James Bond movies are only as good as the villain — unless there is someone who pushes Bond to new extremes, his victory is hollow. (Well, except for all the hot Bond girls.)
That need for the hero to have to reach new heights is true of all drama. It is true of sports. What is Muhammad Ali without Joe Frazier and George Forman? Magic without Bird (or Bird without Magic)? Even Michael Jordan had to get over the hurdle of the Bad Boy Pistons before he could become a legend.
For LeBron James, that has been the Celtics. His career had always seemed to fall short — it’s why he left Cleveland — and the Celtics had caused that demise two of the last three years (including last season when Clevelanders are convinced LeBron quit on them). While other teams had beaten him too, the Celtics had come to symbolize the mountain he had to climb.
And he almost did not scale it Monday — he made the amazing jumpstop layup in the final minute to give the Heat a short-lived lead, but after that was stripped by Ray Allen giving the Celtics a final chance to win in regulation. They blew it. Given a second chance in overtime, James did not.
He sounded relieved and excited after the game, as reported by Ian Thompson at Sports Illustrated.
“I looked at it as one of the biggest games of my career,” said James. “Me and D-Wade had a lot of conversation after Game 3 all the way to the tip-off today about how important this game is. I heard a stat that D-Wade had lost 11 straight in this building. I haven’t had much success in this building. So we put a lot of pressure on ourselves to try to do whatever it took to help our team win this ballgame.”
There is a long way to go. Unlike the Lakers, the Celtics are not going to roll over and die in their closeout game. They will play harder and better than they have all series. Then there will be the conference finals, then the finals. None of it easy, most of it harder than this.
But for LeBron, it’s feeling like a breakthrough.
Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports wrote a few weeks ago about the Kings coaching search:
Kevin McHale is steadily gaining internal support, league sources told The Vertical. If Cousins truly is the future, the Kings have to hire a coach he will buy into, and McHale, a respected voice and one of the game’s all-time great post players, certainly seems like a good fit.
They won’t get him, of course
McHale indeed emerged as a candidate, and though it took him a little longer than other prominent former head coaches, McHale also came to the conclusion Mannix foresaw,
Marc Stein of ESPN:
This is part of the reason Sacramento talking to everybody. The Kings don’t know whom they can get.
An owner who has changed course too often in Vivek Ranadive, a general manager with too little experience in Vlade Divac, a top player who repeatedly feuds with coaches in DeMarcus Cousins – who’d want this job? Probably not someone who could get one of the NBA’s other 29 head-coaching gigs, and that might apply to McHale.
Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News:
Frank Vogel is still twisting in the wind, but it seems unlikely the Pacers keep him.
There’d definitely be something intriguing about former Celtics teammates Larry Bird and Kevin McHale teaming up in Indiana. McHale’s experience with the Rockets could help him install an up-tempo offense, too.
The Cavaliers were making so many 3-pointers, they didn’t need a lucky bounce.
But they got one, anyway.
Mo Williams‘ pass to Richard Jefferson bounced of Mike Muscala‘s head – right to Iman Shumpert for a 3-pointer.
Kenny “The Jet” Smith is the next Steve Kerr?
I’m with you, I don’t see that either. But apparently in the Houston Rockets’ broad search for a new coach — we know it will not be J.B. Bickerstaff — owner Leslie Alexander would consider Smith, a member of the Rockets’ championship teams in the 1990s. From Marc Stein of ESPN.
Sources tell ESPN.com that TNT’s Kenny Smith, who like (Sam) Cassell is a former Rockets player, could also land an interview. Rockets owner Leslie Alexander remains close to many players from the team’s highly successful Clutch City era, which delivered two championships, and holds them in high esteem.
As seen in the video above, Charles Barkley asked Smith about it on Inside the NBA Wednesday and Smith tap danced around the question, saying “anything basketball is me.”
The Rockets need a defensive-minded coach and someone who can help guide and build a good locker room culture, two things that held the Rockets back this season. Someone who can get the respect of James Harden and get him to do things such as show up to training camp in shape.
That’s what makes Jeff Van Gundy an interesting fit, same with Frank Vogel if he is let go by the Indiana Pacers as it more and more seems like he will be. Both of them have experience doing what the Rockets need. Can The Jet coach? Who knows. But with Harden in his prime and some other quality role players on the roster (Trevor Ariza, Patrick Beverley, Clint Capella, and the list goes on) why gamble on the unknown?
The Chicago Bulls are trying to find their identity. They used to be a defensive team, but they went and got an offensive coach in Fred Hoiberg and by the end of the season had slid badly on that end of the floor. They are no longer Derrick Rose‘s team. They didn’t have the personnel to run Hoiberg’s system. The Bulls need to figure out who they are, then decide which players on the roster should be part of the team moving forward.
Expect Jimmy Butler to be part of that future. He’s the best player on the team, but he rubs some teammates the wrong way, and there have been rumors the Bulls would listen to trade offers.
That got teams calling to test the waters, but the Bulls are telling those teams they plan to hold on to Butler, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.
A league source tells CSNNE.com that the Bulls, while still open to listening to offers for Butler, are telling teams that are inquiring about his availability that their plan for now is to keep him in the fold.
And while there was some thought that a top-3 pick coupled with a few decent players might be enough to entice the Bulls to pull the trigger on a deal to trade Butler, CSNNE.com has been told such an offer would have to include at least one “legitimate, NBA starter” for the Bulls to even possibly consider trading him.
“And that might be a stretch,” the source indicated.
What is the hardest part of assembling a potential NBA title contender? Finding the elite, cornerstone player you need who can lead your team at both ends of the floor. The Chicago Bulls have that in Butler, and he’s locked up until at least the summer of 2019 on a good contract (a max contract before the TV deal money kicked in; there is a player option for a fifth season reaching into 2020). Why would they trade him?
Stranger things have happened, especially with the Bulls, but unless they want to tear it all down and rebuild — and they don’t — getting rid of Butler doesn’t make sense.
The better question is who will be around Butler come next fall? =