NEWS OF THE MORNING
Per our David Aldridge, Bogut’s injury could sideline him for the rest of The Finals …
And ESPN.com’s Marc Stein says Bogut will miss the next 6-8 weeks …
No. 1: Warriors may not have Bogut for Game 6 — Tuesday was a travel day for the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers as they made their way back to Ohio for Thursday’s Game 6 in The NBA Finals. Before the Warriors left town, center Andrew Bogut had an MRI to check on the status of his left knee that he injured while attempting to block a shot in Game 5. While the results of the MRI are unknown at this time, Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle reports Golden State is preparing itself for the likelihood that Bogut will be out (but forward Draymond Green will be back):
The Warriors will get power forward Draymond Green back from suspension for Thursday’s Game 6, but they don’t expect to have starting center Andrew Bogut.
“Draymond does a little bit of everything: his playmaking, his rebounding, his communicating and his heart and soul. Obviously, we missed him big time,” Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson said. “… If Bogut is out Thursday, our bigs are just going to have to step up. They’ve been doing it all year.”
Bogut played only 7½ minutes in Monday’s Game 5 loss that trimmed the Warriors’ lead in the NBA Finals to 3-2. After jumping to block a layup attempt by Cleveland’s J.R. Smith in the third quarter, Bogut planted his left leg moments before Smith rolled into it and appeared to hyperextend the knee.
The Warriors’ 7-footer writhed in pain under the basket for two possession until there was finally a stop in play. His leg was immobilized as he was helped to the locker room, but teammates said he was putting weight on the leg later.
The initial diagnosis was a sprained knee, but results from Tuesday’s MRI exam had not been evaluated by all of the Warriors’ doctors by the time the team landed in Cleveland.
Worries about losing the team’s best rim-protector come on the heels of the Warriors’ worst defensive effort during the postseason. They allowed a playoff-high 53 percent shooting from the floor and yielded a combined 82 points to Kyrie Irving and LeBron James.
Irving and James either scored or assisted on 97 of the Cavaliers’ points, including the team’s final 25 baskets. The last field goal that wasn’t directly produced by Irving or James was an Iman Shumpert layup with 5½ minutes left in the first half.
“To repeat a performance like this would definitely be tough, but whatever it takes to win, we’re willing to do,” Irving said.
The return of Green will help in squelching a sequel as the Warriors desperately missed his defensive communication and his ability to read proper switching and help defense situations. Irving and James shot 61.1 percent from the floor while Green was exiled from Oracle Arena on Monday. In Games 1-4, they shot 9-for-26 when he was the primary defender on either.
If Bogut is out or hobbled, the Warriors will need to get something out of Festus Ezeli, Anderson Varejao and/or Marreese Speights.
The Warriors also will be comfortable going small with Green returning. Their small-ball lineup has outscored Cleveland by 51 points with Green at center and has been outscored by 16 points without Green.
After a moment of dejection following the Warriors’ loss Monday, ESPN reported that Green, sitting in a luxury suite at the Coliseum, yelled: “Let’s go. I get a chance to play in another game.” It’s as if he were channeling the very message Warriors head coach Steve Kerr was giving in the locker room about 30 yards away.
“It’s the NBA Finals. You’ve got two great teams, and I kind of like our position,” Kerr said. “… We go back to Cleveland and tee it up again, but I like our position a lot better than theirs. …
“We’re in the same place we were last year: up 3-2 and heading back to Cleveland. If you told me this before the series, I would have taken it. We’re in a good spot.”
According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Warriors are hoping for a clearer picture about Bogut’s availability later today:
The status of injured Golden State Warriors center Andrew Bogut for Thursday’s Game 6 of the NBA Finals remains uncertain, but Bogut did travel Tuesday with the team to Cleveland, according to league sources.
Sources told ESPN.com that an official update on Bogut’s health, which had been expected Tuesday night, will most likely come Wednesday now.
Sources say that the Warriors, following a long travel day, continued into the night with their review of the data from an MRI exam on Bogut’s sprained left knee before the team’s departure to Ohio.
There was cautious optimism in the Warriors’ camp late Monday that Bogut did not suffer any structural damage following the hard hit he absorbed in a mid-air collision defending Cleveland guard J.R. Smith’s drive to the basket. But Bogut was seen walking very gingerly as he left the arena Monday night.
No. 2: Could Irving become the best teammate James has ever had? — The NBA world is still buzzing over the historic performance LeBron James and Kyrie Irving delivered in a must-win Game 5 of The Finals. They both scored 41 points apiece in that game, setting an NBA Finals record and keeping the Cleveland Cavaliers’ season alive for at least one more game. While James won two rings with the Miami Heat alongside Dwyane Wade, if Irving keeps up the kind of play he has of late, he could end up as the greatest teammate James has ever had, writes Shams Charania of The Vertical:
As organically as the alliance between LeBron James and Dwyane Wade was constructed in Miami, no such luxury had ever been afforded to Kyrie Irving. No summer ball or private dinners before James’ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
James had built a trust in Wade for flourishing in the most critical moments, for walking side by side in praise and criticism. “When they needed each other,” James Jones, a member of those Miami Heat and these Cavaliers, told The Vertical late Monday, “the faith was already formed through prior experiences.” And here in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, on a potential elimination night against the Golden State Warriors, Irving delivered the best supporting performance in Finals history. Forty-one points, 17-of-24 shooting and six assists from Irving, fortifying the 41-point, 16-rebound, seven-assist gem from James and securing a 112-97 victory Monday.
Ultimately, the younger star had delivered a performance that even Wade had never matched.
“Kyrie … one of the greatest performances I’ve ever seen live,” James marveled Monday night.
Just days ago, Irving and James had pounded the ball, sapped the roster’s confidence through isolation plays and shot Cleveland into a double-digit home loss in Game 4. But on Monday, the shot-making was historic, a 6-foot-3 point guard and 6-foot-8 forward dismantling Golden State’s game plan – and crowd. Around the league, team scouts and personnel dismiss the pair’s ability to sustain the amount of isolation sets required for this type of output.
On this night, though, the my-turn, your-turn system operated better than it ever has. Better than it has for anyone in a championship series, with the duo becoming the first teammates to each score 40 or more points in Finals history. These Cavaliers will always need the ball handling and vision of James, but the increased sense of purpose from Irving promises to elevate the franchise’s ceiling.
Irving wore jeans and a plaid shirt late Monday, his teammates and traveling friends pushing him to liven up and relinquish his guard. He had destroyed his matchups, whether Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson defended him, and knocked down the type of high-difficulty shots that deflated everyone associated with the Warriors. And still there was no boasting from Irving inside Oracle Arena, just a turn of the page and the conversation toward others.
“Just calm,” James said of Irving’s performance. “Just calm.”
Never rattled, and the question had been posed inside Cleveland’s locker room: Did this duo look familiar to the tandem that had played alpha male roles in South Beach?
“It’s similar in terms of production, but the team dynamics and vibe isn’t,” Jones told The Vertical. “We asked D-Wade to attack the basket, play strong and be a scorer first. Kyrie has a way to dominate with quickness, but we ask him to playmake, to create shots for everyone.
“Kyrie and LeBron could never expect to have that relationship instantly that D-Wade and LeBron already had. D-Wade and LeBron spent genuine time with each other before they came together. All LeBron and Kyrie could do was find common ground and keep growing toward a bond together.”
Side by side, Irving and James. Forty-one points each. “It’s not always going to work,” Irving was saying late Monday. Yet these Cleveland Cavaliers need them at this level more often than not, and Game 5 went a long way to prove it. James’ old union with Wade had been nurtured through years and years of private workouts and dinners. No such prep activities for Irving and James. Just basketball. Now, it’s just a matter of how this duo can win Cleveland a championship.
No. 3: Carroll: Robinson’s NFL hopes ‘all but impossible’ — In yesterday’s Shootaround, we brought you the news of how former NBA guard Nate Robinson is apparently forsaking hoops for the time being to try out for the NFL. The Washington native and former University of Washington basketball star (and football player) had a tryout of sorts with the Seattle Seahawks on Monday. The Seattle Times‘ Bob Condotta caught up with Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who didn’t mince words about Robinson’s chances of making the squad:
The feat former UW star Nate Robinson is attempting to pull off — making it in the NFL after having not played football since 2002 — is “all but impossible,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Tuesday.
But after watching Robinson in action Monday, Carroll also said that “if anybody could, it might be Nate. He’s that versatile of an athlete and that great a competitor.’’
Robinson, 32, had a tryout with the Seahawks on Monday as he attempts to try to find a spot in the NFL after a lengthy NBA career.
The Rainier Beach grad last played football at the University of Washington in 2002 before switching to basketball fulltime. He played in the NBA from 2005 through last fall before he was released by New Orleans. He announced in March that he would like to give football a shot and the Seahawks brought him in to take a look Monday.
Carroll said that Robinson “looked really quick, caught the ball really well’’ during his tryout.
But Carroll indicated a signing of Robinson is a long way off, if it were to ever happen.
“He’s got a lot of work to do,’’ Carroll said. “He’s getting ready for whatever comes next for him and he’s trying to figure out what he’s going to do, whether it’s going to be in the NBA or overseas playing or whatever. Football is an option he wants to investigate. He’s a great kid. I’ve known him for a long time since way back when (Carroll tried to recruit Robinson as a football player at USC) and always loved the kid and excited to give him a chance to see where this all fits together with him and we’ll find out down the road.’’
Asked how hard it would be for someone to try to play football after sitting out for more than a decade, Carroll said “I think it’s all but impossible. It’s as hard as it could possibly get. And he’s 32, as well. So it would be, I don’t know if anybody could do it. But if anybody could it might be Nate. He’s that versatile of an athlete and that great a competitor.’’
Carroll said he thought Robinson could have played both defensive back and receiver had he stuck with football.
“He was such a phenomenal basketball player, he had to go that way,’’ Carroll said. “Football was kind of his first sport, he would tell you. But obviously basketball has been a great avenue for him to follow.’’
No. 4: Embiid looks solid in workout with Sixers — Two years ago, the Philadelphia 76ers took center Joel Embiid with the No. 3 pick … and haven’t seen him play a minute on the court since. A troublesome foot fracture has sidelined him basically since then and the Sixers have taken deliberate steps to get him as healthy as possible for when his NBA debut does finally come. The team is hoping that will be this season and in a workout at the team’s practice court on Monday, Embiid was looking mighty solid. Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer has more:
Bryan Colangelo was standing near the side of the Sixers practice court on Monday afternoon talking about Brandon Ingram, the rail-thin small forward who had just finished a pre-draft workout for the team.
At the far end of the court, literally and figuratively towering over the proceedings, Joel Embiid was working on his low-post moves against a purposely pliant defender. Embiid is monstrously big now. He grew approximately two inches in the last year and has added upper body strength. Standing near Jahlil Okafor and Christian Wood, both of whom are listed at 6-foot-11, Embiid looked to be more in the 7-foot-2 range.
Colangelo moved from Ingram to the subject of Simmons, and why the presumptive top pick has not (and will not) agree to a similar workout for the Sixers. The new general manager blamed it on the agent.
“Why don’t you call Rich Paul and ask him?” Colangelo said after being peppered a third time for the reason Simmons didn’t want to visit Philadelphia.
It was hard to keep from watching Embiid during this exchange, and during the one about whether Dario Saric will show up this season, even though it would mean a potential financial risk. Embiid took entry passes and spun this way and that. He shot lefthanded. He shot righthanded. He did drop steps. He ducked under. He floated soft hooks through the net. He powered to the basket for dunks. Finally, he did a crossover dribble from right to left behind his legs, took one gigantic stride and rose above the rim, above everything, above all the upturned faces gaping at him, above the very limit of hope an NBA franchise can have in one player, and he brought the ball down through the rim with a crash.
“You can see what he’s doing on the court,” Colangelo said, cocking his head toward Embiid. “It looks like he’s getting more fluidity every day. He’s done some things competitively, two-on-two and three-on-three in controlled situations, but the word ‘controlled’ is the key there. Everything’s got to be done within the process set forth and the timeline set forth by the doctors.”
Bryan Colangelo won’t be judged by how Embiid turns out, but he will have to live with the consequences. It is the memory of Sam Hinkie and his entire “process” that could rise and fall each time Embiid lifts his right foot from the floor and places it down again.
With those consequences in mind, Colangelo delivered some bad, if somewhat expected, news on Monday. He did so exactly one year to the day – June 13, 2015 – after Hinkie revealed Embiid’s surgically repaired foot wasn’t healing properly, news that eventually led to a second surgery in August.
Ten months later, following a graft surgery that entails a six-month rehabilitation process for most folks, Colangelo announced that Embiid won’t be playing with the Sixers’ summer league team next month.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Los Angeles Clippers continue to explore non-traditional means of broadcasting their games … Vivint Smart Home Arena — the home of the Utah Jazz — is getting some major upgrades in the next few years … The Philadelphia 76ers remain hopeful that Dario Saric will join the team this season …