NBA Finals Game 7 Spurs vs. Heat: Miami earns repeat title in dramatic Game 7

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The Miami Heat are back-to-back NBA Champions, but the San Antonio Spurs made them earn every last bit of it.

It was a hard-fought if not always pretty Game 7, but LeBron James finished with 37 points and 12 rebounds to lead Miami to a 95-88 win.

LeBron was rightfully named NBA Finals MVP. He earned that with a good series where he stepped up and played his best when his team needed it in the fourth quarter of Game 6 and all of Game 7. LeBron joins Michael Jordan and Bill Russell as the only players to win back-to-back MVPs and NBA titles in the same years.

This has been the most entertaining NBA Finals in years and that was due in large part to a Spurs team that never wilted under Miami’s pressure. Tim Duncan had 24 points, 21-year-old Kawhi Leonard had 18 and the Spurs as a team showed why they were one of the best teams of their generation. But in the end Tony Parker had to sit as he was gassed and Manu Ginobili made turnovers. Even the great Duncan missed a clean look to tie it late.

Miami had great games from LeBron and Dwyane Wade — 23 points as he attacked on two bad knees — and then the surprise performance from Shane Battier who had 18 points with an NBA Finals record 6 three pointers. But it was the pressure of the Heat defense that ended up getting them this series, they forced enough key turnovers and made enough plays to win.

And with that they carve out a little bit of NBA history as back-to-back champions.

 

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Here is our live blog from Game 7:

END OF REGULATION The Miami Heat are back-to-back NBA Champions. They had to earn it in one of the best NBA Finals we have seen in a long time.

END OF REGULATION MIAMI WINS 95-88.

:16.3 Fourth Quarter: Ginobili misses long three, desperate three. Wade gets rebound, fouled, hits one. 95-88 Miami.

:23.5 Fourth Quarter: LeBron hits both, 94-88 Heat.

:23.5 Fourth Quarter: Tony Parker on the bench and Manu Ginobili drove baseline and then threw a bad pass that LeBron steals. Terrible play by Manu.

:28 Fourth Quarter: If Game 6 taught us anything, it is that this game is not over.

:28 Fourth Quarter: LeBron with pull-up 18-footer gives Heat 92-88 lead.

:46 Fourth Quarter: Tim Duncan had a chance to tie, had smaller Battier on him in the block, spun to the lane and missed, then missed the tip in. Oh, what a chance. Heat lead 90-88 with the ball and a chance to really make this hard on the spurs.

1:35 Fourth Quarter: Chalmers fouled by Green on a drive (bad reach in by Green), missed both freebies. 90-88 Heat.

2:00 Fourth Quarter: Leonard has ice water in his veins, hits three. 90-88 Heat.

2:34 Fourth Quarter: Wade scores inside. Duncan misses. 90-85 Heat.

3:06 Fourth Quarter: Shane Battier with 18 points on 6-7 from three. That is an NBA Finals Game 7 record for threes. He is the role player who steps up.

3:06 Fourth Quarter: Duncan with an and-1 that is Bosh’s fifth foul. 88-85 Heat.

3:17 Fourth Quarter: Shane Battier with a corner three on a LeBron kickout.Heat by 6.

4:09 Fourth Quarter: Ginobili three made it 85-82 and Green had a chance to tie on a Heat turnover.

4:58 Fourth Quarter: Chris Bosh 0-5 for the game, but he has played good defense on Duncan. Thing is, Duncan still scores because he is a machine with 12 counter moves in the post. 83-79 Heat.

5:37 Fourth Quarter: LeBron James with 31 points on 19 shots. Dwyane Wade has added 20 playing on two bad knees. Together 51 points on 38 shots.

5:37 Fourth Quarter: Ginobili throws the ball into the first row, fifth turnover of the quarter for the Spurs, that will kill them. LeBron bucket makes it 83-77 Heat.

6:38 Fourth Quarter: 81-77 Heat. Spurs refuse to go away, helped a lot by Ginobili with 15.

7:34 Fourth Quarter: Common foul from Spurs on key play — Spurs fouled LeBron in back court as he passed to Wade, who had a clear path for a fast break… except Wade had fallen and would not have been able to make a play. Good call by refs, Wade would not have scored on that play.

8:34 Fourth Quarter: I’m going to go through withdrawals tomorrow with this series over. It has been that good.

8:34 Fourth Quarter: Battier misses three. Battier misses three. Kawhi Leonard has 13 rebounds already. 77-75 Heat.

9:42 Fourth Quarter: Birdman takes an offensive charge, gets an offensive rebound. Miami looks quicker and like they have more energy right now. LeBron free throws make it 77-73 Heat.

10:28 Fourth Quarter: That didn’t take long, Duncan and Parker back in. 76-73 Heat

11:05 Fourth Quarter: Battier with another three, 5-5 from deep. 75-71 Heat.

11:55 Fourth Quarter: Spurs stick with their rotation, rest Parker and Duncan to start fourth, Wade and LeBron in the game.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: Both teams shot 50 percent in the third quarter. They loosened up.

END OF THIRD QUARTER: 72-71 Heat. Manu Gimobili made an impressive driving layup, the Heat had five seconds and Chalmers drove and took a long straight-away three that he banked in just before the buzzer. Wild end to the quarter. Chalmers loves his buzzer beaters in big games.

:27 Third Quarter: Shane Battier with his fourth three of the night ties it, 69-69.

1:33 Third Quarter: Ray Allen 0-4 from three tonight with three turnovers. Might be time for Heat to go away from him. 67-66 Heat.

2:18 Third Quarter: The shot clocks over the basket at one end are out, so they are turning off at both ends… wait, they fixed it. So all is right with the world. Sort of.

2:34 Third Quarter: This in some ways feels like the games the Spurs have won when they take the Heat’s best punch and keep finding ways. But will their legs hold out in the fourth is the question. If so they could win this.

2:34 Third Quarter: Duncan layup off pass from Diaw — Spurs once again withstand a little Heat run. 65-64 Spurs.

3:33 Third Quarter: Heat don’t want LeBron driving but he hits his second three in a row. Five threes from LeBron. Kawhi Leonard answers with an impressive and-1 62-60 Heat.

4:23 Third Quarter: LeBron drains his fourth three of the game on a pick-and-pop with Ray Allen. 59-57 Heat.

5:27 Third Quarter: Wade with a nice drive across the lane floater. Green answers with his first three all game. 57-56 Spurs. Green at 27 three for series.

6:48 Third Quarter: 54-54 at a timeout after Green got trapped. Rough game for Green, he has missed all his threes.

7:50 Third Quarter: Duncan with a bucket to tied it 54-54. Also, Duncan has four steals this game.

8:02 Third Quarter: Heat take lead on that pretty LeBron shot.

8:36 Third Quarter: Spurs turnover becomes pretty LeBron to Wade dunk in transition. 54-52 Heat.

9:55 Third Quarter: LeBron had time to build a campfire, make some smores, clean his hands, then set his feet and make a three. 51-48 Heat.

11:01 Third Quarter: Both teams looking a little more steady to start the second half, 46-46 tie.

HALFTIME: Here is the Heat shot chart by zone for the first half.

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HALFTIME: Here is the Spurs shot chart by zone for the first half.

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HALFTIME: This has been a slugfest of a first half, in particular compared to what was a pretty series up to then most of the time.

HALFTIME: Spurs took 26 shots in the paint in the first half, but hit just 45 percent of them. Heat, however, only 10 shots in the paint. They are knocking down jumpers now, but can they keep that up? Spurs would be willing to bet no.

HALFTIME: Heat shot 43.2 percent overall and 5-14 from three led by 15 from LeBron James and 14 from Dwyane Wade. They’d have a bigger lead but had 8 turnovers.

HALFTIME: Spurs shot 35 percent for first half, led by 13 points from Tim Duncan and 10 from Tony Parker. They are just 2-7 from three but got some good minutes from Manu Ginobili.

HALFTIME: 46-44 Heat as half ends with a Wade step back jumper.

1:25 Second Quarter: Ginobili draws questionable foul, hits both free throws, 42-40 Spurs back in lead.

1:43 Second Quarter: LeBron three, Leonard drive and foul. Next possession Duncan three. 40-40 tie.

2:53 Second Quarter: Heat have their 9th turnover of the game, this one courtesy Ray Allen. Heat have cracked 40 percent shooting barrier but turnovers helping keep Spurs close.

3:02 Second Quarter: Heat win scramble for loose ball on the floor, they seem to be winning a lot of 50/50 balls. 37-34 Heat.

4:15 Second Quarter: Spurs hanging around thanks to “look what I found” Gary Neal bank shot from three, and a couple Tim Duncan free throws. 35-32 Heat.

5:21 Second Quarter: LeBron James with a three makes it 33-27 Heat. Spurs have to hold on and not let a run happen.

6:29 Second Quarter: LeBron with a good an impressive and-1. So hard to foul him and stop his shooting motion. 30-27 Heat.

6:40 Second Quarter: Both teams shooting 36.7 percent, Heat hotter from three but turning ball over four more times. 27-27 tie.

7:46 Second Quarter: Duncan with the and-1 where he picked up the third foul on Bosh and sends him to the bench, Chris Andersen back in. 27-27 tie.

8:07 Second Quarter: Tony Parker post up? Tony Parker post up. 25-24 Heat.

9:12 Second Quarter: Heat get three offensive rebounds in once sequence, leads to a Chalmers drive and layup. 23-20 Heat.

9:55 Second Quarter: The in-arena music in Miami is like being in a dance club. In San Antonio it’s like 1988 Metal Fest.

9:55 Second Quarter: Shane Battier is shooting like he’s back at Cameron Indoor Arena, but the 7th Heat turnover leads the Spurs back. 21-20 Heat.

11:12 Second Quarter: Another Battier three. 21-16 Heat.

END OF FIRST QUARTER: Shane Battier with 6 points, he could be the role player star you know would come out of somewhere this quarter. Tim Duncan was really solid for the Spurs but not anyone else.

END OF FIRST QUARTER: 18-16 Heat after 1. Not a very pretty first quarter. Heat shooting 36.8 percent, Spurs 31.8 percent.

:33 First Quarter: Another Shane Battier open three and Heat have their first lead, 18-15.

:50 First Quarter: Spurs have Duncan and Parker sitting, this is a key stretch for the Heat. Battier three and Birdman putback next possession 15-15

1:02 First Quarter: Drake is in the house, they showed him on the scoreboard. He has a Heat championship ring from last year… no, I have no idea why.

2:12 First Quarter: Spurs start out shooting 35% with 3 early turnovers, Heat 30.8% and they have 4 turnovers. Guys are tight. Not a surprise, especially if you remember the wrestling match that was Lakers/Celtics Game 7 in 2010.

3:03 First Quarter: Birdman with a block 15-10 Spurs.

6:18 First Quarter: The Spurs out to fast starts (or the Heat off to slow starts) has been a pattern this series. When the Spurs are on they don’t wilt under the Heat’s runs later in the game that close the gap.

6:18 First Quarter: Ginobili has to sit with his second foul. Heat shooting 2-of-8 to start and the lack of outside shots is not pulling the Spurs defense out of the paint. 11-6 Spurs

7:22 First Quarter: Hangover from last game, what hangover? 11-4 Spurs lead. They bounced back, the question is will their legs get tired in the second half.

8:01 First Quarter: Duncan starts 2-2 shooting, but Spurs with 2 turnovers. Chalmers off to a rough start. Ginobili with a three 9-2 Spurs.

9:58 First Quarter: Tim Duncan with a steal then he leads the “fast” break and dunks. 6-2 Spurs.

10:48 First Quarter: Tony Parker scores the first bucket of the game, a backdoor cut where Mike Miller lost him. LeBron jumper on the other end. 2-2.

11:25 First Quarter: LeBron starts on Ginobili, which means Chalmers on Parker.

12:00 First Quarter: Best part of the being in the arena, I don’t have to see Jessie Williams social media thing they apparently keep doing before the games (according to people complaining on my twitter timeline).

12:00 First Quarter: Dwyane Wade could be key — if he is off tonight and the Spurs defense can ignore him outside 15 feet they will pack the paint and make things hard for LeBron. If they need to be honest on him, Mike Miller, Mario Chalmers and the rest things open up for the Heat offense.

12:00 First Quarter: Heat can’t go away from Julia Dale at this point.

12:00 First Quarter: Every Game 7 has a role player rise up as a star, that is going to be fascinating. Remember in 2010 it was then Ron Artest, now Metta World Peace, who won Game 7 for the Lakers against the Celtics. Both teams were tight that day — Kobe Bryant and Paul Pierce included. That was more wrestling match than basketball game and the winning team shot just over 32 percent. We’ll see who is loose tonight.

12:00 First Quarter: If you haven’t seen it, we have the video of LeBron James talking to the media before the game up live here at PBT, check it out.

12:00 First Quarter: We should note that Danny Green of the Spurs said before the game that he has come down with some kind of bug and is feeling a little off. May not impact his play, but something to watch.

One game. For the NBA championship.

Welcome to the ProBasketballTalk live blog for Game 7. This has been the best, most entertaining NBA Finals series in a while so it is fitting that it  has gone 7 games — and it’s good for us as fans. I’m Kurt, your host and bartender for the evening. I will be keeping you updated on the score, the action, the vibe and all things Game 7. Plus there will be snide remarks and sarcasm. Just know that going in.

Now pull up a chair and have fun.

Three questions the Utah Jazz must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season:
52-30, lost to the Golden State Warriors in the first round.

I know what you did last summer: Most notably, lost a free agent bid to keep Gordon Hayward. Drafted Tony Bradley and Donovan Mitchell. Signed Jonas Jerebko, Royce O'Neale, Thabo Sefolosha, and Ekpe Udoh. Re-signed Joe Ingles.

THREE QUESTIONS THE JAZZ MUST ANSWER:

1) Can the offense be effective? Last season’s team was based off of the third best defense in the NBA. It’s no secret that the key to success in Utah and indeed the NBA is to have a strong unit on that end of the floor.

But they were also the slowest team in terms of pace last season and were 12th in offensive efficiency. That number is potentially set to dip after Gordon Hayward made his exit to Boston to join the Celtics. A number of young players must step up for this squad, as well as some newcomers.

Ricky Rubio knows how to run an offense and get players to be their best on the offensive side of the floor. He is certainly going to make things exciting, and that is the hope in Utah. We also have a healthy Alec Burks to look forward to (hopefully) and a wide open berth for Rodney Hood. Add in a dash of power from Derrick Favors, and some wing depth from Thabo Sefolosha and there are new roles abound.

This will really be a test for head coach Quin Snyder, who has to work in major new faces like Rubio and will need to see if he can juice things up a little bit next year with less proven players.

2) Can the young guys step into their new roles? I know we have heard this before when it comes to Utah, but this season more than ever will need to be a big one for Burks with Hayward absent. I tend to be more skeptical in any case, and no doubt Utah fans are as well when it comes to the oft-injured guard.

Perhaps more important, it is Hood that will need to be less of a streaky scorer and more of a consistent offensive weapon for the Jazz. The hole left on offense by Hayward for Hood will be considerable, even as he has help from Sefolosha, Rubio, and Dante Exum on the wing.

Exum is an interesting case here as well, as he has been sidelined for a significant portion of the time with this squad due to injury. Exum had a lot of hype coming into his rookie season, and now heading into his fourth he will need to be much better lest he force his team into a tight spot.

3) Is this still a playoff team? This seems broad, but it is perhaps the most interesting question to ask about the Jazz. Yes, they have a perennial DPOY candidate as their highest paid player in Rudy Gobert. They also have a league favorite in Rubio at point guard, a young scorer in Hood, potential in Burks, bench scoring and rebounding in Favors, and a league pass jewel in Ingles.

For as difficult as it will be to replace the production of Hayward from a basketball standpoint, this isn’t a team that has been completely blown apart. They lost their star, which seems more common in today’s NBA. But they didn’t lose the structure around him, and in fact they have been growing their minor league type guys for seasons on end.

They are perhaps one of the only teams in the NBA who are semi-prepared to lose a star like Hayward. But again, this is mostly from a roster perspective. We still have to wonder whether the offense can be efficient and consistent on a nightly basis, and whether the new parts will fit together with the old ones.

I like a lot of the things the Jazz did this summer and it still goes to say they could be a playoff team this season. If anything, at least they should be fun to watch on defense.

Trump’s comments about anthem, Curry inflame sports stars

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SOMERSET, N.J. (AP) — President Donald Trump denounced protests by NFL players and rescinded a White House invitation for NBA champion Stephen Curry in a two-day rant that targeted top professional athletes and brought swift condemnation from league executives and star players alike on Saturday.

Wading into thorny issues of race and politics, Trump’s comments in a Friday night speech and a series of Saturday tweets drew sharp responses from some of the nation’s top athletes, with LeBron James calling the president a “bum.”

Trump started by announcing that Curry, the immensely popular two-time MVP for the Golden State Warriors, would not be welcome at the White House for the commemorative visit traditionally made by championship teams after Curry indicated he didn’t want to come. Later, Trump reiterated what he said at a rally in Alabama the previous night – that NFL players who kneel for the national anthem should be fired.

The Warriors said it was made clear to them that they were not welcome at the White House.

Curry had said he did not want to go anyway, but the Warriors had not made a collective decision before Saturday – and had planned to discuss it in the morning before the president’s tweet, to which coach Steve Kerr said : “Not surprised. He was going to break up with us before we could break up with him.”

Others had far stronger reactions.

“U bum (at)StephenCurry30 already said he ain’t going!” James tweeted in a clear message to the president – a post that Twitter officials said was quickly shared many more times than any other he’s sent. “So therefore ain’t no invite. Going to White House was a great honor until you showed up!”

Curry appreciated James’ strong stance.

“That’s a pretty strong statement,” Curry said. “I think it’s bold, it’s courageous for any guy to speak up, let alone a guy that has as much to lose as LeBron does and other notable figures in the league. We all have to kind of stand as one the best we can. For me, the questions how things have gone all summer if I wanted to go to the White House or not, I told you yesterday being very transparent what my vote would have been in a meeting had we had one, based on just trying to let people know I didn’t want to be applauded for an accomplishment on the court when the guy that would be doing the patting on the back is somebody I don’t think respects the majority of Americans in this country.”

James also released a video Saturday, saying Trump has tried to divide the country. “He’s now using sports as the platform to try to divide us,” James said. “We all know how much sports brings us together. … It’s not something I can be quiet about.”

The Warriors said that when they go to Washington this season they will instead “celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion – the values that we embrace as an organization.” General manager Bob Myers said he was surprised by the invitation being pulled.

“The White House visit should be something that is celebrated,” Myers said. “So we want to go to Washington, D.C., and do something to commemorate kind of who we are as an organization, what we feel, what we represent and at the same time spend our energy on that. Instead of looking backward, we want to look forward.”

Added Kerr after his team’s first practice of the season, “These are not normal times.”

As a candidate and as president, Trump’s approach has at times seemed to inflame racial tensions in a deeply divided country while emboldening groups long in the shadows. Little more than a month ago, Trump came under fire for his response to a white supremacists’ protest in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump also pardoned Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Arizona’s Maricopa County, who had been found guilty of defying a judge’s order to stop racially profiling Latinos.

Trump’s latest entry into the intersection of sports and politics started in Alabama on Friday night, when he said NFL players who refused to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner” are exhibiting a “total disrespect of our heritage.”

Several NFL players, starting last season with then-San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, have either knelt, sat or raised fists during the anthem to protest police treatment of blacks and social injustice. Last week at NFL games, four players sat or knelt during the anthem, and two raised fists while others stood by the protesters in support.

“That’s a total disrespect of everything that we stand for,” Trump said, encouraging owners to act. He added, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, you’d say, `Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out! He’s fired.”

On Saturday, Trump echoed his stance.

“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,” Trump tweeted. “If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”

Trump has enjoyed strong support from NFL owners, with at least seven of them donating $1 million each to Trump’s inaugural committee. They include New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, who Trump considers a friend.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell strongly backed the players and criticized Trump for “an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL” while several team owners issued similar statements. New York Giants owners John Mara and Steve Tisch said the comments were inappropriate and offensive. Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, who has supported the players who have knelt, said the country “needs unifying leadership right now, not more divisiveness,” and San Francisco 49ers CEO Jed York ripped Trump’s comments as “callous.”

Plenty of other current and former stars from across sports weighed in Saturday. Richard Sherman of Seattle Seahawks said the president’s behavior is “unacceptable and needs to be addressed.”

In his Friday remarks, Trump also bemoaned what he called a decline in violence in football, noting that it’s “not the same game” because players are now either penalized or thrown out of games for aggressive tackles.

Trump has met with some championship teams already in his first year in office.

Clemson visited the White House this year after winning the College Football Playoff, some members of the New England Patriots went after the Super Bowl victory and the Chicago Cubs went to the Oval Office in June to commemorate their World Series title. The Cubs also had the larger and more traditional visit with President Barack Obama in January, four days before the Trump inauguration.

North Carolina, the reigning NCAA men’s basketball champion, said Saturday it will not visit the White House this season. The Tar Heels cited scheduling conflicts.

 

Warriors forward Draymond Green said the good news was that Golden State won’t have to talk about going to the White House again – unless they win another title during the Trump presidency.

“Michelle Obama said it best,” Green said. “She said it best. They go low. We go high. He beat us to the punch. Happy the game is over.”

Reynolds reported from Miami. AP Sports Writer Janie McCauley in Oakland, California, and AP writer Corey Williams in Detroit contributed to this story.

The Good, the bad, the ugly: A breakdown of the Carmelo Anthony trade

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It was always a question of when, not if, Carmelo Anthony would get traded. However, Anthony’s no-trade clause and desire to go to Houston with Chris Paul and James Harden led the drama to drag out all summer. When Anthony realized his choice was to add teams to his list or go to Knicks camp because a Houston deal was not happening, he added the Thunder, and well, that escalated quickly. Thunder GM Sam Presti and new Knicks GM Scott Perry had a long history, they had already laid some groundwork on possible scenarios, and when Anthony opened the door, Presti and the Thunder rushed through.

Anthony is headed to the Thunder for Enes Kanter, Doug McDermott, and Chicago’s 2018 second round pick (which OKC controlled). The trade will be finalized Monday with the league.

Let’s break down the good, the bad, and the ugly of this trade.

THE GOOD

The Oklahoma City Thunder. One year ago, when Kevin Durant announced he was joining the gold rush in California, other teams were speculating how things could — more likely would — fall apart for OKC. Would they have to trade Westbrook when the frustrated star wasn’t happy? How long before everything they built fell apart. Except it didn’t work out that way — Westbrook signed an extension (essentially for one year), then went on to win the MVP. This summer the Thunder went out and got Paul George and Anthony to go around Westbrook, three stars on a team that already had a solid foundation of role players (Steven Adams, Patrick Paterson, and Andre Roberson, for example).

The Thunder went all in — and it’s a brilliant move. It’s a risky one because Anthony, George, and Westbrook (when he opts out) all will be free agents next summer and they could all walk, but if the Thunder had done nothing but run back last year’s team Westbrook almost certainly walks. Now, they have as good a shot as anyone at dethroning the Warriors. Yes, a healthy Golden State team may be too much, but when you have a superstar in his prime like Westbrook, you go for it. The Thunder went for it.

The big question is will OKC’s big three learn to sacrifice, and will they do it fast enough? Talk to players that won a ring and they talk about needing to sacrifice part of what they do for the good of the team (taking fewer shots, or Andre Iguodala coming off the bench, and there are other examples). These three have not had to make those kinds of sacrifices before. Will they? And if they will, can they figure it all out fast enough (because all three are almost certainly not back with the Thunder, the cost would be too great)?

Still, this is a bold stroke move. You have to love it.

Sam Presti. The Thunder GM has long been seen as smart and shrewd — he drafted both Westbrook and Harden in spots most teams thought were too high. But this must be his greatest summer yet. Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post put it best.

Next time I buy a car, I want Presti to negotiate. I may only be able to afford a Toyota Corolla, but he’s going to get me a Tesla model X.

Russell Westbrook. Last season it was Russell Westbrook against the world, and he won. He averaged a triple-double — the first player to do it since Oscar Robertson — and dragged the Thunder to the playoffs. But now he’s got some serious help. Westbrook showed he can carry a team, now he’s got the chance to show he can lead a team, that he can make players — superstar players — better.

That is a double-edged sword. It’s an opportunity, but it’s also a challenge — the Thunder just added two players with much higher usage rates than any Westbrook teammates he had last season. As asked above, is Westbrook ready to make the sacrificed needed to win at the highest levels? If Westbrook is up to the challenge he is in the mix for another MVP award, but if not things could move from the good to the ugly category in OKC.

Carmelo Anthony… but be careful what you wish for.
He is out of what had become a toxic environment with him in New York. He is with two other superstars who have a chance to compete at the highest levels of the sport. Anthony may not have gotten his wish to go to Houston, but he got his wish to go to a team that is relevant. A team that could be on a big stage in May.

If Billy Donovan can convince Olympic ‘Melo to be on this team, the Thunder become even more dangerous. Olympic ‘Melo a guy that didn’t worry about minutes or starting, didn’t stop the ball on offense but flowed with the game, and he’s a guy that didn’t demand touches. Anthony could be splitting a lot of time with Patrick Patterson (once Patterson gets healthy) and when OKC needs defense it may turn to Patterson at the four (or Andre Roberson for stretches). Will Anthony make the sacrifices and accept that? Could he lead the second unit for stretches while Westbrook and George rest? Anthony got what he wanted, now he has to prove he deserves it.

The New York Knicks. This trade isn’t really good or bad for the Knicks, but the movie was not “The Good, the bad, and the meh” so we had to put them somewhere. Here is what is good about this trade for the Knicks: They get to make this Kristaps Porzingis‘ team. He is out of the shadow of Anthony, and while the Knicks will lose a lot of games this year, they have a clear path now going forward (Porzingis will need to step up into that leadership role). Also, Kanter is a solid big man (so long as they don’t expect much defense from him). Maybe McDermott will play enough defense in a contract year to provide value beyond his shooting. That 2018 second-round round pick is essentially a late first rounder, the Bulls are terrible so that pick will be no worse than 33 or 34. They can get a good player there.

THE BAD

The New York Knicks. Remember how much the Knicks gave up to get Carmelo Anthony? Four quality players went West, plus picks and other pieces. It is still looked back on around the league as a textbook example of how not to trade for a superstar — don’t strip your team to the bone to get one guy (the Knicks made a host of other mistakes that, combined with Anthony, led to an up-and-down tenure for him in NYC). This trade was the opposite of that, the Knicks didn’t get much in return. The Knicks had been seeking a starter-level wing player, they didn’t get that. They got a pick, but it’s a second rounder. At least they didn’t take any bad contracts on in the trade. The Knicks take a step back with this deal, and while that may be the best thing for them, it still lands them in the bad category for now.

The Los Angeles Lakers. Paul George probably is still going to leave OKC and become a Laker next summer, his camp made his thinking very clear in the run-up to his trade.  However, if George and this improved Thunder team make a run — let’s say 57+ wins then they get to the Western Conference Finals, things that are certainly possible — George and Westbrook are more likely to look at each other and decide to stay together with the Thunder. This is bad for the Lakers because the chances of George leaving Oklahoma City just went down, even if it’s just slightly.

THE UGLY

The Houston Rockets. This is ugly for them on two fronts. First, they thought they were going to get Anthony. There was nobody else in the bidding (because ‘Melo wouldn’t waive his no-trade clause for anyone else) so they had all the leverage. The Knicks didn’t want to deal with the circus of bringing Anthony to camp, they might cave, and the Rockets would get their man. Except the Knicks didn’t cave, Anthony expanded his list, and ‘Melo is now headed to the Thunder.

Second, this puts another elite team in the West. There are now four potential contenders in a conference that is more Game of Thrones than NBA: House Warriors, House Spurs (everyone sleeps on them, don’t do it), House Rockets, and now House Thunder. Those may well be the four best teams in the NBA (only the Cavaliers and maybe Boston could come close to saying they are on that level). Golden State will probably end up sitting on the Iron Thone next June, but there is going to be a lot of hard battles and between now and then — and two of these teams aren’t even going to get out of the second round, which will be seen as a failure. Houstons’ road got harder with this trade.

Warriors respond to Trump, say trip to D.C. will “celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion”

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Last spring during the NBA playoffs, Warriors coach Steve Kerr did not hesitate to criticize President Donald Trump. Stephen Curry also has taken issue with the president and some of his policies.

Saturday, the Warriors were going to discuss an invitation to Trump’s White House — a tradition in many sports where the champion is invited to meet the president and do a photo-op — but on Friday Curry said he would vote no. With that, Trump pulled his invitation.

Saturday the Warriors released a statement.

“While we intended to meet as a team at the first opportunity we had this morning to collaboratively discuss a potential visit to the White House, we accept that President Trump has made it clear that we are not invited. We believe there is nothing more American than our citizens having the right to express themselves freely on matters important to them. We’re disappointed that we did not have an opportunity during this process to share our views or have open dialogue on issues impacting our communities that we felt would be important to raise.

“In lieu of a visit to the White House, we have decided that we’ll constructively use our trip to the nation’s capital in February to celebrate equality, diversity and inclusion — the values that we embrace as an organization.”

That’s classier than some of the responses from others around the NBA to Trump.

The Warriors’ David West explained why the team was leaning toward backing out of going to the White House, and the players’ opposition to Trump.

There would be a number of charitable things the Warriors could do in the area, and the team’s high-profile would draw attention to whatever they choose to focus on. It’s a good move. Try to rise above this silly fracas over a photo-op and do some good.