Posts Tagged ‘James Harden’

Morning Shootaround — July 20


VIDEO:
Charles Barkley and Steve Kerr mix it up on After Dark with Rick Fox

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Paul only cares that Jordan is back in LA | Rockets willing take risk on Lawson | Former Kentucky stars lift Suns to title game | McDermott ready for breakout season under Hoiberg

No. 1: Paul only cares that Jordan is back in LA — At this point, the details no longer matter to Chris Paul. The rumors and speculation of his fractured relationship with DeAndre Jordan and how it almost led to Jordan’s departure for Dallas via free agency was overblown, if you listen to the Los Angeles Clippers’ superstar and his version of the team’s wild and crazy free agent summer. He and Jordan are “brothers,” or as Paul put in Sunday, Jordan is his “big little brother.” Justin Verrier of ESPN.com explains:

While reports indicated that a rift between Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan played a role in the center agreeing to sign a free-agent deal with the Dallas Mavericks before ultimately re-upping with the Los Angeles Clippers, Paul said that it “doesn’t matter” what people say, and that he’s “unbelievably happy” to have him back.

“DeAndre’s like my big little brother,” Paul said before the first annual Players’ Awards at the Penn & Teller theater at the Rio Las Vegas. “We talk a lot more than people ever realize. But it doesn’t matter [what people say]. The only thing that matters is that he’s back.”

After heavy courting from Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and forward Chandler Parsons, Jordan agreed to a four-year max contract with Dallas early in free agency. But after a chaotic chain of events that saw a cavalcade of Clippers personnel — including coach Doc Rivers, Blake Griffin, Paul Pierce and Paul himself — meet with Jordan at his Houston home, the 26-year-old changed his mind and signed a four-year deal with the Clippers worth an estimated $88 million, according to ESPN sources.

“It’s been pretty wild,” said Pierce, who signed a reported three-year, $10 million deal with the Clippers this offseason. “But I think that whole saga really took a form or shape of its own. It got a lot bigger than it was supposed to be, but I made my decision to be a Clipper and DeAndre changed his mind and made his decision to be a Clipper. We’re happy with the way things turned out.”

Pierce, who played for the Washington Wizards last season, said he wasn’t privy to the events before his arrival in L.A., but is encouraged by the result of the sitdown.

“I kind of sat in and voiced what I thought,” Pierce said. “But I was on the outside looking in. I think guys really cleared the air if there was any tension, but a lot of the media made it more than it really was from what I saw. But it was good just to have the main guys who are going to be the main voices on this team in one room. It was really good. Hopefully it can be the start of something special.”

***

No. 2: Rockets willing to take risk on Lawson — Daryl Morey has never been averse to taking risks in building a championship-caliber team in Houston. His latest move, however, might be his riskiest yet. The addition of former Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, fresh off of his second DUI in the past six months, could solve a huge issue at the position for the Rockets … provided Lawson cleans up his own issues off the court, of course. It’s a process the Rockets will attack carefully as they attempt to reap the rewards of this risky venture. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle has more:

The Rockets’ pursuit of a playmaker landed them one of the league’s best and a bargain price – but with one huge question mark attached.

The Rockets reached agreement on a deal for Denver point guard Ty Lawson, acquiring the six-year veteran without giving up anyone from their playing rotation, a person with knowledge of the deal said on Sunday. The individual spoke on the condition of anonymity because the deal will not be complete until Monday morning.

The move, however, is not without risk. Lawson entered a 30-day private alcohol treatment program last week after his second DUI arrest in the past six months. He has a court appearance scheduled for Aug. 20 in Denver.

Though often targeted in trade talks and especially since Denver drafted Emmanuel Mudiay with the seventh pick of the NBA Draft last month, Lawson’s off-court problems had apparently dramatically reduced the Nuggets’ asking price.

The Rockets will send guard Nick Johnson, forward Kostas Papanikolaou, guard Pablo Prigioni and center Joey Dorsey, along with a protected first-round pick to get Lawson. Only Johnson was expected to have a chance to be in the Rockets playing rotation next season, and in his case, only if he could make the transition to point guard.

The pick that will go to Denver is protected through the lottery. The Rockets will receive Denver’s 2017 second-round pick.

Lawson, 27, has two seasons worth $25.6 million remaining on his contract.

With the move, along with an agreement with forward KJ McDaniels on Sunday, the Rockets move into the luxury tax. They can still sign Jason Terry or other players to veteran minimum contracts, but once they use any of their remaining mid-level exception money to sign second-round pick Montrez Harrell, they will be “hard-capped” and unable to make those offers.

Prigioni is expected to be waived shortly after the deal is official, with only $440,000 of his contract guaranteed. Papanikolaou’s contract, worth $4.7 million, is non-guaranteed if he is waived by Oct. 4, but he and Johnson were considered important parts to a deal.

For the Rockets, Lawson brings the playmaking they had said they wanted since the end of last season and with strengths that match their up-tempo and pick-and-roll style.

While bringing playmaking at point guard that the Rockets had lacked, he is not an ideal fit next to James Harden because he is at his best with the ball in his hands and the Rockets have preferred to keep Harden as their primary ball-handler. Lawson, however, has shown potential as a catch-and-shoot threat, especially on corner 3s where last season he made 42.1 percent of his shots.

While Harden was second in the NBA last season in points scored or produced with his assists, Lawson was seventh. He has made 46.6 percent of his shots and 36.9 percent of his 3-pointers in his career, but has never played with a playmaker to get him the spot-up opportunities he can get while playing with Harden.

Lawson averaged 15.2 points and a career-high 9.6 assists last season, third in the NBA behind Chris Paul and John Wall.

With the deal for Lawson after signing Pat Beverley, Marcus Thornton and Corey Brewer this month, the Rockets go from thin in the backcourt at the end of last season when Beverley was hurt and Prigioni and Terry had to man the point, to unusually deep around Harden.

***

No. 3: Former Kentucky stars lift Suns to title game — There were enough of them in summer league action this summer to field two teams comprised strictly of former Kentucky Wildcats, both young (Devin Booker) and old (Keith Bogans). A robust group of 13 were on various rosters in Orlando, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Three of them, Booker, Archie Goodwin and Josh Harrellson, will cap things off today in the championship game in Vegas after combining for 62 points to lift the Phoenix Suns past the New Orleans Pelicans. As Dennis Varney of the Herald Leader explains, it’s good to be Blue these days:

The Phoenix Suns’ trio of former Kentucky stars combined for 62 points, including going 9-for-19 from three-point range, in the team’s 93-87 victory over the previously undefeated New Orleans Pelicans in the Las Vegas Summer League semifinals on Sunday night.

Rookie Devin Booker led the way with 31 points, which tied the single-game high for the Las Vegas summer league this year. He was 5-for-9 from long range, and also had nine rebounds and two assists. Booker hit six of seven free-throw attempts.

“I just want to get wins,” Booker said. “I always have a winning attitude, and that’s what we’re out here for.”

Booker missed his first eight three-point attempts to start summer league play, but he has heated up since.

“Shooters never stop shooting,” he said. “I’ve been through slumps before, but you always have to keep shooting. … I wasn’t worried about it. I knew it was eventually going to fall.”

Josh Harrellson, a free agent trying to play his way back on to an NBA roster, started in place of the Suns’ Alex Len (rest). Harrellson scored 19 points to go with nine rebounds and an assist.

Harrellson was 3-for-8 from three-point range, and he’s 10-for-23 (43.5 percent) from that distance this summer.

Third-year Suns guard Archie Goodwin, who has scored 20-plus points in three of the team’s six games this summer, added 12 points, six rebounds and four assists.

***

No. 4: McDermott ready for breakout season under Hoiberg? — A fresh start could be just what Doug McDermott needs in Chicago. And he, along with Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and the rest of the veterans on the roster, will get exactly that with new coach Fred Hoiberg. But if his performance this summer is any indication, McDermott could benefit more than anyone from the change. In a Q&A with Sam Vecenie of CBSSports.com, McDermott addressed that premise and more:

CBSSports.com: You’re coming off of a rookie year where you didn’t really get to play a lot. What do you think your role will look like next year given that the Bulls didn’t really lose anyone?

McDermott: You know, you learn from those guys. A lot of veterans still. But I think I fit in with Coach Hoiberg’s system pretty well, so I think it’ll be a great experience getting to learn from someone like him.

CBSSports.com: That’s actually another thing I wanted to ask you about. Coach Hoiberg actually went to your high school if I remember correctly. That’s kind of a weird and awesome coincidence for you, no?

McDermott: Yeah, it’s awesome. It’s great having a coach you can relate to, but even more having a guy that grew up in the same town as you is pretty cool. We didn’t know each other a whole lot when I was growing up, but just having his presence around is pretty cool.

CBSSports.com: Did you have any experience at all with him beforehand?

McDermott: I actually saw him at a couple of weddings, just with people that we knew mutually so we actually got to know each other a little bit there. So it was good to really get to know him a little beforehand.

CBSSports.com: What’s the biggest thing you learned from your rookie year this year?

McDermott: Just patience. You know, you gotta wait your turn, especially on a good team. It’s all about getting better every single day. You can’t really worry. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. You just have to put in your work and good things will happen.

CBSSports.com: One thing I noticed here in summer league is that you were playing a bit more of the 4. Do you think that’s going to be something you do more of throughout next season?

McDermott: Yeah, I think it’ll kind of depend on matchups and stuff. And having a guy like Niko Mirotic, we can kind of play both the 3 or 4 and kind of run the same spots so being able to play with a guy like him, plus we have a lot of versatility out there so I think it’ll be good.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Oft-maligned Italian big man Andrea Bargnani believes he can be an impact player in Brooklyn and is not shy about saying so … The Utah Jazz are prepared to buck the small ball trend going on in the NBA today … Seth Curry of the New Orleans Pelicans summer league squad did his best to keep the good vibrations going for the family …

Report: Rockets acquire Ty Lawson from Denver

VIDEO: The Starters discuss Ty Lawson trade from Denver to Houston.

LAS VEGAS — The Houston Rockets are trying to keep up in the Western Conference arms race, trading for Denver Nuggets point guard Ty Lawson, according to Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski

The Denver Nuggets have reached agreement to trade guard Ty Lawson to the Houston Rockets, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Houston will send Kostas Papanikolaou, Pablo Prigioni, Joey Dorsey, Nick Johnson and a protected first-round draft pick to Denver, sources said. Along with Lawson, the Nuggets will send a future second-round pick to Houston.

Lawson, 27, entered treatment for alcohol abuse last week after he was arrested on DUI charges for the second time in six months.

If Lawson can resolve his off-court issues, he’s an obvious upgrade at point guard, with Patrick Beverley likely moving back to the bench after two seasons as the starter. Lawson also relieves James Harden of some of the ball-handling and play-making duties. And he will certainly help the Rockets play with pace.

The deal puts the Rockets right at the luxury tax line with 12 guaranteed contracts on their roster (once they sign first round pick Sam Dekker. But they were in the conference finals less than two months ago, could be healthier this season, and just upgraded their weakest position.

Lawson’s departure allows No. 7 pick Emmanuel Mudiay to run the show in Denver, with the re-signed Jameer Nelson as his veteran back-up and mentor.

Report: OKC dealing Lamb to Hornets

Having already picked up small forward Nicolas Batum earlier tonight, the Hornets are not done dealing.

Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer is reporting that the Hornets will obtain guard Jeremy Lamb from Oklahoma City in a deal that involves the contract of recently-acquired Matt Barnes.

Having already traded Lance Stephenson to the Clippers and then shipping out Gerald Henderson to Portland in the deal that landed Batum, the Hornets are clearly in need of a shooting guard.

The Thunder are believed to be moving Lamb to clear out salary space to keep a pair of their own restricted free agents, Enes Kanter and Kyle Singler.

The 6-foot-5 Lamb was a first-round pick (No. 12) by Houston in 2013, but never played a game for the Rockets before he was part of the package for James Harden.

The Thunder had hoped that Lamb would replace some of the scoring lost out on the wing by Harden’s departure. But over three seasons he’s shot just 42.2 percent from the field and only 34.8 percent from behind the 3-point line. The Hornets must be hoping that reuniting with former college teammate Kemba Walker will help Lamb find that old UConn magic.

Overtime: 24-second thoughts


VIDEO: All-Access: 2015 NBA Finals

What?  No Game 7?

Well, some of us still have some final thoughts on The Finals:

24 — Even in fantasyland, you’ve got to start things off with the National Anthem. How about ultimate fantasy from Bay Area — the Grateful Dead, circa April 1993.

23 — The Catch. The Drive. The Fumble. The Shot. The Decision. The Kneecap. Every major league city has its own share of heartbreak. Cleveland’s just seems larger than Lake Erie.  This one doesn’t belong on that list of hurt.  The Cavs battled proudly.

22 — The Warriors danced harmoniously and gorgeously from October to June with a roster that stayed virtually intact, and in some corners they are asked to apologize for this? As Woody Allen once said, “Eighty percent of life is showing up.”

And durability is a talent.

21 — Irony is that the only significant injury suffered by the Warriors all season, David Lee’s strained left hamstring in the final game of preseason, opened the door for Draymond Green and the championship lineup.

20 — Before Golden State gets pigeonholed into history as banner carriers for jump shots, don’t forget the Warriors had the No. 1 defense in the NBA all season. And were No. 1 in assists.

19 — The best reason ever why coach Steve Kerr didn’t rub the nose of 3-point-shooting critic Charles Barkley in the Warriors’ championship: “I mean, guy picked up every bar tab I ever was part of when I was at TNT. So he can say whatever he wants.”

18 — Is there just the smallest part of Kerr that would be tempted to drop the mic and walk off after one flawless season? How’s that for Zen, Phil Jackson?

17 — Will say it again: For a team that has players with size and strength in low post — LeBron James, Timofey Mozgov, Tristan Thompson — the Cavaliers don’t finish strong at the hoop nearly enough. That especially goes for LeBron. Stop going off the glass and make them foul you and pay the physical price.

16 — Hula Hoops, Pet Rocks, Sea Monkeys, Mood Rings, Cabbage Patch Kids, Matthew Dellavedova.

15 — Somebody will have to explain that Beats headphone TV ad that makes the relationship between Draymond Green and the media look so contentious. For one, nobody has ever asked Green why he acts so arrogant, because he doesn’t. For another, he’s the long-after-the-podium guy who loves to stand in front of his locker way past the final horn and chat. With anybody. It’s like Michele Roberts wrote the script.

14 — The nit-pickers say Stephen Curry still has something to prove since each round of the playoffs featured an opponent with an injured point guard — Jrue Holiday, Mike Conley, Patrick Beverley, Kyrie Irving. They don’t mention that he was also on the first team in history to beat every other member of the All-NBA First Team — LeBron, Anthony Davis, James Harden, Marc Gasol — on the way to the title.

13Is LeBron (2-4) on his way to becoming the 21st century version of Jerry West, who lost eight times in The Finals? One could do far worse than being on the same page of history as The Logo.

12 — “We ran out of talent.” James catches flak for this from some corners? A third quarter lineup by the Cavs in Game 6: J.R. Smith, Dellavedova, Iman Shumpert, Thompson, James Jones. If the NBA playoffs were the NCAA Tournament, they’d be a No. 16 seed playing Kentucky.

11 — If you thought the team that LeBron single-handedly dragged to The Finals and then was swept by the Spurs in 2007 was in deeper water over its head than these Cavs once Irving went down, face it, you’ll never be satisfied with anything he does.

10 — To think it all could have unraveled for the Warriors right at the beginning if Andre Iguodala, who started the first 758 games of his 10-year NBA career, didn’t buy into the program and Kerr’s plan to come off the bench. Unhappy? Yes. Unwilling? No. That’s the definition of a pro’s pro. And don’t forget no grousing from Andrew Bogut when he was benched in The Finals.

9 — So what happens if David Blatt gets that timeout in Chicago?

8 Iggy as Finals MVP? Yes, because it was his move into the starting lineup for Game 4 that began to turn the series around and made what Curry did possible.  And he was the one who made James work so hard and wore him out.

7 — LeBron as MVP? From this corner, to become the historic second player from a losing team to get the honor, James had to pull his bunch into a Game 7.

6 — If you want to follow one more member of the Twitterverse next season, for raw emotion and lots of fun, make it Draymond’s mama:

5 — “I’m the best player the world.” OK, it wasn’t modest. But truth is a defense. And LeBron was clearly just trying to instill confidence in a worn-down, flat-out spent band of merry men that he could somehow get them through Game 6.

4 — Plenty of people and reasons to feel good about in the glow of the Warriors’ championship. Few more than Shaun Livingston, eight years removed from the horrible knee injury that had at least one person at the hospital tell him that he might need his leg amputated.

3 — Two biggest roadblocks to a Warriors repeat: chip-on-his-shoulder Kevin Durant and scarily-fast improving Anthony Davis.

2 — Does Kevin Love stay in Cleveland? Only if winning matters to him.

1 — Same two, same time, next year. Everybody healthy.

Morning shootaround — May 30




VIDEO: NBA TV analysts discuss Scott Skiles return to Orlando

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Wade could test Heat | Hoiberg on tap | Skiles returns to Orlando | Harden wants help | Irving welcomes rest

No. 1: Wade could force Riley’s hand — What price loyalty? Over the years while team president Pat Riley has shuffled the roster to keep the Heat in the championship mix, franchise player Dwyane Wade has frequently made financial sacrifices to make it all work. He gave up money to get LeBron James and Chris Bosh to Miami. He took a shorter deal last summer after James left and the team gave Bosh a big, long-term deal. Now it could be time for Wade to expect his payoff and Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel says it could prove a challenge to Riley:

Amid the uncertainty of the team’s roster situation last June, Wade opted out of the final two years that was left on that contract. Then, once LeBron James elected to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers in free agency, Wade re-upped with the Heat on a two-year, $31 million deal that included a $16 million salary for 2015-16 at his option. That contract left more than $10 million on the table from what he otherwise would have collected by not opting out last June.

At the same time, Heat center Chris Bosh, who also is represented by Thomas, secured a maximum free-agent offer from the Houston Rockets, which then led to Bosh agreeing to a five-year, $118 million package with the Heat that began this past season.

Now, with James playing for a championship in Cleveland, it appears Wade might be seeking the type of significant deal he did not secure last summer.

“Several guys opted out of their contract last year,” Thomas said. “Obviously Dwyane wasn’t in a position that Chris was in, in terms of having another team offer a maximum deal. But the reality of this is he’s played his entire career for Miami. He’s done wonderful things in terms of the five titles that they played for, winning three of them.

“He’s had a tremendous career, and we’re just trying to see whether or not there’s room to continue that.”

***

No. 2: Bulls ready to make Hoiberg coach — In a city known for plenty of political secrets and more than its share of back room dealing, nobody is surprised that the Bulls have Fred Hoiberg lined up to the be their next head coach, replacing the fired Tom Thibodeau. Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times says its only a matter of Hoiberg making things official:

“It’s just when Fred [Hoiberg] says yes to them, not if,’’ the source said. “This is a year in the works.’’

Coaches – both college and at the NBA level – are actually very much dialed into one another, and there weren’t many in either profession that didn’t feel like the Bulls and Hoiberg would be a match “sooner than later.’’

With the NBA Finals between Cleveland and Golden State set to start on Thursday, the Bulls could have the Hoiberg matter signed, sealed and delivered before then.

The only possible hiccup out there seems to be the Minnesota Timberwolves, who also covet Hoiberg. Hoiberg played for the Timberwolves from 2003-05, and then was an assistant general manager for the franchise, seemingly on the fast track to become the general manager. When that never materialized, he went into coaching prior to the 2010 season, and has turned Iowa State into a prominent NCAA program.

According to sources, he’s actually been on the Bulls’ radar since late last year as a Plan B, and as the relationship between now former coach Tom Thibodeau and the front office disintegrated as the year has gone on, he was Plan A with no realistic options following him.

That’s what made the press conference with VP of basketball operations John Paxson and general manager Gar Forman such good theater on Thursday, as the two had to do their best to act like it will be a vast coaching search.

“We’ve got certain criteria that we’re going to be looking for in the next coach,’’ Forman said. “But we’re not going to put ourselves in a box – ‘had to be a head coach, had to be an assistant coach, what level they’ve coached on’ – we’re really going to look for the right fit.

“And I went through some of those things that I’ve talked about. Obviously someone that can lead, but we’ve got to get somebody that can communicate at a high level, that’s got great knowledge of the game, obviously experience is a plus, as far as coaching is concerned. If they’ve been a head coach even more so, but we’re not going to limit our search in any way.’’

***

No. 3: Skiles hopes to make more Magic in Orlando — It took Scott Skiles and Magic president Alex Martins some time to make sure they were getting back together for all the right reasons, but the former point guard made his return to Orlando official and now he picks up the rebuilding process, says Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

In reality, however, the Magic first had to overcome a significant obstacle, a hurdle in Skiles’ mind.

“I wanted to make sure I was being hired because they thought I could coach, not because I was someone that was affiliated with the organization in the past,” Skiles said.

That concern, Skiles explained, started to fade away once he and the team’s general manager, Rob Hennigan, held a seven-hour talk in Skiles’ suburban Orlando home in recent weeks.

“The first conversation I had with him, I made it very clear that our first priority was to get to know each other on a personal level,” Hennigan said. “The conversation really sort of cascaded from there. I didn’t bring up one time that it was a bonus that he played here or has familiarity with the area and the fan base. That was truly just gravy.”

Throughout a press conference late Friday afternoon, Hennigan and Martins sought to combat the widespread perception that the team hired Skiles because of his past ties to the franchise.

Martins said Hennigan provided him with a list of potential hires shortly after the season ended, and Hennigan started to go through each name one-by-one. When Hennigan arrived at Skiles’ name and started to speak, Martins stopped Hennigan and told him that Hennigan had to arrive at his own conclusions.

Martins added that he spoke with Skiles just twice between the end of the regular season and Friday. The first time lasted just several minutes and was meant to inform Skiles that Hennigan would be in contact. The second time occurred Thursday, when Skiles, Martins and Hennigan traveled to Grand Rapids, Mich., to speak with the DeVos family.

“I truly wanted this to be an objective decision about his coaching ability,” Martins said Friday. “I didn’t want my personal past with Scott and my experience with him of having been a player here and our relationship to enter into that. We truly had to find the right coach for this team.”

***

No. 4: Harden would welcome playmaker — One look at a worn-away, worn-down, worn-out James Harden at the end of the Western Conference finals was all that was needed to tell you that the MVP candidate could not be expected to carry so much of the load if he is going to carry the Rockets to their goal of winning a championship. At the team’s exit interviews on Friday, Harden confirmed that he would welcome the offseason acquisition of a playmaking point guard so the Rockets can take the next step forward. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle has the details:

He said he “definitely” would like to see the Rockets add another playmaker to take some of that responsibility out of his hands.
“That’s one of the conversations me and Daryl are going to have (and) the coaches,” Harden said. “That’s one of the pieces to add, but that’s later conversations. We’ll be all right. We’re very confident in the group we have. This summer we have to work hard and be ready for next year.”

Still, Harden said the Rockets could benefit from keeping more of their core together. Of the 15 players on the Rockets final 2013-14 roster, seven were gone by the start of the next season. Just five players on roster that faced the Trail Blazers were around by the start of this season’s playoffs.

He called keeping the Rockets’ nucleus together “very important” and spoke of the benefits of growing together.

“If we get Pat (Beverley) and D-Mo (Donatas Motiejunas) back healthy, we’re a really good team, a really deep team,” Harden said.

“We’re pretty good with what we have, maybe add a piece or so. But we made it this far with a couple of our guys injured and banged up. Put those guys together and we’ll be a lot better.”

Harden said he intends to work on his “entire game,” and cited “different aspects of shooting, coming off pin-downs, my ball-handling, not turning the basketball over so much.  Post-up game.”

***

***

No. 5: Break before Finals suits Irving — The rest of basketball world may not be happy with more than a week break before the start of the NBA Finals. But Cavs mending point guard Kyrie Irving says the break before taking on the Warriors is just what the doctor ordered, according to our own Steve Aschburner:

“I’m participating in everything,” Irving said after the Cavaliers’ workout Friday. “We just had a light practice today. The next few days, we’ll definitely ramp it up, I assume. I’m in everything. So I’m ready to go.”

That’s a departure from the previous three rounds. Irving sprained his right foot early in the first round against Boston, which, as he continued to play on it, led to a compensating injury in his left knee. That tendinitis limited him against Chicago and caused him to skip Games 2 and 3 against Atlanta in the East finals.

The three-time All Star, 23, did at least travel with the Cavs to Atlanta to start the series, then took a side trip to Florida with Cleveland team physician Dr. Richard Parker to consult with noted sports orthopedist Dr. James Andrews. They came back with a tweaked treatment plan, which Irving credited for helping him play in the Game 4 clincher Tuesday. He scored 16 points in 22 minutes in the 30-point blowout.

Irving’s production hasn’t dropped off entirely, even though he has lacked his signature turbocharged quickness, along with the trust in his body. In 12 games, he has averaged 18.7 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists, and his player-efficiency rating of 20.3 is within his PER range of 20.1 to 21.5 through his first four NBA seasons.

But going through the “will he or won’t he?” uncertainty with the knee (the foot isn’t much of an issue anymore) took a mental toll on Irving. So did the layers of treatment, even as he was trying to properly prepare in case he did play.

“You know, being hurt sucks. Especially in a time like that,” Irving said. “So it was just a learning experience, to say the least. But it was a test of my will. I was very resilient in what I was doing. Hopefully going forward I don’t have any relapse.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Klay Thompson could miss at least several days of practice before The Finals after diagnosis of a concussion….Dwight Howard will miss the 2015-16 season opener after getting upgraded to a flagrant foul in the Western Conference finals closer…Warriors Bogut says Dwight Howard crosses the line with physical play…Alvin Gentry is the first candidate to get a second interview with the Pelicans…Wes Matthews leaves the door open in Portland….Thabo Sefolosha says New York police have damaged his reputation

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 203) Super Team Redux

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Maybe one superstar, one healthy, game-changing true superstar is all you need.

That one transcendent star might be just enough to get you into the building to compete for the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Or at least that is the story they are telling today in Cleveland, where LeBron James has guided the Cavaliers back to The Finals for the first time since 2007.

He didn’t promise this when he returned home last summer, at least not right away. But the Cavaliers are here now, awaiting either the Golden State Warriors or the Houston Rockets in The Finals next week.

And since we have a few days to ponder it, what does this feat for LeBron say about today’s NBA and what it takes to scale the mountain?

An hobbled Kyrie Irving and an injured Kevin Love should have been a recipe for disaster in the conference semifinals against Chicago. That was not the case. LeBron rendered that point moot with stellar work night after night and did the same against the Atlanta Hawks in the conference finals sweep. Can he do it again? We shall see.

In the meantime, let’s talk about the theory of a Super Team and whether or not that’s what you need to compete for it all, to win it all. Recent history is split on that (LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were 2-2 in the big series).

History says there are no guarantees for Super Teams, as our very own Rick Fox would know, having witnessed a Super Team meltdown of his own with the Los Angeles Lakers’ monster squad of Shaquille O’Neal, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone and Gary Payton — the one coached by the Zen Master himself, Phil Jackson. The same star-studded crew that fell to the ultimate team, the 2004 champion Detroit Pistons.

Mix it up with us on Episode 203 of The Hang Time Podcast: Super Team Redux …

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the best sound designer/engineer in the business, Andrew Merriman.

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VIDEO: LeBron James leads the Cleveland Cavaliers past the Atlanta Hawks and into The Finals for the first time since 2007

Harden keeps hope alive for Rockets


VIDEO: James Harden talks after Monday’s practice

HOUSTON — Back in the first round of the playoffs when the Rockets held a chokehold on Dallas, Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle said that just because no team in NBA history had ever come back from 3-0 deficit in a playoff series didn’t mean it would never happen.

Count James Harden among the believers. He isn’t counting his Rockets out even from such a deep Western Conference finals hole against the Golden State Warriors. After all, Harden says, they became only the ninth team ever to bounce from 3-1 down barely a week ago in the conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Clippers.

“Most teams can’t come back from being down 3-1, but we did,” Harden said at Monday’s shootaround.“We have to continue to fight — to go out there and play Rockets basketball. It’s win or go home. We understand that.

“Our energy was low (in Game 3’s 115-80 loss),” he said. “We couldn’t get a rhythm. They got it going. Once they got it going, it’s hard to come back being down 20- 25 points. We can’t get in a hole like that against a team this good.”

Morning shootaround — May 25


VIDEO: Highlights from Game 3 of the Eastern Conference finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Dirty Delly or just playing hard? | Steph has never been better | Cramps don’t stop LeBron this time | Rockets vow to get tougher

No. 1: Dirty Dellavedova or just playing hard? — Perspective is everything when you’re talking about the impact of Matthew Dellavedova in these playoffs for the Cleveland Cavaliers. In Chicago and Atlanta, where players from opposing teams have fallen victim to Delly’s hustle (or some would say dirty tricks), there is no debate. He’s up to no good. But in Cleveland, where he’s revered for being the hardest working man in the building every night, he’s become something of a cult hero. He added another chapter to his story when he got tangled up with Atlanta Hawks All-Star center Al Horford in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 overtime win, a game Horford was ejected for after elbowing Dellavadova. Our very own Steve Aschburner offers his perspective on “Delly” and the name (good and bad) that he’s made for himself in these playoffs:

The range of characterizations for what transpired was vast. It was a bad break for the Hawks. A foolhardy response by Horford. An expert but helpful-to-the-Cavs ruling by the referees (Dellavedova got a technical foul but stuck around to score 17 points and hit four of nine 3-point shots). Another instance of the Aussie guard’s high-energy, do-anything tactics that have a way of getting Down Under opponents’ skin.

That was the beef from some of the Hawks, a lot of TV viewers and across the Twittersphere — that this was no isolated incident but instead was the latest in a pattern of Dellavedova taking down or taking out key players for Cleveland’s rivals.

The recent run of plays that have left opponents worse off began with Game 5 of the East semifinal against Chicago. Pushed to the floor by Bulls forward Taj Gibson, Dellavedova — while face down — locked his legs onto one of Gibson’s legs. When the Chicago player kicked free, the kick was caught by the referees, the replays and an outraged Quicken Loans Arena crowd. Gibson was hit with a flagrant-2 and, with the Bulls already playing without big man Pau Gasol, ejected early in the fourth quarter from what became a two-point game in the final minutes.

On Friday, in Game 2 against Atlanta, Dellavedova dived for a loose ball and slammed into Hawks guard Kyle Korver‘s right leg. With both players grimacing from the collision, the Cavs guard rolled over, leaving Korver with a postseason-ending high-ankle sprain.

That led to Sunday’s play, with at least one of Horford’s teammates suggesting that their center retaliated in enough-is-enough fashion.

“Hey, man, you all do the math. Two plus two equals four, doesn’t it?” said Atlanta forward DeMarre Carroll. “Al just did what he thought was necessary to protect our team and make a stand. And he got thrown out.”

“Everybody understood we had to take a stand. We’re out there to play basketball. We’re out there to compete. But when we get to the sense of doing things unnecessary, that’s when you have the play you seen.”

Of Dellavedova, Carroll said: “I think he’s just a competitor, man. And sometimes, when you compete so hard, you can take it overboard. There’s got to be a fine line between competing or being crazy.

“I play hard myself. And I understand, sometimes you go tot do little things to get under people’s skin. But [nothing] crazy. I hope he takes a look at the film and sees, man, there’s a way to play hard but not to play crazy.”


VIDEO: Al Horford talks about being ejected from Game 3

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Morning Shootaround — May 24


VIDEO: Saturday night was Stephen Curry’s night in Houston

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Steph Curry is the real MVP | LeBron is the B.O.A.T. | Korver, Hawks all but done? | Wounded Rockets stunned by loss | Skiles the frontrunner for the Magic job

No. 1: Steph Curry is the real MVP — The debate is over. Stephen Curry is the “real MVP.” If that is not clear after three games of the Curry-James Harden duel in the Western Conference finals, you need a new pair of glasses. Curry’s brilliance was on full display in the Warriors’ Game 3 win in Houston Saturday night. And good luck finding a comparable talent, a topic our very own Fran Blinebury explored in the aftermath of the Warriors’ huge win:

The record book now says that after hitting 7-for-9 from long range to ignite his 40-point, seven-assist, five-rebound, two-steal bonfire and an embarrassing 115-80 beatdown of the Rockets, Curry is now the most prolific 3-point shooter in the history of the playoffs, passing the legendary likes of Reggie Miller and Ray Allen.

Your eyes that pop wide open, your ears that can hear the wind getting sucked right out of the arena and any sense of innate rhythm that runs from your head to your feet say you don’t need any list of numbers to tell you he’s a completely different breed of cat.

“I think it’s the ball-handling that leads to the shot,” said Warriors coach Steve Kerr. “People ask me all the time who I would compare him with. I played with Mark Price years ago. Mark had a skill set that was really fun to watch, great ball handler, quick pull-up on a dime. Steve Nash, although Steve really preferred to make the pass and he was a reluctant shooter, could still shoot off the dribble.

“But I don’t think we’ve seen anybody this quick, [with] ability to create space and then pull up and six, seven feet beyond the line, with this kind of fearlessness and confidence. He’s really something.”

That was perhaps one thing a few of the swells in the high-priced front row seats were saying midway through the third quarter when Curry grabbed the rebound off a missed layup by Klay Thompson, ran to the left corner, turned to drill one more trey, stared at the crowd, then removed his mouthpiece to return verbal fire.

“That’s the fun with playoff basketball on the road,” Curry said. “You’ve got hecklers and guys up close that paid of a lot of money for those seats that want to get their money’s worth. It’s fun. You know, those are just genuine reactions.

“I think the one in the corner, a guy said — it was a four-letter word I can’t repeat. But that’s the one I turned around and just said, ‘Sit down.’ Just having fun with him, go about my business, get back on defense. If they want to talk, hopefully they can take some back in my fashion.”

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Morning shootaround — May 22


VIDEO: Highlights from Game 2 of the Western Conference finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Curry, Warriors lock up Harden | LeBron: Too much iso ball in Game 1Nuggets take their time vetting coaching candidates

No. 1: Curry: Warriors didn’t want to let Harden be ‘hero’ — Once again in the Warriors-Rockets West finals series, James Harden and Stephen Curry waged a fantastic scoring duel. And, once again, Curry’s squad came out on top, claiming a 2-0 series edge after Thursday night’s win. But it wasn’t an easy victory for Golden State as the Rockets had a shot at tying the game in the waning seconds. Curry and his “Splash Brothers” cohort, Klay Thompson, trapped Harden on the final possession, keeping him from a shot attempt in a move Curry says was definitely planned. Our Fran Blinebury was on the scene and has more:

The Splash Brothers became the Mash Brothers, squeezing the life and any last desperate attempt by the relentlessly splendid James Harden into a two-man vise.

It was a night when Curry (33 points, 5-for-11 on 3-pointers, six assists) and Harden (38 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists) could have danced on the head of a pin with their fearless, peerless offensive fireworks.

“Sometimes I want to crack open a beer and get a courtside seat, because these two guys are the two best basketball players in the world,” said Bogut. “Steph knocks down a big shot and then we come down and try to stop James and he knocks down a big shot.”

Yet it was fitting that it all came down to a final stop.

“Got the ball off the glass, and I’m thinking, just to try to get an easy one,” Harden said. “They did a good job of having two guys on me, so I couldn’t attack, and when I looked up I saw a red jersey and it was Dwight, so I tried to throw it back to him. At that time I’m thinking five seconds on the clock, so I tried to get the ball back, and it was still two guys right there, and I watched the film, it’s just a tough, tough play.”

Tougher because Curry and Thompson have been playing the roles of the disrupters in the backcourt all season for a team that finds a sense of defensive urgency to keep digging itself out of tough spots when the alarm bells start clanging. It was the defense that turned everything around in the first round of the playoffs when the Warriors came from 20 points down in a rousing fourth quarter to win Game 3 at New Orleans. Then it was the defense that ultimately found a way to stifle the interior game of Memphis.

In their 10 playoff wins this spring, they have trailed by at least 13 points behind on six occasions. It’s not a coincidence that so many of those breathtakingly amazing and gorgeous shots come as the end product of simple down-and-dirty defense that stokes the fire.

“Once [Harrison Barnes] went for the layup and missed and Draymond tried to get the rebound it was kind of me and Klay and Andre [Iguodala] on the other side retreating,” Curry said. “You saw James kind of put his head down, you knew he probably wasn’t going to pass in that situation, so just to kind of stand him up before the 3-point line, Klay fronted him right to me, I was able to get a body on him. He threw it away to Dwight and threw it right back, so at that point, it’s just don’t let him get a shot off and try to be the hero, so we were able to get it done.”


VIDEO: Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson lock down on James Harden at the end of Game 2

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