Posts Tagged ‘Magic Johnson’

Report: Kobe says this could be his final season


VIDEO: Kobe Bryant talks about whether this is the end of his era in the NBA

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The question will linger perhaps until this time next year.

Is it over?

Was the 2015-16 season Kobe Bryant‘s last?

And if it is the end, how will his final season with the Los Angeles Lakers and in the NBA play out with the likes of Lakers owners Jeanie Buss and Jim Buss, general manager Mitch Kupchak and new faces like D’Angelo Russell, Roy Hibbert and Lou Williams all having a say in his finale?

Kobe addressed those pressing issues, and much more, in an exclusive Q&A with Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports:

Q: Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak has hinted that next season can be your last. Could it be?

Kobe: “We haven’t set anything in stone and I’ve talked about it before. But could this be the last [season]? Absolutely. It’s tough to decide. It’s really tough to make those types of decisions. Players I have spoken to say, ‘Kobe you will know.’

“I’m making this very simple. Either I like playing the game and going through this process or I don’t. I try to strip it down to the simplest form. Either I like playing some more or I don’t. But I think that decision needs to be made after the season. It’s hard to make a decision like that before the season.”

Q: Would you want a farewell tour?

Kobe: “It’s hard to do that type of stuff because I don’t know if I’m going to retire or not. It’s not a swan song when it all has not been written.”

Q: How does your body feel now and what is the difference between now and entering training camp last season?

Kobe: “The body is good. I feel good. … My lower body is solid. There are no question marks on what I can do. My body and my legs feel extremely strong and healthy. That’s the big difference. My upper body, I’ve been doing the weights and stuff like that. I’ve been kind of building up the upper body strength. The biggest change is I feel very, very solid in my legs.”

Q: Why do you still put your body through this after all the years and injuries?

Kobe: “I’m crazy. Ha, ha, ha. I love playing. I enjoy it. It’s weird. You go from as a kid loving the game, thinking you will be able to play forever to being where I am now and understanding there is some finality to it.

“It’s amazing to take a step back and look at that art. You’re kind of the opposite of starting out as a kid. You’re sitting here at 36 and soon to be 37 years old, it’s amazing.”

Q: How do you fight the pain and do the needed rehabilitation?

Kobe: “I just go. Once I make the decision I am going to take this challenge on, I never waver and I never question the investment. I already made the decision. You have those painful moments, but you just keep on moving.”

Q: When you see the mammoth money that could be available to you as a free agent next summer, does that make it more attractive to continue playing?

Kobe: “Zero. Zero. I’ve never played for the money. It’s never moved me. Money can come and go. I have a perspective about finances. The family is fine. What is more money going to bring other than more money? I have my family, I have my health and we’re comfortable financially and that is a massive blessing.

“I don’t want to undervalue the importance of generating any type of whatever. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m underappreciative of that or not thankful for that. But at the same, what is really important? What is the important thing? I never played for money. When I laced my sneakers up when I was a kid in Italy I wasn’t thinking about money. I had no idea how much Magic [Johnson] or [Larry] Bird got paid. I played it because I loved it.”

While Kobe insists there is nothing is set in stone in terms of if this being his final season, the fact that he’s even entertaining the possibility is worth noting.

The end of an era, or perhaps the end of his era in the NBA, could be on its way soon.

Morning Shootaround — July 27


VIDEO: The NBA’s connections in Africa are as strong as they are deep, courtesy of Basketball Without Borders

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Reluctant Popovich is a “lifer” | Cavaliers finally complete Haywood deal | Lillard “not a part of” USA Basketball plans | Longtime Lakers trainer Vitti set to retire

No. 1: Reluctant Pop is a “lifer” — His life is much more than just basketball, but that doesn’t mean San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will escape the lifelong grip the game of basketball has on so many. Pop almost escaped in recent years, but a huge free agent summer (LaMarcus Aldridge and David West join, Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, Danny Green and Kawhi Leonard all sign new deals, etc.) will keep him on the sideline for the foreseeable future. It turns out that Pop will end up being a “lifer” (like his mentor and good friend Larry Brown) after all, as the great Buck Harvey of the Express News details:

Popovich goes to Africa this week to coach an exhibition game, proof the energy inside this 66-year-old man is real. It’s also proof he is far past the challenge he faced last year, when both his health and the health of his franchise were in doubt.

His hip surgery had gone well, but there was a hiccup with a heart condition that was not unlike the atrial fibrillation that Fab Oberto had. Popovich underwent a procedure, and, after he had done everything the doctors had asked, palpitations returned.

Brown says the episode occurred during the preseason tour in Europe. That eventually culminated with Popovich missing two games in late November for a second procedure.

“I really believe he was close to retiring then,” Brown said.

What if Popovich had been forced to walk away? Would Tim Duncan have returned for another season? Would LaMarcus Aldridge have ever considered signing with the Spurs?

The same dynamic is also in place for a healthy Popovich. The Spurs aren’t the Spurs without him. He stays, in part, because he feels an obligation to.

Popovich long ago told Duncan, Manu Ginobili and Tony Parker he would coach them through the end of their careers, although Parker gave him an out. Given that he’s younger than Duncan and Ginobili, Parker told Popovich he would understand if he retired earlier than he did.

But the obligation went further this summer. How could Popovich sell Aldridge on the franchise, and on the culture of winning he had created, if he said he might not stick around?

This was never the way Popovich saw his life playing out. For all the success he has had, and so much he never could have imagined, he couldn’t shake the idea there was more than basketball out there.

He said almost a decade ago, for example, he wasn’t built like a Jerry Sloan. And in a recent ESPN article he revealed this was his thinking after the 2013 Finals:

“I thought about retiring. Not so much because of the loss, but because there are other things to do in life.”

He went through similar soul-searching after the 2014 championship. Popovich talked to Brown about it then.

Brown, 74 and eager to begin another season at SMU, calls himself a lifer. Brown acknowledges he and his good friend are different on this.

“Pop can separate himself better than I can,” he said.

But Brown thought leaving a year ago would have been a mistake. He told Popovich to wait before making a decision, and Brown asked him this question:

“You just won a championship. Who is going to follow you?”

This gets back to his obligation. Leave, and the Spurs are forever changed.

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No. 2: Cavaliers finally complete Haywood deal — The move surprised no one. Brendan Haywood has been caught in trade rumors since the February trade deadline. So the Cavaliers finally moving the veteran big man, in a deal for trade exceptions of $10.5 and $2.85 million and two future 2nd round Draft Pick, is no surprise. The addition of veteran swingman and LeBron James friend, collaborator and confidant Mike Miller, was an added twist that comes as a mild surprise. Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group provides some context:

The Cavaliers had a deadline of Aug. 1 to trade or release Haywood before his salary for the 2015-16 season became guaranteed. Portland will waive Haywood before the guaranteed deadline.

Haywood’s departure was inevitable. He played a grand total of 119 minutes for the club last season. The shocker of the transaction is Miller’s involvement.

Statistically, all across the board, Miller just endured the worst season of his 15-year NBA career.

A league source says Miller approved the trade, as he wanted to play for a team where he would have a chance to see significant minutes. Miller will seek a buyout from the rebuilding Trail Blazers to pursue a team that will promise him a spot in a rotation.

Miller exercised his $2.8 million player option for next season at the end of June.

He is a great friend of LeBron James. The four-time MVP recruited Miller last offseason to provide shooting assistance, but he never found his shooting stroke and David Blatt was reluctant to commit playing time to the veteran.

I’m told James understand Miller’s situation and is “OK with the move.” He was not OK with the Miami Heat when they traded Miller to Memphis in the summer of 2013 in order to avoid major luxury tax penalties.

Times have changed.

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No. 3: Lillard “not a part of” USA Basketball plans — For all of the stars who are set to attend USA Basketball’s minicamp next month in Las Vegas, there is one who seems to have little interest in going through the process again. Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard has been there and done that and does not feel like he’s in the program’s master plan after missing out on a roster spot last year. Joe Freeman of the Oregonian has more:

It appears that one Trail Blazers player will participate in an August minicamp for USA Basketball. But it won’t be Damian Lillard.

According to ESPN, center Mason Plumlee has been invited to participate in a three-day minicamp for the US National Team that will take place next month in Las Vegas. It will be the second consecutive summer that Mason, who played on Team USA in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain, will don red, white and blue.

His participation in next month’s event ensures that he will have the chance to make the 12-man team that will represent the United States in the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Meanwhile, it appears that Lillard, the Blazers’ All-Star point guard, will not participate in next month’s minicamp. During a Saturday night appearance on CBS Radio, Lillard told host Jody Mac he would “probably not” play.

“I did it the last few summers and last summer I didn’t make it,” Lillard said, when Mac asked why he wouldn’t participate. “I don’t know why I would go. After I got cut last summer, I don’t think I’m a part of it.”

Lillard did not respond to a text message from The Oregonian/OregonLive seeking comment.

Last summer, Lillard was one of the final cuts on the FIBA World Cup team. And while he publicly expressed appreciation for the chance to represent his country — and said he was not “worried or down about the situation” — he privately felt slighted by his omission from the team.

“More wood on the fire,” Lillard told The Oregonian/OregonLive last summer. “Not my first time being put off and probably not the last.”

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No. 4: Longtime Lakers trainer Vitti set to retire — A golden era will come to an end after next season for the Los Angeles Lakers. Yes, Kobe Bryant is entering the final year of his contract. But it’s longtime trainer Gary Vitti, a fixture on the sideline in Los Angeles for decades dating back to the Magic Johnson and “Showtime Lakers,” who is retiring. Again, this will mark the end of an era, as Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times reports. Kurt Helin of Probasketballtalk.com summarizes the scope of Viti’s time with the Lakers:

Vitti, a part of the Laker fabric, talked about it with Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times.

“From a basketball standpoint, the greatest championship would be 1985, the first time we beat Boston,” Vitti said as he slowly consumed an open-faced gyro at an upscale Manhattan Beach restaurant near his home. “We lost to the Celtics the year before and should have beat them. A lot of my interview with Riley was him talking about that. He said to me, ‘We need to win.’”

Vitti has had a special place within the Lakers. He’s a liaison between the players and coaches/front office. He sits close to Byron Scott on the bench. It’s a job he has grown into and is passionate about. When the Lakers health fortunes turned on the team in the past few years, some of the louder than smart Lakers fans online blamed Vitti. Wiser fans knew that what happened to Steve Nash’s nerves, Kobe’s Achilles, Julius Randle‘s leg, and on down the list were not on the training staff.

Vitti could have stayed on as long as he wanted. But it’s time, he said.

“When somebody gets hurt, I blame myself. That’s the Laker way — you’ve got a problem, you go in the bathroom, you look in the mirror, you start with that person,” Vitti said. “The one that really affected me and maybe even affected this decision [to retire] was Julius Randle. All of his doctors and his surgeon are saying that nothing was missed, but the guy goes out there and breaks his leg the first game [last season]. That one really bothered me.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Kevin Love and Kevin Durant both to attend USA Basketball minicamp, though they are not expected to play in exhibition gameDennis Rodman defends his former tag team partner Hulk Hogan … The Lakers’ Nick Young, aka“Swaggy P” is still trying to come to grips with the fact that he was serious trade bait this summer …

Morning Shootaround — July 22


VIDEO: Paul Pierce talks about joining the Clippers

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Pierce still has work to do | Harden beats Curry | Seth Curry gets crowned | Report: Players to study healthcare for retired players

No. 1: Pierce still has work to do As he enters the 17th season of his NBA career, Paul Pierce has pretty much seen and done it all, from winning a title to playing for a rebuilding team. But with his career entering its likely twilight, Pierce signed with the Los Angeles Clippers to play in his hometown, with the coach (Doc Rivers) with whom he experienced his greatest success, to play for a team that he hopes to lead over the hump, writes NBA.com’s Ian Thompsen

Paul Pierce was watching the Clippers on TV last May as they lost Game 7 of their Western conference semifinal. Pierce’s own team, the Wizards, had been knocked out of the Eastern conference playoffs two days before.

“I already knew I was either going to go home and play for the Clippers or come back to Washington,” says Pierce, who opted out of his Wizards contract to become a free agent. “So I watched the Clippers closely.”

He watched, horrified, as they surrendered a 3-1 series lead over Houston. Worst of all was a Game 6 loss in Los Angeles in which the Rockets scored 51 of the last 71 points.

“No way — if I was in that locker room — I would have allowed that to happen,” Pierce says. “You picture yourself being that voice or being that guy on the court that can help in those situations. I think I fill a pretty big need for them.”

So his career ends where it began. Pierce starred at Inglewood High School, one mile west of the Fabulous Forum where the Lakers played. He had grown up idolizing Magic Johnson and hating Larry Bird. He could not have imagined how his loyalties would change during 15 years as a Celtic, and that his preference ultimately would be to return home to play for the Lakers’ nearest enemy.

There was a time, three decades ago, when pro basketball was saved by the rivalry of Boston and Los Angeles. Pierce has grown up to straddle the NBA’s dueling capitals.

“I’m trying to cement my legacy in both,” he says. “If I could win the first Clippers’ championship here, that would be pretty much storybook.”

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No. 2: Harden beats Curry After months of discussion and debate, Stephen Curry ran away with the 2015 NBA Most Valuable Player Award, as voted on by NBA media. But last night on the first annual NBA Player’s Association “Players’ Awards,” the voting shook out differently. As Jonathan Feigan writes in the Houston Chronicle, the players voted for James Harden over Curry as the NBA Players’ Choice MVP

Following a season in which Curry won nearly everything there was to win, Harden was the choice of NBA players as the winner of the first NBA Players Choice Award for MVP announced on Tuesday, edging Curry, LeBron James and Russell Westbrook.

Though other details about the voting were not released, Harden was said on the tape-delayed BET broadcast to have won by one vote.

“I want to thank God, thank my mom, my family and friends for all the support, the continuous support,” Harden said. “I want to thank BET for this beautiful event. To the NBA Players Association, (executive director) Michele Roberts for giving players a voice to speak their minds, and then just the players, the peers, I appreciate this vote. It means a lot and I’m really thankful for it.”

Curry was the NBA’s official regular-season Most Valuable Player award, taking 100 of the 130 first-place media votes, with Harden second with 25 first-place votes. Curry defeated Harden’s Rockets in the Western Conference Finals and helped lead the Golden State Warriors to the NBA championship. But Harden’s selection was surprising because of the results when many of the other award winners were announced.

Curry had been named the league’s ‘Top Clutch Performer,’ taking the award over Harden, James and Westbrook. He had also made the winner of the ‘Hardest to Guard Award,’ winning over Harden, James and Westbrook.

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No. 3: Seth Curry gets crowned Stephen Curry was a lottery pick who worked his way into becoming the NBA MVP. His younger brother, Seth Curry, has had a more circuitous route, spending most of his pro career bouncing around the D-League. Yet in the recently finished Samsung NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, Seth looked like Steph, averaging 24.3 ppg for the New Orleans Pelicans summer squad. His big performance was rewarded yesterday, when Seth Curry inked a two-year deal with the Sacramento Kings

The Kings will look for perimeter shooting from the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Curry.

After leaving Duke in 2013, Curry wasn’t drafted. He has spent most of his pro career in the NBA Development League, where he has been an All-Star twice. He has appeared in four NBA games: one with Memphis and one with Cleveland in 2013-14 and two with Phoenix last season. He had 10-day contracts with those teams.

Curry is the second player to strike a deal with the Kings since the end of summer league. On Monday, the Kings and forward Quincy Acy agreed to a two-year contract with a second-year player option.

Acy played with the Kings during the 2013-14 season after coming from Toronto in the Rudy Gay trade. The Kings dealt him to New York last August, and he averaged 5.9 points and 4.4 rebounds in 68 games with the Knicks.

The Kings will have 13 players on guaranteed contracts once the additions of Curry, Acy and Caron Butler become official. Eric Moreland’s deal becomes guaranteed Aug. 1. Second-year guard David Stockton’s contract does not become guaranteed unless he is on the Kings’ roster after Jan. 10.

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No. 4: Report: Players to study healthcare for retired players At a recent meeting of the NBA Player’s Association, the executive committee has decided to set aside some money as they study a plan to provide healthcare to retired players. As Ken Berger writes for CBS Sports, there are no concrete plans, but the players are interested in studying the idea

At its summer meeting in Las Vegas on Monday, union leaders agreed that they liked the concept of funding retired players’ medical costs, but no vote was taken on whether to go forward with the plan. The executive committee, led by president Chris Paul of the Clippers, voted to set aside an undisclosed sum of the shortfall check the union is due to receive from the NBA to fund the initiative if it is acted upon.

The issue will be discussed further at the union’s All-Star meeting in Toronto.

Since the players’ negotiated salaries for the 2014-15 season came in below their 50-51 percent negotiated guarantee, the union will receive the entire escrow fund of approximately $200 million plus the amount of the shortfall — estimated to be $57 million, according to a league source. The committee did not vote on how to divide the shortfall money — evenly among all the players or prorated based on their salaries, sources said.

It is expected that the players also will receive shortfall checks after the next two seasons as league revenues continue to rise higher than expected. With the infusion of the NBA’s $24 billion TV deal beginning in 2016, commissioner Adam Silver said last week that the amount of the shortfall due the players in 2017 could approach $500 million.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: New Wizards signee Jared Dudley will miss 3-4 months following back surgery … The Pelicans have added veteran leadership by signing Kendrick Perkins to a one-year deal … The Hornets have reportedly agreed to a one-year deal with former UNC star Tyler Hansbrough … The Rockets have re-signed K.J. McDaniels … The Celtics signed second-round pick Jordan Mickey to a four-year dealBaron Davis is trying to launch an NBA comeback

The Finals Live Blog Game 6

The champs, Golden State @warriors!

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CLEVELAND — Close-out time at The Finals always brings an extra dose of energy for all involved.

And for LeBron James, the Cleveland Cavaliers and this shell-shocked city desperate for a championship, desperation is the name of the game for Game 6 tonight at Quicken Loans Arena.

They have to play with a savage desperation that will interrupt the Golden State Warriors’ two-game run in this series or face the prospect of that title drought extending to yet another year.

That 2-1 lead the Cavaliers celebrated here last week seems so long ago now, with the momentum shift that came with the last two games. The Warriors righted things here in Game 4 and then pressed their advantage in Game 5 Sunday on their home floor.

Now we’ll find out if the best player in the world’s confidence is misplaced or right on target. He’s eyeing a return trip to Oakland for an epic Game 7 showdown. And for the sake of this beleaguered fan base and city (not to mention coach David Blatt), LeBron has to deliver.

Another triple double. Another 40-point game. Another performance for the ages. And a much better showing from his supporting cast. The Cavaliers need it all to keep this series alive. #AllInCLE indeed. All in for Game 6, or else …

 

And yes, that means you J.R. Smith?

IT'S GAME DAY! The biggest game of the season to date tips off at 6pm. #StrengthInNumbers GAME PREVIEW » warriors.com/gameday

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

As always, things revolve around LeBron for the Cavaliers. How long he keeps the ball on his touches correlates to the outcome of the game (over 6 seconds on his touches, the Cavs wins … 6 seconds or under, the Warriors win).

#6IsTheMagicNumberForGame6

With so much attention on LeBron and the Cavaliers right now, it feels like we are giving the Warriors short shrift as they are just four quarters away from capturing their first title in 40 years. Their rebound from the first three game of this series has been nothing short of remarkable.

It’s like we’ve forgotten that Stephen Curry, and not LeBron, is the reigning KIA MVP as we head into what could be the final night of the regular season.

That was Steph shredding the Cavaliers’ vaunted defense, led Cleveland cult hero Matthew Dellavedova, for 17 of his team-high 37 points in the fourth quarter of Game 5.

While some, including our very own Steve Aschburner, believe LeBron has already locked up MVP honors, win or lose this series, I happen to believe the victors deserve the spoils. Steph or Andre Iguodala have to be the frontrunners if the Warriors finish this thing off tonight or in Friday’s Game 7.

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Know your history!

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Another interesting pre-game read regarding young Mr. James …

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Good to know that LeBron is preoccupied with more important things than joining Jerry West as the only men to win Finals MVP on the losing side.

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Game 6 X-factors …

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Never Nervous Blatt

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Question of the night … Good J.R. or Bad J.R., who is it going to be?

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This guy’s got jokes!

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Reinforcements …

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Prediction time. Get yours in ASAP!

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Actually 82 might be needed to stave off elimination.

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Gold-toed shoes might do the trick.

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It’s cranked up in the Q right about now!

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LOL

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Marlana VanHoose did the anthem justice. Bravo!

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DWade and LeBron reunited one day?

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Hey, stick to your day job big fella and leave this stuff to me.

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Cavs rocking the home whites might mean something …

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It is hard to fathom how a player with a handle so wicked could be so careless at times.

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Scramble unit!

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Tas with the C-O-N-spiracy

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Coming up empty early and far too often

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Please Hammer, don’t hurt ’em! And pleased to see you made it all this way to see your Warriors.

MC Hammer in prime position to welcome the Warriors onto the floor for Game 6 here in Cleveland

A video posted by Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) on

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Miracles do happen!

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Keep saying it Sir! Preach on!

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Stick to what got you here.

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Andre 2015!

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Rough start for the Cavs. Just barely avoided the Warriors’ magic number #15isawaysthemagicnumber

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What Pip said …

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One of many, so far, but the turnovers are looming large …

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He’s already got three of them.

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Get off his lawn!

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That explains some of it, for sure.

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History in the making, win or lose.

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Things that make you go, hmmm?

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Running out of time on this Shawn Marion thing. And if it was going to happen, LeBron would have subbed Marion in already, right?

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He needs the rest.

Common foul on Shumpert for flooring Draymond Green.

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Cavs working the Warriors over with a 28-15 rebounding edge. But …

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What a relief.

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He is definitely here. He and David Lee are both on the bench.

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The team that controls the pace wins these games. Been that way for five straight.

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There  is wrong and then there is just plain damn wrong!

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Do the math.

Tristan Thompson with the monster tip jam to end the half. 45-43 Warriors in a tight one. Big man basketball lives and so do the Cavs, for at least another 24 minutes.

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Might be the last episode of the season … #justsayin

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You and your theorem …

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Numbers game

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What time is check out?

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At best, and not even that right now.

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Cavs have already lost one game trying to match the Warriors’ small-ball attack. Don’t do it again!

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Delly-Time appears to be over …

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This stuff could go on all night.

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Like I said, all night long …

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Oh Festus!

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Rabbit punch!

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Curtains! Oh and LeBron is 8-for-21 from the floor with 12 minutes and 47.1 seconds to play.

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A little harsh.

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Cavs in a 73-61 hole after three. And the fourth has not been kind to them in this series.

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Best player on the planet against the best team on the planet …

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Shade for the King?

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There is an I(guodala) in “team” this time.

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By any means necessary!

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Just sayin …

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A few extra steps never hurt.

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Steph being Steph!

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Anyone that doesn’t appreciate what Shaun Livingston is doing on this stage … SMH!

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He prefers Andre, but we all agree on this one.

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Riley Time!

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Extra pass … Splash!

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23 has a triple double again … no, not that one!

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No way around it. It’s his trophy tonight … if they hold on.

https://twitter.com/JarrodRudolph/status/611014102505365504

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Among other things … Mozgov ballin’ in The Finals, Delly, etc.

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Back to life, back to reality!

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This won’t stop. It just won’t.

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Don’t worry big fella, it’s a wrap!

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Great point. Team first!

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Never fails. Teams win titles.

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Dre Day! Gotta be …

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Good lesson for all involved. Nothing is guaranteed. Not even for LeBron.

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The King fatigued … and still no Shawn Marion, not even for the final 10.6 seconds.

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That’s it. Warriors win it. 105-97 and that puts a wrap on the 2014-15 season and the 2015 playoffs and The Finals!

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Heat fans will never forget …

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The @Warriors are the 2015 #NBAFinals Champions!

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

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The Drought is OVER!

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The #KiaMVP & now NBA champion @wardell30!

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

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#NBAFinals MVP @andre celebrates his first NBA title!

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

Game 5: 24-second thoughts


VIDEO: LeBron James and Steph Curry get hot from behind the arc.

24 — Following memorable performances by Carlos Santana (Game 2) and Usher (Game 4), Metallica’s James Hetfield and Kirk Hammett, Bay Area natives, thrash the national anthem.. LeBron & Co. just glad it wasn’t For Whom the Bell Tolls.

23 — If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Warriors stick with Andre Iguodala and small ball in starting lineup. No lie, Steve Kerr.

22 — Five minutes, five turnovers, two points. Are the Cavs playing with a square basketball?

21 — Fish will fly. Birds will swim. Elephants will tap dance on the head of a pin. J.R. Smith bangs in first two 3-pointers of the game. The good J.R.

20 — Then he lays out Draymond Green like a tractor-trailer smashing through a whipped cream pie. Flagrant 1. The bad J.R.

19 — That “stop whining, start playing” lecture Draymond got from his mama and grandma produced a 10-point, two dunk start in the first nine minutes.

18 — Welcome to the 21st century. In “Small Ball Finals” LeBron James plays center and guards Shaun Livingston.

17 — Shades of 1980? Remember Game 6 when Magic Johnson stepped into Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s spot at center and delivered 42 points, 15 rebounds, seven assists in Lakers’ close-out win at Philly. LeBron in the middle and the Cavs have pace very much to their liking.

16 — As J.R. bangs home back-to-back 26-footers for his third and fourth treys in 10 minutes off the bench, just one sound big heard inside Oracle: “Uh-ooooooooooh!”

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14 — Pace and ball movement starting to tip the feel back in direction of the Warriors. They’re a thing of beauty when sharing and have assists on 15 of first 17 buckets.

13 — It’s one thing to be J.R. Smith, showing up for first time in five games to sling in a handful of jumpers to get attention and quite another to be the engine that is LeBron and have to pull the train. Near triple-double (20-8-8) already and he either scored or assisted on 15 consecutive Cleveland hoops from middle first quarter to halftime.

12 — Could that have been J.R.’s cousin who won Jamba Juice for everybody inside Oracle during last timeout? Guy missed first eight 3-pointers, then made last one.

11 — This is Steph Curry The Finals have been waiting on, “bouncy and fresh,” as he once described himself, like one of those little sheets you toss into your dryer.

10 — This “small ball” stuff is so much fun that Andrew Bogut and Timofey Mozgov probably just wish they were at a sports bar knocking back a few pitchers at sports bar while watching it.

9

8 — According to most of the folks at Oracle, Matthew Dellavedova killed Arya Stark tonight on Game of Thrones.

7David Blatt rode LeBron hard in third before finally giving him a break with 1:58 left. With 24-12-9 already, how much more does James have left fourth quarter, down 73-67?

6 — LeBron’s running jumper 12 seconds in gives him more fourth quarter points than all of Game 4.

5Iman Shumpert’s corner 3 off pass from you-know-who gives LeBron his second triple-double of Finals (29-12-10). That’s James’ 6th career triple-double in Finals, trailing only Magic Johnson’s record of 8.

4 — Splish! Splash! Cavs take a bath, long about a Sunday night on back-to-back 3s by Curry and Klay Thompson. Worth the wait: Steph is finally Steph with 37 and 7 treys.

3 — Perhaps the only thing funnier than Curry’s so-called “mean-face” is watching serial free throw mauler Iguodala (2-for-11) try to run away from would-be foulers to avoid a trip back to the line.

2 — LeBron racks up first 40-point triple-double since Michael Jordan 30 years ago. Please, let’s not have anyone embarrass themselves by still questioning what he brings to the table and pointing out a 2-4 Finals record if this thing ends on Tuesday night. For the second time in Finals history, MVP could come from losing team.

1 — For directions to a championship, just make a right turn at Planet Iggy. Warriors coach Steve Kerr: “He’s been our best player in the series.”

The Finals Live Blog Game 4

#NBAFinals Game 4: 9pm/et Thursday on ABC

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

CLEVELAND — I know it’s hard to resist thinking about the ending before we’ve actually reached the finish line in these Finals.

The plotlines are so juicy.

The 51-year title drought. The return of the King. #AllinCLE and everything else.

There’s a lot of basketball to be played, folks.

This series is 48 minutes (or more, if needed) of away from either a seemingly insurmountable 3-1 lead for LeBron James and his Cleveland Cavaliers or a back-to-even 2-2 mark for Stephen Curry and his Golden State Warriors.

The same mistake we made when we learned that Kyrie Irving was done for the rest series late in Game 1 is the one people seem to be making now, assuming that a 2-1 lead for the Cavaliers heading into Game 4 tonight here at the Q means the Warriors are done.

I’m not ready to go there. I have to see what sort of physical and emotional toll those first three games, and Game 3 in particular, has taken on the Cavaliers. I need to see how much bounce they have in those legs, how much energy they can muster after exhausting every drop to get here.

We know the Warriors will play desperate. Steve Kerr will pull out all the stops (… doubling LeBron, David Lee, Leandro Barbosa, Shaun Livingston, the ghosts of Cleveland sports hiccups past, etc.) to put his team in a position to even this series.

He knows what’s at stake.

He knows that a 3-1 hole is the disaster scenario.

Game 4 is essentially the Warriors’ last stand …

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers know that with their depleted roster, winded superstar and aching role player, they cannot afford to let this series stretch to six or seven games. They have to keep the pressure on or risk the Warriors getting back to even and swinging the momentum back the other way.

It’s just Game 4 … and everything on the line for both teams!

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@klaythompson of the @warriors arrives for tonight's #NBAFinals Game 4 on ABC. #nbastyle

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

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@cavs fans have been enjoying #NBAFinals week in town! #phantomcam

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

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Usher warming up for the anthem before Game 4. #NBAFinals #thatboycansang

A photo posted by Sekou Smith (@sekou3000) on

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If you’re going to ride, ride in style like J.R. Swish!

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Nature Boy in the house!

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His old school rocks more than your new school …

Dolph Ziggler, Ric Flair & The Miz here at Game 4 of the 2015 #NBAFinals.

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

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Warriors going with the Super Small Ball Lineup

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Ch-ch-change that you can believe in?

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If this tweak doesn’t work, what do you get out of Bogut the rest of the way? Same thing you did before!

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Sometimes you gotta ride with your team no matter what!

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Usher did a fine job but no one will ever top Marvin Gaye! Never, ever, ever!

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Staying far away from this man if his words prove to be prophetic.

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Exactamundo! 7-0 Cleveland run to star the game. Cavs controlling the paint on both ends already against smaller Warriors.

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Baggins! Shire!

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David Lee might have been a better choice with the first five.

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Bron to Moz! So pretty …

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Warriors making the small lineup work right now. But Mozgov and Tristan Thompson are going to eat tonight. But you have to like the fire from the Warriors so far.

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Harrison Barnes is not done yet!

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Warriors with a 22-20 lead … what?

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Ha!

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P-N-R

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Crazy in here tonight. That said, Kerr is looking like a genius right now with this small lineup and the 31-24 lead after the first quarter.

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Pace and Space

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Kerr looking something like a genius right now. Warriors controlling the pace.

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Dell lobbying for a spot on the All-Agitator first team.

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Yeezy! Amber! Etc!

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Warriors’ scramble unit is legit. Draymond Green screaming “I’m back. I’m back.” Loving this twist.

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No Delly?

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Flawlessness …

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LeBron leaking upside the head after a nice shove from Bogut

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Warriors in a flow right now. Making shots from all over the floor. Ball moving. Cavs reeling a bit. Folks, we still have a series here!

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LeBron wasn’t acting. Might need some stitches at halftime.

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The David Lee Effect In Effect

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Shut Up!

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Back to reality for Delly, the Cavs and especially the Warriors at the half. 54-42 Warriors at the break.

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Good news for the Warriors indeed.

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Who’s counting?

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Lead evaporating. LeBron with the finish on the oop. Warriors clinging to a 65-62 lead with 5:03 to play in the third.

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Cole World in the building!

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They love him Down Under

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Worth keeping an eye on down the stretch …

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Cavs continue to control the boards and have slowly pushed this game back to their pace.

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Where are the Splash Bros?

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Ask and you shall receive …

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That’s just wrong … so wrong.

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Fluids during the break between the third and fourth quarters might not be enough.

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Someone had to bring this up. #Knicks

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Another minute and this 78-70 lead could get doubled.

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John R. Heisman

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The bench has been the key for the Cavs throughout this series, but not tonight.

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#GoBlue

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J.R. Miss! (three misses on one four-shot possession for the Cavs) and the MVP answers on the other end with a dagger!

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Warriors rollin’ right now. Cavs exhausted right now.

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Heat check!

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Iggy Ball!

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No Speights Invaders Needed

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Warriors won’t lose 3 in a row. Won’t do it.

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Not really … it’s his to lose if the Warriors win this thing.

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Order restored, at least for one night.

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Ouch!

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2-for-1

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It’s ovah!

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Yup!

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No words …

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Seven?

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We were due for a blowout in this series. Road team delivered the beating tonight. Brilliant stuff from Kerr and his staff. Warriors win with Splash Bros playing pedestrian ball and the supporting cast finally stepping up. Cavaliers came back to earth in ugly fashion. All even at 2-2 headed back to Oracle for Game 5 Sunday.

With 5:51 to play on ABC, the @warriors lead the @cavs 90-77 on @wardell30's 20. #NBAFinals

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

 

 

Pau Gasol wins PBWA’s Magic Johnson award for 2014-15


CHICAGO — Pau Gasol of the Chicago Bulls was named the 2014-15 recipient of the Magic Johnson Award, presented annually by the Professional Basketball Writers Association to the NBA player who best combines excellence on the court with cooperation in dealing with the media and the fans.

Gasol, 34, was the top choice in a field that included Golden State’s Stephen Curry, San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili, Cleveland’s LeBron James and Portland’s Damian Lillard. He is the second Chicago Bulls player so honored, following Jalen Rose in 2002-03.

“I just try to be helpful, help people do their jobs. I understand my position, and this is a part of our job,” Gasol said after Chicago’s practice Wednesday. “It’s easy to be friendly. It’s easy to be kind. I think also it rubs off on people. You should try to balance all the negative out there with some positives.”

The 14-year veteran — who often does double-duty, standing in for interviews in both English and Spanish — averaged 18.5 points and 11.8 rebounds this season, was named an Eastern Conference starter in the 2015 All-Star Game and led the NBA with 54 double-doubles, becoming the oldest player to do that since Patrick Ewing in 1996-97.

The PBWA created the Magic Johnson Award in 2001 and named it in honor for former Lakers star Earvin (Magic) Johnson, considered by the association’s members as an ideal model for the award. Approximately 175 PBWA members cover the NBA on a regular basis for newspapers, online outlets and magazines.

Morning shootaround — Feb. 11


VIDEO: Highlights of the games played Feb. 10

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Cousins wants Kings to ‘make a decision’ on coach | Butler to have MRI on right shoulder | Lakers legend Johnson fires at Buss again

No. 1: Cousins knows his role in Kings’ coaching search; wants Kings to make a decision and ‘stick with it’ — The NBA coaching buzz of late has centered on if — or, more accurately, when — the Sacramento Kings will hire George Karl to lead their squad. According to our David Aldridge, the team and Karl are closing in on a deal that could be consummated soon. But in the midst of this Karl-to-Sactown chatter, there has been a notion that Kings All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t want Karl as his coach. But Cousins made it clear to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein in an interview yesterday that he knows his role and voice in the Kings’ decision-making process is (and should be) minimal:

All-Star power forward DeMarcus Cousins formally weighed in on the Sacramento Kings’ coaching situation before their game in Chicago on Tuesday night, insisting in an interview with ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that he has had no input for or against the man expected to take over next week as his new coach: George Karl.

“I don’t fire coaches or hire them. Everyone knows I liked and respected Coach [Michael] Malone. I didn’t want [Malone’s firing in December] to happen,” Cousins told ESPN.

“I’m not involved in any coaching decisions right now. I’ve heard that George Karl is a great coach. If that is the direction that the organization chooses, I’ll support it. Out of respect for Coach [Tyrone] Corbin, I hadn’t planned on making any comments about what is rumored out there. But at this point I felt some things needed to be clarified.”

He clarified his stance on the team’s coaching situation even further after Tuesday night’s 104-86 loss to the Bulls when he said “All of [us] got thrown into this. To the best of our ability, we try to get it done. Work with what we have and try to leave the least amount of excuses possible.”

Team sources say that, since it emerged Saturday in a Sacramento Bee report that the Kings were in talks with Karl about replacing Corbin, Cousins has met with Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro only once and has not met with Kings owner Vivek Ranadive about the prospect of Sacramento hiring its third coach of the season.

Amid various weekend reports suggesting that Cousins or his representatives had been voicing opposition to the Kings’ courting of Karl, Cousins launched into a cryptic rant at his locker Sunday night after hitting a buzzer-beating jumper at home to topple the Phoenix Suns.

“I ain’t pumped up. I’ve just got a lot on my mind,” he told local reporters. “The crazy thing about it is, I’ve just got a question for y’all: How you gonna stop God’s plan? How you gonna do that? How you gonna do that? That’s all I want to know. How you gonna stop God’s plan?

“Man, this city done put me through so much, and I stayed loyal to it the whole time. Hey, I just wanna know, how you gonna stop God’s plan? God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers. The marathon continues. I’m out.”

Karl has a connection with one of Cousins’ agents. Jarinn Akana worked with Karl in Denver and was shifted from an assistant coach to a team scout when Karl took the Nuggets job in 2005.

Additionally, Cousins had this to say to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski about the team’s coaching search:

Sacramento Kings All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins insists he has played no part in the franchise’s coaching changes and searches this season, and made a pitch for stability on the team’s sideline.

“I wasn’t consulted when the decision was made to fire Mike Malone and I’m not being consulted now,” Cousins told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday night. “I just hope they make a decision soon and stick with it. George Karl is an experienced, proven coach and if that is who they chose to coach this team, I will support it. I do not like all these discussions in the media while we have a coach in place. It is a distraction and not fair to Coach Corbin and this team.”

The Kings and Karl’s representative are finalizing contractual details on Tuesday on a four-year deal that will be worth between $4 million and $5 million annually, sources said.


VIDEO: Has DeMarcus Cousins handled the George Karl talk professionally?

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Generous to a fault? Paul, Wall challenging trend of assists vs. rings


VIDEO: John Wall recorded 21 points and 17 assists vs. the Wolves

John Wall has been making a case through the season’s first seven weeks to be considered the NBA’s best point guard, a title that he’d be wresting away from veteran Clippers playmaker Chris Paul. But Wall might want to heed that old saying about being careful what he wishes for, because that title might get in the way of an even greater goal the Washington Wizards’ guard has for him and his team.

Within the feature on Paul by Michael Lee, the Washington Post’s NBA writer, was some cause for pause, as far as how the league’s elite point guards have fared in their quest for championships. There’s a trend at work that doesn’t just seem at odds with Paul but with any of the players typically thought of as the game’s greatest playmakers:

Since Magic Johnson won back-to-back championships in 1987-88 and finished first and second, respectively, in assists, no player has ranked in the top five in helpers and won a title. Johnson is also the last point guard from a championship team to average at least 10 assists per game in the regular season.

[Isiah] Thomas and Jason Kidd are the only championship point guards in the past 25 years to average at least eight assists. In that time, John Stockton, Gary Payton, and Kidd held the subjective crown as the league’s best floor general, led their respective teams to the NBA Finals and failed to win it all. [Steve] Nash reached the conference finals three times but never made it to the ultimate stage. Aside from Tony Parker and Rajon Rondo, most of the championship point guards have been the non-intrusive, move-the-ball-and-get-out-of-the-way variety, such as Avery Johnson, Brian Shaw, Derek Fisher and Mario Chalmers.

Paul’s postseason record seems to support the, what should we call it, trend? Theory? Pattern? As Lee notes:

In his first nine seasons, Paul has never reached the conference finals, let alone the NBA Finals. It doesn’t matter that only Michael Jordan, George Mikan, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and Hakeem Olajuwon have a higher career postseason player efficiency rating, Paul’s 22-31 postseason record diminishes his greatness in the eyes of those who value rings over everything else.

“That’s just the world we live in,” Paul said with a shrug. “It comes with it, but what can you do? Keep playing. I don’t know what else to say. We’re playing. I know I’m going to compete, day in and day out. Trying to get one.”

Heading into Wednesday night’s action, the assists leaders among point guards were Wall (10.6 apg), Rondo (10.6), Ty Lawson (10.3) and Paul (9.7) – all above that demonstrated cutoff of eight per game. Meanwhile, guys such as Kyle Lowry (7.6), Stephen Curry (7.6), Jeff Teague (7.0), Mike Conley (6.2), Damian Lillard (6.1), Tony Parker (5.3) and Kyrie Irving (5.2) are safely below it, and Russell Westbrook (6.8) and Derrick Rose (6.7) would be too if they qualified for the leaders board.

Should Wall and Paul stop passing the ball so much, in an effort to avoid the distinction? That doesn’t seem to make sense. But it is an unexpected quirk that might say a few things about defending against attacks run by elite point guards and the value of guys who seek out their own shot. That other old saying, the one about cutting off the head of a snake, might come into play.

Morning shootaround — Dec. 10


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 9

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Lakers tank? C’mon, Magic | Rodman questions Knicks’ blueprint | Best customers for Brooklyn fire sale | Davis leads early Most Improved candidates

No. 1: Lakers tank? C’mon, Magic — The headline was provocative enough (“Magic Johnson: I hope Lakers lose”). But what the former L.A. Lakers great had to say at an event in New York Tuesday grabbed NBA fans’ attention, too, and not necessarily for the right reasons. The Lakers should (gulp) tank? Really? That’s like saying the Buss family should have cooked their family books to qualify for student loans or that MLB team Magic’s involved with should shrink the business part of its Dodger Dogs to boost the profit margin. C’mon, tanking is for the NBA’s working class, not its royalty such as the Lakers or Knicks. If team-building can be described (lifting this from the retirement-planning realm) as a three-legged stool of trades, free agency and draft, the last of those – the target of tanking teams – is most important to small-revenue teams lacking the fat wallets, grand legacies, balmy climate and/or glitzy appeal of L.A., New York and maybe Miami now. Fans in those markets expect better and the Lakers’ many advantages ought to preclude slumming through 82 games to swipe a player desperately needed in … Philadelphia? Here are details from a mash-up report on ESPN.com:

Johnson, speaking at a promotional event Tuesday in New York City, said he wants his former team to lose enough games to contend for a high lottery pick in next year’s NBA draft.
“I hope the Lakers lose every game,” Johnson told reporters. “Because if you’re going to lose, lose. And I’m serious.”

Johnson hit Twitter to reinforce his point for his fan base:

And from Kobe Bryant after the Lakers’ victory Tuesday over Sacramento:

“I don’t see teams tanking. It doesn’t happen. Maybe there are certain teams in the league — and this is not one of them — where ownership sits up there in their office and they’re crossing their fingers quietly and hoping,” Bryant said. “But the players themselves? Never. Players play. Players play and players try to win every single game. That’s just what we do.”

And from Lakers coach Byron Scott, who isn’t eager to take on a bunch of losses after suffering through the immediate post-LeBron James years in Cleveland:

“It’s more of a laughing matter to me than anything,” Scott said. “I know [Earvin] and how competitive he is and I understand where he’s coming from — ‘Yeah, lose every game and hopefully you’ll get the No. 1 pick.’ That doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to get the No. 1 pick. You go out here and try to win as much as you can to try to create that culture of winning again instead of having that loser’s mentality. That’s how I look at it.”

The Lakers are expected to have substantial salary-cap space this upcoming offseason. Aging superstar Kobe Bryant, who will make $25 million next season, swingman Nick Young, [Julius] Randle and second-year forward Ryan Kelly are the only Lakers who have guaranteed contracts beyond this season.

Scott added, “I just think karma is a you-know-what and if you try to lose games, you’re not going to get the first pick.”

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No. 2: Rodman questions Knicks’ blueprint — As far as former NBA stars critiquing a storied franchise, the level of discourse slips now from Magic Johnson the team for which he labored to Dennis Rodman questioning the New York Knicks of Carmelo Anthony and Derek Fisher. Rodman might surpass Johnson in North Korean street cred, but the fellow Hall of Famer seemed driven in his comments more by his loyalty to his former Chicago coach Phil Jackson than in any true turnaround at Madison Square Garden. The 4-19 Knicks, off to the worst start in franchise history, have a somewhat hobbled Anthony these days, according to the New York Post. So they were easy for the flamboyant former rebounding star to pick at, as chronicled by ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Begley:

Former Chicago Bulls forward Dennis Rodman weighed in on the team’s poor play Tuesday, questioning whether Carmelo Anthony was the right fit for the Knicks and wondering if first-year coach Derek Fisher is the right candidate for the job.

“If I know Phil [Jackson, Knicks team president], he just feels like [crap] right now,” Rodman told reporters at a promotional event in Manhattan. “I think he just feels like, ‘Wow, I thought I came here to do a great job and revitalize the city of New York.’

“He didn’t expect this. I saw him a couple of times on TV when I was in L.A., and I’m like, I know what you feel like, Phil. You came to be the savior and all of a sudden it’s like, ugh. Then you went and got Derek Fisher. Really, is he coaching? Is Derek Fisher coaching? I don’t get it. I don’t know what’s up with that team, man. You’ve got Carmelo and after that who else do you got?

“They’re not running the triangle. Derek Fisher’s not really coaching. I know Phil is trying to throw his input in the background, but who expected this from Phil? They expected him, we’re going to give you $15 million a year for the next six years and this team is — wow — they might not even make the playoffs.”

In mentioning Jackson’s vaunted “triangle” offense, Rodman kept the blame at floor level:

“I learned that in probably 15 minutes when I was in Chicago,” Rodman said. “It’s not that difficult. It’s a triangle.

“Everybody has an opportunity to touch the ball and shoot it. It seems like it goes back to Carmelo Anthony and then everything stops. What are you going to do?”

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No. 3: Best customers for Brooklyn fire sale — The Brooklyn Nets are contemplating a fire sale of veteran stars Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Brook Lopez? That’s the word, as reported by ESPN.com and other outlets. It’s the stuff of which serious buzz can be generated in the NBA, but it’s also reminiscent of a massive story that’s almost four decades old. Sports fans of a certain vintage might recall the great purge of the Oakland A’s in the summer of 1976, when mercurial team owner Charlie Finley tried to sell off pitcher Vida Blue (to the Yankees for $1.5 million), closer Rollie Fingers and outfielder Joe Rudi (both to the Red Sox for $1 million each). Finley felt the A’s days as contenders were over and feared looming free agency of his stars, but the transactions were killed by commissioner Bowie Kuhn as not being in ‘the best interests of baseball.” The Nets’ days as contenders apparently are over, too, in the eyes of owner Mikhail Prokhorov, and Brooklyn would be trying to get out from under the massive salaries of Williams, Johnson and Lopez. Bradford Doolittle of ESPN Insider cooked up some possible trade destinations for the Big 3 and here’s a glimpse at the point guard’s (you might have to pony up to see the whole piece):

Williams is not as explosive as he was a few years ago in Utah, but he’s still good enough to be a top-three player on a playoff team. However, besides his non-star production and large contract, Williams also toils at a time when the NBA is rife with quality point guards. However, the upshot is that Williams is a highly skilled player who could develop a floor-based style of running the point (a la Mark Jackson) that might play well for quite a few years.

Best fit: Indiana Pacers. The Pacers were one step shy of the Finals last season, but the top tier of the East has since become more crowded. Williams would give the Pacers the upper-echelon point guard they’ve lacked and, on this team, a ball-dominant PG can work. You plug Williams next to emerging shooter Solomon Hill, the currently injured Paul George, Roy Hibbert and David West, and you’ve got a contending veteran team, albeit one likely shy of championship status.

A possible package would be something like George Hill, Luis Scola, Ian Mahinmi and Chris Copeland for Williams. The Nets’ motivation would be mostly financial. Hill might be a keeper to run the point in his combo-ish manner, but Scola’s expiring contract is mostly nonguaranteed, Copeland’s deal is expiring and Mahinmi has just $4 million left beyond this season.

Other fits: Detroit Pistons or the Los Angeles Lakers. …

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No. 4: Davis leads early Most Improved candidates — The NBA season is barely one-quarter completed, so speculation about any of the “annual” awards is, by definition, premature. But such chatter isn’t illegal and it drives conversations, debates and occasional arguments, so our own Fran Blinebury offered up some players worth considering for the league’s Most Improved trophy, at least after the first six weeks. Eschewing the ever-popular “top five” or “top 10″ of Internet list-making, Blinebury limited his field to just four. And only one of them, New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, was in action Tuesday night, finishing with 18 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in the home victory over New York. He was Blinebury’s early MIP leader:

It only seemed as if the long-armed forward was reaching his peak last season. Now he’s threatening to leap and put his head right through the ceiling. We saw it coming over the summer when he led the way for Team USA in the gold medal-winning effort at the World Cup in Spain. He used that experience to throw off whatever shackles he still had on himself and returned to New Orleans ready to lead and dominate. Averaging more than 25 points, 11 rebounds and three blocked shots and two steals per game, Davis has forced his way into the conversation for MVP. What’s more, he’s making a real case for overtaking soon-to-be-30-year-old LeBron James as the best all-around talent in the game. Even though his Pelicans are bobbing around the .500 mark and will struggle to make the playoffs, he’s the reason to have League Pass and dial him up any time New Orleans is on the schedule. He’s always had the talent, but now there is an edge and attitude to A.D.’s game that commands respect.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: High praise for Cavs guard Matthew Dellavedova from LeBron James after Cleveland’s big fourth-quarter comeback against Toronto. …  Another game night, another round of “I Can’t Breathe” T-shirts during warm-ups, this time out West. … The losing in Philadelphia can be seen as a half-full opportunity, even for a seasoned NBA vet like Luc Mbah a Moute. …  But Earl Clark apparently doesn’t feel that way about what’s going on with the Lakers, preferring a lucrative deal in China. … For anyone still counting, this is Year 7 for the city of Seattle without the NBA. …