Morning shootaround — May 27


VIDEO: Highlights from Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron seeking new Finals narrative | Did Shaq really threaten to kill Kobe? | Myers: Curry passed concussion protocol twice | Hawks have plenty to prove

No. 1: LeBron seeking new narrative with this Cavs team — The wait to return to the NBA Finals for the Cavaliers is over, and it seemed even longer than it was. LeBron James took the Cavs to the 2007 Finals, where they were swept by the Spurs and admittedly weren’t ready in any way to challenge for a championship. Then LeBron went to Miami three years later, won a pair of titles and left the Cavs in a rut. Have things changed much since then? Well, the Cavs will once again be the underdog in the Finals, as they were against the Spurs, but LeBron likes the latest version to offer a lot more resistance. Bud Shaw of the Northeast Ohio Media Group has more:

LeBron James understandably jumped into Zydrunas Ilgauskas’ arms that night in 2007, then climbed atop the scorer’s table. Austin Carr wept. Strangers hugged in the concourse.

Mike Brown stood at center court on a night much like the one that unfolded Tuesday at the Q, saying of the matchup with Gregg Popovich and the Spurs, “I’m in it to win it.”

This time, James was happy for sure, but also more subdued. David Blatt wasn’t nearly as bold as was Brown.

“We’re in Cleveland, nothing is easy here,” Blatt told TNT’s Ernie Johnson.

This time, though, the Cavs in it to win it is a narrative that might even be true.

They are 12-2 in the post season, winners of seven straight since James hit a corner buzzer beater in Game 4 against Chicago.

They swept a 60-win team in a series-clinching rout. They made the Hawks look like the Spurs made the Cavs look in 2007. As if they didn’t belong.

James was 22 when he vanquished the Pistons in a much tougher series. He’s 30 now. For five consecutive years, he’s treated the NBA Finals like a time share, showing up every June and twice putting up his feet as if he owned the place.

If it’s Golden State this time around, as we expect it will be, James isn’t going in early to visit wine country. This is happening sooner than he thought before the midseason makeover. But nothing about this is especially surprising.

Another title puts him halfway to Michael Jordan. More importantly — and I believe it is for him — a NBA title ends a half century drought in a city that once cursed him.

There are so many themes involved in what’s to come. Happy to be there isn’t one of them.

Good for James that he has a much better supporting cast, even without Kevin Love and with Kyrie Irving hobbled, though we suspect Irving will need to have two pretty good legs under him for the Cavs to win.

Against San Antonio, the Cavs scored 76, 92, 72 and 82 points. This Cavaliers’ team can score 10 different ways. (Eleven if it’s safe to now count the Tristan Thompson rebound, and stepback buzzer beater from 18 feet).

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No. 2: Did Shaq really threaten to kill Kobe in 2004? — Maybe it was just an issue of letting off steam, or a heated reaction, or just a bad choice of words. Or maybe Shaquille O’Neal was really pushed to the edge when, according to a Laker official, he threatened to end Kobe Bryant’s life. I’d go with one of the former scenarios. Anyway, everyone knows the two Laker stars had beef near the end of their title run, which was partly the reason Shaq wound up in Miami (although money had more to do with that). No clarification yet from the two players involved with regard to the story by Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher, which did an oral history of the 2003-04 Laker team, the one with Karl Malone and Gary Payton, and the turbulence of it all:

John Black: Mostly it was Shaq and Kobe didn’t like each other, but it didn’t affect them on the court. They would say something about the other, on or off the record, but it didn’t become confrontational more than two or three times over the eight years. When Kobe gave the statement to Jim Gray where he went off calling Shaq fat and lazy, that was one of the times. There was one really bad one, early on. Brian Shaw had to pull them apart. Shaq threatened to murder Kobe.

Mark Heisler: There was this exchange in the papers between Shaq and Kobe right before the season started. One of the greatest exchanges I’ve ever covered. Shaq zinged Kobe and then Kobe zinged Shaq. It came to a head the last practice before the regular season, and they sent them both home. I think it was Karl who said, “This is over now, trust me.” That afternoon, Kobe loaded up Jim Gray with all this stuff about Shaq coming to camp fat and out of shape and not being a leader. That’s how they started the season.

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No. 3: Warriors GM: Curry passed concussion tests twice — When Stephen Curry took that nasty tumble in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, Warriors fans and many NBA fans around the globe held their breath. Curry left the game and was diagnosed with a concussion, but eventually returned and played part of the second half. Did he come back too soon, though? Golden State’s GM, Bob Myers, refutes that talk in an interview with Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News:

There was a moment in the Warriors’ locker room, almost an hour after Stephen Curry slammed his head against the floor, that he had passed every test and Game 4 was still going on.

In fact, according to Warriors general manager Bob Myers, the team doctors made Curry duplicate the concussion protocols to be doubly sure.

The team was being extra cautious, and Curry wasn’t pushing anything—they all agreed he was OK to go back in. Curry’s father was in the area. Co-owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber were there, too.

Curry looked, sounded and tested fine on Monday night and there were no indications about any further problems, Myers said on Tuesday, before the Warriors departed their hotel to fly back to the Bay Area.

“At the very, very end, when he passed the tests, then it became ‘there’s no reason he couldn’t play,’” Myers said. “So then it was, he passed the tests, passed them once, passed them twice…

“At that moment, he looked at me, said, ‘Yeah, I’m ready to go.’ ”

On Tuesday, both Myers and coach Steve Kerr were beyond certain that all proper precautions had been taken and they had zero doubts about putting Curry back in—for what turned out to be a Game 4 loss to extend the series to Game 5 at Oracle Arena on Wednesday.

But after the airball… yes, the Warriors were happy to see Curry start making shots again.

Kerr, in fact, essentially brushed off questions about the process—once Curry came back, Kerr put him back into the game and then never took him out again.

“I asked him a couple times if he was OK, he said yeah,” Kerr said. “As long as Steph says he’s good to go and the doctors tell me he’s cleared, I’m going to listen to that. They’re the ones paid to do that, not me.”


VIDEO: Steve Kerr and Stephen Curry discuss the Game 4 loss

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No. 4: Hawks look forward to returning next season and putting “fluke” to rest — Too bad for the Hawks, who never quite seemed to play with the same high level in the playoffs that they did from November through January, when they had the best record in the league at one point. They did win 60 games, more than anyone in the East, but managed only one victory against the Cavs in the East finals. So what happens next? Kevin Arnovitz took a stab at it for ESPN and offered up this:

The Hawks would demure if you called them romantic, but there’s something very aspirational about what they’re trying to do as a team and a basketball organization. Kyle Korver talks about it most willingly when he describes the satisfaction of building something, and DeMarre Carroll does too when he gets going about “Hawks basketball.”

This is the idea that an NBA team can put structure before talent, that culture and system and trust can be the basis for success. Of course, a team needs talent to win, and few things annoy Budenholzer more than a nation of basketball pundits declaring that his team isn’t talented. But the notion that you take the best talent on the board in free agency and the draft, then worry about sculpting it into something cohesive doesn’t wash with the Hawks.

Being annihilated by Cleveland doesn’t help their case. As the celebrations commenced at Quicken Loans Arena just outside the Hawks’ locker room, the superstar model was looking mighty good. Meanwhile, over in the Western Conference, the top two finishers in the MVP race are battling out to face LeBron James.

Was the Hawks-Cavs series a referendum on talent vs. structure? It’s hard to say. But Atlanta didn’t lose this series because they were lacking a superstar. They lost it because they were less devoted to their game plan than Cleveland was and because they hit 31 percent of their uncontested 3-pointers and 20 percent of their catch-and-shoot triples — half their regular season rate. Defensively, their big men were slow to get up early on ball screens, something they normally excel at. And an interior-oriented defense that must be quick to close to the perimeter was too slow to react.

So when the Hawks say “this is only our second year,” there’s a tacit recognition that they haven’t yet proven their structure-over-talent thesis. Teague insisted after the game that the Hawks’ system could beat a superstar in a seven-game series. After all, the Spurs have done so. But the Hawks are engaged in a much trickier exercise, and they know it. Three Hall-of-Famers reside in San Antonio, so while usage and opportunity might be distributed equitably, the skills are transcendent.

Yet the Hawks believe in their project, and they not only want to win the title, but the argument. They maintain that you can win in the NBA without compromising, that if you build the structure then populate it with trustworthy competitors who can shoot, defend and like to come to work with each other, you can win big.


VIDEO: What steps do the Hawks need to take next?

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Digging into the stats from Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals … Does Paul Millsap need shoulder surgery in the offseason? … Don’t start telling Blake Griffin about the Clipper curse. He’s not hearing it at all … Who will win the game of chicken the Chicago Bulls are waging with their coach, Tom Thibodeau? … Dwyane Wade gives LeBron James a vote of support on this Finals run … The Brooklyn Nets might be looking to shop Mason Plumlee … Speaking of the Nets, they yesterday parted ways with longtime team executive Bobby Marks … That line of bad rainstorms in Houston forced Dwight Howard to stay at Toyota Center until 2:30 a.m. after Game 4 … Memphis Grizzlies guard Beno Udrih will undergo ankle surgery won’t play for the Slovenian National Team this summer

ICYMI Of The Night: For years, Timofey Mozgov was the victim of some brutal posterizations. But like many things in life, there’s often a time for paybacks … 


VIDEO: Timofey Mozgov flushes it with authority on Paul Millsap

14 Comments

  1. Nick says:

    Congratulations to the Hawks – great coach. Like many teams that first make it to the conference finals, they couldn’t keep their mental toughness. That, however, doesn’t take anything away from what they accomplished. If they add some more size to their roster, look out next year!

  2. wtf says:

    And that is why no one wants to play with Kobe. Worst teammate ever

  3. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    King James 5 finals in a row, amazing, Who cares about the Shaq, Kobe, people get mad all the time and say things they don’t mean… Shaq and Kobe had one of the best runs in the history of the game, and lets not forget about Flash, his performance in the 06 Finals… Shaq was a big time player in the league and Kobe’s numbers and performance will get overlooked, because of that, but Kobe balled back then check his stats in the regular and playoffs, finals, and they were together four years before winning a title, and went through the ups and downs, before winning and beating the Blazers in 00, that got them over the struggle, and took off from there winning.

  4. I have no name says:

    I was hoping the Hawks-Cavs series would go to six games or so, so, it was a big letdown. As for the “Shaq & Kobe” thing – you put those two together their personalities were bound to collide and explode. The media spent too much time and effort over publicising that farce of two over-hyped players.

  5. GRENADIAN LIONKING HEAVY DEE says:

    A FAT SHAQ WON IN MIAMI WITHOUT KOBE AFTER SHAQ GAVE HIM RINGS. SO THE FAT JOKE IS ON HIM. LOL

  6. Silent D says:

    Quoting #4 (Atlanta) “They did win 60 games, more than anyone in the East, but managed only one victory against the Cavs in the East finals” Trying to figure out what victory Atlanta had against the Cavs in the East finals??? They were swept 4 – 0….

  7. Chris says:

    No. 4 ) About the Atlanta Hawks

    “They did win 60 games, more than anyone in the East, but managed ONLY ONE victory against the Cavs in the East finals”.

    What series were you watching, they got sweeped. Do you even watch the basketball games?

  8. Lovins says:

    “They did win 60 games, more than anyone in the East, but managed only one victory against the Cavs in the East finals.”

    What one victory??

  9. smh sekou says:

    “but managed only one victory against the Cavs in the East finals”
    Come on Sekou…

  10. TC says:

    I won’t call the Hawks a fluke. Any top 8 team in the West could have got 60 wins if they play in the East.

    Rather than revising the “Hack-a-Shaq” rule, why don’t you work on balancing the number of games across the 2 conferences.

  11. Petros says:

    ” but managed only one victory against the Cavs in the East finals” ???

  12. jox bulatao says:

    No. 4: Hawks look forward to returning next season and putting “fluke” to rest — Too bad for the Hawks, who never quite seemed to play with the same high level in the playoffs that they did from November through January, when they had the best record in the league at one point. They did win 60 games, more than anyone in the East, but managed only one victory against the Cavs in the East finals. So what happens next? Kevin Arnovitz took a stab at it for ESPN and offered up this

    but managed only one victory against the cavs in the east finals? the cavs sweep the hawks how come the hawks had one victory? WTF

  13. lakernation says:

    kobe will always be the best!

  14. Romy A. Cator says:

    I am an avid fan of Steph Curry. We got scared when we saw how he fell down on the floor like that in game 4. We were thankful that the medical team did the necessary tests to make sure that Steph is was okey.
    Am I right in saying that “concussion delayed symptom” can occur even after several days? Think about it. Will it be better if he will not play game 5 and just rest?