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Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesPOSITIVES鈥?0-year-old former rugby star with elite athleticism at 6鈥?鈥?and 345 pounds.鈥擯hysically gifted and aggressive on the rugby pitch
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, which will translate well to offensive tackle.鈥擠oesn鈥檛 have any bad habits that need coached out. Can be molded from the ground up.鈥擧as the ideal measurements and length (35 1/2鈥?arms) needed to move with pass-rushers and lock them out with a strong punch.鈥擧as competed against top-tier athletes as a pro rugby player and has proven his work ethic, athleticism and toughness.NEGATIVES鈥擲till learning the position and is a redshirt type player teams must develop.鈥擧as no football experience.鈥擳endency to be aggressive in rugby doesn鈥檛 translate well to pass protection in the NFL. Has to learn to be patient, poised and balanced.鈥擬ust buy in to the idea of sitting, learning and developing.OVERALLMailata is a case study in traits vs. production. NFL teams view the big man as a raw athlete that can be taught football on the fly instead of learning in youth football and developing throughout a long playing career before they鈥檙e drafted. He鈥檚 a work in progress, but his athleticism and toughness are appealing.GRADE: 5.30 (Priority Free Agent)PRO PLAYER COMPARISON: Conor McDermott, Buffalo Bills The NBA might have to get used to this.
Stephen Curry is under contract for basically the rest of his prime. Kevin Durant says he isn’t going anywhere. Steve Kerr has more than proven himself as one of the game’s best coaches. Free agents will line up for the chance to move west even if that means taking some pay cuts. There’s even a new arena coming in a year or so for the Golden State Warriors to call home.
It’s their league now, without question.
For the third time in four years
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, the Warriors are champions of the NBA world. They’ve gone back-to-back, beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 108-85 on Friday night to finish off a sweep of these NBA Finals in the fourth consecutive meeting between those clubs.
The Cavs may very well be coming apart.
The Warriors look very much built to last, and no matter where LeBron James goes this summer it’ll probably be Golden State as the prohibitive favorites to win it all again next year.
”You don’t want to cheat the moment,” Curry said, the victory champagne still drying on his clothes and skin, wanting no part of any talk about dynasties or anything like that. ”So we’ll have plenty of time over the summer to talk about what next year’s going to look like and what it’s going to take for us to get back to this stage next year.”
Houston probably isn’t going away and remember, the Rockets gave the Warriors all they wanted this season. Had Chris Paul not gotten hurt
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, who knows if the Warriors even win that Game 7 in Houston and take the West title. The East might be a wild race, with Toronto, Philadelphia and Boston probably all likely to enter the year thinking they have NBA Finals potential – as will any team that has James on its roster next fall.
This much is clear: Golden State has no designs on giving up its throne.
”I’ve just got to keep getting better,” said Warriors star Kevin Durant, now a two-time champion and two-time NBA Finals MVP. ”I think I’ve got a lot more to go. So I’m just trying to prove to myself that I could just stay in it for the long haul, and hopefully I continue to have some success. Just keep growing as a player. That’s my only concern.”
Durant was voted the best player in this series – and he wants to keep growing.
He can’t be guarded now – and he wants to keep growing.
Ask the 29 other NBA teams their reaction to that statement and they would likely say some form of ”welp.”
”They move at such a pace, and they have five guys on the floor that can dribble
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, pass and shoot,” Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue said Friday night, a few minutes after the season ended and a few minutes into the Warriors’ celebration down the hall. ”They can make plays. So if you make a mistake, they’re going to make you pay. That’s the beauty of their team.”
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver marvels at how the Warriors have put themselves in this position. They drafted well. They drafted lucky, too – Draymond Green as a second-rounder is an all-time bargain. They spend a ton of money, but they do it smartly.
They are built for the long haul.
And they are having more than their share of fun along the way.
”Klay just Googled himself and it says three-time champion already,” Green said as he sat next to Klay Thompson after Game 4
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, the Wikipedia world having already updated pages with the Warriors’ latest championship accomplishment. ”That’s dope.”
Every other team this summer will try to figure out how to beat Golden State. Some will try to do so in 2019. Others will wait for a more opportune time, a few years from now. Not many teams are in position to even think about knocking the Warriors off their perch.
Plus, Golden State will get better. Durant has already challenged some of the Warriors’ young and promising players to raise their games. They will retool their roster this summer, change the look of the bench a bit. They will add pieces.
”When you get on the podium and you realize all the hard work that you put into it and all that you’ve been through led to that moment, it never gets dull,” Curry said. ”It never gets boring. It’s always a freshness about that moment.”
This is why Curry does what he does. This is why he’ll be back in the gym in a couple weeks, restarting the process. Opening night is four months away
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, after all.
”I’ve got a big smile on my face right now,” Curry said. ”I’m going to try to hold onto it for as long as I can.”
It might be there for years.
Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds(at)ap.org
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