In the regular season, LeBron James actually played well in the fourth quarter — he had the second highest fourth quarter PER in the league. Part of the reason is that the Heat’s rotation let him sit the first four to five minutes of the quarter and rest, then come in with real energy.
In the playoffs — especially the Eastern Conference Finals and Game 1 against Oklahoma City — there has been almost no rest for LeBron.
The result? In Game 1 it was a quiet 7 points on 2-for-6 shooting, with him settling for a lot of jumpers. After the game in the interview room, he looked and sounded tired.
In Game 2 the Heat are going to ask more of LeBron — he likely logs minutes defending Kevin Durant plus he needs to take on more of the offense if Dwyane Wade can’t — and he may well have to do it without rest. Here is what Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, via Brian Windhorst at ESPN.
“We were able to manage his minutes pretty much at a career-low level for the majority of the regular season, and you get to this point, we have 12 days left, I know he has the mentality that he’ll do whatever it takes,” Spoelstra said. “I want him fresh so I’ll work to try to get him some rest, and ideally it won’t be 48, 53, whatever it is.”
Lack of rest isn’t going to fly as an excuse. Nor should it. But this is where the depth of the Thunder pays dividends — they can rest one or two of their “big three” at a time and not really suffer a huge drop off. When LeBron sits the Heat struggle right now. Do that for too long against the Thunder and the Heat will find themselves in a deep hole. The Thunder will be relentless.
It’s something to watch in Game 2 — can LeBron just get a few minutes of rest? How does that impact him when the game is on the line?
It’s just part of the huge mountain the Heat have to climb. And it is a steep one.
The Clippers don’t just play second fiddle to the Lakers in Los Angeles. They play second fiddle to the Lakers in their own arena.
Unless the Clippers want to move from the NBA’s second-biggest market, the former isn’t changing.
Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:
The Clippers want to escape the Lakers’ shadow. Leaving the Staples Center wouldn’t turn the Clippers into L.A.’s team, but it’d give them a new avenue for attention — and revenue.
Of course, if the Clippers stay in the Staples Center, they’ll want the best terms possible. Leaking interest in a new arena only helps their bargaining position.
The small forward of the Wizards’ dreams, Kevin Durant, plays for the Warriors.
So, Washington is left with Otto Porter.
How do the Wizards feel about that?
J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic:
Otto Porter appears likely to become a restricted free agent next summer, with no movement towards an extension to his rookie scale contract with the Wizards before starting the 2016-17 season, league sources tell CSNmidatlantic.com.
Porter, the No. 3 pick in the 2013 draft, has steadily improved in his three NBA seasons. He didn’t exactly take off last season from his breakout 2015 playoffs, but he’s still on an upward trend.
Just 23, Porter should continue in the right direction.
The combo forward a good and long defender. He gets out well in transition, shoots reasonably well from outside and minimizes his mistakes.
Without knowing offer terms, it’s impossible to say whether the Wizards are waiting to see more or Porter is betting on himself. Quite possibly, it’s somewhere in between.
Thunder players were reportedly bothered by the relationship between Kevin Durant and Draymond Green last season.
The Warriors recruited Durant throughout the year, but that got complicated when Golden State met Oklahoma City in the Western Conference finals.
But Green says the players didn’t cross a line.
Green (hat tip: Erik Horne of The Oklahoman):
Me and KD weren’t really talking during the playoffs. During the playoffs, it’s a little different. More is at stake. So, we weren’t talking much, and that’s normal. So, I heard something come out where they said, “Oh, Kevin Durant and Draymond was talking during the playoffs.” They were lying. But if that’s what they want to believe, if that makes them feel better about themselves — and when I say “them,” I’m talking about whoever, whoever’s saying it — then believe it. But they’re wrong.
If Green and Durant kept their distance during the postseason, that seems reasonable.
Durant’s former co-workers shouldn’t have a right to dictate his friends outside work, but when there’s direct competition, it’s a little different. It’s fair to ask Durant to separate himself from Green then.
There’s still no perfect solution. Durant’s and Green’s prior relationship opened the door for questions. But suggesting Durant and Green never should have bonded in the first place is unrealistic.
So, there’s little left to do but hope Durant and Green handled it was well as Green said they did.
Kevin Durant might have left the Thunder, in part, because he grew tired of playing with Russell Westbrook.
But does that mean nobody wants to play with Westbrook?
Presented with that claim, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter refuted it strongly:
Of course, many players want to play with Russell Westbrook. He’s a great player and even better competitor. People want to be around someone so maniacal about winning and capable of delivering.
But there’s an obvious difference between Kanter and Durant. It’s much easier for a pick-and-roll big man than a superstar wing to play with Westbrook.
Westbrook tends to over-dribble, and he can be selfish. I’d understand Durant preferring a team with more ball movement like the Warriors.
Kanter doesn’t have the cachet to pick any team at any salary like Durant did. Of his options, Kanter is probably genuinely happy to play with Westbrook. And the Thunder should be happy to have Westbrook (as long as they do). His strengths far outweigh his flaws.
No scoring star seamlessly blend with each other. Even LeBron James and Dwyane Wade — close friends and one an elite passer — struggled to mesh early in their Heat days. It’s just hard when there’s one ball.
So, it’s unfair to kill Westbrook for this drawback to his game. Maybe he’d click better with another star who’s more aggressive than Durant. And it’s not even as if Westbrook and Durant failed together. Oklahoma City won a lot of games with those two.
Plenty of players would sign up to replace Durant as Westbrook’s partner in crime.