Posts Tagged ‘Michael Jordan’

Blogtable: Assessing Duncan’s meaning to Spurs?

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: More surprising move: Durant’s or Wade’s? | Your lasting memory of Duncan? | Assessing Duncan’s meaning to Spurs?


> Has any NBA player meant more to a franchise than Duncan has to the Spurs? How about any pro athlete, in any sport?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comDuncan and the Spurs are inseparable, based on longevity – one player, one team, one coach over 19 years?! – but I’d go with Bill Russell and the Boston Celtics for everlasting impact on a franchise. Eleven titles in 13 seasons is hard to top. As far as opening this up to other sports, Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees set up the Evil Empire for decades to come. I’m not sure how the Spurs will do, post-Duncan, over the next 10 or 20 years.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.comOne might almost think the blogmaster hails from San Antonio. There’s also Bill Russell to the Boston Celtics; Michael Jordan to the Chicago Bulls; Magic Johnson to the Los Angeles Lakers; Larry Bird to the Celtics; Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Joe DiMaggio and Derek Jeter to the New York Yankees; Sandy Koufax to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tom Brady to the New England Patriots. And don’t forget Joe Montana to the San Francisco 49ers, Bob Lilly to the Dallas Cowboys, Gordie Howe to the Detroit Red Wings and Wayne Gretzky to the Edmonton Oilers. Let’s just say Duncan belongs on the list.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Not in recent years in the NBA that I can think of. That would require not only finding someone even close to his level of franchise success, but also in a smaller market. That was part of the Duncan impact, after all. He was brilliant in a city where the team was the team, the one major-league organization in town and therefore part of the community. Duncan was a guy who made fans proud to root for the Spurs. He set the right example to teammates, took less money to make it easier for management to maneuver the salary cap and was the driving force on the court behind year after year of winning. Within the model franchise, he was the model player.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comWell, I’m not so sure he beats Babe Ruth and the Yankees, Cal Ripken Jr. and the Orioles, Joe Montana and the 49ers, because football and baseball are far more ingrained in the American sports landscape than basketball. But off the top of my head, only Magic Johnson and the Lakers beats Duncan and the Spurs, because Magic essentially made the Lakers into a now-billion-dollar brand.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Given the duration and infinite, championship-level excellence, I don’t think anyone in any sport can compare. No other all-time great superstar spent more time with one team and had said team competing at the level the Spurs did during Duncan’s tenure. Think about it: we’re talking about two decades of individual and team excellence. Had LeBron James stayed in Cleveland for his entire career and won title(s) in a Cavaliers uniform only, that might have come close to matching what Duncan has meant to the Spurs and San Antonio. But we’re talking about the entire culture of an organization and city resting on this man’s shoulders. It is truly unprecedented when you put his career in context. It’ll take another 19 or 20 years post-Duncan to truly appreciate what he’s meant to the franchise, its fans and the city of San Antonio … and to see if there any titles won after he’s exited the stage.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: We can’t say that he means more or less. What we can say definitely is that Duncan joins the exclusive NBA room that includes Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, and Michael Jordan. They occupy a larger building shared with the likes of Tom Brady, Dick Butkus, Jim Brown, Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, Babe Ruth and on and on. There may be no higher praise.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Michael Jordan in Chicago is the first name that comes to mind. Or perhaps Bill Russell in Boston. Outside of the NBA, maybe Chipper Jones with the Atlanta Braves, although he only won one title. Derek Jeter with the Yankees. Tom Brady with the Patriots. No matter how you look at it, not many people have had that much success with one franchise.

Analytics Art: Breaking down LeBron’s Finals MVP performance

By Ben Leibowitz, Special to NBA.com

LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 3-1 Finals deficit to win a championship. James was the unanimous choice for Finals MVP after fueling this comeback and became just the third player ever to notch a triple-double in a Game 7 of The Finals (something only James Worthy and Jerry West did).

Staring down a seemingly insurmountable deficit against the best regular-season team in NBA lore — previous teams in The Finals were 0-32 all time after falling down 3-1 — James responded with back-to-back 41-point outbursts in Games 5 and 6 before his Game 7 triple-double.

As if his individual performances were not impressive enough, James also led The Finals in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks. According to ESPN Stats & Info, he’s the first player to ever lead a playoff series in five stats categories.

It ultimately didn’t matter, but James’ efficiency throughout the Game 7 triple-double performance was grim. James shot 9-for-24 (37.5 percent) and made 1 of 5 3-pointers. His performances in Games 5 and 6, however, were tremendous.

In terms of Game Score — a statistic developed by John Hollinger to provide a rough measure of a player’s individual performance in a given game — those 41-point explosions were by far the best games James had played all season.

A Game Score of 40 is considered an amazing while a 10 is average. LeBron’s Game 5 Game Score was 39.2 and his Game 6 netted a 42.5.

All told, James’ Game Score average in The Finals was a 26.5. That’s remarkably impressive, but where does it rank among past Finals MVPs?

The PointAfter team found the Game Score of each Finals MVP dating back to 1985. In those 30-plus years, James’ Finals performance ranks in the top eight all-time.

Only Hall of Famers Shaquille O’Neal, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson trump James in this context, but the list also shows just how phenomenal those players were in their prime.

O’Neal averaged 38.0 points, 16.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.0 steals and 2.7 blocks while shooting 61.1 percent in The 2000 Finals against the Indiana Pacers.

In The 1991 NBA Finals, Jordan averaged 31.2 points, 6.6 rebounds, 11.4 assists, 2.8 steals and 1.4 blocks and shot 55.8 percent in a five-game series win against the Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers.

In 1987, Johnson nearly averaged a triple-double for the series (26.2 points, 8.0 rebounds and 13.0 assists) while collecting 2.3 steals per game. He also shot 54.1 percent overall and 96 percent on his free throws as the Lakers topped the Boston Celtics.

In this year’s Finals, James proved once again how elite he is in the scope of the NBA annals. He orchestrated the most impressive Finals series comeback ever against arguably the best team in ages, added a third championship ring to his résumé and brought Cleveland its first NBA title.

Nevertheless, even for as flat-out good as LeBron was throughout the series (sustaining a high level through seven games), the numbers other guys posted somehow make James’ look human.

Even the most devoted LeBron doubters should, logically speaking, acknowledge his status as an all-time great. That being said, several former NBA superstars somehow were even more dominant than James was The Finals’ stage in 2016.

This article was originally published on PointAfter, a partner of NBA.com.

Ben Leibowitz is a writer for PointAfter, a sports data aggregation and visualization website that’s part of the Graphiq network. Visit PointAfter to get all the information about NBA Players, NBA Historical Teams and dozens of other topics.

The Finals Live Blog — Game 6

CLEVELAND — The energy is different for do-or-die games.

The blood pumps harder than usual. The senses are heightened. Paying attention to every little detail, all of the minutiae, is paramount.

Lose your focus for a moment, a two or three minute stretch, and that’s the game.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will be locked in that pressure-packed chamber for at least 48 minutes here tonight at Quicken Loans Arena. Game 6 of The Finals, the same game it all ended a year ago between these two, with the Warriors turning the visitor’s locker room into the “Champagne Room.”

Draymond Green would love to see his return (from a one-game suspension) bring that feeling back for the Warriors, who despite a doomsday narrative since their Game 5 loss at home, still lead this series 3-2.

So what if the Cavaliers pushed for a two-game suspension for Draymond for his Game 4 swipe at LeBron James. And so what if all of Draymond’s Flagrant fouls in this postseason came after review from the league office instead of by the game officials. These things happen.

Again, the minutiae is what matters. The details.

Who scrambles for loose balls and wins?

Who does the basics, putting a body on a body when a ball goes up for the best box out position?

Whose will is stronger?

It's GAME DAY!

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

LeBron has been great in these situations, historically speaking. He’s been known to rise to the magnitude of the moment, the way he and Kyrie Irving did in Game 5, becoming the first pair of teammates to score 40-plus in the same game in The Finals.

Historically speaking, of course, applies to basically everything these Warriors have done this season. The 24-0 start, the 73-9 record, the 402 makes from deep from Stephen Curry and on and on …

The fear that this could very well be the final game of this NBA season cranks the anxiety level up to code red for all involved. That’s why having the great Craig Sager working the sideline on the ESPN broadcast makes this night even sweeter.

#SagerStrong

We are very excited to have Craig Sager joining our broadcast team for Game 6 of the #NBAFinals.

A photo posted by NBA on ESPN (@nbaonespn) on

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Whose stars will shine brightest tonight?

Draymond already said there is no need for him to try to be “He-Man” out there. And LeBron and Kyrie have already done their Batman and Robin routine.

The unanimous KIA MVP is certainly capable of donning his cape tonight and you can be sure Klay Thompson will have his cannon loaded. And might we even get a Kevin Love sighting?

But I think back to this time a year ago, when Draymond finished with a triple-double in the clinching game and wonder, does he have another one in him tonight?

Oh, the energy and anxiety in do-or-die games … I can’t wait!

Dubs at work. #NBAFinals

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

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Anything is possible tonight! Watch Game 6 pregame w/ me @imisiahthomas @realgranthill @matt_winer. @NBATV @ 7p!

A photo posted by Steve Smith (@steve21smith) on

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The clowning has already started with #Game6WardrobeWatch! #BeetleDraymond

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SchoolBoy Steph!

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Where is the Love?

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Pregame coach speak from Tyronn Lue

.. and Steve Kerr

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J.R. Smith‘s daughter didn’t hold back when talking about her pops …

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2008 Finals MVP Paul Pierce showing off that bling!

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Stager’s suit game on blast, as always!

Craig Sager will work his first #NBAFinals game tonight! #SagerStrong

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

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Point guard show game for Game 6 …

Craig Sager will work his first #NBAFinals game tonight! #SagerStrong

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

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Andre Iguodala gets the starting nod tonight for the Warriors, Lineup of Death on deck …

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Good question ???

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They are ready up in here! Quicken Loans Arena …

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Save some for the game LeBron!

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Get in formation!

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Harrison Barnes is being left open on purpose and he’s not making the Cavaliers pay for it. 6-0 Cavs start.

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It’s a continuation of Game 5 early on, Cavaliers up 13-5 thanks to stuff like this …

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And this …

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Cleveland is rolling up 26-9 …

 

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It’s already that kind of night, and we’re not through the first quarter yet.

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END FIRST Q: CAVALIERS 31, WARRIORS 11 … the end?

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Finals MVP … just playing with you. But he’s in BEAST MODE!

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Warriors fans have to be really worried now.

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Of this we are all certain!

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Warriors finally settle down and start making shots and they are still down 39-24 with 8:54 to play.

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Warriors, unbelievably, are back in this thing. Down 46-38 with 4:40 to play. Crowd has quieted down.

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Warriors need look no further for the source of their struggles ….

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This debate never ends!

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T. Lue pushing all the right buttons so far …

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HALFTIME CAVALIERS 59, WARRIORS 43 … crazy first half, to say the least.

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Well, that didn’t go as planned Steve Kerr.

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🛫🛫🛫

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

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So it’s not just on Steph tonight, huh?

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Grand Rapids stand up! #GRDrive

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That’s one way to settle this thing … hmm!

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More Barnes and Love Tom Foolery …

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A motliest of crews. T-Mac, Mike Miller and the great Bill Russell?

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Lost mojo, lost bodies (Iguodala is in the bak getting looked at right now), lost everything at the moment!

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The Cavaliers don’t look anything like the team we saw in Games 1 and 2 of this series. #SWAG

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Iguodala update!

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END OF THIRD CAVALIERS 80, WARRIORS 71 … this thing is far from over. DO NOT GO TO BED JUST YET!

Warriors ended the quarter on a Klay Thompson powered 10-run and once again this crowd is nervous.

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Steph with the hoop and the harm on ABC. #NBAFinals #StrengthInNumbers #DubNation

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

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My man Ronnie2K dropping dimes on Lil’ Kev … cold!

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Steph picks up his fifth for after a clean pick of Kyrie with 9:46 to play. Tough call. Bad call?

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Game 6 down to the wire, thanks to this guy.

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LeBron saving the bacon right now for the Cavaliers. Possession by possession.

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Folks do need appreciate his rare combination of size and skill and the fact that he’s met or exceeded all of the expectations that have dogged him since he was what, 14?

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Turtles is watching, too.

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Just so we’re clear on what’s going on here.

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4:22 to play and Steph’s night ends with his sixth foul and a tech and a tossed mouthpiece and a long walk to the tunnel and the, well, you get the point.

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Cavaliers not only stave off elimination for the second straight game, but do it in dominating fashion. They are physically whipping the smaller Warriors at every turn. Oh and LeBron is cooking, just for good measure …

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All he did was drop 41 points in 42 minutes on 16-for-27 shooting, 3-for-6 from deep, 11 assists, 8 rebounds and a whole lot of flexing. Game 7 it is.

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GAME 7!!!!!!

There will be a Game 7. #NBAFinals

A photo posted by @nbatv on

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The Finals Live Blog — Game 5

Two words [Game] #READY WATCH Me in B [READY] featuring @e40

A video posted by Draymond Green (@money23green) on

OAKLAND — I feel your pain Draymond Green.

For a player who serves as the vocal and emotional leader for the reigning and defending NBA champions to have to sit out a Game 5 of The Finals at home, with a chance to clinch back-to-back titles, it has to tear your heart out.

Sure, plenty of folks insist that you did this to yourself, that you knew one more Flagrant foul point would result in a one-game suspension.

It’s true, we all knew. Kiki Vandeweghe, the NBA’s VP of Basketball Operations, was left with no choice but to discipline Green, what with all of the hoopla surrounding his kicking and swinging exploits during this postseason.

But I still didn’t think his response to being stepped over by LeBron James late in the Warriors’ Game 4 win deserved anything more than the double fouls the officials usually call in an instance where players exchange tough words but don’t dive into any sort of physical exchange.

If the Warriors take care of their business while you watch next door from the A’s stadium (according to NBA rules Green cannot be in the building from two hours prior to tip off until after the game has ended), you won’t have far to go to join in on the championship celebration.

The fact that you won’t be able to participate in what serves as potentially the biggest game in the Warriors’ historic season is what stinks.

As much as this season has been about two-time KIA MVP Stephen Curry and fellow All-Star and Splash Brother Klay Thompson and their otherworldly shooting exploits, as much as it’s been about the Warriors’ Strength In Numbers mantra and campaign, it’s also been about the continued evolution of the game of Green, a hybrid point/power forward capable of performing at another level on both ends of the floor.

This game without any of the principal figures — James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love included — for whatever reason, is something of a letdown. You always want to see the best of the best, at full strength, go at it with everything on the line.

But not this time.

The game must go on …

And something tells me one of these guys will have to play a significant role tonight for the Warriors to win

2 hours… #StrengthInNumbers

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

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Welp, the “high road” …

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Spoken by a man who knows …

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As important as Draymond is to the Warrior, and no one is disputing that, this guy might be more important!

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On this date in history: MJ went 5-for-5 in The Finals .. just saying!

OTD in 1997 Michael Jordan won his 5th @NBA Championship and #NBAFinals  MVP.

A photo posted by @nbatv on

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Game 5!!!

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Love them or hate them, these are two real ones.

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Kyrie going with the grunge look tonight?

#Cavshion presentation 💯 | #ALLin216

A video posted by Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) on

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Who plays Steve Kerr tonight for his team?

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A moment of silence for all those affected by the terror in Orlando over the weekend.

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Cavs will probably need each and every single point he can provide tonight.

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It’s gonna be a wild night!

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Desperate times call for desperate measures … sleeves?

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Dre Day after all?

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No reason to wait …

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Steph with a 3 and Kyrie tries to get some “get back” and, of course, turns it over …

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It’s early, but he’s right. No flow on offense.

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You knew that wouldn’t take long. #FreeDraymond

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Again, it’s early …

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Mighty clever. #SPLASH

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Speechless. Just speechless.

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Just a good ol’ fashioned playoff foul!

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Cavs battling the elements, the crowd, the nerves and the Warriors  and hanging tough.

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Where’s Draymond? Follow the sign …

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They can’t stop, won’t stop …

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LOL

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Where is Draymond? With Beast Mode!

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WARRIORS 32, CAVALIERS 29 at end of 1st quarter. LeBron is clicking (4-for-7 for 12 points, 2-for-2 from deep), Kyrie and JR, too (17 between them) and the Cavs are still down. Warriors are 5-for-13 from deep, Curry has 10 and Klay 8). Iguodala with 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and the early lead for Finals MVP.

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Strength In Numbers?

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Cavs showing their mettle. Quick burst for a 36-32 lead with 10:46 to play before halftime. They re not rattled by the moment.

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Kerr has to be a master tonight, managing minutes and controlling the pace and tempo.

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Draymond eating good at the A’s game.

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Livingston goes boom!

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Kyrie and Klay playing 1-on-1 for Game 5 …

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Klay Thompson is not trying to go back to Cleveland anytime soon.

BEST NICKNAME EVER?

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No resemblance. None!

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Kyrie has 18 of his own and the Cavs are up 54-50 with 3:45 to play before halftime. This is the kind of game you wish we had every night in The Finals. Two heavyweights throwing blows.

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You wonder who is going to blink first?

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This is one of LeBron’s finest performances, given the magnitude of the moment.

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Great first half both ways. Tied at 61 and yes, things are mighty different for both sides without Draymond out there.

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B | B | Z Bronny, Bryce & Zhuri. #ThisIsWhyWePlay

A photo posted by Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) on

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Meet me at the rim! #NBAFinals

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

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Everybody hates Kevin …

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More #SHADE for Love …

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Get your popcorn ready for this second half!

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Hugs all around.

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Solid observation …

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Right on Ricky!

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Bogut with a sweet block and a nasty knee injury on the same play. Huge loss for the Warriors at 10:07 of the third. They are without their two best rim protectors (Bogut and Green) for the remainder of this game.

No replays necessary!

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Heavyweight slugfest!

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Positionless basketball.

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A little love for Tyronn Lue?

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LeBron’s haters are silent tonight. He’s flat out ballin in this building tonight.

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Pressure mounting on the home team. Warriors look a bit spent. No Draymond is crushing right now.

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Cavs must continue to attack the rim if they want to hold on to this lead. Warriors have no resistance at the rim.

Meanhwhike across the way …

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LeBron is in another world tonight. Step-back game and everything working like clockwork.

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Cavs are making them work like crazy for even a decent look.

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CAVS 93, WARRIORS 84 after 3. LeBron is refusing to go quietly into the offseason right now. Suffocating defensive effort from his team. And clutch shot-making from he and Kyrie. Warriors look fatigued and missing Draymond’s presence on both ends something terrible.

Great drama!

Warriors will have to rally to try and win this thing here at Oracle. And without Bogut or Draymond it’s looking tight. Hold on for what should be an unreal fourth quarter.

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Cruel and unusual comparison.

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Keep an eye on this stuff …

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But he keeps hitting buckets, 34 and counting for Uncle Drew’s nephew, who is killing it tonight.

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Just so we’re clear about what kind of night LeBron is having …

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Me and my partner rollin’ like Batman and Robin …

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Kyrie!

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The Closer!

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You don’t have to be a fan. If you have eyes and understand the goal is to put the ball in the hole …

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Masterful performance indeed.

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Identical twin uglies?

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On the flip side …

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I cannot say enough about the way LeBron and Kyrie approached this game. Total calm. Understood what was at stake and played like assassins. Unreal performance by two guys. Barely needed any scoring help from the rest of the Cavaliers.

That’s why I always pack for 7!

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GAME SLEEVES, CAVS 112, WARRIORS 97 to stave off elimination and we shall see what both teams can muster in time for Thursday’s game in Cleveland.

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He grabbed 3 …

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See you Thursday night for Game 6!

 

Morning shootaround — June 5


NEWS OF THE MORNING
Hornacek gets the point | Wall still climbing | Work ahead for Presti | Too much LeBron? | The Ali Effect

No. 1: Hornacek emphasizes getting the point — During the most productive part of his playing career, Jeff Hornacek ran with John Stockton in Utah. During his only other stint as a head coach, he was able to choose from Eric Bledsoe, Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas on any given night. Now that he’s taken over on the bench with the Knicks, it’s sounding like Hornacek has a point guard at the top of his wish list in New York, says Marc Berman of the New York Post:

“We have a young player that’s obviously inexperienced after his first year,’’ Hornacek said at Friday’s press conference. “He’ll get better and better. Jose is kind of later in his career. If we can find a middle guy to bridge those two guys, it would be good. There’s a lot of guys out there. I’m sure Phil [Jackson, team president] and Steve [Mills, general manager] are looking at everything.’’

“If there’s something out there in free agency to bring in that guy, in between, that can help guide the younger guard and assist the older point guard, that would make the team better,’’ Hornacek added.

It’s not a strong crop of free-agent point guards, with Memphis’ Mike Conley leading the top tier. Resurgent Rajon Rondo, Carmelo Anthony’s choice, is next, but some in the organization believe he hangs onto the ball too much. Brandon Jennings, D.J. Augustin, Ty Lawson, Jeremy Lin, Miami’s unsung Tyler Johnson, Aaron Brooks and Mario Chalmers are also free agents. Sources have indicated the Knicks consider Lawson’s off-court issues too big a risk and Lin’s defense too gaping.

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(more…)

Morning shootaround — May 20

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Payton miffed at MVP voters | Lowry’s game goes AWOL in East finals | Why Knicks are set to hire Hornacek

No. 1: Payton upset with voters over Curry’s unanimous MVP  Throughout the Golden State Warriors’ rise to prominence (and a title last season), countless figures from the game’s present and past have had varied opinions on the team’s dominance. After the Warriors’ star, Stephen Curry, won his second straight Kia MVP (and won it unanimously), former All-Star Tracy McGrady said Curry’s award was both a reflection of his greatness and the weakness of the NBA. Another legend of the game, Gary Payton, shares similar feelings about Curry’s MVP and said as much during an interview with both Sports Illustrated Now and Sirius XM radio.

First, here’s what Payton had to say to Sports Illustrated Now about Curry’s MVP:

Hall of Famer Gary Payton doesn’t believe Stephen Curry should have been the NBA’s first unanimous MVP.

The former Seattle Supersonics point guard told SI’s Maggie Gray that “it’s about era,” and that he felt Michael Jordan should have been a unanimous decision during his own playing days. “I think all of those guys were unanimous decisions too. It just happened in an era that went his way…I commend him and what he’s accomplished, but you gotta think about who was voting for MJ, Kareem, in their time, why they wouldn’t have given all their votes to those guys.”

Curry received every first-place vote after leading the league in scoring, three-pointers made and steals and driving the Warriors to the most successful regular-season win-loss record in NBA history at 73–9. He has drawn scrutiny from NBA greats including Oscar Robertson.

And, via the Bay Area News Group, Payton says his biggest complaint is with the MVP voters and not Curry:

Gary Payton, the Hall of Fame point guard and Oakland native, said Thursday he has an issue with voters who gave the Warriors’ Stephen Curry the honor of becoming the NBA’s first unanimous MVP.

“People have to understand we don’t have an issue with Stephen Curry,” Payton told SiriusXM. “Stephen Curry doesn’t vote for himself. You had 131 people that voted for him. I’ve got an issue with them.”

A vote of NBA players decided the MVP up until the 1980-81 season when balloting was done by a panel of sports writers and broadcasters from the United States and Canada.

“We forgot Wilt Chamberlain averaged 50 points and 30 rebounds,” Payton told SiriusXM. “You didn’t think he was a unanimous decision? Who else ever did that and scored 100 points in one game? And he didn’t even win it (in 1962). That’s what I’m trying to say.

“You look at Michael Jordan. When they set the record at 72-10 in 1996, he didn’t get all the votes. So you’re trying to tell me these reporters or whoever’s voting that you and them guys back then, they didn’t know that he was a unanimous decision? Don’t blame that on Stephen Curry. Blame that on them reporters.”

Payton told the radio station that the San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard and Cleveland Cavaliers’ LeBron James, who finished second and third in the voting, deserved first-place votes.

“If you look at LeBron, what he does for his team, he does everything,” Payton said. “I still think he’s the best all-around basketball player. As we say, Stephen Curry was the best player this year but I’m saying all-around – who gives you assists, who gives you rebounding, who gives you points, who does a lot of things for his team to have it? If you take LeBron off that team, I don’t think Cleveland is a good team like that. If you Curry off of it, uh, right now I don’t know. They probably would win games. They wouldn’t have won 73, but they would win a lot of basketball games.”

Famed trainer’s take: NBA combine assesses prospects too narrowly

As NBA scouts, coaches, general managers and other staffers descended on Chicago for the league’s annual Draft Combine, the process of poking, prodding, measuring and timing the nation’s top pro prospects began in earnest.

But at least one authority on what it takes to excel as an NBA player remained unconvinced the participating teams would learn much of anything.

Tim Grover, famed trainer of Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade and other NBA notables, offered a contrarian view on his blog at attackathletics.com. Grover contends that the NBA scouting staffs fall in lockstep in how they assess players at the combine, more because they can than because it yields empirical evidence for who can play and who cannot.

This might be met with equal skepticism from NBA personnel departments, who wouldn’t miss this annual roundup in Chicago and risk putting themselves at a disadvantage relative to the other 29 teams. But they’re kidding themselves if they think the numbers generated at the combine will make or break a player’s career or their team’s draft success. Grover writes in part:

This is for all the guys who firmly believe that their entire lives would have been completely different—wealthier, happier, sexier—if only they had been given the rare and awesome ability to jump.

Let me make you feel better: I don’t test my players’ vertical jump. I’ll test it if someone asks me to, if a player or team really wants to know, but to me, it’s a shallow prediction of what an individual can actually accomplish as a competitive athlete, a measure of talent, not skill. Talent and skill aren’t the same thing; the world is full of talented people who have never achieved anything.

When I started working with Michael Jordan in 1989, his vertical jump was 38 inches. By today’s standards, that might not even get you drafted in the top ten; Andrew Wiggins reportedly had a 44” vertical jump before he was drafted No. 1 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft. Eventually we got MJ up to 42”—and then 48”—using the training program which later became my book “JUMP ATTACK.” But we weren’t specifically training for vertical jump; we trained for overall explosiveness and skill, and the vertical increase was just a by-product of the training.

It’s just a number. You know those people in school who always got good grades but were complete dunces in real life? Same principle here: If you train for a one-dimensional test, you’ll be a one-dimensional athlete. The truth is, the ability to jump straight up into the air one time in a completely controlled situation doesn’t indicate what you can do during a game.

Can you do it with two guys in your face and another waiting to clock you when you come down? With the game on the line and lights in your eyes? Falling backwards? What about the second or third jump? That’s what I want to see. Game results, not test results. MJ and Kobe scored more than 30,000 points in their careers; I’m not a stat guy but I’m pretty sure most of those points didn’t come from dunks.

I’m not just picking on testing vertical jump here. Draft Combines are supposedly designed to measure athletic ability, but cones don’t weigh 400 pounds and move at lightning speed. Everyone gets excited about a guy who runs a fast 40. But how often do you have a game situation where you’re running 40 yards in a straight line unopposed? It’s a test of speed and acceleration: that’s talent. I want to see skill.

Show me you can explode for five yards, stop, cut, avoid the defense, change direction, and keep going…while maintaining that speed. Ask Jerry Rice: you don’t get to be the best by sprinting alone down an open field.

The NBA Draft Combine includes a 185-pound bench press test. What are we proving there, how hard you can fire a chest pass? If you’re an NBA player on your back in the middle of a game pushing something away, you either need a referee or an ambulance. I want to see overall strength in competition, not while you’re lying on a bench. Kevin Durant couldn’t do one rep at his pre-draft Combine. Looks like things worked out well for him.

Look, there’s always going to be someone who jumps higher or runs faster than you. But if you’re a golfer who only works on your drive, now you’re Happy Gilmore. You can do one thing. If you can only dominate the vertical jump competition or the bench press, congratulations, now you’re a great vertical jumper or bench presser. It doesn’t make you a skilled and competitive athlete.

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 238) Steph, Dwight, Playoffs and More!

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Stephen Curry is back. He told the crowd at the Moda Center exactly that Monday night, when he stole the show in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinals against the Portland Trail Blazers.

That was a day before he officially collected his second straight KIA MVP, the first player in NBA history to do it unanimously.

Let the debates begin about where he stands all time — best shooter ever, best scorer we’ve seen, up there with Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and Larry Bird, etc. — even though he’s still just toe-deep into what is shaping up as a spectacular, future Hall of Fame career.

If Steph can keep up his current pace, there’s no question he’ll be in that conversation about the greatest players to grace the league. There was a tie a few years ago that the same things were being predicted for Dwight Howard. But that forecast got cloudy when he left Orlando for Los Angeles and then bolted the Lakers for Houston and … well, you know the story.

Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith dove into that conversation with Dwight on TNT Tuesday night in some must-see-TV, in case you missed it.

The point is, things change quickly in the NBA, the biggest name in the game today could find himself on the back burner if he’s not careful, as Dwight can attest. So it makes perfect sense that we celebrate Steph’s continued ascent while discussing Dwight’s looming huge free agent summer on Episode 238 of The Hang Time Podcast … Steph, Dwight, Playoffs and more.

We also shine the spotlight on Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and their 3-2 lead over the San Antonio Spurs with a chance to send the mighty Spurs fishing for the season and what that could mean for the remainder of this postseason.

Check it all out on Episode 238 of The Hang Time Podcast.

LISTEN HERE:

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

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

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VIDEO: Stephen Curry is the NBA’s first unanimous KIA MVP

Do the Cavs have any worries in the East?

Watching these playoffs, and concentrating their attention for now on the Eastern Conference, you know the Cleveland Cavaliers are somewhere literally sitting pretty right now.

They’re sitting because, after sweeping aside the Detroit Pistons, there’s nothing else to do but wait.

And they’re pretty because most if not all of their internal worries of the past are gone, and meanwhile, their competition in the East has never looked more beatable.

While it’s true that anything and everything is possible in the playoffs, the notion that the East title is Cleveland’s to lose looks stronger than ever. When you combine the good health and good vibes of the Cavs with the flaws of the remaining field, it screams Cleveland dominance. Wouldn’t you be shocked if LeBron James doesn’t make a sixth straight trip to the NBA Finals?

In a sense, the Cavaliers deserved a break. Come again, you say? Remember last year: Kevin Love‘s shoulder was ripped apart on a cheap shot by Kelly Olynyk in the first round. And Kyrie Irving was injured most of the East finals, then was gone for good after Game 1 of The Finals (knee). LeBron carried the Cavs anyway and took two games from the Golden State Warriors, but the health gods owed Cleveland a full compliment of bodies and, in particular, two All-Stars (Love and Kyrie). Hopefully we’ll get to see how good the Cavs are with LeBron, Love and Kyrie on the floor and clicking. And judging by what happened in the last month of the season and the first round, those three are finally playing in harmony.

As for the competition in the East?

Atlanta Hawks: Entering Thursday’s Game 6 (8 p.m. ET, TNT), they hadn’t won in Boston in 10 previous playoff games. So there’s a chance the Hawks could be extended to seven games. After winning 60 games last season, the Hawks were then swept by the Cavs without Love and Kyrie in the East finals. What gives anyone the idea things will be different in the semifinals this year? Paul Millsap is having a beastly series against Boston, but he was torched by LeBron last season. Meanwhile, if Jeff Teague has his hands full with Isaiah Thomas, Kyrie is a step up from that.

Toronto Raptors: If not for a few breaks their way in Game 5, the Raptors would be down 3-2 instead of up 3-2 on the Indiana Pacers. That’s not what you’d expect from the No. 2 team in the East. Kyle Lowry bombed in the 2015 playoffs and this time has upgraded to inconsistent. Speaking of that, the Raptors signed DeMarre Carroll to major dollars, hoping he’d be their defensive rock. The first impressions aren’t very kind — injuries didn’t help — and he’s the guy who’ll be assigned to LeBron.

Indiana Pacers: Paul George is averaging 28.8 points, six rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.8 steals per game in the postseason. You have to love Paul George. You don’t have to love the Pacers.

Miami Heat: What a weird situation — and we’re not talking about Dwyane Wade on that last drive in Wednesday’s Game 5 and whether or not he got fouled. We mean Chris Bosh. He hasn’t spoken in public since All-Star weekend and hasn’t been officially ruled in or out of the playoffs. He and the Heat are involved in some sort of stand-off regarding his status — he wants to play but there’s a medical issue — and without him, Miami may not beat Charlotte.

Charlotte Hornets: This is a cool story, how a team that hadn’t won a playoff game since 2002 has won one, then two, then three, and now finds itself in position to win its first playoff series since 2002. Good for Steve Clifford, Kemba Walker and especially Michael Jordan. But they’d get swept by the Cavs.

Boston Celtics: Brad Stevens can coach, and Isaiah Thomas can play. But a coach can’t take a team deep into the playoffs, and the only way a 5-foot-9 player can carry a team far is if he’s Allen Iverson-like. Nice showing by the Celtics, though. Their big moment will comenot next week, but next month at the Draft Lottery show; they hold Brooklyn’s pick.

 

Morning shootaround — April 24

NEWS OF THE MORNING


VIDEO: The Fast Break — April 23

Poise, passion pay for Portland | Curry back in body, but in spirit? | Nowitzki chooses to keep fighting | Celtics’ Thomas bonds with Boston’s best

No. 1: Poise, passion pay for Portland — Things were slipping away for the Portland Trail Blazers late in their game Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers, which meant their first-round Western Conference series also was slipping from their grasp. The Blazers couldn’t afford to dig their hole 3-0 deep and maintain any realistic hopes of coming back, and they knew it. That’s when desperation kicked in, in the form of a feisty point guard and follow-the-leader resilience of his teammates. Jason Quick of CSNNorthwest.com detailed Portland’s late-game resolve and push:

It’s when some of the Clippers’ warts became exposed – DeAndre Jordan’s free throw shooting, Blake Griffin’s rust among them – and when some of the Blazers’ uncanny ability to play above-and-beyond what conventional wisdom says a team of this experience and payroll should.

It’s when Portland closed on a 15-3 run to secure a 96-88 win to draw within 2-1 of the Clippers in this best-of-seven series.

It was the Blazers’ most important 3:52 of the season and that frenetic finish included a speech, a three-pointer, a steal and a dunk. And ultimately, it included a message.

“It says we want it,’’ Damian Lillard said. “ We aren’t here for fake just to say ‘We weren’t supposed to make the playoffs and we made it.’ We are here to compete. We are here to win. It said a lot about our team. We really showed some fight and some heart.’’

The crowd was buzzing. National television was watching. And a season still had a pulse, even though months ago some players admitted they figured by late April it would be forgotten in a three-margarita-haze somewhere in Mexico.

Soaking up that atmosphere, Lillard asked his teammates a question.

“I huddled the guys up and said ‘Are you all ready to go home? … We are going to finish this out,’’’ Lillard recalled later.

It wasn’t so much of a motivating, rallying cry as much as it was a crystalizing moment for the team, a now-or-never type of awakening.

“He basically came in there and said ‘I don’t want my season to be over,’’’ [Moe] Harkless said. “I felt the same way, so I was right there with him. Just to know everybody on the court had the same mindset … I mean, that’s big time.’’

[C.J.] McCollum made one of his two free throws. And after [DeAndre] Jordan split his free throws, Harkless darted from the baseline to rebound and dunk a miss from McCollum with 55 seconds left to give the Blazers a 91-86 lead.
“That play by Moe sealed the deal for us,’’ Davis said.

Who knows how much Lillard’s now-or-never speech had to do with the Blazers’ strong close to the game? Or whether it was more the Clippers’ undoing in the clutch rather than the Blazers’ rising to the occasion?

Doesn’t matter. Inside the locker room, this team looks to and listens to Lillard, and he usually delivers with something that resonates.

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