Posts Tagged ‘Dan Gilbert’

Morning Shootaround — Sept. 29


Noah lands in New York | Rings for everyone | Mavs hope for big impact from Curry | Stockton to Kidd?

No. 1: Noah lands in New York — After missing the first few days of training camp for the birth of his daughter, Joakim Noah was finally able to participate in his first practice with his new team, the New York Knicks. And as reports, his new teammates are already raving about the emotional presence he brings to his new team…

“He brings a different dynamic to the court,” Carmelo Anthony said after Noah’s first practice with the New York Knicks. “Mentally, he pushes you; he forces you to compete at a high level every time on the basketball court. Everybody. Whether you’re the 14th, 15th man on the team, or myself, or Derrick [Rose] or anybody else.

“Like, he pushes you to go out there and compete every play. If not, you’re going to hear about. I think that’s something we’ve been missing, this team needed, this organization needed and I like it. We like it.”

The Knicks signed Noah to a four-year, $72 million deal over the summer, in part, because of his leadership qualities.

The Rose trade left a void at center, and Phil Jackson believes Noah can fill it as a backbone of the Knicks’ defense. Only time will tell if Noah can provide elite rebounding, rim protection and pick-and-roll defense over the course of his contract.

But his intense nature — which has its own value on and off the court — was on display in his first training camp practice (Noah missed the first two days due to the birth of his daughter).

“If you’re not on his team, you’re an enemy,” Anthony said. “I think that mentality, that’s going to kind of trickle down to everybody else. It’s a different mindset that you’ve got to have coming into the game, going into practice. Even in practice, if you’re not on his team, if you’re not on the blue or white team with him, you’re an enemy. That keeps the competitive edge for everybody out there on the court.”

The perfect scenario for the Knicks is Noah remaining healthy, productive and being an influential presence in the locker room. “Jo’s [intensity] won’t slow down as the year goes on. We hope that’s contagious for the rest of our guys,” Jeff Hornacek said.

Intangibles aside, there are some question marks for Noah coming into the season. He was limited to just 29 games last year due to a shoulder injury; some observers believe his game had slipped prior to the injury.

Chicago Bulls chairman Jerry Reinsdorf added to that theory when he told the Chicago Tribune the following about Noah’s departure:

“What we felt was it was time. We felt Joakim wasn’t going to be a front-line guy anymore. I was pretty confident that Pau [Gasol] was going to leave. So it was important for us to get the center in [Robin] Lopez.”

Noah was asked about the remarks on Wednesday and offered a measured response.

“It’s alright. He’s entitled to his opinion,” Noah said. “I feel like I have no regrets about my time in Chicago. I gave it everything I had. To me, that’s all that matters. I know that I did everything I could for that organization. I thought it was a little bit of a low blow, you know? But at the end of the day, I have nothing but respect for that organization. I’m just excited for this new chapter in my career.”


No. 2: Rings for everyone — The Cleveland Cavaliers famously broke the city’s 52-year championship dry spell by winning the 2016 NBA Finals. And Cavs ownership is rewarding not just the players on the team, but pretty much everyone involved with the franchise. According to, more than 1,000 people will be receiving championship rings in The Land…

From LeBron James down to the guy who sold you a hot dog on a Wednesday night at The Q, the entire Cavaliers’ family is getting a 2016 NBA championship ring.

Majority owner Dan Gilbert and his partners decided to present rings to more than 1,000 full and part-time employees throughout the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena organization, employees who’ve been fitted for rings told

A spokesman for the Cavs confirmed the information but declined to comment.

Of course, not every team employee will get the same, diamond crusted ring that’s going to rest on the fingers of James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love and other players from last season, but ticket takers, seat ushers, security guards, Cleveland police officers and all who work behind the scenes at home games will be able to say they won a ring. And they’ll have proof.

The same goes for rings commemorating the Lake Erie Monsters’ AHL Calder Cup victory from last season. Virtually all employees involved with Monsters’ operations, including some who work for the Columbus Blue Jackets (the Monsters’ NHL affiliate) will get rings.

Employees learned about the rings earlier this month at something called the “Spectaculars,” a company-wide (Cavs, Monsters, Quicken Loans Arena) yearly meeting and employee-recognition event. The gesture extends to workers for Aramark, the contractor that supplies food-service workers for Cavs and Monsters home games.

A conservative cost for distributing rings to employees is more than $1 million.

The Cavs declined to say whether or not former coach David Blatt — who was fired in January — or former center Anderson Varejao (traded in February) were getting rings. But Gilbert is obviously in a mood to be inclusive.

Varejao, who played for the Warriors against the Cavs in the Finals, told reporters out West the Cavs had offered him a ring. Anderson, who played for Cleveland from 2004-16, said he was unsure if he would accept.

The Akron Beacon Journal reported that Blatt would get a ring, but both Gilbert (through a spokesman) and Cavs general manager David Griffin would not confirm the report.


No. 3: Mavs hope for big impact from Curry — The Dallas Mavericks made some big moves this summer, adding a couple of former Warriors in Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut. But they’re hoping another new player with Golden State ties has an equally large impact. Seth Curry, brother of Stephen Curry, drew raves in last night’s open scrimmage. And Dallas coach Rick Carlisle says it’s not really fair to compare Seth to Steph

Curry is an intriguing newcomer for the Mavericks. He can shoot. The bloodlines guarantee it. But he needs to do other things to prove he can be a contributor this season.

What he did in the open practice Wednesday before a nice crowd at American Airlines Center was have 15 points and a couple of assists. He hit 3-pointers when the defense left him. He has all the looks of a young scorer at the combo guard spot.

It’s no surprise he can shoot. His father, Dell, and his brother are two of the best shooters in NBA history.

But the question remains: is it hard to be your own man when you have such strong ancestry?

“Not for me,” he said. “I don’t know how other people look at it, but I know my potential and that’s what I base myself on, not what my brother does or what my dad did.”

As for comparisons to his brother, coach Rick Carlisle said it’s about letting Seth Curry be Seth Curry.

“Let’s leave that alone,” he said. “This kid is a terrific player in his own right. To me, it’s a disservice to get into all that stuff. Let this kid be himself. He’s unique in his own right.”


No. 4: Stockton to Kidd? — As coach Jason Kidd works on changing the culture in Milwaukee and making the Bucks contenders, he called upon a fellow NBA legend for some help. Kidd asked legendary Jazz point guard John Stockton to spend a few days with the Bucks, bringing the top two assist-givers in NBA history together

“If you want to help your guys at some of the positions, you find the best and I got very lucky John could join us these next couple days,” Kidd said.

Stockton teamed with Karl Malone in Utah to form one of the top tandems in league history. The point guard played all 19 seasons with the Jazz and his team made the playoffs every year. Stockton was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

“He gave me a hard time for not saying he was a great athlete,” Kidd said. “You’re not (Russell) Westbrook or someone who is touching the top of the backboard.

“But you know how to play the game. Probably everyone counted him out, but him. Just running the show. We have Malcolm (Brogdon) and Delly (Matthew Dellavedova). I see like they have some of him. And I told him we have a pretty big point guard, too.”

Asked if Stockton could help teach a few things to 6-11 point guard Giannis Antetokounmpo, the Bucks coach said, “We’ll see.

“You talk about the best player at his position to be here. We’re very lucky.”

Kidd was one of the all-time greats at the position and played 19 seasons, so it’s a point guard heaven at Bucks camp. Stockton and Kidd also rank 1-2 in steals.

“Very cool,” Bucks forward Steve Novak of seeing Stockton on the sideline. “He’s a legend. He’s a Dream Team guy. He’s one of the greatest players in NBA history.

“It’s just awesome to have someone like that who you looked up to so much.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: DeMarcus Cousins says he’s “excited” about the Dave Joerger era in Sacramento … Tim Duncan showed up at Spurs practice as a spectator … Michael Kidd-Gilchrist says he spent the summer working on his shotDarrell Arthur took less money to stay with the Denver Nuggets … Anthony Carter is back with the Heat, this time as a D-League assistant … NBA team owners continue buying esports teams

Morning shootaround — Aug. 8


Kerr: Don’t call Durant “villain” | Gores: Pistons are in a good place | Cuban behind Bogut’s Olympic run | Ray Allen may not be finished yet

No. 1: Kerr: Don’t call Durant “villain” The Golden State Warriors clearly hit the jackpot in free agency this summer, bringing in Kevin Durant from the Oklahoma City Thunder in a move that not only made the Warriors stronger but also weakened the rival Thunder. But according to Warriors coach Steve Kerr, in an appearance on ESPN Radio, calling Durant (or any of the Warriors, for that matter) villains would be “absurd.”:

“To think of Kevin Durant or Steph Curry or any of our guys as villains, it’s kind of absurd. Especially Kevin,” Kerr said Sunday in an interview on ESPN Radio’s TMI with Michelle Beadle and Ramona Shelburne. “This is one of the most likeable people in this league. He’s just an awesome human being. What he did in Oklahoma City was just amazing for that community.

Kerr added: “Circumstances kind of dictate, I guess, that some people are going to see him as a villain. But it’s only because he decided to go elsewhere to play. He wanted to change his scenery, he wanted a new challenge. More than anything he wanted to play with our guys. He loves Draymond [Green] and Steph and Klay [Thompson] and Andre [Iguodala]. Seeing those guys in New York, he loved seeing the chemistry that exists and he wanted to be a part of it.”

Durant said last month that he didn’t leave the house he’d rented in the Hamptons for 48 hours after he announced his decision because he knew how strongly fans would react to him leaving.

“For a few days after, I didn’t leave my bed, because I was like, ‘If I walk outside somebody might just hit me with their car, or say anything negative to me,'” Durant said last month at Team USA training camp in Las Vegas.

“I mean, I’ve been somewhere for so long, and then to make a change like that, [which] nobody knew was coming, that nobody didn’t think I would do, of course I didn’t know how it would be received afterward. But at some point, I just said, ‘Look, man, life goes on. Life moves on, and I can’t hide forever,’ so I just had to face it.”


No. 2: Gores: Pistons are in a good place The Detroit Pistons won an NBA title in 2004, but rebuilding following that title run proved to be a tough task. But since becoming owner of the Pistons in 2011, Tom Gores has presided over a building project that finally has the Pistons a perennial postseason contender, with aspirations of much more. As Vince Ellis from the Detroit Free Press discovered in a wide-ranging Q&A with Gores, despite the solid foundation finally in place, Gores isn’t satisfied with just being a playoff team and talks about that, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope‘s future and more:

Q: The Pistons appear to be on the rise. With downtown Detroit becoming more of a destination, it appears the time could be ripe for a move. You’ve never closed the door, but can you quantify the importance of the next year for the franchise?

Gores: “I think last year was the beginning of the important years. I think we began to set the course last year. We proved a point. We got into the playoffs. I really like the way we finished with the roster with (forward Tobias Harris) coming in. This year, everybody’s a year older, we’ve got the core set with our folks, so it’s an important year that we prove that we are making progress. I’ve always said patience with progress, so this is an important year because they really just jelled last year, if you think about it. Tobias was new, what a steal with (forward Marcus Morris), (point guard Reggie Jackson) as a true starter in his first year. (Shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) is still a young man. (Forward Stanley Johnson) just turned 20. This a very young team and very, very talented. … It’s an important year for everybody to keep developing, and that’s what Stan’s been focused on, not sitting still to make sure everybody’s got a place to improve. … We have a very focused group. There’s nobody in the locker room that’s a problem for us. These are good guys.”

Q: What can you say right now on the potential to move downtown?

Gores: “We’ve always been open-minded. I’ve always respected (Mike and Marian Ilitch) in terms of what they’re doing. We do have an understanding of some of the things they’re developing down there. There’s a lot going on downtown. …”

Q: Dan Gilbert is doing a lot of business there.

Gores: “Dan (Gilbert), as well. Dan and I have been talking about the soccer team. Whatever we do, I’d like to be that third piece of the triangle between Dan and the Ilitches and then myself to really finish bringing the city together. I think we can do that. I think we have a lot of value to add. Not just the basketball team, but our business expertise. There’s a ton going on and Detroit is getting close to being in the red zone. I don’t know if we’re there quite yet, in terms of the city coming back, but we’re not on the other 20. (Detroit is) getting close, and I think I can be helpful there. We’re staying open-minded and I’ve always said in terms of the Ilitches and what they’ve meant to the city, I think definitely we could be good partners for each other. So we’re evaluating everything and I think we should. I’ve been paying attention to a lot going on in downtown Detroit.”

Q: With a possible KCP extension, you could threaten the luxury tax line (an NBA mechanism to curtail teams’ spending). Thoughts on being a luxury taxpayer?

Gores: “Look, if we weren’t building a core, there’s really no point in paying the luxury tax. Because we are building a core, would I do it? Yeah, absolutely. This is a tremendous team. If you go down the line, player by player, and especially our young folks, these are real players. You look at KCP as a very diverse player. He keeps working at his game and you look at his improvement and just like anybody else, he will improve in other areas. Part of Stan [Van Gundy]’s coaching philosophy obviously is defense. So you say go into the luxury tax for nothing, then that would be silly because then we’re putting the franchise behind. But given that we have such a good core, if that’s what it took, and we feel we’ve made such progress this year, I wouldn’t hesitate to do it because we want to keep getting better.”


No. 3: Cuban behind Bogut’s Olympic run Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban has historically been critical of NBA players playing in the Olympics, rightfully reasoning that NBA teams have huge financial investments with little upside from Olympic success. But in the case of newly signed Mavs center Andrew Bogut, Cuban signed off on Bogut’s appearance with the Australian National Team, telling the AP that they view Bogut’s Olympic appearance as an important part of his comeback from the injury he suffered in the 2016 Finals:

Mark Cuban has been opposed to NBA players competing in the Olympics, but the Dallas Mavericks owner gave Andrew Bogut the clearance he needed to play for Australia after injuring his left knee in the NBA Finals.

And Cuban is pulling for his new center, who scored 18 points to lead the Aussies to an 87-66 victory over France on Saturday in the opening game of the tournament.

“We obviously were nervous and I’m still not a fan of NBA players in the Olympics, but Andrew was going to have to go through a process to get back on the court anyway,” Cuban wrote Sunday in an email to The Associated Press. “Our staff has communicated with him and we knew he would be cautious in his approach to returning.”

Bogut suffered bone bruises in Game 5 while playing for Golden State. Players need a release from their NBA teams to compete internationally if they have a pre-existing injury, and Bogut said he was a little worried he might not get it from the Mavs, who acquired him last month in a trade.

“They were very, very nervous obviously because my prognosis was six to eight weeks and this is right on six weeks right now, but I was open with them and honest,” Bogut said. “I said, ‘Look, if I know I’m not ready and the knee’s swelling up, I’m pulling the pin.’ And they said fine, we trust you.”

Bogut said he even received an email from Cuban before the Olympic opener.

“I told him make sure he has his green-and-gold jersey on watching the game, and he threw a couple of other words I can’t repeat and said let’s go,” Bogut said. “So it’s been a good relationship by email so far.”


No. 4: Ray Allen may not be finished yet — Sharpshooting guard Ray Allen hasn’t played in the NBA since the Miami Heat lost to the Spurs in the 2014 NBA Finals. But speaking to the Hartford Courant at a basketball camp this weekend, Allen said he may still be interested in playing if the situation was right:

“I worked out the other day in New York with a friend of mine,” Allen said Saturday, during a break from his annual instructional camp at East Granby High. “I was shooting, I was going through my routine just like I’d always done. Yeah, I was a little winded, but I was able to go through my routine like I’d always gone though my routine and I didn’t feel like I’d missed any time in doing what I was doing. For me, it’s not ‘Can I do it anymore?’ It’s how I feel after I do it. And yesterday, I felt great.

“I could not have learned all that I’ve learned in 20 years of my life, dealing with coach [Jim] Calhoun, and how to sleep right, eat right, and then go to the NBA and do what I’ve done there and then afterwards just drop the ball and let everything go. I still weigh the same I weighed in college.”

Allen, 41, the former UConn star who won two championships and was a 10-time NBA All-Star, is gearing up or a comeback after two seasons out of the league. While he is not certain he will suit up again, he made it clear that this is not just idle chatter.

“My decision is predicated on what is available,” he said. “I said that I was interested because I never retired for a reason. I’ve been watching, seeing what teams have been doing and I’ve been waiting to see if the opportunity presented itself where I think I could fit.”

It has been assumed that Allen, who last played for the Heat in 2014, would be most likely to join the champion Cavaliers, reuniting in Cleveland with LeBron James, or the runner-up Warriors, who have added Kevin Durant to the team that went 73-9 in the regular season.

The Spurs and Clippers have been mentioned, also, but Allen said he has spoken with the Celtics, with whom he won a championship in 2008, and the Bucks, his first NBA stop.

“I would love going back to those places if it worked out,” Allen said, “because both teams are good, too. It doesn’t necessarily have to be championship-or-bust for me to go back to the NBA.

“I want to be in a situation where I thought I could help, play a little bit and help where they have good young talent.”

Allen, who lives much of the time in Miami, has opened a restaurant called Grown, said he is not yet sure what direction the Heat are taking. How about the Knicks? “Spike Lee has been trying to recruit me,” Allen said. “We’ve been texting.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Paul George is trying to set up a meeting with the French gymnast who suffered a broken leg in the opening days of Rio 2016 … Nick Anderson made it out of the violence in Chicago, and wants to help bring it to an endJoel Embiid was excited by the game-sealing block in Croatia’s win over Spain from his potential 76ers teammate Dario Saric

The Finals Live Blog — Game 6

CLEVELAND — The energy is different for do-or-die games.

The blood pumps harder than usual. The senses are heightened. Paying attention to every little detail, all of the minutiae, is paramount.

Lose your focus for a moment, a two or three minute stretch, and that’s the game.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will be locked in that pressure-packed chamber for at least 48 minutes here tonight at Quicken Loans Arena. Game 6 of The Finals, the same game it all ended a year ago between these two, with the Warriors turning the visitor’s locker room into the “Champagne Room.”

Draymond Green would love to see his return (from a one-game suspension) bring that feeling back for the Warriors, who despite a doomsday narrative since their Game 5 loss at home, still lead this series 3-2.

So what if the Cavaliers pushed for a two-game suspension for Draymond for his Game 4 swipe at LeBron James. And so what if all of Draymond’s Flagrant fouls in this postseason came after review from the league office instead of by the game officials. These things happen.

Again, the minutiae is what matters. The details.

Who scrambles for loose balls and wins?

Who does the basics, putting a body on a body when a ball goes up for the best box out position?

Whose will is stronger?


A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

LeBron has been great in these situations, historically speaking. He’s been known to rise to the magnitude of the moment, the way he and Kyrie Irving did in Game 5, becoming the first pair of teammates to score 40-plus in the same game in The Finals.

Historically speaking, of course, applies to basically everything these Warriors have done this season. The 24-0 start, the 73-9 record, the 402 makes from deep from Stephen Curry and on and on …

The fear that this could very well be the final game of this NBA season cranks the anxiety level up to code red for all involved. That’s why having the great Craig Sager working the sideline on the ESPN broadcast makes this night even sweeter.


We are very excited to have Craig Sager joining our broadcast team for Game 6 of the #NBAFinals.

A photo posted by NBA on ESPN (@nbaonespn) on



Whose stars will shine brightest tonight?

Draymond already said there is no need for him to try to be “He-Man” out there. And LeBron and Kyrie have already done their Batman and Robin routine.

The unanimous KIA MVP is certainly capable of donning his cape tonight and you can be sure Klay Thompson will have his cannon loaded. And might we even get a Kevin Love sighting?

But I think back to this time a year ago, when Draymond finished with a triple-double in the clinching game and wonder, does he have another one in him tonight?

Oh, the energy and anxiety in do-or-die games … I can’t wait!

Dubs at work. #NBAFinals

A photo posted by Golden State Warriors (@warriors) on


Anything is possible tonight! Watch Game 6 pregame w/ me @imisiahthomas @realgranthill @matt_winer. @NBATV @ 7p!

A photo posted by Steve Smith (@steve21smith) on


The clowning has already started with #Game6WardrobeWatch! #BeetleDraymond


SchoolBoy Steph!


Where is the Love?


Pregame coach speak from Tyronn Lue

.. and Steve Kerr


J.R. Smith‘s daughter didn’t hold back when talking about her pops …


2008 Finals MVP Paul Pierce showing off that bling!


Stager’s suit game on blast, as always!

Craig Sager will work his first #NBAFinals game tonight! #SagerStrong

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on


Point guard show game for Game 6 …

Craig Sager will work his first #NBAFinals game tonight! #SagerStrong

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on


Andre Iguodala gets the starting nod tonight for the Warriors, Lineup of Death on deck …


Good question ???



They are ready up in here! Quicken Loans Arena …


Save some for the game LeBron!



Get in formation!


Harrison Barnes is being left open on purpose and he’s not making the Cavaliers pay for it. 6-0 Cavs start.


It’s a continuation of Game 5 early on, Cavaliers up 13-5 thanks to stuff like this …


And this …



Cleveland is rolling up 26-9 …



It’s already that kind of night, and we’re not through the first quarter yet.




Finals MVP … just playing with you. But he’s in BEAST MODE!





Warriors fans have to be really worried now.


Of this we are all certain!



Warriors finally settle down and start making shots and they are still down 39-24 with 8:54 to play.


Warriors, unbelievably, are back in this thing. Down 46-38 with 4:40 to play. Crowd has quieted down.



Warriors need look no further for the source of their struggles ….


This debate never ends!


T. Lue pushing all the right buttons so far …


HALFTIME CAVALIERS 59, WARRIORS 43 … crazy first half, to say the least.




Well, that didn’t go as planned Steve Kerr.




A video posted by NBA (@nba) on



So it’s not just on Steph tonight, huh?


Grand Rapids stand up! #GRDrive







That’s one way to settle this thing … hmm!


More Barnes and Love Tom Foolery …



A motliest of crews. T-Mac, Mike Miller and the great Bill Russell?


Lost mojo, lost bodies (Iguodala is in the bak getting looked at right now), lost everything at the moment!


The Cavaliers don’t look anything like the team we saw in Games 1 and 2 of this series. #SWAG


Iguodala update!


END OF THIRD CAVALIERS 80, WARRIORS 71 … this thing is far from over. DO NOT GO TO BED JUST YET!

Warriors ended the quarter on a Klay Thompson powered 10-run and once again this crowd is nervous.



Steph with the hoop and the harm on ABC. #NBAFinals #StrengthInNumbers #DubNation

A video posted by Golden State Warriors (@warriors) on





My man Ronnie2K dropping dimes on Lil’ Kev … cold!



Steph picks up his fifth for after a clean pick of Kyrie with 9:46 to play. Tough call. Bad call?


Game 6 down to the wire, thanks to this guy.


LeBron saving the bacon right now for the Cavaliers. Possession by possession.



Folks do need appreciate his rare combination of size and skill and the fact that he’s met or exceeded all of the expectations that have dogged him since he was what, 14?




Turtles is watching, too.


Just so we’re clear on what’s going on here.


4:22 to play and Steph’s night ends with his sixth foul and a tech and a tossed mouthpiece and a long walk to the tunnel and the, well, you get the point.



Cavaliers not only stave off elimination for the second straight game, but do it in dominating fashion. They are physically whipping the smaller Warriors at every turn. Oh and LeBron is cooking, just for good measure …


All he did was drop 41 points in 42 minutes on 16-for-27 shooting, 3-for-6 from deep, 11 assists, 8 rebounds and a whole lot of flexing. Game 7 it is.








GAME 7!!!!!!

There will be a Game 7. #NBAFinals

A photo posted by @nbatv on





Morning shootaround — May 29

Warriors more than pretty shots | Fourth-quarter woes return for Thunder | Tyronn Lue, reluctant head coach? | DeJean-Jones’ death hard on coach

No. 1: Warriors more than pretty shots — The game was instantly unforgettable, some of the shot-making was remarkable. But the Golden State Warriors’ ability to force a Game 7 in the Western Conference finals – it will be played on their home court Monday night in Oakland (9 ET, TNT) – owed as much to the defending champions’ ability to grind their way back from the brink against Oklahoma City Saturday. That was the take of our man Fran Blinebury:

OKLAHOMA CITY — It’s hard to take your eyes off Steph Curry and Klay Thompson when they’re doing their tricks with the basketball way up on the high wire.

Curry paints the canvas with equal parts imagination and sheer fearlessness. Thompson just fires like a machine-gunner with a hair trigger.

Spectacular to watch, it can take your breath and vocabulary away.

Thompson set an NBA playoff record with 11 3-pointers, firing in five of them in the fourth quarter. Curry tossed in a half dozen that included the one that finally dropped the hammer.

Yet in order for the pair of All-Star guards to flap their wings and soar like eagles, it was the ability of the Warriors to wrestle in the dirt that set up the incredible come-from-behind 108-101 win that now forces a Game 7 in the Western Conference finals on Monday night.

“We battled,” said Draymond Green.

“We fought for every opportunity,” said Andre Iguodala.

“We stuck with it,” said Andrew Bogut.

This was another game that could have gone like that last two times the Warriors stepped out onto the court in OKC, where a leak in their defense and ball handling became a raging flood and the defending champs were swept away by 28 and 24 points

But instead of sinking on Saturday night, the Warriors found a way to paddle their arms and kick their legs and kept popping their heads back up above the water.

They were frustrated time again and by the Thunder getting second shot opportunities that produced putback baskets. And yet they went right back to work on the backboards and down in the paint and out on the perimeter, swinging their axes with the resolve of coal miners.

“Game 5 was a battle,” Green said. “This was a war.”

The TV highlights that will run in an endless loop between now and Game 7 will show the Splash Brothers doing the act. It is the part of the show for which everybody buys their ticket. But it is often only possible if the Warriors are playing the kind of high-level, high-intensity defense that carried them to the title a year ago and built a large portion of that historic 73-9 record during the 2015-16 regular season.

The idea is to keep doing enough of the dirty work with the shovels in order to give Curry and Thompson a chance to come out and play. They never gave the longer, more athletic Thunder a chance to run away and hide.

In closing, here were a couple of pertinent Tweets overnight:


No. 2: Fourth-quarter woes return for Thunder — One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. And, of course, vice versa, which is the side of Saturday night’s outcome on which the Oklahoma City Thunder landed. Seemingly within reach of The Finals for the first time since 2012, they wound up with a closing performance worthy of some failed bullpen ace nicknamed “El Gasolino.” The Thunder’s two stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, found themselves in the he-who-giveth, he-who-taketh-away dilemma: Without their heroics, OKC wouldn’t have been in position to nail down Game 6. But without their gaffes, the Thunder wouldn’t have been forced to head back to Oracle Arena for the Game 7 showdown. Our own Lang Whitaker reported on the OKC side:

For the Thunder, the loss brought about more questions than answers. Despite not shooting the ball particularly well — the Thunder finished 3-for-23 on 3-pointers — they had every opportunity to close out the series. Yet when it came time to make a closing statement, the Thunder were mostly mute.

During the regular season, fourth quarters were not always the Thunder’s happy place: they lost a league-high 14 games where they’d entered the fourth quarter holding a lead. While they had only lost one playoff game in similar situations, Saturday’s game doubled that total.

“I felt like we didn’t do a great job coming down the stretch,” said Thunder coach Billy Donovan, “and I think we’ve made such great improvements coming down the stretch in terms of just on both offense and defense of doing a better job of executing and that really wasn’t — hasn’t been us the last month and a half. I thought we got a little stagnant coming down the stretch.”

Historically, whenever things get stagnant for the Thunder they can usually get help on the offensive end from either Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook, their two transcendent offensive stars. But neither shined particularly bright tonight, at least by their standards, combining for six fourth quarter turnovers and going 3-for-14 from the field when the Thunder were most desperate for baskets.

“I like my shots,” said Durant, who finished 10-for-31 overall, including 1-for-8 on 3s. “It’s just a matter of them going in. When I drive to the rim, they’re bringing extra guys at me, so I’ve got to do a better job making the extra pass. I wish I could have got a lot of those shots back. I felt great on a lot of them, but that’s just how it is.”

“We want [Durant] to be everything he can,” said Thunder center Steven Adams. “He’s one of the best players in the world, so we want him to be aggressive and he can. We as a team support and trust him, him and Russ. So we give him that freedom. Hopefully we make a play and we do the best we can to put them in the situation we need to be in.”

With their offense sputtering, the Thunder’s defense, which has been terrific throughout the series, also hit a rough patch, giving up 60 second half points to the Warriors. While the Thunder’s athletic roster has presented problems for the Warriors’ high-octane offense, particularly with their ability to switch picks and bother shots, tonight the Warriors basically ran a shooting clinic, finishing 21-for-44 on three-pointers. Golden State’s vaunted Splash Brothers, Thompson and Stephen Curry, totaled 70 points.


No. 3: Tyronn Lue, reluctant head coach? — One team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, already has taken care of its conference championship business and is patiently waiting for the West to deliver its champion to The Finals. That team is coached these days by Tyronn Lue, a rookie head coach thrust into that job when Cavaliers GM David Griffin fired David Blatt four months ago. Chris Haynes of filled the gap between Cavs games this weekend to pull back the curtain on Lue’s hiring and how – even though he aspired to be a head coach someday – Lue didn’t enjoy the manner in which this promotion came:

Tyronn Lue was enjoying a peaceful, rare afternoon off when his phone begin to ring. There would be little peace for the rest of the day.

Eventually, that one call led to others. It sparked conversations between Lue and every member of the Cavaliers roster that eventually reset a season. But it was that initial call that changed everything. General Manager David Griffin was on the line.

In speaking with numerous sources close to “The Call,” learned the details. There were no initial pleasantries. Griffin got right to the point — David Blatt was being relieved of his duties.

Lue’s response was candid and immediate.

“This is f—– up, Griff.”

That didn’t prevent Griffin from calmly asking Lue if he could take over. Hired as the associate head coach a year and a half earlier, becoming the head of a franchise was Lue’s eventual goal. But this didn’t seem right.

Lue pleaded with Griffin, arguing for several minutes that firing Blatt was an excessive move for a team carrying a conference-best 30-11 record. Griffin listened to Lue’s pleas. When they ended, he told Lue the decision has already been carried out.

Griffin circled back to his original question.

“What’s done is done. I’m asking you if you can lead this team?” It had taken a few minutes, but Griffin got the response he sought.

“Yeah, I can f—ing lead this team.”

Griffin then congratulated him.

January 22 marked the birth of a rejuvenated culture that catapulted the franchise to securing its second consecutive NBA Finals appearance.

“I was like, ‘what the f—.’ That was my initial thought,” Lue told “I didn’t see it coming. I couldn’t believe it. But, you’re prepared because you’ve done the coaching interviews and you have your philosophies. But to fire the head coach and you take over the next day with no practice or anything and you have the Chicago Bulls coming in. It was overwhelming.”

Owner Dan Gilbert has been reluctant to speak about Blatt’s departure and Lue’s promotion. However, after his team eliminated the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals in Friday night’s Game 6, Gilbert took in the sight of a revived and confident roster. He felt it was the appropriate juncture to comment.

“I just think it was a great decision that was made,” Gilbert said to “You never know what would happen any other way, but I think [Lue is] fantastic. It’s rare that a guy knows the game and has people skills. You get both with him, like offense and defense almost. He’s a special guy.”


No. 4: DeJean-Jones’ death hard on coach — Followers of the NBA were just getting to know Bryce DeJean-Jones, given his brief stints on 10-day contracts this season with the New Orleans Pelicans and the multi-year deal he signed with the team to stick around for 2016-17 and maybe more. But there were plenty of people who knew DeJean-Jones and were stunned by the news of his death in a tragic shooting in Texas. One of those was Dave Rice, who had coached the young wing player during their time together at UNLV. Rice spoke with The Sporting NewsMike DeCourcy:

The news came to Dave Rice as a question more so than a statement. A friend from Las Vegas checked in to ask if it were true: Was Bryce Dejean-Jones really dead?

It did not take long for Rice to confirm. Dejean-Jones, 23, had been shot to death in Texas. The Dallas police stated Jones broke into an apartment, kicking in the front door and a bedroom door, and a startled resident had grabbed his gun and shot. The apartment owner released a statement indicating Dejean-Jones had been attempting to break into the home of an “estranged acquaintance” — multiple reports indicate it was the mother of his child — but had entered the wrong home

Rice had coached Dejean-Jones at UNLV for three seasons, after he transfered from Southern California. It was a challenge at times, and Dejean-Jones spent his final season of eligibility elsewhere. But they never lost touch.

“It’s just tough when you lose a former player that was special, that went through quite a bit of adversity — and Bryce would be the first one to say he was responsible for a lot of that adversity,” Rice told Sporting News on Saturday. “But he’d made a lot of progress.

“When you see someone you’ve tried to help and you see that person making progress, becoming a man and doing well, and then something like this happens it’s — tough is not the right adjective, but you know what I’m trying to say.”

A 6-6 forward from Los Angeles, Dejean-Jones spent a redshirt year at UNLV after transferring from Southern California, then played two years for the Rebels and produced scoring averages of 10.3 and 13.6 points a game. He was suspended for a violation of team rules and missed UNLV’s final regular-season game in 2014. He reportedly was heard yelling at teammates following the team’s conference tournament loss to San Diego State. It was time to move on.

Rice, now an assistant coach at Nevada, said the rough end to their time together did not diminish their relationship. The UNLV staff worked with Dejean-Jones to assure his graduation and transfer would go smoothly, and at Iowa State he averaged 10.5 points for a team that won the Big 12 tournament.

When Dejean-Jones was called up from the NBA Development League to play for the New Orleans Pelicans, he called Rice to share the joy. When UNLV made the impetuous decision to fire Rice last January, Dejean-Jones was among the former players who called to commiserate.

“We had a very special relationship,” Rice said. ”He knew that I always had his back. I think that was his way of saying ‘Coach, I’ve got yours.’ “


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Anthony Slater of the Daily Oklahoman provides a forensic breakdown of the Thunder’s Game 6 meltdown. … Luke Walton isn’t talking about the Lakers job for now and certainly isn’t inclined to delve into his interview with Phil Jackson. … New Memphis coach David Fizdale may be close to adding a top-notch lieutenant to his staff. … If you want more Klay Thompson — apologies to Thunder fans — here’s a story from last June on the Warrior guard’s high school roots. … For some reason, that Yahoo! site The Vertical treated Thompson’s Yoda socks as if it was breaking news about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping or something. Here’s what all their fuss was about.

Morning shootaround — Jan. 23

VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from Friday

Unraveling of Cavs, James, Blatt began early | Warriors’ Kerr grateful in return | Bulls earning ‘soft’ label | Winning gives edge to All-Star reserves

No. 1: Unraveling of Cavs, James, Blatt began early — It was a hair-on-fire day for news in the NBA Friday, starting with the Josh Smith trade back to Houston and continuing through the pre-emptive weather postponement of NBA games from Saturday’s schedule in Philadelphia and Washington, right on to coach Steve Kerr’s return after a 43-game health absence to Golden State’s bench. But the whopper was Cleveland’s abrupt firing of head coach David Blatt. Not only had Blatt helped the Cavaliers reach the Finals last June, he had them atop the Eastern Conference with a 30-11 record and was in line to coach the East All-Stars in three weeks up in Toronto. Both local and national coverage blanketed the story, with providing the most exhaustive report courtesy of Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin. Here are notable excerpts:

At the very heart of the matter, this is why the Cavs fired Blatt on Friday, despite a record of 83-40 and a Finals appearance. Blatt viewed himself as a coach with numerous championships in Europe, an Olympic medal and 20-plus years on the sideline, a career that made him one of the most experienced coaches in the world.

The Cavs players, especially the veterans, saw him as a rookie.

The issues started before [LeBron] James returned to the franchise in July 2014. The Cavs were all over the place in their coaching search that summer. They offered the job to numerous big names, from John Calipari and Bill Self in the college ranks to Steve Kerr from the broadcast booth. [Cleveland GM David] Griffin also interviewed Alvin Gentry, whom he had worked alongside with the Phoenix Suns, and Tyronn Lue, a rising assistant who learned under Doc Rivers.

But team owner Dan Gilbert wanted to make a different kind of hire. He didn’t want a retread or an inexperienced coach, which is why he chased the veteran college coaches. It’s why he loved Blatt, who was a legend in Israel, something that appealed to Gilbert.

To complicate matters, the Cavs hired the runner-up for the job, Lue, to be Blatt’s assistant. To keep him away from the Clippers, the Cavs gave him a record four-year, $6.5 million deal — for an assistant. Gilbert would later call the coaching staff the best he had assembled in his time as owner.

Blatt endorsed the Lue move, which many in the league saw as an immediate undercutting of the head coach. Never before could anyone remember the runner-up for a job being hired as the lead assistant, and it was taken as an example of Blatt’s NBA inexperience. Blatt also didn’t understand that he would have to earn players’ respect; it would not be instantly given.

“It was like an 800-pound gorilla as the season moved on,” one person involved with the team said. “You could just see LeBron connecting to [Lue] and turning his back on David.”
That didn’t stay a secret. James’ and other players’ complaints about Blatt’s style got out quickly. During games, Cavs players complained about the coach to opposing players. Once, while on the road, an injured Cavs player used the home team’s therapy pool and complained about Blatt, with his thoughts literally echoing throughout the home locker room.

Those who knew Blatt from Europe, where he was known as a fire-breather with players during games, were stunned at how he had changed. When Blatt was the coach of the Russian national team, he famously once kicked two of his best players off the bench because they were talking over him in a timeout. Now, spectators watched in awe as players barked at Blatt in timeouts. That was just one of many adjustments he made to try to make this unwieldy job work.

Blatt, meanwhile, retrofitted the Cavs’ defensive system with his new players, and that helped launch the team’s midseason turnaround. He melded in the new players effectively. He showed his experience as he found a way to give James space while looking for other ways to make a positive difference. At the same time, his yielding to the players — James especially — only further reinforced that Blatt wasn’t a coach who demanded respect.


No. 2: Warriors’ Kerr grateful in return— While one NBA coach’s relationship with his team was getting blown up Friday, another was reuniting. Steve Kerr, after nearly four months and 43 regular-season games, was back on the Golden State bench for its game against Indiana. Kerr had taken a leave of absence on Oct. 1 to recover and rehab from two back surgeries, and while his physical health demanded and benefited from the layoff, his mental health definitely craved his return to everything Warriors. Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury-News was at Oracle Arena to chronicle Kerr’s first game back:

But on this night, one of the biggest adrenaline-rushes of the game actually came before the game, because Kerr had been gone so long after taking a leave of absence due to complications after back surgery.

And despite the Warriors’ amazing 39-4 run under interim coach Luke Walton–who happily moved aside one seat for Kerr’s re-arrival–the Warriors missed their coach.

More than that, he missed them. And was thankful to return to them.

“I felt great,” Kerr said afterwards. “Really nice reception at the beginning of the game. Our fans are amazing. Just felt good to be back in Oracle with all the energy from the crowd.

“Wasn’t our best stuff but we got the job done.”

Kerr has been at team practices for several weeks and on the last several road trips, but he’s the Warriors coach, he won a championship with them last season, and a coach needs to coach.

During the game, Kerr sat quietly through the first quarter as the Warriors got out to a big lead–what was he supposed to fret over?

Then, as the Warriors went through a flat period or two, or when Kerr protested a call or two, he got up, yelled a few things, and called a few timeouts.

He was back.
“Honestly, I didn’t think one bit about who we were playing and when,” Kerr said about the Spurs game ahead. “It was strictly about when I felt ready.

“I wanted to come back a couple weeks ago and I sort of had a target date in mind–and we got to the date and it was, ‘I’m not ready.’ I knew I wasn’t ready.

“But the last 10 days or so have been great; I’ve really felt good physically. Felt like I turned a corner. Feel like I’m ready to go, regardless of who was on the schedule.”


No. 3: Bulls earning ‘soft’ label — As of Friday, there wasn’t a coach in the Central Division who was happy with his team – and maybe not a fan base all that happy with its coach. Tyronn Lue is undefeated for the moment in Cleveland but the Pacers, Bucks and Pistons all have had their issues lately. And then there are the Bulls, where new head coach Fred Hoiberg is frustrated with his team’s poor starts and inconsistent efforts, while many Chicago fans are wondering if management’s designated replacement for Tom Thibodeau is the right guy for the job. Beat writer Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times suggested after Friday’s loss in Boston that the Bulls are “soft,” a four-letter word equal to any profanity around pro athletes and teams:

The first-year coach was asked if he was tired of his team looking soft in too many moments this season, and without hesitation responded, “Yeah, I am.’’

He wasn’t alone.

“Soft’’ is always a dangerous word to use about a team on any level, but also a very fitting description of what this Bulls team has become on a night-to-night basis. And they can try and dress it up with buzzwords like “communication’’ and “energy,’’ but it seems to come back to one common theme with this team: Too soft in too many key moments.

Jimmy Butler definitely wasn’t going to hide from that label.

“Yeah, especially coming out of the gates, and that’s on us starters, man,’’ Butler said, when asked about the marshmallow moments from this team. “We’re digging ourselves a huge hole a lot of these games because we know how talented we are, how well we can score the ball, but defense is all about grit. The will and the want to do-so. I don’t feel like we do-so right now.’’

Even more troubling was Butler pointing out that the coaches stress it, the players talk about it and practice it in shootaround, but once those lights turn on, well, as Butler put it, “when we get out there it’s kind of like we do what we want to do. We’re not on the same page, we’re not communicating, and then on top of everything else we don’t get to the loose ball like the other team does.

“It’s time to stop talking about it. We’ve been talking about this all year long now.’’


No. 4: Winning gives edge to All-Star reserves — If Charles Barkley felt confounded by the fan balloting for the 2016 All-Star starters, he probably will again find plenty with which to quibble when the conference coaches make their selections for the East and West All-Star reserves. The seven players added to each roster – to be announced Thursday as part of TNT’s doubleheader telecast – presumably represent the next-best players through the first 45-50 games of the season. But of course, there are other factors involved. Some coaches apply arbitrary filters to thin the herd of candidates. Others might indulge shameless biases or personal grudges, or game the voting so one of their guys benefits. A couple of East coaches – Toronto’s Dwane Casey and Boston’s Brad Stevensgave some insight on their criteria to Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe:

“Probably the biggest criteria is looking at the team’s record,” Casey said, “because you can score 50 a game and have a losing record, and you’re not going to [be an] All-Star. That’s not only for me, but for all coaches.”

Casey was probably exaggerating just a bit, because a 50-point scorer on any team would be a lock, but you get his point. Wins matter. Stevens echoed that sentiment, saying he uses team success as an easy tiebreaker among players who otherwise appear to be equals.

“Probably a differentiating factor will be who scares me the most,” Stevens said. “That’s just kind of the way I’d look at it. Obviously, who do you have to prepare for differently? Who makes you tweak what you normally do?”

When Stevens analyzes numbers and figures, he does find some advanced statistics quite helpful.

“I look more at efficiency than anything else,” he said. “I don’t get too caught up in points per game or rebounds per game or those types of things. You get caught up in efficiency and those types of things. You get caught up in efficiency from a points standpoint. You get caught up in rebound percentages. I think that, again, you have to also factor in fourth quarter and crunch-time performance.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: One of the most popular topics related to David Blatt‘s firing Friday was speculation over the degree to which Cavaliers susperstar LeBron James was involved. Should James be thought of as a “coach killer” after his experiences with Mike Brown and now Blatt? Or does he draw that sort of criticism unfairly? … The Brooklyn Nets might find plenty to like in Blatt as they cope with a real freefall. … The Nets needed a shooting doctor, so they hired a Nurse. … Former Marquette teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder battled in Boston. … Former NBA referees are mentoring their profession’s next generation. … Re-think whatever your definition might be of a “high basketball IQ.” Introducing the smart ball. …

Blatt fired, Lue promoted, James blamed?

VIDEO: Cavaliers fire David Blatt midway through second season

Cleveland head coach David Blatt – midway through his second season, seven months since taking the Cavaliers to the Finals and weeks away from likely coaching the Eastern Conference All-Stars – has been fired.

And LeBron James is going to have to answer for it.

That’s just the nature of James’ superstar status and clout within the Cleveland franchise. There’s a hierarchy in the organization that includes owner Dan Gilbert and general manager David Griffin, who will be front and center in explaining the decision to dump Blatt at this point in another winning season. James and fellow Cavs stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love will field the questions, too.

But in the long term, James will be the one most charged with demonstrating whether this was the right move at the right time.

The news of Blatt’s termination was first reported by Yahoo! Sports.

Blatt, 56, exits with an 83-40 record and a 14-6 mark in last spring’s playoffs. Even with the Cavaliers’ elimination in six games from the 2015 Finals, the injury absences of both Love and Irving (after Game 1) made it unrealistic to expect Blatt, James or anyone else to beat the Golden State Warriors.

Blatt had been successful enough in Israel and Europe to become the first international coach hired directly as an NBA head coach. But he was hired before James made his free-agent decision in July 2014 to return to Cleveland after four seasons in Miami. Blatt, ostensibly, had been hired to build a team around promising young players such as Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson and others.

It also opened the door to speculation that Blatt never was the coach that James wanted, or trusted in his quest to bring an NBA championship to the market near and dear to the Akron (Ohio) native.

Tyronn Lue, the Cavs’ associate head coach, reportedly will take over immediately and be on the sidelines for Cleveland’s next game, a clash with the Chicago Bulls at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET on ABC).

Blatt had been named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for October/November after guiding the Cavs to a 13-4 start. Cleveland recently had gone 5-1 on a 12-day road trip, pushing its record to 28-10.

But a home blowout loss to Golden State Monday, 132-98, revealed a startling lack of preparation and focus by the Cavs. It exposed further difficulties in blending Love’s complete game with James’ and Irving’s talents. And it had James afterward saying, “We do understand we’ve got to get better. … We’ve got a long way to go.”

There was, naturally, no early confirmation of how much input James or any other players had in the decision. However, there certainly was speculation:

Cavs sign holdout Thompson, should welcome ‘overpaid’ tag

The Cleveland Cavaliers will know Tristan Thompson‘s new $82 million contract is a success if they hear, non-stop from now through the Finals, that the backup power forward is overpaid.

Maybe not “vastly overpaid” and definitely not “outrageously overpaid.” That would suggest some dramatic under performance from what Thompson has been in his first four NBA seasons. But if Thompson winds up giving the Cavaliers something close to what they’ve been getting from him – 12.7 points and 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, at adapting last season to contributing off the bench – and he merely stays tagged as “overpaid,” that will mean mostly good things for Cleveland.

It will mean that Thompson wasn’t pressed into starter’s duty by a debilitating injury again to Kevin Love. It will mean that his playing time didn’t have to jump up to the 39.1 minutes he logged over the Cavs’ final 16 playoff games after Love’s shoulder injury in the first round against Boston. It will mean that Timofey Mozgov, Anderson Varejao and (yikes!) LeBron James likely didn’t miss significant time either to thin the roster’s complement of big men.

The bottom line on Thompson’s new deal – a $2 million bump from what reportedly was discussed with the Cavs at the start of free agency – is that, if it seems a little painful to the organization’s bottom line, a bunch of basketball-related things likely will have gone right.

Here was the initial report on the end of the restricted free agent’s holdout as offered by Cavaliers beat writer Chris Haynes of

The two sides agreed Wednesday to a five-year, $82 million pact, ending a lengthy stalemate that should ensure Thompson’s presence in Northeast Ohio through the deals already in place with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving and, most likely, LeBron James.

Cleveland will have the highest payroll in NBA history with the signing, opening training camp next week with a commitment this year of approximately $115 million.

The dollar amount may baffle some, but Thompson earned his new contract. He bet on himself at the beginning of the 2014-15 season by turning down a four-year, $52 million extension.

Knowing he was stepping into a season in which he was Kevin Love’s backup, Thompson, advised by his agent Rich Paul, decided he was better off playing his hand at restricted free agency.

Critics mocked him for rebuffing such a lucrative offer, citing his “limited skill set.” Nevertheless, he played on and accepted his new reserve role. He was the league’s leading rebounder off the bench with 8.0 boards a night, while also continuing his streak of not missing a game in his four-year career.

Thompson led the playoffs with 88 offensive rebounds. With Love and Irving sidelined, those extra offensive possessions proved invaluable for a shorthanded Cavalier squad.

His motor on the backboards was a constant irritant to opponents. In the Finals, the Golden State Warriors decided they often had to box him out with two guys.

That helped Thompson’s resume and encouraged him and his agent to wait out the league’s Oct. 1 deadline for signing a deal or playing on a one-year qualifying offer. It seemed likely

Thompson could cash in next summer as an unrestricted free agent, shopping in a market flooded with fatter TV revenues that will send the salary cap soaring again. That would, however, almost certainly mean the end of Thompson’s days in Cleveland.

The Cavaliers will be paying dearly to make another run at the Finals in 2016 and keep the core of this championship contender together well beyond that. In addition to the $115 million payroll cited by Haynes,’s Brian Windhorst reported that Cleveland’s luxury-tax obligation for 2015-16 will approach $65 million. That’s a big check to write for owner Dan Gilbert and a big swallow for general manager David Griffin.

So while this sort of thing is undeniably true…

… there is the concept of insurance, and how the best policies are the ones you never actually cash in.

There’s a saying in the NFL that the most valuable player on the team is the starting quarterback and the second-most valuable player is the backup quarterback. Those guys get paid, too, even though no one really wants to see them prove their value on Sundays – that would mean the starter got hurt or stinks.

That’s how the Cavaliers and their fans need to look at Thompson’s deal now. The more he actually plays up to that $82 million figure, the more likely something else will have gone wrong in their championship plan.

Morning shootaround — Oct. 18

VIDEO: Run through Saturday’s highlights with the Fast Break


Time for Dan Gilbert to step in? | Kawhi Leonard wants rings, not acclaim | Lillard ready to lead his team | Jabari Parker needs more time
No. 1: Time for Dan Gilbert to step in? — The ongoing negotiations, if that’s what you still want to call the state of stalled talks, involving the Cavaliers and holdout forward Tristan Thompson might require the pulling of an emergency cord. With the regular season just a week away, should Cavs owner Dan Gilbert get more involved in the talks in order to reach a solution? According to Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio News Group, it may come to that:

In fact, there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency from either side in reaching an agreement. And that means Thompson’s stalemate will continue to hover over the organization like a black cloud, a cloud LeBron James considers “a distraction.”

It may be time to signal to the dugout for Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.

Thompson’s presence on and off the court is sorely being missed. Internally, members of the Cavaliers have expressed to each other how it would be such an unnecessary hurdle to try to contend for a title without their best offensive rebounder and most versatile big defender.

James has been in constant contact with Thompson throughout the negotiations. He has made it clear the importance of ending the impasse as soon as possible.

A championship run is at stake.

“I try not to get involved in that, as far as what the team is speaking on or talking about,” James said about the stalled negotiations. “It’s basically more on a personal level, asking him how he’s doing and if his mind is right and things of that nature. There’s a lot of things that’s much bigger than basketball, even though I know he would love to be here right now and we would love to have him here, but I kind of stray away from that.”


No. 2: Kawhi Leonard wants rings, not acclaim — Some players say they don’t care about fame, applause, blah, blah, but when Kawhi Leonard says it, you tend to believe him. His previous pattern of being soft-spoken and staying in the shadows plays to his personality. And yet this season, Leonard will probably make the All-Star team for the first time if he takes another leap forward in production. Here’s Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News with a discussion with Leonard on this topic:

“I just want (another) one of those up there,” Leonard said, referring to one of the championship banners hanging from the Spurs’ practice facility.

Leonard, 24, has little concern with individual accolades.

“In 2014 I wasn’t an All-Star or Defensive Player of the Year,” Leonard told the Express-News. “If I can get back and win a championship, that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wasn’t surprised Leonard’s motivation stems from pursuing a championship.

“That sounds like him,” Popovich said. “ … He really is more interested in winning than he is with (individual awards). He’s a really selfless kind of guy. … It’s not about him in any way, shape, or form. It’s always been about the group.”

It’s this type of attitude that supports the notion Popovich will be around for a few years after the Big Three dismantle. With Leonard, and now LaMarcus Aldridge added to the mix, Popovich doesn’t worry about character issues, just basketball.

“I’ve always said I’ve been fortunate with the guys I’ve had come through here,” said Popovich. “My job is pretty easy when people have that character and you don’t have to convince them to get over themselves, convince them to be happy for their teammate’s success, or to feel responsible to each other. (Leonard) already feels all that. He understands it when we talk about it. It makes it easier to have a team that enjoys playing together.”

But who could doubt Leonard if he did have MVP aspirations, or if making an All-Star team was a goal?

“I’m not one of the guys in the league for the fame,” Leonard said. “I’m here so I can take of my family, my mom, my friends and take care of myself. I love the game of basketball and as long as I can do that, keep playing and try to get some more championships with the organization, I’ll be happy. I don’t care about winning an MVP – the MVP doesn’t mean you’re the best player in the league.”


No. 3: Lillard ready to lead his team — It’s difficult to imagine the Trail Blazers finishing anywhere close to what they did last season, when they turned a 51-win season into yet another playoff berth. But then the mass exodus began and the lone returning starter is Damian Lillard, who’s hardly backing down from the challenge of spearheading the transition, painful as it might be. Lillard spoke about it with Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune:

If you’re counting, that’s four of five starters from the reigning Northwest Division champions. The rubble is clear, and Lillard is the only mainstay remaining. He’s the one being counted on to guide a bunch of young and unproven players, a gaggle of free agent signings and draft picks looking to make their mark.

Lillard says he’s up for the challenge.

“I have a lot of belief in myself,” Lillard told the Tribune. “I give a lot of credit to my upbringing, and I’ve already done more in this game than I ever thought I would. So I’m prepared for what’s to come. This year will be similar to what I went through at Weber State, except on a higher level.”

When the Jazz face the Blazers on Sunday at the Moda Center, the preseason will be almost over for both teams. When the regular season starts, Lillard will be counted on for more than just the 21 points, six rebounds and almost five assists per game that he provided last year.

He’ll be looked to for additional leadership. He’ll no longer have Matthews around to guard premier opposing backcourt players. He’ll have to take full ownership in clutch moments, instead of splitting them with Aldridge.

Most importantly, he’ll be the unquestioned top option, which means he’ll be at the top of opposing scouting reports nightly. Now in his fourth season, and armed with a new long-term contract, Lillard is prepared to be the face of the Blazers on and off the floor.


No. 4: Jabari Parker needs more time — Despite rehabbing well from the knee injury that ended his rookie season after a little more than a month, Jabari Parker will require a bit more time before he returns to the court. How much time is anyone’s guess right now, but the Bucks and Parker are playing it carefully and sense that there’s no need to rush. All they know is Parker will play at some point this season. Here’s Charles Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with details:

Parker is making steady progress in his comeback from major knee surgery in January and is practicing with his teammates.

Right now, that’s enough for the 6-foot-8 forward and the Bucks.

“I’m feeling my legs getting underneath me,” Parker said after going through practice Thursday. “It’s going to be a grind.

“I’m looking long-term. I really don’t want to risk going back and lingering on if I’m not ready. I just want to be as productive as possible.

“There’s no use in me playing if I know I can’t contribute the way I want to.”

Parker suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament Dec. 15 in Phoenix, an injury that shortened his rookie season to 25 games.

But he said he doesn’t feel cheated by missing so much time.

“My No. 1 goal was to make the playoffs,” Parker said. “A lot of people looked at me like I was crazy.

“It’s all about the team; that’s where it starts. We all contributed at the end of the day.”

The Bucks did make the playoffs as the sixth-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, even without Parker. Now they have Parker returning and the addition of 6-foot-11 center Greg Monroe, raising hopes even higher for this season.

Coach Jason Kidd said no target date has been established for Parker to play in a game. Milwaukee has five preseason games left and opens the regular season Oct. 28 at home against the New York Knicks.

“For us it’s day by day, but at the end of the week we’ll see how he feels,” Kidd said. “We’ll continue with the game plan of loading and giving him more things to do and we’ll see how his body responds to it.

“So far his body has been great.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin visit Lamar OdomArron Afflalo says he once hustled records to the stars … There’s a good chance that rookie RJ Hunter will pass James Young in the Celtics’ rotation … Is the NBA preseason too long or just right?… Dave Bing helps Pistons players adjust to life off the court.

The fall guy in Cleveland?

VIDEO: Kevin Love is Cleveland bound — how will his arrival help the Cavs?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Seventeen games into his tenure with the Miami Heat, LeBron James was taking abuse from every direction. In those early stages of the 2010-11 season, the Heat were 9-8 and the Big 3 era was off to a shaky start, given the outrageous expectations that accompanied the joining of forces between LeBron, fellow free agent Chris Bosh and incumbent face of the franchise Dwyane Wade.

The Heat rebounded from those early stumbles and made it to The Finals before being taken apart by Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and the Dallas Mavericks.

In the aftermath of that ugly finish to their first season, LeBron was quickly cast as the scapegoat (with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra stuck in the mud with him). He flatlined at crunch time in The 2011 Finals. Unlike Wade, he had no championship ring or Finals MVP to fall back on. And Bosh was seen as the third wheel, so there was no way he could be the fall guy in that scenario. So LeBron was left to shoulder that burden, one that ultimately led to back-to-back titles and Finals MVPs.

The roles have been shuffled in LeBron’s latest super-team situation in Cleveland, where he’s the championship veteran with rings and Finals MVPs, playing alongside young All-Stars in Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Unlike Bosh and James back in 2010, though, the next playoff points Love and Irving score will be their first.

Far be it from me to rain on the attention parade going on in Cleveland, the epicenter of the sports universe with the Cavaliers’ new look and the seemingly never-ending Johnny Manziel news cycle. But what happens if (it’s blasphemy, Cavaliers fans, I know) LeBron and friends don’t win the title in their first season together?

Who is the fall guy this time?

Forget the common sense that should come with a new team with new leadership (coach David Blatt playing the Cleveland edition of Spoelstra’s role). The 2010-11 Heat and the 2014-15 Cavaliers face this similar circumstance: anything short of a title will be viewed as a disappointment by most.

And that means someone has to shoulder the burden of that disappointment the way LeBron (and Spoelstra) did when he went dark for weeks after The 2011 Finals trying to reflect on what had been a whirlwind 11 months.

LeBron should be immune this time around. We know what to expect from him. He has extensive experience playing with other elite superstars. He won’t have to make as many adjustments to his game to be effective. Even with the San Antonio Spurs shredding the Heat in The Finals this year, LeBron (cramps aside) was basically unstoppable. It was his supporting cast, both Wade and Bosh in particular, who didn’t play up to their own lofty standards.

And the Spurs were so good, it might not have made a difference if Wade and Bosh played well or not.

Love and Irving are clearly in the crosshairs this time around, given their lack of playoff experience and the fact that the only time they have shared a locker room with players as good or better than them is during All-Star Weekend and their time with USA Basketball. No one knows how either of them will hold up in the crucible that is the postseason. All of those regular-season highlights are useless if either of them melts down in the playoffs or runs into a matchup they simply cannot win.

Love will have to assume the Stretch 4 role that Bosh played in Miami, where his numbers dipped considerably compared to what he put up as a stand-alone All-Star in Toronto. Irving will have to relinquish some of the facilitating duties and scoring load that he’s had to carry early in his career to make sure his game meshes perfectly with two new elite teammates with higher profiles than his own.

Both Love and Irving will have the luxury of playing with the best player on the planet. But not even LeBron will be able to save them from expectations that are not fulfilled. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, general manager David Griffin and LeBron have all done their part. The pieces for success at the highest level have been assembled.

The rest is up to Love, Irving and the supporting cast. And if things go awry come playoff time, the scapegoat list will be easy to make!

Heat owner classy in disappointment

Miami Heat owner Micky Arison handled the disappointment of losing LeBron James much better than Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert did four years ago.

Arison expressed his shock after learning James will leave the Heat after four seasons and two championships to return to the Cavs with a message on Twitter.

James does leave Arison with those two titles, but losing the game’s greatest player will cost the Heat and Arison untold millions in revenue in the years to come.

Gilbert has felt that impact over the last four seasons after James took his talents to South Beach. Incensed by James’ stunning decision to leave, a decision James made on national television without first apprising the Cavs owner, Gilbert wrote an open letter to fans that disparaged James.

Thankfully, Arison, informed of James’ decision not long before Sports Illustrated broke the news through a first-person essay by James earlier Friday, issued his more measured response.

Gilbert offered his own response to James’ homecoming on Twitter.

And this in response to a logical question from his young son: