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Sully's Mailbag: Not there on Warriors as best ever

CLEVELAND -- Evidently, I got some national exposure earlier this week while pressing LeBron James on the issue of pace during the off-day interview sessions before Game Three of the NBA Finals.

This gave the trolls an opportunity to take shots on Twitter, as they did when I had the temerity to ask Cam Newton for elaboration on his comments about black quarterbacks before the Super Bowl two years back.

A correspondent who goes by "Ginger Man" (a J.P. Donleavy fan?) wanted to know why I ask questions that are so ridiculous the athletes laugh at them. Yes, James did laugh when I asked if he believed the Cavaliers could afford to engage the Warriors at their own furious pace.

I don't think James was laughing after he and the Cavs ran out of gas in Game Three, allowing Golden State to close on a 11-0 run to take a 3-0 lead in the series. OK, on to the Mailbag:

James Griffin asks: If Golden State wins the final in four games, do you agree that they are the Best Of All Time?

Sully: They didn't need to sweep to convince a lot of the hoop world, many of whom have already decided the Warriors are the best ever. They won 73 games a year ago and added Kevin Durant, one of the top three players in the NBA. Simply winning it all is enough for their supporters.

I'm not ready to go there. If this makes me the recalcitrant old guy, so be it. I'm hardly alone. It seems many of the younger NBA writers believe the Warriors are the best ever. The older writers, the ones who covered the sport with me in the Eighties, tend to favor teams from their era.

The Warriors' Draymond Green made a good point when he said it's silly to compare teams from different eras. It's a different game in many ways. The rules have changed. They allow zones and don't permit hand-checking. The sport has evolved into a three-point shooting contest with post play diminished in value.

To some extent, everything that evolves is better than what came before. But it's not that simple when you compare athletes and teams across generations. If Babe Ruth came along today, hot dog in hand, he might be physically inferior to today's players. That doesn't mean he wasn't as good as Bryce Harper.

That's what makes these arguments so endlessly fascinating. When would the Warriors play these historic teams? In today's culture, or in the old days? The fact is, either team would have to make major adjustments. It's not fair to say the Warriors are better because they would win today.

The Warriors chucked up 2,563 threes this season. Steph Curry made 324. The 1985 champion Lakers attempted 295 all season. They also shot 55 percent from the field. You're telling me that team, which ran as well as any team ever, couldn't adjust and be effective from long range in today's game?

I'd like to think the great teams of the Eighties would adapt and excel in this era. Sure, they might have to tweak the roster, but you could say the same for the Warriors if they played back then. They'd have adjustments to make if they played against Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in an era when post play was paramount.

The NBA is terrific nowadays. The athletes are amazing. The notion that they don't play defense as well as the old days is a joke. Go back and look at film sometimes. The Warriors would be a handful to guard for any great team from the bygone era. But it works both ways.

These debates are fun. But we're too quick to declare the latest thing as the best ever. Before you anoint the Dubs, go back and watch video of the best Lakers or Celtics teams. By the way, I consider those teams better than Michael Jordan's title teams with the Bulls.

Rick McGuire asks: With the Cavs/Warriors and LeBron/Stephen, are we looking at the next Celtics/Lakers and Larry/Magic rivalry?

Sully: We're already there. They're the first teams to meet three times in a row in the Finals. At this point, it's LeBron James vs. Kevin Durant, who has a lot of hoop gurus suggesting he's become the better player.

There's a couple of problems for the NBA: One, Durant's addition has people thinking no one can touch the Warriors and that they'll roll to a couple more titles, eliminating any drama; and two, that there's not enough competition in the second tier of teams.

That's what added to the old Celtics-Lakers rivalry. There was spirited competition around them. The Sixers made more Finals than the Celtics in the early 1980s and rolled to the title when they got Moses Malone in 1983. Some (Julius Erving, for one) consider that team the best ever.

The Pistons pushed Celts and eventually surpassed them. The Bulls chased the Pistons with Jordan and overtook them. The Lakers didn't have that sort of competition in the West, though the Rockets made two Finals and were a consistent threat. The league needs more of that.

@machino76 asks: Should the Raptors let Kyle Lowry walk? Sixers a good fit?

Sully: Yes, they should let him walk. Lowry has opted out of his contract and the Raptors would be foolish to offer him a five-year max contract. He's 31 and while he's been their best player for five years, he's been one of the worst playoff performers in history.

The Raptors were 36-24 with Lowry last season. They can't beat the Cavs with him, so it's time to move on and get younger. The Sixers are a team on the rise, but Lowry might want to jump to a team with a chance to win right away. Hey, how about the Spurs?

@bflodukes63 asks: It's clear Sabres will hire from one of the Cup teams. Housley, Tocchet or Martin? Are Pens in the way of Donatelli?

Sully: It seems Jason Botterill is waiting for the Cup to be over. But I won't pretend to know which assistant has more potential for greatness than the other.

Clark Donatelli is intriguing (he's from Rhode Island, always a plus). He got surprising results in Wilkes-Barre this season, coaching them to the franchise's first AHL  regular-season championship. They lost in the first round, but Donatelli has established himself as a rising head coach.

I don't imagine the Pens would block him if he had a chance for a head job.

Melvin Fry asks: What's the latest on John Tavares? Could he be a head coach some day? Is Mr. Tavares still teaching?

Sully: Tavares has been a Bandits assistant coach since retiring as the National Lacrosse League's all-time leading scorer in 2015. Budd Bailey suggested in a recent story that Tavares could be a head coaching candidate if the Bandits make changes after a disappointing last-place finish.

Tavares is still a math teacher at Philip Popock Secondary School in Mississauga, where he taught during his pro lacrosse career. His biography, 'Soul to the Goal,' by Richard Jacob, was published in April.

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