NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Curry, Warriors complete their comeback story— Just days ago, the Oklahoma City Thunder were one mere victory away from their first Finals trip in four seasons. But the Thunder never could get win No. 4 in the Western Conference finals and fell in Game 7 last night, allowing the Golden State Warriors to become the 10th team ever in NBA history to win a series after falling behind 3-1. Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical has more on how Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the Warriors etched their name in NBA lore and reached a second straight NBA Finals:
For Curry to flourish in the middle of it all Monday night at Oracle Arena – to close out a 96-88 victory with 15 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter – had been because Curry never let Klay Thompson believe the Splash Brothers no longer existed. Curry could’ve transformed one of the great individual seasons seasons ever – a unanimous MVP performance – and separated himself into a singular entity.
“Steph does not care about getting all the attention,” Draymond Green told The Vertical late Monday night. “Without Klay, there’s not that much success here. He’s always made sure that people understood: It’s about us, it’s not about me. That’s why this team is successful, because that our guy, that’s how he sees things.”
Curry needed middle relief in this series, and Thompson delivered it for him. Golden State never would’ve gotten out of Oklahoma City, out of Game 6, without Thompson’s 41 points. He was the hero. “What Klay did was [put] us on his shoulders and allow us to have this opportunity at home,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said.
When the Warriors’ backcourt started together five years ago, Curry and Thompson were a true partnership. On the night Golden State traded Monta Ellis to Milwaukee, Thompson remembers Curry telling him: It’s you and me now. The Splash Brothers were born.
And as these past two years unfolded, it appeared to matter far less that Thompson had become a two-time All-Star guard – only because Curry had become a two-time MVP. This year, the term Splash Brothers had never been heard so less. And yet if that was the narrative outside the Warriors, it never became the reality within them.
Three weeks ago, Curry made his comeback from an MCL knee sprain. He had missed games in the series against the Houston Rockets and Portland, and struggled for most of Game 4 against the Trail Blazers. As it turned out, his closing performance transcended the moment: 17 points in overtime, an NBA record. Everyone swooned over Curry, only to find him swooning over someone else.
Before Curry left the podium that night, he leaned into the microphone and answered a question that no one had posed to him: Hey, what a series Klay Thompson has had for us, he told everyone. Big shots, big makes and chasing Damian Lillard everywhere on defense.
“I called him later, and told him, ‘That’s great leadership,’ ” Warriors GM Bob Myers told The Vertical on Monday night.
When the Warriors were down 3-1, Myers delivered Curry a gentle reminder. “Your body language matters,” the GM told him. “People are watching you.”
This was some scene in Oracle on Monday night, a culmination of a conference finals comeback the NBA hadn’t seen since the Boston Celtics survived the Philadelphia 76ers in 1981. The Cleveland Cavaliers are on the way for an NBA Finals rematch on Thursday night, only this time LeBron James is bringing a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. Curry will need everyone on these Warriors, need them all, and that includes the full force of the Splash Brothers.
“When you’re down, like we were, the fabric of the team is easier to see,” Myers told The Vertical. “You see it when you hit some adversity. When you could splinter, and you don’t, well, that’s where you see the connectedness of the team.”
For these Golden State Warriors, it still begins and ends with Steph Curry. The Warriors had his back in these Western finals, because he’s always had theirs. In the end, the MVP stood in the middle of Oracle Arena and let the love wash over him, pounding his chest, screaming into the Bay Area night. Together, they had done it. Together, the Warriors had survived. Still standing, still champs.
No. 2: Buss says Jackson committed to Knicks — Los Angeles Lakers executive Jeanie Buss and former Lakers coach Phil Jackson have been a couple since 1999 and the two got engaged in 2013. But Jackson has been serving as the president of the New York Knicks since 2014, leading to some speculation that Jackson might someday soon leave the Big Apple to be in L.A. not only with Buss, but to return to the Lakers. In an interview with ESPN Radio, Buss says that couldn’t be further from the truth, writes Ian Begley of ESPN.com:
Los Angeles Lakers co-owner Jeanie Buss says that Phil Jackson, her fiancé and the president of the Knicks, will not be leaving New York to rejoin the Lakers.
“No. To visit, yes … but in terms of basketball, he’s committed to New York for many years,” Buss said Monday on ESPN Radio’s Beadle and Shelburne Show. “He’s building something there. He has a mission, he’s on that journey to get the team back to where he believes it can be and it will be. He’s a former Knick … he loves New York, he loves the fans, he wants to make them proud.
“In terms of the Lakers, we have a front office. They’re putting together a team … they have a vision. I’m excited to see what the future holds for us. So, to answer your question … no, there’s no plans for Phil to come back here.”
Jackson has three seasons remaining on his five-year deal with the Knicks. Speculation about Jackson’s potential return to Los Angeles will likely continue because his contract contains an opt-out clause after the 2016-17 season, according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard.
Buss also addressed her brother Jim Buss‘ public stance on stepping down if the Lakers aren’t one of the top teams in the Western Conference in two to three seasons. The stance taken by Jim Buss, the Lakers’ executive vice president of basketball operations, has fueled speculation that Jackson will leave New York for a management role with the Lakers some time in the near future.
“We talked about it as a family,” Jeanie Buss said Monday of Jim Buss’ stance. “My brother spoke about it publicly. It is something that I think he’s very sincere in when he says that if he can’t get this team to where we’re competitive, being in the playoffs, second round, competing for the Western Conference final.
“He would feel that he isn’t living up to the job that my father left to him, and he [Jim] made it clear if he couldn’t do the job that he would step aside and make sure that somebody would come in and do that because that’s how much he loves the Lakers. That’s how much my family loves the Lakers.”
No. 3: Biyombo willing to take less to stay in Toronto — Any list of players who most helped themselves financially with their performance in the playoffs has to include Bismack Biyombo near the top. The Raptors center did a fantastic job throughout the playoffs, averaging 6.2 points, 9.4 rebounds and 1.4 blocks overall and 8.2 points, 11.0 rebounds and 2.1 blocks in 10 starts. Those last stats are telling as that 10-game span is the stretch that saw Toronto go from the Eastern Conference semifinals to the conference finals. As Biyombo approaches free agency this summer, he wants to stay put and is willing to take a pay cut to do so, writes Dave Zarum of Sportsnet.ca:
It may have seemed the writing was on the wall in terms of Biyombo’s off-season departure, but on Monday he expressed his desire to return to the Raptors next season and beyond.
While appearing on Sportsnet 590 The FAN’s Andrew Walker Show, Biyombo was asked if he expects to be playing in a Raptor uniform next year. “Honestly, I do,” he said, adding that, “We still have some unfinished business. It was so much fun to see the team go from last year to this year making the Eastern Conference finals. Be it would be fun to go even further next season.”
Ok, fair enough. Biyombo thoroughly enjoyed the Raps’ playoff run along with the rest of us, but money is the biggest issue here, and he addressed that, too. When asked if he would take a hometown discount, he didn’t hesitate with his answer:
“Yeah. Things can always be worked out,” Biyombo said Monday, “I’ve said that to my people, I’ve said that to Masai. When the right time comes I’d be open to figuring something out. At the end of the day it’s for fun, not money. It’s not always about money. Money is great, but at the same time I ask ‘how much fun am I going to have? The city is great, the team is great, and we’re winning.”
He stressed how important this offseason was for the Raptors, and his desire to get back in the gym and go to work, stating that he wants to focus on basketball and not on contract negotiations. “I have the right people in my corner to handle that,” Biyombo said, “so I’m not concerned about it. One thing I’m thankful for is the opportunity I was given here. The whole season as we faced ups and downs [but] my teammates allow me to be myself and play my game. It was so much fun to be around my teammates, be around the city. I’m expecting for myself to be back here and I believe I have the right people to get it done.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Toronto Raptors coach Dwane Casey got a big vote of support from his GM, Masai Ujiri, yesterday … Ex-Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt may be nearing a deal with a European team … Concerns over the Zika virus may lead Pau Gasol to skip the 2016 Olympics … Steven Adams and Draymond Green have some serious respect for each other now … Was ex-Thunder guard Reggie Jackson enjoying OKC’s loss to the Warriors in Game 7? … Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was in attendance for Game 7 last night … Andre Iguodala says what a lot of people likely think: it must be fun playing with Kevin Durant …