NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: Love likely to come off bench in Game 4— Cleveland Cavaliers power forward Kevin Love practiced with the team yesterday as it prepares for Game 4 of The Finals tonight (9 ET, ABC). Love has not yet been cleared medically to play after the concussion he suffered in Game 2 ultimately kept him out of Game 3 on Wednesday night. According to Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, Love is not only expected to play tonight but will do so in a reserve role:
Kevin Love is expected to play Friday and it’s likely he will come off the bench in Game 4 of the NBA Finals, league sources told the Beacon Journal.
Love still has another medical examination he must pass on Friday before he is cleared from the league’s concussion protocol, but he took part in some on-court shooting drills Thursday and the team is privately confident he will be available to play.
Coach Tyronn Lue would not discuss Love’s role on Thursday, insisting he hadn’t given it much thought. While one source stressed no final decision has been made yet, it’s likely at this point Love will be a reserve for the first time since April 14, 2010 – the final game of his second year in the league.
When asked generally about how he handles lineup changes, Lue said it’s important to be honest.
“They might not like it at the time, but I’ve always learned in this business if you tell the truth, guys understand and they know what the truth is,” Lue said. “They might be mad for a second, but they can always get back to understanding and realize that’s the right thing. And if you tell the truth, guys can respect that.”
The Cavs beat the Warriors 120-90 in Game 3 Wednesday for their first win in this series while Love sat. Lue inserted Richard Jefferson into the starting lineup, moved LeBron James to power forward and the Cavs flourished with their best game of the series.
The Cavs have privately been concerned for months how Love would match up defensively in a Finals rematch against the Warriors, with one team executive offering during the regular season that Love may have to become the Cavs’ version of David Lee – the high-priced, high-scoring forward who came off the bench last year to help spark the Warriors to a championship.
The Warriors shot 42 percent in Game 3 when both Klay Thompson and Steph Curry struggled to find a rhythm and James neutralized Draymond Green. The always outspoken Green said he didn’t see any difference with James at power forward instead of Love.
“There ain’t no Xs and Os adjustment they made (that) worked. They punked us. That was the gist of it,” Green said. “I continually try to figure out, what adjustment can they make? I didn’t think there was an adjustment they can make other than to play harder than us. And that’s what they did.”
No. 2: Warriors need more from Thompson in series, too — If you’re the two-time reigning Kia MVP (like Stephen Curry is) and you struggle in the first three game of The Finals (as he has), it’s going to be a storyline. All the attention focused on Curry’s woes have somewhat allowed his All-Star teammate in the backcourt, Klay Thompson, to have his own struggles get a little less attention. But as Ron Kroichick of the San Francisco Chronicle, Thompson needs to get on track as much — if not more so — than Curry does:
Klay Thompson’s biggest ripple during the first three games came when he accused Cleveland center Timofey Mozgov of setting a “kind of dirty” screen Wednesday night in Game 3. Thompson backed off the harsh rhetoric Thursday, but he must address other issues heading into Game 4.
Or consider his shooting numbers: 36.8 percent from the field in the Finals, including 30 percent from three-point land. Thompson shot 44.9 percent from the field in this year’s previous playoff series, including 45 percent on threes.
Thompson suggested he will change his approach Friday night, trying to drive to the basket rather than simply letting fly from long range.
“I think they’re just trying to run me and Steph off the three-point line, and understandably so,” he said. “Obviously, we can both get hot from there. So we realize we might have better success going to the rim or finding a teammate on the back side. …
“I watched the film and I kind of regret taking maybe six jump shots to start the game. I realized in my pro career that if you get to the rim early, it’s going to open up your jump shots. So I’m looking forward to being more aggressive (Friday) night and not just settling for jumpers.”
Thompson was 0-for-5 from the field in Wednesday night’s first quarter (including 0-for-4 on threes), which he departed after his collision with Mozgov with 34 seconds left. Thompson made 4 of 5 shots after he returned midway through the second quarter, including his only three-point attempt.
The Cavs need to be careful about doing anything to awaken Thompson. For all of Curry’s wondrous feats this season, Thompson was Golden State’s best player in the series against Houston, Portland and OKC; witness the way he scored 41 points and carried the Warriors to their season-saving, Game 6 win over the Thunder.
Cleveland has decided to swarm both Curry and Thompson on the perimeter, essentially daring other players to produce. Shaun Livingston did in Game 1 and Green did in Game 2, but nobody rescued the Warriors on Wednesday night.
Cleveland’s Richard Jefferson, for one, links the sudden shooting struggles of Curry and Thompson.
“I think Klay is definitely a guy who feeds off Steph’s performance,” Jefferson said. “When Steph gets going, then all of a sudden, you put two or three guys on him and guys are chasing him around; I think that’s when Klay really feeds off him. And the rest of their team does, too.”
No. 3: Report: Durant won’t consider Rockets in free agency — Three weeks from today, NBA free agency will officially open and one of the biggest names on the market, Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant, will be target No. 1. While the smart money is on him staying put, there will be no shortage of teams trying to sway him their direction. But according to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, a reunion in Houston with former teammate-turned-superstar James Harden is unlikely:
Former teammates Kevin Durant and James Harden are “hanging out” this week, but the close friends’ brief reunion isn’t expected to have a real impact on Durant’s forthcoming free agency, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that Harden’s Houston Rockets are not a team Durant plans to consider when he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1, despite Harden’s presence there and the Rockets’ long-known intent to try to chase him.
At least one picture of Durant and Harden at a restaurant has circulated this week via Instagram, leading to inevitable speculation about Harden trying to recruit his former Oklahoma City Thunder colleague to Houston. But sources insist the visit is nothing out of the ordinary for them, given the players’ long-standing friendship, and particularly because Houston, sources say, is not a destination Durant intends to consider.
The league office, furthermore, has historically chosen not to apply NBA tampering rules to players from rival teams who have contact with free agents before July 1, which is the first day teams can legally engage with free agents.
ESPN.com reported after Oklahoma City’s recent elimination in the Western Conference finals that a return for Durant to the Thunder on a two-year max contract, with a player option to return to free agency in the summer of 2017, is widely regarded as the most likely scenario for him in his first foray into free agency.
But Durant also is widely expected to take a handful of face-to-face recruiting meetings with a select group of interested teams, with the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs regarded by many rival executives as the two biggest threats to lure Durant away from the Thunder.
No. 4: Veteran Terry plans to play 2 more years — Guard Jason Terry has logged 17 seasons in the NBA, ranks third on the all-time 3-pointers made list and has a championship to his name, too. Those accolades and accomplishments should give him more than enough reason to hang up the uniform and pursue the next stage in his life. But in a chat with Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News, Terry is apparently in no mood to retire anytime soon and may be looking at a reunion with one of his former teams:
Jason Terry will be 39 when next season begins, but he has no intentions of drifting away into retirement.
Terry said Thursday that he wants to play for two more seasons and then dive headfirst into either the coaching or management end of basketball.
And yes, he would very much consider a return to the Mavericks, where he had many of the best years of his career, including the 2011 championship.
“Not retiring at all,” Terry said. “Just looking for another opportunity to get back on a contender. But if that opportunity doesn’t present itself, still being able to go in and have an impact in the locker room on the younger players and provide quality minutes off the bench. My body feels great. My mind is still sharp.”
And as for the Mavericks?
“If the opportunity presents itself then yes, but if it doesn’t, then I have to explore my options,” he said. “My home base is here in Dallas.”
As for becoming a free-agent on July 1, Terry said he’ll weigh all his options, but he wants his destination to include a special perk.
“In preparing for my post-playing career, I want to be able to shadow the coach and shadow the GM,” Terry said. “That’s important to me.”
Terry will be entering his 18th NBA season. He is one of the few players in the league older than Nowitzki, who will turn 38 on June 19.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: A closer look at all of the blowouts in the 2016 playoffs … Did Atlanta Hawks guard Jeff Teague play last season with a torn patella tendon? … Expect Keith Smart to soon join David Fizdale‘s staff in Sacramento … Dan Burke and Popeye Jones will remain on the Indiana Pacers’ coaching staff … Memphis Grizzlies forward Vince Carter opens up about his career and how long he hopes to keep playing …