Former NBA player/current ESPN analyst Jalen Rose took time out of his busy Monday for a conference call with media members to discuss the Western Conference Finals. He offered unique perspectives on the Warriors’ evolution in recent years, the play Zaza Pachulia probably wishes had never happened and the impact a possible Andre Iguodala absence would have on Golden State’s playoff chances.
“Strength in All-Stars”
When asked about the evolution of the Warriors in recent years, especially since the acquisition of Kevin Durant, Jalen Rose noted that Golden State — at least since the Bogut-era Warriors — has evolved from a “Strength in Numbers” team to one based on a “Strength in All-Stars.”
He has a point.
Golden State hopes to develop players like Patrick McCaw and Ian Clark into key guys who can, say, come off the bench and sustain a “Curry flurry” lead. Although both McCaw and Clark have provided glimpses of impressive potential this season, neither has done so consistently enough to be relied upon — at least not in this year’s playoffs.
Additionally, JaVale McGee came up big in late-regular season and early-round playoff games. But in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals (WCF) on Sunday, he turned the ball over and committed the kind of bone-headed plays that brought him ridicule for much of his career. Considering the Warriors had six days off before yesterday’s contest, it is possible that he needs a game or two to find his rhythm again.
In other words, Golden State must rely on its All-Star players to carry the load.
Flagrant vs. dirty
Even people who couldn’t care less about sports and know nothing about basketball have likely seen the names Kawhi Leonard and Zaza Pachulia pop up in their trending topics on Twitter within the last 24 hours.
For anyone who missed it, Pachulia slid under Leonard on a defensive play, causing Leonard to tweak his ankle. It just so happened to be the same ankle Leonard hurt during a Western Conference Semifinals game against the Rockets, which forced him to sit out San Antonio’s blowout Game 6 win over Houston.
Likely to be plenty of postgame chatter about Zaza sliding under Kawhi, especially if Warriors win pic.twitter.com/ygSdG01UAq— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 14, 2017
With Tony Parker already out with a significant quad injury that required surgery, Leonard’s injury is undoubtedly a major blow for the Spurs; it already has been confirmed that he will miss Game 2. Yet, Leonard said after the game that he didn’t feel Pachulia intended to hurt him.
So, sports writers across the land wanted to know: Is Zaza Pachulia a dirty player?
Before getting into Jalen Rose’s take, it should be noted that Pachulia also was responsible for Kevin Durant’s MCL sprain earlier in the season due to a clumsy step-back move that caused Durant to stumble and hyper-extend his knee. Of course, Pachulia would not want to hurt his own teammate — one of the best shooters on the squad, at that — so it appears he is exceedingly clumsy, bumbling and, at times, reckless. But, dirty?
Rose said he believes Pachulia’s move against Leonard was, indeed, reckless. However, when pressed to explain whether he viewed Pachulia as a dirty player, Rose said, “No, it was a fragrant play — not dirty — because dirty puts emotion into it.”
Again, Rose makes an excellent point.
With a much cooler head than Popovich, Rose said he feels the play should be banned by the league. However, he pointed out Mike Brown’s comments about LaMarcus Aldridge doing the exact same thing to Stephen Curry on a subsequent play. The only difference is that Curry didn’t get hurt, thankfully. But things easily could have gone a different way in both situations.
As Brown stated, Aldridge is not a dirty player and neither is Pachulia.
Before the end of the conference call, Rose repeated his edict: “Flagrant does not mean dirty or mean.”
Any basketball game is filled with emotion, from players and coaches on the court to fans in the stand or at home in front of their TVs. It is for this reason that a balanced perspective not only is appreciated on matters such as this one, but desperately needed.
Andre Iguodala played only 10 minutes in Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals and didn’t rise from the bench to celebrate his teammates’ strong plays that led to an unlikely come-from-behind win.
We later learned that Iguodala has been dealing with a knee issue and is set to have an MRI on Monday.
During the call, I asked Rose his thoughts about the impact of an Iguodala absence — if that happens to be the case — on the Warriors’ chances of winning another championship.
“Warriors have enough fire power to advance to the next round,” Rose said. “But in the next round, if they don't have him, just like last year, I don't think they win it all.”
Let’s hope the beloved 2015 NBA Finals MVP will not miss much time, if any at all.