NBA Playoffs: Brandon Roy and the Rose Garden Time Machine

3 Comments

Portland 84 Dallas 82.

You could not have written it better.

Well, maybe if it was Game 7. But then it would be in Dallas and that’s a whole different result.

In sports, a lot of us have become repulsed by cliches, by ridiculous preconceived storylines forced down our throats. But there is still something powerful, something palpable, about stories like what Brandon Roy did in Game 4 against the Dallas Mavericks in Portland. In front of a desperate, always emotional Rose Garden crowd, the Blazers stormed back from a 23-point deficit Saturday night behind 18 fourth quarter points from a player who less than a week ago was crying as he was left on the bench for much of the game due to injury. Nate McMillan rewarded the one-time All-Star with playing time, and he came through with an outright barrage. Off the dribble, from the corner, slip-screen catch-and-shoot, dagger after dagger after dagger. The crowd responded with a roar, Roy wound up with a four-point-play off a nice sell by Roy on a touch foul, and the Mavericks were caught in a tidal wave of emotion.

That’s sports.

For Dallas, they now get to enjoy two days of non-stop talk about 2006. And 2007. And 2010. Collapses like these define the Mavericks in common media, because it’s easy. That overlooks the incredible job they did in building the lead, which was an outlier in and of itself, as was the bizarre meltdown from the Blazers. The fourth quarter was more a reversion to the mean offensively than anything, from a macro level, and the momentum carried Portland to the win.

That’s a macro level. But to really enjoy this, you have to look micro, you have to look at Roy.

To say that Roy sparked the team on his own sounds absurd, but with 18 in the 4th quarter, what else can you say? Roy used the glass on runners, he nailed pull-up threes. He dropped everything you can think of and went back for more. He played point for a long stretch. That, in itself, is maddening to think about, before you look at his production.

The Mavericks certainly helped out, dropping poor decision after poor decision. Jason Kidd, he of a million years experience, had turnovers. The Mavericks could not convert, despite some key shots from Jason Terry and Dirk Nowitzki. But strangely, the Mavericks went away from Dirk down the stretch. Part of that is great help defense by the Blazers. All of it led to a 23-point comeback.

Heroic is a word you can use. Outlier is a word you can use. Unbelievable is definitely a word you can use.

It was the stuff of legend, and just when the Mavericks looked like they were going to take complete control of the series, end the hopes of a great crowd, and exert themselves as the better team, the Rose Garden erupts, Brandon Roy returns, and the series is tied. We’ll play three more. If the Mavericks let this get to them, to rattle them and break up their confidence, this could be the upset Blazer fans were so confident about. But regardless, it made for an amazing game, and an incredible comeback for a player who needed it for his soul.

Sports. What are you gonna do?

Report: Spurs re-signing Pau Gasol to three-year contract

Ronald Cortes/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Even after Pau Gasol opted out, there it nearly certain he’d stay with the Spurs.

Now, a deal is done.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m a little surprised San Antonio guaranteed Gasol’s salary next season. By rule, it must be within 5% of what he’ll earn this year.

The Spurs could have major flexibility to chase free agents next summer, making keeping the books clean a priority. Their only constraints with Gasol this year are paying him up to 120% of his prior salary (which comes out to $18.6 million), the hard cap ($125,266,000) and whatever expense ownership would endure. So, if Gasol were willing to play ball, San Antonio could have paid him a sizable salary this year and far less – the room exception or even the minimum – next year.

Instead, Gasol’s compensation will be more balanced between the seasons. We’ll see how much he’ll earn.

Gasol remains an effective scorer, in part because he increased his range beyond the 3-point arc. He rebounds well in his area, and his length and basketball intelligence make him a passable defender given his other skills. His immobility can be a major defensive liability in certain matchups, though.

He’s also 37, an age where players can drop off quickly – another reason a one-year deal would’ve been preferable. At least the partial guarantee in the third year will help San Antonio.

Report: Kyrie Irving asked Cavaliers to trade him, blindsiding LeBron James

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images
7 Comments

Kyrie Irving said the Cavaliers were in a “peculiar place.”

We didn’t realize quite how peculiar.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Kyrie Irving is ready to end his run with the Cleveland Cavaliers, as league sources told ESPN that the guard has asked the team to trade him.

The request came last week and was made to Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert. Irving has expressed that he wants to go play in a situation where he can be a more focal point and no longer wants to play alongside LeBron James, sources said.

James was informed of Irving’s request and was blindsided and disappointed, sources said.

Irving has admitted playing with LeBron has sometimes been rocky. It paid off with a championship in 2016, and I’m sure Irving found the tradeoff worthwhile then.

But the Warriors are so dominant with Kevin Durant. Even a team with LeBron, Irving and Kevin Love is a major underdog. If Irving would prefer to lead a team, it’s much easier to reject a supporting role when it’s so unlikely to culminate in a championship. (It’s also easier with a title already under his belt.)

This shouldn’t quiet the alarms of LeBron leaving next summer. Just because Irving doesn’t want to play with him doesn’t mean LeBron wants to play without Irving. This could push LeBron further out the door.

I also wouldn’t read too much into this signaling LeBron’s intent to stay in Cleveland. Though it’s possible Irving has a read on LeBron’s plan, a trade is the only sure-fire way to escape LeBron – and do it without playing another year with him.

I wouldn’t  tell Irving what would make him happiest. Cleveland is not a premier market, and playing in LeBron’s shadow isn’t always ideal for another star.

But I’m leery of Irving’s ability to lead a successful team. The Cavs stunk before LeBron returned and have stunk when he sits and Irving plays. Irving’s shortcomings – defense, distributing – become more pronounced as his team’s best player.

Maybe Irving is up for the challenge. He clearly wants it.

Then again, Cleveland doesn’t have to grant him the ability to try. He’s locked up for two more years. He can request, but not force, a trade.

This is a difficult time for the Cavaliers, who need visionary leadership. Their general manager has his hands full.

Oh, right.

NBA: Cleveland won’t get 2020 or 2021 All-Star game unless arena renovation begins by Sept. 15

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Cavaliers CEO Len Komoroski said Cleveland had been promised an NBA All-Star game if it upgraded its basketball arena.

The city committed taxpayer money to arena upgrades.

So, the Cavaliers are hosting an All-Star game?

Not so fast.

A group has opposed the city spending taxpayer money on arena so the billionaire who profits off the arena doesn’t have to pay for upgrades himself. That money could better serve a wider section of Clevelanders, and the group has tied up the plan in court.

Now, NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum wrote in a letter that Cleveland might not get an All-Star game.

Kevin Cleps of Crain’s Cleveland Business:

The letter was included in a 276-page summary that was filed with the Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday, July 20.

In the letter to Gilbert, Tatum confirms that the NBA has received the sports commission’s bid packet to host the All-Star Game in Cleveland, and says the league will be awarding the 2020 and ’21 events in the near future.

But, he adds, the league “will not be able to consider Cleveland as the host city for NBA All-Star 2020 or 2021 unless construction of The Q’s ‘Transformation’ project begins on or before September 15, 2017.”

Tatum says that the NBA has “already delayed the awarding” of those showcase events to “accommodate Cleveland, and unfortunately we cannot ask the other NBA cities that have held these dates open to wait any longer.”

The NBA is dangling a carrot in front of Cleveland, urging the local government to spend taxpayer money on the billion-dollar business’ arena. It might work. It often does. But Cleveland will be fine without an All-Star game, the economic effects of which are often exaggerated.

As Sept. 15 nears, it appears increasingly likely other cities will get the next couple All-Star games to be assigned. Still, there’s a chance the Cavaliers prevail in court in time.

J.J. Redick: Clippers lost joy

1 Comment

J.J. Redick and the Clippers seemed done with each other before free agency even began.

Redick – who signed a one-year, $23 million contract with the 76ers – gave Uninterrupted a behind-the-scenes look into his free agency. In the above video, he revealed plenty about his situation in L.A.:

It’s s—y to say this, but I think I’ve had a loss of joy. I look at our team and how we play, and it’s just there’s no joy in it. That bothers me.

On June 29th at about 10 p.m., I got a call from Lawrence Frank from the Clippers. I jokingly call it my breakup call. He just told me they weren’t going to offer me a contract. I wasn’t going to be back.

There’s plenty of blame to go around.

Blame Chris Paul for not relenting enough in his grating perfectionism and being petty. Blame Blake Griffin for being aloof about weight of his actions. Blame Paul and Griffin for waiting too long to get serious about bonding. Blame Doc Rivers for bringing in Austin Rivers and inviting accusations of nepotism. Blame Doc Rivers for too long setting a tone of whining.

Blame a tough Western Conference and injury for keeping a team with championship aspirations from never advancing past the second round. Blame familiarity, which bred contempt over several years with the same core.

Whomever or whatever you blame, the outcome seems tough to dispute: The Clippers looked joyless by the end of their run. Redick saying it only confirms the perception.

I’m curious whether he’ll find more joy in Philadelphia. A new situation will be refreshing, and the 76ers – young and talented – are hungry. Expectations are low after years of tanking, so even modest gains will be celebrated. But they’re also worse than the Clippers were, and losing more often will be an adjustment.

To get a better idea where Redick is coming from as he begins in Philadelphia, I recommend watching the video in full. It’s quite illuminating.