Posts Tagged ‘Scott Howard Cooper’

Davis agrees to $145 million extension with Pelicans


VIDEO: David Aldridge breaks down Anthony Davis’ extension with the Pelicans

The Pelicans and franchise cornerstone Anthony Davis agreed to a five-year maximum extension Tuesday night that could pay him an estimated $145 million and keep him under contract for six more seasons.

The two-time All-Star power forward will play 2015-16 under the contract he signed after being the No. 1 pick in the 2012 draft. The extension will kick in beginning in 2016-17, with the exact amount of the deal to be determined after the salary cap is set in the summer of 2016.

Davis announced the agreement on Twitter minutes after the league officially began its 2015-16 business operations at 12:01 a.m. EST Wednesday:

Davis averaged 24.4 points and 10.2 rebounds last season to lead the Pelicans into the playoffs. They were swept in the first round by the Warriors, the eventual champions, but with Davis averaging 31.5 points and 11 rebounds while shooting 54 percent. It held up as one of the best series for any player the entire postseason.

 

2015 Free Agent Fever

A free-agent derby that lacks superstar power but could redefine the landscape of the West is set to begin Tuesday at midnight ET amid the possibility that several of the top teams from the conference are on the verge of dramatic change, and not necessarily for the better.

The same point could be made most every July, except that the start of negotiations this time comes with the additional twist that a couple of the headliners with the best chance to leave their current team may switch to a club within the conference: LaMarcus Aldridge of the Trail Blazers meeting first with the Lakers and expected to also consider the Spurs and Mavericks, and DeAndre Jordan of the Clippers reportedly eyeing a potential move to the Mavericks. Whether Aldridge stays or goes obviously has a major impact for Portland, in other words, but if the destination is another team in the West’s upper echelon, the decision is a dual shakeup.

The Warriors are one of the few teams near the top to be immune — and the champions are at the very top — with every indication still that Draymond Green is a lock to return. That has been the case for months, the only uncertainty being whether it would be with a new contract directly from Golden State or by Golden State matching an offer sheet.

The same goes for Kawhi Leonard, another restricted free agent, and the automatic of his next deal in San Antonio. Among the unrestricteds, all signs point to Marc Gasol re-signing in Memphis without seriously considering other opportunities. (Just as the biggest name of all on the market, LeBron James, isn’t really considered to be on the market with the strong signals he will be back in Cleveland.)

Beyond that, though, the conference could be on the verge of shifting, starting tonight. What would an Aldridge departure, if it happens, mean for the decision for the stay-or-go decision in front of Wesley Matthews? What other moves will the Spurs have to make to manage the cap enough to keep Danny Green, in line for a big payday? How will the Clippers respond if Jordan leaves, after coach Doc Rivers spent two seasons proclaiming Jordan as essentially irreplaceable. On and on.

Tonight is the start of negotiations, and also the start of the implications. In many cases, losing a free agent may be more than losing a free agent. It could be a direct rival getting better in the process, a double hit.

Kings have Green, Rondo on wish list, 7:11 a.m.

Bucks hold 2 a.m. meeting with Monroe, 7:10 a.m.

Aminu’s deal setting bar for others, 6:41 a.m.

Pacers to meet with Ellis today, 6:21 a.m.

Pacers making push for Ellis, 1:30 a.m.

But the Pacers aren’t the only ones interested…

Aminu heading to Portland, 12:42 a.m.

Spurs, Leonard agree on framework, 12:06 a.m.

Davis tweets he is staying put, 12:02 a.m.

Davis agree to max deal with N.O., 12:01 a.m.

Celtics trying to reach Love, 11:39 p.m.

Lakers, Love to chat this week, 11:11 p.m.

Lakers looking at centers, 11:08 p.m.

Wade met with Heat brass, twice, 10:20 p.m.

Kings, Rondo have mutual interest 9:57 p.m.

Mavs set to meet with Aldridge, Jordan, 9:52 p.m.

 

 

 

Blogtable: Who’s going No. 1-5?

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: Who’s going No. 1-5? | Future for Cousins, Kings? | Riley’s pitch to Wade?



VIDEODraft HQ’s crew holds a mock draft for the first three picks

> Who are you picking 1-5 in tomorrow night’s Draft? And, which player in this year’s Draft will be its Stephen Curry (i.e. the player most consider to be the best in the Draft class) a few years from now and why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI get the top five? Wow, talk about a quick rebuilding and a friendly salary-cap hit.

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Emmanuel Mudiay (Knicks)
5. Kristaps Porzingis (Magic)

I think Russell emerges as the “Curry” of this draft, by virtue of his skills and the fat opportunity he’ll have to showcase them should he wind up, as many expect, in Philadelphia. Michael Carter-Williams won a Rookie of the Year award that way.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Kristaps Porzingas (Knicks)
5. Emmanuel Mudiay (Magic)

Sometimes you don’t have to look past the obvious. Karl-Anthony Towns has the most varied skills to go with his size and has the most upside in the draft. In a few years we’ll look back at the No. 1 pick in 2015 and say, “Of course.”

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comIf you mean what I think should happen and not what I think will happen …

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. D’Angelo Russell (Lakers)
3. Kristaps Porzingis (Sixers)
4. Jahlil Okafor (Knicks)
5. Mario Hezonja (Magic)

Towns has the highest ceiling, the best chance to impact on both sides of the ball. He won’t be the best player in two years, but he will be for the career. I might go Hezonja second, then Russell.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks)
5. Mario Hezonja (Magic)

Obviously Mudiay could be in the top 5. My “next Curry” is Cameron Payne, who like Curry is a point guard form a small school who did rather big things. That is, if all the pre-draft raves about Payne are true.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Emmanuel Mudiay (Knicks)
5. Kristaps Porzingis (Magic)

I’m going chalk with both answers (because my knowledge of these guys is limited), believing that Towns will ultimately be the best player from the Draft. He’s 7-feet tall, has the skills to help his team on both ends of the floor in today’s game, and is a good fit in Minnesota next to Andrew Wiggins.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com:

1. Karl Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Emmanuel Mudiay (Knicks)
5. Kristaps Porzingis (Magic)

The Steph Curry of this Draft will be Justise Winslow, the most versatile and NBA ready player available in the entire pool. He’ll get the Steph Curry Award for having the game and impact most similar to what Draymond Green did for Curry and the recently crowned champion Golden State Warriors. Winslow is the best potential two-way player in this Draft (I’m thinking Jimmy Butler), with Arizona’s Stanley Johnson ranking just behind him in my book. That means something in the small-ball, pace-and-space evolution/revolution that’s going on right now.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. D’Angelo Russell (Lakers)
3. Kristaps Porzingis (Sixers)
4. Jahlil Okafor (Knicks)
5. Mario Hezonja (Magic)

Russell figures to be rookie of the year, but Towns should be the best player based on his potential to lead his NBA team defensively while providing versatile offense.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks)
5. Emmanuel Mudiay (Magic)
I’m not sure that there is a player like Curry, in the sense that a player is passed up by a few teams and matures into being the best player in his class. To me, Towns is the clear best player in the Draft, and it seems like he’ll go No. 1. Some of the other guys may be great at one facet or another, but I think Towns has the ability to be the best all-around player.

 

Blogtable: Riley’s pitch to Wade?

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: Who’s going No. 1-5? | Future for Cousins, Kings? | Riley’s pitch to Wade?



VIDEOWould Dwyane Wade consider leaving the Heat in free agency?

> If you’re Pat Riley and you’re meeting with Dwyane Wade at some point in the next few days, what is your pitch to get him to opt in/re-sign with Miami?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I appeal to Wade the businessman and try a little role reversal: “Dwyane, if you were in my seat, would you overpay for a gimpy backcourt player who turns 34 next season and has missed 30 percent of his team’s games the past two years?” OK, maybe I’d sugarcoat it a little better than that, but that’s the crux of the matter. Wade doesn’t have to go the Tim Duncan/Dirk Nowitzki route with his paychecks if he doesn’t want to – assuming he can get what he wants elsewhere – but then he might end up in a situation similar to Kobe Bryant‘s, with too much dough committed to the aging star and not enough left for sufficient help. Also, Riley still has this hole card to play: “You’re Mr. Heat, Dwyane. You can make up the money difference over the next 30 years by being a part of this franchise and letting the Arisons pay you from the non-salary-capped budget.”

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I’d tell him, yes, we’ve used you, yes, we’ve taken you for granted. But the fact is we are still able and willing to pay you more than anybody else in the league. Plus, if we keep Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside and you stay healthy, we’re a pretty good team in the East.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: “Dwyane, this is home. So few players get the chance to play their entire Hall of Fame career with one team. That’s special. You know we’re going to do whatever it takes to surround you with a good roster again. We’ve proven that. We have paid you well before. We will continue to pay you well. It may not be the number you have in mind, but your loyalty is being rewarded. Be part of something big. Again.”

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Riley should give his grass-isn’t-greener speech and remind Wade that, aside from Dan Marino, nobody registers louder in South Florida sports. Miami is Wade’s home, and anyway, Riley should also explain to Wade that he’ll be a part of the Heat family long past retirement, like Alonzo Mourning, and the organization will find a way to keep him on payroll for many years. Owner Mickey Arison will take care of Wade.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comWe can give you the most money. The Dragic/Bosh pick-and-pop is going to be deadly. We’re in the Eastern Conference. And you’ll continue to live in ****ing Miami. But I could really use some flexibility next year to add a new player, so let’s do a two-year deal with an opt out, OK?

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: We know that whole throwing the rings on the table thing won’t work this time. I’m not sure there is a reasonable pitch to be made to Wade when you’re preparing a max offer for Goran Dragic, the heir apparent to the throne as the Heat’s best player. Wade has already swallowed one sizable pay cut in the past five years to ensure the Big 3 era took off in Miami. Asking him to take another hit for the team this time seems like a tough way of showing the greatest player in franchise history how much you love and respect him for what he’s done to help make the Heat what they have been throughout Wade’s tenure in Miami. The last four years of Finals appearances doesn’t happen without Wade’s financial, emotional and on-court sacrifice to accommodate LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Sell him on the long-term: How few players of this era are going to spend an entire career with the same team? How important will that be over the remaining decades of Wade’s life after basketball? But there is only so much selling that can be done in this relationship that has lasted so long already.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog Well, first of all, I’d have the meeting on my yacht, cruising in the twilight along Biscayne Bay. Then I’d point out that Wade is a 33-year-old guard who can’t shoot threes and can’t stay healthy. So good luck getting anyone else to pay you $16 million this season. Also, with the Heat in a weird salary situation right now, it actually helps the Heat for Wade to opt-in. Last thing: It would be cool for Wade to stick with the team that he’s played for his entire career. Now, let’s park the yacht over near South Beach and enjoy the night.

Blogtable: Future for Cousins, Kings?

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: Who’s going No. 1-5? | Future for Cousins, Kings? | Riley’s pitch to Wade?



VIDEODavid Aldridge says a trade of DeMarcus Cousins isn’t likely before the Draft

> You’re the Kings’ front office … on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most likely, where does the notion of trading DeMarcus Cousins rank? Also, is it too late to fix whatever kind of rift there is between Cousins and coach George Karl?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I don’t like the idea for the Kings, so I give it a 3. To turn their backs on a player this talented, and still so young, is reckless enough to be considered dereliction of duty. Trouble is, Sacramento has had enough of the big changes – management, coaching, teammates – that ought to have corrected or at least placated Cousins by now, yet he remains a headache. As for Karl, I’m a little surprised he hasn’t bothered to, or been able to, make some sort of peace with the big man. He has dealt with hard cases before (Gary Payton, Sam Cassell). Cousins’ impact on his preferred playing style really must rankle him. Still, Cousins will be putting up 20-10 games long after Karl has his feet up, sipping a cool beverage, visiting Nellie in Maui after coaching his last game.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I would never have gone as far as the zero chance that is coming from upper management now and probably wouldn’t have rated it more than a 5. But that was before George Karl significantly roiled the water by offering Cousins around the league. With a volatile personality that already had to be handled with kids gloves, the bridge has probably been blown up by this round of events. If the Kings don’t trade him know, things will only explode at the first sign of trouble next season. Just another day, just another rebuild in Sacramento.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The notion of trading him is a 1. It’s not a move I want to make as the GM. DeMarcus Cousins has a chance to be the best center in the league into the next decade. But the chances of having to do it are more like a 6 or 7 now with the possibility of quickly escalating to a 9. Not before the Draft, though, unless someone blows me away with an offer. (Which should have been the case anyway, regardless of the latest developments.) And as the person in charge of the Kings front office, I will comment on specific trades offers, not the vague question or statement you media jackals use. “Would you trade DeMarcus Cousins?” is a bad way to start. Bring me an offer, then I will tell you if I would do it.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I’d rate it a 6. I just don’t think it’s easy to move talented big men, even one with warts, and get decent value in return. The Kings aren’t in position to make any bold move without some rather safe assurances that a Boogie trade will help, not hurt, them. Also, I’m not so sure it’s too late to fix anything between Cousins and Karl. The season’s a long ways off. Besides, Cousins is under contract for a few more years and therefore doesn’t have much leverage, at least not right now.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com It’s 5 for me. Let’s not pretend that Cousins is Tim Duncan, in regard to coachability or leadership. And I don’t know that we can make the playoffs in the Western Conference with him as our best player. Still, I’m not sure why we’d want to trade our best player unless we’re getting an incredible package in return. I’m not sure how the Cousins/Karl relationship can be irreparable when they’ve only had 30 games together, but Karl doesn’t have a great history when it comes to player relationships.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’ll give the notion of trading DeMarcus Cousins a 3 at best, and that’s being generous. We all know how this plays out, George Karl wanting to move someone because they don’t see eye to eye and what not. All this does is serve to completely shred whatever was left of the chance these two stubborn fellas had of mending whatever outstanding issues remain between them. Don’t get me wrong, I love the honesty from both sides. They don’t share the same sensibilities about the fundamental meaning of the words “basketball team.” I think we all get that. Still, this could have been handled better all around. Whatever happens, it’ll be messy when it does end … for whoever must go.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The answer is 1. They should not trade him. If they choose to do so, then they will regret it for a long time. If they are forced to trade him – if their impulsive changes in leadership have convinced him that he has no future with the Kings – then they will be left to blame themselves. How is small-market Sacramento ever going to come up with a replacement as talented as Cousins?

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog If I’m the Kings’ front office? I would go with 0. Cousins is the kind of player you build around long-term. But of course, that makes too much sense — it feels like the Kings’ front office has multiple ideas and can’t decide where they stand on any of this. Too many cooks? Too many cooks. And maybe I’m too much of an optimist, but I feel like it’s never too late to fix a rift, but it does seem suspicious that there are so many stories about people not getting along with George Karl.

Blogtable: Future for 7-footers?

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: Future for 7-footers? | Going defense-first? | Cavs or Warriors in 2016?



VIDEODebating the merits of playing small vs. big

> After watching the “small ball” Finals, what does the future look like for a 7-footer in the NBA?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Frankly, the NBA better hope that its 7-footers, however rare, aren’t eradicated from the scene. Last I checked, no one was goosing the TV ratings to watch a 6-foot-5-and-under league. Part of the appeal of pro basketball always has been its big men and, in my view, the NBA’s Competition Committee needs to dial back some of the things that favor the shorties. My suggestion: Widen the court and extend the 3-point line an extra foot or two all around. The game has gotten too 3-heavy, diminishing the mid-range game, which always showcased some of the most creative and athletic shot-making. More mid-range ultimately means greater roles for the bigs.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: There will always be a place for skilled big men in the NBA — emphasis on skilled. Going forward, there should be emphasis on developing an all-around game that includes passing and shooting as a way to spread the floor on offense and ability to come away from the low post to defend.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comCan the 7-footer shoot and move? It’s not the size, it’s the skill set. I would have thought Andrew Bogut plays no matter what because he can be a facilitator on offense as well as defend, not some plodding center who can only impact within arm’s reach of the basket. So if he spends a lot of The Finals riding pine, all bets are off. Be mobile or be increasingly worried.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comThe future looks like Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor and the next potentially great center coming from the Draft. I don’t buy the idea that the big man is obsolete. Mediocre big men are obsolete. Crummy big men are obsolete. But the next Hakeem Olajuwon won’t be sitting on the bench in The Finals, trust me.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comThere’s space for seven-footers, and there will be a few — Marc Gasol, DeAndre Jordan, Brook and Robin Lopez — that will get big contracts this summer. You need to be mobile and bring some skills to the table, preferably on both ends of the floor. But there’s room in today’s pick-and-roll, spread-the-floor offenses for a big guy  (Tyson Chandler is a good example) who just has to be able to set a good screen, roll hard to the basket, catch the ball and finish. Layups are still more valuable than 3-pointers, and a good roll man opens things up for good shooters.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: It depends on what kind of 7-footer you are. The days of big man battleship basketball in the NBA have ended. They went away when Shaquille O’Neal cleared out the big man division. Any dominant big man since then either has been a hybrid/stretch four or a some variation. The skilled 7-footer will always have a place in basketball. So much will depend on the training young bigs get on the way up. If they are schooled in all facets of the game, we’ll see some new hybrids enter into the mix. Work on your free throws and face-up game, young bigs, and you will be fine. I did enjoy the small-ball portion of these Finals, though, and wonder how many more teams will be forced to embrace that approach?

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: It depends where he is playing. If the Cavaliers had entered The Finals at full health then we might now be discussing the renewal of the 7-footer – we may even be talking about it this time next year, based on Cleveland’s potential to go big with LeBron James, Kevin Love, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov. Small-ball succeeded, but that doesn’t mean the death of traditional lineups. Depending on the size and speed of your team, and the strengths and weaknesses of your stars, there are all kinds of ways of winning the championship – and Mike D’Antoni’s system is now officially among the options.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I’d say it looks brighter than ever. It took David Blatt a game, but once he figured out how to deploy Timofey Mozgov against that vortex of 6-foot-7 players, Mozgov had a pretty big impact on Game 6. Small lineups are the easiest to deploy, mostly because small players are the easiest thing to find. But uncover a seven-footer who can get up and down the court and he can destroy versus a small lineup. One of the oldest maxims in the NBA is height doesn’t grow on trees. And it still doesn’t.

Blogtable: Why not go defense-first?

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: Future for 7-footers? | Going defense-first? | Cavs or Warriors in 2016?



VIDEOHow the Warriors’ defense made life tough on the Cavs in Game 6

> The Warriors are the 19th NBA champion in the last 20 years to have a top 10 defensive rating during the regular season (they were ranked No. 1). So why don’t more teams focus on defense, and what does a defense-first roster look like?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: There are plenty of coaches who believe that defense wins. But NBA rules are set up to facilitate scoring, grinding defense isn’t very entertaining and there might be a player revolt if a team practiced and played defense as intently as this question suggests. Because even when it’s a source of pride, defense isn’t fun. As for what a team built that way might look like, do we really want to see Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen, Kawhi Leonard, Serge Ibaka and DeAndre Jordan laboring for points when their team has the ball?

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Good teams do concentrate on defense, as evidenced by 19 of the last 20 champions ranking in the top 10. The Spurs went away from defensive emphasis for a year or two, slipped back into the pack and then made a renewed commitment that produced back-to-back Finals appearances and the 2014 championship.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comBecause defense isn’t glitzy. It doesn’t sell a lot of tickets. I also think a lot of teams do try to focus on defense, but actually coming up with a good defensive unit is difficult. It didn’t just fall together for the Warriors. They took serious heat for trading Monta Ellis for Andrew Bogut. They lucked into getting Draymond Green in the Draft. There was no way to anticipate Stephen Curry’s improvement on that side of the ball. There is no “look” to a defense-first roster. The best defender can be on the wing or inside. But there has to be at least a couple players who are not only good in that area, but who also have a strong presence in the locker room to have others follow their lead for a level of commitment that does not come with the same glory as scoring 20 points a game. And there obviously has to be a coach using the strengths the proper way.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I suspect teams do concentrate on D. But not everyone can play it at a high level. The Warriors had athletic players who could guard multiple positions and shut down the perimeter. The Memphis Grizzlies also play terrific D. Any team with a rim protector and quick wingmen will more often than not win games with defense.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Two-way players don’t grow on trees, and teams have to build around the personnel that they have. The Cavs (when healthy) obviously had a higher ceiling offensively, while the Milwaukee Bucks had no choice but to earn wins on defense. Versatility — having guys who can defend multiple positions — is a key. The Warriors (and Bucks) were so good defensively, because they had a lot of like-sized, lengthy defenders, who could switch on screens and prevent dribble penetration. Good offenses get good shots by drawing two defenders to the ball, so having the ability to switch (and keep just one guy on the ball) helps you stay in front of the ball and stay at home on shooters.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Defense doesn’t sell tickets. And at the end of the day, stoking interest still seems to revolve around the idea of playing faster, shooting more 3-pointers and an up-tempo attack. The Warriors nailed the model by fashioning a team that proved to be elite on both ends. With versatile defenders at nearly ever position on a team capable of dominating teams on either or both ends of the floor, they built a champion. That’s as good a place as any to start talking about the ideal, defense-first roster.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Teams haven’t been able to focus on defense at the expense of offense in the years since the old man-to-man rules were relaxed: If you don’t put five scorers on the floor then you become too easy to defend. The goal is to find two-way players like Draymond Green; or else to convince scorers to commit to the defensive end, which is what the 2008 Celtics were able to do with Ray Allen and Paul Pierce (and what Cleveland will try to do next season with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love). The Warriors are the ultimate example of a team that commits first to defense – and then knows how to convert those stops and steals into offense.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI read so many stories yesterday about how Warriors had embraced the Mike D’Antoni style of play and were going to change the way NBA teams were built going forward. To which I thought, I don’t remember those D’Antoni teams being all that good on defense. Because to me, as great as the Warriors were offensively — and make no mistake, they were a juggernaut on that end — it was their commitment and ability defensively that made them NBA champions. But sure, it’s probably more exciting to focus on the 3-pointers and the fast pace. But as we all know, defense wins championships.

Blogtable: Cavs or Warriors in 2016?

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: Future for 7-footers? | Going defense-first? | Cavs or Warriors in 2016?



VIDEOThe Starters reflect on The Finals of 2015

> Which team is more likely to reach The Finals in 2016: Warriors or Cavaliers?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Easy. Cleveland. Because the East.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: With the Western Conference being a much tougher neighborhood, there will be more challenges to the Warriors. The other question is can they expect/hope to get through another entire season and playoffs virtually injury-free?  The Cavs will still have the best player in the game in LeBron James, an All-Star in Kyrie Irving and we assume, for now, Kevin Love. GM David Griffin is likely to upgrade the talent on the rest of the roster, and I’m expecting a Cleveland with a bit more good health and good luck to be back knocking on the door next June.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I would not be surprised to see either or both make it back. The Warriors are the safer bet, though, because the core will be returning. It’s more difficult to project the Cavaliers’ roster until we know if Kevin Love returns, and the specifics of the new lineup if he does not. How is Anderson Varejao’s health? Where is Irving’s rehab? There are a lot more unknowns. But as long as there is also LeBron James, and if the medical situations have positive outcomes, Cleveland is a contender.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: This is easy: Cavaliers. The have LeBron. They’ll be healthy (assuming). And here’s the biggest advantage: They play in the East. The Warriors, meanwhile, must deal with an irritated Kevin Durant and ornery Russell Westbrook, and perhaps the Los Angeles Clippers.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Cleveland is the answer, because they have LeBron James and they’re in the Eastern Conference. But the Warriors were the much better and more complete team. We know that they have what it takes to be an elite squad on both ends of the floor. The Cavs improved defensively in the playoffs, but they still have to prove that they can play top-10 defense over the course of 82 games with a couple of offense-first stars like Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’ll take a rematch with everybody healthy. Lock it in right now and I’m buying. That said, I think the Cavaliers (provided they are healthy) have the more realistic path back to The Finals. The Warriors will have to grind through the more rugged Western Conference again next season. The Oklahoma City Thunder, San Antonio Spurs, Los Angeles Clippers, Houston Rockets, Memphis Grizzlies and several other teams not on the radar will be there to give chase. Cleveland won’t have nearly as many legitimate threats to their Eastern Conference crown. Again, I’d be all in for a Warriors-Cavs healthy rematch, if only to see what might have been this time around with a healthy Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love to go along with LeBron James.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The Cavaliers, health willing: They’re in the easier conference, and they figure to be the NBA’s hungriest team next year.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI could honestly answer either team right now and feel pretty confident in that answer. Right now, in the afterglow of The Finals, both teams seem like they’re set to make multiple Finals runs over the next half-decade, a rematch the ratings suggest people would like to see. But if I’m picking a team to make it back soonest, I’ll go Cleveland. They’ve shown they can make it to the Finals using a lineup basically composed of LeBron James and four guys from the YMCA, and the landscape in the East remains easier than the gauntlet out West.

Clippers acquire Lance Stephenson


VIDEO: Lance Stephenson’s Top 10 plays in Charlotte from 2014-15

The Charlotte Hornets traded enigmatic shooting guard Lance Stephenson to the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, giving Stephenson a new start to try to recapture his standout play as an Indiana Pacer and Los Angeles another in a series of attempts to find help on the wing.

Charlotte will get Spencer Hawes, who, like Stephenson, was a disappointment in 2014-15 after signing a free-agent deal. The Hornets also get veteran forward Matt Barnes. The Hornets will hope Hawes can be one of the moves to address the glaring lack of 3-point shooting, while they may exercise an option to pay $1 million to buy out Barnes before July 1 rather than guarantee the $3.5 million for next season.

“We are pleased to add a pair of proven veterans to our team,” Charlotte general manager Rich Cho said in a statement. “Spencer Hawes is an experienced big man whose outside shooting gives us additional flexibility on offense.  Matt Barnes is an experienced veteran who knows the NBA.”

The real benefit for the Hornets, though, is in ending the relationship with Stephenson. He was a fallback signing last summer after the Utah Jazz matched the Hornets’ offer sheet on Gordon Hayward with hopes Stephenson could supply some much-needed offense, only to be seen as a bad fit almost from the beginning.

The Clippers’ thinking is clear, even with Stephenson coming off a bad season that renewed questions about his attitude. They get a player who could make a big impact, if he returns to his 2013-14 form as a major contributor for Indiana, while giving up one starter (Barnes) and with a relatively minor financial risk. Stephenson has two seasons remaining on the three-year deal he signed with Charlotte, but the second is a team option. If there are problems, L.A. is only committed to Stephenson for 2015-16 at $9 million.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports first reported the sides had agreed to the deal.

 

Blogtable: Thoughts on these Finals so far?

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


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



VIDEOMini-Movie from Game 3 of The Finals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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