Rudy Gay

Rudy Gay had eye surgery this offseason to correct vision problems

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What makes Rudy Gay divisive is simply he is not a good shooter.

He puts up points — career average of 18 a game and 19.5 with the Raptors at the end of last season — but he’s a career 45 percent shooter who hit just 42.5 percent with the Raptors. He shot 32.3 percent from three last season. He attacks the rim and shot 54.7 percent in the restricted area last season, but he took most of his shots (411 total) in the midrange and shot just 36 percent on those. He also took 217 threes above the break (not corner threes) and shot just 34 percent on them. His shot couldn’t space the floor, which is what Memphis needed.

He can create his own shot and he scores a lot, but he doesn’t do it efficiently. That makes him divisive — old-school guys love his shot creation, new school guys can’t stand the wasted possessions. Fact is Grizzlies offense got demonstrably better when his shots last season were redistributed to Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph and Mike Conley. Bottom line to me is with Gay they don’t get to the conference Finals, they were better without him.

But maybe part of the reason Gay had trouble with his shot is he couldn’t see. There had been reports out of Canada he was considering goggles for next season, but instead he had surgery, he confirmed to Adam Figman at SLAM (via Ball Don’t Lie).

One advantage he’ll have heading into next season: He recently had an operation to correct the vision in one of his eyes, an issue that was first reported back in March in the National Post. “I did have vision problems,” Gay confesses, sitting up on the trainer’s table after Gray finishes stretching out his muscles. “Actually, it was terrible. I could hardly get my license.” The National Post reported that he refused to wear the contact lenses he desperately needed, which was correct: “I have a stigma about that stuff—I can’t put anything up my nose and I can’t touch my eyes. I think that just comes from me growing up seeing people on drugs—I got over my stigma of needles, but I couldn’t do any of that other stuff. I couldn’t wear contacts. I wore glasses, sometimes.”

Gay finally had the operation to clear up his sight early this summer. “It wasn’t even a regular operation,” he explains. “It was some kind of crazy operation that took a lot more time to heal than I thought. It sucked. They had to patch it up [after], and I had to take eye drops, all stuff that I hated. But I had to do it. It’s crazy because as much work as I’m putting in working on my shot, if I come back shooting [a better] percent from the three-point line, everybody’s gonna say it’s ’cause of my vision, not the hard work I’m putting in.”

Maybe a little from Column A, a little from Column B. Hard work never hurt.

Gay’s shot creation is a better fit in Toronto than Memphis (where more efficient options existed, and Gay didn’t help because defenders wouldn’t have respected his shot). But if a combination of better vision and better shot selection — plus setting guys like DeMar DeRozan and Jonas Valanciunas (who looked improved at Summer League) — could lead to an improved Raptors team.

We’ll see. At least Gay will see more clearly.

Cavaliers’ defense foundation for blowout win

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers gestures in the second half against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Cleveland blitzed Toronto from the opening tip.

Literally.

Cleveland cranked up their defensive pressure by getting back to aggressively blitzing Raptors’ guards Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan every time they came off a pick. Or they would chase DeRozan over the top of the pick and trail him, never letting him get comfortable to pull up from the midrange. Whatever the defensive scheme, the Cavaliers were physical with Lowry and DeRozan — the pair was 4-of-14 shooting in the first half.

From the start, the Cavaliers defense dictated the flow of the game and set the tone for a 38-point blowout win.

It is that defense they will need to close out this series on the road Friday night.

“We understood that coming back from Game 3 and Game 4 we just didn’t play our defense the right way,” LeBron James said after the game. “We didn’t play how we should have played, and they took advantage of every moment. We had to get back to our staple; we had to get back to what we wanted to do defensively in order for us to play a complete game. That’s the most satisfying thing, the way we defended, holding these guys to 39 percent shooting.”

Defense triggered the offensive runs by the Cavaliers in the first half — Cleveland had eight steals and scored 20 points off turnovers before halftime. Playing with a renewed energy, the Cavs did a fantastic job fighting over screens and disrupting plays, and they closed out on shooters at the arc. It was their best defensive game of the series. It was the polar opposite of how they played in Toronto.

“I think our intensity picked up, our aggressiveness picked up, we were very physical to start the game and it just kind of led to us getting out in transition, us getting steals and getting easy baskets,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said.

“They were locked in, from the start to the finish,” according to Raptors coach Dwane Casey.”The force that they play with is different here and we didn’t meet it.”

Back home and with their backs against the wall, you can expect a very different, very desperate Raptors team. Lowry and DeRozan will shoot better.

But if the Cavaliers pack their defense and take it north of the border this time, they should close out the series.

LeBron James was dunking all over the Raptors (VIDEO)

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With their defense creating turnovers to get breaks — and the Raptors’ defense just breaking down — the Cavaliers put on a dunking exhibition against Toronto Wednesday.

LeBron James led the way, with 23 points and plenty of dunks. Here is another.

To change things up, here is an and-1.

Cavaliers retake series lead at home with rout of Raptors

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 25:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers drives to the basket in the second quarter against the Toronto Raptors in game five of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Eastern Conference Finals have been all about the comforts of home. Through five games between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors, the home team has come out on top convincingly every time. Wednesday’s Game 5 was no different, with the Cavs destroying the Raptors, 116-78 to take a 3-2 series lead.

After a pair of awful games in Toronto, Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving stepped up at home to score 25 and 23 points, respectively, to go along with 23 from LeBron James. The big production from their stars was enough to keep the Raptors at bay — the only other Cavs player to score in double figures was Richard Jefferson, who had 11 points, but it didn’t matter.

On the other side, after coming up huge at home in Games 3 and 4, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined to shoot 7-for-20 from the field Wednesday, and nobody else did much to pick up the slack. After not trailing by 30 at a half at any point this season, Toronto trailed by 31 at halftime, and the lead ballooned to 100-60 at the end of the third quarter. From the beginning, this game was one-sided.

The Cavs can close out the series on the road on Friday, ensuring James’ sixth straight trip to the Finals. But the Raptors have been a different team at home during this series, and in a do-or-die situation they should come out with more fight. It’s hard to imagine things going much worse than they did Wednesday.

Report: Joakim Noah having “positive dialogue” with Bulls about future

Chicago Bulls center Joakim Noah dunks the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Detroit Pistons, Friday, Dec. 18, 2015, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
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And the spin keeps on happening.

First came the report that Joakim Noah was telling teammates he was out of Chicago. Followed by Noah’s agent — the person charged with keeping Noah’s options open — saying that was not true.

Now comes team management — the people who said they want to keep Noah with the Bulls — saying the sides are still talking, and they want him to stay. Via Nick Friedell of ESPN:

Veteran Bulls center Joakim Noah, his representatives and the Chicago front office continue to have a “positive dialogue” about a new contract amid a report that Noah has been telling teammates he’s ready to leave the franchise, a league source told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

Those close to Noah, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, are still hopeful that he will be able to work out an agreement to stay in Chicago long term.

I’m going to let you in on a real insider bit of knowledge on what team Noah will play for next season:

Whatever team pays him the most money.

I know, it’s crazy, but sometimes people make a decision about where to work based on pay. Right now, everything is posturing. Come July 1, money will go on the table, and then Noah will know just how badly the Bulls want to keep him vs. other teams wanting to bring him in. Once the money is out there, if things are roughly even, then minutes and role on the team, lifestyle, weather and all the rest come into play.

But Puffy had it right — it’s all about the Benjamins.