Morning shootaround — June 4


VIDEO: Who is under the most pressure to deliver a title in these Finals?

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Irving aims to ‘will’ himself through Finals | HOFer Barry’s high praise for LeBron| Report: Nuggets talk with D’Antoni about opening | King: No plans for Nets to cut Williams

No. 1: Irving plans to ‘will’ himself through Finals for Cavs — Cleveland Cavaliers All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving has made his peace with the fact he likely won’t be 100 percent the rest of this postseason. Nagging tendinitis in his left knee has all but assured him of that, but he’s not about to let that keep him from playing on the NBA’s biggest stage, The Finals. Our Steve Aschburner has more on Irving, who says he plans to ‘will’ himself through The Finals however he has to:

Now that Irving and the Cavaliers are poised to start The Finals against the Golden State Warriors Thursday night at Oracle Arena, the All-Star point guard is taking the path of least resistance, at least on the record.

“I’m just asked all the time whether it be the regular person walking around in Cleveland or someone here in San Francisco,” Irving said Wednesday before his team’s practice. “I’m walking down the street and they ask me how my knee’s doing. I’m like, ‘I’m fine. Thank you. My knee is OK.’ It’s like, ‘Are you playing? Are you playing in Game 1?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah I’ll be playing.’

“It’s an adjustment but … I’m just going to go out there and will myself to play.”

Will himself to play? We can assume from that that Irving’s sore left knee is neither fine nor OK. And it is weighing on the Cavaliers’ minds.

Irving has been hobbled for almost all of Cleveland’s playoff run. He sprained his right foot in Game 2 of the first round against Boston, aggravated it early in the conference semifinals against Chicago and then developed tendinitis in his left knee as a compensating injury, that thing that happens when you alter your movement or stride to favor the initial malady.

General manager David Griffin admitted Wednesday that Irving still is playing with discomfort, and said the key for him and for the team will be Irving coming to terms with whatever pain or limitations he has. There is nothing structurally wrong with the knee that might require surgery, Griffin said. It’s just on Irving to cope with not having his signature speed and quickness, and figuring out other ways to be effective.

“He’s going to have to be at a point where he’s mind-body-and-spirit-connected to what he is.” Griffin said as the Cavaliers took the practice floor. “If that’s what he thought he was on Friday, great. If it’s less than that, great. But he’s got to be comfortable with whatever it is he’s at.”

“I’ll tell you, there’s not one guy in the series who’s 100 percent” Warriors center Andrew Bogut said. “We’ve got guys banged up — just ’cause they’re not talking in the media about it doesn’t mean a guy’s healthy. Everyone at this point in the playoffs has tendinitis, arthritis, contusions. We had someone with a concussion. We’re not feeling sorry for anyone. We’re not going to change things. We expect him to play the way he played all season. He still a legitimate threat.”


VIDEO: Kyrie Irving says he will suit up for Game 1 of The Finals

***

No. 2: HOFer Barry: LeBron ‘greatest three’ in NBA history— Golden State Warriors legend and Hall of Famer Rick Barry was a pretty awesome small forward back in his day. He led the league in scoring once, is one of the all-time best free throw shooters in league history and led the Warriors to the 1975 championship, too. So when he says another small forward — specifically Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James — is better than he was, you should take notice. CBSSports.com’s Ananth Pandian has more:

Tomorrow night, LeBron James will be playing in his fifth consecutive NBA Finals. This a feat that hasn’t been accomplished since the 1960s, when Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics were dominating the league. James is routinely labeled as the best player in the NBA but as Hall of Famer and Warriors great Rick Barry told Scott Ferrall of CBS Sports Radio’s “Ferrall On The Bench,” James is already the greatest small forward to ever play.

Here is Barry’s full quote:

“I think LeBron is the greatest three to ever play the game. And as great as he is, he still has room for improvement. If that was ever to happen and he really refined his game more, they may have to outlaw him, he’s so good. He’s an anomaly, I mean he really is. There’s never been anybody like him with his size, his athleticism, his feel for the game.”

This is high praise coming from Barry especially since he played the small forward position. Barry also ranks James higher than other legendary small forwards like Larry Bird and Elgin Baylor.

James has a long list of accolades that includes four MVPs, two championship rings and two All-Star Game MVPs. His career averages of 27.3 points, 7.1 rebounds and 6.9 assists are ridiculous numbers and as Barry points out, James could still be getting better. Barry may be right, there will probably never be another small forward that can challenge the throne of King James.

***

No. 3: Report: Nuggets talk to D’Antoni about coaching gig— Mike D’Antoni is best known for the up-tempo, exciting teams he fielded as coach of the Phoenix Suns from 2003-08. Before he gained his fame there, though, D’Antoni got his first (albeit unsuccessful) taste of NBA coaching with the Denver Nuggets in the lockout-shortened 1998-99 season. That squad went a mere 14-36 and D’Antoni was dumped after the season. The Nuggets are once again coach shopping today, though, and it seems they may be willing to give D’Antoni another shot there, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Mike D’Antoni met with Denver Nuggets management to discuss the franchise’s head coaching opening, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Denver general manager Tim Connelly conducted a sit-down with D’Antoni in California on Tuesday, league sources said.

D’Antoni’s vaunted running game fits into Denver’s determination that it wants to play faster in the future. Melvin Hunt, the interim coach in the wake of Brian Shaw’s firing, remains a strong contender to retain the full-time job, league sources said.

Along with D’Antoni and Hunt, ex-Sacramento Kings coach Michael Malone has had conversations with Connelly and could soon emerge with a sit-down interview, league sources said.

***

No. 4: Nets have no plans to cut Williams — It has been well documented in NBA circles how Brooklyn Nets point guard Deron Williams, the team’s highest-paid player and one of the highest paid players in the league, has seen his game decline in recent seasons. After the Nets were ousted in the first round of the playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks, talk began to bubble up that perhaps the team would use its ‘stretch’ provision to part with “D-Will” to both save salary cap space and speed up a rebuild of the team. As Tim Bontemps of the New York Post reports, though, GM Billy King is not interested in cutting Williams:

“The goal is to try to be under the tax,” Nets general manager Billy King said Wedneday. “That’s just the goal. How realistic is it? It may not be. But that’s the goal.”

The reason it’s unrealistic is the Nets are already committed to roughly $61 million in payroll for 2015-16 – about $20 million beneath the projected luxury tax threshold — and that number doesn’t include contracts for Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young, the team’s top priorities for this summer, nor unrestricted free agent Alan Anderson and restricted free agent Mirza Teletovic.

Just keeping Lopez and Young would cost the Nets roughly $27 million if they both opt into their contracts for next season — and could cost even more if one or both of them doesn’t. That would put them well into the tax while still needing to fill out the final few spots on the roster.

Though the possibility of becoming the first team to pay the more punitive repeater tax isn’t at all appealing to the Nets, they also can’t afford either to fail to re-sign Lopez or Young or to give away Joe Johnson or Deron Williams.

“We’re not going to jeopardize our roster, jeopardize our team, to be under the tax,” King said, speaking after the Nets held a third straight day of pre-draft workouts. “If the decision is made to make a move or whatever, we’ll do that if we think it helps us win.”

Should the Nets manage to retain both Lopez and Young, the most likely cost-cutting move would be to trade Joe Johnson, who is owed just under $25 million next season in the final year of his contract. It’s a much more palatable deal for teams to take on than the two years and $43 million Deron Williams has left, assuming he opts into the final year of his deal in 2016-17.

One thing the Nets won’t be doing, according to King, is buying out Williams or using the “stretch” provision on him to release him outright this summer. When asked if that were a possibility, King simply said, “No.”

***

 

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Top 10 stats things to know as Game 1 of The Finals nears … More Finals previews from SportVU, a stats look from our own John Schuhmann and an overall series preview from Sekou Smith … Fantastic read from CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger on the rise in wearable technology in the NBA … Orlando Magic forward Maurice Harkless is preparing himself for a breakout 2015-16 … Speaking of the Magic, ex-interim coach James Borrego is reportedly in talks to join the Oklahoma City Thunder’s coaching staff as an assistant … The Golden State Warriors pulled a pretty funny prank on assistant coach/new New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry … Portland Trail Blazers swingman Wesley Matthews is back on the court three months after Achilles surgery … Good news for the Dallas Mavericks: small forward Chandler Parsons is off crutches … Draft prospect Kristaps Porzingis is looking to pack on about 30 more pounds … The Phoenix Suns are going to hire former journeyman point guard Earl Watson as a player-development coachAnte Tomic, a 2008 Draft pick of the Utah Jazz, is waffling on whether or not he wants to come to the NBA

16 Comments

  1. harriethehawk says:

    The Brooklyn Nets are imploding and exploding at the same time. Why? Because they hang on to Derron Williams and Joe Johnson who are both the biggest bums in the nba.

  2. bballking says:

    they want to hire mike d antonie and get jlin in free agency to recreate linsanity.

  3. Reinaldo HernAndez says:

    Mike D’Antoni is not capable to coach a high school team leave alone an NBA team

  4. 1 down for GSW…GSW will win this…they beat memphis so they must be something

  5. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    D’Antoni should never be able to coach in the league again, Nash made him good in Phoenix, and Kobe got that 7th seed the year he coached in LA. What he did with Pau Gasol benching him and playing him 10 mins a game, horrible, lets not even bring up the time he coached in New York, the Knick’s fans have had enough issues to overcome.

  6. Trust me says:

    Ginobli is at the end of his career as compare to Irving who is not even a quarter into his career. He has the entire world to lose.

  7. rico says:

    D’Antoni’s first season with the Lakers should have been a disaster, taking over 5 games into the season, playing his supposed starting line up (Nash, Kobe, Indiana Ron, Pau and Dwight) a mere 7 times due to injury and systematic differences. Dwight’s back was a mess all season, Nash hurt himself in game one by stepping on Dame Lillard’s ankle and wasn’t himself ever again. Pau and D’Antoni were completely incompatible and, oh yeah, Kobe tore his achilles right before the playoffs. Snagging the 7th seed in the west under those circumstances is a freaking miracle. His offense in Phoenix completely revolutionized the sport of basketball (maybe all of those Suns-Spurs playoff gems that always seemed to end with Steve Nash breaking his nose taught Pop a thing or two) and his time with coach K and team USA has been clearly reflected by the new look Blue Devil offense. My point is, D’Antoni is better than you think and was born to coach in the Mile High City.

  8. Xavier J says:

    Nets GM Billy King has to be one of the worst GM’Ss in professional sports. Every team that he’s been responsible for, he’s ruined. The Nets need to rid themselves of King and rebuild.

  9. RonHawk says:

    The Nuggets fired D’Antoni themselves once before. In between then and now they saw what a horrible job he did in LA and got cut. So, why are they talking to him again? Do they think somewhere along the line Mike D grew a brain or something?

  10. Scott says:

    Deron Williams – DNP – Fat

  11. bunbury says:

    in 2010, most people argued Dwilliams was the best PG in the league. What happened??oh I almost forget, he signed the huge contract.

  12. BIG-GAME-JAMES-23 says:

    Cavs in 6, Cavs in 6 and Cavs in 6! LeBron is ready to finally bring home the championship he promised his city.

  13. Sonny says:

    D’Antoni is known by me as almost destroying Pau Gasol’s career because he had no idea how to use the double-double leader of the NBA this year

  14. William says:

    Ginobli played the finals on a fractured leg and didn’t tell anyone about it until after.

    Man up Irving.

  15. TheKush says:

    Deron Williams would be a superstar in the Filipino league! I would’ve cut him 3 years ago!