Posts Tagged ‘Kyrie Irving’

Morning shootaround — Aug. 4

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Mitchell unsure about KG’s future | Irving ready to seek gold with Krzyzewski | World Peace: ‘I can still play’

No. 1: Mitchell thinks Garnett is still weighing his future — As a player for the Minnesota Timberwolves from 1995-2002, Sam Mitchell was the veteran voice who often guided a young Kevin Garnett during his formative NBA years. When Garnett returned to the Wolves in the 2014-15 season via a trade deadline-day deal, Mitchell was an assistant coach on the team and, following coach Flip Saunders‘ passing before the 2015-16 season, Mitchell was the team’s interm coach. But Mitchell is no longer with the Wolves, having been fired at season’s end as Minnesota hired Tom Thibodeau. In an interview with Sirius XM NBA Radio (transcribed by CBSSports.com), Mitchell opened up about his former teammate/player:

Kevin Garnett has been in the NBA for 21 seasons. If he decides to come back for the final year of his contract with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2016-17, K.G. will have played more seasons than anybody in NBA history. That decision hasn’t been made yet, at least as far as anybody outside of Garnett knows. Sam Mitchell, Garnett’s former teammate and coach believes the way the 2015-16 season ended could possibly lead to Garnett’s retirement, rather than coming back for another season at the age of 40.

Mitchell is referring to the way he was fired as Minnesota’s interim coach and how general manager Milt Newton was pushed aside for the full-time position. They took over their respective interim positions after the passing of Flip Saunders right before the season ended. At the end of a strong finish to the season, Mitchell was informed a couple hours before the last game that he would not be coming back as coach in 2016-17. The Wolves would eventually hire Tom Thibodeau to be the president and coach of the team with Scott Layden helping him in the front office.

“Last time I talked to him, he hadn’t made up his mind. I just think the way last year ended with the owner at the very last minute — and people don’t understand, we all felt pretty good about us. Myself, Milt Newton, and the coaching staff, we all felt pretty good about us coming back. We felt like we did a good enough job to at least earn us a couple of years, a year or two, to keep that thing rolling. And I just think KG was just so hurt by the way things happened.

“For people to send you messages as if you were going to be back and your staff was going to be back and we had everything going in the right direction, and to get a phone call [from owner Glen Taylor] two hours before your last game basically saying, ‘I’ve changed my mind and I’m going in a different direction,’ it just kind of knocked us all for a loop. We’ve all recovered from it and moved on but if you know Kevin, Kevin is very sensitive and he’s very loyal. And there was a lot of people in that organization that was let go, and the way it was done just left a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouth.

“To be honest with you, I don’t know how he’s going to deal with that. Kevin takes that stuff personally and it’s going to be interesting to see ultimately what he decides to do. It’s a shame that if he doesn’t come back and play, that his last year in Minnesota ended the way it did.”

***

No. 2: Irving looking forward to run for gold with Krzyzewski — Five seasons into his NBA career, Cleveland Cavaliers guard and former Duke standout Kyrie Irving has amassed three All-Star appearance, a Rookie of the Year trophy, an All-Star Game MVP and, roughly two months ago, hit one of the biggest Finals shots ever to give Cleveland its first NBA title. Yet there remains a longing to accomplish a feat he missed out in college — winning a championship with coach Mike Krzyzewski. Kurt Helin of NBCSports.com has more on how a quest for gold is driving Irving as the U.S. team heads to Rio:

Kyrie Irving has gone all the way to Rio this summer seeking the culmination of a conversation that started in Irving’s parent’s New Jersey home back in 2009.

That’s when he and Mike Krzyzewski first talked of winning a title together.

“I did win a World Championship with him (in 2014), and this will cement our relationship of finally getting to play for a championship that we envisioned when I was 17 years old and he was recruiting me,” Kyrie Irving said. “I’m glad I have this opportunity with him.”

Seven years ago when that conversation began, Krzyzewski and Irving pictured that title as one in Durham — but the basketball gods were not going to let that happen. Irving played just 11 games at Duke due to a toe injury his freshman year. Rather than return to the Blue Devils, he went on to the NBA where he was the No. 1 pick of the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2011 (the season after LeBron James left them to take his talents to South Beach).

Now, the culmination of that title conversation could come with a gold medal at the Rio Olympics — in Coach K’s final run as the coach of USA Basketball.

“It’s definitely emotional — and I don’t shy away from that at all,” Irving told NBC Sports during a break in the shooting of a Kids Foot Locker commercial in Las Vegas, after a Team USA practice. “The 2014 World Championships was great, but being this is his last hurrah, thinking about the storyline of him and Jerry Colangelo taking over USA Basketball and what they did just to shape American basketball in general, and the honor of playing for USA Basketball.

“We were all reminded when they took over. It was a prestige honor before, but once they came in and built up a culture, it totally changed into a different dynamic. Every generation that is coming up has to come through USA Basketball if you’re, quote/unquote, a top player in the country. I enjoy that it’s now a generational shift. Constantly, constantly, we’re getting kids coming in and playing a part of USA Basketball. I myself played when I was 17 years old going into Duke. I end up going (to college) for one year, then I end up playing on the select team that I’m playing against today (the NBA rookies and young stars that the USA scrimmages against). I get a chance to, every summer, get better with USA basketball.

“That it’s being his last year is definitely an emotional one, but I’m glad I could be part of it.”

Sure, it Coach K’s last run and they feel the pressure to win for him. However, just putting that USA on your chest brings pressure, Irving said — adding that he welcomes it.

“There’s pressure every single year,” Irving said. “I mean American basketball is at the top of everything, we’ve proven that through the World Championships as well as the Olympics, and as well as the NBA — everyone wants to be part of this. So for us it’s not any added pressure — because I don’t know what pressure is — all I know is going out there, going all out, leaving it all on the floor and living with the results after that.”

While the title didn’t change his summer plans for Rio, Irving admitted this summer has been different — being a champion raised his profile.

“Not any other summer in my life have I won an NBA championship, which has been great,” Irving said. “It’s just been awesome because of partnerships I’ve had throughout the years in my career, and now we get to put a lot of great ideas out there, and I get to be part of a lot of great things. I’m just thankful and I’m just trying to take advantage of it, but also do it in a creative space I’m comfortable with.”

***

No. 3: World Peace: ‘I can still play’ — Los Angeles Lakers forward Metta World Peace is long since removed from his glory days as a top-flight scorer for the Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings. His highly regarded defense remains there in flashes, but more or less, World Peace served as a veteran voice and mentor for the young Lakers last season. But even after 16 seasons of the NBA grind, he tells ESPN.com’s Ian Bagley that he can still play at a high level and even average double-figure scoring if given the chance:

Metta World Peace has been in New York City for the past few days playing in summer hoops tournaments, visiting with family, supporting his father’s Artest Foundation and spreading the word about his new clothing line, The Panda’s Friend. We caught up with World Peace and asked about his plans for next season:

Q: What are your plans for next season? Are you headed back to training camp with the Lakers? You’ve talked about a potential future in coaching. Is that on your radar?

A: Right now, I’m life coaching a lot of people that are in the NBA. I can’t say [who]. But I coach a couple players. But it’s not a thing where I’m going to hide and be that perfect mentor. I just give them the best advice I can and live my life accordingly. I’m doing that now and one day I would love to coach. The Lakers are tattooed in my heart. They gave me a second chance when everyone was down on me, they gave me a chance to win a ring. The city of Los Angeles, they put up with me. Because in our world, the world of corporate basketball, you should act accordingly, you know? And I don’t like to act accordingly (smiles). I’m just trying to be authentic. I’m trying, as much as possible, to keep that if I coach one day.

Q: So is the NBA on the back burner right now?

A: No, the NBA’s always on the front burner.

Q: Are you still planning to play next season?

A: Absolutely. The NBA is always on the front burner.

Q: Are you talking with teams right now?

A. I’m waiting for teams. I can still play. I can play, it’s not even a question man. But, you know, sometimes you don’t get in the game, man. What are you going to do? I’m not going to be upset, I’m going to support. So if I don’t play, like this year on the Lakers I could have averaged 15 or 20 on the Lakers if I played, easily. But you know, I’ll be supportive [if I don’t play]. But the only thing that gets me frustrated with the whole basketball is people think I can’t play anymore. So as a man, I take that personally. But at the same time I’m able to still focus on making sure Julius Randle is doing his thing, and he’s focused, making sure I can give back. But when the season’s over, then I like to explain that I can play, and I can bust people’s ass. But the fans have to understand, it’s not up to me. It’s so frustrating to keep hearing it from the fans. ‘Come back to New York, come to Chicago. Why didn’t you play.’ It’s so frustrating at times.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Former New York Knicks star Latrell Sprewell says the thing he disliked the most about former Indiana Pacers star Reggie Miller was that ‘he was a flopper’ … Back in the day, Michael Jordan was very, very unhappy when he wasn’t offered a front-office job with the Washington Wizards after he played for them …  Minnesota Timberwolves youngster Andrew Wiggins tried to throw down a 540-degree dunk

USA lineup numbers and notes

HANG TIME, N.J. — The United States Men’s National Team wasn’t tested on either end of the floor in its exhibition schedule leading into the Olympics. Four of the team’s five games were against the three worst teams going to Rio: China (twice), Venezuela and Nigeria. And both Venezuela and Nigeria were missing their only players that played in the NBA last season.

So there’s not much to be gleaned from the data coming out of those five games. The U.S. outscored its opponents by 43.0 points per game and 53.2 points per 100 possessions. The offense scored 127.5 points per 100 possessions (15.1 more than the Golden State Warriors scored last season) and the defense allowed just 74.4 (22.2 fewer than the San Antonio Spurs allowed last season).

The U.S. outscored its opponents by at least 41 points per 100 possessions with every player on the floor.

20160802_usa_on-court

Mixing and matching

With coach Mike Krzyzewski starting players in their NBA or home city, the U.S. used five different starting lineups in the five games, and all 12 players started at least once. In total, Krzyzewski used 83 different lineups on the exhibition tour. Only six of those lineups played in more than one game, and none played in more than two. No five-man unit got extended run together.

The USA’s three most used lineups all included Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant and DeMarcus Cousins. Still, what could be the starting lineup when pool play opens against China on Saturday — those three plus Klay Thompson and Carmelo Anthony — has only played 9:03 together so far.

The good news is that it outscored its opponents (Argentina and China), 25-5, in those nine minutes.

20160802_five-man

Small-ball for defense

If you look at the cumulative offensive statistics (pdf), Draymond Green was the United States’ worst player in the exhibitions. He shot 4-for-18 and led the team with 11 turnovers, even though only three players got fewer minutes than he did. Some of his shots and turnovers were downright ugly.

The U.S. centers, meanwhile, looked dominant against smaller frontlines. Cousins bullied opponents in the low post and DeAndre Jordan just jumped over them.

Yet, the U.S. was at its best with both Cousins and Jordan on the bench and with Green playing center. They outscored their opponents, 71-37, in just over 27 minutes with Green at the five.

20160802_centers

Less than 28 minutes against bad teams isn’t much to go on, but the positive impact that Green made on the U.S. defense was as clear as how out of synch he was offensively. How the U.S. plays with its different centers will be something to keep an eye on going forward.

One point guard at a time

This is the first time since 2006 that the U.S. is taking only two point guards on its roster. While we’ve seen a lot of two-point-guard lineups in past years, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry played just 1:36 together in the five exhibition games.

The U.S. played more than 28 minutes with neither on the floor, using Paul George as its third point guard until he injured his calf in the third game. With both George and Lowry out against Nigeria on Monday, Jimmy Butler and DeMar DeRozan (and even Green) played the point in the 13 minutes that Lowry rested.

It’s doubtful that we’ll see many no-point-guard minutes against good teams in Rio. Irving was the MVP of the 2014 World Cup (scoring 26 points in the gold medal game) and hit one of the biggest shots in NBA history just six weeks ago. Meanwhile, the U.S. has been at its best defensively with Lowry on the floor.

20160802_point_guards

That may be because Lowry is defending the opponents’ reserves. But it’s also fair to wonder if Lowry better complements the other likely starting perimeter players (Thompson, Durant and Anthony), who are all as flammable as Irving.

Two-man data

With Irving and Lowry getting those 96 seconds together, the only two players who didn’t share the floor in the exhibitions were Cousins and Jordan. And it’s safe to guess that Krzyzewski won’t be playing any twin-tower lineups in Rio.

Other than Irving-Lowry, the only two-man unit that had a negative plus-minus was the combination of Thompson and Harrison Barnes, who were a minus-4 in 14.5 minutes together. With Barnes looking like the team’s 12th man, that combination probably won’t see any meaningful minutes together going forward.

Among the 30 two-man combinations that played at least 30 minutes together, the U.S. was at its best offensively (143.0 points scored per 100 possessions in 52.8 minutes) with Thompson and Durant on the floor. It was at its best defensively (54.2 points allowed per 100 possessions in 46.6 minutes) with Lowry and Green on the floor together.

More blowouts coming

Again, we’re looking at small sample sizes against mostly bad teams. But that’s all you get with the Olympics. And then suddenly, you’re playing a 40-minute elimination game against other NBA talent, and you have to know what’s going to work best.

It’ll be another week before the U.S. faces any more NBA players, because it will play its first two pool-play games against China and Venezuela. The competition will get stronger each game after that, as pool play wraps up with games against Australia, Serbia and France.

Morning shootaround — July 30

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Team USA continues rolling | Wade, Bulls a convenient fit | Report: Monty Williams to return to sideline with Spurs

No. 1: Team USA continues rolling — With the Olympics now a week away, Team USA continued their exhibition schedule last night in Chicago, where they squared off against Venezuela. As our own Steve Aschburner writes, Team USA managed to overcome poor shooting to still coast to an easy 80-45 win…

A miserable shooting night by both teams kept highlights to a minimum, but the USA Basketball men’s national team beat Venezuela 80-45 Friday night at United Center.

A sellout crowd eager to see both the Chicago Bulls’ Olympic representative, Jimmy Butler, and newest acquisition, Dwyane Wade — watching from the front row after his Bulls introductory news conference earlier in the day — did most of its noise-making during introductions.

At least, that’s how it went until DeAndre Jordan‘s alley-oop throwdown of a pass from Kevin Durant gave them something to roar about, putting Team USA up 62-37 with 6:47 left. Then Butler threw one down with 1:47 left to satisfy the locals.

Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson scored 13 points each for Team USA.

Heading into that final quarter, though, the teams had combined to shoot 29-of-104 (27.9 percent). The Venezuela team was pesky enough defensively to disrupt Team USA’s offense, which had purred along shooting 49.8 percent in its first three tuneups.

The Americans won those games — the opener against Argentina, followed by two against China — by an average of 45.3 points, outrebounding those opponents by an average of 21.0. By halftime Friday, they were on pace in both those categories — leading by 18, with a 37-12 edge on the boards — but their scoring was way down due to abysmal shooting.

Their 36 points through two quarters came the hard way: 12-of-40 on field-goal attempts, including 2-of-18 on 3-pointers. The NBA stars even missed six of their 16 free throws.

The Venezuelans hung tough deep into the first quarter, trailing 13-12, before USA ran off the game’s next 12 points across the quarter break. Venezuela’s John Cox, who led all scorers with 12 points in the half, got his crew as close as 28-18 before Team USA closed the half with eight unanswered points.

***

No. 2: Wade, Bulls a convenient fit — One of the more surprising signings of the NBA free agency period was Dwyane Wade leaving the only team he had ever played for, the Miami Heat, in order to sign with his hometown Chicago Bulls. As our own Steve Aschburner writes, Wade met with the media in Chicago on Friday, and Wade said that this was not about money as much as it was a return to where he watched the Bulls play as a kid…

Wade was introduced Friday — wait, that’s the wrong word for one of the NBA’s most familiar faces, so let’s say reacquainted with Chicago media at a news conference at the Bulls downtown practice facility. The theme of the 45-minute “presser” was hometown-kid-returns, and strictly speaking, there’s no denying the truth of that. Wade was born in Chicago, grew up in the south suburb of Robbins, and went to Richards H.S. in neighboring Oak Lawn.

But he left Chicagoland after graduating to attend Marquette University in Milwaukee. After leading that school to the Final Four, the 6-foot-4 guard was drafted fifth overall in 2003 by Miami. And over the past 13 years, Wade established himself as the face, heart and soul of the Heat, stacking up 12 All-Star appearances alongside those three Larry O’Brien trophies.

Because Wade’s Miami teams were in direct conflict with the Bulls for much of his career, his roots mattered less to the fans at United Center than the city and logos on his uniform. He routinely was booed and, more than once, rather awkwardly, he was cheered when he fell or was knocked to the floor and it appeared he might be hurt too badly to continue. Wade even let on how that stung, coming in the building where he once had dreamed of playing and winning.

That was the dream-come-true of which he spoke Friday.

“I’m a Chicago guy, Chicago kid. I grew up here,” Wade said, before a fleet of cameras, a gang of reporters and lots of family. “I remember sitting on the floor when I could sit Indian-style and watching the Chicago Bulls win their first championship. I was 9 years old.

“We had this little-bitty TV — it’s about as big as an iPhone now — I remember looking at it and saying, ‘That’s what I want to do, that’s what I want to be. I want to be a champion and that’s who I want to do it with.’ My dream of becoming an NBA player started here in my hometown.”

No one wants to be overly cynical, so if Wade really is scratching an itch — and maybe extending his brand to another major market for the growing conglomerate that he and many of his peers have become — by playing next season in Chicago, good for him.

That doesn’t paper over suspicions, though, that he signed with the Bulls out of spite when the Heat and president Pat Riley didn’t make him a higher priority when free agency opened July 1. Or that the Bulls had ulterior motives in their own right besides landing a player whom they’d had in their sights twice before.

Wade tamped down a few questions Friday about the breakdown in his negotiations with the Heat. Reminded that Riley later expressed — sincerely or not — some regrets that he hadn’t been more involved in the talks, Wade said he had been fine hashing out particulars with owner Mickey Arison and son Nick.

“This year, the direction and focus for that organization in Miami — which I have nothing but respect for and love for — was a little different than it has been in years past,” Wade said. “My focus and direction was a little different than it’s been in years past. … I had a contract offer in Miami I could have took. I decided not to take it. It was my decision to be selfish and live out a dream of mine.”

“So let’s clear up the notion that Pat Riley orchestrated me getting out of Miami because he didn’t offer me the money I wanted,” Wade added. “This was not a money deal for me.”

***

No. 3: Report: Monty Williams to return to sideline with Spurs — After his head coaching gig ended with the New Orleans Pelicans, last summer Monty Williams joined the Oklahoma City Thunder as their lead assistant coach. But tragedy struck midway through the season, when Williams’ wife was killed in a traffic accident. Williams took off the rest of the season to focus on their five children, but he recently returned to work with USA Basketball, and as ESPN’s Marc Stein writes, Williams is expected to return to the NBA next season as an assistant for Gregg Popovich and the Spurs.

Sources told ESPN that Williams — who left the Oklahoma City Thunder’s bench in February after the tragic death of his wife, Ingrid — has been urged by Spurs coach Gregg Popovich to take as much of a role with the organization as he feels comfortable for the 2016-17 campaign.

The specifics of what role Williams would fill and how much time he could commit have not yet been determined, but sources say San Antonio has opened the door to either a coaching and player-development role or a front-office position (or a hybrid), depending on what he prefers.

One source close to Williams told ESPN that the 44-year-old “absolutely” intends to be a head coach in the league again after his expected stint with the Spurs. The source also said numerous teams, including Oklahoma City, have made similar offers to Williams for next season.

Williams’ in-laws live in San Antonio and have been assisting him with the couple’s five children in the wake of Ingrid Williams’ death after a Feb. 9 collision in which a car crossed over onto the wrong side of the road and struck her vehicle head-on.

The children also have been traveling with Williams during Team USA’s domestic stops on the road to the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The team has played exhibition games in Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Oakland, California; and Chicago entering the final warm-up game in Houston against Nigeria on Monday.

The start of USA Basketball’s preparations for the Rio Olympics on July 18 in Las Vegas marked Williams’ return to the sport after five months away in the wake of the accident. In a SportsCenter interview with Hannah Storm that aired Friday, Williams said he’s “so juiced up and ready to get back into it again.”

“I’ve only had peace about a few things,” Williams told Storm. “I knew I had to take care of my kids and stop coaching, but also knew that I wanted to be a part of USA Basketball, because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing.

“I can’t wait to get back and start coaching. I wouldn’t even think that if I didn’t know, one, my wife would want me to. My kids talk about it all the time. And there have been some things that have happened in my life lately that have allowed me to get that back.”

Last season was Williams’ first as the lead assistant in Oklahoma City under Thunder coach Billy Donovan. Williams previously posted a record of 173-221 in five seasons as head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans. After the Thunder’s seven-game exit to Golden State in the Western Conference finals this postseason, Donovan confirmed that Williams would not be returning to the Thunder bench.

Williams got his start in coaching under Popovich as a Spurs intern in 2004-05 before making his debut as an assistant coach with the Portland Trail Blazers.

Reflecting on the accident that claimed his wife’s life, Williams told Storm, “I got the call that nobody wants to get. And I knew when I was talking to my daughter, because she answered the phone, I knew at that moment that my life was going to change. I can’t explain it, but I knew that everything was going to be different. I didn’t know what was going on at the hospital; I just knew that my life was going to change. I don’t know why, I can’t explain it. I just felt that in my heart like this phone call was different.

“It’s one of those things you never get rid of. You never forget where you were. You never forget what you were doing. It’s the phone call you don’t want anybody to ever get. Certainly [it] could’ve broken me to the point of quitting. But God and his graciousness has given me the strength and good people to help us go forward.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: New Atlanta Hawks starting point guard Dennis Schröder joined this week’s Hang Time Podcast … The Warriors will reportedly offer JaVale McGee a chance to make the team in training camp … Nets guard Greivis Vasquez has withdrawn from the Olympics and the Venezuelan National Team … Jarrett Jack says he’s about a month away from returning to full-contact workouts

Blogtable: Best five U.S. Team players for offense

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: NBA rookies eager to watch in Rio | Team with best shot to defeat U.S.? | Best five U.S. Team players for offense | Best five U.S. Team players for defense


>The five players Coach K should put on the floor when he needs scoreboard-busting offense?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com:

G – Kyrie Irving
G – Klay Thompson
F – Carmelo Anthony
F – Kevin Durant
C – Draymond Green

This is a red, white and blue version of Golden State’s Death Lineup, with Irving, Anthony and Durant swapped in for Steph Curry, Andre Iguodala and Harrison Barnes. When you factor in the shorter 3-point line in FIBA rules, this crew — three of whom will be playing together in 2016-17, along with the reigning two-time Kia MVP — would be scary-lethal. (Note: No disrespect to Barnes, who also is on Team USA, but KD is a clear upgrade and Melo is a professional scorer.)

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comCarmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comKevin Durant, Klay Thompson, DeMarcus Cousins, Draymond Green, Kyle Lowry.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comFirst thought: Kevin Durant. Duh. Second thought: They would be best offensively with Draymond Green’s passing and shooting at the five, especially if Kyrie Irving is at the point. Now add the shooting of Klay Thompson and Carmelo Anthony and they will score rather efficiently.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Start with Kyrie Irving and Klay Thompson in the backcourt, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony in the frontcourt and DeMarcus Cousins in the middle and you can blow out a few bulbs on any scoreboard. That first five firepower would be off the charts. Coach K is working with an embarrassment of riches, even when some of the best and brightest don’t make the trip.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com:  Everyone here can create his own shot:
C – DeMarcus Cousins
F – Carmelo Anthony
F – Kevin Durant
F – Klay Thompson
G – Kyrie Irving

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI would go extra small and use a lineup of Kyrie Irving at the point, with Klay Thompson alongside him in the backcourt. Then a frontline of Paul George, Carmelo Anthony and Kevin Durant. Spread the floor, score. Good luck finding someone on that five who can’t take advantage of a mismatch.

Morning shootaround — July 18





NEWS OF THE MORNING

Kyrie-Kobe BFFs | Grizzlies on the run | Howard says he’s healthy

No. 1: Kyrie has FaceTime with Kobe after Game 7 — After the jumping up and down on the court and then the champagne shower, newly crowned champions usually can’t keep up with all of the congratulatory phone calls and text messages from relatives and acquaintances. But Kyrie Irving made a very special connection following the Cavs’ Game 7 win over the Warriors. According to Jeff Eisenband of The PostGame, Irving had a face-to-face chat with none other than Kobe Bryant:

“I actually FaceTimed Kobe after the game as soon as I got in the locker room,” Irving says. “Other than seeing my dad and my sister right after we won, FaceTiming him was just a great thing, knowing how he has won five and I just won my first. Then realizing how hard it is just to win one, my respect for him is already high, but it went to another level knowing that he’s got five of them. I’m trying to get a second one.”

Irving credits Phil Handy, who was also on the FaceTime, for sparking his relationship with Bryant. Handy serves as Cavs Director of Player Development/Assistant Coach, a position he has held since 2013, previously serving as Lakers Director of Player Development.

“[Bryant] was telling me congrats,” Irving says of the FaceTime. “I had been speaking to him throughout the entire playoffs and during the season. During the Finals, we didn’t really talk as much, because for me, I wanted to experience it full on, and if I needed his help, I would reach out to him. He would send me some texts here and there, but mainly he kind of let me be, and let me grow into my own space.”

***

No. 2: Fizdale wants Grizzlies to make connectionDave Fizdale may be a first-time head coach in the NBA, but he knows exactly what he wants from the Grizzlies. First off, it’s building on the success of the team’s core four, then playing at a faster pace and making an overall connection to each other. Ron Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal had the inside look at what’s coming:

“He spoke (to me) of culture and spoke of the commitment a team has to have to have a championship mindset,” Mike Conley said. “He explained to me the steps we need to take to achieve that goal. He wants to play faster. He wants to create more space. He’s very convincing.”

JaMychal Green agreed, saying, “The offense is quicker and we’re pressing more (on defense). Everything is quicker. I like everything about him so far.”

Fizdale is an even-keeled guy yet demanding. He expects two things that should be automatic: playing hard and communicating on the court. He demands accountability similar to former Griz coaches Hubie Brown and Lionel Hollins.

Fizdale is a stickler for detail, which is something that was evident during the film session between the second and third summer league games.

“I really got after them,” Fizdale said. “The film room is where I’m at home. You put film and players in front of me and that’s when I do my best work. I learned from the best (in Miami). Pat (Riley) is a huge film guy and Erik (Spoelstra) is an elite guy with film. So I feel very comfortable from that standpoint. I make film deliberate in cleaning up the areas we need to clean up.”

***

No. 3: Howard says homecoming feels right — It’s been quite a while since Dwight Howard was leading the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals in 2009. Since then, there was the ugly break-up with the Magic, the one-year disaster with the Lakers and three aimless, mostly fruitless years in Houston. But now the big man is back in his home town of Atlanta and tells Steve Hummer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he’s healthy and it feels like the the perfect place to write the proper ending on his career:

Will his health hold up, specifically a back that was surgically repaired in 2012 (he also missed 52 games in his first two seasons in Houston with a variety of ailments, mostly knee)?

“My back hasn’t been an issue, and I don’t think I’ll ever have an issue out of my back for the rest of my career,” he said without pause.

And will he play nice with others, altering this image that has grown around Howard that he is a difficult teammate and a hot-and-cold competitor?

When Howard speaks of himself now, a changed man, the words are simple and clean, like the peal of church bells.

“All the things that happened the past couple of years really just made me stronger, made me have some thicker skin.

“All the things that have happened put me in a place of humility to where I needed God, to understand I needed him to really survive.”

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Anderson Varejao plans to reject the Cavs’ offer of a championship ring…Timberwolves not ready to trade Ricky Rubio yet…Carlos Delfino is still hoping for an NBA comeback…It was Doc Rivers’ recruiting touch that got Brandon Bass to land with the Clippers…Brandon Ingram plans to seek out Kevin Durant for advice.

Morning Shootaround — June 26

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Jazz seek depth | More straight talk, less Bull, please | Reputations sway Orlando-OKC trade reax

No. 1: Jazz seek depth  — The reported addition of George Hill allows the Utah Jazz to turn their focus to role players, according to Jody Genessy of the Deseret News, after a 2015-16 season in which injuries pulled back a curtain on a roster lacking depth:

Though Utah brass like their young core — including rehabbing Dante Exum and Alec Burks, both expected to be healthy by training camp — the organization has an offseason objective of fortifying the roster.

That means, if possible, acquiring more talent via free agency and/or trades.
Securing veteran playmaker George Hill — whom ESPN’s Zach Lowe described as “a really good point guard” — was a good start for this playoff-hungry franchise.

But Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey has even more in mind. He’s used words like “active” and “aggressive” in describing how his staff will approach the upcoming free-agency period.

In retrospect, Lindsey took responsibility for not having enough depth on the Jazz roster in 2015-16 to help Quin Snyder deal with the unexpected rash of injuries that the team experienced, including to Exum, Burks, Rudy Gobert and Derrick Favors.

“We’re not going to sit here and alibi. Every single sports team has injuries,” Lindsey said the day after the team’s 40-42 season ended a couple of wins shy of a playoff spot. “Ultimately, I’m the most responsible up here on the dais — not Quin, not the coaches, not the players — about roster construction.”

The Jazz’s plan last offseason seemed to make sense. The team had finished the 2014-15 season on a tear, winning 21 of their final 32 games led by a dominating defensive surge.

Instead of rolling the dice on acquiring experienced free agents to bolster the up-and-comers, Lindsey & Co. opted to gamble on youth. Injuries — and a late-season collapse — made that plan backfire on a team that came oh-so-close but not close enough.

“If we do this the right way with the right character — and Quin’s such a good communicator — we’ll be able to manage the season better,” Lindsey said. “The players are like everybody else. They saw what happened last season and they know that we know that we need some reinforcements. Come early July, we plan on being very active in the free-agent market.”

***

No. 2: More straight talk, less Bull, please — A year ago, it was the coach’s fault. This season, it was the players’ fault. At some point, it’s going to be management’s fault, even if the Chicago Bulls’ top-heavy down management style doesn’t acknowledge that. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has a reputation for backing the suits in his front-office, be it with the Bulls or the MLB White Sox. But sooner or later, general manager Gar Forman and VP of basketball operations John Paxson are going to face some measure of scrutiny and have to ‘fess up for the team’s underperformance the same way former coach Tom Thibodeau did in 2015 and the way Derrick Rose did with his trade last week to New York. David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune looked at the Bulls’ monolithic approach and the growing distrust from many of the teams’ fans:

The bigger issue that emerged is this: Will Bulls fans trust a rebuilding plan designed and executed by a man so many find hard to believe?

With Rose gone, Forman instantly becomes the most polarizing member of the organization, lacking Butler’s popularity while eliciting the most emotional reaction. Lately, it’s Grrrrrrr, Forman. Chicagoans can detect BS as easily as they can spot red-light cameras, and they dislike both.

Forman first sounded disingenuous when he insisted on saying the Bulls are retooling, not rebuilding. Then consider Forman’s muddled confirmation of the Bulls’ interest in Providence point guard Kris Dunn, selected fifth by the Timberwolves

“We liked him. … We had talks like we do about moving up,” Forman said.

Of course the Bulls did. On draft day, teams in flux as much as the Bulls weigh a variety of options, which is what made Forman’s flat denial of [Jimmy] Butler trade talks so implausible. How did the Bulls admittedly explore trading up for Dunn with the Celtics and Timberwolves without dangling Butler — whom both teams wanted?

Forman comes across to those of us who know him as likable and funny, but you never will hear the words candid or transparent used to describe the Bulls GM. With a return to respectability the most realistic goal for 2016-17, the Bulls could use a little candor and a lot of transparency. Anything less threatens to turn people off. A team likely to struggle on the court need not give fans another reason to look away.

The Bulls have no worries related to attendance — the United Center regularly sells out — but the Rose deal reminds us that this is the wrong week to ignore how perception can shape reality in Chicago sports. No metric accurately measures civic confidence, but experience tells me the Bulls rank lower in that category than any other professional sports team in town, at least rivaling the lack of faith in the White Sox. Since the day the Bulls replaced coach Tom Thibodeau with Fred Hoiberg — Forman’s hand-picked candidate — skepticism has surrounded a team whose dysfunctional decline only intensified the scrutiny

Everybody understood how badly Rose needed a change of scenery because of his incompatibility with Butler. But isn’t it fair to wonder how Hoiberg’s arrival exacerbated the problems that hastened Rose’s departure? And who is most responsible for Hoiberg coaching the Bulls? The same executive who just added “I Traded Derrick Rose” to his legacy.

Yet the Bulls have left no doubt whom they want associated most with their latest plan to get past LeBron James. To articulate the Bulls’ biggest transaction of the post-Jordan era, Forman appeared alone to face questions. To discuss drafting Michigan State guard Denzel Valentine, an excellent pick that created a positive ripple, Forman again sat solo behind the microphone.

***

No. 3: Reputations sway Orlando-OKC trade reax — Reputations matter. So do resumes. So when a successful team completes a trade with an unsuccessful team, there might be some bias involved when folks on the outside evaluate the deal, tilting its apparent merits ever so slightly. That’s what Orlando Sentinel columnist Brian Schmitz sees in the reactions to the Magic-Thunder trade in which veteran power forward Serge Ibaka was shipped to central Florida in exchange for Victor Oladipo, Ersan Ilyasova and the draft pick that became Domantas Sabonis. What allegedly looks so lopsided to some doesn’t appear that way to Schmitz:

This is what happens when you lose as much as Orlando has the past four seasons: You lose credibility locally and nationally.

A lot of what you do will be panned by the public – no matter if essentially trading Victor Oladipo for Serge Ibaka makes sense for the Magic.

The Magic had, as [GM Rob] Hennigan called it, a “logjam” of wing players, thus making Oladipo expendable. The Thunder had a stable of big men, thus making Ibaka expendable. The underlying theme in both scenarios is that Oladipo and Ibaka will be looking for new contracts after next season. Neither player was particularly happy at times with their role last season.

So instead of the trade being portrayed more as good for both teams – ESPN’s Chad Ford did call it that — it is being hailed as a win for the Thunder.

“We need to call the cops — OKC robbed Orlando,” tweeted HBO Sports’ Bill Simmons.

“I don’t bet against [Thunder GM] Sam Presti when it comes to picking players. Trading Ibaka for Sabonis/Oladipo/Ilyasova? Advantage, OKC,” tweeted Skip Bayless of Fox Sports.

After I lauded Hennigan’s move, I received an-email from a ticked-off Magic fan that echoed others: “That’s a bad trade and a bad column. Let’s face it. This Magic GM is just as bad as the last one.”

Perception is a funny thing.

The trade made by the Thunder is largely considered genius because they’re contenders. The deal made by the Magic is largely considered wrong-headed because they’re bottom-dwellers.

Orlando also is perceived as a somewhat dysfunctional franchise, and it’s not without merit. They couldn’t keep Dwight Howard or — most recently — Scott Skiles from walking out.

I get it: OKC earns the benefit of the doubt.

But when you have All Stars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, any move the Thunder make tends to look brilliant. They skew the evaluation system.

Why, all of a sudden, Oladipo has morphed into Dwyane Wade and Ibaka is viewed as a spare part. An ESPN.com article even suggests that this trade moves OKC ahead of Golden State in the West. Wow, if Oladipo had that kind of impact, the Magic should have won more games.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: With Kyrie Irving and Harrison Barnes on board, Team USA’s roster finally looks set. … There is a Minnesota media crush on Timberwolves guard Ricky Rubio that might not be shared by new coach Tom Thibodeau and it has some in the Twin Cities fretting. … What is life like for Knicks’ prospect Kristaps Porzingis back home in Latvia? Esquire magazine with the answer to everyone’s most pressing question.

USA roster taking shape

HANG TIME, N.J. — Kawhi Leonard became the latest player to withdraw his name from consideration for the U.S. Men’s Senior National Team this summer. Leonard joins a long list — LaMarcus Aldridge, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Andre Drummond, Blake Griffin, James Harden, Damian Lillard, Chris Paul, John Wall and Russell Westbrook — of players from the team’s pool of 31 names who won’t be going to Rio for the 2016 Olympics.

Leonard made his decision official Thursday afternoon with a statement released by the Spurs. Jody Genessey of the Deseret News reports that Gordan Hayward has also declined an invite.

Reports from the AP, ESPN and Yahoo have 10 of the USA’s 12 roster spots taken by the following players …

Point guards: Kyle Lowry (TOR)
Wings: Jimmy Butler (CHI), DeMar DeRozan (TOR), Klay Thompson (GSW)
Forwards: Carmelo Anthony (NYK), Kevin Durant (OKC), Paul George (IND)
Bigs: DeMarcus Cousins (SAC), Draymond Green (GSW), DeAndre Jordan (LAC)

ESPN’s Marc Stein reports that Kyrie Irving and LeBron James have the other two spots if they want them. James indicated Wednesday that he’s likely to say “no,” but has yet to give a definitive answer.

Remaining players in the pool: Harrison Barnes, Bradley Beal, Mike Conley, Kenneth Faried, Rudy Gay, Dwight Howard, Andre Iguodala and Kevin Love. Lowry was not in the pool of players released in January, but was needed with so many point guards unavailable.

The full roster is expected to be announced next week and training camp will open on July 18 in Las Vegas. The U.S. will play five exhibition games at various locations before traveling to Rio for the Olympics, which begin Aug. 6.

If James officially declines, Anthony would be the only player going for his third Olympic gold medal (and fourth Olympic medal overall). Of the 10 names on the list so far, Anthony (2004, 2008, 2012) and Durant (2012) are the only ones with Olympic experience. Cousins, DeRozan and Thompson won gold at the 2014 World Cup in Spain (with Irving), while Butler, George, Green, Jordan and Lowry will be making their debuts for the Senior National Team in international competition.

The Finals Stat: Game 7

OAKLAND — The Cleveland Cavaliers made history, becoming the first team to come back from a 3-1 deficit in The Finals to win a championship. It’s Cleveland’s first major-sports championship in 52 years, and it came against the best regular season team in the history of the league.

LeBron James led the way with a triple-double and Kyrie Irving hit the biggest shot of the Cavs’ 93-89 victory in Game 7. But one stat stood out as the Cavs’ became just the fourth team to win a Finals Game 7 on the road.

The stat

9 – Shots the Warriors missed to close Game 7.

The context

20160619_basicsThe Warriors had the third best offense of the last 30 years (and the best in the last 11), scoring 8.6 points per 100 possessions more than the league average in the regular season. But with their historic season on the line, they came up empty, shooting 0-for-9 from the field and going scoreless on their final eight possessions. The first team to make 1,000 3s in a season missed their last seven.

Klay Thompson tied the game at 89 on a drive with 4:39 to go in the fourth quarter. But after that, the Warriors couldn’t buy a bucket, with Stephen Curry shooting 0-for-4 down the stretch, and James blocking Andre Iguodala‘s fast-break layup on what was the game’s second-biggest play.

And who came up with another big defensive stop? None other than Kevin Love, the noted defensive liability who defended Curry one-on-one for several seconds after Irving’s 3-pointer and forced the MVP into a tough 3 from the top of the key.

The Cavs were not a great defensive team this season. They ranked 10th in defensive efficiency and are the first team since the 2005-06 Miami Heat to win a championship after ranking that low. But they got the stops they needed with the season on the line. Golden State shot just 17-for-42 from inside the 3-point line on Sunday and scored just 97.3 points per 100 possessions over the last three games of the Finals.

That was their worst, three-game offensive stretch of the entire season.

Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
EFG% = (FGM + (0.5 * 3PM)) / FGA
OREB% = Percentage of available offensive rebounds obtained
TO Ratio = Turnovers per 100 possessions
FTA Rate = FTA / FGA

The Finals Live Blog — Game 7

OAKLAND — Respect the game.

Respect the moment.

Respect the opponent.

But have no fear.

There isn’t much more to say before what is the ultimate game in this sport, the Game 7 showdown in The Finals between two championship-caliber teams who have circled and stalked each other over the course of the past 12 months.

The reigning champion Golden State Warriors, led by their two-time and unanimous (this season) MVP Stephen Curry against the Cleveland Cavaliers, led by four-time MVP and two-time champion LeBron James, playing for all the marbles on the final day of this NBA season is the ideal way to finish any NBA season.

This has only happened 18 times in the storied history of this league and the home team has the historical edge, owning a robust 15-3 record in said games, including six straight triumphs. The 19th playing of a Finals Game 7 brings us a player attempting to establish himself as one of the top two or three players to ever play the game in James, and another, in Curry, who is seeking to justify his place in that same conversation among the top current players in the game.

Sure, it’s more complicated than that. Kyrie Irving and Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Kevin Love and plenty of others will play their roles in this epic, winner-take-all saga. All eyes early on, however, will be on the battle inside the battle between Steph and LeBron.

Whose will is greater?

Whose nerves survive the moment?

Whose supporting cast comes to the rescue first?

We find out in the next 48 minutes (and possibly more) of action. The world is watching, from right here in the Bay Area and back to LeBron’s beloved Cleveland and northeast Ohio and beyond.

We can sort out the impact on the winner and loser later, whose legacy gets the boost and whose takes the hit. Right now, it’s about this one game, just one game for the right to be called champion.

It’s all on the line tonight, here at Oracle Arena, a championship for the taking … HAPPY FATHER’S DAY!!!!

***

He’s ready!

***

You know he’s ready …

***

Stephen Curry, pre-game.

A photo posted by John Schuhmann (@johnschuhmann) on

***

Dwayne Wade in the building. He’s handled his business in a Game 7 before …

***

This game is a kind of a big deal here in Oakland and the Bay Area.

***

They are cranked up back in Cleveland, too. Trying to end that title drought.

***

As I mentioned, there have been some memorable Game 7s before this one …

***

Akron’s got your back LeBron!

***

Hmmmm …

***

It is a “young man’s game.”

***

***

Time to get it in. Got your popcorn ready?

***

A great Game 7 is all anyone’s asking for. In a strange series marked by blowouts, give us one down to the wire.

***

***

***

Prime Time’s fearless prediction …

***

By Any Means Necessary approach from Steve Kerr tonight.

***

 

***

***

It’s early, relax peoples.

***

Yes he does!

***

***

***

LeBron turned the one over, too!

***

***

***

Sorry, need one more look.

***

His handle is wicked, too.

***

Kevin Love came to play!

***

Things change …

***

Rebounding remains the most glaring issue for the Warriors.

***

END OF FIRST QUARTER CAVALIERS 23, WARRIORS 22

***

***

Ask and you shall receive #giveusoneclosegame

***

He’s #CLEAN

***

Steph going to the cup for the hoop and the foul.

***

Draymond is 5-for-7 from the floor, a perfect 3-for-3 from deep and has 13 points, 5 assists and 4 rebounds.

***

***

***

Dave is down with the Warriors!

***

LeBron is just waiting on this one every time.

***

Great players make great plays non-stop in a wild Game 7 environment. #ShowUpShowOut

***

***

***

Steph picks up his third foul just before halftime on a questionable one …

***

***

***

***

HALFTIME WARRIORS 49, CAVALIERS 42

The Global Game!

***

***

***

Another look at Steph’s third foul … ?

***

Warriors lead vanishes in mere minutes. JR cooking. Kyrie cooking. And Barnes and Ezeli continue to struggle on both ends.

***

***

***

Steph on both ends, Warriors back up 59-54 … we seem to be getting that great game we’ve been looking for.

***

***

***

***

Warriors bigs are struggling something terrible, on both ends.

***

Kyrie taking control. Cavs put together a wicked 11-0 run to take a 65-59 lead. Warriors turning it over, missing shots and getting caught up in the moment?

***

***

***

It could wild in Cleveland tonight …

***

And then the Warriors tied the game on a Livingston dunk. We’re back to even at 71 with 1:56 to play in the third.

(Draymond sank three free throws and then hit a three before that.)

***

END OF THIRD QUARTER WARRIORS 76, CAVALIERS 75 … Game 7 living up to the hype and then some.

***

The Internet wins tonight no matter what, due to things like this …

***

***

***

***

Back-to-back buckets from the Splash Brothers. Warriors take the lead 85-83 with 6:16 to play.

🔥🔥🔥🔥🔥

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

***

***

***

***

***

***

We’re tied at 89 with 2:50 to play … CRAZY!

***

***

***

LeBron with the eraser of a potential go-ahead layup from Iguodala. UNREAL!

***

***

Kyrie with the dagger from 3 with 53 seconds to play, Cavs up 92-89 and have the ball after a Steph heave that bounces wide.

***

LeBron makes the second of two free throws and Cleveland is 10.6 seconds away from ending the title drought. It’s officially his city if they finish this off.

CAVALIERS 93, WARRIORS 89 … from 3-1 down to dethrone the champs. LeBron finally lives his dream and brings a title to The Land!

The Warriors cannot finish their dream season. The title they thought was theirs was not.

***

***

***

***

We did it, Cleveland. #NBAChampions | #OneForTheLand

A photo posted by Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) on

***

***

 

Morning shootaround — June 19

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron on the verge of a dream realized | Curry understands stakes are high | Role players could play huge role in Game 7 | Kerr wants Warriors to embrace the moment

No. 1: LeBron on the verge of a dream realized After two weeks of games, tonight it’s finally time for the deciding Game 7 of the NBA Finals. And for the Cleveland Cavaliers there’s plenty on the line, as they try to become the first team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit and win a title. It would also be the first championship for the city of Cleveland in over 50 years. As our own Shaun Powell writes, those hopes and dreams are at the mercy tonight (8:00 p.m. ET, ABC) of LeBron James, who hopes to author history with the Cavs

LeBron returned to Cleveland two summers ago to create a new image for a sobbing city with a sports inferiority complex, and that can only be secured with a championship. That’s heavy. That’s a burden. How many more times will he get this close?

And he’s one win away.

“I don’t think people imagined it this way, the route we’ve taken,” he said.

He was the teenaged basketball messiah from Akron drafted No. 1 by the sad-sack Cavs and therefore planted a seed of hope. That initial tour of duty in Cleveland resulted in one championship appearance, where the Cavs were rudely swept by the Spurs, to be followed shortly afterward by a nasty defection to Miami. After living out his mid-life crisis with the Heat, winning two rings, LeBron returned two summers ago to a hero’s welcome only because Cleveland was just as miserable as when he left, maybe more.

The Cavs last season were simply unlucky, harpooned by injuries and therefore ran out of gas last summer against the Warriors. LeBron was the most important player on the floor, then and now, especially the last two games, both 41-point masterpieces, forcing a winner-take-all Game 7.

His averages in this series: 30.2 points, 11.3 rebounds, 8.5 assists, 2.7 steals, 2.5 blocks in 41.2 minutes of heavy labor. He’s away from Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, his All-Star teammates in Miami who relieved him of all the leadership responsibilities and pressure, and blessed only with Kyrie Irving, which magnifies what he has already accomplished. Win or lose in Game 7, LeBron should be a strong favorite if not a lock for MVP — Jerry West is the only MVP winner on a losing Finals team — and he managed a wisecrack about that.

“The last time I answered a question about MVP, it didn’t go so well for me,” he said, “so I’m not going to do it.”

Why should he? His play speaks loudly and boastfully. If you combine this series with last summer’s, nobody has more points, rebounds, assists or blocks than LeBron. He shot only 40 percent last summer, mostly because he wore down from the load without Irving and Kevin Love, but is far more efficient now. Besides, his defense and especially shot-blocking has been brilliant if barely noticed from the outside; when the subject came up Sunday, he took the opportunity to mention his pet peeve: “I’ve been highly upset that I haven’t won Defensive Player of the Year.”

***

(more…)