2014 NBA Finals - Practice Day And Media Availability

Kawhi Leonard on being mentioned as a possible Finals MVP: ‘It doesn’t mean nothing to me’

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SAN ANTONIO — Kawhi Leonard has had two incredible performances in consecutive contests to help put his Spurs up three games to one on the defending champion Heat, and within one game of winning an NBA title.

Leonard may be the first name mentioned in the Finals MVP conversation, along with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and even Boris Diaw, because that’s just how balanced this San Antonio team is.

But given his reserved nature, he couldn’t even pretend to care about an individual achievement that is far from certain, and with so much at stake.

“It doesn’t mean nothing to me,” Leonard said at Saturday’s media availability at the Spurs practice facility. “Just try to go out and win the next game, and that’s all I’m doing.”

Leonard comes across as incredibly calm, focused and professional considering the way he’s proven capable of playing on the game’s biggest stage at such a young age. He speaks mostly in a monotone and at a predictable pace, but his emotionless responses to reporters’ questions aren’t given out of some kind of disdain for the process.

Instead, he just seems completely dialed in at accomplishing the task at hand.

On what the anticipation is like heading into Game 5, when the championship is within reach:

“It feels the same for me as any game going into it,” Leonard said. “All I’m thinking about is playing. I’m not worried about if we win or lose, and we just want to go out and play.”

On whether or not he allows himself to feel a sense of happiness or satisfactions privately after turning in performances like he has over the past two games:

“No,” he said. “I mean, because those are not my expectations. I’m trying to win a championship, and until we win, that’s when I’ll be satisfied.”

You get the idea.

The Spurs have a gem in Leonard, an amazing player with a seemingly limitless ceiling who fits perfectly into San Antonio’s team-first culture. And San Antonio’s long-tenured leader in Tim Duncan wouldn’t change a thing about him.

“That’s his nature,” Duncan said. “That’s how he is. You let your play, you let your game, you let your winning do your talking.

“I’ve never said anything to Kawhi about how he carries himself.  That’s how he chooses to carry himself.  He doesn’t talk to us, so I’m guessing he’s not going to go out there and talk to anybody else.”

Sunday is 16th anniversary of greatest dunk ever: Vince Carter over Frederic Weis

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It was the last game of the group stage of the 2000 Olympic basketball tournament at the Sydney Olympics, the USA was taking on France, another USA win on its way to another gold medal.

But what we all remember is this one play — Vince Carter dunking over the 7’2″ French center Frederic Weis.

Best. Dunk. Ever.

By anyone.

Weis was never the same.

In an impressive career — two-time All-NBA, eight-time All-Star, hours and hours of crazy highlights — this is always going to be the highlight at the top of the list. So we will use the anniversary of this dunk to look at it one more time.

Hat tip to nitramy at NBA Reddit.

Hornets coach Steve Clifford suggests allowing teams to advance ball in final two minutes without timeout

Steve Clifford
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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The final minutes of a close NBA game rank among the best moments in sports – which is pretty remarkable, considering frequent stoppages interrupt and impede enjoyment of the game.

Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout. Clutch play. Timeout.

Coaches should probably call fewer timeouts, because drawing up a play also allows the defense to set. But timeouts give the offense the option of advancing the inbound spot into the frontcourt, a key advantage. So, teams will keep calling timeouts.

Unless…

Steve Aschburner of NBA.com:

For Charlotte’s Steve Clifford, the ability in the final two minutes of a game to advance the ball without requiring a timeout to be called could speed up the action. That has been used on a trial basis in the D League and in Summer League, and several coaches felt it worked well.

“The game is at an all-time high in popularity, but a lot of people complain about the last two minutes,” Clifford said. “I think it would add a different dimension but it would also be a good thing in addressing our biggest issue.”

Not that the coaches would be willing to lose any of their timeouts, though. They just wouldn’t save them specifically for that purpose.

I’m here for that.

I’m unsurprised control-seeking coaches want to keep all their timeouts, and reducing those seems unlikely, anyway. The NBA pays its bills through commercial breaks.

Would moving those advertising opportunities earlier in the game pay off? Audiences are probably larger in crunch time, but an action-packed closing stretch could hook fans and grow overall audiences. It’s always a difficult decision to forgo maximizing immediate revenue in pursuit of more later.

But I’m fairly certain fans would appreciate the change, which is at least a starting point in considering it.

Kyrie Irving feels validated after hitting game-winning shot to bring title to Cleveland

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Back in July during the pre-Olympics USA Camp in Las Vegas, I asked Kyrie Irving what had changed for him, what was different for him after winning an NBA title. His answer was about the doors it opened, the possibilities that suddenly felt available to him. A month after winning the title he still seemed a little overwhelmed by the experience, and he hadn’t fully processed it yet. Which is completely understandable.

Now, as training camp is set to open for the Cavaliers and their defense of that title, Irving clearly has gotten used to being a champion — and he feels validated. Look at what he told Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“Yes, my life’s changed drastically,” Irving told cleveland.com Saturday, during Irving’s friendship walk and basketball challenge downtown for Best Buddies, Ohio — an organization that gives social growth and employment opportunities to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

“It’s kind of, you’re waiting for that validation from everyone, I guess, to be considered one of the top players in the league at the highest stage,” Irving said. “That kind of changed. I was just trying to earn everyone’s respect as much as I could.”

It’s amazing to think of the impact one shot — Irving’s three over Stephen Curry with 53 seconds left in Game 7 — can have. If he misses, there is less pressure on the Warriors to answer with a three, maybe they come down and get a bucket inside for two (one could argue they should have done that anyway rather than hunt for the three), from there maybe the Warriors win. If so, that could change everything from Kevin Durant‘s summer plans to what the Cavaliers’ roster looks like today — there’s a good chance Cleveland’s lineup would have changed if they lost to the Warriors two Finals in a row.

One shot can have that kind of impact on a player, too.

Kyrie Irving was one of the top five point guards in the NBA for a while, a score first guy but one who had some floor general in him and got some steals. A lot of time seemed to be spent focusing on his flaws defensively and passing. But with that shot, he feels validated. If he carries that confidence into next season, the Cavaliers just got better.

Check out top 50 plays from Kevin Garnett’s Hall of Fame career (VIDEO)

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First Kobe Bryant. Then Tim Duncan.

Now Kevin Garnett. The Hall of Fame class in five years is going to be stacked.

But before we move on from Garnett’s announcement this week that he is retiring after 21 years in the NBA, let’s look back at his greatest plays (compiled by the folks at NBA.com). Enjoy this for 11 minutes rather than watching your NFL fantasy team flounder. Again.