NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Cavs looking defenseless in these Finals— The Cleveland Cavaliers rumbled through the Eastern Conference portion of the 2016 playoff bracket, shielding themselves from just about every blow the Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks and Toronto Raptors could throw at them. As Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com points out, Cavs star LeBron James took that shield metaphor literally early on, giving each of his teammates a literal shield to illustrate how the team must stand strong together to reach its title goal. Yet as Cleveland faces a 2-0 series deficit in The Finals, it is left at a loss for what to do next:
Golden State is up 2-0 following a 110-77 battering of the Cavs Sunday night at Oracle Arena. After cruising through the first three rounds with a 12-2 mark, Cleveland has been outscored in this series by a staggering 48 points.
“What we’ve done these last two games doesn’t put a damper or a cloud over how we got to this point,” James argued. “We’re still here…”
Cleveland won’t be here for long if this continues.
Right now the Cavaliers, who possess the second-highest payroll in league history, are defenseless and the outcomes have shown as much. They’re absent of a shield, but most significantly they’re absent of fight. They’re going up against a Western Conference predator who’s equipped with an abundance of ammo and all the Cavaliers have done is scurried for cover.
Is home court at The Q going to make that huge of a difference come Wednesday? Cleveland had two days to prepare for Game 2, and yet still rolled up in a ball when adversity came knocking.
Before Kevin Love exited the game with concussion symptoms, he suffered from Draymond Green symptoms. The Warriors’ forward was in his head and made it a point to stay attached to Love more than he did in Game 1.
Love was 2-of-7 from the field with three boards in 20 minutes of play. He looked intimidated. It looked like he didn’t want any part of that game. Green was so glued to him that Love gave him a little shove in the first half. Green just smiled, and got right back in Love’s personal space.
Kyrie Irving struggled the most, going 5-of-14 for 10 points in 33 minutes. He’s now shooting 33 percent for the series. But the team typically goes as the leader of the team goes.
“LeBron is in a unique situation to where we all know how (bleeping) good he really is,” Channing Frye said. “The humility he has with us shows us, ‘Hey, I need you guys for all of us to succeed.’ We know he’s going to help us, but he needs everybody to be locked in.”
First and foremost, James needs to be locked in. In these two games, the four-time MVP is averaging 21.0 points on 42 percent shooting and has coughed the ball up 11 times. The Warriors have suddenly transformed into a scary defensive bunch.
The perimeter defensive mixture of Andre Iguodala, Harrison Barnes, Klay Thompson and Green has been a nightmare for James. Whether James wants to admit it or not, he is being contained. And if he’s contained, the Cavaliers will end up being ashamed when it’s all said and done. The series is far from over, but the poor body language and the disconnect in communication is in dire need of repair.
James and the Cavaliers are being exposed before our very eyes, and there’s no shield that can hide that.
No. 2: Celtics’ Turner says mid-range game is ‘the future’ — Over the past few seasons in NBA circles, advanced stats have been on the rise and have been used to fairly effectively prove that teams who value 3-pointers more than long 2-pointers or other mid-range shots tend to have success. Boston Celtics swingman Evan Turner has a very different view on that notion and didn’t hold back in sharing why he values mid-range jumpers in an interview with Maurice Peebles of Complex.com:
With the league trending towards more threes—and with the Golden State Warriors breaking the all-time regular season wins record mostly due to their propensity for the long ball—does a Swiss Army Knife, do-it-all type like Turner still fit in?
“I want to speak on that, actually,” Turner says as an irritated smirk creeps across his face. “People say, ‘You can’t shoot the three.’ But I can defend, I can pass, rebound, score. You got guys that all they can do is shoot and nothing else. Like, how a– backwards is that? Only in America can you be a lacrosse player and judge basketball. Or you’ve never played basketball and say, ‘Yeah, I was working on the stock market—[stuff] wasn’t working so now I’m in the NBA judging talent.’ [The media] can write stuff on something they have no clue about.
“The future is in the mid-range. The mid-range is where the money’s at, man. I think the three-point shot opens up the court and everything like that, but MJ and all those great players made all of their money out of the mid-range. So I’m not sorry for that at all. Evan M. Turner. For sure, ‘M’ stands for mid-range. Anywhere within 15 feet is cash. I’ll try to get better at threes, but that’s my game.”
No. 3: Presti enters offseason confident about team’s future with Durant — The season has been over for a week or so now in Oklahoma City and the attention in Thunder-ville has shifted to the looming question of Kevin Durant‘s future with the team as he approaches free agency. While some may be fretting over what Durant will ultimately decide, OKC general manager Sam Presti isn’t too concerned about what kind of sell he has to make to Durant about staying put. Presti addressed that and other matters during a news conference Monday and Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman has more on what happened:
If the Boston Celtics get Kevin Durant in a room, they can highlight their treasure trove of assets and promote life outside the wicked West. If the Warriors or Spurs secure a Durant visit, they can hypothesize how to best fit him around a ready-made roster. Pat Riley may just toss his championship rings on a table. He’s done it before.
Imagination can be alluring. Change can be appealing. But when the KD free agency sweepstakes hit in early July, the Thunder is banking on familiarity over temptation. The known over the unknown.
“He’s here every day,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said at his postseason news conference on Monday morning. “You know what I mean? The one thing we don’t want to do is sit down and create some kind of fantasy world or fictional environment.”
There’s plenty Durant, always a curious mind, might choose to learn about other organizations. But there’s not much required research remaining on his own.
So now the Thunder sit and wait until early July.
“We can’t speed that up, and we can’t slow it down,” Presti said. “We’ll get an answer from him at the appropriate time. I think it really is important for him to take his time, get away from things.”
In the meantime, Presti has other offseason concerns to sift through, starting with the NBA Draft on June 23. The Thunder doesn’t have a pick for the first time since the franchise relocated from Seattle, but there’s a chance Presti acquires one.
“We can use our minds a little bit differently, trying to decide how to get in and if we were to get in, who to get in for,” Presti said. “I’m kind of looking forward to that.”
Then there’s the decision of whether to bring back restricted free agent Dion Waiters. Presti sounded confident Waiters will return.
“It generally bodes well when the player is wanting to be back,” Presti said. “Any time you have the opportunity to have a mutual goal, that’s always a positive. I do think that in his case, I think the odds are more likely in the event that we’re working in partnership.”
Later in the summer, Presti can engage in extension talks with Steven Adams and Andre Roberson: “We have until October 31 to have that conversation.”
Before that, he must decide whether to keep Anthony Morrow. The veteran sharpshooter has a $3.48 million contract that is non-guaranteed until July 15. “There’s no action necessary to be taken,” Presti said. “And we really enjoy having A Mo with us.”
Summer league is on the horizon. Negotiations with Spanish sharpshooter Alex Abrines remain unlikely, but still possible. A new assistant coach will be hired. All serve as important offseason Thunder storylines to follow.
But the main topic of Tuesday’s Presti news conference — which lasted 44 minutes and 44 seconds and included a 9-minute opening monologue — was the NBA’s most anticipated story of the offseason: Durant’s free agency.
“Kevin is a highly, highly intelligent person,” Presti said. “He’s a mature person. He’s a rational person, and he’s going to work through the decision in a way that will help him do what he feels is best for him. We’ll react accordingly once we have that information, and we’ll try to be as prepared as possible.”
No. 4: Chandler still in wait-and-see mode with Suns — As the season wound down in Phoenix, veteran center Tyson Chandler made it clear that after a rough first season with the Suns, he wasn’t interested in being a part of a rebuilding effort. Fast-forward a few months and it seems not much has changed for Chandler, who more or less reiterated his stance during an interview on ESPN’s “The Jump with Rachel Nichols”:
With Phoenix coming off its sixth season in a row of not making the playoffs, veteran center Tyson Chandler says he isn’t ready to voice his concerns about what direction the Suns might be heading.
There are big questions about what will fall at the top of the team’s priority list this offseason, but Chandler has decided to take a wait-and-see approach.
“Me and management have a great relationship and we communicate,” he said on ESPN’s The Jump with Rachel Nichols Monday. “If there is a decision and they want to go young and stay young, then we’ll have that conversation. But we’re not there.”
Chandler said he has no plans to seek a trade and remains committed to sitting tight while Phoenix’s offseason plays out.
“I’m happy where I am,” he said Thursday. “I feel like the Suns have a bright future if we continue to build and build the right way. It’s all about building the right way.”
Chandler said he simply wants to see if Phoenix is looking at a major rebuilding effort and prefers to wait to open up communication with the Suns’ front office.
“The culture has to be right, but I’m not there yet,” Chandler told The Jump.
The Suns also have a new permanent coach in Earl Watson this season, although he is quite familiar with the players, having been promoted from assistant coach to interim head coach when Jeff Hornacek was fired in February.
The one bright spot is the Suns have two high first-round picks and $20 million to $30 million in salary cap space.
The 33-year-old Chandler signed a four-year, $52 million contract in 2015 to come to Phoenix.
He averaged just 7.2 points per game last season as he was brought in to provide a big presence on the court and inside the locker room. But the team’s failure to make the playoffs added to the longest stretch of futility for a franchise that for so many years was a postseason fixture.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Toronto Raptors big man Bismack Biyombo has opted out of his deal and expect All-Star DeMar DeRozan to do so soon, too … Good news in Raptor-ville, though — the team officially inked coach Dwane Casey to a three-year extension this morning … A closer look at LeBron James‘ historic workload this season … That time Muhammad Ali tried to recruit Doc Rivers to play at Louisville …