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McHale Firing, D'Angelo Russell, and the Warriors
Ok lets start with Mchale. I think he got a really raw deal but that's not a new take by any means. But when you think about it deeper why did he get a raw deal? First of all the obvious answer is that they made the Western Conference Finals last year, which is further than they have made it since their Championship runs in the 90's. Then 11 games into this season, they are 4-7. While that isn't a terrible record, its not comparable to the team that ended the season as the second seed in the west. Now lets go deeper into it. First off, they have lost to 3 Eastern conference teams, where the East is perceived to be much weaker than the West. In reality, the East is much better this year and team like the Knicks who have seemingly been bad the past few seasons are starting to surprise teams. Also, the way they lost hurt Mchale. Lets look deeper again. First game of the season losing by 20 to the Denver Nuggets, at home, a team people thought we would be one of the worst teams in the West. But they aren't. They have a new coach and are definitely better. Then two games later they go out and beat the OKC Thunder with Durant and Westbrook, and everyone says there is the team we knew we had in Houston, there is the potential. But its not. Darryl Morey is a stats and analytics guy, and I think last year was the outlier.
Here is why. First start with the record. The Rockets finished with the two seed but finished tied with the clippers, and one game ahead of Memphis and San Antonio. And it came down to the last game of the regular season. Houston could have been as low as the 6 seed had things fallen differently last year. Had that happened I believe that they would have been out in the first round of the playoffs, and I believe Mchale would still have his job as expectations would not have been as high. Then after getting the #2 seed, they played an old and dysfunctional Mavericks team that was falling apart. Rondo went from starting to not even being part of the team during the series! After beating them, they faced a Clippers team that was far superior to them. The Clippers embarrassed them be 30 points twice in the series, and absolutely choked the series away. The thing about the playoffs is that it is really hard to win on the road, especially later in a series. The home team gets all the 50/50 calls, shoots way more free throws, and of course has the fuel of the crowd behind them. So when the Clippers take a 3-1 lead, the Clippers still only have one home game to seal it up. Games 5 and 7 weren't that close as Houston hit everything in both games. But the Clippers did choke. Houston had no business winning the series and that was proven in the next round when again they were embarrassed the entire series.
So now lets look at the teams last year and this year. Yes the West was strong last year but it was also very top heavy. The top 7 teams won 50 games and everyone says wow the West is so strong. But lets not forget how bad the East was and how bad the bottom of the West was as well. Only 3 teams in the East won 50 games, and potentially the Bulls, who were the 3 seed may have been the 7 seed in the West. So Dallas, who finished as the 7 seed, had the same record as the Bulls meaning only two teams in the entire conference had a better record than them. Meaning teams like the Rockets could pick on those teams and win lots of games giving them the perception of being a really good team. Then you look at the West and you see the bottom 6 teams with all less that 40 wins. And don't forget those 6 teams played all those bad East teams as well. So what we saw last year was two tiers of NBA power. You had the top 6 teams in the West and the Cavs and Hawks in the East on one level, and you had everybody else who was significantly worse. Add that to teams like the Spurs and Hawks who routinely throw games away so starters can rest, throw in Lebron being out for significant time and you can see a team like Houston, who takes advantage of bad teams, compiling a record better than who they really were.
And one final thing. The off-season. Seemingly everyone got better, including the Rockets. Except they didn't. Durant is back, and they got a new coach. The Warriors are still hungry. The Spurs added Aldridge. The Clippers added Stephenson. Memphis added Barnes. Rockets new coach. Minnesota good new rookies. It seemed like everyone took big steps forward in the west and when the Rockets started slow, the panic button was hit.
Now how bout Mchale. Mchale coached in Minnesota for a couple years and he coached in Houston for a couple years before they started chucking 3's every possession. Do I think Mchale wanted to run this "system" where they shoot 30 3's a game? My guess is no. Why did he do it then? Because the GM told him that's what we are doing here. And he did it. I understand analytics to some degree and I agree with them, but at the end of the day isn't the coach hired to coach his players? Isn't he hired based on his knowledge of how to win and how maximize his talent? To me if he is told what offense to run then how is he even the coach and not just a puppet? I mean if all he is is a motivator and can design his own offense then why not just hire Mark Jackson to motivate and keep running the GM's offense? I think Mchale got a bad deal.
Shit. Look I don't want to say I told you so because we all know how many times I've said it. And I know the sample size is 13 games but he is getting opportunity. Russell is averaging 26 minutes a game and averaging 10 points and 3 assists. And I think the 3 assists is the most disheartening thing about it. He came in being touted as a great passer and 3 assists is all he can muster in over half a game? Towns looks amazing, Okafor looks great, Porzingis looks great, Mudiay looks great, Johnson and Winslow look really solid. Of all the guys he is the only one who doesn't seem to be getting it. So, what should be done by the Lakers? I say keep developing him, keep throwing him out there keep letting him learn...BUT DON'T WIN ANY GAMES. The Lakers pick is top 3 protected which means they need to be in the lottery again next year or they get no pick in the first round. Which means the roster won't get any better. So play hard for 43 minutes and then put my friends and I in for the last 5 and I promise we won't win. Sorry Kobe, Sorry Byron who will definitely lose his job, but this is bigger than both of you. You both have one foot out the door, if you want the long term success of the franchise to start now and not years from now, this must be done. There is a guy named Ben Simmons who plays at LSU who might be the real deal.
Finally the Warriors.
They are good. They are really good. And they are young. Its really hard to get going a year after you win the championship...is the saying...But most championship teams have lots of vets whose bodies go through an extra 30 games of torture followed by excessive partying. Most of the guys on the Warriors are really young. Most of the guys on the Warriors havent gotten the massive contracts they want so they stay hungry. I said last year I thought it was fake when they were all hugging the trophy like Jordan and Kobe did their first time. Those guys failed over and over and when they made it they appreciated it because it was hard to get. These guys just got it. They just won. So they stay hungry. They keep winning.
So I say go for the record. Don't just go for 70 go for 73. Go for 75. You have the depth. Charles Barkley came on the radio yesterday and said Jordan's teams would have kicked the Warriors butts. Because people still don't think they are tough. They think they are a bunch of kids who just shoot 3's better and run faster than everyone else. They still think the tough teams would embarrass them. So if they want to earn that respect. The respect they still haven't gotten even after winning a championship, then run through the regular season and put up an number in the 70's. Get us talking about you and Jordan in the same sentence. Run through the Clippers and Spurs and the Cavs in the Playoffs and earn the respect that you want.