Anthony Davis holds off ferocious Jokic comeback attempt

Meanwhile, the Warriors mini-camp opens with a hotel quarantine - yay 2020!

The path to greatness is not an even one. Even for basketball players at the absolute top of the talent pool, there’s a back-and-forth that happens as fans and media pundits try to sort these athletes into some sort of coherent ranking.

But that’s not how basketball (or life) goes. There are vicissitudes. A week ago, people - ok, it was me - were wondering aloud whether Nikola Jokic or Anthony Davis was better. And now, a day after Davis turned in another dominant performance over Jokic’s Nuggets that was capped with a visceral game winner, the pendulum has swung back to put Davis above Jokic. It’s an oversimplification, but kind of fun - if you’re into that sort of thing.

Must have been the mamba jersey… right?

Poor Jokic. After getting bodied by the dusty antique game of Dwight Howard for most of two games, the Serbian big man led a ferocious comback, puncuated by what appeared to be a potential game-winner with a mere 20 seconds left on the clock. It was the sort of closeout (16 points and five assists in the second half) that has launched the Nuggets out of some very deep holes in these playoffs. And though Jokic finished with a very admirable 30 points, 9 assists and 6 rebounds on the night, it will ultimately be forgotten as just another losing effort.

Anthony Davis dropped the Nuggets into a 2-0 hole in these Conference Finals, putting the Los Angeles Lakers just two wins away from the NBA Finals. It was a major boost to Davis’ legacy, and a shot that will appear in numerous championship highlight videos, should the Lakers fulfill their manifest destiny by blasting through the detritus of a league decimated by injuries and Covid.

There are no asterisks. It doesn’t matter to the history books that this is an odd year, played without two of the best three players in the NBA. Just like last night’s 16-point deficit that the Nuggets nearly overcame, no one really cares about much beyond who won.

People love to talk up the legacy of Kobe Bryant, and the Lakers team often points to it as a unifying force, or additional motivation.

Davis and LeBron James got tattoos to honor Bryant, the team chants "1-2-3 Mamba!" to break huddles, and the players wear the snakeskin-print jerseys.

But let’s step away from the scowling basketball spirits for a moment and take a look at that final play from last night.

What if I told you that it wasn’t the mamba jerseys, or even Anthony Davis (though that was a very nice shot, for sure), but Mason Plumlee and Jerami Grant that really helped this game winning shot come to fruition?

And this is where any talk of “AD>Jokic” is premature - and even a bit silly. Jokic and Davis both turned in phenomenal performances, but it was a simple broken coverage that led to the big shot here.

Note that the true root cause here is just having LeBron James and Anthony Davis - a legitimate superstar pairing - sharing the court. Worried about LeBron diving to the basket, it froze the defenders and allowed Davis to get a shockingly clean look. The mamba jerseys were probably a factor as well, who’s to say…

Warriors mini camp!

When the NBA (and the United States in general) shut down in March, it was an abrupt, merciful ending to a painful season for the Golden State Warriors. So even though it doesn’t seem likely that we will see a new NBA season until close to the end of the year, Golden State is eager to bring their players and coaches back together for some work.

This is the result of negotiations that took place between the players and teams that were not able to attend the Orlando Bubble, with the end goal of getting some court time in and a slight return to normalcy. There was some confusion at first, as a sort of “loser’s tournament” was loosely floated around Twitter, but this camp is what was negotiated - since any sort of inter-team scrimmages appear to be well out of the question.

But because it’s the current year, the two-week camp starts off with: sitting around inside for 48 hours!

After the players and staff are cleared from quarantine, they will get to work on… something. While they’ve been doing individual workouts at Chase since June, coach Steve Kerr has stated that this isn’t a formal kickoff to their normal pre-season preparations. The team will be working on basic skills, pickup games, and a general reunion rather than specifics of playbook adjustments, or learning detailed play calls:

“More than anything, this camp is just a chance for guys to get together and scrimmage, shoot, play and just have fun,” Kerr told The Chronicle. “I don’t view this as a real training camp at all. I look at it more as just an opportunity for guys to be together.”

Golden State, for the first time in six months or so, is ready to put their players on the floor at Chase arena. It sounds like Stephen Curry and Draymond Green will not be in attendance, which is honestly fine, since the actual start of NBA basketball for this team is still months and months away.

We will fill details in as they become clear, a new reality that is part and parcel of the new Covid reality in America. As Kerr told The Athletic’s Anthony Slater, flexibility is going to be the mantra.

"Our staff is going in with the mindset of total flexibility," he told Slater. "We don’t have a preseason game that we’re preparing for six days after the start of camp. We don’t have a regular-season opener three weeks after the start of camp. There’s no goal at the end. There’s no date on the calendar that we’re circling. So the motivation is much less clear than it would be in a normal camp.

Hopefully, once Wednesday rolls around and the players are back on the court, fans will be able to get a glimpse of the Warriors in action. It’s been too long!