Cleveland Cavaliers' Zydrunas Ilgauskas rests his head on the shoulder of LeBron James in Cleveland

Cavs broadcaster talks LeBron, Ilgauskas’ move to Miami

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Joe Tait was the Cleveland Cavaliers broadcaster for four decades, starting with when the NBA first dropped an expansion team in Cleveland to try and slow the growth of the ABA.

Tait has a new book out about his recollections as a broadcaster, and of course there’s plenty of talk about LeBron James, something highlighted in a story in the Cleveland Plain Dealer (via I am a GM).

But what jumped out at me is the story of Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who was a part of Cleveland and loved the city but moved on last year, only to be disappointed.

“He went to Miami to try and get a championship ring before he retired,” said Joe. “He wasn’t even in uniform for some of those games in The Finals. He wanted to be a contributor, playing 15, 20 minutes a game and helping a team win a title. He loved, absolutely loved Cleveland. But when LeBron left, he knew they couldn’t win here — and the team wanted to rebuild and get younger. So he went to Miami. I’m telling you, the culture shock was hard on him.”

Joe said one of Ilgauskas’ friends visited the veteran center and his wife in Miami.

“I was told they were never happy, and the longer they were there, it got progressively worse,” he said. “Mrs. Z is from Cleveland. That was a zoo down there. I feel bad for him, because I’m sure it’s not anything close to what he expected.”

If you want LeBron James dirt, this is not the place. Tait liked him and was friends with Gloria (LeBron’s mom). He sees James as a product of his environment as much as anything — from the time he entered high school he could do no wrong, then he played in Cleveland where there was unconditional love and support from the fans while he was there. Owner Dan Gilbert coddled him and let him do what he want. So when James did “The Decision” it was the first time people really turned on him.

Tait’s basic thoughts get summed up this way in the story:

“In Cleveland, if he had a bad game or made a mistake — people would just say that was OK, he’ll play better next time,” said Joe. “He could do no wrong. No wrong at all. Everyone loved LeBron. That’s why he was so surprised by the negative reaction to the ESPN show. . . . He thought everyone would like it because everyone always seemed to like about everything he did.”

When Gilbert wrote an email ripping James and calling him a quitter, Joe said the first thing that crossed his mind was, “Dan, you created the monster, now you have to live with it.”

Report: Las Vegas also in contention for 2017 NBA All-Star game

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Where will the NBA hold the 2017 All-Star game?

Charlotte? No.

New Orleans? Probably.

New York/Brooklyn or Chicago? Maybe.

One more maybe: Las Vegas.

Scott Kusher of The Advocate:

The NBA held All-Star Weekend in Las Vegas in 2007. By all accounts, it was wild.

I’d be surprised if the league returned the event to Las Vegas, but at this point, I’d really be surprised by any option besides New Orleans.

Report: 76ers, Sam Hinkie’s ‘handpicked analytics crew’ splitting up

Ben Mikesell/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP
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The 76ers hired Bryan Colangelo, and Sam Hinkie bounced.

Now, much of Hinkie’s front-office is also heading out the door.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

that regime — including deposed GM Sam Hinkie’s handpicked analytics crew — will be mostly gone by the end of August, league sources say.

If Colangelo hires his own analytics staff and integrates numbers into his decision-making, this is no big deal.

If Colangelo leaves those positions vacant, Philadelphia will be working from behind.

I’m betting on the former. He isn’t Hinkie, but Colangelo has discussed the importance of analytics. Let Colangelo hire his own staff, and everything might even flow more smoothly.

Mike Krzyzewski: Team USA having too much fun, needs to tone it down

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 26:  DeMar DeRozan #9 of the United States Men's National Team looks on during a break in the action against the China Men's National Team during the second half of a USA Basketball showcase exhibition game at ORACLE Arena on July 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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Mike Krzyzewski hates fun (even more than he admits).

So, the coach wasn’t thrilled after Team USA’s exhibition win over China, which included DeMar DeRozan nearly 360-degree dunking on someone.

Marc J. Spears of ESPN:

I want to see Team USA make highlight plays. Dunk from the free-throw line. Shoot from halfcourt. Throw behind-the-back passes. Show up weaker competition.

So, it’s hard for me to get behind Coach K’s criticism.

But I also want to see the Americans win gold medals in the Olympics, and I’ll blame Krzyzewski if they’re not adequately focused.

Fair? Not one bit.

Doesn’t change what I want, though.

Report: Kevin Durant told Russell Westbrook he’d re-sign with the Thunder

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 28:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Russell Westbrook #0 look on prior to game six of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 28, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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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Kevin Durant said he had to distance himself from Russell Westbrook entering free agency. Yet, Durant listened to the Warriors recruiting him all season and had clearly been interested in Golden State for months.

The writing was on the wall.

Except, a few days before taking meetings in the Hamptons (which led to signing with the Warriors), Durant dined with Westbrook.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Three weeks ago, Kevin Durant’s sitting there at dinner, telling him “Hey, I’m coming back, man. Don’t worry about it.” And now, Russell Westbrook has been kind of thrown into this in having to decide his future a summer earlier than expected.

Kevin Durant, more so than even that, was telling people, “Hey, yeah, I mean I’m coming back.” Like I said in there, a week before Kevin Durant sat down in the Hamptons, he was in Oklahoma City ready to make an offer on a multi-million-dollar house. So, the guy was pretty serious about coming back, and then things turned rather quickly for him to leave. And there’s no doubt that the organization felt a little bit burned by this.

Maybe Durant said that. Maybe he meant it in the moment. Maybe he was just trying to appease someone he didn’t want to let down. Maybe he was unclear. Maybe Westbrook read too much into a more clear statement.

There’s a lot of room for imperfect recollection/interpretation. We’re dealing with human beings.

Likewise on the house. Who says Durant was “ready” to make an offer? That’s an awfully difficult assessment to make outside his head. Just as the Celtics had a list of players Durant wanted them to add, it seems he was preparing for all contingencies. It’s hard to nail down whether he was house hunting because he was certain he wanted to stay in Oklahoma City or whether he just wanted a new place if he stayed in Oklahoma City.

So much of what we know about Durant’s process for picking the Warriors suggests a rational decision. He considered them for months, met with multiple teams, conferred with his inner circle then made a choice.

If Durant told Westbrook or anyone else he’d re-sign with the Thunder, that obviously changes the equation. But I’m left wondering:

How many people in Oklahoma City heard what they wanted to hear rather than what Durant actually said?

How many people are incentivized to paint Durant as impulsive, because the alternative — Durant thoughtfully deciding the Thunder weren’t his best option — indicates deeper flaws in the franchise?