Stephen Curry can save you

New York: Steph Curry’s body is possessed by the holy basketball spirit.

Some people mark the beginning of ancient Rome’s decline with the assassination of charismatic generalissimo Julius Caesar. But Caesar’s death is just a handy catchall for 100 years of internal strife and civil war that precipitated the downfall of the day’s greatest empire. I’ve been listening to historian Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History podcasts on the subject (highly recommended — get your Genghis Khan knowledge up!), and there are more than a few theories about how everything fell apart.

One is that the financial system became too byzantine and complex; another that Rome’s government relied on outmoded political conventions designed to govern cities not empires. Others blame the accumulation of vast wealth in the hands of fewer and fewer people. There’s still another theory that the young of Rome were made cynical by the ignoble power struggles that bloodied the floors of the Forum and, occasionally, turned the Tiber red. Rome and The Republic could not endure without the Myth of Rome.

I bring this up because, listening to Carlin wrap up at the end of nearly 10 hours of material, it was hard not connect these fatal syndromes of empire with events and trends in current day America — the financial system in need of regulation and overhaul, the political stalemate that retards all reform processes, the privatization of military defense. You’ve probably heard statistics indicating that the American middle class is not exactly swelling with optimism. It’s not swelling at all; it’s shrinking as money finds its way to fewer and fewer super-wealthy people, often with the aid of an incomprehensibly opaque financial and political systems.

People get salty and cynical in the face of conditions that do not inspire optimism for future generations, yet

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HoopSpeak Network

Don’t try this at home: The weird Warriors offense

[Note: This is Kevin Draper's first post at HoopSpeak, and it's a dandy. Draper's work has also appeared at Wages of Wins and you can regularly find his work on The Diss. Follow him on Twitter here. -- Ed.] 

The two words you’ll hear associated with any good NBA offense are spacing and efficiency. As in: an offense that builds effective spacing can dictate which defensive mismatch they attack, creating efficient shot attempt. Many smart teams attempt to create better spacing and efficiency by shooting tons of corner 3-pointers. Some teams utilize a stretch four—players like Ryan Anderson and Kevin Love—to pull defenders out of their natural defensive position in the paint, while others have slashing players attack the rim (think Russell Westbrook or James Harden) forcing the defense to collapse upon them.

The Golden State Warriors do none of these things.

Though the Golden State Warriors have an above average offense, it isn’t immediately apparent why. They take an average amount of 3-pointers but a below average amount from the corners. While David Lee and Carl Landry have good jumpers, they’re not the stretchiest fours. The Warriors have no slasher that is particularly adept at breaking down defenses. They even have the longest average distance from the rim on their two-point jumpers in the league (per NBAwowy.com)!

Furthermore, the Warriors don’t execute their key offensive concepts with noteworthy precision. They turn the ball over more than almost any other team, they don’t get to the free throw line frequently and are a slightly below average offensive rebounding team. Their two centers don’t have a single useful offensive skill between them, three rookies are among their top eight players in minutes played and Andrew Bogut and Brandon Rush have combined to play fewer than 100 minutes this season.

But there

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Change is Scary, Sarunas

One temperate Oakland night, probably in 1989, Golden State Warriors rookie Sarunas Marciulionis picked up his dribble and stepped sideways either to his left or his right. Suddenly, the Lithuanian guard jaunted back the opposite direction–either to his right or his left–as though on an invisible switchback trail. Maybe the move fooled that defender, or maybe Sarunas was called for traveling. We’ll never really know the exact moment at which the NBA was introduced to the “Eurostep.”

Marciulionis moved laterally, back-and-forth, in a way NBA players had never thought to. For at least a half century, Americans had always taken two steps forward after picking up their dribbles. It made sense, as the momentum carried them in that general direction. Nobody had ever thought to do it any differently. Or, if they had thought to, nobody had the confidence to make a public habit out of bipedal slithering.

Sarunas Marciulionis introduced this revolutionary move at a time when he personally must have felt quite warped. The season had started weeks after the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, when the foreign rookie was getting his training camp bearings. Perhaps there is a natural tendency towards reversing course within Sarunas because on October 17th, 1989, he planned on going to a car dealership via the 880 freeway. At the last second, he decided on a different direction, visiting a back doctor instead. While in the office, one tectonic plate scraped against another, causing the earth to shudder buildings off her shoulders. The doctor’s building held steady, but the 880 freeway did not.

If you ask people about the fatalities in the 1989 quake, most would guess that the majority of carnage occurred on the Bay Bridge. I know this because I’m the kind of person who asks this question of people.

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Things looking up for Golden State

The Lakers acquired aging stars. The Rockets snagged the Knicks wunderkind. The Nets spent lavishly to ensure a competitive first season in their new digs. While most of the NBA ripped up and rebuilt their rosters this offseason, the Warriors have remained relatively quiet. In fact, Golden State’s biggest acquisition was Jarrett Jack, who arrives in the Bay Area as a footnote in a multi-team deal.

The Jack trade stands in stark contrast to ones that went down in March when the Warriors controversially ended any hopes of a competitive campaign by sending Monta Ellis out of town for Andrew Bogut, then injured. In combination with another moved that saddled them with Richard Jefferson’s bloated contract, the team opened itself to a healthy barrage of criticism.

The Bogut deal, however, was the initial move toward assembling a squad that may be capable of upsetting the established hierarchy in the Western Conference. That possible outcome exists not because of a sudden influx of outrageous talent, but because the front office adhered to the most underappreciated rule of NBA roster construction — fit.

As Dallas proved in 2011, a collection of complementary skill-sets around one driving force can allow a team to compete, and win, against a collection of superstars. Golden State is in the midst of building a roster that will operate much like those Mavericks.  If questions about health and coaching are answered, the Warriors will enter the upper realm of the West by coalescing to become more than the sum of their parts.

It all centers around the oft-injured Bogut. Throughout his career, Bogut has been typecast as the traditional low post center. A plodding big man meant to control games by playing with his back to the basket.

Ironically, that is the most inefficient part of

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Does it matter if Jeremy Lin is boring?

Jeremy Lin is labels. Harvard. Asian. Asian American. Taiwanese American. These labels perhaps shrouded his talent from those trained to assess it. To be atypical is to often confront skepticism and bias. It is possible that blinkered assessments once hindered the career of a player who–at the very least–should have been drafted. Now that the kid’s succeeding as a Knick, the albatross is actually flying Lin to heights wings rarely reach. To quote Howard Beck: “The qualities that make Lin unique, and seemingly held him back, are now the qualities that make him a sensation.”

Jeremy Lin isn’t Jeremy Lin. For all the talk of him, there is a conspicuously little to shed light on the man’s personality. We know he is religious, we know he’s been sleeping on his brother’s couch. Beyond that, there is not much to draw from, at least not much publicly projected. People are content to embrace Lin as a symbol for now.

Last year, in the Warriors locker room, Lin sat alone. He was back from a Reno Big Horns relegation, I was excited to pick his brain on the experience. After all, a Harvard grad would have some profound insight on this D-League detour, on how Boston and Reno are culturally similar in a way I never would have guessed, on how Nevada’s pro gambling legislation impacts Reno’s economy like so. Was this whole experience Kafkaesque? Was it a quixotic adventure? Lin kindly, patiently, listened to the questions.

The result was platitudes, ushered out of his mouth by monosyllabic mumbles. The monosyllabism was occasionally interrupted by the throaty trill that creeps into the voice of a nervous speaker. Despite an unusual background, Jeremy delivered clichés like an athlete cliché, normal and boring as they come. For my purposes, the Harvard education

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Ban the Free Throw

This will be short. Time is of the essence.

Last night’s game between the Magic and Warriors prompted much debate about Mark Jackson’s “Hack-a-Dwight” strategy (I might mean “criticism” instead of “debate” but I have yet to canvass everyone on the topic). Related to the conversation regarding whether Jackson should have allowed Howard 39 FTs is another I want to at least broach: Should the NBA even have free throws in the first place?

I love basketball, love attending Dubs games, but this contest was a slog. Perhaps someone enjoyed the strategic element, but I’m guessing that person owns a DVR and more free time than a dungeon-ridden ghost. The free throw is a frustrating game stoppage that isn’t entirely a stoppage. There is not enough time for the broadcaster to sell an ad spot, and not enough time for the viewer to make himself a sandwich. Unless the dude airballs his try, we’re unlikely to remember a single free throw in quarters one-through-three. I have been watching basketball for two decades and despite all the time spent on free throws, there are no made regular season free throws in memory for me.

I know what you’re thinking: Yes, this game had too many free throws, but this was an extreme example. My counter: It was an extreme example that brought a dreary element of basketball to the fore. Honestly, do you like free throws? Do you enjoy watching free throws in quarters one-through-three?

My proposal is simple: Take every situation that would require a free throw and grant one point. Two points for two shots, three points for three. With freebies counting as roughly .75 points per shot, this is nearly what happens anyway. Yes, scoring would go up, but scoring went up when the shotclock

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HoopSpeak Previews NBA League Pass: Gems and Guilty Pleasures

The NBA released the 2011-12 schedule, or what Amar’e Stoudemire’s doctor calls “The Great Cartilage Death March.” It’s just one more signal that the NBA is almost upon us, and that means it’s time for fans to pony up for NBA League Pass.

This season will feature more top-flight NBA basketball than you can possibly take in: a full season of Carmelo’s (or are they Amare’s?) Knicks, and return of favorites like Heat Part Deux: This Time It’s MORE Personal, Grumpy Old Men: The Boston Years, The Wire References: An Oklahoma City Story and more. These are League Pass gems, the teams we need to watch.

But it also means it’s time to fall in love with things like Louis Scola’s shotfake and JaVale McGee’s endearing penchant for dribbling in the open court and trying to block his opponents warm up shots. These are the guilty pleasures. You may not admit that you like watching them in Daily Dime Live, but you can’t help screaming “Dagger!” when Jerryd Bayless hits a pull up three with 19 seconds left on the shotclock.

Here to preview the wide range of emotion and competence you’ll find this NBA season, is the HoopSpeak Live crew, with special guest Peepin’ James Herbert.

If you want to tell us how wrong we are, find us on Google+ tonight, we’ll be having a hangout around 9:30pm ET to talk it over! (That means you need to add us) 

James Herbert Gem: Memphis Grizzlies It’s really easy to root for a team with Tony Allen and Zach Randolph in the starting lineup. And you remember how much fun they were in the playoffs last season? Add Rudy Gay.  

Part of the reason Memphis’s run was so enjoyable was the fact it

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2011 NBA CBA Rumblings: What Constitutes “Loss” for NBA Owners?

My Gchat comrade Ethan @SherwoodStrauss slapped up an interesting post on Warriorsworld.net late last week. To summarize Strauss’s own summary of a Tim Kawakami interview with new Warriors owner Joe Lacob in the Mercury News, Lacob basically said that that owning a pro franchise was a license to print money. It was a statement that Lacob’s new colleagues around the NBA probably didn’t appreciate. After all, David Stern (as Strauss points out) has been on a PR crusade to promote his wildly successful sport’s financial failures.

This meme is, implicitly at least, a condemnation of Stern’s own abilities. How can he mismanage a league with more young, relatively clean cut stars than any time since the mid 1980s? How can a league with an asset worth as much to a franchise as LeBron James–according to Forbes his departure lowered the franchise value of the Cavaliers by at $85 million–be losing $400 million dollars each year?

Well, unlike the MLB, which had its dirty financial diapers paraded on Dead Spin, the NBA has kept its books completely closed. So we don’t have a very clear picture of how Stern’s accountants came up with this number.

But Lacob’s comments shed some light on the NBA’s shadowy math. About owning the lowly Warriors, who have a dysfunctional front office and a number of players allergic to victory, Lacob said:

“This is an incredible business opportunity. Turning this into a winner No. 1 and running this business better in certain ways… Look, sports franchises appreciate 10% a year on average over three decades, the last three decades. There’s no reason to think this won’t appreciate in value. So that is the least of my worries. We will make money on this team in appreciation of value.”

Unlike James Dolan, Joe Lacob knows a

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He May Not Be in the Hall, But Nelson Is An All-Timer

Last week Don Nelson became the winningest coach in NBA history to little fanfare, when his struggling Warriors topped the bottom feeding Timberwolves.

Don Nelson isn’t in the Hall of Fame. He isn’t even in the discussion. This is probably because he has coached 10 teams that finished with fewer than 40 wins.  His current squad won’t even win 30.

So who is this guy? When you Google “Don Nelson” the search engine suggests the following terms:

Don Nelson coaching record

Don Nelson wiki

Don Nelson alcoholic

Don Nelson wins

Don Nelson stats

Don Nelson contract

Don Nelson drunk

That’s a pretty hilarious list, and one that accurately represents the complicated legacy of Don Nelson. What else do you expect from a guy who had to be told not to drink beer during post game press conferences?

Compare him to his longtime peer, Jerry Sloan, a far more respected (and certainly more conventional) member of the NBA community as evidenced by his 2009 induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Both men grew up in the Midwest. Both became known for their toughness and efficiency as rotational players in the NBA. Sloan had a couple of All-Star appearances, while Nelson won five championships with the Boston Celtics (where his number is retired).

After solid playing careers, both coaches have gone on to win over 1100 games and are the only two coaches who have won 1000 games without winning a championship. Today, both coach in front of the two most rabid and contrasting fan bases in the NBA.

Despite their similarities in background, these two coaches have led careers as divergent as the Salt Lake and Oakland crowds that cheer on their teams.

Nelson was a 5 time champion 6th man

While Sloan has been a model

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