Posts Tagged ‘Steve Aschburner’

Morning Shootaround — June 26

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Perception is a funny thing.

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

Thompson thrives as Finals starter, Cavaliers’ ‘heart and soul’

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – In this year’s balloting for the Kia Sixth Man of the Year Award, Tristan Thompson finished 10th. Which suggests that on a team comprised entirely of Sixth Men, Thompson might have trouble getting off the bench at all.

And yet here he is in his second consecutive Finals, and not just as a reserve or even a super-sub but starting. Eight of the players who finished ahead of Thompson in the Sixth Man voting are done, prepping for next season already, while Andre Iguodala (the runner-up for the award) and Thompson still are battling for the jewelry that will commemorate this one.

Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue was a little surprised when Thompson received such little consideration for the Sixth Man, but Lue likely dissuaded some voters when — days before the regular season ended — he announced to the world that Thompson would start the rest of the way and through the playoffs for the Cavaliers.

The way they were playing by then — quicker, with pace and a focus on the 3-point line — stripped value from Timofey Mozgov, the Cavs’ traditional big man. So Lue instead went with Thompson, whose work when pressed into a starting job last postseason earned him a five-year, $82 million contract and the backing of LeBron James.

This time, Thompson’s work might help earn him and his teammates rings, along with a special status in NBA history: the first team to win The Finals after falling behind 3-1.

“He’s been a beast for us all year,” James said after Cleveland’s shootaround Thursday before tonight’s Game 6 (9 ET, ABC). “He gives us extra opportunities. He gives us a paint presence and we need it from him.”

While Golden State has been adjusting to personnel changes in the middle — pocket big Draymond Green was suspended from Game 5 and now starting center Andrew Bogut will miss Games 6 and (if necessary) Game 7 with a knee injury — Thompson has been a constant for the Cavs. He has posted double-doubles in the past four games and grabbed at least 10 boards in nine of his 11 career Finals games.

His increased role has led to bigger stats — 9.8 points and 11.8 rebounds in 36.2 minutes in two Finals series so far — without any change in job description. Lue called Thompson “the heart and soul” of the Cavaliers after Game 3, lauding his aggressiveness and energy in chasing down offensive rebounds.

“It’s a big-time compliment. I definitely appreciate that, Coach Lue,” Thompson said. “But for me, [it’s] just do my job in a new starting role. Having a high motor, being active, just bringing that energy and this spark every night.”

Thompson drew some chuckles from reporters when he shared his typical pregame routine. While James has been talking about his game-day viewings of ‘The Godfather” movies, Thomspon is an HGTV junkie.

“It’s relaxing for the brain,” Thompson said of the network, known for real estate-and-renovation shows. He added, though, that he would give an “all-out shout-out” until HGTV does a segment on his house.

As far as not shrinking in a big moment, considering how few big moments Thompson and the Cavs had before James came back to Cleveland in July 2014, the 6-foot-9 native of Toronto said: ” Go out there and play and — who gives a crap? — just go out there and play.”

Morning shootaround — June 13

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Draymond, in absence, stirs Warriors’ emotions | LeBron went home ‘for the kids’ | Report: DeRozan to test free agencyCan Thompson back up bold talk? | NBA stars battle bulge too

No. 1: Draymond, in absence, stirs Warriors’ emotionsDraymond Green, the Golden State’s versatile and valuable, almost positionless forward, is considered to be the defending champions’ emotional leader. Losing him to suspension from Game 5 of the 2016 Finals (9 ET, ABC) would seem, at first glance, to be like stealing the batteries from a very expensive toy. But based on the Warriors’ reactions to Green’s suspension, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ hand in it (subtle or not) and the obstacle thrown suddenly in their path to back-to-back championships, the home team at Oracle Arena might be playing Monday with all the emotion they need. And first and foremost, that will be anger, writes J.A. Adande of ESPN.com:

They feel disrespected once more. Put upon. Agitated.

In the Warriors’ worldview, LeBron James baited Draymond Green by stepping over him in Game 4. That prompted the retaliatory strike from Green which struck James in the groin area and drew a flagrant foul 1 penalty from the NBA in a review that was announced Sunday. James all but dared the NBA to do it after Game 4, and now Golden State feels the league capitulated to one of its biggest stars. The flagrant foul ruling put Green above the playoff limit of three flagrant foul points and brought an automatic suspension for Game 5 on Monday. It also brought up some fiery talk from the Warriors, who got an early start on making up for the absence of their emotional leader.

“We’re going to go out there and do it as a team and win for him,” Klay Thompson said.

Alrighty, then.

Other Warriors players and coaches said they noticed a ramped-up intensity after coach Steve Kerr informed the team of Green’s suspension during Sunday’s practice and they feel it will give them the necessary edge in what could have otherwise been seen as a mere coronation process after taking a 3-1 lead in the NBA Finals following their victory in Game 4.

They do best when doubted, as they were when they fell behind 3-1 to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the Western Conference finals. They also respond well to perceived slights. Example A would be their 24-0 start after having their championship credentials called into question for everything from lack of injuries to playoff strength of schedule.

Now that they have fresh motivation, the question is whether they have the means to prove their point without the versatile Green, the defensive anchor of their small-ball “Death Lineup” and an offensive facilitator prone to the occasional scoring outburst (such as his 28 points in Game 2).

Much depends on how the Cavaliers choose to prey on his absence: by going big with the likes of Kevin Love or even Timofey Mozgov, or by trying to lure the Warriors into a diminished smaller lineup by extending the minutes of Richard Jefferson and Channing Frye. It also could be an opportunity for LeBron to break through now that he doesn’t have to worry about one of the Warriors’ most effective defenders.

Cavs’ Love out for Game 3

CLEVELAND – Cavaliers forward Kevin Love will not play in Game 3 of The 2016 Finals, the team announced early Wednesday afternoon.
Here was the medical update as released by the Cavs:

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (concussion) is listed as OUT for tonight’s NBA Finals Game Three vs. the Golden State Warriors at Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland. Love will remain in the NBA concussion protocol under the direct supervision and oversight of team physician Dr. Alfred Cianflocco, Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher of the NBA and Cavs head athletic trainer Steve Spiro. His status for Game 4 will be updated at the appropriate time.

The announcement came about an hour after the Cavs’ morning shootaround ended. A team spokesman said Love participated in “a portion” of that session, though he was not on the floor when media reps were permitted into the gym.

Love suffered his concussion in the second quarter of Cleveland’s Game 2 loss at Oracle Arena Sunday when he was hit in the back of the head by an errant elbow from Golden State’s Harrison Barnes. After falling to the court and holding his head for more than a half minute, Love stayed in the game. But he exhibited dizziness in the third quarter and exited at 9:54.

The NBA’s concussion protocol requires players to pass several physical and mental thresholds before being cleared to play. Love had been listed as questionable (50/50) to play in Game 3 prior to the update.

Both Channing Frye and Richard Jefferson were said to have practiced with Cleveland’s starting lineup Tuesday and Wednesday, so it isn’t clear how coach Tyronn Lue will fill Love’s spot in Game 3. Jefferson typically replaces James when the Cavs star gets a breather during games, so if he starts, another adjustment to the rotation would be required.

Frye is a stretch four type at power forward, but Golden State’s “small ball” tactics have kept that valuable reserve mostly on the bench in this series. Center Timofey Mozgov also is a possibility, if Lue were to slide Tristan Thompson over to Love’s spot, but Mozgov has played little this postseason after being moved into a backup role.

Asked about Love’s possible absence before the update made it official, LeBron James said simply “Next man up.”

Frye awaits Finals moment with Love ruled out for Game 3

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio – Channing Frye was one of just two Cleveland Cavaliers who spoke to the media Wednesday morning after shootaround, so reporters weren’t going to let him get away quickly. That didn’t go over so well with the other guy who spoke, LeBron James, who interrupted one of Frye’s responses by urging him to wrap things up.

“C’mon, man, we’ve got work to do,” James said from behind the cluster of reporters, part teasing, part serious from the tone of it.

“Listen, man, they’re asking me questions,” Frye said, chuckling. “This is my one shining moment.”

And strictly speaking, it was, given Frye’s low participation rate through the first two games of The 2016 Finals. Whether out of need or out of desperation, with the Cavaliers down 2-0 in the best-of-seven championship series, that will change tonight at Quicken Loans Arena (9 ET, ABC).

Kevin Love, Cleveland’s starting small forward, was ruled out for Game 3 on Wednesday afternoon after it was learned he was not medically cleared to play. Love got hit in the back of the head by an errant elbow from Golden State’s Harrison Barnes in the second quarter of Game 2 Sunday in Oakland, and exited in the third quarter. Earlier in the day, a Cavs spokesman said Love had participated in “a portion” of the shootaround.

With Love unable to play in Game 3, Frye is one of coach Tyronn Lue‘s options to see more court time.

Through two games, Frye has played only 11 minutes total, missing his only two shots and making a pair of free throws. Compare that Frye’s work through the first three rounds of the playoffs: 15.7 minutes per game, 8.6 ppg and 2.9 rpg, while shooting 62.1 percent overall and 57.8 on 3-pointers.

Given Love’s spotty play (29.1 mpg, 11.0 ppg, 8.0 ppg, 37.5 percent shooting), Frye might seem like an option for longer looks even if Love had been available. But Golden State’s preference for “small ball” has kept the 6-foot-11 Frye — who doesn’t play as “big” as his size would suggest, yet doesn’t have great foot speed when the game goes “small” — on the side. The same goes for center Timofey Mozgov, the 7-foot-1 big man who played a big role in last season’s push to The Finals but has averaged just 6.5 minutes while sitting out six of Cleveland’s 16 postseason games this time.

That’s what Golden State’s pesky, mobile, mid-sized tactics can do to bigs.

“You see when I step past half-court, those guys are always an arm’s reach away from me,” Frye said. “Sometimes it’s not about the stats and I think a lot of people dwell on that. The minutes I get in there, I try to do the best I can with what I got. Again, I’ve just got to worry about that and not look at it like — it’s not a pity party — I’m not like ‘Why am I not playing?’ I’ve just got to say, ‘Hey, when I do get my minutes, I’ve got to go out there and do better and see if I can get things going faster.’ ”

Frye, acquired at the trade deadline, has been a valuable addition to Cleveland’s mix both on and off the floor. He led the Cavs with 27 points in 28 minutes off the bench in a Game 3 win in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Meanwhile, his veteran perspective and sense of humor have been welcome over the past three-plus months.

So far this series, though, his contributions have been limited to the latter stuff.

“When I came here, I understood we’re a very deep team,” Frye said. “Different matchups work. Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Coach is trying to figure out the lineup that’s going to work the best. Obviously they play small and they really aren’t playing their centers. Then the next guy comes in and he’s about 6-6.

“I’m here to help the team win,” Frye added. “If that’s getting five minutes, I have to bust my ass for five minutes.”

James spoke before Frye and generally talked about the Cavs needing to be better on both sides of the ball, being more aggressive and otherwise not pulling back the curtain on any strategic or mental adjustments.

Asked about his team’s approach about Love before he was ruled out for Game 3, James simply said: “Next man up.”

Maybe that man will be Frye, maybe it won’t. He’s due for a better shining moment than he got Wednesday morning.

Hard to be a contender if hiding weak defenders

CLEVELAND – Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love have, between them, a half dozen appearances in the NBA All-Star Game. But none on the league’s annual All-Defensive squads.

J.R. Smith is one of the streakiest and most dangerous 3-point shooters in the game, but by his own admission, he only made a commitment to the other side of the ball, as it’s called, within the last few months. He’s been in the NBA for 12 years.

Even LeBron James, who twice finished second for the Defensive Player of the Year award and strung together six top-10 finishes from 2009-2014, has slipped back in the balloting since his return to Cleveland. In the first two games of the 2016 Finals, James has been caught napping, neglecting his man or needlessly switching to create a liability in the Cavaliers’ attempts to stop (or slow down) Golden State.

Which leads to this question: Shouldn’t All-Star caliber offensive players be able to play good, if not stellar defense?

Physically, you’d think that any player who has the necessary quickness, instincts and elevation to score proficiently ought to be able to mirror some or most of that at the other end. But it isn’t always so, and in Cleveland’s case, the starting lineup is carrying two or three guys who seem overmatched defensively.

“Some of the skill sets, kids pick up when they’re younger,” Golden State assistant coach Ron Adams said over the weekend. “Some kids are two-way players – they enjoy it, they see the value of it. Some guys come up as one-way players. Having said that, everyone has different gifts. There are some guys who never commit to defense who maybe could be better.”

Adams, it should be noted, was speaking generically about NBA players. He wasn’t talking about any Cleveland players specifically, so this is a non-starter as bulletin board material heading into Game 3 Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena.

But as a longtime defensive guru wherever he has worked, Adams has seen players who come up as AAU darlings, expected only to flash their dazzling ball skills, as often or more than he’s seen real knee-bending, shorts-tugging defensive diggers who also happen to shoot lights out.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t change.

“Look at Kyle Korver, who transformed in our [Chicago Bulls] program to be a good defensive player,” Adams said. “Before that, he was not considered an asset. Watching him in Atlanta the last couple of years, they’ll put him on guys that we never would have put him on. And he’s guarding them pretty well.

“I think it’s your mentality. Sometimes it’s how you’re raised as a basketball player. A coach you have who’s maybe more offensive- than defensive-oriented. Or maybe if he’s defensive-oriented, you’re stunted offensively and you make up for it at some point.”

Steph Curry, Golden State’s two-time Most Valuable Player winner, has taken home two of those trophies while lugging around a reputation as a willing but mediocre defender. Other Warriors – Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala – are considered to be excellent on defense.

“Ever since I was a kid, I just hated to be scored on,” Thompson said. “Playing 1-on-1 with my brothers growing up, I think I developed that instinct not to have my big brother or little brother score on me, and I just carried it over to the pros.

“The best players to ever play this game were two-way players, and that’s what makes our team so good – we’ve got so many two-way players. Guys who play both sides of the ball, both in our starters and off our bench. Why not take pride in defense? It’s 50 percent of the game.”

So your typical All-Star has the tools, at least, to play defense well?

“All of those guys have the ability,” Thompson said. “But a lot of guys have big workloads for their teams. So you’ve got to cut ’em some slack.”

Given that it’s rare for even the best teams to have five defensive craftsmen in the lineup, Adams was asked how many slackers a good team can hide or survive?

“It can’t be too many,” he said. “If you have three really good core defenders, hopefully at least one of them’s a perimeter player, then that’s not a bad formula.

“You try to weave in the weaker defenders. Hide them in certain cases. Help them, so they have confidence they’re not going to be exposed.”

Adams gave credit to Mark Jackson, Golden State’s coach before Steve Kerr took over in 2014-15, with laying a strong defensive foundation.

“We had good defensive receptivity when we came in,” Adams said. “But you have to have guys who have defensive chips in ’em. That’s really the key thing, I think. It’s very hard to play good team defense without some defenders who have that innate ability or that mindset toward playing defense – and are good at it.

“You take Oklahoma City, they have a lot of good defenders on their team and they have a defensive mindset. Then Kevin [Durant] really committed to defense in that last series and when he does that, they’re fantastic.”

NBA referees’ union calls for end to ‘Last Two-Minute’ reports

CLEVELAND – The problem with transparency is that not everything is see-through-ready.

Even in the most tranquil times, the efficacy of the NBA’s Last Two-Minute Reports has been very much in doubt. Informing the public which foul calls and rulings an officiating crew got right, which it got wrong and which it missed entirely may have lent an air of openness to an otherwise black-box process. But it didn’t change anything, as far as the game’s outcome.

It’s a little like being told exactly how the sausage gets made and then still having to eat it. And while NBA fans still tend to focus only on the calls that a) were wrong against b) their favorite teams, the mechanism may have changed the way the referees feel about, and go about, their jobs. The fever pitch of the NBA playoffs seems to have heightened their doubts about the mandated second-guessing.

Skepticism permeated the National Basketball Referees Association’s news release Tuesday asking the league to do away with the L2M reports. The NBRA’s distaste for and distrust of the practice was apparent in the bullet points under the heading, “Reasons to End L2M Reporting and Other “Transparency” Measures:

  • Transparency does nothing to change the outcome of the game.
  • Transparency encourages anger and hostility towards NBA officials.
  • Focusing on officiating statistics encourages stat-oriented, versus game-oriented, officiating. It is in the best interest of the NBA and its fans to encourage and develop game-oriented referees that balance game flow and fair play.
  • Efforts to promote transparency have encouraged the idea that perfection in officiating is possible. Perfection is neither possible nor desirable; if every possible infraction were to be called, the game would be unwatchable and would cease to exist as a form of entertainment in this country.
  • Transparency has been misused as a catalyst by some teams to mobilize fans against the officials in an attempt to coerce more favorable treatment.
  • While the goal of transparency was to promote understanding and credibility, there is no evidence that progress against these goals is being made.

The NBRA’s stance comes five days after NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he remained “strongly behind” the L2M procedure. At his news conference before Game 1 of The Finals Thursday at Oracle Arena, Silver said consistency and transparency are worthy goals that are approached, if not completely achieved, with the reports.

“It’s our hope that you take the Last Two-Minute Reports together with using a certain amount of replay that we’re building … trust and integrity in the league,” Silver said. “That people are going to recognize that we are going to make mistakes, the officials are going to make mistakes. Human error is going to be a part of this game, just as it is with the players.”

Silver said the L2M reports, along with the full-game evaluations of each night’s officials, show that “the referees get it right about 90 percent of the time.” He added: “Now, from a fan standpoint … ‘they’re getting it wrong one out of 10 calls?’ And I accept that.”

Before meeting with reporters Thursday, Silver had visited with the referees for Game 1. “They understand there is huge potential to be embarrassed when the league is putting out reports and acknowledging that calls are wrong, and they want to get it right too,” the commissioner said. “When they go back into the locker room after a game and somebody shows them a replay …and they realize they got it wrong, there is a terrible pit in their stomachs and they lose a lot of sleep over that.”

Perhaps anticipating that the league won’t be easy to sway on the L2M practice, the refs’ union raised questions about who reviews game footage and writes the reports, whether the same instructions the referees must heed in their live calls are heeded in the report process, and why the L2M reports cannot be challenged.

The objections seem legit enough, considering how different a split-second of action can look – and sound and feel – in the moment, live and in 3-D with 20,000 screaming fans present compared to stop-action, slow-motion replays reviewed again and again, free from distractions.

The NBRA allowed for the possibility their request to end the L2M reports won’t be granted, recommending some reforms if the practice continues. They want the reviewer’s identity and qualifications made public just like their correct and incorrect calls. They ask that the same officiating guidelines be applied when assessing calls for the reports. And they seek an appeals process to challenge L2M reports that, just maybe, merit L2M reports of their own.

NBA spokesman Mike Bass responded Tuesday night: “We understand the referee union’s desire to protect its members, but the fact is that in today’s world, transparency is necessary for any organization. “The NBA is no different and we are committed to protecting the integrity of our game.”

Cavs and Warriors search for their ‘LeBron,’ ‘Steph’ play-alikes in practice

OAKLAND – Two LeBron Jameses? Two Stephen Currys? It might seem like overkill or an embarrassment of riches, but a lot of times in showdowns such as The 2016 Finals, that’s what we get: the actual superstar and then his stand-in.

As in, the opposing player designated by his team to be “LeBron” or “Steph” in practice, a surrogate who tries to mirror the other guys’ primary threat to aid in preparation. It’s a tactic that many “scout teams” use regardless of sport.

Back in 2001, coincidentally, Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue helped the Los Angeles Lakers get ready for their Finals against Philadelphia by playing the part of Allen Iverson. It was a natural bit of casting, from their similar 6-foot size right down to the braided hair. L.A won that series in five games.

So who is Golden State’s “LeBron” and Cleveland’s “Steph?” Well, the Warriors and the Cavs aren’t quite approaching their practices so literally.

“We’ve gotten to the point where we have some young coaches, so our scout teams are comprised of coaches,” said Golden State assistant Ron Adams. “Which I like because they get through it quickly, they get into stuff, there’s not much fooling around. Do we have a ‘LeBron?’ No, we don’t structure it like that. And we’ve had very little time from the last game to this game.”

Some teams don’t go “live” with their second units as opponent play-alikes, leery of risking injuries if the action gets too real. So they’ll simulate the opposition at a walk-through pace. Still, among the assistants and staffers who do show the Cavs’ tendencies to the Warriors’ starters, doesn’t someone wind up in the spots and role typically filled by James?

“Probably Theo,” Adams said, mentioning Golden State video coordinator Theo Robertson.

Robertson, 29, played at the University of California, a 6-foot-6 shooter who in 2010 helped the Golden Bears win their first Pac-10 championship in 50 years. As a senior, Robertson averaged 14.2 points and hit 45.3 percent of his 3-pointers, but he also was hampered by hip problems that undercut any pro playing ambitions.

“But,” Adams reiterated, “we don’t really do it that way.” So Theo is only a sorta, kinda, rough-draft, stand-in for LeBron.

Similarly, according to veteran reserve Dahntay Jones, the Cavaliers have no designated “Curry” clone when they take to the practice court. Their backups’ primary mission is to provide a sparring partner that demonstrates the Warriors’ maneuvers overall.

“Our scout team is very knowledgeable about what the other team is doing,” Jones said, “and we spend as much time studying as they do. That’s where this [Cleveland] team is a whole and a unit – even guys who don’t play, they’ll prepare even more to help [the starters] prepare.

“We won’t designate a player [as Curry] but we’ll present their tendencies. With their bench, how they evolve as a team, how they switch units. We have those components on our team too.”

Blogtable: More impressive Warriors feat — winning 73 or 3-1 comeback?

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: What’s next for Durant, Thunder? | Warriors’ most impressive feat so far? |
Who wins The Finals and why?


> More impressive feat: Winning 73 games in the regular season, or coming back from 3-1 in the conference finals?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Coming back from 3-1 against a committed opponent is incredibly impressive, but teams have come back from such deficits (though it’s been very rare). Plus, Golden State had the advantage of having two of the last three games of the series at home. No one has ever won 73. And considering how much good fortune and consistent play were required to do it over a full season, the Warriors’ regular season mark stands taller.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comHow many NBA teams have recovered from a 3-1 deficit to win a seven-game series? Ten. Now, how many NBA teams have won 73 games in a season? There’s your answer. The Warriors’ specialness across six months, from the 24-0 streak to start the season to the way they embraced the challenge of chasing down the ’96 Bulls, will be remembered a lot longer than what they accomplished in a week against a fierce opponent in a conference finals. Even if Stephen Curry, Steve Kerr and crew did that in The Finals, it would simply cap their magnificent overall year.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Two completely different things that are historic, equally impressive and should be appreciated separately, kind of like juggling chainsaws while walking a tightrope.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The comeback. Winning 73 out of 82 is impressive and should not be brushed aside, but the Warriors didn’t face the Los Angeles Lakers, Phoenix Suns, Philadelphia 76ers of Brooklyn Nets while winning three in a row to reach another Finals. Golden State didn’t just beat a championship contender three in a row with the season on the line, Golden State did it with two clutch finishes and one victory in a very tough road setting. As I wrote after Game 7, beating OKC in the final four was more impressive than beating Cleveland in The 2015 Finals. Not more important, because it’s about the rings, but more impressive because of the opponent and the uphill climb.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comOne was historic, the other was done nine previous times. So I’ll go with the 73 wins, even though, on the scale of importance, it’s second to winning the West and advancing to The Finals. I must admit that rallying from 3-1 against Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook was impressive. But not historical.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Winning 73 was more impressive, because it took six months of focus through a grind of a season that included 20 back-to-backs and almost every opponent giving you their best. But coming back from 3-1 was more important, especially if it leads to another championship.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Folks love to talk about the regular season being meaningless once the playoffs begin. That’s foolishness. The 73-win regular season the Warriors compiled was a most impressive feat, something never done before in the NBA. The Warriors are the 10th team in NBA playoff history to come back from 3-1 down. As impressive as it was to see them rebound against the Thunder, it won’t come close to topping 73 wins anytime soon.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Other teams have recovered from 3-1, but no one else has ever won 73. As impressive as the last three wins have been, the regular-season record was the result of six months of focused, discipline work.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogDo they have to be mutually exclusive? I thought both of these feats were impressive, and in some ways, I’m not so sure the second one happens without the first. That drive for 73 had to prove to the Warriors their remarkable resiliency and ability to overcome adversity, and I’m sure it was useful trying to come back from down 3-1. If I have to pick one, and I suppose I do because otherwise we wouldn’t be here Blogtable-ing, I’ll go with the 73 wins. Coming back from 3-1 was certainly tough, but they came back from 2-1 twice in last year’s playoffs. Winning 73 required a long-term focus unlike any team, ever, has ever been able to sustain.

Blogtable: What’s next for Oklahoma City Thunder and for Kevin Durant?

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: What’s next for Durant, Thunder? | Warriors’ most impressive feat so far? |
Who wins The Finals and why?


> So what now for free agent Kevin Durant? And what now for the Thunder?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: You’d be crazy to guess at this point, but the trend lines seem to be going in Oklahoma City’s favor, at least for one more year. As detailed in the Morning Tip on Monday, if Durant signs a two-year deal this summer with the Thunder with a one-year out, he’d set himself up for a potential five-year contract with OKC in the summer of 2017 for more than $200 million. Now, money isn’t the only thing driving Durant’s decision making, of course (and especially given the $250-plus million he’s already banking from Nike), but that’s not a sum you dismiss out of hand. More importantly, OKC’s rapid development the second half of the season and in the playoffs surely gives the Thunder more than a fighting chance of keeping its superstar. Coach Billy Donovan was more than comfortable matching Xs and Os with top-shelf coaches. Steven Adams went Beast Mode on opponents. Andre Roberson carried his weight offensively against the San Antono Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder. Serge Ibaka again asserted himself as a defensive force and Dion Waiters and Enes Kanter gave the Thunder one of the league’s best benches. And, oh yeah, Russell Westbrook was Russell Westbrook. So, if you’re Durant, and you already like living someplace where people basically leave you be, and your team showed itself a legit title contender…where can you go that’s better? The Los Angeles Clippers’ core is older and the Miami Heat’s future is uncertain with Chris Bosh‘s health concerns. The Spurs already have an All-Star small forward in Kawhi Leonard. OKC already had the power of incumbency. After its playoff run, I’d put its chances at retaining Durant at 3-1.

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: If Kevin Durant is interested in pursuing a championship, he should stay right where he’s at. That team has the talent and depth to contend again next season, and the Thunder surely can find ways to complement Durant and Russell Westbrook‘s firepower in a more balanced attack. Durant won’t find a more committed organization or adoring fan base, either. Now if it’s lifestyle he’s seeking, then fine, go live and work where you want to, the way 99 percent of America’s workforce does it — or could, if people really looked at their options. I don’t think he can get much more famous or ever spend any difference in off-court income that a bigger market might provide, but that would be Durant’s choice. For theatre, it would be fun to see Durant land on one of about a dozen different rosters, just to feel the NBA landscape shift. But for sheer balling, OKC seems to suit Durant fine. And vice versa.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com The Thunder simply wait on Durant. They don’t campaign or twist his arm or send him love letters. They just wait for Durant to reach the conclusion — and he might already be there — that there is no better place for him than Oklahoma City, where he is appreciated, adored and, most importantly, has the pieces already on hand to come right back next season and make another championship run. Where does he find another Russell Westbrook to be his sidekick? Steven Adams, Serge Ibaka, Andre Roberson all are the real thing. And coach Billy Donovan showed he has the chops. Does Durant sign a long-term deal in July or take the LeBron James one-year option and cash in even bigger next season? That’s for him to figure out. But one way or another, I believe he stays in OKC. For good.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Nothing’s changed. Durant comes back for one season plus an option and goes through free agency for real in the summer of 2017. That has been my belief since before the playoff started, and nothing that happened in the postseason alters the opinion. There are a ton of reasons to stay in OKC well beyond 2016-17. He knows it and does not take the positives there for granted. What now for the Thunder? Respond to the ache of that elimination. How it changes them, if at all, will be one of the early storylines to watch for next season.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: The Summer of Durant will fall flatter than OKC did late in Game 6 when Durant decides to return to OKC for at least another year. So much for drama. That’s the safe route, one that leaves him an out, if he so wishes to use it in 2017 when Russell Westbrook‘s deal is up. Meanwhile, OKC will be OK, provided the Thunder find a shooter (and he isn’t Dion Waiters, either). Folks need to calm down about this team. OKC beat a 67-win San Antonio Spurs team and took the 73-win Golden State Warriors to the brink. No shame in that, even if they were up 3-1.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comLogic says that he should sign a two-year deal with the Thunder that gives him the option to be a free agent again next summer, when the max salary is projected to be higher than it is this year. But I wouldn’t be surprised if he signs a long-term deal to remain in Oklahoma City. I would be surprised if he leaves after coming so close to a return to The Finals. The Thunder don’t need much to get over the hump. It would help to have a wing who can both shoot and defend at a high level.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Kevin Durant knew the day would come when he could no longer duck the free agency questions. Yet he still found a way to do so even in the moments after the Oklahoma City Thunder completed their collapse in the Western Conference finals. He insisted that he hadn’t given free agency a thought. Sure. Just go ahead and sign the two-year deal with the player option for the second season so we can get not to the free agents that might actually be in play for all of these teams with cap space to use up. The Thunder have no choice but to wait Durant out and see what his final decision will be. They’re clearly closer to championship level right now that many of us thought prior to their playoff run. So they should feel much better about a future that includes Durant.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Doesn’t Durant have to return for at least one more year? Midway through the conference finals he and Russell Westbrook were playing the best basketball of their careers. It makes no sense to give up on their longterm investment when it is so close to paying off.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogI’ve seen numerous people say that if Kevin Durant wants his best chance at winning a title, he would leave OKC and go to the Eastern Conference. Which I don’t think is correct. To get to The Finals in the East you have to go through LeBron James, and that is one heckuva roadblock. To me, as we just saw, as presently constructed the Thunder are nearly good enough to get to The Finals. So I think KD stays, at least for a year. Although, I feel like the Thunder are still one rotation player away, some sort of swingman type who can score when needed and reduce the land on KD/Westbrook. (An interesting name who might be motivated to make a fit work? How about Carmelo Anthony?) They just need one more contributor. For so long the Thunder had Derek Fisher as their off guard in crunch time, and this year they made a reach for Randy Foye who they couldn’t really use in crunch time. Making this an even tougher situation is that they don’t have time to develop a young player — this a team needs to win now. Good luck balancing all of that, Thunder GM Sam Presti.