Mark Jackson said LBJ is still the best player in the NBA. Sorry Sir but you are wrong. Curry is the best basketball player right now. He dominates the game and makes his teammates better while embarrassing opponents in that process. Last night’s game was the ultimate example on why the reigning MVP is the best right now.
ACT I: Terrible start
Warriors and Clippers have a genuine dislike for each other. That, itself, makes their confrontation a must see TV moment. If we add the fact the Clippers could spoil the perfect Warriors season on a national televised game, that just made NBA fans salivating in anticipation.
The beginning of the game was a complete disaster for the Dubs. Curry had two early fouls and watched from the bench is archrival CP3 unleashing a flood of offensive power and perfectly orchestrated offense. At a certain point the camera focused on Curry – his disgust was easily perceivable.
Following the best Hollywood masterpieces, this game had many intriguing sub-plots. Firstly, the global perception (for those who haven’t been following closely the LA Clippers), that Blake Griffin has finally arrived to the place he wanted to be. Not a single showman, able to WOW the crowd but fail in critical moments. Able to flush a mesmerizing dunk and then suddenly “disappear” in the next possessions.
Blake Griffin and CP3 are, nowadays, as good as they’ve been. This game was the perfect example of the perfect collaboration between the cerebral and well-articulated maestro CP3 with the newly found reliable and consistent Blake Griffin.
Secondly, Lob City is looking more and more like a distant memory. The stakes are higher now. The inclusion of Paul Pierce, Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson and even Wesley Johnson makes this a totally different team. Their depth is almost (almost!) as good as the Warriors. It’s Championship or bust for the Clippers.
ACT II: Warriors main weapon? Too many unselfish scorers!
Curry and the Warriors are a hymn to near perfect unselfish basketball. The ball movement is as fluid as it gets. There isn’t a single player who doesn’t think “Team basketball first” (more on this here: https://www.nbascholar.com/2015/09/14/high-iq-players-playing-team-basketball-killed-the-paradigm-of-getting-nba-titles-with-an-average-roster-3-superstars/). However, the main difference when compared to their main opponents, the San Antonio Spurs, relies on their amazing scoring depth. One night it’s Klay Thompson, next maybe Iguodala, then Draymond Green. Harrison Barnes. Leandro Barbosa, Brandon Rush… the possibilities are almost endless.
The strongest asset of this brilliant Warriors team lies on the fact they have the best basketball player in the world right now and the “other actors” are as exquisite and skilled as it gets. All “wrapped up” in a team basketball concept. To put it in simplistic terms, watching Warriors dismantling other teams can make us feel sorry for the embarrassing moments on the other teams when they try to stop this flood of unreal offensive power.
ACT III – CURRY, JUST PRESS THE BUTTON!
The third and final act of this game was a thing of beauty. At a certain point I tweeted saying that if somehow the Warriors managed to win this game, then beating the 72-10 record would become a possibility. Playing against arguably the best combined performance of CP3 and Blake Griffin in this 2015-16 season , Warriors stayed calm and stuck to their game plan. Like Yoda could say: “too many weapons these Warriors have. Very powerful the basketball force is in them!” Curry began to unleash his typical dosage of unbelievable and videogame-like shots. The rest, as they say, it’s history.
At this point the NBA Scholar remembered the times of the “cheat code move” (before cheat codes were ever invented!) in the old-school “Lakers vs Celtics” computer game. It consisted of getting the ball to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in the paint and press the shoot button. That meant 2 points… nine out of ten times (the tenth was probably a computer glitch :O ). Dedicated to the “young NBA padawans” out there (last Star Wars reference, promise!), just check what happens between 4:51 and the 4:55. Kareem with the unblockable sky hook shot. As good as it gets (especially that disarming and demoralizing sound effect whenever the ball went in!). Except for my adversaries at the time!
Curry, a one-of-a-kind prodigy amongst mere mortals
Like the “cheating Kareem move”, Curry seems flawless right now. In case you didn’t see it, here’s a sample of what Stephen Curry is doing this season: completely contorted, half-court shot… guess what? Business as usual! See to believe, simply out of this world:
By now, it’s evident Curry is playing “video game basketball”, that is, you just need to press the button and the ball goes in, no matter the timing release, the angle, distance or energy levels. Unlike Kareem in the Lakers vs Celtics game, though, you don’t need to put the player near the basket… just press the button somewhere around the 3-point line.
In fact, Curry has become a quasi Dali painting of basketball surrealism, a kind of real-life replica of his very own NBA2K player, playing with a modern “cheat code” (which means in today’s NBA gaming: putting the shooting sliders to the max in the NBA2K acclaimed video game).
A few days ago, Kevin Garnett mentioned Curry:
“Like Michael Jordan was a whole other thing, this guy is his own thing,” Garnett said. “It’s beautiful for basketball.”
When you have a future Hall of Famer talking about you in these terms… invoking His Airness…
WHY AREN’T THE WARRIORS BEHAVING LIKE DEFENDING CHAMPIONS?
There’s a common trait shared by most NBA Champion teams. After the conquest of the NBA Title there’s usually a confluence of factors that make for a not so great regular season. Firstly, every team is out to get you. They will play their best basketball for a chance of beating the Champions.
Secondly, most of the times the team is more relaxed, with that feeling “we already got one, let’s focus on the playoffs” mode.
Thirdly, the urgency is gone. After winning a title, the hunger (as LBJ alluded a few days ago) decreases. It’s only natural, normal human nature. So why on earth are the Warriors playing out of this world basketball right now?
Mainly for these two reasons:
1. the discredit both Curry and the Warriors got from the media and some of their peers. Mark Jackson said just a few days ago that LBJ is still the best basketball player. Many fans, journalists and GM’s still share this notion, as if the MVP was a kind of “favor” or sympathy vote. Curry won the MVP because he was the best player last season. And guess what? This season he’s obliterating all the competition.
Like the former greats of the game (Jordan, Magic, Bird, to quote just a few) it’s not the fact he’s completely dominating the game through his basketball sageness and deadly outside shooting. It’s the way he’s doing it. Like the great Isiah Thomas once said about his bad boys Detroit Pistons, they didn’t want to simply win and dominate games. They wanted to embarrass their opponents and instill fear on them (the ultimate asset in the upcoming playoff battles).
Right now, Curry is playing like there’s no tomorrow, like a man amongst kids, showcasing his ball handling moves and exquisite shots like a father teaches the kids some trick shots at the local playground. It seems he wants revenge for all who doubted him and said (and some still say today!) he’s not the best basketball player right now. If you’re objective and fair, you have to say Curry is the best basketball player in the world right now.
2. As for the rest of the Warriors team, they too might feel injustice when people say “oh yeah, with Kyrie (and Love) the story would have been different”. Therefore, in some ways, it’s like the Warriors are still out there to prove the world they’re wrong. To prove they are the best team in the NBA.
In some ways, the hunger didn’t vanish with the conquest of their first titles. The critics from some media only fuelled them to take their game to the next level. If they keep on playing this way, they have a realistic shot at one of the “unbreakable records” of the Association. That, itself, speaks volumes. Tonight they are going for the 14th win. Could the Bulls inflict to the Warriors the “punishment” for trying to “steal” one of their best records, the apparently unobtainable 72-10 record? Time will tell. They might not be able to get to that plateau. After all, it’s a long and physically demanding season. One thing is sure. The Warriors will keep on playing like they’re still the underdogs. Trying to instill fear in their adversaries. As if they aren´t the best team in the league. As if they don’t have the best player. “I have to play better”, Curry said, after dropping 40 points against the Clippers. That, my friends, is Greatness. To stay humble and always strive for getting better. Curry is an innovator (no one has ever shot in this way) and arguably the best 3-point shooter when all is said and done. NBA has become his personal playground.