Probably. But the docs cleared him. He wanted to play. He looked good, really good. The history of sport is littered with athletes who gutted it out and have since been hailed as heroic entities for their “grit.” Recent example: No way Julian Edelman should’ve remained in Super Bowl 49 after the hit he took near midfield versus the Seahawks, but he defied concussion protocol, returned to the field and caught the championship-winning touchdown pass from Tom Brady.

If Julian Edelman has dementia in 15 years or commits suicide, will the revisionist “Julian Edelman Should’ve Never Played At The End of Super Bowl XLIX” columns come out? It was a risk, KD took it, and he and the Warriors (and the Knicks) got burned. But to suggest AFTER THE FACT that he shouldn’t have played when you have no medical expertise and you saw what he was doing in that first quarter is the height of Monday morning quarterbacking. It’s sad.

And to be clear, I don’t blame Dan Wolken, with whom I worked for two years, here. If you saw when he tweeted this link out, you know that he had to have written this during the game that he attended. My guess is the last thing he wanted to do during a thrilling, epic Game was to have his nose in his laptop. Odds are that an editor called/texted and suggested this. Maybe not, but that’s my guess. Either way it’s a craven column in which Dan acknowledges early there are a ton of “caveats,” which I interpreted as Dan’s signal to those paying attention that even he knows this essay is a desperate plea for clicks. He’s better than this, though I don’t know that his newspaper is. Those “caveats” should’ve been enough for any writer or editor to acknowledge, Yeah, we don’t know enough: anyone can take this potshot after the fact.

–KD’s injury will reverberate around the NBA for at least a year, though. ESPN reports this morning that league sources believe Durant has an Achilles tear, which means that the man who will be an unrestricted free agent in three weeks will likely be sitting out all of next season. He’ll be 32 years old when he suits up again, most likely. Obviously the Warriors owe him a big deal if he chooses to return to them and my guess is they’d make it right by him, financially.

On the other hand, what does KD do? No team is going to sign you to a one-year deal while you sit out, so other than the Warriors you’d be signing with a franchise that may look quite different by the time you actually take the court for them. Does KD feel used by the Dubs, or might the odyssey they’ve all been through together, particularly if Golden State wins the next two games, create an even stronger bond? We’ll see. I do believe there are two coaches who are head-and-shoulders above everyone else in the NBA when it comes to overall quality as people and mentors and tacticians, and Steve Kerr is one of them. Stay tuned…

–Nick Nurse committed an unforgivable icing transgression in a country where they know from icing penalties. Sure, it wasn’t hockey, but there’s no excuse for icing your own team late in a closeout game at home. The Raptors were in the midst of what, a 10-0 or 10-2 run, they’re up 103-97 after Iguodala misses a 15-footer and Kylr Lowry grabs the ball and they have the ball in the front court.

And Nurse calls a timeout. And then, inexplicably, calls a second timeout before the Raptors take the floor. This is Bond-villain-level inexplicable stupidity (which was called out by Scott Evil to his dad in the first Austin Powers film). You have your nemesis right where you want him, on the chopping block, and you put down the ax. WHYYYY???? Nurse can mansplain this much as he wants (“wanted to give my players a rest”), but it was the Warriors who were physically and emotionally gassed. You could see it.

And Nurse inexplicably went Auric Goldfinger and gave the Warriors a reprieve. It’s a completely inexplicable and unforgivable insertion of a coach’s ego into a game. I don’t know what the next two games will bring, but if the Raptors never get closer to a championship than a 6-point lead at home with 3 minutes to play, then yes, blame Nick Nurse. Unless there’s some information that he feels uncomfortable disclosing because it would be embarrassing to a player of his, that was a colossal, all-timer coaching blunder.

9 thoughts on “IT’S ALL HAPPENING!

  1. I saw all of 60 seconds of last night’s game so can’t critique the game or the actions of the players/coach. However, I WAS going to come back here yesterday after I found out Durant was going to play (but ran out of time) : to express my SHOCK & concern. Not only had the guy not played in over a month, I don’t think he even went thru a real practice without “issues”. To be out for a month with a “calf injury” makes me think it must have been a fairly bad injury, so to come back was a VERY risky choice. Maybe it really was his choice & he badgered the medical staff to clear him. However, he may also have felt pressured, either emotionally or by actual conversations, by the team &/or the organization. Just yesterday morning I saw a an article that stated the Warriors were “confused & frustrated” that KD was not playing. The writer COULD have talked to one person & made it seem it represented the entire org, or it could have been the truth.

    It’s no surprise to know that I’m not a KD fan & in fact, even though I’ve tried for YEARS to like him (he’s a fellow Marylander!), he’s just rubbed me the wrong way, repeatedly. However, I feel badly for him & hope he heals up good as new.

    Also, I disagree with your acclaim of athletes playing “hurt”. I’ve done it myself MANY times & I’m actually ashamed. That damn “flu game” & Willis Reed is responsible for many athletes today pushing to come back far before they are ready. Plus, was Jordan REALLY sick with the flu or just a bad hangover? This idolization of the injured “hero” doing “it for the team” is dangerous & mixed up with the whole “macho” myth. If this was REAL war or acting to save yourself or a life, THAT’s a true hero. But a sport? No.

    • I’m sorry, Susie, did I personally acclaim athletes playing while hurt? Put down the coffee mug and read slowly. I pointed out that this is done all the time and in general athletes are praised for it.

      It’s funny, no? We will scold anyone for conflating sports with actual war while casually overlooking the face that the team in question here is named the WARRIORS.

      • Er, read YOUR 1st paragraph again. Here, let me help :

        “Heroes, fallen heroes, even a goat (who’s also a Nurse). This is the stuff of Homeric poetry. Game reminded me of Game 5 of the 1997 Finals (which took place 22 years ago today), the Jordan Flu Game, which Chicago had no business winning in Salt Lake City but did because they were reigning champs, they had that mettle, and they simply absolutely needed to win it so they found a way. Goddamn, that was an epic contest.”

        Are you trying to tell me that YOU are not really heralding KD as a “hero”? YOU brought up the FLU GAME!

        Anyhoo, while I think it absolutely was the WRONG decision to play when he’d been out for a MONTH with a bad calf injury (if it had been a toe or quad or hamstring injury, sure, but the CALF? No, NO, NO! Did the Drs not explain the danger?!), I do feel sad for him. And even though I will FOREVER blame Durant AND the Warriors for creating the SUPERVILLAINS (he being the Chief Supervillain!), I do truly hope he heals completely & can come back as the exceptional player that he is…. Just on some other team. 😉

        • I wrote it. Do you really think I need to re-read it?

          Anyway, heroism and foolishness often ride in the same vehicle, Susie B. As you know. I’m agnostic as to what happened, as I believe KD sincerely wanted to play. If KD doesn’t play and no one ever sees this injury, he spends the rest of his career and after taking grief for not being there when his team really needed him. And you know that. It’s very easy to have 20/20 hindsight. Any couch critic can do that.

          • So, what you’re saying is that I should have gotten my ass over here Monday afternoon when I read that he was going to play & scream my immediate reaction – “NOOOOOOOOO! THATS CRAZY!” DON’T DO IT, KD! YOU’LL BLOW OUT YOUR ACHILLES!”?

            You are right that he probably would have taken “grief” from some folks for not playing. BUT! He’d already helped that team win 2 championships! Plus, compared to the never-ending “grief” he’ll take for joining that team in the 1st place, I think it would have been minor. 😉

            BTW, do you think his “choice” was solely altruistic? Doing it “for the team”? Or was his motivation purely to be seen as THE HERO, the savior? And thus enlarge his “brand” & sell more shoes, etc?

            And just so you know, MY “couch” (actually, a leather sectional from Italy) is SUPER COMFY. 🙂

  2. the KD story is fascinating. The Athletic ran a piece a couple of days ago inferring that there were rumblings that KD was worried he could tear his achilles if he came back. This led to assumptions that he was putting himself over the team. Then he comes back and this happens. One thing it did do was create a sympathetic figure, see Lebron returning to Cleveland. If KD wins a title elsewhere, he will now be viewed as a hero. Shakespearean level drama.

    Per Nurst, agree he screwed up there. Though give him some benefit of the doubt as he has probably outcoached teams with more talent the last three rounds (GSW/Milwaukee/Philly). He has one guy and a great defense.

    • “Implying,” not inferring. Sorry to be THAT guy but if I’m not teaching here, what the hell am I doing?

      (and yes, there are typos in today’s column but am at work and cannot fix from my phone)

  3. People are going to MMQ this all week long. KD wanted to come back and play with his team. As we saw last night (reiteration of what the smart ones already saw) was a team chemistry unmatched by many.

    He started the game off like the NBA Finals MVP he is and, be it by bad luck or impatience, got injured. Life isn’t fair and stuff happens. End of story.

    Hope KD can come back and finish his career the way he wants it to finish.

    • Question – if you walk alone in a known high crime area at 2AM & you get robbed/assaulted, is that “bad luck”? Life is nonstop decision-making/choices & determining when the risks are too high for a desired outcome is Rule#1. The higher one goes, the more devastating the impact if the wrong choice is made. KD had a CALF injury, basically THE red-flag/slow-the-hell-down warning for (by?) the Achilles. He was about to be a free agent. He’s 30/31. I don’t even like the guy & I never would have criticized him for not playing after that injury. Criticize him for joining the Dubs? Yep. For being a whiny/hypersensitive/all-around grumpy guy? Yep. For not putting his body & livelihood on the line in a GAME? No.

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