NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Curry can’t save day in Game 1 — Golden State fans awaken this morning undoubtedly in a state of shock or disbelief after their Warriors blew a 14-point lead in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. The eventual 108-102 loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder has the Warriors trailing in a playoff series for the first time in the 2016 postseason. Perhaps more shocking to Golden State fans, though, is that the reigning Kia MVP, Stephen Curry, couldn’t save the Warriors’ bacon as Game 1 wound down. Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group has more one what Curry and the Warriors must do better come Game 2:
There were several moments Monday night that called for Stephen Curry to put on his cape and save the day. There were several times when past practice made you believe the Warriors would turn on the jets.
But Curry never pulled off the magic that he so often does, no matter how hard the home crowd begged. And the Warriors never woke up.
In what has been a rarity this season, Curry didn’t shine the brightest in this meeting of stars. He finished with 26 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists. But it wasn’t enough to cover his seven turnovers, his 1-for-6 shooting in the fourth quarter, and his questionable decision making.
In what has been a rarity this season, the Warriors were not the team to get it downe down the stretch. Monday was their first loss to one of the league’s top four teams when fully healthy.
“I do think we lost our poise a little bit,” coach Steve Kerr said, “and that had a lot to do with the quick shots. I think we were trying to rectify the situation in one or two plays instead of letting it play out. So that’s something we’ve got to get better with.”
Is Curry’s right knee an issue, or was it the Warriors’ game plan to use him as they did?
Curry still has pain, he said, but it’s tolerable. It’s not 100 percent, he said, but it’s good enough.
In Game 1, Curry spent a lot of time off the ball. The Thunder responded as other teams have, grabbing and holding Curry away from the sight of the officials. When Curry didn’t get the ball, Draymond Green or Klay Thompson became the one-on-one players.
Late in games, the ball in Curry’s hands might allow him to get a better rhythm and allow him to set up for his teammates. It forces the Thunder to adjust their defense to stop him and could result in him getting some free throws. Curry went to the line only twice in nearly 40 minutes Monday.
“We have to heighten the sense of urgency and heighten the sense of ball possessions and pace and flow,” Andre Iguodala said after scoring six of the bench’s 16 points. “It’s good to get hit in the mouth. That’s when it really shows.”
Was Game 1 a sign that Oklahoma City has found the formula to beat the Warriors?
The Thunder were the Warriors’ toughest foe during the regular season. Even though the Warriors swept OKC, all three games were closely contested. Neither San Antonio, Cleveland, Toronto nor the Los Angeles Clippers could stake such a claim. And Monday, OKC played with a comfort that suggested a feeling of superiority.
The Thunder got better as the game wore on. The Thunder made adjustments, fixed their ills. It was the OKC point guard — not the Warriors’ popint guard — who took charge of the game.
“There were several key (plays) in the second half when we kind of lost our momentum,” Kerr said. “Careless passes. Didn’t have the flow to whatever set we were running. And I thought we lost our aggressiveness and momentum offensively. A lot of that had to do with his speed and aggressiveness.”
Or was this the Warriors not bringing it like normal? Was their demise their own doing? Did the weight of their historic chase finally catch up with them?
In their mind, they played out of character. They failed to live up to their standard.
No. 2: Bosh, Heat face uncertainty going forward — All-Star big man Chris Bosh never played a minute in the postseason, instead watching as his Miami Heat were ousted in the Eastern Conference semifinals by the Toronto Raptors. Bosh has three seasons remaining on his contract, and, when healthy, has been a standout performer for Miami. But his battle with blood clots — which have sapped each of his last two seasons — leaves his future (and the plans for the Heat roster) in a state of flux moving forward, writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
They danced around the issue for the final two months of the regular season and then for two rounds of the playoffs.
All the while, the Miami Heat and Chris Bosh moved in their own directions, the Heat supplementing their roster with Joe Johnson, with Bosh creating hope he eventually would reemerge in his No. 1 jersey.
But now, as the focus turns to the offseason, one particular reality of Bosh’s absence hits home:
The Miami Heat cannot be even as good next season as this season as long as Bosh remains on the Heat’s salary cap and remains out of uniform.
Because it is one thing to move forward in the void of a quarter of your salary cap when you are getting the remarkable value of Hassan Whiteside at a minimal salary. Combined this past season, Bosh and Whiteside earned a total of $23 million.
But next season, the bargain ends for the Heat with Whiteside should he return. That’s when he will move into Bosh’s $20 million-plus stratosphere. And that’s when Bosh’s $23.7 million salary will basically leave the Heat playing with 75 percent of the salary cap of the rest of the NBA as long as he remains off the court.
By rule, the Heat cannot excise Bosh’s salary from their cap and tax until Feb. 9, 2017, the one-year anniversary of his last game. (Bosh is guaranteed all of his remaining salary through 2018-19 regardless of whether he returns or not.)
So no matter what the Heat, Bosh or a mutually agreed upon medical authority eventually say about Bosh’s playing future, the only way for the Heat to remain anything close to whole in NBA cap terms for 2016-17 would be for Bosh to be able to get back on the court.
With a return by Bosh, the Heat would be positioned to potentially field a quality starting lineup of Whiteside, Bosh, Justise Winslow, Dwyane Wade and Goran Dragic, with Bosh’s outside stroke (and perhaps even Wade’s newfound 3-point range) to help compensate for Winslow’s lack thereof.
“I feel very badly for C.B., because I know how much this game means to him,” coach Erik Spoelstra said after the Heat moved aside and the Raptors moved on to LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, “and I think everybody knows how much C.B. means to me. I really miss C.B.”
That is the human side. And it is real. But there also is a salary cap, and a luxury tax, and a roster to rebuild.
And the uncertainly that remains.
“Obviously, the health of Chris Bosh is important for the future of this organization,” Wade said. “We missed him. I missed him this year, more than I missed him last year. So it’s an important offseason, when it’s time to get there. It will be important for the organization, it will be important for Chris.”
A season has come to an end. But a need for clarity and reality with the most significant part of the Heat offseason remains.
No. 3: Vandeweghe: No changes ‘imminent’ to Draft lottery system — In recent years, many NBA pundits have called for changes to the league’s Draft lottery system to prevent teams from tanking in seasons or stripping rosters bare in hopes of furthering their lottery chances. In his Board of Governors address last April, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver didn’t see changes on the horizon for the lottery process. As the Draft lottery approaches tonight (8 p.m. ET, ESPN), Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News talked with the NBA’s senior vice president of basketball operations, Kiki Vandeweghe, about possibility of lottery reform and more:
What do you think of the current NBA lottery system?
Vandeweghe: “The first thing is, the lottery is not supposed to incentivize losing. In theory, it’s supposed to help the teams with the worst record. That’s the whole purpose behind it. It’s been constructed in different ways and changed a variety of times over the course and adjusted as needed. But those are the two tenets to keep in mind.”
Have there been any recent league proposals to change it?
Vandeweghe:: “Nothing recently. I don’t think I see anything imminent. A year and a half ago, there was a lot of momentum for change. We brought some thoughts to the Board of Governors. The majority of the owners were in favor of change. But a change really takes a super majority. So we barely missed that. I don’t know what has happened in between that. We’ve focused on different areas. I would assume it hasn’t really changed that much.”
[Editor’s note: A super majority would require 23 out of 30 NBA teams to vote in favor of any rule changes].
What were the concerns against any changes?
Vandeweghe: “I think the people who were really focused on not wanting change were focused on what the upcoming salary cap bump can do. The salary cap is going to go to 90 [million] plus. We’ll have a lot more money in the system. How will that change behavior? How will that change team building? The draft is only one aspect of team building. You have trades and free agency. They all work together. They work together well.
We have an influx of a lot more money. We don’t know how that’s going to change the dynamic. People wanted to pause and wait and see how that affected the system. That makes sense. That’s really what’s going on. We’ll see how this works. I’m not sure anyone expected this much of a bump initially. But it’s going to be a big bump, so we’ll see.”
Were there concerns expressed about any lottery reform hurting small market teams more than large market teams? Some expressed the idea that for small markets, it’s more imperative they’re able to rebuild through the draft.
Vandeweghe: “I think the important thing to keep in mind, no matter what we’re doing with any of our rules, we always want a fair playing field as much as possible. So the cool thing that you’re noticing today, players don’t see a real difference in small markets or big markets as far as free agency goes or winning percentage. Adam [Silver] has really done a tremendous job as far as ensuring equality in the whole league. The talent is spread out. You have great teams from big markets and small markets. If you look at all of our studies, you have some of the best free agents that have chosen to stay in what would be traditionally smaller markets.”
I was told that one of the ideas the league thought of was to change the odds differently. The system would still be what it would, but you would adjust the percentages. Do you know if that’s accurate?
Vandeweghe: “That’s certainly one of the concepts we looked at, but we’ve looked at a lot of things. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to look at and digest what is the right thing to do. Again, going back to the first thing I said, which is not to incentivize teams to lose, you want to make sure that you help the teams that you’re supposed to help and make sure it works in the right way. The spirit of the rule is the important thing to keep in mind in whatever we’re doing.
Lots of times you’ll look at playing court rules. It’s up to teams in some ways to take advantage of strategies. Our teams are really innovative. When we see something that goes against the spirit of the rule, then we tend to change it. It’s been done many times over the history of the game. We’re actively trying to improve. That’s something again that Adam has been a big part of. He says, ‘Good isn’t good enough. We’ve got to always strive to make the game better on all aspects.’ We’re working hard to do that. To me, there’s no bad ideas. It doesn’t matter where the idea comes from. I’ve had plenty of teams and plenty of players and plenty of people from the media ask, ‘Have you thought about this?’ We’ll take it. If we haven’t thought about it, we’ll look at it.
This is the openness. Listen. It’s you guys, being the media, who are partners in this business, too. We’re all together. We all share this passion for basketball in some way. That ties us all together. Like family members, we may not always agree. But we all share that passion. So it brings us back to what’s really best for the game. We try to keep looking at that and we try to keep improving the product for our fans and our players on the court.”
What other ideas have the league brainstormed on this specific issue with the draft lottery system that has jumped out to you?
Vandeweghe: “We look at a lot of different things and a lot of different versions of what we can do. It’s incumbent on us to do that as ideas come. One of the great things and big influences of basketball is analytics and looking at data-driven decisions. It’s been great for things like the [MIT] Sloan conference. Each team now has somebody or even a whole department that focuses on data and analytics. Teams are looking at stuff and generating more ideas. We have a lot of different ideas and versions on what can work. We spend time we can look at everything possibly can.”
No. 4: TNT analyst Smith won’t be Rockets’ next coach — The Houston Rockets are still searching for their next coach and have had a parade of names through the front office to apply for the position. One such person to interview for the job was TNT analyst Kenny Smith, who was a crucial part of Houston’s back-to-back championship teams in 1994 and ’95. Although his interview went well, he has been informed by the team he won’t be getting the job, writes Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com:
Kenny Smith, currently an analyst for TNT, has been told by the Houston Rockets that he will not be the next coach of the team he once played for, a source told ESPN’s Calvin Watkins.
Smith played six seasons for the Rockets and won titles with the team in 1994 and ’95. He has a good relationship with Rockets owner Leslie Alexander.
“Some of the information is sensitive when you’re talking to a team,” Smith said from Oakland, California, on TNT, site of Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. “We met, but after we met, I had great talks with Les Alexander afterwards for a couple of days, and we corresponded.”
The team was impressed with Smith during the interview process and believes he’ll become a head coach one day, the source told Watkins, but the Rockets want a head coach with experience. Smith hasn’t held a head-coaching job at the professional or collegiate level.
“The Rockets have a philosophy of what they think their coach should be,” Smith said in the TNT broadcast. “But right now I’m here, and it looks like I’m going to be here.”
On last night’s edition of “Inside the NBA”, Smith addressed the interview, too …