This season the Golden State Warriors were better than the year before.
They have won 35 games this season, it was 26 last season. Their offensive production remained identical — 108.1 points per 100 possessions both seasons — but their defense got a little better (110.7 points per 100 possessions this season compared to 111.7 last season). They also stopped playing at a reckless pace.
In looking at what the Warriors need to do take the next step — from this season’s finish to playoff contention, CSN Bay Area’s Matt Steinmetz says the responsibility falls to Stephen Curry to lead them there.
More important from a basketball standpoint, though, is Curry is the least finished product on the Warriors right now. That’s what I’m getting at. If the Warriors are going to take their next jump — from mid-30s to mid-40s in victories, Curry most likely is going to have the most to do with it.
The bottom line is he has the ability to do more improving than any other player on the roster, and it just so happens he plays a position where personal improvement dovetails perfectly with team improvement.
But in order for Curry to impact the team in the biggest possible way, he’s going to have to do two things: First, he’s got to get stronger and improve as much as he possible can; and, second, he’s got to become the leader of the team.
This season, it was Monta Ellis’ team. Ellis is one of the most dynamic and entertaining scorers in the league (24.3 PPG, eighth best in the NBA). The question is, can Ellis play with a stronger willed Curry who takes a more active leadership role?
You get the feeling that in a couple of years either Ellis or Curry will be playing somewhere else. Can Ellis and Curry be solid enough defensively as a backcourt to lead the Warriors to the postseason? But if they figure it out, that could be one dynamic combination.
John Wall is one of the hardest players to guard in the NBA. J.R. Smith found that out the hard way on Tuesday night when Wall sent him flying with a behind-the-back dribble before making an easy layup.
The Wizards beat the Cavs, who are now 13-5 on the season.
Kobe Bryant‘s pregame tribute video stole the show in Philadelphia, but Tuesday night was Moses Malone tribute night. The former league MVP and Hall of Famer passed away in September, and his legacy was honored by the Sixers during a halftime ceremony. During the festivities, Malone’s son announced that his No. 2 will be retired by the organization next season.
There’s no question that Malone, one of the greatest players in the history of the sport, deserves to have his number retired. The only relevant question is: why didn’t this happen years ago? The ceremony next season should be good, but it would have been better if they had done it when Malone was alive to participate in it. No Sixers player has worn No. 2 since Malone anyway, but it’s been over 20 years since he last wore a Sixers jersey. Why couldn’t they have found some time in those two decades to have a ceremony and hang a banner?
Perhaps LeBron James‘ most underappreciated skill has been his passing. He is rightly hailed as the most unselfish superstar of his generation, but being a willing passer is only part of it: he’s also as good at it as any point guard in the league. Case in point: this two-handed halfcourt bounce pass on Tuesday night, finding Richard Jefferson for an easy dunk:
Kobe Bryant‘s relationship with his hometown of Philadelphia had its rocky sections — the Kobe’s Lakers beat the Sixers in the 2001 Finals, and then Kobe was booed during the 2002 All-Star Game — but all was forgiven on Tuesday night.
In his final trip to Philly, he was given a framed Lower Merion High School jersey — that’s Kobe’s school, in case you forgot — and it was presented by Dr. J.
Then the fans welcomed him like you see above.
That pumped up Kobe, who scored 13 first quarter points on 5-of-10 shooting, his best quarter of the season.