Posts Tagged ‘David Aldridge’

Blogtable: What grade do you give OKC’s offseason?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Importance of keeping Westbrook? | What grade do you give OKC’s offseason? |
Where do Thunder rank in Western Conference now?


> Overall, how would you grade the Thunder’s 2016 offseason?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: B-. Can’t give the Thunder an A; that would have required Durant to re-up. But I’ll go as far as the B- even though they lost a proven MVP still in his prime. The Westbrook extension allows the franchise and the city, as well as the remaining players, to breathe. And swapping out Serge Ibaka (and unofficially Dion Waiters) for Victor Oladipo, Domantas Sabonis and Ersan Ilyasova is a strong now-secondary move. Ibaka’s impact was in decline, and with Steven Adams on the rise, the rotation up front is more streamlined now. The team still could use help on the wing, but that seems like a quibble in the wake of Westbrook’s re-upping.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comWhen you lose one of the top three players in the league the report card takes a hit. But keeping Westbrook saves the Thunder from flunking summer school. Getting it done before the start of training camp to remove the uncertainty from the 2016-17 gets extra credit points. OKC is no longer among the elite, but I’m giving the Thunder a C+, which includes an A for effort.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comBad. You want a letter grade? Let’s say D. The Russell Westbrook deal is big and adding Victor Oladipo could make for a very nice backcourt, but there is no way getting around the bottom line that losing one of the best players in the world, Kevin Durant, without getting anything in return is a crushing setback. The team that could have been a title contender isn’t any more. That’s the bottom line.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comI’ll give them a B. They lost Durant, but the Westbrook deal and getting Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis in the Serge Ibaka trade made the most of a tough situation.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThey lost one of the three best players in the world and two of their three most important defenders. Adding some depth and tacking another year onto Westbrook’s deal turns an F into a D.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I think a B-minus is more than fair. Since I don’t grade on a curve, the Thunder didn’t make the honor roll. You just can’t when you lose an iconic player like Kevin Durant in free agency. But they salvaged their grade by convincing Westbrook to stick around. We don’t know what the loss of Serge Ibaka will do to this team, if anything at all. If GM Sam Presti and coach Billy Donovan are certain that they have a legitimate top-five center in Steven Adams and a potential star in Victor Oladipo, then they could be in line for a grade change.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: It’s a disappointment — with a huge asterisk. They lost Durant and there is no replacing him. His loss removes them from championship contention next season. But they avoided another potential free agent departure by moving Serge Ibaka while they could for three players who will help immediately, including Victor Oladipo, whose rights will be restricted. Based on the events that they could control, they did as well as they could to come out of this summer with a like-minded roster and some level of contractual certainty for the next several seasons.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI liked trading Serge Ibaka for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and Domantas Sabonis, although I would have liked it much more if Durant was on the roster. Re-signing Westbrook is better than seeing him leave. But then, even while considering the good things the Thunder did, it is impossible to ignore that the Thunder also lost one of the best players in not only the NBA today, but in NBA history. And they got nothing in return. And he went to one of their most bitter rivals. So if I had to assign a grade, I’d say D+. A nice trade, a good extension, but to me they are further away from their goal of a championship than they were three months ago.

Blogtable: Where do Thunder rank in West now?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Importance of keeping Westbrook? | What grade do you give OKC’s offseason? |
Where do Thunder rank in Western Conference now?


> In the loaded Western Conference, where do the Thunder rank going into this season?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Second-tier playoff team. I think the Clippers and the Trail Blazers bump up into the Nos. 3 and 4 spots in the West, with OKC now in the mix with the likes of Memphis, Utah, Houston and Minnesota for the remaining four spots. Not only has Westbrook been a terrific catalyst when playing without Durant, averaging about 30 points, nine assists and eight rebounds over the past two years in such games, but GM Sam Presti, coach Billy Donovan and the rest will be extra-motivated to demonstrate how good the Thunder still are and how well they can remodel a legit contender around Westbrook. They dare not slip into lottery land, at this point.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comWestbrook has already proven that he can anchor the team and lead it to a winning record (45-37) two seasons ago when Durant missed 55 games due to injury. While the Thunder are no longer a championship contender, they battle the Portland Trail Blazers for first place in the Northwest Division. If all goes very well, they’re fighting for the No. 4-5 spots in the Western Conference. If not, OKC is scrambling for the No. 7 or 8 holes. Either way, this is still a playoff team, though the young Minnesota Timberwolves under Tom Thibodeau are coming up fast. 

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comI always dislike August predictions, knowing rosters can still change before the opening of camp, but since you asked: They could still be a playoff team. Russell Westbrook, Steven Adams, Victor Oladipo, Andre Roberson’s defense, Enes Kanter’s offense and rebounding — there are big holes at both forward spots, but that’s also a respectable starting point. To try and pinpoint it, I’ll say OKC is in the 8-9 conversation. I think they’re going to be very motivated and focused. They are not going away quietly, that’s for sure. Getting a boost from a second-year player (Cameron Payne) or rookie (Domantas Sabonis, Alex Abrines) would be a big help, especially since Sabonis can play power forward and Abrines small forward. It’s just tough to count on dependable play from newcomers, though.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Top 5. Russell Westbrook will have an MVP type season and he and Victor Oladipo will mesh in the backcourt.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThey still a good amount of talent, but their defense is going to take a big step backward with the departures of Kevin Durant and Serge Ibaka. I would put them behind Golden State, San Antonio, LA Clippers and Memphis, in the mix for lower seed with Portland, Dallas, Utah, and Minnesota.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The top six is a realistic starting point. Scanning the list of contenders in a top-heavy Western Conference we have to start with that new-look crew at Golden State, followed by the San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies and then the Thunder. I’m not sure what to make of the Dallas Mavericks and their revamped roster. And the Houston Rockets still have James Harden to lean on. The Thunder are in that same mix with the Mavericks and Rockets, without the benefit of knowing how all of the new pieces will fit on each of those teams.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The sure thing — health permitting — is that they’re going to make the playoffs. The top three contenders are going to be the Golden State Warriors, the San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers, which leaves the No. 4 spot wide open. Who’s to say that the Thunder won’t be able to grab it — with the promise of a delicious Western Conference semifinals rematch vs. Golden State in which virtually everyone outside the Bay Area will be rooting for OKC.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogLet’s do this by process of elimination. Eliminating health concerns, I’d say as presently constructed, the very best teams in the Western Conference are the Golden State Warriors, San Antonio Spurs and the Los Angeles Clippers. I would place the Thunder within the next tier of teams, which includes (in no particular order) the Portland Trail Blazers, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies, Utah Jazz, and maybe Minnesota Timberwolves. Can the Thunder make the playoffs? Even if everyone stays healthy, I think it may require Russ averaging 30 points, nine rebounds and nine assists. I don’t know if he can do that over an entire season, but it sure should be fun to watch.

Blogtable: How important was it for Thunder to keep Westbrook?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Importance of keeping Westbrook? | What grade do you give OKC’s offseason? |
Where do Thunder rank in Western Conference now?


> After losing Kevin Durant to the rival Golden State Warriors, how important was it for the Thunder to lock up Russell Westbrook to a long-term deal?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Only as important as it was for those frontier towns that got lucky 150 years ago when the transcontinental railroad got built through their neck o’ the woods. Losing Westbrook on the heels of Kevin Durant‘s departure – and let’s face it, GM Sam Presti would have had to deal Westbrook between now and the February trade deadline – would have positioned OKC as a tumbleweeds franchise as far as future NBA free agency. I write that with full compassion for the Thunder and their fans – I spent 20 years covering Minnesota, one of those markets that basically teeters on a two-legged stool (draft, trades) of player procurement because the third leg (free agents) isn’t realistically available to them. Such teams occasionally lure someone by overpaying but then, that’s what they wind up with – overpaid, underperforming salary-cap ballast. Westbrook helps himself – bigger paydays now, bigger contract next time – and has a sound supporting cast to now thrive as his team’s alpha dog. OKC avoids a plummet in the short term and has the chance to keep its title hopes afloat while courting Russ 24/7 for at least the next two years.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Absolutely critical, though it’s not exactly a long-term deal. He can become a free agent in 2018. The notion of Russell Westbrook walking out the door right behind Kevin Durant would have been a message that doomed OKC to second-class status, perhaps permanently. His decision to stay gives GM Sam Presti a foundation to build upon and keeps a team in place that can still be a part of the Western Conference playoff picture.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The importance cannot be overstated. Locking up Westbrook is that big of a deal for the Thunder. (And, really, Oklahoma City as a whole.) Even if Westbrook would have stayed in the long run, with a new deal after becoming a free agent in summer 2017, this eliminates a storyline that could have dominated the Thunder’s season — “Durant just left, and now Westbrook could be next.” Now the Thunder can deal with certainties more than what-ifs. This only pushes Westbrook’s possible free agency out one more season, but it takes his departure off the table for the foreseeable future. That’s huge.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: They bought him for an extra year. That’s all. There’s no big commitment from Westbrook. This isn’t the same as James Harden‘s extension with the Houston Rockets. Mark it down as a half-vote of confidence from Russ when OKC needed a full vote.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: It’s important, because talent acquisition and retention is the most critical thing in the NBA. If the Thunder were forced to trade Westbrook, there’s no telling when they’d get another player who’s just as good. But essentially (since Westbrook will have a player option in 2018), it adds only one year to his deal. So the positive of this summer are still far outweighed by the negative (Kevin Durant‘s departure) in Oklahoma City.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Getting Westbrook to stick around Oklahoma City for the foreseeable future is colossal victory for Sam Presti and the Thunder, given the way free agency began for them this summer. Two more seasons with Westbrook as the head of the snake keeps the Thunder relevant. Whether or not they will be among the playoff elite in the Western Conference remains to be seen. Westbrook’s supporting cast has to remain healthy and performs to its potential and beyond in order for them to compete in that realm. You can craft a playoff team around Westbrook, we know this much. Whether or not they are a true contender in the Western Conference depends on the continued improvement of guys like Steven Adams, Enes Kanter, Victor Oladipo and others.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: This is a coup for a small-market team to defy trends and convince a star like Westbrook to not only take less money but to not return home to play for the Lakers in 2017, as has been rumored for the last year. It speaks to the program that has been built in Oklahoma City, regardless of Durant’s departure.

Their talent has been diminished by Durant’s move, absolutely, and yet the identity of the Thunder is stronger than ever. The old stylistic tension of Durant vs. Westbrook is no more. They are now indisputably a hard-driving defensive-minded team based on the tireless personality of Westbrook and his leading teammates, and the way they play will serve as a reflection of their community. The fans in Oklahoma City are invested in their team more so than any other fan-base in the NBA, and Westbrook has shown that he is invested too.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: It was either crucial or it was just ok, and I’m not sure which it was just yet. Crucial because after losing Durant, the Thunder clearly needed to keep Westbrook around to have a shot at even remaining competitive next season. And by keeping Westbrook under contract for the next few seasons, the Thunder have a solidified foundation upon which to build. Then again, it may be just OK because we still don’t know if Westbrook is the kind of player you can build an NBA championship team around as the main player. They’ve secured his services long-term, but can he lead a team to a title?

 

Blogtable: Your favorite Olympic basketball memory?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Your favorite Olympic memory? | Should LeBron chase ghost of Jordan? | Are the Knicks a super team?


> With the Rio Summer Games set to begin this weekend, reach way back into your memory and find that Olympic basketball moment that you’ll never forget.

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Easy. A press conference in Barcelona, Spain, the day before the 1992 U.S. Men’s Olympic Team — the “Dream Team” — was set to begin play. They’d coasted through the Tournament of the Americas in Portland, playing games of such little competitive value that opposing players were asking for pictures and shoes. There wasn’t a thought that the pros would actually lose an Olympic game, but there was some concern that they’d play sloppy an not be focused on the task at hand. In those days, a lot of people in the Olympic movement were dead set against NBA players in the “amateur” Games, and if the Dreamers didn’t play with some intent, the Ringheads would have a field day castigating their presence.

Anyway, someone asked Charles Barkley what he knew about Angola, the U.S. team’s first-round opponent.

“I don’t know much about Angola,” Chuck said, “but I know one thing–they’re in a lot of trouble.”

I didn’t give the Dreamers’ mental state another thought.

The Dream Team was even better than advertised. I had begged my boss at The Washington Post in the fall of 1991 to let me cover that team, and he agreed. It was the best move I ever made. Barkley, newly traded to Phoenix, was the best player on the team. Chris Mullin shot 75 percent on 3-pointers. David Robinson and Patrick Ewing were unbelievable at the defensive end. Magic Johnson made a dozen or so no-look passes. Clyde Drexler and Scottie Pippen cheated in the passing lanes and filled them on the break, and Michael Jordan was, really, a bystander for most of the fortnight, only dominant here and there. He didn’t have to be. The U.S. team went on a 46-1 run against Angola in that first game, Barkley elbowed an unfortunate Angolan named Herlander Coimbra in the chest, and the Americans went on to win the gold by an average of 43.8 points per game. They were perfection on the court, or as close as I’m ever going to see.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comYou said “way back” so I’m going with the most memorable Olympics basketball game ever, USA vs. Soviet Union in 1972. I saw it as a kid, though little did I know that’s when game officials instituted sports’ first “replay system” — as in, let’s keep replaying this till the desired result is achieved. Allowing the USSR three bites at the gold apple was an international heist worthy of another “Oceans 11” sequel, and bravo for the Americans for not accepting their silver medals. There was a happy update, however: I covered the 40th reunion of that ’72 USA team and the fact is, they are better remembered and probably have bonded more tightly than any of this nation’s (yawn, business as usual) gold-medal champs. Never forget.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com1972 Munich. A skinny, young Doug Collins, who was clobbered after making a steal at half court and driving to the basket with 3 seconds left, gathered himself and made the two biggest clutch free throws I’ve ever seen to give the United States a 50-49 lead. Everybody knows the craziness and controversy that followed. But the sight of a wobbly Collins draining those two shots remains burned in memory.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I once saw a guy, Vince Carter, turn another guy, Frederic Weis, into a step stool. That’s a pretty good one.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Vince Carter’s dunk in 2000, the poster to end all posters. Carter should’ve been awarded two gold medals — one for winning the basketball tournament with the U.S., and another for the high jump. Too bad this came before Twitter. I would love to have listened to the conversations between Frederic Weis and his consoling teammates right after the fact. What’s French for, “You good?”

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: On the opening night of the 2008 games in Beijing, I had a seat near the top of Wukesong Culture and Sports Center for USA-China. The game wasn’t very good, but it was an incredible atmosphere that introduced me, as well as some of the American players, to China’s passion for basketball. The sold-out crowd obviously cheered own team, but were nearly as loud when the U.S. team was introduced. And Kobe Bryant was clearly their favorite. There have been much bigger moments in in Olympic history and the gold medal game that year was a classic. But on a personal level, that opening night was something special.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I hate to answer a question with a question, but does the entire Barcelona experience count as a moment? If so, I’m going with the original Dream Team and the magical ride we all went on following that team. That includes the exhibition games, the actual competition and all of the fantastic memories the Dream Team provides to this day. I’d never thought about the game in global terms until then, until we got a chance to see how big our NBA stars were on the other side of the world … and to so many other world class athletes. That was also the one chance we had to see Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and others in the same uniform (in something other than All-Star weekend), so it was truly like watching a fantasy team in action.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: I remember as a little kid watching the 1972 Olympic basketball final on TV. Doug Collins introduced himself to the world by making two free throws to apparently earn the gold medal with three seconds remaining. Then, in a sequence of inept game management by the officials, the Soviets were given three possessions to win. It turned out to be the most important game in the history of basketball, because it encouraged the rest of the world to think of the Americans as rivals rather than as gods; but I remember it being the first time I realized that the better team doesn’t always win.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Well, the Dream Team is obvious answer, because for me as a teenage NBA fan, seeing that particular collection of greats (Michael! Magic! Bird! Charles!) on the court together at the same time in the same uniform was unimaginable and just so exciting. I showed my support by trying to collect all the cups from McDonald’s. I also had the good fortune to have the 1996 Olympics take place in my backyard in Atlanta, and I was able to attend a bunch of basketball games. It wasn’t the Dream Team, but it wasn’t far off.

Blogtable: Are Knicks a super team?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Your favorite Olympic memory? | Should LeBron chase ghost of Jordan? | Are the Knicks a super team?


> Derrick Rose says the Knicks have built a “super team” this offseason. You buying that? And will we see Rose return to at least an All-Star level in New York?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: No. And, no.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: The Knicks are the sort of “super team” that you might see in late-night infomercials, where the “super” gets tossed around rather haphazardly. By reputation, eh, maybe — they’ve got a former MVP (Rose), a former Defensive Player of the Year (Joakim Noah), a star-in-the-making (Kristaps Porzingis) and a late-prime scorer (Carmelo Anthony) who hasn’t cracked the all-NBA selections or top 10 in MVP balloting, or reached the playoffs, in three years. The Knicks are a super team the way the Shaquille O’NealKobe BryantKarl MaloneGary Payton Lakers were in 2003-04 or the Kobe BryantPau GasolSteve NashDwight Howard Lakers were in 2012-13. All hat, no cattle.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comNo and no. But please, let me have some of whatever he’s drinking.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I’m absolutely buying that. And that he was looking at the roster of the 1969-70 Knicks when he said it. If he really did mean the 2016-17 Knicks, well, I hope Derrick is feeling better and there are no lingering effects from falling on his head just before talking. We know he has All-Star confidence. As for the actual All-Star game, I don’t think we will see Rose in City To Be Named Later. But I do think he will have a positive season and that the acquisition will turn out to be a good one. The Knicks will improve and Rose will be an important part of those gains.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: It’s a super team … from 2011. Although, let’s put it in perspective: For Knicks’ fans, it’s a super team, considering what they’ve had to witness for much of the last 10-15 years. Snark aside, I do believe Rose will play close to All-Star level, if not a bit higher. He doesn’t have any serious physical issues; it’s his jumper, which is flatter than Nebraska. If he does less shooting and more passing — he’ll have plenty to work with — he can reinvent himself for the better.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: No. Even if you put the health questions aside, New York’s best players are a couple of steps below those we saw in Boston and Miami, or the ones now in Cleveland and Golden State. If they are healthy though, that starting lineup can be very good, and it’s not as old as it seems (Carmelo Anthony and Joakim Noah are just 32 and 31, respectively). They can make the playoffs, but I still don’t see Rose as an All-Star this year. He’s never been a good shooter, and the loss of explosiveness has kept him from being able to finish at the basket as well or get to the line as often as he used to. Among 175 players who took at least 500 shots last season, he ranked 168th in true shooting percentage (scoring efficiency).

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’m selling … like cheap street meat on the corner outside Madison Square Garden. That “super team” designation is thrown around far to liberally for my tastes, especially these days. Every time you put a couple of All-Stars together people think they’ve got a “super team.” I’m rooting for Derrick Rose to get as close to his top form as is humanly and physically possible, but I won’t be a party to “super team” talk when it is not warranted. The Knicks need to concentrate on making the playoffs in what should be a tougher than expected Eastern Conference. Get to the postseason first, then we can talk about what comes next. But enough already with this “super team” stuff.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Five years ago they would have been a super team. As it is right now, they should be contending for the playoffs, because Carmelo Anthony can perform at a high level and Kristaps Porzingis should be challenging for the All-Star team. But Rose and Joakim Noah are vulnerable physically, based on the injuries they’ve suffered in recent years, which means a couple of major trends must be reversed in order for them to be more than a first-round team — and for Rose to renew his All-Star past.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogWhen Rose said that to me, my eyes may have betrayed any attempt to look nonplussed in the moment. But upon further reflection, I thought Rose said several things in that interview that were probably more newsworthy — the way he was trying to play a less-athletic game this season; his willingness to play off the ball; Hornacek’s adjustments of the Triangle to include more pick-and-roll. I don’t think Rose will ever return to the Derrick Rose that won an MVP, but a more economic Rose might play pretty nicely in the Big Apple.

Blogtable: Should LeBron chase ghost of Jordan?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Your favorite Olympic memory? | Should LeBron chase ghost of Jordan? | Are the Knicks a super team?


> LeBron James told Sports Illustrated this week that his motivation is “this ghost I’m chasing.” He of course was referring to Michael Jordan. Is that chase worthwhile? And how much closer is LeBron after last June’s Finals?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Yes, it’s worthwhile. Who else is going to motivate James at this point of his career, after 13 years and a whole lot of mileage. It’s certainly possible James could get close–he’s got three titles, and no one is going to keep Cleveland out of The Finals from the East any time soon. A Cavaliers team that doesn’t have 52 years of history on its back should play free and easy for a while, and give LeBron a couple of real good cracks to get close before he’s too old to play at this level any more.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comAs soon as I read about LeBron’s motivation, I thought, “Just whom was Jordan chasing?” I’m not sure he was chasing anyone — the GOAT title was tossed around in debates about Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, with occasional Magic Johnson mentions, without any clear victor — and that’s to Jordan’s everlasting credit. He was an original, the guy who became the standard against whom all contenders would be measured both on (basketball) and off (business) the court. No one drew in casual fans like Jordan — as gifted as James is, stylistically he’s still a turbo-charged luxury SUV going against a Ferrari. James already is a Top 5 all-timer in my opinion and this year’s Finals gives him a boost even within that elite group. But he needs three more rings to match Jordan and his success rate won’t ever be as good.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com Of course, it’s worthwhile. After six straight Finals appearances and his performance in the unprecedented 3-1 comeback over the Warriors, I do believe LeBron is a lot closer than the eternal worshippers at the cult of Jordan will ever admit.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: If it motivates LeBron, then it’s worthwhile. That it could become tangible on the court, in the most recent June or others in the future. But that’s the only real value in the chase, because it isn’t a chase. It could become a good debate topic and that’s it. Each ring obviously builds a better case for a player, so, yes, the argument for James did get stronger at the end of 2015-16, not just that the Cavaliers won the championship but that they won in unprecedented fashion with the rally from 1-3. That is the tangible. That is the part of the chase that matters.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Can we please stop? Please? LeBron isn’t on pace, or on track, or within sight of Jordan. That’s a nice little narrative being spun by him and his people and media folks who were too young to have seen Jordan actually win six championships, and the public and its short-term memory. Jordan never vaporized the way LeBron and the Miami Heat did against the Dallas Mavericks in The 2011 Finals. Jordan is 6-0 in The Finals and was clutch as they come. Oh, and that block by LeBron against Andre Iguodala? Contrary to what some announcers said, that was the second-best defensive play in Finals history. Jordan’s sneak-from-behind strip of Karl Malone, which directly led to the championship-winning jumper over Bryon Russell, was the first.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Motivation is a good thing and trying to chase the legend of Michael Jordan will keep you motivated for a long time. It is valid to compare the two, though it’s difficult because their skill sets, team situations and timelines are so different. Pulling his team out of a 3-1 deficit against the best regular season team of all-time will eventually be a big part of LeBron’s legend, and it helps his case that Jordan never did anything similar against a team nearly as strong.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The chase is certainly worthwhile for LeBron. In fact, I don’t know what else he could use to legitimately motivate himself at this stage of his career. He’s already the best player of his generation, a three-time champion and the global icon he’s always wanted to be. He’s also on the short list of guys who should be considered for Top Five All-Time status. That said, he’ll find out the same thing others who have spent lifetimes chasing ghosts know well, that there is no payoff at the end of this journey. You can’t chase what you can’t see. And as magnificent as LeBron’s career has been from the start and for all that he could still accomplish, I feel like he’s in the midst of a trivial pursuit. Sure, he could match Jordan’s raw numbers but he’ll never be able to match MJ’s concentrated greatness. The condensed brilliance of the Jordan era, including the mountains he had to climb to drag the Bulls to a championship level squad and then sustain it, is what separates him from so many other of the game’s all-time greats.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The chase is definitely worthwhile, and the ghost is within reach because of LeBron’s versatility. He’s 31 with six straight Finals appearances and three championships, and he has a chance to remain at or near the top of the league for years to come because of his size and versatility. So long as he stays in Cleveland, it is going to be hard to prevent him from returning to The Finals year after year. And isn’t it highly conceivable to imagine LeBron reinventing himself as the NBA’s best power forward at age 35?

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogIf there’s anything we’ve learned from awesome sci-fi shows like “Stranger Things,” it’s that the ghosts and the monsters are the ones that chase you, not the other way around. And when you are the one who’s doing the chasing, the ghosts and monsters are not just sitting around waiting to get caught. So if LeBron’s gonna slip into a Ghostbusters suit and chase after that ghost of MJ, more power to him. But also, good luck trying to catch something that doesn’t really exist. The myth of MJ is what makes him so great. And also unlikely to ever get caught.

The Finals Live Blog — Game 3

THE LAND — Perspective is everything this time of year.

The NBA season dictates that you treat each and every moment during the early days of June like the precious moments that they are and will be forever.

It’s that perspective that determines your fate, your future, especially in The Finals … previewed, above, by the Hang Time Podcast crew (with our main man John Schuhmann subbing for the injured Rick Fox) at the Pho Thang Cafe this afternoon.

LeBron James called it a “do-or-die” game for his Cleveland Cavaliers, for The Land, and for Kevin Love (who will miss tonight’s game after not being cleared of the NBA’s concussion protocol).

And Stephen Curry reminds us that the Warriors did nothing more than take care of home by winning Games 1 and 2 of this series by a combined 48 points.

The @warriors look to take commanding 3-0 #NBAFinals lead with a win tonight!

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

Perspective, folks.

This series is not over.

Not yet.

There’s plenty of basketball to be played, at least eight or more quarters between now and Friday night’s Game 4.

We’ve written teams off before in this postseason (anyone remember that 3-1 hole the Warriors were in against Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals?), only to see said team rise from the ashes and shock the world.

I’m not making any predictions, that’s fool’s gold. I am only here to point out that you keep your mouth shut until someone wins four games. A little NBA History, from @NBAHistory, for you …

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He’s got his hands full with the Warriors, Rex. Let the man concentrate.

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Not entirely sure I would take it this far. But this is The Land, where every move LeBron makes seems like the earth moves with him.

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Our main man Trey Kerby from The Starters gets the scoop from Benjamin Button … er, I mean Richard Jefferson.

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This is one of the things that worries me where LeBron is concerned. Just how much fuel does he have left in his tank right now? This is, after all, his sixth straight trip to The Finals.

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R.I.P Sean Rooks!

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The kid’s got a better eye than some of those GM’s that passed on Curry in the Draft!

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RJ starts at small forward with LeBron filling in at power forward for Love.

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You knew this was going to come up a time or two … or three million!

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One of the all-time great Cavs still believes in The Land!

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#SPLASH

Splash Brother, pre-game.

A photo posted by John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) on

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#Automatic

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The HOFer and Bay Area icon Ronnie Lott speaks …

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They are only averaging 10 free throws a game, so opportunities for tom foolery could be limited … just saying!

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I gotta get on Snapchat

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David Aldridge and Steve Kerr

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I’m with Judge Judy!

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Bow Wow sending messages?

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Justin Beiber and Lewis Hamilton in the building

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The Golden State Cavaliers?

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Anything less than wild would be uncivilized.

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By any means necessary …

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Ideal start for the Cavaliers. Warriors go 0-for-4 and they make 4-of-5 for a quick 9-0 blitz. Crowd is indeed wild.

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Their one fatal flaw! Down 21-8 on the opening blitz from the Cavaliers!

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The Kyrie Irving Show tonight!

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Game changer right there!

CAVALIERS 33, WARRIORS 16 after a wild first quarter that included Klay Thompson going to the locker room with a knee injury and Kyrie Irving smoking!

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Klay is back, Warriors still struggling from deep (1-for-12) but only down 12 right now with 6:56 to play until halftime.

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Klay finally gets the Splash Brothers on the board. Death lineup causing major problems for Cavaliers, who lead 40-31.

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He’s finally into the series …

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Uh, Klay Thompson is back and playing with bad intentions!

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Tristan Thompson is all over the place.

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CAVALIERS 51, WARRIORS 43 in a wild first half. The MVP has been a disaster but his teammates are battling like crazy. Feels like the Cavaliers should be up 20 but they couldn’t get right in the second quarter.

Warriors defense was stellar (see Draymond denying LeBron here):

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At the half in Game 3 of the #NBAFinals!

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

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JR SWISH!

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APB out for the unanimous MVP tonight …

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THE 2-ON-1 fast break for 3?

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Cavaliers dishing out a little medicine of their own to the Warriors right now. JR with a pump-fake 3 on Klay. 67-48 Cavs.

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Funny how one game changes seemingly everything.

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Who needs a bench?

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The Warriors’ Game 3 road disasters continue in this postseason …

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@realtristan13 stays patient in the paint! #NBAFinals #phantomcam

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

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The old man’s still got hops!

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One more look …

CAVALIERS 89, WARRIORS 69 at the end of 3rd Quarter … looks like we’re going back to Cali after all! (12 minutes to play still. Cavs and this crowd cannot let up!)

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Absolutely!

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So true!

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Quite a few strange whistles tonight that went in both directions. #TruthHurts

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All of the mismatches going the Cavaliers’ way tonight. They are pouring it on, LeBron in particular when he gets a mouse in the house!

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Maybe it was the shoes …

👀 @kingjames' #NBAFinals #NBAKicks! 👀

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

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Maybe Tyronn Lue knew what he was taking about after all …

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Flip it and reverse it. #ALLin216

A video posted by Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) on

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Cold, hard, facts …

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That “desperation” move, starting RJ, worked out for the Cavs.

Mood. [ @MeanGreen_Clean #MonsterPlay of the Game 💪🏾]

A photo posted by Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) on

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#SHADECITY

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Sometimes a Big 2 is all you need.

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“Cavs in six” chant breaks out with 51 seconds on the clock and the home team up 30. Be easy now, it’s just one game. It’s a final, Cavs 120, Dubs 90. Big games from Kyrie, LeBron and JR Smith showed up. No Love, of course.

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@cavs win Game 3 behind a big night from @KyrieIrving and @KingJames. #NBAFinals

A photo posted by @nbatv on

Blogtable: More impressive Warriors feat — winning 73 or 3-1 comeback?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: What’s next for Durant, Thunder? | Warriors’ most impressive feat so far? |
Who wins The Finals and why?


> More impressive feat: Winning 73 games in the regular season, or coming back from 3-1 in the conference finals?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Coming back from 3-1 against a committed opponent is incredibly impressive, but teams have come back from such deficits (though it’s been very rare). Plus, Golden State had the advantage of having two of the last three games of the series at home. No one has ever won 73. And considering how much good fortune and consistent play were required to do it over a full season, the Warriors’ regular season mark stands taller.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comHow many NBA teams have recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win a seven-game series? Ten. Now, how many NBA teams have won 73 games in a season? There’s your answer. The Warriors’ specialness across six months, from the 24-0 streak to start the season to the way they embraced the challenge of chasing down the ’96 Bulls, will be remembered a lot longer than what they accomplished in a week against a fierce opponent in a conference finals. Even if Stephen Curry, Steve Kerr and crew did that in The Finals, it would simply cap their magnificent overall year.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Two completely different things that are historic, equally impressive and should be appreciated separately, kind of like juggling chainsaws while walking a tightrope.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The comeback. Winning 73 out of 82 is impressive and should not be brushed aside, but the Warriors didn’t face the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers of Brooklyn Nets while winning three in a row to reach another Finals. Golden State didn’t just beat a championship contender three in a row with the season on the line, Golden State did it with two clutch finishes and one victory in a very tough road setting. As I wrote after Game 7, beating OKC in the final four was more impressive than beating Cleveland in The 2015 Finals. Not more important, because it’s about the rings, but more impressive because of the opponent and the uphill climb.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comOne was historic, the other was done nine previous times. So I’ll go with the 73 wins, even though, on the scale of importance, it’s second to winning the West and advancing to The Finals. I must admit that rallying from 3-1 against Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook was impressive. But not historical.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Winning 73 was more impressive, because it took six months of focus through a grind of a season that included 20 back-to-backs and almost every opponent giving you their best. But coming back from 3-1 was more important, especially if it leads to another championship.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Folks love to talk about the regular season being meaningless once the playoffs begin. That’s foolishness. The 73-win regular season the Warriors compiled was a most impressive feat, something never done before in the NBA. The Warriors are the 10th team in NBA playoff history to come back from 3-1 down. As impressive as it was to see them rebound against the Thunder, it won’t come close to topping 73 wins anytime soon.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Other teams have recovered from 3-1, but no one else has ever won 73. As impressive as the last three wins have been, the regular-season record was the result of six months of focused, discipline work.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogDo they have to be mutually exclusive? I thought both of these feats were impressive, and in some ways, I’m not so sure the second one happens without the first. That drive for 73 had to prove to the Warriors their remarkable resiliency and ability to overcome adversity, and I’m sure it was useful trying to come back from down 3-1. If I have to pick one, and I suppose I do because otherwise we wouldn’t be here Blogtable-ing, I’ll go with the 73 wins. Coming back from 3-1 was certainly tough, but they came back from 2-1 twice in last year’s playoffs. Winning 73 required a long-term focus unlike any team, ever, has ever been able to sustain.

Blogtable: What’s next for Oklahoma City Thunder and for Kevin Durant?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: What’s next for Durant, Thunder? | Warriors’ most impressive feat so far? |
Who wins The Finals and why?


> So what now for free agent Kevin Durant? And what now for the Thunder?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: You’d be crazy to guess at this point, but the trend lines seem to be going in Oklahoma City’s favor, at least for one more year. As detailed in the Morning Tip on Monday, if Durant signs a two-year deal this summer with the Thunder with a one-year out, he’d set himself up for a potential five-year contract with OKC in the summer of 2017 for more than $200 million. Now, money isn’t the only thing driving Durant’s decision making, of course (and especially given the $250-plus million he’s already banking from Nike), but that’s not a sum you dismiss out of hand. More importantly, OKC’s rapid development the second half of the season and in the playoffs surely gives the Thunder more than a fighting chance of keeping its superstar. Coach Billy Donovan was more than comfortable matching Xs and Os with top-shelf coaches. Steven Adams went Beast Mode on opponents. Andre Roberson carried his weight offensively against the San Antono Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. Serge Ibaka again asserted himself as a defensive force and Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter gave the Thunder one of the league’s best benches. And, oh yeah, Russell Westbrook was Russell Westbrook. So, if you’re Durant, and you already like living someplace where people basically leave you be, and your team showed itself a legit title contender…where can you go that’s better? The Los Angeles Clippers’ core is older and the Miami Heat’s future is uncertain with Chris Bosh‘s health concerns. The Spurs already have an All-Star small forward in Kawhi Leonard. OKC already had the power of incumbency. After its playoff run, I’d put its chances at retaining Durant at 3-1.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: If Kevin Durant is interested in pursuing a championship, he should stay right where he’s at. That team has the talent and depth to contend again next season, and the Thunder surely can find ways to complement Durant and Russell Westbrook‘s firepower in a more balanced attack. Durant won’t find a more committed organization or adoring fan base, either. Now if it’s lifestyle he’s seeking, then fine, go live and work where you want to, the way 99 percent of America’s workforce does it — or could, if people really looked at their options. I don’t think he can get much more famous or ever spend any difference in off-court income that a bigger market might provide, but that would be Durant’s choice. For theatre, it would be fun to see Durant land on one of about a dozen different rosters, just to feel the NBA landscape shift. But for sheer balling, OKC seems to suit Durant fine. And vice versa.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com The Thunder simply wait on Durant. They don’t campaign or twist his arm or send him love letters. They just wait for Durant to reach the conclusion — and he might already be there — that there is no better place for him than Oklahoma City, where he is appreciated, adored and, most importantly, has the pieces already on hand to come right back next season and make another championship run. Where does he find another Russell Westbrook to be his sidekick? Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka, Andre Roberson all are the real thing. And coach Billy Donovan showed he has the chops. Does Durant sign a long-term deal in July or take the LeBron James one-year option and cash in even bigger next season? That’s for him to figure out. But one way or another, I believe he stays in OKC. For good.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Nothing’s changed. Durant comes back for one season plus an option and goes through free agency for real in the summer of 2017. That has been my belief since before the playoff started, and nothing that happened in the postseason alters the opinion. There are a ton of reasons to stay in OKC well beyond 2016-17. He knows it and does not take the positives there for granted. What now for the Thunder? Respond to the ache of that elimination. How it changes them, if at all, will be one of the early storylines to watch for next season.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The Summer of Durant will fall flatter than OKC did late in Game 6 when Durant decides to return to OKC for at least another year. So much for drama. That’s the safe route, one that leaves him an out, if he so wishes to use it in 2017 when Russell Westbrook‘s deal is up. Meanwhile, OKC will be OK, provided the Thunder find a shooter (and he isn’t Dion Waiters, either). Folks need to calm down about this team. OKC beat a 67-win San Antonio Spurs team and took the 73-win Golden State Warriors to the brink. No shame in that, even if they were up 3-1.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comLogic says that he should sign a two-year deal with the Thunder that gives him the option to be a free agent again next summer, when the max salary is projected to be higher than it is this year. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he signs a long-term deal to remain in Oklahoma City. I would be surprised if he leaves after coming so close to a return to The Finals. The Thunder don’t need much to get over the hump. It would help to have a wing who can both shoot and defend at a high level.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Kevin Durant knew the day would come when he could no longer duck the free agency questions. Yet he still found a way to do so even in the moments after the Oklahoma City Thunder completed their collapse in the Western Conference finals. He insisted that he hadn’t given free agency a thought. Sure. Just go ahead and sign the two-year deal with the player option for the second season so we can get not to the free agents that might actually be in play for all of these teams with cap space to use up. The Thunder have no choice but to wait Durant out and see what his final decision will be. They’re clearly closer to championship level right now that many of us thought prior to their playoff run. So they should feel much better about a future that includes Durant.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Doesn’t Durant have to return for at least one more year? Midway through the conference finals he and Russell Westbrook were playing the best basketball of their careers. It makes no sense to give up on their longterm investment when it is so close to paying off.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI’ve seen numerous people say that if Kevin Durant wants his best chance at winning a title, he would leave OKC and go to the Eastern Conference. Which I don’t think is correct. To get to The Finals in the East you have to go through LeBron James, and that is one heckuva roadblock. To me, as we just saw, as presently constructed the Thunder are nearly good enough to get to The Finals. So I think KD stays, at least for a year. Although, I feel like the Thunder are still one rotation player away, some sort of swingman type who can score when needed and reduce the land on KD/Westbrook. (An interesting name who might be motivated to make a fit work? How about Carmelo Anthony?) They just need one more contributor. For so long the Thunder had Derek Fisher as their off guard in crunch time, and this year they made a reach for Randy Foye who they couldn’t really use in crunch time. Making this an even tougher situation is that they don’t have time to develop a young player — this a team needs to win now. Good luck balancing all of that, Thunder GM Sam Presti.

Blogtable: Who wins The 2016 Finals (and why)?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: What’s next for Durant, Thunder? | Warriors’ most impressive feat so far? |
Who wins The Finals and why?


> Cavs or Warriors? Who you got and why?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Man. This should be great. Obviously Cleveland is at full strength this year compared to last, and presents far greater challenges for Golden State’s defense. But the Cavs don’t have the collective length and defensive athleticism that the Thunder has. Kyrie Irving is a nightmare with the ball, but the Warriors just survived seven games of Russell Westbrook‘s attacks, and Westbrook is a much more active defender than Irving. The Cavs’ bench is more experienced than OKC’s, but again, it isn’t as athletic. Size with quickness is what gave the Warriors problems. Stephen Curry looked better and better as the series with the Thunder went on; he’s not 100 percent, but he’s closer. I think this series comes down to a couple of things: 1. can Kevin Love really hurt Golden State offensively, to the point where the Warriors would have to do more than single-cover him with Draymond Green?, 2. can Cleveland score and/or protect the ball enough to keep the Warriors from getting out in transition, where lethal results almost always follow? My guesses are not quite enough of either. Warriors in 7.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comMaybe I’m bringing some Eastern Conference bias to this – I was basically embedded in Cleveland’s playoff run through Detroit, Atlanta and Toronto – but the way this team has played at its peak, the fit LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have found, coach Tyronn Lue‘s grasp of the reins and artful tweaks along the way, and the confidence the Cavs have in the 3-ball have won me over. Golden State will be facing a vastly different opponent this time around – and keep in mind, backup point guard Matthew Dellavedova hasn’t recklessly rolled over anybody’s ankle yet in these playoffs (cue ominous organ chord). Mostly, though, I’m thinking that LeBron With Help is a mighty force. There’s also an underlying urgency to his push back to The Finals, because this championship-to-The-‘Land business is going to be getting harder, not easier, with each passing season. Cavaliers in 6.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comHave you seen 73-9? Have you seen the comeback from 3-1? They have extraordinary talent, a still under-appreciated inner drive and just find a way. The Warriors will win it.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comGolden State has come too far — through the long, challenging regular season, through the comeback against the Oklahoma City Thunder — to stop now. Home court will pay off. Being able to throw multiple quality defenders at LeBron James, from Draymond Green to Andre Iguodala to the other help that will come on the double, will pay off. And, of course, the brothers Splash. The Warriors still have a little too much for the Cavs. Warriors in 7.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: A healthy Cavs team would’ve beaten the Warriors last year. Now? It could be wrong place, wrong time for the Cavs. Three critical players on the Warriors are better: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. And they still have a functional Finals MVP in Andre Iguodala. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are more cohesive but both will clearly defer to LeBron James when things get tight, turning the Cavs into a predictable outfit. I see it going seven games, but in the end, we’ll be scraping what’s left of Cleveland’s battered image off the sidewalk once again. Warriors in 7.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThis will be a much more enjoyable series than it was last year, when the Cavs scored less than a point per possession in all six games. Cleveland is a lot tougher to defend than they were a year ago, not only because Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are healthy, but also because they have a second unit that spreads the floor around LeBron James. But no team is more qualified to defend the Cavs than the Warriors, who will be impossible to stop over 4-7 games themselves. Warriors in 6.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I continue to believe that the Warriors are the superior team and the best shooting team I’ve seen in all of my years watching the NBA. And in this instance, I still believe them to be the superior team to the Cavaliers. That said, this series went six games last time with LeBron James playing without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love for basically the entire series. It goes seven games this year with the Warriors still on top. In a battle of the best 3-point shooting teams in the game, I’m going with who is No. 1. Warriors in 7.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comAs a rule it is wrong to pick against the Warriors. They are the NBA’s most competitive team and its toughest out. And yet here comes LeBron James with a healthy roster to make amends for The 2015 Finals. The leading player of his generation returned to Cleveland to win the championship, and I think that’s going to be happen in Game 6 on his home floor. Cavaliers in 6.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: On the heels of my near-triumphant Thunder in 7 prediction, I’m not sure my voice holds much weight. But I digress. The Warriors hit a speed bump the last two weeks, and then righted the ship in a very public and impressive way, just in time to roll into The Finals against Cleveland. The way the Thunder were able to compete against Golden State was by playing lock-down defense, and I don’t think Cleveland can reach that level, or at least sustain it for four games. As good as Cleveland has been this postseason, I think the Warriors pick up where they left off and keep on running and shooting. Warriors in 6.