If this does end up being the NBA finals matchup, we are all in for a lot of fun. These teams are starting to develop a real dislike of each other.
Miami and Oklahoma City got together for an intense, physical, playoff-style game Wednesday were LeBron James make his MVP case and the Heat got a measure of revenge on Oklahoma City with a 98-93 win. They split their season series, each winning at home (OKC rolled the Heat two weeks ago).
It was a game where each team picked up some flagrants (including Russell Westbrook on LeBron and Kendrick Perkins on Dwyane Wade). There was some trash talking. There were messages both ways. You could feel a little playoff
Be careful about reading much into regular season statements — the Lakers dominated the Mavericks and the Bulls owned the Heat last regular season. But what we can say is that both of these teams are better on their home court and a finals series between them could be penciled in for seven games. Seven hard games.
One of the best part of Heat/Thunder games is that LeBron and Kevin Durant go head-to-head a lot.
After a sub-par performance in OKC (and lackluster play for a couple of weeks) LeBron came out with the kind of game that had him the clear frontrunner for the MVP back at the All-Star break. He dropped 34 points by starting out nailing threes then going into the post and bullying his way to the rim. All the time he was recognizing the play and hitting the open man — he finished with 10 assists. (A few of those were to Shane Battier — James Harden sagged off him a lot and the veteran made the Thunder pay.)
At the other end he was charged with stopping Kevin Durant — and nobody stops Kevin Durant. KD had 30 points on 21 shots but struggled from three (2-7) including missing a rushed deep three with 15 seconds remaining in the game that could have tied it. Westbrook added 28 but was just 9-26 shooting on the night.
The MVP race comes down to this — LeBron James has had the better statistical season, but voters (media members) are drawn to stories and narrative and as Durant is the great young player on the fun young team he has an advantage. Just like Derrick Rose did last year. This game put LeBron back in the mind of a lot of voters.
These are two teams with great athletes that like to play up-tempo — and you could feel the playoff series hatred starting to build a little. Both sides will say it’s one game and forgotten now, but they’ll remember just fine if both of them are playing in June.
JaVale McGee is getting another shot in the NBA.
He played just 34 games off the bench for Dallas last season. He played 23 games the season before that due to injury.
But the Golden State Warriors are thin up front — Zaza Pachulia will get the bulk of the minutes at the five (when the Warriors use a traditional center), and there is the often-injured Anderson Varejao behind him. The Warriors could use another big. So they are giving McGee a look, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.
This is a low-risk move by the Warriors, and it’s worth the gamble. Vintage McGee, for all his Shaqtin’ a Fool flaws, is far more athletic and a better rim protector than any of the guys the Warriors now have at the five. If it doesn’t work out — and the odds are it will not — they cut him, if it does they pay him a minimum deal.
I hope he makes it, just because the league is more fun when McGee is in it.
At some point, Russell Westbrook will sit down with members of the media and discuss Kevin Durant leaving the Thunder, how he felt about the move, and how it impacted him both personally and professionally.
But not right now. He remains silent.
This Vine making its way around, where Westbrook laughs — probably at the question, although read into that whatever you want — when asked about Durant sums up where we are.
In the full Facebook clip, Westbrook walks away, too. It’s his right. He can talk about it on his schedule.
Rudy Gay expressed displeasure with how the Kings were handling trade rumors. Sacramento general manager Vlade Divac retorted that Gay had his phone number.
Apparently, Gay found it.
Sean Cunningham of ABC 10:
Following those comments, Gay told ABC10 on Thursday afternoon that he had since spoken with Divac.
“I have talked to Vlade,” Gay said from his Nike Skills Academy at Hardwood Palace in Rocklin. “I can’t say since Monday stuff has changed, but I just feel like we have a little bit of time to start changing things.”
Gay, who will be entering his 11th NBA season, has insisted he hasn’t demanded a trade and should he remain a member of the Kings by the time training camp opens in October, he says he’ll report and be ready to go.
“At this point in my career I just want to be happy,” said Gay. “I talked to Vlade and we’re trying to make that happen.”
Even if he hasn’t demanded a trade, it sure sounds like Gay would welcome one. I doubt the Kings would mind moving on, either.
But it takes another team to trade for Gay, and so far, one hasn’t emerged.
In the meantime, tensions appear to be eased. Open communication usually helps.
Jimmy Butler said of the Derrick Rose trade, “It had to be one of us.”
Butler also says not blame him for the Bulls losing Rose — or Joakim Noah, who’s also headed to the Knicks.
Jimmy Butler, via Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:
“That has nothing to do with me, I don’t move guys,” Butler said. “People are gonna think what they’re gonna think. I don’t let it bother me. I know where I stand, I know who I am. It’s one more thing for people to talk about. I don’t pay too much attention to it.”
I can believe Butler didn’t directly urge Chicago to trade Rose, but Butler’s presence matters.
Rose and Butler clearly didn’t ideally mesh on the court, and there might have been off-court issues, too. If it weren’t for Butler, the Bulls might have kept Rose.
Noah is a little different, because it seems he, more than the team, was ready for a breakup. Still, that might have also had to do with Butler.
Butler is trying to grow into a leader, a natural progression for someone who became his team’s best player. But that was awkward with the Bulls’ previous leaders — Rose and Noah — still in the locker room. There’s no simple solution, though moving on without Rose and Noah will clear that cloud.
So — without other information — it’s too much to “blame” Butler for Rose’s and Noah’s departures. But Rose and Noah moving from Chicago to New York can still be ascribed to Butler.
It might not have been something asked for directly. It’s just the reality of the situation.