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Warriors Capture Title, Complete Near Sweep of NBA Playoffs Amid Parity Concerns

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Ever since signing superstar free agent forward and now Finals Most Valuable Player Kevin Durant, making an addition to a roster whose core group won an NBA record 73 wins the previous season, the Golden State Warriors have been the betting favorite to win the 2017 NBA title since the start of the season. Predictably experiencing their own ups and downs throughout the season, the team’s biggest test came when a brief injury  sidelined Durant, which sparked questions of the Warrior’s potency. Presently that doubt now seems like a half-baked concept being drowned out with champagne, coupled with the glare of a trophy in Durant’s grasps that acknowledges his team couldn’t have done this without him.

Not to be completely dismissed are the questions of whether a team like the Warriors in full command of the league is a selling point or a black eye.

Golden State Warriors teammates celebrating

To somewhat quell these thoughts is to accept the reality of there being an odd conceptual blend between the game of basketball and the business of the NBA in our minds, which we expect to be all-inclusive. Durant’s move to the Warriors for a while catered to the entertainment value of the league, but once the winning became a foregone conclusion, the interest in the game of basketball began to feel compromised, which began the ongoing tug of war in the minds of fans.

Standing opposite the Warriors in this year’s physical tug of war in the NBA Finals were the Cleveland Cavaliers who were looked upon as the only team that could challenge the 2017 NBA champs this season.  Lead by forward LeBron James, making his eighth Finals appearance, looking to add another accolade to one of the most accomplished resume’s in NBA history, the Cavaliers’ supporting cast simply fell short

The counter narrative for Cleveland was that of the mad scientist of the “super team” formula having his creation come back to haunt him. While averaging a triple double for the series, James and all-star point guard Kyrie Irving looked anything, but fearful. However as a team, the Cavaliers were basically a two-man show, with the headlining acts having their own momentary, but significant lapses.

“He paved the way” Durant told Bleacher Report, speaking of James. While forming star-studded teams has been going on before James could even pronounce legacy, never has it been done where the unofficial best player in the world, in the prime of their career made the decision to take their talents elsewhere.

Warriors forward Kevin Durant and Cavaliers forward LeBron James preparing to match up in the 2017 NBA Finals

With Durant’s talents presiding in Oakland, California for the 2016-2017 NBA season, the Warriors were a sight to behold. Aside from numbers like the 67 win season to give them the most wins in a three-year span in history and the second best winning percentage all time, the highlight of this team was there display of sound fundamental training and unselfishness.

Two time MVP Wardell Curry II, while one of the greatest shooters in league history was a willing passer all season. Star shooting guard Klay Thompson, almost equally prolific from the three-point line was a terror on the defensive end for opponents. Six foot seven all-star power forward Draymond Green would go from the team’s leader in rebounds one game, the leading assist man the next, then the team’s leader in double-doubles for the rest of the month.

Warriors forward Kevin Durant being named Finals MVP

While the term most valuable can be ambiguous and misleading, the sight of it is more defined as it was in these 2017 NBA Finals. Durant’s maturation not just as a scorer was on full display as he shown his complete arsenal on the biggest stage there is. While it’s likely he appreciated the journey just as much as this commercialized defining moment, he at least has the silence of a large number of critics, while the rest are overwhelmed by shouts of joy and adoration.

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NBA G League Announces Player Salary Increase for Upcoming Season

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An official statement from the NBA G League came earlier Tuesday announcing an increase in base salaries from $26,000 to $35,000 and $77,250 from a previous $75,000 for players with a league based salary also known as a two-way contract. Additional money can also be earned by players through affiliate player bonuses and NBA call-ups in which an average player could be bringing in $85,000 and $385,000 for two-way contract players.

The NBA, who pays the G League salaries is experiencing some of the highest volumes of popularity it ever has, so naturally there would be a trickle down effect. Over the years the league has done it’s part in attempting to establish itself as a legit minor league system and grow its own brand whether it be through live game streams, or re-branding itself with Gatorade. Now with the increases in salary, the league is setting itself up to be on par with Europe to provide top high school talent with an alternative to the NCAA while providing a suitable income.

With 30% of NBA rosters containing G League players this season and the majority of the NBA teams having G League affiliates, there is a growing sense that its presence will only continue to grow. However there are still concerns that the average player still runs the risk of getting lost in the shuffle thinking back to the days of the G League when barely any call-ups were made. Ultimately the NBA’s willingness to help this league evolve into a growth and development “farm system” as opposed to a shelf for afterthoughts will be the deciding factor in their ability to draw emerging talent.

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Triple G Committed to May 5 Fight as Promoters Scramble to Finalize Details

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With the suspension of “Canelo” Alvarez by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for multiple failed drug tests in February, the team behind Gennady “Triple G” Golovkin is now making a concerted effort to make sure he will still be fighting on Cinco de Mayo. While the withdrawal of Alvarez is a letdown for the boxing world, Golovkin remains indifferent of the situation or who his potential next opponent will be.

“Now is my time. I’m ready to fight with anyone, we’ll see. I will be ready to fight on May 5 in Las Vegas,” Golovkin told ESPN Deportes. “Canelo withdrawal is not my problem, I’m ready to fight. I am a professional and I know how I should do things. It should not be a problem for me [to fight on May 5].”.

There still however remains concerns that the fight will even happen due to time to find a suitable opponent and to promote the event. Golovkin’s management seems to have already settled on moving the May 5th fight to the StubHub Center, nicknamed the “war grounds” in Carson, California which would be a far more intimate location in comparison to the MGM Grand Garden.

While the venue will play a big part in selling this fight, ultimately the obvious main draw would be the fighters. Boxing names such as Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan, Sergiy Derevyanchenko and Billy Joe Saunders have all been brought up, but no official decision has been made as of this moment.

“I’m not interested in fighting anyone else. Golovkin is the one I want. He keeps saying he wants to unify – well here I am and I’m ready to have it with him.” told Bad Left Hook.

Despite Saunders’ enthusiasm, O’Sullivan still seems to remain as the favorite to fight Golovkin, and Derevyanchenko is Golovkin’s International Boxing Federation mandatory opponent now that Alvarez has withdrawn.

Alvarez is set to meet with the Nevada Athletic Commission to hopefully get his suspension reduced to be able to face Golovkin later this year. Within the next week or so more concrete details of the uncertain Cinco de Mayo fight as well as the future of Alvarez-Golovkin should emerge.

 

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Villanova Takes Down Feisty Wolverines for Second Title in Three Years

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Closing out to yet another wild and unpredictable NCAA tournament, the Villanova Wildcats found themselves hoisting the championship trophy after a resounding 79-62 win over the Michigan Wolverines. The Wildcats joined some rare company after the win, being one of the few NCAA championship teams to win every game by double digits as well as one of the few two win multiple titles in a three-year span.

While the 17 point win would indicate Villanova more or less had their way, the Wolverines put up a good fight early on, holding the Wildcats to 1-9 shooting from three-point range and making timely buckets, specifically through big man Moritz Wagner. The turning point however came in the form of tonight’s most outstanding player, Donte DiVincenzo, who lifted his team with 31 points off the bench.

“Honestly I didn’t look at the score at all” DiVincenzo told ESPN. “I didn’t know how many points I had. I didn’t know any of that. I was just trying to make the right play. And Omari (Spellman) was setting unbelievable screens for me and getting me open. And I was just feeling it.”

Perhaps the loudest supporter of DiVincenzo tonight was national Player of the Year Jalen Brunson who only finished with just nine points, but in the fashion of a true leader, embraced what would benefit the whole as opposed to just himself.

“It just shows how much depth we have, and that we don’t care who gets the credit” said Brunson post game.

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Villanova guards Donte DiVincenzo (left) and Jalen Brunson (right) celebrating post game.

In a tournament filled with upsets, the Wildcats lived up to their ranking as a number one seed, showing their resiliency in every round, with every member of the team having a key role regardless of status. While the Wildcats year after year seem to always put competitive teams on the floor, it’s not until you start to pile up on titles that you begin to be talked about as an elite program, and the Villanova is definitely in that discussion now,

“When you come to Villanova,” said Villanova head coach Jay Wright post game. “You come because you want to be a part of something bigger than yourself.”.

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