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Posts Tagged ‘Timofey Mozgov’

Klay Thompson ready for Game 4

CLEVELAND — One day after suffering a thigh contusion in Game 3, Golden State’s Klay Thompson says he will be able to play through the injury in Game 4 of The Finals.

“I’m just gonna ride the bike today, try to get it loose,” said Thompson before practice today. “It’s just sore. It doesn’t hold you back, but it’s just there. A lot of guys got those at this point of the year, so you gotta play though it.”

Thompson injured his left thigh at the end of the first quarter following a collision with Cavs center Timofey Mozgov, who was in the process of setting a pick for Kyrie Irving. After going to the floor in pain, Thompson limped to a hallway outside the locker rooms and stretched before returning to finish the game.

Thompson went on to play 30 minutes and finished with 10 points on 4-for-13 shooting, including 1-for-7 on 3-pointers. Cleveland’s guards also had a breakout night, totaling 50 points against the defense of Golden State’s Splash Brothers.

Immediately following Game 3, Thompson questioned Mozgov’s motives on the play. “Obviously, didn’t feel good,” Thompson said in the post-game press conference. “But I’ll be all right. Luckily for us I’m going to take the day off tomorrow and get healthy. But it’s The Finals. Nothing’s going to keep me out of it… I’m just confused why [Mozgov]’s trying to set a screen in the middle of the key when we’re both running full speed downhill. It seemed kind of dirty to me. He stuck his knee out too, but, you know what? That’s basketball.”

(Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue saw things a different way: “Timo was running in to set a high pick-and-roll, and at the same time the ball handler was moving going forward, so he just tried to stop and they ended up running into each other. But I wouldn’t say it was a dirty play.”)

A day later, Thompson had softened his stance. “As I watched the replay, it might have just been bad luck, too,” Thompson said before practice. “A knee to the thigh never feels good. I don’t think [Mozgov] meant to do it maliciously. But usually when someone sets a screen you do it with your chest or something. But I’m not going to hold a grudge. It’s basketball.”

Morning shootaround — June 9


Will Love play in Game 4? | Thompson calls Mozgov’s foul ‘kind of dirty’ | Calipari: Murray should go No. 1

No. 1: In wake of Game 3 win, Cavs have Love issues to discuss Due to his failure to pass the NBA’s concussion protocol, Kevin Love was not cleared to play in last night’s Game 3 of The NBA Finals. Despite his absence, though (and thanks to monstrous games from Kyrie Irving and LeBron James), the Cavaliers romped past Golden State , 120-90, to trim the Warriors’ series lead to 2-1. After Cavs coach Tyronn Lue was coy about whether or not Love will play in Game 4 on Friday (9 p.m. ET, ABC), The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski has a story on how Love’s status is part of a bigger question for the Cavs at large:

Asked about how he plans – if at all – to reincorporate Love back into these Finals on Friday night, Lue told The Vertical: “I haven’t thought about it.”

In other words: no endorsement for the embattled power forward. In the hour after the Cleveland Cavaliers had come back to life in these NBA Finals – a 120-90 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 3 on Wednesday night – Lue did nothing to diffuse the drama.

This has been the story of Love’s jagged Cavaliers career, two years of stops and starts, major and mild injuries, disconnection and dissatisfaction. Sometimes, Love’s been rolling. Sometimes, Love’s been less than embraced.

Here had been a complete, crushing victory at the Q, the kind of commanding performance needed to end a seven-game losing streak to the defending champions. Richard Jefferson had substituted for Love in the lineup and delivered an inspired, inventive performance: nine points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals. He defended deftly, delivered the perfect complement to LeBron James (32 points), Kyrie Irving (30) and J.R. Smith (20).

“I gave the game ball to R.J.,” James said.

Just what Love needed. There was no longing for Love – which there seldom is with James. To a man, the Cavaliers gushed over Jefferson, and something you didn’t hear out of them: The assumption that Love takes back the job on Friday night. If Love’s deemed cleared of his concussion, Lue didn’t rush to proclaim that Jefferson’s terrific Game 3 performance would land him back on the bench.

Perhaps the Cavaliers are pushing to something the Golden State Warriors ultimately decided three summers ago: They were better trying to win a championship without Kevin Love than with him. The Warriors passed on a Klay Thompson-Love deal with Minnesota, understanding now that it would’ve been the death knell for the Warriors’ championship aspirations.

Now, Love is 27 years old and in the first year of a five-year, $110 million contract extension. When Love agreed to the deal over the summer, some close to him insisted: He had little, if any, expectation that he would complete that contract in Cleveland. When it was time to find the next scapegoat, post-David Blatt, Love had been conditioned to believe it would be him.

Perhaps that’ll come this summer, but for now there’s the concussion protocol, Game 4 and a chance for redemption. Kevin Love was livid with the doctors telling him he couldn’t play on Wednesday, but no one messes with the brain. Nevertheless, a looming question hangs over Game 4: With or without Kevin Love? On his way out of The Q on Wednesday, I had to ask Ty Lue one more time: “No thought at all about Love, huh?”

“No, sir,” Lue said with a sly smile, and he started walking away, walking toward Game 4 and Friday night, toward one of the biggest choices of his young coaching life.

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.

Love’s status for Game 3 still uncertain

CLEVELANDKevin Love‘s status for Game 3 of the NBA Finals remains undetermined, according to Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue.

“[Love] flew back with the team, feeling better, but right now he’s just in the concussion protocol,” said Lue after practice today. “We’ll know more tomorrow.”

Love was placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol during the second half of Game 2, following an accidental elbow from Warriors forward Harrison Barnes. After initially going down to the ground, Love stayed in the game, and played briefly in the third quarter before leaving after experiencing dizziness.

Through two games of the NBA Finals, Love has averaged 11 points and 8.0 rebounds per game. Love has hit 3-for-9 from the 3-point line, and 9-for-24 from the field overall. During the regular season, Love averaged 16 points and 9.9 rebounds per game.

If Love is unable to play in Game 3, one option for the Cavs may be going to a larger lineup and utilizing center Timofey Mozgov, who has thus far played just 14 minutes in The Finals.

“Timo has to be ready,” said Lue. “There’s a chance and opportunity for him to play, we’ve talked about that as a staff. He just has to be ready, and we’ll see what happens from there.”

The Cavs have lost the first two games of The Finals by a total of 48 points, and clearly need to find a way to change the momentum of the series and challenge conventional wisdom: In NBA Finals history, a team has taken a 2-0 lead 31 times. Twenty-eight of those times, that team has gone on to win the Finals.

“History is made to be broken,” said Lue. “So we’re not worried about being down 2-0. It’s not over until a team wins four games, we know that. We just have to execute. When we have a chance to get on the break, we have to convert. We have to take advantage of missed shots. We have to take care of the basketball a little better.”

Update, 10 p.m.: The Cavaliers are officially listing Love as questionable.

Morning shootaround — Feb. 13

VIDEO: All the highlights from All-Star Friday Night


Redick ready to rack it | Trade season takes no All-Star break | Warriors open to chasing 73 | Shaw might be next ex-Laker on Knicks bench

No. 1: Redick ready to rack it — J.J. Redick is one competitive cuss, which is why he took so seriously his failure to advance in last year’s Foot Locker Three-Point Contest on All-Star Saturday and why he ramped up his preparation this time around. Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News looked at Redick’s determination to win or at least push deeper into the shootout this time around:

The rack will just represent the mechanism that holds the basketballs J.J. Redick will shoot. The money balls will just represent the extra points the Clippers’ guard hopes to accumulate.

But when Redick participates in the NBA’s 3-point contest as part of All-Star festivities on Saturday at Air Canada Centre, the rack and moneyballs will also represent something else.

It will mark the key part of Redick’s preparation in hopes to rectify last season’s finish, in which he did not advance out of the contest’s first round.

So, Redick completed shooting workouts on Thursday and Friday that included using racks and moneyballs in his routine.

Redick sounded optimistic that could help him win, which would prompt him to celebrate Saturday evening enjoying a bottle of Pinot Noir.

“Last year I grabbed the balls from the wrong side, so I feel like I’m already ahead of where I was last year,” Redick said. “I’ll try to maintain somewhat of a routine that I would have if I was playing a game.”

When Redick plays in a game, that usually means one thing: He will make outside shots with deadly accuracy. Redick has averaged a career-high 47.6 percent clip from 3-point range to help the Clippers (35-18) go 18-5 without Blake Griffin, who has an injured quadriceps and broken right hand, the latter ailment happening after punching team assistant equipment manager Matias Testi at a local restaurant here.

But Redick could not stop Golden State’s Stephen Curry from winning last season’s contest for reasons beyond Curry seemingly making every shot he takes.

Redick did not advance out of the first round amid two startling developments: A few of Redick’s shots did not count since he could not keep his feet behind the 3-point line.

“I shot a lot of long twos last year,” Redick joked.

Redick also struggled transitioning from catch-and-shoot opportunities toward hoisting 3-pointers after grabbing the ball from the rack.

“I didn’t really have an issue with the timing last year, it was more the rhythm,” Redick said. “Depending on which side of the rack you grab the ball from, your footwork is a little different.

“Not that shooting 3s off a rack is an exact science or anything. Ultimately the ball just needs to go through the net.”

And they need to go into the net more than Curry, Golden State’s Klay Thompson, Houston’s James Harden, Milwaukee’s Khris Middleton, Phoenix’s Devin Booker and Portland’s CJ McCollum will also be in the contest

Redick predicted Curry and Thompson will “shoot the ball really well and be relaxed.” Redick also considered Booker a “darkhorse.”


 No. 2: Trade season takes no All-Star break — Just because the NBA’s regular season gets put on hold each year over the longer-than-ever All-Star break, that doesn’t stop league business for chugging along. And with the annual February trade deadline fast approaching – it’s Thursday, before the schedule actually resumes for anyone that evening – rumors and speculation were flying in Toronto, including an alleged three-team, multiple-star blockbuster if it were to come to fruition. Always keep your eye on the big “if,” of course, but this one between Cleveland, New York and Boston was reported by Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

The Daily News has learned that the Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers have discussed a blockbuster trade centered around Kevin Love. There were very preliminary discussions with the Knicks about expanding the deal to include [Carmelo] Anthony, who would have to waive his no trade clause in order to facilitate a deal to the Cavs.

The Knicks would receive draft picks and players in return. One of those players is believed to be Timofey Mozgov, who five years ago was traded by the Knicks to Denver in the Anthony deal.

Those talks have not progressed. Plus Anthony reiterated on Friday that he has no plans to seek a trade. However, when asked if he’s thought about his future with a losing organization, Anthony gave a cryptic answer.

“Not yet. I’m pretty sure I’ll have that conversation with myself and my family and my team,” he said. “But it’s not a conversation for right now.”

The NBA trading deadline is Thursday and Knicks president Phil Jackson is exploring ways to upgrade the 23-32 Knicks and get them back in the playoff race. Trading Anthony would signal a complete rebuild centered around 20-year-old Kristaps Porzingis.

On Friday, Anthony bemoaned not having a proven star as a teammate and revealed that he’s had talks with fellow All-Stars about joining forces.

“I think everybody kind of dreams and hopes that they can play with another great player, another star player. It’s a star player’s league,” Anthony said. “I think that’s what we talk about when we all get together — ‘I want to play with you, I want to play with you.’ Even here different guys say, ‘Come play with me, come play with me.’ So that’s always the mindset. Sometimes it happens, sometimes it don’t. But I think everybody that’s in my situation, that’s in my position, they all want the load off especially the older they get. Because you realize you just can’t do it all by yourself. Everybody knows that.”

The Cavaliers are in first place in the Eastern Conference and the odds-on favorites to return to the NBA Finals for a second straight year. The Cavs and LeBron James, however, are not convinced they have enough to beat the top teams in the West, in particular Golden State and San Antonio.

The Cavs are 1-3 against those clubs with the one win coming against San Antonio one week after Tyronn Lue replaced David Blatt as coach. Anthony would give Cleveland a proven scorer to join LeBron and Kyrie Irving.

For every trade rumor that pops up, there usually is one or more reports poking holes in the scenario. Some in response to this Cavaliers-Knicks-Celtics scenario popped up on Twitter:


No. 3:  Warriors open to chasing 73 — It has become de rigueur these days for NBA coaches and teams to seek the path of least resistance to a championship run, with special attention paid to rest and limited exposures to injuries and physical or mental fatigue. But the Golden State Warriors remain refreshing that way – they didn’t shy away from the winning streak with which they began the season, chasing after the old 1971-72 Lakers’ 33-game mark with enthusiasm. And from their remarks during interviews Friday at All-Star Weekend, including Marc Stein‘s report for ESPN radio, it’s clear they’ll tackle the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls’ all-time record (72-10) the same way if they get close:

The Golden State Warriors need a 25-5 finish after the All-Star Game to break the NBA’s all-time single-season record of 72 wins. And at least one Warrior says they will indeed be going for it.

“Oh, we will,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson told ESPN Radio on Friday.

In an interview that will air in full on Saturday night’s “Meet The All-Stars” show on ESPN Radio at 5:30 p.m., Thompson acknowledged that the Warriors, who are 48-4, will likely rest some of their players as the season winds down.

“We’ll probably rest guys down the stretch,” Thompson said. “But we’re so deep of a team that we should have a chance to win every night.

“Just to be in the conversation of ‘You guys can do it’ is crazy. It’s great. I would have never imagined this. Growing up, I always thought that record was untouchable. Obviously we’re playing for more than just 73 wins — we’re playing for a championship — but if it’s right there for us, we might as well try and take it.”

Both Thompson and teammate Draymond Green, however, made it clear that even surpassing the Chicago Bulls’ record 72 wins from the 1995-96 season would feel somewhat hollow if the Warriors don’t also repeat as NBA champions.

“It wouldn’t matter,” Green told ESPN Radio. “I don’t think anyone will care. It’ll be talked about initially, like, ‘Oh, they broke the record.’ But it’ll fade away so quick.

“I think it’s one of those things where obviously we don’t talk about it at all. It’ll come up every now and then, but it’s more so, ‘Man, could you imagine if that happened?’ But it’s never like, ‘Hey, let’s focus on getting 72.’ Our focus is always to get better each and every time we step on the floor. And I think if we do that, we get to 72. But if we win 72 or 73 games or 74 and we don’t win a championship, nobody will ever care about the 70-whatever wins in the regular season. Everybody cares about the Bulls because they won a championship while winning 72. So it’s more important to win the championship than winning 72 games.”

Said Thompson: “73 wins doesn’t mean a thing without the ring.”

Golden State’s ringleader, Steph Curry, also chimed in on the topic:

“There’s not many opportunities that you probably have to go after that record,” Curry said Friday to CNN’s Andy Scholes. “Obviously, going to win a championship, that’s the main goal. But there’s a reason that we’re still talking about that ’95-’96 Bulls team that was able to accomplish the 72-and-10 record. They were on a mission that year and ended up winning the championship as well. So that’s kind of where we want to be.

“But when you have a shot at history and being the best regular-season team in the history of the NBA, I think you’ve got to go for it.”

And at least one very-interested rival, San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich, spoke about how avidly he’ll be tracking the Warriors’ progress. Which apparently is nothing new:

“I’ve spent more time thinking about Golden State than I have any other team I’ve ever thought about in my whole career,” Popovich told ESPN Radio on Friday. “Because they are really fun. I’d go buy a ticket and go watch them play. And when I see them move the ball, I get very envious. When I see them shoot uncontested shots more than anybody else in the league, it’s inspiring. It’s just great basketball.

“So I’m actually enjoying them very much. You try to solve them, but they’re in a sense unsolvable because it’s a particular mix of talent that they have. It’s not just that Steph [Curry] can make shots or that Klay can make shots or that Draymond Green is versatile. Everybody on the court can pass, catch and shoot. And they all get it. They’re for real.”


No. 4: Shaw might be next ex-Laker on Knicks benchBrian Shaw‘s reputation as a basketball mind and solid approach to dealing with today’s players didn’t spare him from being fired during the 2014-15 season by the Denver Nuggets. But Shaw remains a legitimate candidate for vacancies that invariably crop up and the one that will get filled in New York by Knicks boss Phil Jackson will be no different. Marc Berman of the New York Post kicked around the idea of Shaw taking over for interim coach Kurt Rambis, who has taken over for fired Derek Fisher:

Brian Shaw didn’t run the triangle offense in Denver, but he hasn’t forgotten any of it.

Shaw is expected to be a Knicks head-coaching candidate in the offseason if Phil Jackson doesn’t retain interim coach Kurt Rambis. Fired by Denver midway through last season, Shaw, a former Lakers player and assistant coach, was at All-Star weekend, helping the NBA with skills competitions for fans.

“I was 12 years involved in it as a player and coach,’’ Shaw told The Post. “The funny thing about it is everybody makes a big deal about the triangle. Almost every team in the league runs different aspects. They’re not dedicated solely to the triangle. It’s something that will always be ingrained in me — the fundamentals of that offense. In Denver, I didn’t run the triangle. I could adapt to any style the personnel dictates.’’

Shaw said he speaks to Jackson periodically, last talking to him about five weeks ago.

Shaw became the scapegoat of a daffy situation in Denver marred by player unrest and a serious injury to Danilo Gallinari.

“It was a situation I don’t really feel I was able to succeed in,’’ Shaw said. “I don’t think anyone placed in that situation could’ve succeeded. I hope I’m not judged on the year-and-a-half I was there more so than the 27 years prior to that I’ve been involved in the NBA.’’

Shaw said he’s hoping to dive into interviews, but didn’t want to talk specifically about the Knicks’ job until it’s open. He did praise Kristaps Porzingis and said he feels Carmelo Anthony is running the offense better this season than last.

“I have to wait until this season is over and see what opens up,” Shaw said. “If the right situation presents itself, definitely. I think I’d be more careful what I jumped into.’’


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: One moment Chris Bosh was talking like a healthy and happy All-Star Weekend featured player, the next he was a surprising scratch, his spots to be filled by Atlanta’s Al Horford (in Sunday’s game) and Portland’s C.J. McCollum (in the 3-point contest). … With everyone talking about Kevin Durant potentially leaving Oklahoma City, it’s a little surprising Durant hasn’t made his intentions known to Thunder management, just in case GM Sam Presti were to consider a pre-emptive strike by the trade deadline. … The firing of Derek Fisher hit New York rookie forward Kristaps Porzingis a little hard. … If it were up to the L.A. Clippers, point guard Chris Paul would be lying flat on his back this weekend, probably in a protective plastic bubble. … ICYMI, the Indiana Pacers had a closed-door meeting to address their pre-break tailspin and it was said to have been led by Monta Ellis. … Jimmy Butler is as hobbled these days as his Chicago Bulls’ championship dreams, but that didn’t stop the sidelined All-Star wing (who came to Toronto anyway) from talking about a bunch of topics. …

Numbers like Thompson over Mozgov when Cavaliers play big

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Cleveland Cavaliers’ longest winning streak of the season – eight games from Dec. 28 to Jan. 12 – coincided with a lineup change, Tristan Thompson replacing Timofey Mozgov at center.

The winning streak came to an end in San Antonio last Thursday and Thompson went back the bench for the last three games. Matchups had something to do with it. The Cavs’ last three games have been against big centers (Dwight Howard, Andrew Bogut and Brook Lopez), and Cavs coach David Blatt acknowledged that size is the reason Mozgov has started those three games.

So Thompson could be back in the starting lineup again soon. It probably won’t happen on Thursday, when the Cavs host DeAndre Jordan and the Los Angeles Clippers (8 p.m. ET, TNT), but the Cavs’ numbers suggest that Thompson is the better choice.

The Cavs have played almost 1,000 minutes with LeBron James and Kevin Love at the forward positions, and about an equal number with Mozgov and Thompson at center. And Cleveland has been much better, especially offensively with Thompson at the five.


Those minutes account for 71 percent of James’ total minutes. He’s also played 78 minutes with Thompson at the four and either Mozgov or Anderson Varejao at the five. He’s played only 8.1 minutes per game of small ball this season.

Interestingly, the Cavs’ numbers have been similar whether James is playing with one big or two.


Thompson has been the center for most (192) of those one-big minutes, but the Cavs are a minus-26 with a James/Thompson frontline (in part because they’ve used it for more defensive than offensive possessions). They’ve been better (plus-63 in 86 minutes) with a James/Love frontline and three guards/wings, a configuration they could go to more often now that they have their full complement of guards available.

Lineups didn’t matter when the Cavs got smoked by the Warriors on Monday, but Blatt will continue to have interesting choices from game to game and minute to minute.

Blogtable: Thoughts on Cavaliers at season’s halfway point?

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 Cavs? | Biggest surprise at season’s halfway mark? |
Rookie you enjoy watching most (and why)?

VIDEORelive the Warriors-Cavs matchup

> They lead the East, but in a five-day span they lost a close one to the Spurs on the road, then got blown out by the Warriors at home. What do you make of these Cleveland Cavaliers halfway through the season?

David Aldridge, TNT analyst: Something’s amiss in the Land. It’s a combination of things, I think, but at the base the issue is how to be the defensive-based team that blew through the Eastern Conference playoffs last spring and dismantled a 60-win Atlanta team in the conference finals while integrating the offense-first Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love into the mix. The Cavs played championship-level defense in the postseason, but couldn’t score enough, as evidenced by the load LeBron James had to carry in The Finals. They’re going to be very good offensively once Irving is back at full speed, but can he and Love defend their positions well enough to beat elite teams? Not putting Monday’s beatdown by the Warriors all on those two, but clearly, Cleveland had no concept as a team of how to stop Golden State. Who does Irving guard? Stephen Curry? Nope. Klay Thompson? Maybe David Blatt puts him on Andrew Bogut, and I’m not kidding. But it’s going to be a question against the best teams, and those are the teams the Cavs have struggled to beat this season.

Steve Aschburner, The Cavaliers are good enough and not good enough. They’re good enough to get past any rough patches, good enough to essentially control the East and good enough to get back to the Finals without too much angst or sweat. But they’re not good enough to beat Golden State or San Antonio in seven games, not yet, not as currently constituted. J.R. Smith is too erratic on and off the court to be relied upon to the degree Cleveland does, they need more outside shooting as it is and they’re almost starting over in cracking the LeBron JamesKyrie IrvingKevin Love code. They have lots on their plates for the final three months.

Scott Howard-Cooper, They’re fine. Not perfect. Not the team to beat. But the Cavaliers are still the favorite in the East and, if you want the real perspective, in much better shape than a year ago as doubt flew in every direction and coach David Blatt was supposedly on the hot seat. You know, before they got to The Finals and then to a Game 6 without two of their best players for most or all of the series.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comI think the Cavs are fortunate to play in the East, and that all they need to do is win the conference, which last I checked doesn’t go through Oakland or San Antonio. Unless my math is wrong, that puts them in The Finals, right? Look, past history has proven that whatever happens in the regular season (losses to certain teams) often carries little weight in the post-season. Cleveland is fine, in the big picture. There’s a lot of basketball left to find a groove and seek answers.

John Schuhmann, They’ve improved defensively and rank in the top 10 on that end of the floor, which is where they need to be. But yeah, that top-10 defense obviously didn’t hold up against the league’s best offense (Golden State), and their offense struggled against the league’s best defense (San Antonio). The Cavs could probably win the East in their sleep, but the Warriors and Spurs are playing like two of the best teams of all-time. The Cavs could wait to flip the switch in the postseason, but now would be a good time to play with some urgency, not let bad teams hang around through three quarters, and see if they can’t match the Spurs’ and Warriors’ point differential for a few weeks.

Sekou Smith, They strike me as a team that is well aware that they are ill-equipped to handle either the Spurs or Warriors in a seven-game series right now. That narrative about a healthy Cavaliers team surely being able to finish what they started in The Finals against the Warriors seems a bit hollow to me now. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love would have made a huge difference, but I don’t know that they would have been the difference between winning and losing. And the Spurs and Warriors have taken it up a few notches since last season while the Cavaliers clearly have not. I think it’s a good thing, actually, because now the Cavaliers can assess exactly what they are and make whatever adjustments, tweaks and or trades necessary.

Ian Thomsen, Let’s acknowledge that they’ve been without Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert for most of this season. But let’s also not dismiss the impression that they entered this year behaving as if they were de facto champs – as if convinced they would have won the NBA Finals if not for their injuries. If so, then they are learning is that it’s going to require more than talent and depth and potential. Instead of seeing them express the arrogance and indiscipline that led to their blowout loss to the real champions, maybe we’ll see the Cavs approach the second half of the year with humility – which is their only hope.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: I’m not sure what to make of them. Sure, they’re 28-11 and own the best record in the Eastern Conference. But LeBron’s wavering 3-point shooting numbers are at least mildly troubling to me, and while I know one game out of 82 can be viewed as an aberration, getting blown out at home by the Warriors is not ideal. I know the Cavs went all-in financially on this group of players, but I think they could still use an athletic 2/3 type who can hit 3-pointers and play defense. Things aren’t perfect right now, and the good news is that right now, they don’t have to be perfect. The question is whether things will get right by the time the playoffs roll around.

Morning Shootaround — Dec. 29

VIDEO: The Fast Break: Dec. 28


Jordan pays tribute to Kobe | Cavs right ship with team meeting | Spurs find ways to win | Report: Burks opts for surgery

No. 1: Jordan pays tribute to Kobe Kobe Bryant is in his 20th season as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, so its easy to forget that Bryant was actually drafted by the Charlotte Hornets, and later traded to the Lakers. Bryant returned to Charlotte last night on his farewell tour for his final game in the Queen City, and while Hornets owner Michael Jordan couldn’t make it in person, the Hornets welcomed Kobe with a video message from Jordan before the game. As ESPN’s Baxter Holmes writes, Kobe appreciated the tribute…

Bryant said he spoke with Jordan on Sunday and knew the video would be shown.

“It was awesome. It was awesome,” Bryant said. “He and I — as he said in the video — we talk pretty often. But it was pretty funny to see some of the reactions of my teammates. I was sitting next to Julius Randle before the game. He was like, ‘Yo, that’s amazing!’ I was like, ‘What?’ [He said] ‘That was Michael Jordan!'”

Bryant added, “We talk fairly often. I know he’s enjoying a little vacation time. I told him I was a little jealous. He said, ‘You’ll be here soon enough.'”

While Jordan transitioned into an ownership role for an NBA team, Bryant said he doesn’t expect to follow the same path.

“No, he and I differ entirely when it comes to that,” Bryant said. “He’s a mathematician. He loves math. He loves numbers, loves dealing with numbers. I don’t. I could care less. I suck at math. So from that perspective, I’m not going to be looking at cap numbers and all that other stuff. I just have no interest in it.”

Bryant again was warmly received by a road crowd that chanted his name at numerous points throughout the game, including when the buzzer sounded.

“It’s been like that every city, fortunately,” he said. “Here it’s a little bit different because this is the city that drafted me, so my journey started here. As brief as it was, it still started here. That has a little more value to it.”

But perhaps no stop means as much — or carries as much personal history for Bryant and his team — as the stop Wednesday, when Bryant will play his final game in Boston against the archrival Celtics, a team Bryant faced twice in the Finals. The Lakers lost in 2008, then won in 2010.

“Love-hate fest sort of thing,” he said of what he is expecting from the crowd. “I’m bringing my family down because my kids have never even been to Boston. They’ve never even been to Boston. I’m looking forward to them getting a chance to see the city a little bit and then just experience the green. It’s just a different green. I want them to be able to see that.”

Bryant also said he misses playing the villain, which meant being booed at road arenas.

“Yeah. It was just so natural to me for so many years,” he said. “It became something that just felt comfortable. It felt a little awkward at first, to be honest with you, to get this praise, but I’m glad they didn’t do this many, many years ago because it’s like kryptonite. It would’ve taken away all my energy and all my strength because I relied a lot on being the villain. Sometimes, the best way to beat the villain is to give them a hug.”

VIDEO: Jordan Honors Kobe



Shoulder strain puts ‘LeBron project’ Mozgov on ice for 10-14 days

Cleveland center Timofey Mozgov will be out 10-14 days, the Cavaliers announced Friday, due to the strained right deltoid shoulder muscle injury he suffered in the second quarter of their game against Milwaukee at Quicken Loans Arena Thursday. That will put on hold some of the extensive tutoring and intense expectations the 7-foot-1 Russian has faced from star teammate LeBron James.

Mozgov isn’t the only ailing Cavs player. Guard Mo Williams won’t play Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks at The Q (7:30 ET, League Pass), missing his second game with a sore right ankle. Williams is listed as doubtful to play Monday at home against Orlando, the team reported.

But Mozgov is the player who will be absent from the extra attention he’s been receiving – and not exactly in a coddling manner – from James. Cavs beat writer Dave McMenamin of looked at the “tough love” James has shown Mozgov so far this season as a way to prep him for the important clashes to come. What the big man has been giving them – 7.9 ppg, 4.6 rpg, 1.1 bpg in 20.8 mpg – is down significantly from last season (10.6, 6.9, 1.2, 25.0):

James will shout at Mozgov for a failed defensive assignment, criticize him when a play isn’t executed properly, implore the big man to make every part of his 7-foot-1, 275-pound frame felt by the opposition.

James and the Miami Heat often lashed out at Mario Chalmers during the Big Three era. Now Mozgov is getting guff from James in Cleveland.

Cavs associate head coach Tyronn Lue even made an example of Mozgov at practice after the big man was repeatedly scored on in the post by Philadelphia 76ers rookie Jahlil Okafor in the fourth game this season.

Lue showed Mozgov what he wanted — crouch low, lean his weight into the opposition, spring up straight — and then had Mozgov try. Over and over again, Lue stopped to correct Mozgov before hailing James over from an adjacent court to join in. Mozgov appeared anything but comfortable as nearly half the team gathered and watched him struggle.

“The spotlight is going to be on us like that as a team every game this season,” James told when asked about the scene. “He has to become comfortable with it.”

In James’ first stint in Cleveland, he pretty much wrote off J.J. Hickson, according to multiple sources. James was fed up with the big man’s shoddy work ethic. But James admits tough love might not be the best tactic with Mozgov.

“I think I may have to change my approach a little bit,” James said to “A lot of it is predicated on how much he means to our success, how big of an impact he made once he got here last year. And when you see that type of impact, you expect it. And you expect it every single night and you expect it consistently, but I may have to change my approach how I lead him. I think I’ll figure a way out. I’ll figure another method.”

It’s clear Mozgov is testing James’ patience. When Mozgov collided with Anderson Varejao during a drill after practice this week and fell to the floor, clutching his forehead, James could be heard loudly telling a teammate, “You can’t make this s— up,” gesturing to Mozgov laying down in the paint.

“I’m the leader of this team, whatever it takes,” James said Tuesday. “So if it’s laying into them, I’ll do that. I also lead other ways as well. Obviously that makes more headlines than others, but whatever this team needs I’m going to do. I’m going to hold everyone accountable, including myself. And I expect nothing less than greatness out of all of us and if we’re not able to do that, then I feel like I’m failing.”