JJ Hickson

Cavaliers would not quit, could not win; lose record 25th straight

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Desperate teams are dangerous teams. And Cleveland was desperate not to set a new all timeconsecutive loss record Monday night.

But the thing that trumps effort is talent — Dallas had a lot more of it and a desire not to be the first team to lose to the Cavaliers since before Christmas.

The result was a 99-96 Dallas win. And a new record of 25 consecutive losses (Cleveland broke the record of their own 1982 team). But was close.

Cleveland was down 10 with 2:35 left but Dallas had just two points the rest of the way and Cleveland had its chances. Antawn Jamison had a good look transition three with 1:20 left that would have tied the game at 97 and made the ending different, but it rimmed out. It goes that way. Cleveland was 3-of-14 from three for the night. There was Jason Kidd drawing a late charge in early offense on J.J. Hickson. There was an Anthony Parker long three with 6 seconds left that hit the front rim, but Cleveland got the rebound, threw it to Jamario Moon, who hesitated and passed as time expired rather than take the desperation three.

That pretty much sums up the Cavs streak. Missed shots, bad decisions, just not enough talent to overcome those things.

You could feel how bad Cleveland wanted it all game long — a very different place from earlier in this losing streak when the Cavs would roll over and lose by 55 to the Lakers. If you want a silver lining Cleveland fans, it’s that. This team is learning what it takes to win in the NBA the hard way.

You could see Cleveland’s desperation and energy early as the Cavs jumped out to 8-1 lead. Dallas started 0-8 from the floor (the lone point was a Peja Stojakovic free throw, he got the start in his first game as a Maverick). Dallas was coasting and settling for jumpers.

Then they settled down, started going inside and finding that there is no resistance in the paint from the Cavaliers. Dallas got up double digits and in the second quarter as Dallas could score but the Cavaliers could not maintain consistent offense.

Except Dallas did not do a good job exploiting the mismatches, and the results allowed Cleveland to hang around. Jamison cannot cover Dirk Nowitzki. Not even close. Yet Dirk was 5-of-11 shooting for 12 points.

The difference was talent — Dallas is the deepest team in the league and they can bring Jason terry off the bench to score 23 or Shawn Marion to drop in 17 (the team’s two leading scorers on the night).

Cleveland has to work so hard for all their shots. They are seeing the effort it takes to defend at the NBA level (they do it in spurts, but that’s an improvement, too). Dallas just has the guys that can create more with that effort.

You feel for Byron Scott, but he and the Cavs had to know coming in against a Dallas team that has won 9 in a row now this was a tough one. That same effort Wednesday against Detroit, Friday against the Clippers or Sunday against Washington and the outcome may well be different.

DeMarcus Cousins says right now he wants to play in 2020 Tokyo Olympics

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL - AUGUST 17:  Demarcus Cousins #12 of United States reacts in the first half while taking on Argentina during the Men's Quarterfinal match on Day 12 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Carioca Arena 1 on August 17, 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
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Four years in the NBA is a couple of lifetimes away. GMs get paid to try and plan that far out, but the constantly shifting sands of the NBA — injuries, player improvement, new talents coming into the league, players changing teams, not to mention front office/ownership changes — make that a nearly impossible task. Nothing is set in stone that far out.

But if four years, DeMarcus Cousins wants to be playing for Team USA in the Tokyo Olympics. Here is what he told Gary Washburn at the Boston Globe.

“I’m open to [coming back for Tokyo 2020]. I’ll be older then, so it depends on how my body feels. As of right now, where I’m at, absolutely, I’m open to it,” he said. “I think people don’t understand [how hard this winning is]. They see the guys on the roster and they think automatically, they’re supposed to win. This [international game] isn’t our game. This isn’t the way we play. This is an adjustment for every guy on the roster.

“No matter how much time there is, if guys can come together and mesh and play with some type of chemistry, you’re going to win games. It’s been proven in the past. We’ve had some of the most talented teams in the past and we didn’t win, so it’s not as easy as people think it is.”

I’m sure everyone on that team, save for Carmelo Anthony, is saying the same thing about returning for the next Olympics right now. We’ll see how things play out. C0usins certainly struggled to adjust to what is a foul in international ball (not to mention the inconsistent officiating) and spent much of Rio in foul trouble, but he was a monster in the gold medal game.

On another note, Cousins is right, the USA players face unreasonable expectations. They are unquestionably the most talented team in the Games, but with that and the history of USA Basketball they are expected to do more than win, they are expected to dominate. The 2016 team in Rio went undefeated and won gold, but because they had three tough games won by 10 or less — good Australian, French, and Serbian teams —, there was a lot of “what is wrong with Team USA?” talk.

The 2020 team will likely be even more talented — Cousins and Kevin Durant could well be joined by guys who skipped Rio such as Stephen Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, and Anthony Davis. However, the challenges will be the same: The rest of the world is getting better (watch out for Canada) and the USA will still be throwing a team together and trying to build chemistry on the fly.

But we still expect Gold.

After two years off court, Joel Embiid says he “probably” will have minutes restrictions

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers takes a shot from the bench prior to the game against the Utah Jazz on October 30, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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Joel Embiid could be the best player on the Philadelphia 76ers in a couple of years — many scouts had him the highest rated of all the first-round draft picks the Sixers have had in recent seasons.

But after two foot surgeries and two seasons sitting on the sidelines, we don’t know how good Embiid can be. We should find out starting in October when Embiid is part of the Sixers training camp. Embiid says he feels 100 percent, but he expects there will be restrictions on him at first, he told Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com during the Sixers Beach Bash community event this weekend.

This is the smart move by the Sixers — they are not competing for a title, the games in November have minimal meaning long term, bring him along slowly and make sure he can make each step along the way. Let’s see what he can do, then worry about how much run he can get in games that matter.

It’s going to be interesting to watch how Embiid, Ben Simmons, Nerlens Noel, and Jahlil Okafor all fit together up front — and which one of them gets traded this season.

Celtics’ Avery Bradley on defense: “Kyrie Irving, none of those guys scare me”

BOSTON, MA - MARCH 09:  Avery Bradley #0 of the Boston Celtics celebrates after scoring against the Memphis Grizzlies  during the first quarter at TD Garden on March 9, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Avery Bradley was first-team NBA All-Defensive team last season, and his coach Brad Stevens lobbied for him to get the honor. Bradley picks up guys full court, pesters, and plays physical — we can debate if he is as good defensively as his reputation, but guys like Damian Lillard think he’s tough to go up against.

Bradley, for his part, says he has no fear going up against the best. Here is what he said to Tom Westerholm of Masslive.com.

“I love the challenge,” Bradley said on Friday, making an appearance at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. “I love going up against the best players. I don’t care who it is. I don’t care about getting embarrassed. I don’t care. Kyrie Irving, none of those guys scare me. I know some players in the NBA probably get butterflies before the game, but not me. I’m licking my lips. I come excited. They need to prepare for me at the end of the day. That’s how I think.”

That’s exactly the attitude you want an elite defender to have.

Bradley injured his hamstring in the first game of the playoffs last April and sat the rest of the Celtics’ one series. Then this summer his name came up in potential Jimmy Butler trade rumors (that deal never actually came close to getting off the ground). Expect Bradley to put that all behind him by the time training camp opens.

Watch highlights of LeBron James’ playoffs, Finals run

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LeBron James was dominant — the clear best player on the planet — when the Cleveland Cavaliers needed him most. That’s the reason Cleveland got its first major sports title in 52 years.

It’s the dead part of the NBA season — training camps don’t even open for a month — so why not enjoy a look back at LeBron’s amazing run to a legacy-defining NBA ring. Like you don’t have 15 minutes for this. What are you going to do, watch more preseason football?