The Extra Pass: Talking “Summer Dreams” with producer of Summer League documentary

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I’m a big fan of the NFL/HBO series “Hard Knocks,” which each year follows a team through training camp and the drama of season-ending injuries and the cut downs — guys are playing for their livelihood and there is inherent drama in that. It’s great television.

But thanks to guaranteed contracts you can’t do the same thing at an NBA training camp, there just isn’t much drama.

Summer League however…

The NBA’s annual two-weeks of games in Las Vegas features rookies, second year players and guys with dreams of landing spots 9 through 12 on an NBA bench, but most of whom will be playing in Europe next year. They are guys with dreams, guys playing for their next job. Add to that this is a tryout for young coaches, potential NBA referees and a host of others around the league. Because of all that the event is now pretty much an NBA convention with players and agents to D-League coaches in town. All of that with Las Vegas as a backdrop.

That caught the attention of the producers of a documentary on the Summer League called “Summer Dreams,” which airs Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.

“We’ve always believed in finding the underdog story, in finding the drama in the less high profile stories,” said Mike Tollin, who helped produce the documentary for Mandalay Sports Media. “In Summer Dreams Victor Oladipo and Anthony Bennett and Shane Larkin and Michael Carter-Williams — the latter two being featured in our show — have less at stake than Romero Osby and Dwayne Davis.”

Osby was the rare college senior coming out who still got drafted — 51st overall, in the second round by the Orlando Magic. That means no guaranteed contracts. Look back over recent drafts and most guys chosen after 45 either never see the NBA or don’t last long if they do — Osby went into the Las Vegas Summer League trying to play for a spot on the Orlando roster. He had to get the coach’s attention. If not, he was going to have to choose between the D-League and staying domestic, under the eyes of NBA GMs, or making a lot more money overseas.

Then there was Davis, who was undrafted after attending four colleges in five years.

“Dwyane Davis was getting $100 a day and was just so excited he was staying in a fancy Las Vegas hotel, but this is a guy that if it doesn’t go well in those two weeks it’s over,” Tollin said. “Find another career. That’s where the drama lies.”

Davis played well enough to get the attention of scouts for a Spanish team, where he signed a six-figure deal for this past season.

Those are the best stories, but there are more.

Then there are the big names. Carter-Williams and his mother/manager are prominently features, showing in a candid way what is one of the more unusual, close and interesting family relationships in the NBA. Then there was Shane Larkin, who was going to get a chance to show Dallas what he could do after they drafted him, only to break his ankle just before the start of Summer League.

What the show got was access — these players let the cameras into their lives. Cameras are rolling with Larkin and his mother in the hospital when his father — Hall of Fame baseball player Barry Larkin — calls. It’s emotional.

“The trick is being respectful, both of the brand of the league and the lives of the people you’re invading,” Tollin said. “There’s a line, and you need to continually redraw that line.”

Summer Dreams walks the line well. It’s emotional, you become invested in these people and you root for them to succeed. You rise and fall with their performances, their struggles.

There are a million more stories at Summer League and Tollin said he hopes that this can be developed into an annual documentary, if not a weekly show that runs through the summer. But for now, it’s worth watching (or setting the DVR) for this year’s episode. It shows the real work of the NBA.

No motivational material: LeBron James, Cavaliers respectful when asked about Warriors

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The rubber match. The trilogy. Whatever you want to call the historic third meeting between the Cavaliers and Warriors in the Finals — never in NBA history have two teams met three years in a row in the Finals — it’s what fans have been waiting for. The inevitability of this Finals matchup sucked some of the drama and fun out of the postseason so far, but now these two teams are ready to go.

It’s the best rivalry in the NBA, two teams not afraid to mix it up with each other, but when Cavaliers players were asked about the Warriors after eliminating the Celtics Thursday night, there was nothing but respect.

“We just got to play defense,” LeBron James said in a televised postgame interview. “We’re going to face adversity. That’s been the best team in our league the last three years, and they added an unbelievable player in Kevin Durant this year, so that makes it even more difficult. So they’re gonna challenge us a lot: offensively, defensively, mentally, physically, but we’re going to have to be ready for that challenge.”

LeBron stuck to that theme in his postgame press conference.

“I’ll be honest, I’m not really in the right mind to even talk about Golden State right now. It’s too stressful, and I’m not stressed right now,” LeBron said cracking a smile. “Golden State, they’ve been the best team in our league the last three years, then they added an MVP. That’s all I can give you right now, because I’m happy and I don’t want a lot of stress, and they cause a lot of stress.”

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said he had yet to start any prep for the Warriors.

“Of course I watch every game, because I’m a basketball junkie, and they’ve been playing great,” Lue siad. “But you can’t get too far ahead of yourself.”

“The Celtics and Brad Stevens, the team they have, they throw a lot of different lineups at you and a lot of different stuff on the offensive end, so as far as how they play I think it definitely prepared us for what’s ahead,” Kevin Love said, discussing how the Celtics prepped the Cavaliers for the next round.

The Cavaliers are veterans on this stage, and they both respect the Warriors and don’t need the distraction of a war of words, so they stayed on message all night.

But with a week to go before Game 1, you can bet someone will say something inflammatory. We’re looking at you, Draymond Green.

Watch 36-year-old James Jones throw down a putback dunk vs. the Celtics (VIDEO)

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LeBron James is on his way to his 7th-straight Finals after the Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics, 135-102, in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Thursday night.

The game was out of hand from the beginning, with the Cavaliers scoring a franchise playoff high 75 points in the first half.

At one point in the fourth quarter, Tyronn Lue emptied out his bench and we got to see some of the Cavaliers garbage time guys get run. One of those guys was James Jones, 36, who has been around so long he was a rookie with Reggie Miller in Indiana.

He also dunked!

Via Twitter:

Let’s all just bask in the glory that is that putback dunk and in our little vacation until the Finals start on June 1.

LeBron James, Cavaliers advance past Celtics to meet Warriors in 2017 NBA Finals

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Let’s line it up and run it again. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors are going to meet in the 2017 NBA Finals after LeBron James and the Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics in Game 5 on Thursday, 135-102.

It wasn’t much of a contest from the outset as Cleveland looked determined to put away their opponent. The Cavaliers played strong, shot well from 3-point range, and forced the Celtics into 18 turnovers over the course of the game.

The Cavaliers set a franchise playoff record in the first half, scoring 75 points in the first two periods. LeBron had 20 before the third quarter started, putting him just inches away from passing Michael Jordan to top the list for most points scored in NBA playoff history.

That moment came in the third quarter, with James dropping in a sweet 3-pointer from the left side of the arc to push him past Jordan. LeBron finished the game with 35 points, going 4-of-7 from 3-point range will adding eight assists, eight rebounds, and three steals.

Kyrie Irving was another bright spot for the Cavaliers, scoring 24 points to go along with seven assists. Kevin Love added 15 points, and Deron Williams had a rejuvenation off the bench with 14.

For Boston, yet another game without Isaiah Thomas forced their offense into stagnation. Avery Bradley — who had a considerable series in an effort that should not be overlooked — scored 20 points on 10-of-20 shooting. Gerald Green was Boston’s second-leading scorer in a bench role, adding 14 points.

Now we get to wait until June 1, when what seemed an inevitability way back in training camp has indeed come to pass. The Warriors get their shot at redemption after the worst breakdown in NBA playoff history, and the Cavaliers get a chance to solidify themselves over their peers and galvanize LeBron’s position as the best player of a generation.

The Finals don’t start for anther week. We’ll all be champing at the bit to see if Cleveland really does have what it takes to guard the Warriors offense. Likewise, a top defensive team in Golden State will need to prepare themselves for the LeBron that showed up against the Celtics in Game 1 and 2.

LeBron James on passing Michael Jordan: “I fell in love with the game because of Mike” (VIDEO)

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LeBron James passed Michael Jordan for most points scored in NBA playoff history on Thursday night during the Cleveland Cavaliers’ win over the Boston Celtics, 135-102.

After the game, LeBron and his teammates took to the podium to speak on their accomplishment of making it to yet another Finals as they settle in for a rematch with the Golden State Warriors.

LeBron was humble about his accomplishment, crediting Jordan for driving him to play the game of basketball as well as shaping his own game.

“I wear the number [23] because of Mike. I think I fell in love with the game because of Mike,” said James. “When you’re growing up and you’re seeing Michael Jordan, it’s almost like a god.”

James and the Cavaliers will take on the Warriors in Game 1 of the 2017 NBA Finals on June 1.