Adam Silver doesn’t see Cavaliers/Warriors as bad for NBA’s competitive balance

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It’s billed as The Trilogy.

It’s the best rivalry going in the NBA right now, maybe in professional sports. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors, two teams dripping with stars and the biggest names globally in the sport, are facing off in the NBA Finals again. It’s what we should want — the two best teams on the biggest stage.

But is it good for the NBA?

Is it good optics for the league that there’s a sense right now the other 28 teams are just along for the ride? Because we know that, barring something major happening over the summer, we’re going to head into next NBA season predicting another Cavaliers/Warriors Finals.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver pushed back against that narrative speaking on “Mike & Mike” Wednesday morning.

“When I hear people say that these are now the two teams that are dynasties. You know, think back, you guys know the history. We have the Lakers and Celtics — the Celtics have won 17 championships, Lakers 16 — that’s almost half of all championships won in the NBA by those two teams. Now [the Cavs and Warriors] are being called dynasties. One, [Cleveland] before last year had never won in the history of the NBA. Golden State hadn’t won in 40 years. These are the two teams now that are playing and everybody’s saying ‘Now they’re dynasties.’ So they have a lot of winning to do before I think they should be declared dynasties in the way that the Celtics and Lakers dominated for so many years, or even San Antonio with their five championships or the Bulls with their six championships.”

In a historic context, he’s right. But with Kevin Durant now in Golden State, hasn’t that created a powerhouse superteam that will dominate the league the next four or five years?

“I will say, and I heard Kevin Durant say something like this the other day, I think it’s a little unfair to him to blame him for the lack of so-called ‘competitive balance’ at the moment in the league. I mean, he could have only impacted one team, had he stayed in Oklahoma City or gone somewhere else, there’s no doubt that team would have been better, but it wouldn’t have changed the fortunes for 27 other teams in the league.”

This season, the NBA has followed form, but that is not the norm in terms of our predictions of superteams. When LeBron first went back to Cleveland, there were people trying to hand them the title the first year, that didn’t work out — and nobody saw those Warriors coming. Same thing when LeBron went to Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, people wanted to hand them the title and they lost the first year to a Mavericks team nobody saw coming (except Mark Cuban, of course). When Steve Nash and Dwight Howard went to the Lakers people wanted to hand that team the Larry O’Brien Trophy, didn’t exactly work out that way. To put it kindly. All of which is to say, there are no sure things.

The problem for the NBA is the perception it’s a two-team league. Through the last couple of CBA’s the league has tried to find ways to flatten out the talent pool, and you can argue that hasn’t worked, but it hasn’t worked for flukey reasons. In the East, it hasn’t worked because LeBron James is one of the game’s all-time greats and is a dominant force. He is a force of nature, and he throws all balance out the window. In the West, the Warriors built their core the right way — they drafted Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green — and developed them. Kevin Durant came on board, but only because a one-time massive spike in the salary cap (due to a new television deal) made it possible. And even with that it only worked because Stephen Curry had ankle problems before signing his last contract so he came at what is now a massive bargain.

It is not good that the NBA will head into next season with everyone expecting round four of these Finals. But it’s not devastating for the league. And things will probably not play out the way we expect anyway.

As expected, Wesley Matthews says he will pick up $18.6 million option with Mavericks

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Wesley Matthews still has value as an NBA player.

However, he doesn’t have $18.6 million in value on the open market right now — especially in what will be a tight market this summer — so he’s going to take the cash on the table. Matthews is going to opt into the $18.6 million in the final year of his contract (the final season of a four-year, $70 million deal), he told Dwain Price of the Mavericks’ official website.

He said he will pick up that option and return and play next season with the Mavs.

“Obviously that’s something that hasn’t been on my mind,” Matthews said. “That’s what you have an agent for and agencies for.

“Like I said, I don’t plan on being anywhere else. And now it’s just focusing on getting back healthy, which I am now, and getting on this court.”

Matthews missed the final 16 games of last season with a stress fracture in his right fibula, and played in just 63 games total. He has been cleared to resume basketball activities now and is back on his workout routine.

Matthews biggest value has been on the defensive end, where he has been good on the wing for Dallas. Offensively, he averaged 12.7 points per game last season, shooting an improved 38.1 percent from three and with a true shooting percentage right around the league average at 54.1. He’s been solid in Dallas, a glue guy and a veteran example for young players such as Dennis Smith Jr., although they paid him that contract to be more than just solid.

Matthews name came up in trade rumors last deadline, and now that he has an expiring deal you can expect his name to come up again this summer and into next season (if he’s not moved). He’s an interesting trade piece who could help a lot of playoff-bound teams, something the Mavericks are not likely to be.

Draymond Green is texting Joel Embiid advice during playoffs

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In Game 1 of their series, the Philadelphia 76ers — without Joel Embiid — blew the doors off the Miami Heat, winning by 27. It’s the kind of game that can lead a young team to overconfidence.

That’s when Draymond Green texted Joel Embiid some words of advice, reports Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“Draymond texted me after the first game when we blew Miami out,” Embiid recalled Monday. “He basically told me that it’s not going to be the same in Game 2. They came back and they won that game.”

Green was right, but it’s one of the harder things for young players to understand, how much the ground can shift game-to-game in the playoffs. For the first four games especially, matchups and strategies will change night-to-night, and around Game 5 that tends to settle down and become more about execution (and talent).

For the Sixers, everything in their series changed with the return of Joel Embiid. Unhappily wearing a mask, Embiid’s defensive presence in the paint slows the Heat attack and allows things like Philly’s Game 4 comeback win on the road. Now Embiid’s about to make his home playoff debut in Game 5 Tuesday night, with a chance to close out the series.

“The atmosphere was amazing, it was insane,” Embiid said of the home crowd in Games 1 and 2. “After going to Miami, I felt like nothing compared to it. … We’ve been almost perfect [at home] since the beginning of the year. It just shows you how much we need them. Especially myself, I play better in that type of environment. I need the fans to get into it and push me. That makes me elevate my game.”

Beyond the first round, in an East where the expected best teams — Toronto and Cleveland — have looked vulnerable, the door is open.

“A lot of people say that we have a bright future, but I think our time is now,” Embiid said. “We have a pretty good chance. We have a special team, a lot of great guys. I don’t think we need anybody else. We’ve just got to work with what we have, and we have a special team. I feel like we have a pretty good chance to go far.

Jazz shut off Thunder in feisty Game 4 win

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Jae Crowder threw an ejection-drawing elbow, and teammate Donovan Mitchell couldn’t contain his grin as he pulled Crowder from the scuffle.

Steven Adams took the elbow in the face, and he didn’t even flinch.

Both the Jazz and Thunder showed their competitiveness in Utah’s chippy 113-96 Game 4 win Monday. The difference: The Jazz delivered the blow. Oklahoma City took it.

Utah has won three straight to take a 3-1 lead in the first-round series. Teams without home-court advantage up 3-1 in a best-of-seven series have won it 89% of the time. Still, those leading teams lose Game 5 on the road 74% of the time. Game 5 of this series is Wednesday in Oklahoma City.

In other words: The Jazz have seized control of the series. They probably won’t close it out in Game 5 – though the way they’re playing, the certainly could.

Mitchell scored 33 points tonight, the first 30-point playoff game by a rookie since Brandon Jennings in 2010 (34 points). Mitchell has already scored 110 points this postseason, the most by a rookie since Harrison Barnes in 2013 (193 points). With Utah increasingly likely to advance, Mitchell has a chance to catch Dwyane Wade (234 points in 2004).

“He’s playing amazing,” Ricky Rubio said of Mitchell. “He doesn’t seem a rookie at all.”

Rubio, the star of Game 3, happily deferred to Mitchell tonight. Russell Westbrook‘s guarantee to shut down Rubio meant little, as Rubio set the tone as a passer. His eight assists don’t do him justice, as he made key passes that led to fouls drawn and other advantage situations for his teammates.

“We play as a team,” Rubio said.

Westbrook, on the other hand, looked out of control. He committed four first-half fouls, and though calls were questions, he also committed five turnovers and shot just 7-for-18. The question isn’t whether Westbrook was reckless. He was. The only debate is just how reckless.

Westbrook’s fervor hardly stood out. In addition to Crowder’s ejection, the game featured six other technical fouls – on Paul George, Quin Snyder, Steven Adams, Joe Ingles, Rudy Gobert and Raymond Felton. And there was even more trash-talking and physicality than whistled.

There just wasn’t nearly enough sustained production from the Thunder.

George (32 points on 9-of-21 shooting with six turnovers) had moments but was far too sloppy. Oklahoma City’s big three shot dreadfully from beyond the arc – Carmelo Anthony (0-for-6), Westbrook (0-for-3) and George (2-for-9).

Utah led by double digits the final 23 minutes. Joe Ingles made as many 3-pointers (5-for-11) as the Thunder combined (5-for-26).

Ingles is an excellent shooter, but the Jazz’s offense hummed and got him open looks. His outside shots are a bellwether – of a Utah team cruising.

Mitt Romney taunts Russell Westbrook after fourth foul

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It’s been a glorious night for Utah Jazz fans.

In Game 4 the Jazz have taken care of the big three of the Thunder in what has been a very physical, chippy game (Jae Crowder even got ejected). Between their team going on big runs and the physical play of the game, the Utah crowd — one already with a reputation for verbal hostility toward opponents — has savored every second of it.

That includes former Massachusetts Governor, presidential candidate, and current Utah Senate candidate Mitt Romney, who reminded Russell Westbrook exactly how many fouls he picked up.

Twitter – which has its own reputation for verbal hostility — was not kind to Romney after this. Of course, he earned it with that outfit.