Cavaliers not apologetic about sitting big three Saturday vs. Clippers

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LOS ANGELES — Sunday night against the Los Angeles Lakers, fans got to see LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love play (and score 101 points between them in a win).

Saturday night all three of them were out against the Clippers in a nationally televised game.

That rekindled a debate that has flared up all season and took on extra heat just a week before when Steve Kerr rested his four best Warriors players in a nationally televised game on Saturday night. Fans were pissed, you can be sure some suits at ABC/Disney were upset, and the league office called up the Cavaliers to complain.

Sunday, the Cavaliers to a man said that the rest mattered and they made the right call.

“It’s stupid,” coach Tyronn Lue said of the controversy, emphasizing he wasn’t going to play two guys coming off injuries in a back-to-back. “Because Kyrie didn’t come back the game before because of knee soreness, Kevin just had his first game back and he needed two games between these games. But whatever. It’s stupid.”

Elite teams resting key players, particularly on road games, is a growing pattern in the NBA — and with good reason. Studies have shown that players perform much better on the court when rested, and also they are 3.5 times more likely to be injured in the second game of a back-to-back (when muscle fatigue sets in). Coaches like Lue are paid to put their teams in position to win a title, and rest helps that cause.

But it does create problems for an entertainment product when the best players are not performing. Fans pay a lot of money to see LeBron or Curry the one time they come to town. Also, broadcast partners just signed a new deal that backs up the Brinks truck to the NBA, and then they are handed an inferior product to show.

“It sucks,” LeBron admitted Sunday, noting he can see that dilemma. “There are some times guys have to rest, and some guys need rest. It’s a long, strenuous season, and the NBA does the best it can putting the schedule together but you’re going to have back-to-backs, and you’re going to have certain games where certain things fall on certain nights.

“But coach’s job is to figure out a way to get a team to compete for a championship, and not compete for a game. And it sucks at certain times because you only play in certain cities once, or you only play certain teams once on their home floor. Me personally, I want to play in every game, I wanted to play last night but my coach said he felt it was best I didn’t play last night so I didn’t and I’m going to go with my coach.”

As for the concerns of broadcast partners, they make a lot of their value back come the playoffs, when guys are not rested.

“I’ve been part of six straight Finals, and every season the Finals is bigger and bigger and better and better, and more people are tuning in. So I don’t see a problem with people watching,” LeBron said.

While players often take the brunt of the criticisms — as with Karl Malone’s comments over the weekend — they rarely ask out. This is almost always a decision by management (the GM, team trainers, and the coach) and the players are informed they are sitting.

The NBA is going to start a week earlier next year, in hopes of stretching out the schedule and getting players a little more rest and have fewer back-to-backs.

“I can’t stress enough how important rest is, man,” Irving said. “You’ve got guys who have come before us and played 82 games and they have their opinions. We’re just in a different time now, a different way of taking care of your body and understanding what the goal is at the end of the season. It’s in the forefront of our minds — we’re playing for a championship run, a playoff run. We all want to play, I want to be a part of that as much as possible, but when our coaching staff and medical staff rests us I’m not opposed to it. I know fans all across the league want to see us at our best and they got to see a show tonight (against the Lakers). I would have loved go against the Clippers and go against a veteran team like that, but I have to respect the coach’s wishes.”

That said, Irving gets why fans are ticked. Like most around the league he’d like to reduce the games he is rested, but the answers are not easy to come by. That said, it all starts with the schedule — if the NBA wants to promote Saturday games like they are playoff games, then they need to schedule them like they’re playoff games with rest on either side for teams.

“I’m 100 percent with (fans concerns),” Irving said. “Hopefully we can spread (the schedule) out a little bit more and get guys a little bit more rest. When you go from West Coast to East Coast, and this is our sixth game in eight days — I don’t think anyone realized that — and we’re not hear to complain about it, but honestly playing basketball for six games in eight days is a lot.”

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more and Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

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The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.