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Recapping a crazy day in Portland, where the Blazers began to clean house

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This year’s Portland Trail Blazers campaign, to this point, has gone as badly as possible. Just before the NBA’s trade deadline passed at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, the team began the process of doing something about it.

A flurry of activity went down in Portland today, and much of it set the team up nicely for a complete rebuild beginning with this year’s draft. Here’s a breakdown of the moves that were made.

Gerald Wallace traded to New Jersey

This deal netted the Blazers $10 million off of the salary cap once Mehmet Okur’s deal expires at the end of the season, and a draft pick likely to be in the lottery somewhere, even when you take into account the Nets’ improvement with Wallace aboard. Shawne Williams may or may not still be there next season, but if he is, it’ll only be for that one additional year at around $3 million.

This was strictly a salary cap dump, and an excellent one at that. When you add in the first round draft pick, this might have been Portland’s best move of the day.

Marcus Camby traded to Houston

The Blazers got rid of one of their problem personalities, sending Marcus Camby to the Rockets in exchange for Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet, and a second round draft pick.

Camby’s contract was expiring at the end of this season anyway, so dealing him for two draft busts whose contracts also expire is a wash. Also, taking back garbage in terms of talent for someone like Camby who can actually play is the true definition of tanking, and with Portland entering rebuilding mode, it makes sense to try to lose as much as possible the rest of the way to secure the highest draft position.

In the past week, Camby was seemingly trying to flagrant-foul his way out of town — first, by trying to start a fight with Kevin Seraphin of the Wizards for no good reason, and then, by attempting to murder Landry Fields of the Knicks on Wednesday, with his team trailing by 30 points at the time. Not exactly a classy way to go out, but Camby has been around a long time, and probably deserved better than to spend the twilight of his career dealing with this disaster.

A fine move from the Blazers’ standpoint to rid themselves of a clearly disgruntled veteran, and an extremely nice addition for the Rockets.

Nate McMillan fired as head coach

We all saw this coming; it was just a matter of “when.”

McMillan lost his team at some point during the course of the season, and it ultimately cost him his job. When you clash with your starting point guard as he did with Raymond Felton, and then lose by 42 points on national television to a team as dysfunctional as the New York Knicks, it’s safe to say the party is over.

McMillan is a good coach and will eventually get another shot. In the meantime, the Blazers gave 34-year-old assistant coach Kaleb Canales the interim head-coaching tag, with his first turn in the big chair coming at an extremely challenging time. Then again, when the preferred course of action is losing the majority of the remaining games on the schedule, he’s got it better than most.

Greg Oden is waived. Finally.

This move should have been made a long time ago, but the volume of players added through today’s trade finally made it a necessity.

It was clear long ago that Oden was never going to live up to the expectations placed on his shoulders when he was selected as the number one overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft; it certainly didn’t help that the number two pick that year was Kevin Durant. But through no fault of his own, Oden suffered multiple injuries that required surgeries which take months, or even years to properly heal from.

Oden did actually play at an above average level at times when healthy, and even showed flashes of being something special. But he was never going to be at Durant’s level, and when the injuries continued to stack up, Portland should have cut ties with him and moved on long before today.

The sum of Portland’s moves earned them an A-grade on our deadline-day report card, and it’s a beginning for a franchise that finds itself in need of starting over. Whether or not the moves they make in hiring a new coach, and using the cap space and draft picks that were acquired today will rate as high, well — that remains to be seen.

Warriors make most dominant playoff run ever to NBA Finals

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Moses Malone famously predicted the 76ers team would go “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” in the 1983 playoffs, sweeping all three rounds in four games. Philadelphia didn’t quite do it – sweeping the Knicks, beating the Bucks in five then sweeping the Lakers for the title.

Thirty-four years later, an NBA team went “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” for the first time.

Golden State swept the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Spurs in four-game series. But with an extra playoff round, the Warriors’ 12-0 run merely gets them to the Finals.

It’s the ninth undefeated run to the Finals, third since the league adopted four playoff rounds in 1984 and first since the first round became best-of-seven. The Lakers went 11-0 in the playoffs en route to the Finals in 2001 and 1989.

By winning an extra game and outscoring opponents by 16.3 points per game, Golden State now claims the most dominant postseason run to the NBA Finals ever.

Here are the top paths to the Finals, with Finals results, by playoff…

Record (point difference per game in parentheses):

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Point difference per game (record in parentheses):

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This doesn’t guarantee Golden State a championship. The Cavaliers (10-1, +11.9) are on track for an elite run to the Finals themselves, and they have LeBron James.

But the Warriors put ridiculous expectations on themselves by signing Kevin Durant to join a 73-win team featuring Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. I’m unsure a Golden State title this year will be properly appreciated, but so far, the Warriors are doing all they can to clear a bar set unreasonably high.

Gregg Popovich: Spurs started Manu Ginobili ‘out of respect’

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The Spurs started Manu Ginobili in their Game 4 loss to the Warriors last night.

For strategic reasons or because they wanted to honor him in what could be his final game before retirement?

The was certainly a case for the former. Ginobili had played well in the series, and Kawhi Leonard and Tony Parker were out injured. Ginobili played 32 minutes, much more manageable when starting. Plus, Zaza Pachulia was also out injured, so Golden State started small, and Ginobili could have helped San Antonio match up.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich:

We started him tonight out of respect. That was the whole reason for starting him.

Before the game, you think it may or may not be the last game he ever plays in. And I did not want to miss the opportunity to honor him in front of our home fans for his selflessness over the years. I mean, this is a Hall of Fame player who allowed me to bring him off the bench for – I ca ‘t even remember now – the last decade or something, because it would make us a better team overall. So, obviously, he’s a big reason for our success. And he deserved to have that night of respect so that he really feels that we appreciate everything he’s done over the years.

If he decides he’s going to play again, that’s up to him. But I won’t try to convince him one way or the other. I don’t think he needs that.

Perhaps, Popovich was just giving Ginobili a just-in-case sendoff. Ginobili has said he’ll take a few weeks to decide on retirement.

But Popovich could have inside information and, if starting Ginobili was about honoring him rather than an adjustment to beat the Warriors, maybe the coach just tipped Ginobili’s hand.

Interesting video: Every LeBron James paint bucket in the 2017 playoffs

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Yes, the video is a little long, more than eight minutes. Have you watched LeBron James these playoffs?

LeBron has been the best player in the postseason and one of the reasons — along with his hitting threes and great passing — has been how often he got into the paint and scored buckets. He has taken advantages of mismatches (and there may be only one defender in the league who is not a mismatch) and attacked the rim, getting into the paint and finishing impressively.

JM Poulard, who has written for a number of good NBA blogs over the years, compiled this video and it’s interesting to watch. Both in terms of how LeBron is getting his buckets inside, and to just marvel at the greatest player of his generation.

Warriors’ co-owner Joe Lacob hopes team sees Cavaliers in Finals due to “unfinished business”

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It’s easy for him to say, Warriors’ co-owner Joe Lacob doesn’t have to set foot on the court in the next round and see LeBron James on the other side.

However, I bet a lot of Warriors’ players feel the same way.

Lacob spoke to some reporters after the Warriors swept their way into the playoffs. He suggested the Warriors would prefer a rubber match, a trilogy with the Cavaliers. Here are the comments, via Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.

Honestly, I don’t really care who we play (shoots a sly grin). Ok, maybe a slight preference for Cleveland. Only because I feel we have some unfinished business from last season…

“I think (this team is better than last year’s). Honestly. I think we’re better. It’s hard not to be better when you have a guy as good as Kevin Durant on your team. We were awful good last year. The one difference is Steph was hurt, as we all know. How much we can debate. But he was not what you see out there now. Then of course we had some other issues in the Finals. With Kevin, this is a very, very good team. The opposition is going to be good in the Finals. So not taking anything for granted.”

These Warriors create new challenges for how the Cavaliers attacked them last postseason, particularly offensively because of Durant’s ability to score one-on-one. But we’ll get into a lot of that over the next eight days until the Finals begin.

Just don’t doubt the Warriors would like a little revenge.

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