LeBron says he ‘played like s—‘ in Game 3, guarantees he’ll be better in Game 4

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SAN ANTONIO — The overriding theme for the Miami Heat at practice on Wednesday was to put the lack of effort they brought to their blowout Game 3 loss behind them, and focus on making the necessary adjustments to ensure the same thing doesn’t happen again in Game 4.

LeBron James guaranteed that he personally will turn things around.

“I played like s—,” he said. “I take full responsibility for our team’s performance last night. Me as a leader, I can’t afford to perform like I did last night and expect us to win on the road. It’s that simple. So I’m putting all the pressure on my chest, on my shoulders to come through for our team. That’s the way it is.”

James didn’t shoot the ball well in Game 3, especially from midrange where he made just one of his nine attempts. While finishing with 15 points is obviously a concern, the level of aggression he played with was what he saw as the bigger issue that needs to immediately be corrected.

“I have to do whatever it takes,” James said. “I mean, 7‑for‑21 isn’t going to cut it. Zero free throws. I had 11 rebounds, I had 5 assists, but 7‑for‑21 and zero free throws ain’t going to cut it. So I will be better tomorrow.”

“You can’t have both,” James explained. “If you go 7‑for‑21, but you get to the free‑throw line ten‑plus times, you’re being aggressive. You have to be able to shoot the ball at a high clip from the field if you’re not going to the free‑throw line. You can’t have both. It’s impossible for me to go 7‑for‑21, shoot 33% from the field and not have free throws. You have to figure out ways offensively that you can make an impact.”

The Heat have shown a consistent ability to bounce back after losses this season, and have usually done so in convincing fashion. As recently as Game 2 of the Finals, the Heat won by 19 after dropping a close one at home to open the series.

Miami’s head coach Erik Spoelstra believes his team possesses the necessary confidence in its ability to do it once more, and specifically expects James to be the one who leads the way.

“Look, we have great confidence from our guys and their ability to bounce back and respond in a big way,” Spoelstra said. “And that’s all our focus is the next 24 hours, how do we prepare ourselves to play our best game of the series tomorrow night.  That’s the only thing that matters. LJ has proven himself enough in this league and on the biggest stage. He is going to … he’ll be better.”

James is certain of it.

“I’m just confident in my ability,” he said. “And my teammates are going to put me in positions to succeed, and the coaching staff will put us in positions to succeed. I’m a positive guy. I love the game. I have fun with the game.”

“As dark as it was last night, can’t get no darker than that, especially for me,” James said. “So I guarantee I’ll be better tomorrow for sure.”

Report: Celtics focused on adding All-Star-caliber frontcourt player

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Isaiah Thomas said he he’d happily forgo a renegotiation-and-extension if the Celtics use their cap space to upgrade their roster.

Where are they looking?

A. Sherrod Blakey of CSN New England:

Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.

In the last three years, 22 frontcourt players have been All-Stars. Boston already has one: Al Horford. Could the Celtics land any of the other 22?

Almost certainly unavailable

Free agency

Trade

Free agency or trade

  • Pau Gasol (Though Gasol said he’d opt in, San Antonio might try pushing him out to pursue Paul. If Gasol opts in, the Spurs could also trade him to clear space for Paul.)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (The Mavericks have a $25 million team option on Nowitzki for next season. Nowitzki going to Boston, via trade or free agency, would probably require a mutual agreement between Dallas and him that pursuing a title elsewhere is the right way for him to end his career.)

Report: Spurs exploring Chris Paul pursuit

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The Clippers are taking the Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumors seriously.

And apparently so are the Spurs.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The San Antonio Spurs are exploring the feasibility of making a free-agent run at All-Star point guard Chris Paul, league sources told ESPN.

San Antonio must complete three difficult objectives to land Paul:

  • Clear cap space. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to dump two of them to clear max room. Can they convince Gasol to reverse course and opt out, maybe re-signing at a major discount? Would they trade Parker, who has meant so much to the franchise? Would they deal Aldridge or Green, players who would make major contributions to a Leonard/Paul-led team?
  • Convince Paul to accept a projected max of $152 million over four years rather than the projected $205 million he could get over five years from the Clippers. Although the annual difference is just $3 million and Paul could sign another deal in four years, it’s unlikely he recoups that at age 36.
  • Convince Paul to leave big-market L.A. for small-market San Antonio. Remember, Paul forced his way from small-market New Orleans then ascended into one of the NBA’s biggest endorsement stars.

The Spurs boast a fantastic basketball culture, and Leonard and Popovich make great partners in a championship chase. There are reasons San Antonio is gaining traction with Paul.

But there’s still a lot for the Spurs to overcome. Will they? At least they’re trying rather than just dismissing the plot as unfeasible.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.

Detroit’s Van Gundy honored for cooperation with media, fans

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons has won the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with media and fans, as well as excellence on the court.

The Professional Basketball Writers Association announced the winner Friday. Van Gundy was one of five finalists for the award. The others were Steve Clifford of the Charlotte Hornets, Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets, David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies and Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics.

Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors won the award last season.