Frustrated LeBron James says he’ll be good to go for Game 2

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SAN ANTONIO — LeBron James was angry. And frustrated.

He sat on the bench and watched Game 1 of the NBA Finals slip away from his Heat, his body so cramped up Heat coach Eric Spoelstra wouldn’t let him try to return.

“You know, after I came out of the game, they kinda took off,” LeBron James told a pool reporter allowed to interview him after the game. “And it was frustrating sitting out and not be able to help our team.”

These weren’t the game conditions anybody expected — the temperature inside the AT&T Center kept climbing and climbing throughout Game 1, getting up into the 90s in the fourth quarter. Plus it was humid. A shorted out circuit breaker had shut the air conditioning in the building down — a sold out building that just kept getting hotter and hotter.

It was all too much for LeBron James’ body, which cramped up, pushing him to the bench to watch helplessly as the Spurs went on a 26-9 run to close out the game and take a 1-0 series lead.

“I mean, it’s frustration and anger, but at the same time it’s something that you try to prevent, you try to control,” LeBron said. “I mean, I got all the fluids I need to get, I do my normal routine I’ve done and it was inevitable for me tonight, throughout the conditions, you know, out there on the floor,” LeBron said. I lost all the fluids that I was putting in in the last couple of days out there on the floor. It sucks not being out there for your team, especially at this point in the season.”

LeBron had been slowing down and left the game with 7:31 remaining — he asked out, grabbing his back and clearly cramping and in pain.It was a two-point Heat lead at the time. LeBron got ice, fluids a few minutes of rest and came back in with 4:33 left and his team now down four.

He made a driving layup, it was a two-point game.

Then his left leg cramped up.

“It was the whole left leg, damn near the whole left side,” LeBron said. “I was losing a lot (of fluids) throughout the game. It was extremely hot in the building, you know, both teams, fans, everybody could feel it. I was the one that had to take the shot.”

After making the shot and cramping up he couldn’t even run down the court, he stood there on the baseline unable to walk, forcing the Heat to foul to stop the game (then the Heat players on the court had to come down and get him off the court before the referees forced Miami to use its one remaining timeout).

With LeBron off the court the Spurs got an instant three from Danny Green to spark a 16-3 run that gave them a Game 1 win.

LeBron never returned to the game and with a couple minutes left he limped back to locker room.

But he expects to be good to go for Game 2 Sunday night. He’s happy there are three days off.

“I need it, I need it, I need it,” LeBron said. “We’re going to start tonight, continue to get the fluids in me and get me ready for Sunday. Thankful for the fact that I can get on it tonight, and put myself in a position where I can be out there for my team for the long haul. And sitting on the sideline, you know, if I’m not in foul trouble, is not good for us and not good for me. Look forward to Game 2 and go from there.”

LeBron had a +/- of zero for the game — the Heat played the Spurs even when he was on the court in Game 1. They lost by 15. The Heat have won every playoff series in the big three era where they have lost Game 1, but against these Spurs the Heat cannot afford to go down 2-0.

And to get Game 2, the Heat are going to need a healthy and almost transcendent LeBron.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue: Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors’

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With the Cavaliers up 3-1 on the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, most basketball observers are focused on Cavs-Warriors III in the NBA Finals.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue is more concerned with Boston, which scored surprisingly well in Games 3 and 4 after losing Isaiah Thomas to injury.

Lue, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

“I don’t even think about them,” Lue said of the Warriors to a small group of traveling Cleveland beat writers following the Cavs’ Game 4 win on Tuesday. “We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me, as far as the actions and all the running around and all the guys who are making all the plays, so it’s a totally different thing.”

Wait, the Isaiah Thomas-less 53-win Celtics are harder to defend than the Kevin Durant-supercharged 67-win Warriors? Come again, Coach?

“Like, they hit the post, Golden State runs splits and all that stuff, but these guys are running all kinds of s—,” Lue said of Boston coach Brad Stevens’ schemes. “I’ll be like, ‘F—.’ They’re running all kinds of s—, man. And Brad’s got them moving and cutting and playing with pace, and everybody is a threat. It’s tough, you know, it’s tough.”

I think Lue means in a very specific way – getting his players into proper position. And in that regard he might be right.

I also think the Warriors will take this in the broadest, most offensive way possible. That’s just the nature of this rivalry.

Without Thomas, Stevens has been forced to diversify Boston’s offense. The Cavaliers, who prepared for a very different scheme, were caught off guard and are adjusting on the fly.

That’s a real challenge. But framing it as the central issue sells Golden State short.

Even if it’s harder for Lue to get his players into proper position against the Celtics, the Warriors’ surplus talent – including Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – more than makes up for it. And it’s not as if Golden State runs a basic scheme.

So why did Lue say this?

He didn’t think the travelling Cleveland beat writers would publish his candid remarks? He didn’t convey his thoughts clearly? He naively didn’t consider how this would motivate the Warriors? All are plausible.

Another theory: Lue is trying to plant a seed that acting Golden State coach Mike Brown, whose known (fairly or not) for his simplistic offensive schemes, is holding back the Warriors. If Steve Kerr doesn’t return, resentment of Brown is one of the few things that could tear apart a dominant Golden State team.

Richard Jefferson: LeBron James was sick during Cavaliers-Celtics Game 3

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LeBron James was inexplicably bad in the Cavaliers’ Game 3 loss to the Celtics on Sunday.

Except maybe it was explicable.

Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson, via Fox Sports Ohio

I know he won’t talk about it, so I’ll give my big guy a shout. Deron Williams missed shootaround this morning, because he had like a little bug, just really lethargic, had no energy. And I think that’s what Bron had. And sometimes these little bugs can go around.

When Deron didn’t show up to shootaround, it kind of started clicking in his head. Because for him it was more of like, “I don’t know why I was so lethargic, why I had no energy, I had nothing.” And so, these little things happen. There was no panic.

Look, he was lethargic. They hit a bunch of tough shots. If Marcus Smart doesn’t go 7-for-10 from 3, then we’re not even talking about it.

I don’t know whether LeBron was truly sick or Jefferson is just trying to help a teammate’s reputation. It can be both.

LeBron was better in Game 4, but not quite right.

If he’s dealing with a minor illness, that could clear up by Game 5 tomorrow. It should especially clear up by the Finals, which begin June 1. That’d be great news for the Cavs, who have no chance against the Warriors if LeBron isn’t at full strength.

The uncertainty of why LeBron hit a slump now of all times loomed over Cleveland’s playoff future. But Jefferson provided reason for the Cavaliers to breathe easy.

Michigan’s D.J. Wilson staying in NBA draft

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Michigan bigs D.J. Wilson and Moe Wagner declared for the NBA draft in similar situations – coming off breakout seasons, particularly excelling down the stretch, and sitting on the first-round bubble for the NBA draft. Neither hired an agent, leaving their options open.

But this is where their paths diverge.

Michigan releases:

University of Michigan junior forward D.J. Wilson announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and submit the necessary paperwork to remain as an early entrant into the 2017 NBA Draft.

University of Michigan sophomore forward Moritz Wagner announced today (Wednesday, May 24) he will return to the Wolverine basketball program after removing his name from consideration for the 2017 NBA Draft.

Wilson and Wagner both said they’d stay in the draft only if they’d be first-round picks. I wonder whether Wilson got a first-round promise or is just confident enough he’ll get picked there. The latter wouldn’t be a bad bet. Even if the 22-year-old Wilson slips into the second round, this might be the peak of his draft value.

At times, it’s easy to forget Wilson is a 6-foot-11 big man. He shoots 3-pointers, dribbles and moves like a wing. He also too often shies from contact, which particularly hurts his rebounding.

But he’s a big. Those perimeter skills wouldn’t shine quite as brightly if he were matched up with opposing wings. Wilson has a 7-foot-3 wingspan, and he also protect the rim. However, his shot-blocking relies on a bounciness that’s not as effective when pressed into more physical matchups. He needs some space to launch – but when he has it, it also pays off in quality finishing at the rim.

Wilson has the tools to be a good NBA power forward, but he’s still a work in progress. In other words, he still looks like a borderline first-round pick.

Tyronn Lue imitates LeBron James’ criticism of reporter (video)

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After the Cavaliers Game 3 loss to the Celtics, LeBron James accused reporter Kenny Roda of showing up/asking questions only when Cleveland loses.

Questioned by Roda after the Cavs’ Game 4 win, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue lightheartedly lobbed the same criticism at Roda.

Coaching LeBron can be tricky. Lue must both challenge the greatest player of his generation and handle LeBron’s passive-aggressiveness. Lue can neither let LeBron walk all over him nor bark orders at him.

In this case, it seems Lue is trying to diffuse LeBron’s pettiness before it turns into something bigger. Considering how silly LeBron’s initial comments were, I bet the star is on board.