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    For Some NBA Draftees, Making it to the Pros Runs in the Family

    Three of the top five picks in this year’s N.B.A. draft have parents who played professionally, including in the W.N.B.A.When the Houston Rockets selected Auburn’s Jabari Smith Jr. with the third pick of the N.B.A. draft on Thursday, it continued a tradition of basketball as a family inheritance.His father, also named Jabari Smith, played in the N.B.A. in the early 2000s.“My dad just told me it was time to amp it up a little bit, time to work even harder,” Jabari Smith Jr. said of his father’s reaction to the draft. “It’s a new level, whole new game. Just trying to get there and get to work.”For a cadre of N.B.A. players, having a parent or being related to someone who played in the N.B.A. or W.N.B.A. isn’t particularly unusual. And many players who aren’t related to someone who played professionally have parents who played college basketball.This past season, 30 second-generation players appeared in at least one N.B.A. game — a total that represents 5 percent of the league, and is nearly twice as many players as about two decades ago.Jabari Smith Jr., center, with his father, Jabari Smith, left, and mother, Taneskia Purnell, right.Sarah Stier/Getty ImagesSmith was one of several players drafted this year whose father had N.B.A. experience. Among them was the University of Wisconsin’s Johnny Davis, whom the Washington Wizards picked at No. 10. His father is Mark Davis, who played in the N.B.A. briefly after the Cleveland Cavaliers drafted him in 1985. There was also Duke’s A.J. Griffin, picked at No. 16 by the Atlanta Hawks. His father is Adrian Griffin, who played in the N.B.A. from 1999 to 2008, and has since been an assistant coach in the N.B.A. The other was Colorado’s Jabari Walker, a late-second-round pick for the Portland Trail Blazers, the son of Samaki Walker, who played a decade in the N.B.A. and won a championship with the Los Angeles Lakers.W.N.B.A. connections could also be found among top picks. Rhonda Smith-Banchero, the mother of the No. 1 pick, Paolo Banchero, played in the W.N.B.A. Banchero, who was drafted by the Orlando Magic, said his mother “stayed on me, always held me accountable and made sure I was on the right track.” The Detroit Pistons selected Purdue’s Jaden Ivey with the fifth pick. His mother, Niele Ivey, played in the W.N.B.A. and was a recent assistant coach for the Memphis Grizzlies. She’s now the coach of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team.“It’s actually an amazing story to have a mother who’s been in the league,” Jaden Ivey said. “You don’t see too many stories like that, and the bond that we have is special. I thank her for all the things that she’s done for me. I know I wouldn’t be on this stage, I wouldn’t be here, without her.”Niele Ivey, left, played college basketball at Notre Dame before her W.N.B.A. career. She’s now the head coach of the Notre Dame women’s basketball team.Photo by Vincent Laforet/The New York TimesSometimes the connection to professional basketball players isn’t parental. Midway through the first round, the Charlotte Hornets drafted Mark Williams out of Duke. His older sister Elizabeth Williams has been in the W.N.B.A. since 2015. In the second round, the Cavaliers picked Isaiah Mobley out of the University of Southern California, which will be convenient for family visits, as his brother, Evan Mobley, is already on the team. (Brothers are common in the N.B.A. See: the Lopezes, Antetokounmpos, Balls and Holidays.)In some cases, there were recognizable names who weren’t drafted but nonetheless received contracts. Scotty Pippen Jr., who played three seasons at Vanderbilt, is expected to sign a two-way contract with the Lakers. His father, Scottie Pippen, won six championships with the Chicago Bulls. Ron Harper Jr., a Rutgers alum whose father, Ron Harper, won three championships alongside Pippen, is expected to be offered a similar deal with the Toronto Raptors.But while the N.B.A.’s father-son connections were highlighted by this year’s draft class, the phenomenon is nothing new. Consider Golden State’s roster, which featured four second-generation players during the team’s championship run this year: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Gary Payton II.And some of their fathers were front and center.Each player has a family connection in professional basketball: For Paolo Banchero, left, it’s his mother; for Mark Williams, center, his sister; and for A.J. Griffin, right, his father.John Minchillo/Associated PressPaolo Banchero hugs his mother, Rhonda Smith-Banchero, who played in the W.N.B.A. Banchero was the No. 1 pick in the N.B.A. draft on Thursday.Arturo Holmes/Getty ImagesAs Payton got set to check into Game 2 of the N.B.A. finals against the Boston Celtics, he spotted his father, Gary Payton, a nine-time All-Star, sitting courtside with Detlef Schrempf, one of his former teammates. Father and son made eye contact — no words needed to be exchanged.“He just shook his head,” Gary Payton II said. “I know that means it’s time. You know, go to work.”And as the final seconds ticked away in Golden State’s championship-clinching win in Game 6, Curry embraced his father, Dell Curry, along one baseline. Stephen Curry broke down in tears.“I saw him and I lost it,” he said, adding, “I just wanted to take in the moment because it was that special.”In fact, the N.B.A. finals offered up a smorgasbord of generational talent. Among the Celtics: Al Horford, whose father, Tito Horford, played for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Washington Bullets, and Grant Williams, whose cousins, Salim and Damon Stoudamire, both played in the N.B.A. This season, Damon Stoudamire was able to keep a close eye on Williams as one of the Celtics’ assistants.Players and coaches have cited a number of factors in the steady, decades-long emergence of father-son pairings, starting with genetics: It obviously helps to be tall. But many sons of former players also benefited from early exposure to the game, from top-notch instruction from the time they could start dribbling and from various other perks. For example, Stephen Curry and his younger brother, Seth Curry, who now plays for the Nets, had access to a full-length court in their family’s backyard, complete with lights.But with certain privilege comes pressure — especially when you share a name with a famous father. Gary Payton II recalled how his father had learned to back off when it came to basketball so that his son could develop a passion for the game on his own. They simply stopped talking about hoops, and that has remained the case.“Nowadays, he really doesn’t say anything,” Gary Payton II said. “We just talk about life, family, other sports and whatnot.”But sometimes it can cause strains, like the one between Tim Hardaway Jr., a Dallas Mavericks guard, and his father, Tim Hardaway, a five-time All Star who played from 1989 to 2003. They have both publicly spoken about how their relationship was made more difficult as a result of how hard the elder Hardaway was on his son about the game.Scotty Pippen Jr., the son of the Chicago Bulls great, Scottie Pippen, was expected to sign a two-way deal with the Lakers after going undrafted.Mark Humphrey/Associated PressIt can also be a strain if your father is the coach, a situation that Austin Rivers was faced with when he played for his father, Doc Rivers, on the Los Angeles Clippers. Doc Rivers played in the league from 1983 to 1996 and is also an accomplished N.B.A. head coach. The younger Rivers called it “bittersweet.” Doc Rivers had his back as his father, but Austin Rivers told The Ringer that “everything else, man, was hell,” because it created an awkward dynamic with his teammates.A similar situation may repeat itself next season: The Knicks hired Rick Brunson, a former N.B.A. player, as an assistant coach and are expected to target his son, Jalen Brunson, one of the top free agents, as an off-season acquisition.Of course, it could work out just fine, as it did for Gary Payton. In the hours after Golden State won it all last week in Boston, he celebrated his son’s triumph by dancing through the hallways at TD Garden. More

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    Stephen Curry’s Golden State Is the NBA’s Newest Dynasty

    Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green won four N.B.A. championship teams in eight years.BOSTON — The N.B.A.’s dynasties share certain commonalities that have helped them tip the scales from being run-of-the-mill championship teams to those remembered for decades.Among them: Each has had a generational player in contention for Mount Rushmore at his position.The 1980s had Larry Bird’s Boston Celtics battling Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s Los Angeles Lakers. Michael Jordan’s Bulls ruled the ’90s, then passed a flickering torch — a championship here and there, but never twice in a row — to the San Antonio Spurs with Tim Duncan.Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant sneaked in a Lakers three-peat at the start of the 2000s.And then there were … none. There were other all-time players — LeBron James, of course. And James’s Heat came close to the top tier by becoming champions in 2012 and 2013, but fell apart soon after.Dynasties require more than that.Patience. Money. Owners willing to spend. And above all, it seems, the ability to “break” basketball and change the way the game is played or perceived. That’s why there were no new dynasties until the union of Golden State and Stephen Curry.Curry said the fourth championshp “hits different.”Elsa/Getty ImagesDonning a white N.B.A. championship baseball cap late Thursday, Curry pounded a table with both hands in response to the first question of the night from the news media.“We’ve got four championships,” Curry said, adding, “This one hits different, for sure.”Curry repeated the phrase “hits different” four times during the media session — perhaps appropriately so. Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala had just won an N.B.A. championship together for the fourth time in eight years.“It’s amazing because none of us are the same,” Green said. “You usually clash with people when you’re alike. The one thing that’s constant for us is winning is the most important thing. That is always the goal.”Golden State has won with ruthless, methodical efficiency, like Duncan’s Spurs. San Antonio won five championships between 1999 and 2014. Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker were All-Stars, though Duncan was in a league of his own. Their championships were spread out — Parker and Ginobili weren’t in the N.B.A. for the first one — but they posed a constant threat because of their disciplined excellence.Tim Duncan, left, Manu Ginobili, center, and Tony Parker won four championships together on the San Antonio Spurs. Duncan won a fifth, in 1999.Eric Gay/Associated PressDuncan, left, Ginobili, center, and Parker at Parker’s jersey retirement ceremony in 2019.Eric Gay/Associated Press“Steph reminds me so much of Tim Duncan,” said Golden State Coach Steve Kerr, who won two championships as Duncan’s teammate. “Totally different players. But from a humanity standpoint, talent standpoint, humility, confidence, this wonderful combination that just makes everybody want to win for him.”Unlike Golden State, the influence of Duncan’s Spurs is more subtle, which is appropriate for a team not known for its flash. Several of Coach Gregg Popovich’s assistants have carried the team-oriented culture they saw in San Antonio to other teams as successful head coaches, including Memphis’s Taylor Jenkins, Boston’s Ime Udoka and Milwaukee’s Mike Budenholzer. Another former Spurs assistant, Mike Brown, was Kerr’s assistant for the last six years. For San Antonio, sacrifice has mattered above all else, whether in sharing the ball with precision on offense or in Ginobili’s willingness to accept a bench role in his prime, likely costing himself individual accolades.Johnson’s Showtime Lakers embraced fast-paced, creative basketball. The Bulls and Bryant’s Lakers popularized the triangle offense favored by their coach, Phil Jackson. O’Neal was so dominant that the league changed the rules because of him. (The N.B.A. changed rules because of Jordan, too.)Even so, Golden State may have shifted the game more than all of them, having been at the forefront of the 3-point revolution in the N.B.A. Curry’s 3-point shooting has become so ubiquitous that players at all levels try to be like him, much to the frustration of coaches.“When I go back home to Milwaukee and watch my A.A.U. team play and practice, everybody wants to be Steph,” Golden State center Kevon Looney said. “Everyone wants to shoot 3s, and I’m like, ‘Man, you’ve got to work a little harder to shoot like him.’ ”Michael Jordan, right, and Scottie Pippen, left, won six championships as the Chicago Bulls dominated the N.B.A. in the 1990s.Andy Hayt/NBA, via ESPNThe defining distinction for Golden State is not just Curry, who has more career 3-pointers than anyone in N.B.A. history. The team also selected Green in the second round of the 2012 N.B.A. draft. In a previous era, he likely would have been considered too short at 6-foot-6 to play forward, and not fast enough to be a guard. Now, teams search to find their own version of Green — an exceptional passer who can defend all five positions. And they often fail.The dynasties also had coaches adept at managing egos, like Jackson in Chicago and Los Angeles, and Popovich in San Antonio.Golden State has Kerr, who incidentally is also a common denominator in three dynasties: He won three championships as a player with the Bulls, the two with the Spurs, and now he has four more as Curry’s head coach.In today’s N.B.A., Kerr is a rarity. He has led Golden State for eight seasons, while in much of the rest of the league, coaches don’t last that long. The Lakers recently fired Frank Vogel just two seasons after he helped them win a championship. Tyronn Lue coached the Cavaliers to a championship in 2016 in his first season as head coach, and was gone a little over two seasons later — despite having made it at least to the conference finals three years in a row.The 2000s Lakers with Kobe Bryant, left, and Shaquille O’Neal, right, were the last team to win three championships in a row. Jordan’s Bulls did that twice in the 1990s.MATT CAMPBELL/AFP via Getty ImagesSince Golden State hired Kerr in 2014, all but two other teams have changed coaches: San Antonio, which still has Popovich, and Miami, led by Erik Spoelstra.In a decade of rampant player movement, Golden State has been able to rely on continuity to regain its status as king of the N.B.A. But that continuity isn’t the result of a fairy-tale bond between top-level athletes who want to keep winning together. Not totally, anyway.Golden State has a structural advantage that many franchises today can’t or choose not to have: an owner in Joe Lacob who is willing to spend gobs of money on the team, including hundreds of millions of dollars in luxury tax to have the highest payroll in the N.B.A. This means that Golden State has built a dynasty in part because its top stars are getting paid to stay together, rather than relying on the fraught decisions of management about who to keep.The N.B.A.’s salary cap system is designed to not let this happen. David Stern, the former commissioner of the N.B.A., said a decade ago that to achieve parity, he wanted teams to “share in players” and not amass stars — hence the steep luxury tax penalties for Lacob. Compare Golden State’s approach to that of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who in 2012 traded a young James Harden rather than pay him for an expensive contract extension. The Thunder could’ve had a dynasty of their own with Harden, Russell Westbrook and — a key part of two Golden State championships — Kevin Durant.Either one of the leg injuries Thompson sustained in recent years could have ended his career.Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports, via ReutersAnd there’s another factor that every dynasty needs: luck.Golden State was able to sign Durant in 2016 because of a temporary salary cap spike. Winning a championship, or several, requires good health, which is often out of the team’s control. Thompson missed two straight years because of leg injuries, but didn’t appear to suffer setbacks this year after he returned. Of course, Golden State has also seen some bad luck, such as injuries to Thompson and Durant in the 2019 finals, which may have cost the team that series.The N.B.A.’s legacy graveyard is full of “almosts” and “could haves.” Golden State simply has — now for a fourth time. There may be more runs left for Curry, Thompson and Green, but as of Thursday night, their legacy was secure. They’re not chasing other dynasties for legitimacy. Golden State is the one being chased now.“I don’t like to put a number on things and say, ‘Oh, man, we can get five or we can get six,’” Green said. “We’re going to get them until the wheels fall off.” More

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    Stephen Curry Left His Critics With Nothing Else to Say

    Four N.B.A. championships. Two Most Valuable Player Awards. And yes, a finals M.V.P. Golden State’s Curry has nothing else to prove.BOSTON — A few seconds remained in Stephen Curry’s N.B.A. season when he spotted his father, Dell, sitting along one of the baselines. He went over to embrace him, then fell to the court in tears.“Surreal,” Curry said. “I just wanted to take in the moment because it was that special.”Over six games of the N.B.A. finals, Curry had supplied Golden State with a narrow range of feats that ranged from the extraordinary to the sublime. He squeezed past walls of defenders for up-and-under layups, and backpedaled for fadeaway jumpers. He enthralled some fans while demoralizing others. He sought the spotlight, then delivered.He effectively turned the court into his personal theater and the Celtics into his helpless foils, delivering performance after performance in a two-week run whose only flaw was that nearly everyone could begin to anticipate the ending — with Curry exiting the stage as a champion again.After Golden State defeated Boston, 103-90, on Thursday to clinch its fourth title in eight seasons, Curry, 34, reflected on the long journey back to the top: the injuries and the lopsided losses, the doubters and the uncertainty. He also recalled the exact moment he started preparing for the start of this season — 371 days ago.“These last two months of the playoffs, these last three years, these last 48 hours — every bit of it has been an emotional roller coaster on and off the floor,” Curry said, “and you’re carrying all of that on a daily basis to try to realize a dream and a goal like we did tonight.”“You imagine what the emotions are going to be like, but it hits different,” Curry said of winning his fourth championship. Two seasons ago, Golden State had the worst record in the N.B.A.Paul Rutherford/USA Today Sports, via ReutersThe numbers tell one story, and they are worth emphasizing. For the series, Curry averaged 31.2 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists while shooting 48.2 percent from the field and 43.7 percent from 3-point range. He was the unanimous selection as the finals’ most valuable player.“He carried us,” Golden State’s Draymond Green said, “and we’re here as champions.”But there was an artistry to Curry’s work in the series, too, and it was a profound reminder of everything he has done to reshape the way fans — and even fellow players — think about the game. The way he stretches the court with his interplanetary shooting. The way he uses post players to create space with pick-and-rolls. The way he has boosted the self-esteem of smaller players everywhere.“When I go back home to Milwaukee and watch my A.A.U. team play and practice, everybody wants to be Steph,” Golden State’s Kevon Looney said. “Everybody wants to shoot 3s, and I’m like: ‘Man, you got to work a little harder to shoot like him. I see him every day.’ ”For two seasons, of course, in the wake of the Golden State’s catastrophic, injury-marred trip to the 2019 finals, some of that joy was missing. The Warriors scuffled through a slow rebuild.“You imagine what the emotions are going to be like,” Curry said of winning his fourth championship, “but it hits different.”Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports, via ReutersThe team reassembled the pieces this season, but there were no guarantees. Curry missed the final 12 games of the regular season with a sprained left foot, then aggravated the injury in Game 3 of the finals. All he did in Game 4 was score 43 points to help Golden State even the series at two games apiece.He showed that he was mortal in Game 5, missing all nine of his 3-point attempts, but his supporting cast filled the void. Among them: Andrew Wiggins and Jordan Poole, who developed their games during Golden State’s playoff-free hiatus and were indispensable this postseason.“Our young guys carried the belief that we could get back to this stage and win,” Curry said. “And even if it didn’t make sense to anybody when we said it, all that stuff matters.”For Game 6 on Thursday, Curry broke out the full buffet. He used a pump fake to send the Celtics’ Al Horford flying toward an expensive row of seats. He baited defenders into traps and zipped passes to cutting teammates. And after a big flurry in the third quarter, he glared at the crowd and pointed at his ring finger. (Translation: He was ready for more jewelry.)Curry began to get emotional when Boston Coach Ime Udoka summoned his reserves from the bench with just over a minute remaining, conceding the series and the championship. Standing alone at midcourt, Curry seemed to be laughing and crying at the same time, a euphoric mix of feelings.“You imagine what the emotions are going to be like, but it hits different,” he said.After missing all nine of his 3-point attempts in the previous game, Curry was 6 of 11 from deep in Game 6. He scored 34 points.Elsa/Getty ImagesIn a sports world consumed by debate shows, uninformed opinions and hot takes on social media, two asterisks — unfair ones — seemed to trail Curry like fumes. The first was that he had neither helped his team win a title without Kevin Durant nor defeated a finals opponent who was at full strength. The second was that he had not been named a finals M.V.P.Whether he cared or not, Curry effectively quashed both of those narratives against the Celtics, a team that had all of its young stars in uniform and even had Marcus Smart, the league’s defensive player of the year, spending good portions of the series with his arms tucked inside Curry’s jersey.For his part, Golden State Coach Steve Kerr said there was only one achievement missing from Curry’s résumé: an Olympic gold medal. (It should be noted that Kerr coaches the U.S. men’s national team.)“Sorry, I couldn’t resist,” Kerr said, deadpan. “Honestly, the whole finals M.V.P. thing? I guess his career has been so impeccable, and that’s the only thing we can actually find. So it’s great to check that box for him. But it’s really hard for me to think that’s actually been held against him.”After the game, as Golden State’s players and coaches began to gather on a stage for the trophy presentation, Curry hugged each of them, one by one.“Back on top, 30!” Looney said, referring to Curry’s uniform number.Afterward, as Curry made his way toward a courtside tunnel, lingering fans clamored to get closer to the court, closer to Curry, before he was disappeared from view. He chomped on a victory cigar as he held his finals M.V.P. trophy aloft, pushing it skyward once, twice, three times.No one could miss it. More

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    Golden State Beats Boston Celtics to Win NBA Championship

    BOSTON — It turns out the dynasty had just been paused.Golden State has won the N.B.A. championship again, four seasons after its last one. It is the franchise’s seventh title and the fourth for its three superstars: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, who have spent the past decade growing up together, winning together and, over the past three years, learning how fragile success can be.On Thursday, they defeated the Boston Celtics, 103-90, in Game 6 of the N.B.A. finals. They won the series, 4-2, and celebrated their clinching victory on the parquet floor of TD Garden, below 17 championship banners, in front of a throng of disappointed partisans.With 24 seconds left in the game, Curry found his father near the baseline, hugged him and shook as he sobbed in his arms. Then Curry turned back toward the game. He put his hands on his head and squatted down, then fell onto the court.“I think I blacked out,” Curry said later.He thought about the past few months of the playoffs, about the past three years, about the people who didn’t think he could be here again.“You get goose bumps just thinking about all those snapshots and episodes that we went through to get back here,” Curry said.Curry, who scored 34 points in the clinching game, was named the most valuable player of the finals. It was the first time in his career he’s won the award.“Without him, none of this happens,” Golden State Coach Steve Kerr said. “To me, this is his crowning achievement.”Curry, center, had 34 points on 12 of 21 shooting and made six 3-pointers.Allison Dinner for The New York TimesBoston put up a fight.The Celtics took a 14-2 lead to open the game, playing better than they did in their lackluster start to Game 5, but Golden State’s firepower threatened to overwhelm them. For nearly six minutes of playing time from late in the first quarter until early in the second, Boston couldn’t score.Golden State built a 21-point lead in the second quarter, and kept that cushion early in the third.With 6 minutes 15 seconds left in the third, Curry hit his fifth 3 of the game, giving his team a 22-point lead. He held out his right hand and pointed at its ring finger, sure he was on his way to earning his fourth championship ring.The moment might have motivated the Celtics, who responded with a 12-2 run. Ultimately, though, they had too much ground to recover.Golden State celebrated after two seasons of subpar records, one which made it the worst team in the N.B.A. Its players and coaches spent those seasons waiting for Thompson’s injuries to heal, for Curry’s (fewer) injuries to heal and for new or young pieces of their roster to grow into taking on important roles.When they became whole again, the three-player core talked about cementing its legacy.They were so much younger when their journeys together began. Golden State drafted Curry in 2009, Thompson in 2011 and Green in 2012.Curry was 27 when they won their first championship together in 2015. Thompson and Green were both 25.That season was also Kerr’s first as the team’s coach.Golden State went 67-15 and breezed through the playoffs to the N.B.A. finals, having no idea how hard getting there could be. The next year the team set a league record with 73 regular-season wins but lost in a return trip to the finals. Kevin Durant joined the team in free agency that summer, and Golden State won the next two championships, becoming hailed as one of the greatest teams in N.B.A. history.The champions grew as people and as players during this stretch. Curry and Green added children to their families. They were rock stars on the road, with swarms of fans waiting for them at their hotels. Three championships in four seasons made Golden State seem invincible.Only injuries could stop them.The dynastic run ended in devastating fashion in 2019 during their fifth consecutive finals appearance. Durant had been struggling with a calf injury, then tore his right Achilles’ tendon in Game 5 of the finals against Toronto and left the team for the Nets in the off-season. Thompson tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the next game. The Raptors won the championship that day.In 2019, the team left behind Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif., and entered the season without Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson.Jim Wilson/The New York Times“It was the end of an era at Oracle,” Curry said, referring to Golden State’s former arena in Oakland, Calif. The team moved to Chase Center in San Francisco in 2019. He added: “You’re getting ready for the summer, trying to regroup and figure out what’s going to happen next year.”The two seasons of futility that followed were difficult for all of them, but no more so than for Thompson, who also tore his right Achilles’ tendon during the fall of 2020, sidelining him for an additional year.During this year’s finals, he has often thought about that journey.“I wouldn’t change anything,” Thompson said. “I’m very grateful and everything I did to that point led to this.”Heading into this season, Golden State wasn’t expected to return to this stage so soon. This was particularly true because heading into the season, Thompson’s return date was unclear.But then, hope. Golden State opened the 2021-22 campaign by winning 18 of its first 20 games. The team had found a gem in Gary Payton II, who had been cast aside by other teams because of his size or because he wasn’t a standout 3-point shooter. Andrew Wiggins, acquired in a 2020 trade with Minnesota, Kevon Looney, who was drafted weeks after that 2015 championship, and Jordan Poole, a late-first-round pick in 2019, showed why the team valued them so much.Curry set a career record for 3-pointers and mentored the team’s younger players.Who could say how good this team might be once Thompson returned?That answer came in the playoffs.Golden State beat the Denver Nuggets in five games, and the Memphis Grizzlies in six. Then Dallas took only one game from Golden State in the Western Conference finals.Curry, Thompson and Green, the engine of five straight finals runs, came into this year’s championship series completely changed.“The things that I appreciate today, I didn’t necessarily appreciate those things then,” Green said. “In 2015, I hated taking pictures and, you know, I didn’t really put two and two together. Like, man, these memories are so important.”Draymond Green, left, had 12 points and 12 rebounds and finished two assists shy of a triple-double.Allison Dinner for The New York TimesThey vowed not to take for granted any part of the finals experience, even the negative parts.Throughout the series, Boston fans chanted at Green using an expletive. During the champagne celebration in the postgame locker room, his teammates mimicked them.“It’s beautiful,” Green said. “You embrace the tough times, and that’s what we do and that’s how we come out on top. For us, it was a beautiful thing. To hear my teammates chant that, it don’t get much better than that.”They faced a Boston Celtics team that was young, just like they were in 2015, led by the 20-somethings Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart, shepherded by the elder statesman Al Horford. The Celtics did almost everything the hard way as they sought the storied franchise’s 18th championship.They swept the Nets in the first round but went to seven games against the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat. They won when they had to, and committed too many careless turnovers when they didn’t.Boston was the younger, stronger and more athletic team in the finals. The Celtics did not fear Golden State, or the grand stage, and proved it by winning Game 1 on the road. Until Game 5, the Celtics had not lost back-to-back games in the playoffs.Curry had his way against Boston’s defense in Game 4, scoring 43 points. Then in Game 5, the Celtics stymied his efforts, only to have his teammates make up the ground he lost.At a news conference Wednesday afternoon, Green recalled a moment during Golden State’s flight to Boston from San Francisco between Games 5 and 6. He, Thompson and Curry were sitting together when they were spotted by Bob Myers, the team’s general manager and president of basketball operations.“He’s like: ‘Man, y’all are funny. Y’all still sit together. Y’all don’t understand, it’s 10 years. Like, this does not happen. Guys still sitting together at the same table,’” Green recalled. “He’s like, ‘Guys are not even on the same team for 10 years, let alone still sitting there at the same table and enjoying each other’s conversation and presence.’”At a separate news conference a few minutes later, Thompson was asked about that moment and why the three of them still enjoy each other’s company. Curry stood against a wall, watching, waiting for his turn to speak.“Well, I don’t know about that,” Thompson said. “I owe Draymond some money in dominoes, so I don’t want to see him too many times.”Curry bent at the waist, doubled over with quiet laughter.“I was half asleep,” Thompson continued. “Draymond and Bob were chatting their hearts away for six hours on a plane ride. I was just trying to get some sleep.”Golden State fans celebrated another title, this time at a watch party at the Chase Center in San Francisco.Jim Wilson/The New York TimesCurry said later, “All the personalities are so different. Everybody comes from different backgrounds. But we’ve all jelled around a collective unit of how we do things, whether it’s in the locker room, on the plane, the hotels, like whatever it is. We know how to have fun and jell and keep things light but also understand what we’re trying to do and why it all matters in terms of winning games.”The next day they won their fourth championship together. They gathered in a crowd and jumped around together. When Curry won finals M.V.P., they chanted “M-V-P” along with everyone else onstage.Long after the celebration ended, Thompson and Curry remained up there together, sitting together at times, dancing together at times. Thompson looked down off the stage and said he didn’t want to leave.Curry descended before Thompson did, but first he stood on the top step. He held a cigar between his lips, and clutched the M.V.P. trophy in his left hand. More

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    NBA Finals Game 6 Preview: What’s at Stake for Boston and Golden State

    Stephen Curry is one win away from his fourth N.B.A. championship. Boston is trying to come back from its second 3-2 deficit this postseason.The Boston Celtics are in dire straits after losing to Golden State on Monday in Game 5 of the N.B.A. finals, leaving them in a 3-2 deficit as the series shifts to Boston on Thursday. Teams with 3-2 leads in best-of-seven N.B.A. finals have won the championship 39 of 48 times — 81.3 percent. Some of the Celtics’ regular-season woes are reappearing in the finals: They haven’t been able to sustain effort for entire games and have watched fourth-quarter leads evaporate.Golden State, meanwhile, is in the driver’s seat. On Monday, Stephen Curry had his first underwhelming game of the series, and his team still won — a bad sign for the Celtics.But there is still at least one game to be played. The Celtics have made a habit of coming back at unexpected times, including in Game 1, which featured an unexpected fourth-quarter implosion by Golden State.Here’s a look at where the series stands before a potential elimination game on the N.B.A.’s biggest stage.For Boston to Win:Can the Celtics locate Jayson Tatum?Jayson Tatum, 24, is the biggest reason the Celtics reached the finals. He is one of the best scorers in the league and is capable of dropping 50 points in a playoff game, as he did last year against the Nets in the first round. But against Golden State, he has had difficulty scoring near the basket and has had trouble with turnovers. On Monday night, he set a league record for turnovers in a postseason. Tatum is shooting 37.3 percent from the field against Golden State.If the Celtics are going to stave off elimination, they’ll need more from Tatum. But there is hope for Boston: In Game 6 of this year’s Eastern Conference semifinals against the Milwaukee Bucks, with the Celtics facing the same deficit, Tatum pulled out a 46-point performance.Turnovers have been a problem for the Celtics throughout the playoffs, particularly for Jayson Tatum, right, and Jaylen Brown.Elsa/Getty ImagesCan the Celtics stop turning the ball over?In Game 5, the Celtics had 18 turnovers, and Golden State had six. In Game 2, the Celtics had 18, and Golden State had 12. This has been a problem for the Celtics throughout the playoffs, particularly with their stars, Tatum and Jaylen Brown — who often have been stripped while dribbling into the paint. If Boston doesn’t take care of the ball, it doesn’t win. End of story.Defensively, the Celtics have been fine. Golden State has scored from 100 to 108 points in each of the first five games, which, considering its offensive talent, is acceptable. It’s on the offensive end where Boston has struggled to generate consistent looks.For Golden State to Win:Can the supporting cast show up again?For most of the series, Curry has had to shoulder an enormous offensive burden. In the first four games of the series, the Warriors shot only 37.3 percent on attempts considered wide open. That’s mostly on the rest of the Golden State players who haven’t been able to make Boston pay for tight defense on Curry.That is until Game 5, when Klay Thompson and Jordan Poole punished the Celtics from deep, making up for Curry’s 0-for-9 night from 3. Even Draymond Green, who has had a dismal series, had 8 points, serving as a crucial release valve for Curry.If Golden State’s non-Curry players hit their shots, Boston will find it very difficult to win.Does Curry have another pantheon performance in him?Golden State showed that it could win despite a bad game from Curry. But it doesn’t want to take that chance again. Curry’s 43-point performance in Game 4 was remarkable. If he can dig deep for another similar outing, he puts himself in the conversation for one of the best finals performances in history.The StakesIf Boston wins:The series will head to a winner-take-all Game 7. And if the Celtics win that, they will have completed an astonishing turnaround from January, when they were 18-21. It will prove that a team can win a championship with two ball-dominant wings who play similar games, in this case Tatum and Brown. It will also validate the team’s decision not to trade its young players for any of the established ones who have hit the market in recent years.Golden State will have to wonder whether not trading any of its young players — the rookies Moses Moody and Jonathan Kuminga and the second-year center James Wiseman — for immediate help would have been the right move to take advantage of Curry’s dwindling window.If Golden State wins:The ascension of Andrew Wiggins will reach new heights.For the first five years of Andrew Wiggins’s career, he was known mostly as a cautionary tale. The Cleveland Cavaliers selected him first overall in the 2014 N.B.A. draft and then traded him to the Minnesota Timberwolves weeks later to build a title contender around LeBron James. He showed flashes of elite athleticism, enough for Minnesota to invest a maximum contract extension in him. But the production never matched the contract. Since joining Golden State through a trade in 2020, however, Wiggins has turned his career around. This year, he played in his first All-Star Game. And in the finals, he has been, at times, the best player on either team. If Golden State wins the championship, Wiggins will have been a huge reason — and it will complete a remarkable turnaround in his career.The Stephen Curry legacy grows.If Golden State wins Game 6, it is a virtual certainty that Curry will win the finals Most Valuable Player Award, which would fill the one remaining hole in his résumé. But a championship has larger stakes for Curry. His previous titles — according to some N.B.A. observers — have not been legacy-burnishing championships in the way they have been for other stars. In 2015, Golden State beat a James-led Cavaliers team missing two of its three best players. In 2017 and 2018, Golden State beat the Cavaliers again, but Kevin Durant was arguably the best player on those teams. This would be Curry’s first championship in which he was unambiguously the best player on Golden State and the opposing team was at full strength. This championship would vault Curry higher in the discussion of N.B.A. greats.Boston will consider tinkering.Most of Boston’s key players are young and still entering their primes. Tatum and Brown are dynamic wings who can, in theory, be All-Stars for years to come. But if they lose, questions will arise about whether they can do it together. The issue for Boston is that it doesn’t have much free-agency wiggle room. With several teams expected to make improvements next year — including the division-rival Nets and Toronto Raptors — the Celtics will face difficult questions about whether making changes at the edges is enough.Draymond Green will podcast to his heart’s desire.Green has offered insightful commentary on his podcast after every game. With a championship, he’ll be able to do so guilt-free and without fans telling him to stop, in spite of his mostly poor performance in the series. More

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    Golden State Beat Celtics in Game 5, Moving 1 Win From N.B.A. Title

    Andrew Wiggins powered Golden State’s victory on an off night for Stephen Curry, who went 0 for 9 from 3-point range.SAN FRANCISCO — Golden State had been mucking up its offense for nearly the entire third quarter on Monday night when Andrew Wiggins pushed the ball ahead to Jordan Poole, a young guard with enormous confidence. Just before time expired, Poole launched a 3-pointer from 33 feet that banked off the glass before rattling through the hoop.The heave was a buzzer-beating breath of life for Golden State in Game 5 of the N.B.A. finals — and for the team’s white-knuckled fans, who rode waves of highs and lows before the Warriors pulled away for a 104-94 victory that put them on the cusp of another championship.Golden State, which took a 3-2 lead in the series, can clinch its fourth title in eight seasons, and its first since 2018, when the team goes on the road to face Boston in Game 6 on Thursday night.Wiggins led Golden State with 26 points, and Klay Thompson added 21. Jayson Tatum had a game-high 27 points for the Celtics in the loss.After a solid start, Golden State was leading by 12, but four Jaylen Brown free throws and back-to-back 3-pointers by Tatum gave the Celtics the first 10 points of the second half, a surprising turn of events given Golden State’s famously torrid third quarters. The Celtics soon took the lead when Marcus Smart and Al Horford connected on consecutive 3-pointers of their own, part of a 19-4 run.Golden State missed its first eight 3-point attempts of the second half before Thompson finally made a couple, a much-needed boost for Golden State — and for Thompson, who had been having his share of struggles in the series.After Poole punctuated the third quarter with his deep 3-pointer, a shot that had the home crowd at Chase Center in a state of near-delirium, his teammates seemed to ride that crest of emotion. By the time Thompson shed Smart to make another 3-pointer, Golden State was back up by 8 points.After scoring 43 points in Golden State’s Game 4 win, Stephen Curry had a muted effort in Game 5, finishing with just 16 points and shooting 0 of 9 from 3-point range. But his teammates delivered. Golden State appeared locked in from the start, passing the ball from side to side, from corner to corner, in constant pursuit of the best possible shot. Not that the team was always able to connect, shooting 3 of 17 from 3-point range in the first half.Still, Golden State went ahead by as many as 16 late in the first quarter before Boston began to chip away with Curry resting on the bench. Smart sank a 10-foot jumper. Robert Williams forced his way inside for a layup.Golden State recalibrated as Curry secured a 51-39 lead at halftime with an up-and-under layup.Draymond Green fouled out in the fourth quarter, but his energy on offense and defense was significant in Golden State’s victory.Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports, via ReutersIn the first half, Golden State was buoyed by Wiggins, who had 16 points and 7 rebounds, and by Draymond Green, who assembled one of his more assertive stretches of the finals. In the first four games of the series, he scored a total of 17 points. By halftime of Game 5, he had 8 points and was flying around the court.Tatum, after laboring with his shot for much of the series, was doing what he could to keep the Celtics close, collecting 13 points and 8 rebounds in the first half.Before the game, Celtics Coach Ime Udoka expressed concern that Tatum had been preoccupied with hunting for fouls rather than taking good shots. Udoka wanted him to be “more physical” on his drives.“A lot of times he’s kind of floating, going off one leg, when he can plant and go off two, finish a little stronger,” Udoka said, adding: “We’re just telling him to be decisive. He’s done it all year, seen every coverage, and for the most part has kind of picked those apart.”For Golden State Coach Steve Kerr, Monday was the 25th anniversary of a poignant moment from his playing career. It was Kerr’s jump shot in Game 6 of the 1997 finals that clinched another championship for the Chicago Bulls — their fifth of the Michael Jordan era — against the Utah Jazz.“Something every young basketball player dreams of,” he said, adding: “The finals are the finals, whether you’re playing or coaching. It’s the ultimate competition in the world of basketball.” More

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    The Celtics Stopped Stephen Curry. Everyone Else Made Them Pay.

    For the first time in a long time, Golden State’s Curry couldn’t hit a single 3-pointer. His teammates had better luck with their shots.SAN FRANCISCO — Inside a gleaming arena experiencing its first N.B.A. finals run, fans stood and cheered as the game’s final minute approached, perhaps the last home send-off they would get to give before Golden State returned as champion.Stephen Curry sat on the bench for the last 1 minute 19 seconds of Game 5 of the N.B.A. finals, wearing a wide smile, chatting happily with someone nearby.“I don’t think I’ve ever been happier after a 0-for-whatever type of night,” Curry said later. He added: “Yeah, there’s a fire burning, and I want to make shots, but the rest of it is about how we win the game. And we did that.”Reliant on Curry for the first four games of this series against the Boston Celtics, Golden State showed its ability to succeed even when his shot wasn’t working. Monday’s was the first playoff game of Curry’s career in which he didn’t make at least one 3-pointer. It was also a 104-94 victory that gave Golden State a 3-2 lead in the finals and a chance to win a championship in Boston on Thursday.Andrew Wiggins was the star of the game, with 26 points and an emphatic dunk that sent the San Francisco crowd into a frenzy.Jed Jacobsohn/Associated PressThe Celtics threw all their effort at slowing Curry after he scored 43 points to beat them in Game 4 on Friday. So in Game 5, everyone else made them pay.“The fact everybody stepped up — Wiggs, J.P., Klay hit some big shots, Draymond found his life and his spirit and the way he impacts the game,” Curry said.Wiggs is Andrew Wiggins, who once was called a bust when some thought he couldn’t deliver on the promise of being a No. 1 overall pick in the draft. He scored 26 points for Golden State with 13 rebounds and two steals. He had a block in the first quarter when he smacked the ball away from Celtics guard Jaylen Brown.J.P. is Jordan Poole, who scored 14 points and banked in a 3-pointer as the third-quarter clock expired, then ran to the corner nearest him and roared into the crowd. That basket gave Golden State a 1-point lead after an otherwise disastrous quarter.Thompson, Curry’s 3-point shooting partner, has been inconsistent in the finals, but made five 3s in Game 5, and scored 21 points.Draymond Green had a game that Golden State Coach Steve Kerr called “brilliant,” after his struggles early in the series caused some to wonder if his pursuits outside basketball were distracting him.Gary Payton II, the 29-year-old journeyman, scored 15 points for Golden State, making 6 of 8 shots.“Gary plays bigger than any other 6-2 N.B.A. player I’ve ever seen,” Thompson said. “His vert and his ability to slide in front of the ball, obviously we know where that came from: from his pops. But his vert is something special, and his improved jump shot has also been a huge weapon for us.”Curry knew the Celtics were not going to let him get away with what he did to them in Boston again. In the days between Games 4 and 5 he watched film with a dual purpose: He wanted to see what worked so he could try to replicate it. He wanted to anticipate potential adjustments Boston would use to thwart him.The Celtics did make adjustments and felt good about how they defended Curry in Game 5.“A little more physical there,” Celtics Coach Ime Udoka said. “Switched up the coverage a little bit. But we have to do it on the others.”In talking about how Curry’s teammates made up for his shooting struggles, Curry and Udoka focused on their offensive production. But what mattered more for Golden State was their defense.They held the Celtics to just 94 points, and scored 22 points off Boston’s 18 turnovers. Payton had three steals, Thompson had two and Green and Curry each had one.The only quarter in which the Celtics looked better was the third, when they made 6 of 9 3-point attempts, 11 of 19 shots overall, and turned a 16-point deficit into a 5-point lead with 3:55 left in the period.“They pretty much dominated the entire third quarter,” Green said. “For us to still go into the fourth quarter with the lead, that’s huge. And I think that was something that we could build on, and we did.”Draymond Green fouled out in the fourth quarter, but he had tallied 8 points, 6 assists and 8 rebounds with a high-energy performance.Kyle Terada/USA Today Sports, via ReutersAs Golden State regained control of the game, a sense of joyfulness could be seen throughout the team.When Celtics forward Jayson Tatum knocked over Payton with just under four minutes left in the game, Payton put his palms on the ground and began to do push-ups. With 2:10 left, Wiggins ran past Boston’s Derrick White for a one-handed dunk that sent his teammates and the San Francisco crowd into a frenzy.“We don’t get more excited than when Wiggs dunks on somebody,” Thompson said. “And that really uplifts the whole team and the Bay Area.”In the first four games of the finals, Curry averaged 34.3 points a game, and his field-goal percentage was better than 53 percent in Games 3 and 4 in Boston. He also made 25 3-pointers in those four games and made at least half his 3s in Games 1, 3 and 4.He had been the most consistent part of Golden State’s attack. After Game 4, Thompson marveled at what Curry accomplished and spoke of wanting to give him some help.But on Monday, Green, as is his wont, disagreed with what he called the emerging narrative that Curry hadn’t had the help he needed this series.“If he’s got it going, we’re going to be heavy Steph Curry,” Green said. “That’s just what it is. The whole notion of this guy doesn’t, he doesn’t have help, well, you’ve got 43, he’s going to keep shooting, and we’re going to do all that we can to get him shooting it.”He went on in that vein for a few more sentences before smiling.Jordan Poole banked in a 3-pointer to close the third quarter, giving Golden State a 1-point lead.Cary Edmondson/USA Today Sports, via Reuters“He was 0 for 9 from 3,” Green said. “He’s going to be livid going into Game 6. And that’s exactly what we need.”Curry said he looked forward to “the bounce back” that his shooting percentage will, seemingly, inevitably get.When they are at their best, the Warriors can hit you in waves. Stop one and another will come at you.It has always been this way to some extent. During the first run of their dynasty, back when they played at Oracle Arena in Oakland, one had to contend with Curry, Green, Thompson and Andre Iguodala, then Kevin Durant for a while.Monday night they showed that it is still that way. More