Supporting cast holding back Cavaliers

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Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue showed nearly the bare minimum amount of trust in J.R. Smith in the second half of Game 2. Lue also said Smith would still start Game 3.

Cleveland just appears short on options – and the problem runs far deeper than Smith.

LeBron James has been brilliant. Kevin Love is giving everything he has. Kyrie Irving has had moments despite overall underwhelming play.

The Cavaliers’ supporting cast has just come up empty in the NBA Finals, which the Warriors lead, 2-0.

Beyond its Big Three, Cleveland’s other players are shooting 29.9% from the field, including 21.4% on 3-pointers. Deron Williams (0-for-9 overall, 0-for-4 on 3-pointers), Smith (1-for-6, 1-for-4), Kyle Korver (2-for-7, 1-for-7), Iman Shumpert (3-for-12, 1-for-5) and Channing Frye (1-for-5, 0-for-1) have been particularly inept. (Whew, that’s a long list.)

Tristan Thompson is getting kept off the glass. He has eight rebounds in the series – half as many as Stephen Curry. (Credit Zaza Pachulia, whose sudden villainy overshadows a quietly impressive game, for boxing out so well.)

The Cavs’ role players haven’t collectively been up to snuff defensively. It’s not just that they haven’t blocked a single shot, they’re routinely getting beat. Admittedly, defense isn’t the calling card for many of them. But it’s still a glaring flaw – especially when their shots aren’t falling.

Maybe they’ll play better at home. Game 3 is in Cleveland tonight, and Game 4 will be there Friday.

But they’ve set a low baseline.

The Cavaliers’ supporting cast – players other than LeBron, Love and Irving – has combined for a cumulative Game Score (a rough measure of a players’ contributions) of just 35.6.

For perspective, Kevin Durant (67.3), Stephen Curry (52.2) and LeBron are each beating that individually. Love (35.2) comes close.

Of the 68 teams to play in the Finals since 1984, as far back as Basketball-Reference records go, the 2017 Cavs’ supporting cast (defined as all players beyond the team’s top three in Game Score) has the 11th-worst cumulative Game Score through two games.

Here’s every time a team’s supporting cast produced a cumulative Game Score below 40 in the first two games of a Finals. The team’s opponent is noted, as are its three leaders in Game Score.

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Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.

Report: Other small-market teams championing Pacers’ tampering allegation against Lakers

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The NBA, at the Pacers’ request, is investigating whether the Lakers tampered by making impressible contact with Paul George.

Bob Kravitz of WTHR

In fact, there’s word that other small- and mid-market team officials have reached out to the Pacers and told them, “Good for you. Fight the good fight.”

Small-market teams whine too much about the disadvantages they face, but tampering isn’t really a market-size issue. Remember, under Mitch Kupchak, the Lakers were known as the only team that didn’t tamper.

The Lakers have advantages because George is from the area, and Los Angeles offers immense marketability. That’d be true whether or not they contacted George or his agent before he officially became a free agent.

I understand the desire to take down the big, bad Lakers – especially now that they appear poised to become truly big and bad again. But it’s hard to find a team that can cast a stone at them from anywhere other than a glass house.

Report: Clippers hiring ex-Cavaliers executive Trent Redden

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The power dynamics within the Clippers are shifting, and the ground apparently hasn’t settled yet.

Doc Rivers has been stripped of his presidency. Jerry West became a consultant. Lawrence Frank now holds the most prestigious title in the front office, and newly hired Michael Winger will report to him. Also falling under Frank in the organizational chart? Trent Redden.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

Longtime Cleveland Cavaliers executive Trent Redden will join the LA Clippers’ front-office staff as assistant general manager, league sources said on Monday.

Redden was ousted in Cleveland with David Griffin. He’ll help the Clippers simply by providing another capable executive. They’ve long needed to add front-office employees (and pay for them).

But Redden also exacerbates the issue of Frank’s underlings having far more front-office experience than him. As the Clippers try to establish their new setup, we’ll see whether that creates complications.

Warriors’ Steve Kerr: I expect to coach all season and for many years ahead

AP Photo/Jeff Chiu
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Warriors coach Steve Kerr has missed significant time the last two seasons due to complications from back surgery.

Could those issues derail his career?

Kerr, via Scott Ostler of the San Francisco Chronicle:

“I fully expect to coach all year,” Kerr says in a no-nonsense tone. “That’s my expectation. And for many years to come.”

On the most basic level, it’d be good if Kerr feels well enough to coach. The headaches sound miserable, regardless of his job.

But it’d also be ideal if the NBA didn’t lose one of its best coaches just as he’s getting started. The 51-year-old Kerr might wind up the greatest coach of all time. Obviously that’s a long way off, but he has that potential – health permitting.