San Antonio Spurs' Duncan congratulates teammate Diaw during a time out during first quarter play against the Miami Heat in Game 5 of their NBA Finals basketball series in San Antonio

Boris Diaw’s defense slowed LeBron down. I know, right?


SAN ANTONIO — The MVPs for the Spurs Game 5 win you know — Manu Ginobili came back like the prodigal son to have a huge game, Danny Green knocked down any shot given inside the San Antonio city limits, and Tony Parker continues to be the guy who should get the Finals MVP award if the Spurs win because he makes it all go for them.

But Boris Diaw’s defense on LeBron James also was key.

Yes, you read that right. Diaw’s defense on LeBron in the second half was key — LeBron shot just 1-of-8 over the big Frenchman.

“Boris is a pretty good defender,” Tony Parker said after the game. “He looks awkward, but he gets the job done. Every time in Europe he guards guys like that, the Kirilenkos, stuff like that, the fours who can’t really move.

“I think it gives a different look for LeBron. Kawhi (Leonard) is doing a great job. The whole team we’re trying to do a good job. I think Boris, we have confidence in him that for a couple of minutes he can do a good job.”

Kawhi Leonard has been doing a good job, but LeBron was attacking for much of the game and Diaw was oddly better suited to deal with that.

Diaw, 6’8” with a body by Whataburger, would stand a few feet off LeBron, put his long arm out to contest a jumper and try to make it hard to drive the lane. LeBron is strong, when he drives he bullies his way to the rim with his shoulder. Diaw’s size lets him absorb that contact in a way Leonard or Gary Neal cannot.

Diaw was on LeBron through the late third quarter and early fourth quarter stretch when the Spurs went on a run to pull away and basically put the game away. LeBron had a free throw in there but little more.

You can’t stop LeBron with one player or one look — Diaw got beat a couple of times but Tiago Splitter and Tim Duncan had time to get over and help (you can’t drive around Diaw quickly).

Nobody stops LeBron but the Spurs have contained him this series, for the most part, by throwing a lot of different looks at him — the long and athletic Leonard, the strong Gary Neal, the big body of Diaw. The Spurs bring the doubles in the post on LeBron and make him a passer as much as they can (they will live with the Mario Chalmers three over the LeBron dunk).

It has worked. Expect more Diaw on LeBron in Game 6, and if it works again the Spurs may be hanging out with Larry O’Brien after the game Tuesday.

Kevin Love unsure about opening-night return

Kevin Love
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He’s back in practice with the Cavaliers, but there’s still no clarity on whether Kevin Love will be available for the season opener. Love had shoulder surgery in April after suffering a torn labrum in Game 4 of the Cavs’ first-round series against the Celtics, and doctors initially gave him a timetable of four to six months for a return. The six-month end of that is right around opening night (October 27), but Love still doesn’t know whether he’ll be able to play against the Bulls—although he is hopeful.

Via the Sporting News‘ Sean Deveney:

“I feel pretty good,” Love told Sporting News. “As far as the opener goes, I am not completely sure. I’ll probably get with the doctors and see what they have to say. I know that my six-month post-op is coming up here pretty fast. As far as getting the strength back, getting the range of motion, I feel pretty good, so I am looking forward to getting into some more contact, getting into a rhythm and getting out there as quickly as I can.”

Love has been cleared for 3-on-3 practices, but not yet for 5-on-5. If it were up to him, he’d be back on the court, but he understands he needs to follow the rehab protocol for his injury.

“(Six months is) just a ballpark figure that has generally been thrown out there by anybody who has talked about the rehab process for this kind of an injury,” Love said. “I like to think that I am ahead of the game, but there’s different tests and the due diligence that the doctor will go through and the training staff will go through. So all I can do is go out there every day and attack my rehab and hopefully I will be able to go out there and help these guys as soon as possible.”

At the very least, the Cavs will be without Kyrie Irving (still recovering from knee surgery) and Iman Shumpert (out up to three months with a wrist injury), and probably Tristan Thompson too, unless his contract situation changes unexpectedly. So having Love available would be some much-needed good news. But it’s more important that Love (and everyone else) is healthy for the playoffs. If he’s not ready to play, there’s no need to rush back for an October game.

Greg Smith fails physical, will not join Pelicans

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With both starter Omer Asik and backup Alexis Ajinca out injured for the rest of the preseason (and maybe a little longer), the Pelicans are looking for a center to put next to Anthony Davis for a stretch. That could include a handful of regular season games.

Greg Smith was going to be that man, but the 24-year-old failed his physical, reports the Times-Picayune.

The New Orleans Pelicans were set to sign power forward Greg Smith, but sources said Friday night that he failed his physical examination and will not be joining the team.

And so the search goes on.

The problem is, there are not quality big men still out there on the market, there is a limited supply and just about anyone worth having is spoken for. A few with non-guaranteed contracts may be waived as we get closer to the end of training camps, but that is likely a couple of weeks away.

With both Asik and Ajinca expected back in a few weeks, it’s not worth making a trade or some big move to bring in a center, the Pelicans are just going to have to live with what is out there.