NBA Finals turn feisty

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CLEVELAND – LeBron James famously enters “Zero Dark 23,” a social-media blackout, during the playoffs.

Thankfully, Kyrie Irving doesn’t.

“You hear some chatter going on throughout the Warriors’ locker room in terms of them trying to end it here,” Irving said. “…That adds some extra motivation. And you give us a day in between, and we were ready to come out.

“Social media is everywhere. I mean, social media is just – it raises the bar, especially the attention that goes on with it. So, we see everything. I’ll be sitting up here lying saying that I didn’t see it.”

Said LeBron: “I didn’t hear it, but some of the other guys heard it and told me that that they wanted to celebrate on our floor once again and they wanted to spray champagne in our locker rooms, and I think it came from Draymond, which is OK. That’s Dray, anyway.”

Wait until they hear what Draymond Green – who drew a loud reaction when he was seemingly ejected (but actually wasn’t) from the Cavaliers’ Game 4 victory Friday – said in his latest interview.

“I don’t pay much attention to anybody in Cleveland, honestly,” Green said. “Don’t seem to be the sharpest people around.”

Green will have an opportunity not to return this season. This is still a 3-1 series, a historically overwhelming margin – especially with the leading team hosting Game 5.

But there is that one exception in the Finals. And these teams appear to be getting tired of each other entering their 25th matchup in the last three years.

The Cavs are hunting for motivation, and Golden State keeps providing plausible opportunities for them to find it.

Zaza Pachulia punched Iman Shumpert in the nuts and seemed to escape proper punishment. Stephen Curry (again) squatted at mid-court as Steve Kerr or Green picked up a technical.* And Green, at least in the eyes of Cleveland partisans, avoided an ejection he had coming.**

*I legitimately don’t know whether Curry was just stretching, giving his impression of the officiating or anything else. But Richard Jefferson sure appeared to have a reaction to it, and it looked out of place as heated argument was happening above Curry’s head. I asked Curry for an explanation, and he and Durant – rather emphatically – shut me down. Obviously, I still don’t know what Curry was doing. I’m curious Jefferson’s thoughts, though I didn’t get to Cleveland’s locker room tonight to ask him.

**Allowing Green to remain in the game was the right call.

“They aren’t going to punk us. Not me. They’re not about to punk Tristan Thompson,” Tristan Thompson said. “You got the game [expletive] up with that one. You can talk all you want but I’m definitely going to bark back. That’s just how I’m built.

The escalating tension led to one great moment, the best players in the series – Durant and LeBron – jawing with each other for a while.

“You can’t take the emotion out of the game,” Durant said. “We weren’t coming to blows. We were just talking. That’s a part of basketball. The game of basketball created that. The refs didn’t. We didn’t as players. It’s like the aura of the game created trash talk.

“I’m sure it’s going to continue. There’s nothing malicious, or we didn’t say anything malicious. It was just a part of the game. Emotions are what keeps this game alive.”

Durant has acquitted himself well to all this, including not being fazed by Dahntay Jones talking smack to him from the bench. Green might be the Warrior most comfortable in this environment, one that clearly benefited the Cavs overall tonight.

“I love this game. I love you all,” Green said after the loss. “I’m having a great time right now.

“Ain’t no tech going to stop me from being me.”

But what about the rest of Warriors?

“We’ve got to find our edge next game,” Curry said.

Report: Wizards signing Donald Sloan

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The Wizards look like they solved their backup-point-guard problems with Tim Frazier.

But they also looked like they solved their backup-point-guard problems with Trey Burke and then Brandon Jennings last year – and look how that turned out.

So, even after trading for Frazier, Washington is still trying to increase stability behind John Wall.
CSN Mid-Atlantic:

The Wizards added some depth to their backcourt on Thursday by signing veteran guard Donald Sloan to a one-year deal, CSN’s Chris Miller confirmed on Thursday night.

The 29-year-old Sloan has played for the Hawks, New Orleans Hornets, Cavaliers, Pacers and Nets in a five-year NBA career. He spent last season in China.

Sloan isn’t much of a scorer, and he’s only a decent distributor. But he makes up for it with all-around adequacy, highlighted by his rebounding for his position.

The veteran will compete with second-year Sheldon Mac, whose salary is just $50,000 guaranteed, to be Washington’s third point guard.

Report: Knicks sign Nigel Hayes to partially guaranteed deal

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Nigel Hayes became a cult hero at Wisconsin for bringing a “BROKE COLLEGE ATHLETE ANYTHING HELPS” sign to GameDay and soliciting Venmo donations, challenging the stenographer in a press conference and “accidentally” calling a stenographer beautiful in front of a hot mic.

After going undrafted, Hayes and his colorful personality are headed to New York, where Knicks fans are starving for fun.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Could Hayes stick into the regular season? The Knicks have just 14 players with guaranteed salaries, leaving one more spot for a player on an standard contract. Chasson Randle has an unguaranteed salary that becomes partially guaranteed around the time training camp opens. The Knicks could also sign other players, though they’re down to just minimum exceptions.

Hayes – a 6-foot-8 forward – has a chance, but he’s most likely ticketed to New York’s minor-league affiliate after being waived by the parent club.

Who is betting favorite to win Rookie of the Year? Lonzo Ball? Ben Simmons? Depends.

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The Rookie of the Year race is wide open heading into next season.

It’s that way every year — if you had predicted Malcolm Brogdon was going to win a year ago, you would have been laughed out of the building — but this coming season has a lot of talent at the top of the board who could win. Lonzo Ball, Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Jayson Tatum all have a real shot — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Who is the better favorite? Depends on where you do your betting.

The William Hill’s Nevada sportsbook (which works with a number of Las Vegas casinos, such as the SLS), has this (hat tip ESPN):

Lonzo Ball 9-5
Ben Simmons 5-2
Dennis Smith Jr. 4-1
Markelle Fultz 13-2
De'Aaron Fox 8-1
Jayson Tatum 8-1

The Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas has Simmons as the betting line favorite at 9-4

The online betting site Bovda.lv has this line

Lonzo Ball 9-4
Dennis Smith 3-1
Ben Simmons 5-1
Jayson Tatum 5-1
Markelle Fultz 8-1

Traditionally, Rookie of the Year goes to a guy who has the ball in his hands, is aggressive, and puts up raw numbers. It celebrates scorers.

This year a whole lot of guys can fit that bill, more than are mentioned here. It’s going to be a wild ride.

Check out the first NBA 2K18 trailer (VIDEO)

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The NBA season is coming… and that means NBA 2K18 also coming.

To whet the appetite of you gamers out there, check out the first trailer for the upcoming game, with music by Mobb Deep.

You can pre-order the game now.