You’re not going to have a better summer than the Cleveland Cavaliers had. They got the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft (thank you lottery gods) and parlayed that into LeBron James and Kevin Love joining newly maxed-out Kyrie Irving. The Cavaliers are suddenly clear title contenders.
But there are questions, almost all of them on the defensive side of the ball. Specifically, who is going to protect the paint. Anderson Varejao is a quality pick-and-roll defender as big men go (when healthy) but he’s not a rim protector. We know Kevin Love isn’t. Brendan Haywood? Tristan Thompson? Nah.
It’s not just me with these concerns, it’s their own GM. David Griffin was on Fox Sports Radio and was honest about that and what he expects of Love on the defensive end, as tweeted by Andy Greder, who covers the Timberwolves for the Pioneer Press.
He doesn’t have concerns about Love not making a defensive rotation because he doesn’t want to give up good rebounding position? He should. Unless Love is changing his stripes.
Rim protection is going to be an issue against the elite teams. Chicago has it and the Cavaliers are going to need it against them in the East if Derrick Rose and his slashing game return to form. They are certainly going to need it against the ball movement in San Antonio, or the slashing of Russell Westbrook and how the Thunder get to the rim, or the lob-city attack of the Clippers with Chris Paul.
Elite teams get easy buckets, getting them at the rim and generation open looks from the perimeter (ideally three). Then they knock them down. If you can’t defend that, you can’t win a ring.
That will be the Cavaliers biggest challenge. Griffin knows it.
The Raptors promoted Jeff Weltman, still working under Masai Ujiri, to general manager last year.
That paid off for Toronto when the Magic hired Weltman as their new president.
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
The Magic have their own and the Lakers’ second-round picks next year. Even the lower of those two selections could be somewhat value.
In other words, Weltman’s already-difficult job is getting even harder simply by Orlando hiring him.
LeBron James has discussed chasing Michael Jordan’s “ghost,” motivating himself by trying surpass Jordan as the greatest player in NBA history.
Just 27 points behind Jordan for the all-time playoff scoring lead – a record he could break in Cavaliers-Celtics Game 5 tonight – LeBron is again discussing that pursuit.
LeBron, via Dave McMenamin of ESPN:
“It’s just a personal goal of mine,” James said Thursday before Cavs shootaround in preparation of Game 5 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Boston Celtics. “It has nothing to do with passing the rings, passing the points, passing MVPs. It’s just my personal goal to keep me motivated — that’s all.”
“You guys are going to have the conversations about who is greatest of all time and things of that nature,” James said. “It doesn’t matter to me. At the end of the day, it’s so funny that the conversation is always talked about in the NBA about who is the greatest but it’s never talked about in the NFL about who is the greatest quarterback. It’s just like: [Dan] Marino, [John] Elway, [Peyton] Manning and [Tom] Brady. All great quarterbacks, you know — and it should be the same for us.
Jordan or LeBron? Save your hot takes. LeBron just burnt them all.
The greatest quarterback of all time is never debated? Claiming that is now the hottest take in the entire realm of the Jordan-LeBron debate.
BOSTON (AP) — Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue says that Kyrie Irving‘s left ankle is feeling “good” in advance of Cleveland’s Game 5 matchup Thursday night with the Celtics.
Irving was moving around and putting up shots during the Cavs’ morning shootaround.
The All-Star rolled his ankle in the third quarter of Game 4 when he stepped on Terry Rozier‘s foot. Irving was able to stay on the floor and finish the game, scoring a career playoff-high 42 points.
Cleveland leads Boston 3-1 and can wrap up its third straight Eastern Conference title Thursday night.
Several Celtics are also fighting injuries as they try to stave off elimination.
Jaylen Brown is listed as questionable with a right hip pointer. Jae Crowder is probable with a left groin strain, and Amir Johnson is probable with a right shoulder sprain.
LaVar Ball said his son, highly touted draft prospect Lonzo Ball, would work out for only the Lakers.
You thought he was bluffing?
Celtics president Danny Ainge, whose team holds the No. 1 pick, on 98.5 the Sports Hub:
We just tried to get him in for a workout, and they politely said no.
It’s not ideal.
Listen, we’ve drafted guys that wouldn’t come in for workouts before. I mean, it’s not the end of the world. We’ve watched them play a ton. We have a lot of information on them.
Good for Ball. Professional sports teams already hold inordinate power over players entering the workforce. In no other industry are top young employees assigned to a particular company, the worst-performing companies typically getting priority, with no ability to bargain with competitors.
Ball wants to play for the Lakers, who offer proximity to his family and hold the No. 2 pick. He can’t force Boston to pass on him or Los Angeles to pick him. But he can influence decision-making.
It seemed likely the Celtics would draft Markelle Fultz, and though they could still pick Ball, him declining a workout with Boston makes that only less likely. The Lakers will probably draft Ball, but this plan carries risk. If they pass, he could fall once he gets to teams less familiar with him.
Still, Ball deserves to decide for himself how to manage his career – especially in such a closed job market. Not working out for the Celtics is probably his best path to getting where he wans to go.