Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Teague’

Morning shootaround — Sept. 24

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Is Garnett completely gone from Wolves? | Bosh needs to concede and move on | Donovan remains with OKC for long haul

No. 1: Is Garnett completely gone from Wolves? — He announced his retirement Friday after 21 years in the NBA, fitting since that was his uniform number, and Kevin Garnett will be forever linked to the Wolves perhaps more than the Celtics. But what’s in his next chapter? There was always scuttlebutt about Garnett becoming a part-owner of the Wolves but that doesn’t appear likely. And the coaching position is filled. Maybe Garnett should cut the cord completely if he’s not involved in ownership, so says Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune

It was such a nice story, evoking nostalgia and promise in the same swoop of the pen.

Flip Saunders employed all of his charm to woo Kevin Garnett back to Minnesota, offering trunks of money, a voice at practice, a place in the starting lineup and a future in franchise decision-making.

When the Minnesota Timberwolves were desperate for validation and credibility, Flip’s seduction of the greatest player in franchise history made sense. Then everything changed.

Flip passed away, leaving Garnett without his greatest champion and intermediary in the organization.

Garnett played a career-low 15 minutes a game in a career-low 38 games, undermining his ability to lead by example on the court.

Wolves owner Glen Taylor hired Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden to run his basketball operation.

In the old Wolves world order, every former employee of any pedigree had a virtual lifetime contract, renewable whenever convenient for the employee.

Flip’s passing and the arrival of the best cache of young talent in Wolves history, and perhaps the most authoritative coach in franchise history, converted the Wolves from the best version of their old self under Flip to the New Wolves Order.

Flip built relationships and sometimes avoided conflict. For him, Garnett could be the ideal partner — a superstar who was also taskmaster and intimidator.

Thibodeau likely wants his voice to be the loudest in every practice and huddle. He is the alpha male in the organization, and by nature of his personality needs little help yelling out defensive instructions or wielding power.

If Garnett is not going to become a part-owner or assistant general manager or loud voice at the end of the bench, he has no role in the New Wolves Order. He’s no longer even needed to sell tickets or lead marketing campaigns. That falls to Karl-Anthony Towns, a fast-rising star who is also as likeable and marketable as was the young Garnett, before he grew quills.

Channeled rage made Garnett great, and would make him an uncomfortable member of the NWO.

Now is the right time for Garnett to move on. The method by which that would happen is a matter for Taylor and Garnett. It would be best for the Wolves if Garnett simply retired, but let’s not go so far as to say that Garnett owes that to the Wolves. He carried the franchise for a decade, brought the Wolves their greatest success and had to be coaxed into accepting the trade to Boston.

Taylor (the owner of the Star Tribune, by the way) needs to do whatever it takes to buy out Garnett, to give Thibodeau a locker room where his voice will be the loudest.

If Garnett departs, the NBA and Minnesota sports will officially be changed places. The NBA could find Garnett, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant in the same Hall of Fame class. Minnesota will have experienced the retirements of Torii Hunter, Jerry Kill and Garnett, and career-threatening injuries to Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson.

Garnett would retire as the only player in NBA history to reach at least 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 steals and 1,500 blocks. He may also be the rare NBA superstar to have punched multiple teammates during practices over the course of his career.

Perhaps Garnett could have written a sweeter ending to his career than a buyout, but old knees don’t understand story lines.

Garnett was great, and he should have played his entire career in Minnesota, and nothing guarantees a happy ending, not even when a superstar comes home.

***

No. 2: Bosh needs to concede and move on — After failing his physical with the Miami Heat reportedly due to blood-clot complications, Chris Bosh remains in limbo. He won’t report with the team for training camp and all along the Heat have kept themselves at arm’s distance regarding Bosh and his medical condition. Almost everyone, even former teammate Dwyane Wade, has dropped hints that maybe Bosh should seriously rethink his desire to play this season, or ever again. Meanwhile, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside are looming as the core of a team that once featured Bosh, Wade and LeBron James. Here’s Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald with the latest …

The question, with camp opening Tuesday: Can their on-court chemistry continue to improve?

The off-court dynamics between the two were so off kilter at times last season that Erik Spoelstra, last February, ordered them to go to dinner or do absolutely whatever was necessary to improve their chemistry.

Their collaboration improved almost immediately after that, and it will never be more important than it this season, with the departure of Dwyane Wade, who had better synergy with Whiteside than anybody, and the loss of Bosh.

Whereas Wade assisted on 92 Whiteside baskets and 29 alley-oops, Dragic assisted on just 65 of Whiteside’s hoops and 14 of his alley-oops.

But 50 of Dragic’s 65 assists to Whiteside came in 28 games after the All-Star break, compared with just 15 in 54 games before.

One reason why: The two teammates started talking a lot more, both off the court and during games, and the results have been noticeable. Whiteside started setting better screens for Dragic, which helped free him offensively.

“It was great,” Whiteside said this offseason, via Heat.com. “Each game me and Goran got better. He’s easy to talk to. He’s a really good point guard. As the season went on, me and Goran understood each other better.

“[This] year is going to be even bigger. More of me and Goran communicating on that basketball level and getting to know each other better.”

Spoelstra said earlier this year that the key was they both “committed to working together, before practice, after practice. Two guys that want to do it right and they understand they’re involved in a lot of collaborations together and they have to spend time working on it.

“It’s not going to happen through osmosis. They both wanted to make it better. They just didn’t necessarily know how to make it better. Just spend time together and you’ll figure it out.”

Dragic said he never ended up going “alone with Hassan” to dinner, but they did spend more time together in groups with teammates, and it helped because “you discuss things. You get to know the guy better and where he comes from. He opened up to me and vice versa. You know what the guy is thinking now.”

Also helpful: Dragic said he and Whiteside practiced pick-and-rolls alone, after practice.

Though they’ve always gotten along, Dragic, from Slovenia, and Whiteside, from North Carolina, don’t necessarily have a lot in common.

“He likes to play video games; I don’t do that,” Dragic said. “I have a family [with kids]; he doesn’t. But we both love basketball.”

The upshot, Dragic said, is they now they mastered non-verbal signals, to the point where Whiteside can anticipate a Dragic alley-oop before the defense knows it’s coming.

“It was hard” to get to this point, Dragic said. But the improved communication “has helped us function.”

Said Whiteside: “I know it looks like sometimes we’re out there arguing or fussing. But every time I see something, I tell him. And it goes both ways.”

***

No. 3: Donovan sees himself with OKC for long haul — When the Thunder lost Kevin Durant to free agency, it created a rather weird reality for coach Billy Donovan. He came to the Thunder two summers ago fully realizing that he might have only one season coaching Kevin Durant and that the team’s identity (and title chances) could drastically change overnight if Durant left. Maybe Donovan would regret leaving a comfortable gig with the Florida Gators. Well, when the Thunder opened camp Friday, Donovan was fully committed to the present and the future. Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman spoke with Donovan about this…

Billy Donovan’s second NBA season begins Saturday with Thunder training camp. Perhaps you’ve heard, Kevin Durant won’t be there.

The team that Donovan signed up for 17 months ago — a superstar-heavy, NBA-title-contending roster — has changed. Still talented. Still interesting. Still a winner. But not a title contender unless the basketball gods bestow upon us the sports story of the century.

Makes you wonder if Donovan laments coming to town. Makes you wonder if Donovan wonders what in the heck he’s gotten himself into.

This week, I asked Sam Presti how Donovan has responded to the different landscape. From knowing exactly what he had to not sure what he has. From NBA overdog to NBA underdog. From two superstars to one.

Presti said to ask Donovan. But then Presti told us what he thinks of the coach who leads the Thunder. “I think it is the same situation he signed on for, because the things that make a Billy Donovan a Billy Donovan is he wants to be the coach of the Thunder,” Presti said. “He wants to coach in Oklahoma City. He wants to coach with an organization that is committed to the values that I’ve covered … I think those are the things that drive a person like Billy Donovan. He wants to be a part of something. He wants to be a part of representing a city and the values of a city. And he wants to work his craft.”

Well, working his craft is not going to be a problem. To whatever extent Donovan was able to roll out the basketball and let Durant and Russell Westbrook perform their magic, that will happen no more. Donovan will be free to coach his butt off this season.

Truth is, Donovan did just that last season, when the Thunder traversed repeated valleys and emerged as a playoff force. No team played better in the 2016 playoffs than did Donovan’s Thunder. In the month of May, OKC went 7-6 against teams with 67 (Spurs) and 73 (Warriors) wins.

Donovan pushed all the right buttons, and the Thunder’s eventual fall had nothing to do with the quality of the coaching. Durant and Westbrook just famously locked up in the final five minutes of the Western Conference Finals’ Game 6.

The Thunder won’t get that close this season. Donovan won’t admit that, of course. He also talks like it’s OK if it is true.

Donovan said Clay Bennett and Presti made it clear that Durant’s return was no sure thing. Said he came to OKC not because of the dual superstars, but the values and culture that had been created.

“I believed in the vision of the organization,” Donovan said. “Those things resonated with me.”

You know the drill. All the things that Presti talks endlessly about. All the things that now will be put to the test in the post-Durant era. Hard work. Holistic approach to people. Trusting the process.

“Nothing’s really changed here,” Donovan said, words that will be tested on Oct. 25, when Durant dons a Warrior jersey for his first real game with Golden State. “The principles, the vision, those things haven’t changed. It’s not like the mission and the values have changed here.”

Donovan says he’s used to player departures. Nineteen years at Florida taught him to adjust. Players graduating. Players transferring. Players going pro early. Donovan went to Final Fours with virtual all-star teams and went to Final Fours with virtual no-name teams.

Truth is, Oklahoma City is a lot more accustomed to Durant than Donovan is to Durant. We had the tall drink of water for eight glorious seasons. Donovan coached him for one.

“When players leave, you gotta be aligned with the people that are in charge and the people you’re working with every single day,” Donovan said.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Jrue Holiday and wife had their baby and now Lauren Holiday awaits surgery for a brain tumor … Russell Westbrook still hasn’t spoken with you know who … Knicks are staying mum about the charges against Derrick Rose for now … Yao Ming is having his jersey retired by the RocketsNik Pekovic may never play for the Wolves againJeff Teague is getting to know his new teammates in his hometown of Indy … Mitch McGary is very, very sorry.

Blogtable: Which two teams are most intriguing in the East?

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: Intriguing East teams? | Intriguing West teams? | Taking slow approach with rookie

> As the start of Eastern Conference training camps near, which two teams are you most intrigued by? And what depth chart battle/storyline/offseason move(s) by those teams will you be watching most?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Two? Thought you said there wouldn’t be math on this. Well, I’m curious about a pair of East also-rans, New York and Milwaukee. The Knicks have undeniable buzz now, and I’m curious to see (in order of intrigue) how “back” Derrick Rose really is in his new surroundings as he eyes next summer’s free agency, how high of a priority Kristaps Porzingis‘ development remains on New York’s to-do list and to what degree Joakim Noah can put the paddles to that team’s collective heart. The Bucks, meanwhile, need significant bounce-back because they messed up the ramp-up of their rebuilding (you aren’t supposed to go from 15 victories to 41 to 33, especially when healthier and sporting an alleged big free-agent “get” in Greg Monroe). Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s nine-figure contract extension signed this week is the latest step toward a season that’s showtime now rather than any more dress rehearsals.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The Celtics and the Magic, for different reasons. (Among the many possible answers.) Boston has a chance to push into the top three and be in good position if the Cavaliers falter. Brad Stevens is a leading preseason candidate for Coach of the Year. Orlando won’t play at the same level, but several offseason moves (especially up front, and hiring Frank Vogel as coach) definitely qualifies as intriguing. The Magic sorting through options and now without Victor Oladipo should be a good watch wherever they are in the standings. The depth-chart battle among Nikola Vucevic, Aaron Gordon, Bismack Biyombo and Serge Ibaka will get the most scrutiny.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Bulls and Knicks. And not exactly a coincidence. The defections of Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah this summer will have a measurable impact on each team; we just don’t know whether it’s positive or negative and to what degree. Both teams will give off some hints during camp about their identity and what we might expect at least for the first month or two. The Bulls need to address their power forward spot with either Nikola Mirotic or Bobby Portis, while the Rose-Courtney Lee dynamic will bear watching.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Indiana and Philadelphia. The Pacers could see a boost in their offense with the additions of Jeff Teague, Thaddeus Young and Al Jefferson, along with the development of Myles Turner. But their defense is likely going to take a big step backward with the departures of George Hill, Ian Mahinmi and Frank Vogel. Can Nate McMillan find the right balance, and how much longer will Monta Ellis be around? And of course, it will be fascinating to see just how good the Sixers’ trio of rookies — Joel Embiid, Dario Saric and Ben Simmons — is and how Brett Brown is going to work out the frontcourt minutes while he still has all those guys plus Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The Chicago Bulls and their three-alpha attack should provide for a fascinating chemistry experiment for Fred Hoiberg and his coaching staff. We all know what Dwyane Wade, Rajon Rondo and Jimmy Butler bring as individuals. How they mesh together and whether or not they can make the Bulls a top-four contender in the conference playoff chase remain the outstanding questions regarding this trio. The Boston Celtics swung for the fences in free agency and came away with a seemingly perfect fit in Al Horford, a veteran center/power forward who should stabilize things in the frontcourt immediately. He helped make Atlanta one of the top teams in the conference the past two seasons. I’m curious to see if Horford can do the same for the Celtics now.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comThe Heat have enough talent to contend for homecourt advantage in the East — if they can resolve their many issues, including the absence of Dwyane Wade’s leadership, the medical uncertainty of Chris Bosh’s future, the chemistry between Bosh and Hassan Whiteside, and the potential of Goran Dragic to become a go-to star, which at age 30 he must fulfill this year. This looks like an entirely different franchise because Wade is no longer there to accept the responsibility of making things right. It was his team and he took it personally when the team struggled. How do they replace that level of authority? The other fascinating team is Indiana, which will be playing in a hurry after surrounding Paul George with Jeff Teague and Thaddeus Young. How quickly can 20-year-old Myles Turner emerge as their No. 2 star while creating mismatches at center? Another intriguing addition is backup center Al Jefferson, whose low-post game could enable Indiana’s second unit to change and control the pace.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Atlanta, for one. I know bringing in Dwight Howard to replace Al Horford was made with an eye on the box office, but what kind of result will it have on the win column? I also wonder if enough attention is being paid to the change at the point, with Dennis Schroder replacing Jeff Teague and being asked to take on a starting role. Another Eastern Conference team I think may be interesting is Orlando. I’ve always admired Frank Vogel‘s ability to get a team to play a cohesive style of play. The Magic are still staffed with a lot of youth, but I wonder if Ibaka playing a more central role will get him back to being the dominant player he was a few years back?

Morning shootaround — Sept. 14

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Shaq: Simmons a ‘LeBron-type player’ | Payne on mend for Thunder | Schroder embraces bigger role on Hawks

No. 1: Shaq calls Simmons a ‘LeBron-type player’ — As a Hall of Fame player and today as a TNT analyst, Shaquille O’Neal is never one to shy away from a bold proclamation. He’s also got a lot of pride in his alma mater, LSU, and will talk up a player from there from time to time. O’Neal tapped both of those wells as he gave his thoughts on the No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft, Philadelphia 76ers forward Ben Simmons, during an interview at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, writes Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com:

Shaquille O’Neal was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as one of the best to have ever played the game. He has solidified his place in basketball history, and now he is eyeing the next generation of potential stars in the incoming rookie class.

“I don’t know all of them, but I know my guy’s going to be pretty good, Ben Simmons,” O’Neal said last week in Springfield, Mass.

O’Neal said he has paid attention to only the top two picks, Simmons and Brandon Ingram. He got to know Simmons’ game before he was drafted by the Sixers when Simmons attended his alma mater, LSU.

O’Neal recognized Simmons’ multidimensional skillset, from scoring to ball handling to rebounding, which sets him apart as a 6-foot-10 point-forward. Even though Simmons played just one season in college, that was enough time for O’Neal to draw comparisons between him and one of the most talented in the NBA.

“He’s a LeBron-type player,” O’Neal said. “What I mean by that, LeBron does a nice job of making everybody else around him better — passing the ball, doing the small things — and Ben is that type of player.”

O’Neal defended Simmons’ collegiate performance and expects improvements from the 20-year-old in the NBA.

“He took a lot of flack, especially at LSU with not really taking over games,” O’Neal said. “But he’s young. He’ll get to that.”

Simmons will be a centerpiece of the Sixers system this season. He brings intangibles, versatility and a basketball IQ that is already beyond his years.

“When it comes to other aspects of the game, he’s very, very intelligent,” O’Neal said. “He plays the game very well.”

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Morning shootaround — Aug. 25

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Harden organizes players-only camp | Kaminsky working to improve his defense | Sefolosha: Hawks have ‘different dynamic’ now

No. 1: Harden organizes Rockets’ players-only camp — Star players on NBA teams are tasked with a variety of responsibilities, with overall leadership of the team being perhaps their most important job to succeed at. As such, many standout players — from the New Orleans Pelicans’ Jrue Holiday to Cleveland Cavaliers superstar LeBron James — are organizing players-only workouts and mini-camps before NBA training camps open in late September. According to Marc Berman of Fox26Houston.com, James Harden is doing likewise for the Houston Rockets:

For the second consecutive year Houston Rockets guard James Harden has organized a players-only minicamp scheduled for next week.

Last September Harden had the Rockets players together for a minicamp in Los Angeles.

“James is doing everything,” said Corey Brewer, Rockets guard/forward. “He is showing he wants to be a leader.

“He’s the franchise player. He signed the extension. So it’s his team, and he’s doing all the right things to do what we need to do to have a chance to win championships.”

Harden’s plan is to hold the minicamp in Miami. However, the potential of bad weather hitting South Florida may cause the Rockets players to work in a different city.

Eric Gordon said the Rockets players had a “good group” for players-only workouts around the same time as the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

“It was just everybody getting together,” Gordon said. “It wasn’t a real structured thing.

“It was just guys working out together.”

Brewer is looking forward to getting together with his teammates.

“I’ve got to go down there with the fellas,” Brewer said. “It’s a good thing. We got to get together. Get to know each other, team camaraderie. You need that, especially now days the way the NBA is. A lot of good players, but you got to be a team.

“We want to send a message that we’re ready to go. We’re going to work our butts off. All the guys have been working hard this summer. Last year was a year that we didn’t like. Everybody has a bitter taste in their mouth. So we can’t wait to get started.”

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Hang Time Podcast (Episode 242) Featuring Dennis Schroder

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Three years into his NBA career and one thing is clear, Dennis Schroder has arrived.

An exciting change-of-pace backup to All-Star Jeff Teague with the Atlanta Hawks, Schroder takes over for Teague now on a revamped Hawks team that traded Teague and lost All-Star center Al Horford to Boston in free agency. The Hawks new look does include hometown big man Dwight Howard, once the most dominant big man in the league.

Ask any fan or pundit and they’ll likely debate the biggest risk, Schroder moving into a starting role or the Hawks betting that Howard still has dominant big man juice in his body.

But know this, Schroder is convinced he’s ready for prime time. He’s been clear about his ambitions from the moment he made the transition from his native Germany to the NBA

Hawks coach and team president Mike Budenholzer is also a believer. He’s the one who signed off on the trading Teague to Indiana and opening up the space for Schroder to ascend to the starting job (Bud also wisely signed veteran Jarrett Jack this summer to serve as Schroder’s backup).

The results of these changes will determine just how wise a move it was to make these moves now. Will the Hawks remain among the Eastern Conference playoff elite? Will Schroder and Howard energize a unit that has done nothing but roll on Budenholzer’s watch?

We dig deep with Schroder on that and much more on Episode 242 of The Hang Time Podcast.

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.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

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Morning shootaround — July 9

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bird uses trade market to rebuild Pacers | Familiarity a key for Parsons’ move to Memphis | Knicks “activate” to get ‘Melo back to the playoffs | Ezeli’s journey leads him to Portland

No. 1: Bird uses trade market to rebuild Pacers — While other teams have made big changes through free agency, Larry Bird has taken the Indiana Pacers down a new path via the trade market. The Pacers did sign Al Jefferson this week, but they also added two new starters by making trades for point guard Jeff Teague and power forward Thaddeus Young, who give Indiana a quicker and more versatile roster, as Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star writes:

Rebuilding in the NBA can be a painstaking, rigorous process. The usual years of losing, the hopes and fate of the franchise decided by lottery balls.

A free agency signing can bring jubilation. A rejection in free agency can be crushing.

Indiana Pacers President Larry Bird has chosen a different path.

Every year for Bird is about winning, improving, contending. Forget a conventional rebuild. Bird, in many ways, is unconventional. The way the Pacers’ roster was built is the latest example.

For 24 months, Bird has been on a quest. He has transformed the Pacers from a big, traditional, lumbering team into a modern one that will spread the court and run whenever given the opportunity. Bird’s design, after two years and a long list of transactions, appears to be close to completion.

***

No. 2: Familiarity a key for Parsons’ move to Memphis — Chandler Parsons made his second free agency move in three years this week, leaving Dallas after just two seasons for Memphis. And for him, it was an easy decision thanks, in part, to his familiarity with new Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale and assistant J.B. Bickerstaff. Tom Schad of the Memphis Commercial Appeal was there as Parsons was introduced in Memphis on Friday:

Parsons picked Memphis over Portland, which also reportedly offered him a max contract, in part because of trust. He played for Fizdale during the 2013 Rising Stars Challenge and said they immediately established a rapport. He also spent three years in Houston with Bickerstaff, who is “like family to me,” Parsons said.

Former high-school teammate Nick Calathes and close friend Courtney Lee gave Parsons rave reviews about playing in Memphis, he said. The opportunity to play with point guard Mike Conley, who helped recruit him with text messages over the past several weeks, was another major factor.

“Any time that you’re comfortable with someone that’s already here, it makes things a lot easier,” Parsons said. “That’s someone that I wanted to talk to and I know who would shoot me straight and someone who I greatly respect. He’s been here for nine years. He’s had a great career here.”

***

No. 3: Knicks “activate” to get Melo back to the playoffs — Since last year’s Draft, the New York Knicks have been in a position where the timeline of their best player (Carmelo Anthony) hasn’t aligned with the timeline of their best asset (Kristaps Porzingis). But with the trades and free agency additions that he’s made this summer, Knicks president Phil Jackson has clearly decided to prioritize short-term success over the long-term outlook. Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes that, even with all the changes the Knicks have made, it’s still all about Melo at Madison Square Garden:

It’s a player’s league. Not a coach’s league or a system league. The triangle doesn’t win a championship in Chicago without Michael Jordan, and the Knicks weren’t winning much of anything the last two seasons.

So Phil Jackson reached the correct conclusion after a recent meeting with an increasingly impatient Carmelo Anthony: As long as Anthony is here and All-Star capable, the 31-year-old’s career timeline should be placated. If not, what’s the point of paying him $124 million with a no-trade clause?

“One of my questions to Carmelo was, you know, we haven’t made the playoffs and now this is three years, two years, since I’ve been here — are we moving quickly enough for you and your anticipation of trying to be into a competitive playoff situation?” Jackson said. “I think that was our conversation and established the fact of his desire, the idea that he is getting into an age where things have to happen for him. So we decided to activate ourselves.”

This is Anthony’s responsibility now. His burden to win games. No more excuses or demands through the media. That was the implication Friday from Jackson, who reversed the roles after a year of Anthony publicly pleading that the team president be better at his job.

***

No. 4: Ezeli’s journey leads him to Portland — Festus Ezeli didn’t start playing basketball until he was 14 years old and has had some bumps in the road along the way. But after winning a championship with Golden State, Ezeli is expected to bring some toughness to the Trail Blazers. The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman chronicles the path that Ezeli took to get to Portland:

Ezeli chose Vanderbilt over several colleges because it offered an excellent blend of education and basketball. Also, coach Kevin Stallings agreed to his only request — that Ezeli be allowed to redshirt his first year to learn the game. It was an easy decision for Stallings, who knew he had a project on his hands.

“He had no basketball playing experience, so it was like having this really big, awesome piece of clay that we could help mold,” Stallings said Friday. “In the beginning, he was extremely raw and inexperienced. He literally didn’t know a lot of the rules of the game.”

And even after sitting out that first year, Ezeli was raw. Forget grasping the nuances of the pick-and-roll. Never mind figuring out when to leave your man on defense to offer help on the weakside. Initially, Ezeli couldn’t handle playing in front of a crowd. One of Stallings’ favorite stories about the challenges Ezeli faced on his path to the NBA came early during his redshirt freshman season, when Vanderbilt participated in a closed, preseason scrimmage against eventual-champion North Carolina. Ezeli played so well, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams was amazed.

“Who is that guy and where did you find him?” Williams asked Stallings after the scrimmage, during which Ezeli held his own against the likes of Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and future Blazers big man Ed Davis.

A week later, however, during an exhibition game against the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a tiny Division II school, Ezeli was a shell of the player that had impressed Williams. He was so bad, Stallings had to pull him early in his first shift.

“He comes to the bench and he’s hyperventilating,” Stallings said. “I’m like, ‘We scrimmaged North Carolina and you were fine. What’s wrong?’ He goes, ‘I know Coach, but all these people weren’t there.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Kings are looking to make a trade … Damian Lillard is one of many players speaking out about the violence that has happened around the U.S. this week … Jackson wants Brandon Jennings to be the Sixth Man of the Year.

Report: Teague, Hill, pick swapped in three-team deal

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The Indiana Pacers, Utah Jazz and Atlanta Hawks are all trying to solve their point guard issues on the eve of Thursday night’s Draft, engaging in a reported three-team deal that would send Hawks All-Star Jeff Teague home to the Pacers, Pacers veteran George Hill to Utah and the No. 12 pick the Jazz own to the Hawks.

The proposed deal, first reported by The Vertical, cannot be finalized until July, for salary cap purposes.

Teague’s departure would indicate the Hawks are ready to turn over their starting point guard spot to Dennis Schroder. The Pacers, under new coach Nate McMillan, would have a homegrown product (Teague starred at Pike High School in Indianapolis) to pair with All-NBA forward Paul George. Pacers boss Larry Bird decided the franchise needed a new leader after this season, replacing Frank Vogel with McMillan, and clearly wants a younger and more dynamic floor leader for his team.

The Jazz, who have struggled to find the right fit at the position, would turn things over to Hill, who helped the Pacers to back-to-back trips to the Eastern Conference finals while playing for his hometown team, in hopes that the veteran can stabilize a position of need for the franchise as they continue to chase a playoff berth.

Teague’s departure has been rumored for months. His name came up repeatedly in the run up to February’s trade deadline but the Hawks never pulled the trigger on any deals. This allows him a chance to continue his career in a more familiar environment and with an organization he grew up watching and rooting for. It also removes him from a contentious situation, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer inherited Teague when he took over and Schroder was drafted on his watch.

Teague earned his All-Star nod during the 2014-15 season, when the Hawks won a franchise-record 60 games, reached the Eastern Conference finals for the first time and placed four players on the All-Star team; Teague, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver and Al Horford (an unrestricted free agent July 1).

 

The Finals Live Blog — Game 4

THE LAND — Your move Splash Brothers!

LeBron James and his crew answered the call in Game 3 of this series, bouncing back from a 30-point tail dragging in Game 2 to deliver a 30-point whipping of their own Wednesday night.

Now it’s time to see if two-time KIA MVP Stephen Curry and All-Star shooting assassin Klay Thompson will finally get going in The Finals and remind us why we’ve been talking about them being the best shooting backcourt in NBA history. Doing it on the Cavaliers’ home floor tonight in Game 4 would only serve to heighten the drama in this series (not that it needs much more, see Kevin Love and the concussion protocol, Draymond Green insisting that the Warriors got “bullied, punked” in Game 3, etc.)

I don’t know that the Warriors can finish this series the way they want to without Curry and Thompson getting back into the groove they were in during most of their record-setting regular season.

Asking Green and the rest of the Warriors to carry them to victory in two more games, even with at least two more possibly on their home floor, is asking a bit too much.

We know what LeBron will bring tonight. No one knows the magnitude of the moment like does, playing in his sixth straight Finals with legacy on the line each and every time he hits the floor.

It's GAME DAY at the #NBAFinals!

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

So it comes down to this, to Game 4, on the road in a hostile environment against an opponent that is wide awake now, the moment of truth, if you will, for the Splash Brothers.

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It was more than just a dunk, LeBron’s epic Game 3 smash …

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You do remember that free agency is just around the corner, right? That’s what friends are for Kevin Durant and James Harden

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Happy Birthday Jeff Teague, keep it classy bro!

Join us in wishing Jeff Teague a happy birthday!

A photo posted by @nbatv on

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Where you at Klay T?

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Careful Swish, the is the sort of thing that got the Thunder in trouble in the conference finals. #Respek

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Team USA point guard ranks are thinning by the day!

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Ownership importing some human noisemakers for the Warriors.

Thanks to Joe Lacob & Peter Guber, Dubs employees are on their way to Cleveland for Game 4! #StrengthInNumbers

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

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Stuff Curry is ready!

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Something tells me getting beat by 30 is No. 1 …

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Uncle Drew is locked in and ready to go …

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Love appears to be ready to go. Still not sure if he is going to be in the starting lineup.

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You said this last time Steph!

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Hey man, we matter a little bit …

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Love is A-C-T-I-V-E!

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Gotta give it up to the fans here in Cleveland, the atmosphere around the arena is indeed off the charts.

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Klay is sleeved up and ready to go!

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David Aldridge gets a word or two with Steve Kerr

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Spike Lee representing the Greatest Of All Times! Muhammad Ali!

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This is just wrong!

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Keep your t-shirts!

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What Tommy said!

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Give the political stuff a rest for one night.

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Draymond drawing fouls like a modern day MJ … Jordan Rules?

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In addition to his shooting struggles, Steph got lost on D big time here:

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Who he play for?

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Where you been big fella?

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#SPLASH

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WARRIORS 29, CAVALIERS 28 after the first 12 minutes …

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Stop it. Please. Stop!

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Steph heating up tonight!

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Live by the 3 …

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Not sure what Steph is watching on D, but he keeps losing his man.

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Kyrie showing off his improved defensive prowess.

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The story of the game for the Warriors. Getting waxed on the boards.

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CAVALIERS 55, WARRIORS 50 at halftime … You wanted a close one, you got it!

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SPLASH BROTHERS are SPLASHING

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Not the kids!

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Andy V getting it from the former home crowd for …

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🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

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

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WARRIORS 79, CAVALIERS 77 at the end 3 … NO COMPLAINTS ABOUT A BLOWOUT TONIGHT!

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Way too much. And the Warriors keep getting timely buckets (3s from all over). 93-84 Warriors with 5:56 to play. The crowd in here is nervous!

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Brilliant player making clutch plays all over the floor.

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Basically …

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Draymond kept his cool there, double fouls and no techs or Flagrants.

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This is what all the LeBron/Draymond fuss was about …

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Freaky moment. Guy had Trump Sucks written on his chest and stomach. Republican National Convention is a month away.

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Steph with a driving layup and dagger. No one questioning him right now.

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SPLASH BROTHERS putting the game away at the line …

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WARRIORS 108, CAVALIERS 97 — SPLASH BROTHERS REVENGE!

Warriors head home with a 3-1 lead and a chance to close the Cavaliers out before the home crowd at Oracle Monday night to win their second straight Larry O’Brien trophy. Don’t guess anyone will waste time questioning Steph (38 points, 6 assists and 5 rebounds) or Klay (25 and 4 rebounds) tonight.

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Dubs lead the series, 3-1. #StrengthInNumbers

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

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Morning shootaround — June 3

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron: ‘Better ingredients’ needed in Game 2 | George plans to give Team USA tryouts ‘a shot’ | Warriors sound off on Dellavedova’s foul | Report: Sixers, Hawks discussing trade

No. 1: LeBron: Cavs need ‘better ingredients’ in Game 2 The Cleveland Cavaliers had a solid chance to win Game 1 of The Finals, what with Golden State’s star guard tandem of Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson combining for 20 points on 8-for-27 shooting. But Cleveland missed its chance (in large part because of Golden State’s stellar bench play) and is in a 1-0 series hole. Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com has more on the loss and what Cavs star LeBron James expects from his team come Game 2:

“We will have a better game plan going into Game 2 for sure offensively,” James said, commenting on Cleveland’s 17 assists on 32 baskets and describing the so-so as a lack of continuous ball movement. “Sometimes your offense dictates your defense, and the fact that we had 17 turnovers and that led to 25 points is not a good ingredient for our offense for sure.”

But just a short while earlier, at that same podium in the bowels of the defending champs’ arena, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue took a decidedly different tone.

“We didn’t finish around the basket, so we’ve just got to keep playing the same way we were playing,” Lue said. “I thought we were fine. I feel good about how we played.”

The star player is ripping the ingredients and the coach is OK with how the meal was cooked, even if it came out a little raw. If this were last season, we’d be talking about the obvious disconnect between James and David Blatt, about the Cavs’ floor general taking yet another swipe at his beleaguered coach.

This season, in these Finals, with James trusting the cool-under-pressure Lue, we’ll instead chalk this up to just two men choosing different ways to say everything will be better in Game 2. And they would know: Neither James nor Lue has ever won a Finals in which their teams won the first game.

Lue’s 2001 Los Angeles Lakers lost Game 1 to the 76ers before winning the next four (when the Lakers won the 2000 Finals, including Game 1, Lue was not active for any playoff games). Both of James’ titles with the Heat came after losng Game 1.

James, of course, is 2-4 all-time in the Finals, and he’s only won Game 1 once. In all that time, his teams have only gone down 2-0 in the Finals once, and that was when the Spurs swept the Cavs in 2007.

All of that is to say there is reason to suspect Cleveland will indeed have it together come Sunday, perhaps evening the series at one like it did last season.

Obviously, something has to be different when this series resumes in two days, or it’s going to be rather short. The bench scoring and defense, the turnovers, the short shots, the ball movement, sure. But what else?

James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love were all productive if not efficient. James nearly had a triple double with 23 points, 12 rebounds, and nine assists; Irving scored 26 and Love contributed 17 points and 13 rebounds. But none of them shot above 50 percent from the floor and they committed 11 turnovers between them.

Whichever changes James seeks, there was no panic either from him or Lue afterwards. Of course there wasn’t. As previously mentioned, they’ve been here before, plenty of times, and it was unrealistic to suspect that the Cavs could win this in a short series.

When it comes to track records, though, the Cavs have one with the Warriors that is troublesome. They’ve now dropped six in a row to Golden State, dating back to last year’s Finals.

“This is the same team who we had down 1-0 last year and they hit us twice,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “Obviously last year in The Finals I think we won three in a row and kind of figured that out. And then this year, I mean, well, both games they didn’t even have the same coach that they have now. Not that I’m blaming anything on David Blatt, I don’t know their situation. But there’s been a lot of changes to this team. They’re not even really playing the same style of basketball they were before.

“They’re used to winning,” Green said. “They’re going to battle, they’re going to compete, and they’re super talented. So you can’t come out saying, oh, we beat them six in a row, we’re good. Absolutely not.”

Hawks at crossroads with roster

ATLANTA — Mike Budenholzer didn’t want to talk about it in the immediate aftermath of a second straight season-ending sweep at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Al Horford wanted a little bit of time as well, the soon-to-be unrestricted free agent wanted at least a day to process his thoughts about the Atlanta Hawks’ season and his future, before making any public comments.

It’s understandable. The wounds of the way the Hawks were dismantled this time were still fresh.

But another day or two won’t change the facts. As good as these Hawks have been the past two seasons under Budenholzer, the coach and president of basketball operations, they’re simply not good enough to deal with the Eastern Conference standard-bearer.

The Hawks are at a crossroads with their current roster and nowhere is that more apparent than with Horford, who will command a five-year, maximum salary on the open market this summer. Horford’s arrival as the No. 3 pick in the 2007 NBA Draft signaled a transformative time for the Hawks, at the time one of the league’s perennial doormat franchises.

They own the longest playoff streak in the Eastern Conference with nine consecutive trips, second only to the San Antonio Spurs. Yet they are no closer to reaching a championship level right now than they were after Horford’s rookie season, when they pushed the eventual champion Boston Celtics to seven games in a first-round series.

Continuity has been the hallmark for the Hawks, since before Budenholzer took over, with Horford as the centerpiece. He’s an All-Star with an impeccable work ethic and a sterling reputation off the court. But he’s played out of position, at center, for majority of his nine seasons and would likely have to continue to do so if he stays here in Atlanta.

So do you retool or rebuild, with a decision on Horford providing an opportunity go in whichever direction Budenholzer chooses?

“Our season just ended minutes ago,” Budenholzer said. “At the appropriate time, we’ll sit down and we’ll discuss. I know we feel strongly about our group. We have a great group to work with player-wise, coaching and front office…at the appropriate time, we’ll take a look and we’ll discuss all those things. We love our group.”

Loving your group doesn’t change the bottom line. They’ve only been able to go so far as presently constituted. Even with an accomplished group led by Horford and fellow All-Star Paul Millsap, who re-signed with the Hawks last summer, aging veteran shooting guard Kyle Korver and point guard Jeff Teague, there is a ceiling with this group that doesn’t suggest that a great leap in production is looming. Kent Bazemore stepped into a starting role this season and shined, setting himself up for a nice payday of his own this summer as an unrestricted free agent.

So Budenholzer and his front office staff have ask themselves some hard questions about what they have to work with going forward. Is this a core group capable of escaping the logjam of teams behind Cleveland in the conference playoff chase? Do you stick with Teague at point guard or go with the younger and streakier Dennis Schroder? And if they’ve lacked a true go-to-guy, a bona fide superstar to lean on at crunch time, is this the summer to scrap the current program and chase a big name like Kevin Durant, the prize of this summer’s free agent crop?

Horford talked passionately about his love for the Hawks, the city and its fans and the way he and his family have been embraced from the start. You don’t dig in the way he has, serve as an agent of change for nearly a decade, and not develop deep ties.

“It means a lot,” Horford said of his affinity for Atlanta. “I’ve set up here with my family. We all live here. We live here in the summer. We live here year-round. I’m very grateful for all the people here. They have taken me in from the very first day, even though I was a Gator. They loved me. I really love the city.”

Love has nothing to do with the business of free agency, for either side.

But he’ll have suitors from around the league this summer, some that will no doubt offer the opportunity for him to shift roles and operate in his natural position.

He won’t be able to do that in Atlanta as long as Millsap is entrenched at power forward. The Hawks need a significant upgrade in size, scoring and someone to control the action at crunch time. The system they’ve used the past three seasons has worked well, sharing the load amongst a quality group of veteran players.

But as the Hawks have learned so painfully well at the hands of a deeper and much more star-filled Cleveland team the past two seasons, you can only go so far with the “system.”