We’ve already covered the fact that the Heat and the Pacer don’t like each other, based on playoff series the past two seasons along with a whole host of intense regular season battles.
It’s a little bit more personal between Dwyane Wade and Lance Stephenson, with the two having gone at it verbally more than once, and with Stephenson being ejected for taunting Wade back on March 26.
Wade had continual knee issues during Miami’s run to the title last season, so much so that the team was extra cautious with him this year, to the point where he appeared in just 54 games during the regular season, while being held out to rest for the majority of the others.
Stephenson mentioned Wade’s history of injury when speaking to reporters on Saturday.
From Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post:
Looking ahead to his matchup with Wade, beginning in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday (3:30 p.m., ABC), Stephenson revealed that making Wade’s problematic right knee “flare up” is part of his strategy.
“D. Wade — I think his knee is messed up, so I’ve got to be extra aggressive and make him run and have him running around and make his knee flare up or something,” he said after the Pacers practiced this afternoon. “I’ll do anything as much as possible.”
You’d like to hope Stephenson was joking here, maybe by complementing his opponent and implying that unless Wade were slowed by injury once again, he’d be tough to stop.
But given the rivalry that exists between these two teams, and with a trip to the Finals at stake, it’s unclear if that was the case.
Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.
His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.
George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).
As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.
Last season, DeMarcus Cousins received zero MVP votes (the same as every year of his career). Even though he averaged 24.1 points, and 12.7 rebounds a game, which was enough to get him his first All-Star berth, MVP is another thing entirely. Only players on winning teams tend to draw the attention of MVP voters.
This season, can Cousins — arguably the best center in the game — get in the conversation?
He thinks it’s more than just that, he told Kevin Ding at Bleacher Report.
The topic is the 2015-16 NBA MVP award and whether it could be reachable for DeMarcus Cousins.
“Reachable, man?” Cousins told Bleacher Report, his voice rising high. “It’s mine to grab.”
As noted above, the only way Cousins gets into the conversation — fair or not — is if the Kings are in the playoffs (at the very least). He understands that.
“It’s going to take a full team effort,” Cousins said. “I’ll try to play at a high level and bring my team along with me.”
Vlade Divac built a Kings’ team designed to start winning now — as you would expect from a team a year away from moving into a new arena they need to fill. Owner Vivek Ranadive is not about selling hope anymore, he wants to sell wins.
I think Cousins can help provide that.
I’m less sold on the cast around him being able to help.