2014 NBA Finals - Game Five

Dwyane Wade, Manu Ginobili and paths linked

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Is this really how a great career ends?

The once-star guard looked like a shell of himself. He had one really good game in the NBA Finals, but overall, he shot inefficiently from his best areas, failed to protect the ball and defended poorly. Worst of all, at his age, there’s often no coming back from that type of slippage.

Manu Ginobili did it, though.

Can Dwyane Wade?

The shooting guards have taken turns with depressing Finals, Ginobili last year and Wade this year. But, somehow, Ginobili – at age 36 – shook off blowing a 3-2 series lead last season.

“Every team we lost, it was so painful, because we always felt that we had a shot,” Ginobili said. “Well, you all saw what happened last year. And that was especially painful.

“We had it. I think I touched it. I don’t know if I dreamed it, but I thought I had it. And it was a very tough summer.”

Heartbroken, Ginobili considered retirement, but he ultimately re-signed with San Antonio, continued evolving and once again became one of the NBA’s best sixth men.

And he became mentally stronger.

Right after the Spurs fell behind 22-6 in last night’s Game 5 clincher, Ginobili converted a three-point play. On the ensuing defensive possession, he got tangled with Shane Battier, who fell to the court. Battier appeared to grab Ginobili’s leg and bring him down, too.

Ginobili got up, holding his back and looking ticked.

On the other side of the court, Ginobili drilled a 3-pointer. He still looked just as ticked.

When is the last time Wade showed such intense focus?

Winning makes players content, and it takes deliberate concentration to counteract that already-present satisfaction. Ginobili and Wade have won a championship the year after every one of their Finals losses – the Spurs this year and the Heat in 2012 after falling to the Mavericks in 2011. These are both competitors who don’t give up.

But as crazy as it sounds – and hindsight certainly plays a part – Wade, four years younger than Ginobili, might face a more difficult road back to prominence.

The Heat guard’s knee could prevent him from playing at a star level consistently again – unless Miami takes drastic steps.

Wade rested throughout the year, playing his fewest minutes per game of his career (32.9) and sitting out many games completely. He played well throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs and appeared ready for the Finals.

But as much as he insists health played no factor, Wade appeared to lose a half step in these last five games.

Even a reduced regular season with four rounds in the postseason might be too much for him at this point. Wade played 1,775 minutes this season – still more than Ginobili any of the last three seasons.

Gregg Popovich takes resting his top players to an extreme, and it paid off in another title. What works for Ginobili won’t necessarily work for Wade, but at this point, it might be worth trying.

Can Wade become the next Ginobili?

Seems silly to ask that about a player a few years older than the Heat star, but coming off a crushing Finals loss, there’s no better role model for Wade.

Wade can develop his game. He can get even more patient with resting. He can return and play with more passion than ever.

He just must hope his knee will let him.

LeBron James amused by fuss over Tyronn Lue coaching All-Stars

CLEVELAND, OH - JANUARY 30:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers high fives Head Coach Tyronn Lue during the game against the San Antonio Spurs on January 30, 2016 at Quicken Loans Arena 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by David Liam Kyle/NBAE via Getty Images)
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TORONTO (AP) — LeBron James is amused over all the fuss that accompanied Tyronn Lue getting the chance to coach the Eastern Conference in Sunday’s All-Star Game.

The honor typically goes to the coaching staff of the team leading their respective conference at the break, provided that staff didn’t also coach in the game the year before. So when the Cleveland Cavaliers fired David Blatt and promoted Lue from his assistant spot to being the coach in charge, that meant Lue also got the All-Star duty.

And while it might seem strange to some, James was quick to point out Friday at the All-Star media day that Lue “would have been here anyways, even if coach Blatt was still our coach.”

James has been criticized for what many presume to be his role in Blatt’s dismissal, and the four-time MVP says he isn’t letting that perception bother him. He also didn’t take the bait when asked to describe differences between Blatt and Lue.

James’ answer: “Their height.”

For the record, Blatt (6-foot-3) is listed to be about three inches taller than Lue.

 

The time Kobe Bryant tried to recruit Dirk Nowitzki to the Lakers

DALLAS, TX - NOVEMBER 05:  Dirk Nowitzki #41 of the Dallas Mavericks greets Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers after a game at American Airlines Center on November 5, 2013 in Dallas, Texas.   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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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TORONTO — Kobe Bryant has been loyal to the Lakers for 20 seasons (if you ignore some “trade me” tantrums along the way). He’s also been über competitive.

Those same qualities are what he most appreciates about Dirk Nowitzki.

Kobe talked a little Dirk during his All-Star media availability Friday.

“Dirk and I have always had a great relationship because we’re both extremely competitive. Also both extremely loyal to our teams,” Bryant said.

“I’ll tell you a story about Dirk. He was up for free agency, and I knew what his response was going to be. But out of respect, everybody’s looking around at all these free agents, I felt I’d shoot you a text, if you want to come to L.A. He goes, ‘I would love to play with you, but Dallas is my home. This is my team. I’m not leaving here.’ So he and I think a lot alike in that regard.”

Nowitzki’s last couple free agencies have been mere formalities, nobody around the league thought he would leave Mark Cuban or Dallas. The only questions were money and years — in 2014 the Lakers reportedly offered the max to Nowitzki, who took three-years, $25 million from Dallas so the Mavs could rebuild their roster. It’s all part of that loyalty — and it’s worked out, Nowitzki and Cuban have a ring.

Kobe’s respect for Nowitzki was clear when Dirk nailed a game winner against the Lakers this season, Kobe just nodded his approval from the bench.

One of the best things the past couple seasons about Kobe, and especially this season with just about to retire Kobe, is that he is giving honest answers. He doesn’t care what people think. That leads to honest moments and great stories.

Watch Kristaps Porzingis drop 30 at Rising Stars Challenge (VIDEO)

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TORONTO — Knicks’ fans were in full throat at the Air Canada Centre Friday night. Kristaps Porzingis was the second most popular player in the Rising Stars Challenge (behind Canada’s own Andrew Wiggins).

Porzingis didn’t disappoint, dropping 30 and sparking a World Team comeback against the USA that just fell just short, with the USA winning 157-154.

“Not great defense, but it’s about having fun, I guess” Porzingis said. “And I think we had fun out there. In the second half we got more competitive, as both teams wanted to get the win, and we fell a little short.”

Kobe Bryant basks in All-Star spotlight one final time

Kobe Bryant All-Star
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TORONTO — Kobe Bryant is the center of attention one last time.

To get to his final All-Star Game in his final season in the NBA, Kobe received more fan votes than Stephen Curry or LeBron James or any other player. Now that he’s at the 2016 All-Star Game, more people want a piece of his time. More media were crowded around him on Friday than any other player at the NBA’s equivalent of media day. Even the other All-Stars could count on getting peppered with Kobe questions (to their annoyance at times).

Kobe is at peace with his decision to walk away from the game. This weekend he wants to savor being in the All-Star spotlight one final time.

“I’m happy,” Kobe said. “This is pretty cool. I’m looking around the room and seeing guys that I’m playing with that are tearing the league up that were like four during my first All-Star Game. It’s true. I mean, how many players can say they’ve played 20 years and actually have seen the game go through three, four generations, you know what I mean? It’s not sad at all. I mean, I’m really happy and honored to be here and see this.”

Does that mean Kobe has plans to chase the All-Star MVP one last time?

“Zero…” Kobe said. “But, no, I’m really just enjoying this whole thing, being around these players and talking to them one more time, going out and practicing and enjoying that moment in the game and enjoying that moment. So competitiveness in terms of me trying to establish something or prove something, that’s gone.”

What is Kobe’s best All-Star memory?

“My first one in Cleveland was pretty special because you had all the top 50 players,” Bryant said. “I think in ’98 (it was), it was pretty special too, being in my first All-Star Game and being in the locker room with greats, like [John] Stockton and [Clyde] Drexler and all those guys, that was pretty cool too.”

Kobe has a hectic schedule for his final weekend, but much as he has since he announced his retirement he is trying to soak in and fully enjoy this last go around in the NBA. He understands that the life he has known for two decades is about to change. He hasn’t given much thought to his first day of retirement.

“I’ll probably wake up and have some coffee and go back to sleep,” Bryant said.

I don’t think he understands why you drink coffee, but he’s got all of his retirement to figure that out. For now, he just wants to bask in the spotlight one last time.