Posts Tagged ‘Lang Whitaker’

Blogtable: Thoughts on these Finals so far?

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: Thoughts on these Finals? | Best arena atmosphere? | Next player-turned-analyst?



VIDEOMini-Movie from Game 3 of The Finals

> After three games of these NBA Finals, what strikes you most about this series?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: That we’re seeing a new level of special from LeBron James. It’s possible his heavy lifting in this series might still go for naught, but already he has taken his game to new heights by boosting his run-of-the-mill teammates — with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love out — right along with him. I contend I saw something click, in him and in them, from the start of the Chicago semifinal series. They started it licking the grievous wound of losing Love and finished with a confidence and belief — most notably, James in guys like Matthew Dellavedova, Tristan Thompson and Iman Shumpert — that made what’s happening now seem downright reasonable.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comIt’s easy and incredibly tempting to say the transformation of Matthew Dellavedova into a minor god and I will. But even more so is the total commitment to the task and all-in attitude by LeBron James. Jalen Rose described his first two games of the series as “monstropolis” and then James went out in Game 3 and did everything but breath fire. We might be witnessing the greatest Finals performance ever.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The difference in focus. Maybe it’s even emotional toughness. The Cavaliers are locked in. They are playing with an attitude that goes beyond typical confidence. The Warriors have not played with a champion’s mindset most of the playoffs. That has continued into The Finals, where Cleveland has been able to exploit it like no previous opponent. The best part about the Cavs so far is the worst part about the Warriors.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Steph Curry’s shooting issues. It’s the No. 1 factor in The Finals, the biggest worry for the Warriors and perhaps a mystery to the Cavs as well. Maybe Curry broke the spell with his searing second half on Tuesday, but until he does that for four quarters, you wonder if his 2015 Finals will be as surprisingly lacking as LeBron James‘ 2011 Finals, when he shrank unexpectedly against the Dallas Mavericks.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Cavs have flipped the switch defensively like no team I’ve seen before. They’re the lowest ranked defensive team (20th in the regular season) to make The Finals since the league started counting turnovers in 1977, and they probably benefitted from some opponents playing sub-par offense in the first three rounds. But they have answered all the questions through the first three games, holding the Warriors (the No. 2 offense in the regular season) under a point per possession. There was one stretch of the third quarter in Game 3, where they were just on a string and anytime a Warrior got near the basket, he was turned away. In the last 37 years, the only three teams to win a championship after ranking outside the top 10 in defensive efficiency in the regular season — the 1988 Lakers, the 1995 Rockets and the 2001 Lakers — had won the title the year before. So this has been a remarkable turnaround by a team that doesn’t have that experience and that was never all that focused on that end of the floor.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The frivolous nature of the Warriors’ play on this stage remains a stunner. Where is the urgency? Coach Steve Kerr warned them and made sure to have Luke Walton do the same. They did not want a crew without an Finals experience showing up here and assuming that this was going to be like anything else they’ve done as a group. And yet, three games in, the Warriors still don’t seem to get it. They remind me of the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012. They assume there will be another chance to reach this point and chase that Larry O’Brien Trophy. There are no such guarantees, though.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The importance of experience and hunger is crucial. The older stars tend to be hungrier. The 2008 Celtics were hungrier than the Lakers. The 2011 Mavericks were hungrier than the Heat. The 2012 Heat were hungrier than the Thunder. LeBron James understands how difficult it is to win the championship more so than Stephen Curry. Maybe Curry will have learned from this experience in time to lead his team back to the championship. Or, maybe he needs to lose this Finals in order to come back as LeBron did from his own loss in 2011.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Just how little we actually know. Seems like we all watched the Warriors romp through the regular season and thought they’d just continue on during the postseason, but they reached the NBA Finals and, at least in Games 2 and 3, ran into a brick wall that they don’t seem to be able to solve. The Warriors were so dominant during the regular season, but now all that seems out the window. The Cavs have junked it up, slowed things down and tipped what seemed like a mismatched series in the completely opposite direction.

Blogtable: Best arena atmosphere you’ve ever been in?

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: Thoughts on these Finals? | Best arena atmosphere? | Next player-turned-analyst?



VIDEOVIDEO: Trey Kerby of The Starters sees just how loud Warriors fans can be

> A lot has been made about the crowds at Oracle and Quicken Loans arenas. What’s the best NBA arena atmosphere you’ve ever experienced in all your years covering the league?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com It’s not always about cheering and celebrating, you know. That’s why I’m going with Game 6 of the 1998 Finals at the then-Delta Center in Salt Lake City. There was a desperation in the stands that day from the Utah Jazz fans, facing elimination by the Chicago Bulls – again. And for a lot of others, there was a real sense that the Bulls’ championship run and, once more, Michael Jordan’s career might be ending. So as Jordan stole the ball away from Karl Malone late, followed by the play that became The Shot (push of Bryon Russell included), that was like the air being sucked right out of that building. It was excellence personified, the classic ending … if not of Jordan’s career, of the very best and most memorable part of it.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com I’m planting the flag in two old places that no longer exist — Boston Garden and Chicago Stadium. Boston Garden, with its upper deck that practically hung out over the court, had an intimate, we’re-in-this-with-you feel, a rousing, knowledgeable fan base, and was almost a living, breathing organism during the Larry Bird era. Chicago Stadium seemed to have the broad shoulders of Chicago, felt vast and overpowering and was absolutely, positively the loudest arena ever and nobody is in second place. During the first three-peat when the starting lineups were introduced, the PA announcer barely got out the first syllables of “From North Carolina …” and the roof (and your head) would rattle. I’ve been to Oracle, The Q, OKC and they just can’t touch it.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com It’s so hard to pick one. Chicago Stadium was deafening when Michael Jordan was introduced before games, Boston Garden had a magnet that pulled people to the front of their seat as Larry Bird released from the perimeter, and there wasn’t a night of leaving Oracle Arena without your ears buzzing in the 2007 playoffs as the Warriors shocked the Mavericks in the first round and Baron Davis demolished Andrei Kirilenko with a dunk in the West semifinals. But nothing beats Arco Arena in the 2002 Western Conference finals, Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Lakers, ear plugs mandatory. It was the noise, of course, from voices to cow bells, but the building itself made a big difference. Arco — now Sleep Train Arena — was a barn, a gym, a comfortable corner hangout. The intensity of the Lakers-Kings relationship and the hellacious energy from fans is still unforgettable. The outcome was not a good one for Sacramento, but the atmosphere was perfect.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com Hard to beat the old Chicago Stadium during the Michael Jordan years. The rickety place had stairwells that led nowhere, the concourses were narrow and outdated and the smell of stale beer and hot sausage on the fryer filled the air, but the place shook. I thought it might crumble from the noise when Jordan hit those 3-pointers in Game 1 of the 1992 Finals against the Blazers and gave “The Shrug.” Honorable mention: The original “Hive” in Charlotte, the Charlotte Coliseum.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com The craziest NBA atmosphere I’ve been in was Game 7 of last year’s first round at the Air Canada Centre. That was a loud building in the first place, but when the Raptors came back from 10 points down with less than six minutes to go to pull within one, and then forced a turnover in the final seconds to give themselves a chance to win, I think I heard the noise in my deaf ear. One other cool atmosphere was at the Meadowlands (really) for the Nets vs. Knicks first-round series in 2004. The crowd was 50-50, which mean there was cheering for every basket and a lot of back-and-forth between fans of the two teams.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: That’s an extremely difficult question. There are so many games to choose from. But the one that sticks out for me is Game 4 of a 2011 first-round playoff series between the eventual champion Dallas Mavericks and Portland Trail Blazers at the Rose Garden. Brandon Roy put on a show for the ages to rally the Blazers to an 84-82 win that saw the home team outscore Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs 35-15 in the fourth quarter. Portland rallied from an 18-point hole early in the fourth quarter to tie the series at 2-2. The wave of energy going through the building in that fourth quarter is like nothing I ever experienced before that or anything I’ve felt since. It was unreal. I woke up the next morning and my ears were still ringing.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com The atmosphere in Boston, in both the old Garden and the new Garden, has been consistently intimidating in the playoffs. The feeling in the old place helped create a mystique for Larry Bird‘s Celtics, and in the new building the fans fed off the energy of Kevin Garnett. It is the consistency of the support that stands out: We’re talking about a span from the 1980s to 2010 and yet it has felt as if nothing changed.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog The Cleveland crowd tonight for Game 3 was pretty great, but there are two instances that I’ll never forget:

1. The Detroit Pistons crowds in 2005 were LOUD, and then they went completely silent when Robert Horry went crazy from the perimeter in Game 5 of The Finals. That silence was deafening.

2. I know Miami fans were criticized for leaving early during Game 6 of the 2013 Finals, but the majority of them stayed in place, and when Ray Allen stepped back and knocked in the three to tie the game with seconds left, a buzz went through the American Airlines Arena unlike anything I’ve felt before in an NBA arena.

Blogtable: Star player today, NBA analyst tomorrow?

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: Thoughts on these Finals? | Best arena atmosphere? | Next player-turned-analyst?



VIDEOWhat are Kobe Bryant’s goals once his career ends?

> Kobe Bryant is working as a guest analyst for Chinese media company Sina during these NBA Finals. Besides Bryant, which current NBA player would you like to see working as an TV analyst after his playing days are over?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Give me Kevin Garnett. And please, give me a cable network, but there’d be plenty of Not Suitable For Network comments if we got the real, unadulterated KG. He’d be a lot more fun this way than with a piece of Timberwolves ownership. Zzzzz

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com Tim Duncan. All those years, all those championships, all that greatness. I would love if somebody could get him to sit in front of a camera and tell us really what goes on inside that head when he’s watching/analyzing a game.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com Jared Dudley. Elton Brand. David Lee. Pau Gasol. Jamal Crawford. Nick Young. Mike Conley. Ryan Anderson. Channing Frye. Wesley Matthews. Draymond Green. That’s a bunch of guys off the top of my head. I’m sure I’m forgetting many others.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com There aren’t many superstars other than Kobe who’d be refreshing and entertaining and honest. So I’ll go with someone who’s light on All-Star appearances but heavy on basketball wisdom (which is how I like my analysts): David West of the Pacers. He’s simply a smart man, and he would bring years of experience and a grasp of the language and honesty.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: For ratings, LeBron James would be pretty good. For entertainment value, give me Dirk Nowitzki. If HBO ever gets the rights to NBA games, Kevin Garnett could certainly provide some color. And for smart analysis (not that the previous three couldn’t provide it), Chris Paul would be the guy I’d want to hear from. Even as an active player, he watches tons of games and he would be able to tell you how to attack any kind of defense.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Jamal Crawford has always been one of my favorite players to talk hoops with, as well as other topics. He’s a true connoisseur of the game and so observant. He’s got the perfect personality and basketball IQ to become an excellent television analyst when he’s done playing. I think Jarrett Jack and Jared Dudley possess those same traits and I could see all three of these guys going into coaching one day as well. But they’ve got all of the talent and skill needed to be fine analysts.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Actually, I’m going to span over to the WNBA and say that I would like to see Diana Taurasi commentating fulltime on NBA games. She is funny, smart and at ease; she loves the NBA and relates to the game and its players as an outsider with an insider’s perspective. I predict she is going to be the NBA’s next great media star — if she wishes to be.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog Among the things make an analyst a must-listen for me are experience and candor. You want to hear from someone who’s spent decades around the sport, and you also want someone who isn’t afraid to tell the truth, even if that means sometimes burning a bridge in the service of the viewers. And while plenty of players these days pull punches because they want to maintain relationships, Paul Pierce isn’t afraid to speak his mind, he’s won titles, he’s going to be a Hall of Famer, and he’s played with and against all the best the NBA has had to offer over the last few generations. I don’t know if a broadcasting future interests Pierce, but I bet he’d be great at it.

The Finals Live Blog Game 3

@kingjames leads the @cavs huddle as they take the floor on ABC! #NBAFinals

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

CLEVELAND — When LeBron James decided to return here to continue his NBA career didn’t promise anything. He talked of their being a process these new-look Cleveland Cavaliers would have to go through to make reality the dreams of so many in this city and region.

He didn’t bring Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with him from Miami, two stars who know what it takes to claim a championship.

He brought back the scars of their battles in The Finals, four straight seasons worth of blood, sweat and tears. He vowed to school his new crew on what it takes to get here and compete at this level.

Now with Game 3 upon us, the series tied at 1-1 and Quicken Loans Arena’s roof shaking with all of the noise and combustible energy flowing through the building, his words seem prophetic. The process began the moment he said he was coming home.

With or without Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, this moment was going to happen. Another run in The Finals for LeBron and his city and whatever crew he had to drag to the finish line with him.

It Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors to show that home court advantage doesn’t mean a thing, the same way LeBron and the Cavaliers did in Games 1 and 2 in Oakland.

Game 3 … it’s on!

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Mr. Brown! Nuff said …

The legendary Jim Brown here at Game 3 of the #NBAFinals on ABC! 🏈🏆🏈

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

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Miami Heat fans cannot be feeling this!

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Whose house? Delly‘s house!

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Focus … Focus … Focus

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The pregame build up in here tonight is epic. Absolutely bonkers.

Lebron everywhere

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#Shade

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Showing love to the original King of Cleveland

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#Game2daejavu

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And it was nasty

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Down goes Shumpert

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A little early for this, no?

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Old Head in the house!

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It’s crazy in here and everything, but this is taking things a little bit far

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National Lefthanders Day?

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Mike Miller is still willing to hit the floor if need be.

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All that hype and energy and the Cavs are only up 24-20 after the first quarter. This series is that tight.

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Strange. They look focused to me. Flustered from time to time, but certainly locked in.

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J.R. Smith has not missed!

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Dirty or Delly? You decide.

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Swish

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Kobe in the house … well, sorta.

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Absolutely. Warriors shot selection has been sketchy, at best.

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Maybe David Lee can help slow the Cavaliers down on the glass?

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Preach Uncle Stu. Preach.

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Style points in June have worked for many others in the past. But I agree, Steph won’t win the battle this way.

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Ouch! But so true …

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You’d think the Cavs were up 20 the way the crowd is reacting. Warriors cannot get their act together and will pay for it down the stretch if this continues.

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This just about sums it up!

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It’s your world Delly, the rest of us are just living in it.

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Mercy!

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LeBron has his foot on the throat.

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It’s a staggeringly awful showing for the MVP. Head-scratching.

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Nope!

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Cavaliers taking the Warriors to pieces. The Q rockin’ and the question remains, what’s up with Steph?

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Warriors don’t crack 20 points in the third quarter again. The mojo is gone. GONE!

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Maybe this guy can help Steph and the Warriors out?

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This guy’s numbers never lie

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LeBron with the 1 minute break and right back out there. Warriors trim that lead to 72-63 just like that. Don’t think this one is over yet, not by a long shot.

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The Big 2 …

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NOT OVER YET!

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The celebration started too soon.

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Fresh legs always help. And non one’s legs should be fresher than David Lee’s.

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Three games. Three crazy games. All down the wire, no matter what happens in the first 46 minutes of regulation.

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A reasonable explanation …

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Even Montel is watching.

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He’s tired Boss!

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Raise your hand if you thought this was going to be a David Lee game … didn’t think so.

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Steph with a 3 to make it 81-80 and then this from Delly …

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Paying for the carelessness right now.

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Still not over yet. Not yet. Steph from the corner with 27.9 to play. 92-88 Cavs. But this is pertinent.

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Delly can’t do everything, huh?

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The replay center confirmed it.

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LeBron is money from the line! Cavs win. 96-91. Up 2-1 and two wins away from that championship they have been hunting forever. This series is crazy and far from over. #NBAFinals

Throw It Up, Throw It Up! #NBAFinals

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

 

Blogtable: Assessing the new coaches

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: Under pressure in The Finals? | Could Wade, Heat split up? | Assessing new coaches



VIDEOCan Scott Skiles turn the Magic around after several awful seasons?

> The Bulls, Magic and Pelicans all got new coaches in the last five days. Which of those hires will still be on the bench in five years?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’m thinking Fred Hoiberg still will be coaching Chicago in five years. Obviously Scott Skiles has a reputation for flaming out one way or another in shorter time frames, and the Magic might need a different type of coach once they reliably become a different type of team. Alvin Gentry didn’t quite last five seasons with Phoenix and might not in New Orleans, depending on Anthony Davis‘ long-term whereabouts or the bruising he and his Pelicans take in the West. Meanwhile, I expect Hoiberg to do well enough to stick around on his own merits, and I also think Chicago goes from contender to rebuilder on his watch, which will buy him more time. Bulls management has burned through a few good coaches in recent years and might want to show the public it’s them, not them who are at fault.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I’m going with “Mayor” Fred Holberg. He’s been the apple of Gar Forman and John Paxson’s eye for quite some time and they’ll give him all the time to succeed. Scott Skiles‘ personality tends to have an expiration date of less than five years and I’m not sure Alvin Gentry is going to take the Pelicans to the next level, as is hoped.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Fred Hoiberg in Chicago for sure and Alvin Gentry in New Orleans maybe, but not Scott Skiles in Orlando. Very good basketball mind, but unless his personality has changed, that won’t play for five seasons. It’s easy to see Hoiberg as a very good fit for the Bulls, and Chicago has the roster in place to keep winning for years. Similarly, if Gentry delivers the up-tempo style of play New Orleans wants and he has used in other stops as a head coach and assistant, and if he connects with Anthony Davis, the Pelicans have a lot of potential into the next decade.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Hoiberg will still be in Chicago. Alvin Gentry‘s time in New Orleans will last as long as Anthony Davis‘ and I suspect Davis will sign his next contract elsewhere. And we all know Scott Skiles comes with an expiration date because that’s his history, wearing out his welcome after roughly 15 wonderfully productive minutes. Well, OK, 20.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Fred Hoiberg. Bulls brass is under a lot of scrutiny for the way they handled the dismissal of a highly regarded coach who brought them, by far, the most success they’ve had since Michael Jordan retired the second time. So, even if Hoiberg struggles at times, they’ll have to be patient, or be forced to admit that they made a mistake by firing Tom Thibodeau. Furthermore, Hoiberg is only 42 years old, nine years younger than Scott Skiles and 18 years younger than Alvin Gentry. He should be in it for the long haul.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comI’d love to see Alvin Gentry, one of my favorite people in the league, have a long and prosperous tenure in New Orleans. But things have never really been stable there for whoever is coaching that team. I wouldn’t bet the kids’ lunch money on Scott Skiles lasting that long in Orlando. So, Fred Hoiberg wins by default. That’s mostly because he was the long-rumored and hand-picked choice of a Bulls front office that just bounced a coach (Tom Thibodeau) who piled up 50-win seasons on the regular. They almost have to give Hoiberg one of those Brad Stevens-like deals, if for no other reason than to justify the move.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Alvin Gentry has a chance to build the kind of relationship with Anthony Davis that could keep him in New Orleans. He has the experience and the personality to make it work: To be on the same page with both his front office as well as with his best player. Gentry’s potential to build a working rapport with Davis is crucial. The Pelicans made a terrific hire.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Not Scott Skiles — I think he’ll make the Magic a playoff team but to me he’s clearly a coach who takes a team from point A to point B, but not much further. As affable as Alvin Gentry is, he also has a track record of not being much of a defensive coach, and I’m not sure how that will fly in the Western Conference. Which leaves Fred Hoiberg, a former Bulls player, who has been rumored to be part of the Bulls plans forever and has long-lasting relationships with the Bulls front office. I’m not sure if the Bulls will actually be better under Hoiberg than they were under Tom Thibodeau, but the front office relationship can’t be worse.

Blogtable: Under pressure in The Finals?

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: Under pressure in The Finals? | Could Wade, Heat split up? | Assessing new coaches



VIDEODennis Scott and Rick Kamla reveal their Finals picks

> Fill in the blank: The pressure is on ________ in these NBA Finals.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comStephen Curry. He’s got to close this out, this MVP year of his. Consider it the pressure of the Maurice Podoloff Trophy. Had James Harden and the Rockets prevailed in the West finals, it would have been a little bit of a referendum on Curry’s marvelous season and his ability to carry a team at his weight class. Now, facing LeBron James — another 2015 MVP candidate as well as a four-time winner — it’s even more so. Curry has to be his pesky, shot-making self and not let the big lug from Akron or any of the other Cavs drape themselves over him so effectively it swings the series in Cleveland’s favor.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comLeBron James. Because it’s always on LeBron James. He’s the best player in the game today, one of the greatest of all-time and yet he continues to come under more scrutiny and draw more criticism and than any athlete of the era. So even though the Warriors had a league-best 67 wins, have cruised to a 12-3 record in the playoffs and are the favorites to win the series, it’s somehow on LeBron to prove that he’s a winner. That’s why we’re already hearing so much about his 2-3 record in The Finals.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comDavid Blatt. Because the pressure has been on more when he was winning in the playoffs than when he was losing the first half of the regular season. Blatt has himself to thank for that, for almost calling timeout he didn’t have, and LeBron James to thank, for throwing his coach under the bus by waving off Blatt’s play and then going public afterward. The Cavaliers had a very good finish to the regular season and reaching The Finals is a big positive. But if Blatt has a rough series, it’s going to look very bad.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comUm, David Blatt? We all know the story by now, how he was hired before LeBron officially returned, how the Cavs struggled at the start, and the almost “timeout” and blah, blah, blah. Blatt has the chance to erase all the suspicion and doubt about his coaching ability with four more victories, and a Cavs win would be surely classified an upset. Of course, LeBron would likely get all the credit if that happens. Blatt cannot afford to be out coached by Steve Kerr and create a dark cloud over his head heading into next season.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comMy initial answer would be David Blatt. But really, how the Cavs’ offense performs is more in the hands of LeBron James than his coach. The Warriors are going to do their best to cut off the paint and keep James on the perimeter. It will be up to him to find ways to get to the basket, get his teammates open shots, or start making some jumpers himself. Thursday would be a nice time to break out of his 3-point shooting slump.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Draymond Green. The Warriors’ forward holds the key to his team’s championship dreams within him as this series nears. LeBron James always travels with two-ton boulders filled with pressure on his shoulders. He’s used to it by now. But Green will see much of LeBron in this series, perhaps on a one-on-one basis for a majority of that time. If he can have a Kawhi Leonard-like effect on LeBron throughout the course of the next 4-7 games, the Warriors will be celebrating with a parade these Bay Area streets haven’t seen the likes of in some 40 years (for their one and only NBA team). That’s serious pressure for a guy no one was sure would be a starter in this league.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comLeBron James. The Finals revolves around him. His team is the underdog and yet he is expected to win. Kevin Love and Anderson Varejao — his starting front line — are out and Kyrie Irving has been hurt, and yet Cleveland is counting on him to lead his newly-rebuilt Cavaliers (at both ends of the floor, no less) to the city’s first championship since 1964. Don’t think he doesn’t feel that pressure, and don’t think it’s a bad thing either — in the end he’s going to find a way.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogLet’s work backward here. I don’t really feel like the pressure is on Golden State, who had a terrific season and have reached The Finals for the first time in 40 years. With their young core, this should be Golden State’s first trip of many to The Finals. In Cleveland, for all the talk of the Cavs being cursed and unlucky, the reality is this is the Cavs’ second trip to The Finals in the last eight years. That’s thanks to LeBron, who has now made five consecutive Finals trips and shrugs off pressure. I guess if anything, the pressure is on Cleveland’s role players, who will have to chase the Splash Bros. and hit the open threes LeBron creates for them if Cleveland is going to have any chance.

Blogtable: Could Wade, Heat split up?

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: Under pressure in The Finals? | Could Wade, Heat split up? | Assessing new coaches



VIDEODwyane Wade figures heavily into the Heat’s top 10 plays from 2014-15

> Do you think a Miami Heat-Dwyane Wade breakup is a real possibility? And if so, which team should go after the 33-year-old shooting guard?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Puh-leeze. All of a sudden he’s Brett Favre? Wade isn’t going anywhere. He might like drama, but he also is to the Heat at this point what Ernie Banks was to the Chicago Cubs in his hometown. The money he feels owed by Miami after accommodating teammates and the salary cap, isn’t insignificant, but it also is money that only Wade’s grandkids (or great-grandkids) might get around to spending. It’s more lucrative, I’d guess, for him to stay with that franchise for life than to chase every last dollar by going to, ugh, the Knicks or something.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comIf Dwyane Wade wanted to stick a thumb in Pat Riley’s eye, he’d take whatever spot was available and join LeBron in Cleveland. But I think his legacy in Miami is important and he’d like end his career in just one uniform, so I think he stays with the Heat.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Enough of a possibility to kick around, not enough to think it will happen. Do not get swept away by posturing. Nothing was said to indicate a broken relationship. Nothing was said that can’t — and won’t — be walked back by something along the lines of “Dwyane earned the right as a free agent to explore his options.” That’s a long, long way from seriously imagining himself in another uniform.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Dwyane Wade in another uniform, all because of money? Not. Gonna. Happen. Heat owner Micky Arison won’t let it, and that’s where the buck — pardon the pun — stops. There are two players who are franchise icons, for what they’ve done on the court and in the community: Alonzo Mourning and D-Wade. These negotiations will end peacefully and Wade’s career will end where it started, where it should.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: No. Wade has a right to opt out of his current contract and ask for the money that he’s owed for taking less in 2010. The Heat should obviously try to maintain flexibility. But it’s hard to imagine these two parties without each other. I’d say it’s more likely than not that they find a way to compromise, maybe with a new, two-year deal that gives him another option next summer.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comI never say never, not in a league where it seems so very few stay in one spot for their entire careers these days. I’m going to assume (perhaps foolishly) that Dwyane Wade really believes that “Wade County” stuff and cannot imagine suiting up for anyone but the Heat. He’s already a living legend in Miami. I just have a hard time seeing him chase ghosts somewhere else when he’s already laid down a Hall of Fame foundation in Miami. He doesn’t have anything to prove to anybody, so why not finish in style in house he helped build?

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Too early to say: It’s going to be difficult for both sides to walk away from this relationship. But if he must leave, then the Hawks should try to land him — they need a charismatic star. 

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: After seeing LeBron walk away, I’m not so sure the Heat can afford to allow Wade to go anywhere. For all the talk about the Heat being a family, what would it say if the Heat don’t take care of Wade? At the same time, I’m not sure there’s a great market in today’s pace-and-space NBA for a 33-year-old shooting guard who can’t shoot threes, isn’t an elite defender and hasn’t played more than 70 games in a season since 2011. Wade can still score at an elite level — he averaged 21.5 ppg last season — but he can’t be the main man. Being surrounded by talented players, like the roster the Heat is assembling, is exactly what Wade needs.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 203) Super Team Redux

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LISTEN HERE:

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

– 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.


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

Blogtable: Your view on Matthew Dellavedova?

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: Can LeBron pass MJ? | Your view on Dellavedova | Recruiting target for Celtics?



VIDEOIs Matthew Dellavedova scrappy, dirty or somewhere in-between?

> Cleveland’s Matthew Dellavedova is: A) a dirty player; B) a scrappy player; C) somewhere in-between.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’ll take C. Dellavedova doesn’t go out intending to hurt opponents, but he does play recklessly in a way that can jeopardize other players’ well-being. His leg clamp on Taj Gibson‘s leg in the East semifinals showed Dellavedova is no innocent – he knows how to be sneaky and get under foes’ skin – and his repeated involvement in incidents and mishaps is no coincidence. That said, a lot of too-cool players in this league would be well-served if they brought as much energy and assertiveness to their games.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Somewhere in between, though I would come down more on the dirty play side who is hiding behind LeBron’s skirt.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: A scrappy player. The pattern is troubling and has me leaning toward a dirty player, more than I would have imagined before. But I think dirty is about intent, and I don’t think Delly has been trying to hurt anyone. He has seemed more out of control, attaching himself to Al Horford like that, but not intentionally injuring opponents.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and call him scrappy, but his grace period is over with one more questionable collision with a player. I wonder: LeBron was so vociferous in his defense of Delly, but suppose it was LeBron and not Al Horford who got hit? Or LeBron and not Kyle Korver? Or LeBron and not Taj Gibson? What would LeBron say then?

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Somewhere in between. He plays hard, values every possession, and makes the most of what he’s got. When you do that and you’re not as coordinated as the average NBA player, you’re going to get under the skin of your opponent.  He’s First Team All-Irritant.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Can I go with D, all of the above? Seriously, Delly doesn’t deserve the nefarious tag of being “dirty.” That’s a loaded statement and doesn’t mean the same thing it did in the NBA of old. That used to be a badge of honor. It has a totally different meaning in the can’t-touch-him defensive era that we live in now. All that said, there is a certain brand of justice for guys who play the way Dellavedova does, and it’s called a screen that loosens your Chiclets. You return fire for his “hustle” play with a pick that rattles his skull. And if LeBron James or anyone else wants to cry foul, remind them that whoever set the screen is just hustling and playing hard and doing whatever it takes, within the rules, to help his team win.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: He isn’t dirty. Just about any retired NBA player over the age of 40 would tell you so: I’m betting that (1) they would respect him for seeking contact and diving for 50-50 balls, and (2) they would complain about a culture that condemns those plays as dirty.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I hesitate to call him “dirty,” because that means we aren’t judging his actions but his intent, and nobody out there can read his mind, no matter how much they yell on Twitter. So without tagging him as “dirty,” I will say this: When a network is able to put together a package of clips on any given topic — like, in this case, some questionable plays — there’s probably some meat on that bone. Dellavedova is the kind of guy you love to have on your team and hate to play against. And as long as he’s playing alongside LeBron James, he’s got at least one high-powered advocate making a case for him.

Blogtable: Can LeBron pass Jordan?

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


BLOGTABLE: Can LeBron pass MJ? | Your view on Dellavedova | Recruiting target for Celtics?



VIDEOCan LeBron James one day surpass Michael Jordan as greatest of all time?

> A couple of LeBron James’ teammates believe “The King” might soon surpass Michael Jordan as the greatest of all time. Is this crazy talk, or do they have a legit argument?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Legit argument, or at least getting there. LeBron clearly is lacking in the championships category, and if Golden State (presumably the West’s rep) validates its remarkable season with a championship, he’ll be 2-4 in the Finals vs. Jordan’s 6-0. But that’s just one measure for Greatest Of All Time status. James’ combination of size, speed, power and finesse is unprecedented in NBA history, making him as unique in his way as Jordan was as the high-scoring, ultra-competitor. We need to let James wrap up his resume and then compare the two. A couple more rings for James and his continued climb up the stats lists will make this a perfect topic for barrooms and man caves.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: It’s not crazy at all. If you’re measuring only by championships won, LeBron has a long way to go. But if your eyes are open, then the discussion is on. But only for second place. Wilt Chamberlain is the greatest player of all time and it’s not even close.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: It’s not crazy talk, but it’s also not anything we need to worry about now. LeBron has to play at this level for at least a couple more years, and he has to win big, before the conversation gets real. That part is not fair in the debate, that teammates will help determine his place in history because the number of championships are part of the analysis. Jordan had Hall of Famers in his supporting cast — Scottie Pippen, Dennis Rodman — and an all-time great for a coach, Phil Jackson. No such luxury for James.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I can’t classify it as crazy talk or a legit argument. Only time will tell. He won’t have Jordan’s batting average in the NBA Finals (6-0 for MJ) but he’s still in his prime and, if he adds a few more titles, then let the conversation begin. But now? Too early. People are in such a rush to replace legends. And some of those people never saw those legends play.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I don’t know about “soon,” but I think it’s fair to have the discussion and everything depends on the lens through which you’re looking at them. LeBron isn’t close to Jordan’s six titles, but championships are won by teams, not individuals. And LeBron’s talent (size, athleticism, skill set) is obviously something we’ve never seen before.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’m going to go ahead and forgive LeBron’s teammates for being too young to comprehend what we all saw of Michael Jordan in his prime (i.e. everything prior to his Washington Wizards days). For they know not of what they speak. This is absolutely crazy talk. And that’s not a knock on LeBron, just an ode to MJ and the Greatest Of All Time that he was, is and will always be. The bar is so unbelievably high, that it’s really unfair to keep trying to squeeze LeBron or anyone else into that mold. We tried it endlessly with Kobe Bryant, another all-time great player in his own right, to no avail. And I’m sure folks will continue to do it with LeBron. LeBron’s great in his own right and will have a rightful place on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore when the time comes. But passing up MJ as the greatest of all time … forget about it.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.comLeBron may already be the most talented player ever. But “the greatest of all time” is a title that must be earned by winning. Maybe LeBron will earn it. To say that LeBron is already within reach of someone who has won three times more championships? That is simply disrespectful to Michael Jordan.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: LeBron is the greatest player of his generation, and probably the best player since Michael Jordan. But for LeBron to be considered the greatest of all-time, well, I’m just not sure that’s possible. In purely a basketball sense, those in James’ camp have an interesting argument, as LeBron is physically able to do things on the court Jordan could never do. But part of what made Jordan so special was that he was in large part solely responsible for globalizing basketball and the NBA, taking the NBA from being a minor league to making people around the world say, “I love this game.” Jordan also authored the blueprint for going from an athlete to being a business man and marketing mogul, something nobody else has done as well ever since.