Author: Brett Pollakoff

2015 NBA Finals - Game Three

LeBron admits to being upset by third-place finish in MVP voting


Stephen Curry deserved to win the MVP this season. He was the best player on a Warriors team that put up a league-best 67 wins during the regular season, and more often than not, that’s how the award is decided.

James Harden had a season worthy of MVP consideration, too, so he came in second.

And the guy that most believe is the best player in the game today? LeBron James came away with the third-place finish.

After another stellar performance where he finished with 40 points, 12 rebounds, eight assists and four steals while playing 46 of the game’s 48 minutes to put the Cavaliers up two games to one in the NBA Finals, LeBron admitted to being upset by where he ultimately landed in the MVP race.

“Every day I step out on the basketball floor, D-Wade, you know me, I want to be the MVP,” James said, in a conversation with Dwyane Wade that aired on ESPN. “For my teammates, for whoever is looking to me as a leader. I can’t say that I wasn’t upset finishing third, because I know what I bring to the table. I know how much I work — on my craft, and every single night.

“I can’t say I was happy about finishing third, but I didn’t need that extra motivation.”

LeBron has something motivating him that’s allowed him to play at a level that even those closest to him have never seen. As for the MVP, some of that is voter fatigue, because it gets old recognizing the same player for his greatness year after year, and sometimes the voters look to find a reason why others are more deserving.

But as we’re seeing in these Finals, the real MVP (as Kevin Durant might say) is LeBron, unquestionably so.

Dwyane Wade on LeBron James: ‘I’m seeing a different focus and look that I haven’t seen’

2015 NBA Finals - Game Three

Dwyane Wade won two championships playing alongside LeBron James, and the duo took the Miami Heat to the Finals in each of the last four seasons.

He’s seen plenty of greatness out of LeBron, and he’s seen it up close. But he’s never seen his former teammate dialed in quite like this.

“Obviously I played with you for four years, and I’ve seen you in many different arenas,” Wade said to LeBron, during a postgame interview he conducted on ESPN. “Let’s talk about your mindset right now, Because I see a different LeBron. I see a different focus and look that I haven’t seen. And I’ve seen a lot.”

It’s something others have noticed, as well.

From Sam Amick of USA Today:

James, who tried to replicate the Miami Heat’s Big Three model in Cleveland only to find himself as the lone All-Star on this Kyrie Irving/Kevin Love-less group that has no business being ahead against the Warriors, is sharing messages of motivation at every turn.

Publicly. Privately. Those closest to him are struck by this fiery look that’s in his eye, a focus and will the likes of which even they have never seen and a selfless style that is so perfectly contagious.

Whatever is motivating LeBron at this point, it’s driving him to play at a level that’s enabled him to carry his team to an improbable 2-1 series lead over the Warriors in these Finals.

Klay Thompson calls Matthew Dellavedova’s late and-1 a ‘lucky’ shot

Klay Thompson, Matthew Dellavedova

With 2:27 remaining in Game 3 of the NBA Finals, the Warriors had cut a Cavaliers lead that was once at 20 points down to one, and seemed ready to continue their push to take control of this game, and potentially, the series.

But Matthew Dellavedova came up huge, just as he’s been doing for Cleveland the entire postseason.

Delly was absolutely mauled by Stephen Curry on a drive to the basket, but he somehow managed to float a high-arcing bank shot up and in as he stumbled to the floor.

The shot was indeed ridiculous, but Klay Thompson chose to characterize it in another way afterward.

From Ethan Strauss of

After Game 3 in Cleveland, players were defensive, annoyed. After a reporter asked Draymond Green whether the players needed to “pump each other up,” the response wasn’t altogether inviting. …

There was angst over opportunities lost.

“I mean, that shot [Matthew Dellavedova] hit when we were down one when Steph fouled him, that was just lucky, man,” Klay Thompson said. “I guarantee he doesn’t practice that shot so, big player though, and we’re not going to let this game deflate us.”

The frustration in the Golden State locker room is understandable with the team now trailing 2-1 in the series. But the same can surely be said for some of Curry’s late-game looks, yet it’s unlikely that the Cavaliers would choose to discount any of those shots in the same way.

Report: Bucks ‘have every intention of matching’ any offer Khris Middleton may receive as restricted free agent

Milwaukee Bucks v Charlotte Hornets

Khris Middleton continued to improve during his third NBA season with the Bucks, and finished the year with averages of 13.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 assists, while starting in 58 of his 79 appearances and playing 30.1 minutes per contest.

Middleton will be a restricted free agent this summer, and teams may come calling with sizable offers. But Milwaukee wants to make it known that it is willing and able to step up and match.

From Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

As far as Khris Middleton is concerned, sources say the Bucks will issue the required qualifying and have every intention of matching any offer sheet Middleton may receive from other teams. The Bucks view Middleton as a core piece to their success last season and will meet whatever price is necessary to keep him in Milwaukee.

That’s a bold statement, but one that needs to be made if the intention is to keep Middleton around.

The way restricted free agency works, teams are reluctant to tender offer sheets if it’s believed they will ultimately be a waste of time. Cap space can be tied up for three days while the team with the player’s rights weighs the option of whether or not to match, and that time is precious during the traditional July frenzy where teams race against one another to get highly-coveted free agents to commit to sign.

We saw this play out last summer with Greg Monroe of the Pistons, and Eric Bledsoe of the Suns. The public stance was that those teams would match, so even as time went on with no deal in place, other clubs simply weren’t willing to commit their cap space with formal offers. It’s the way the restricted free agency game is played in the NBA, and Milwaukee, at this point, is playing it to perfection.

Report: Knicks ‘serious’ about considering Cameron Payne in NBA Draft

Cameron Payne, Reece Chamberlain

Cameron Payne is a point guard from Murray State who is projected to be selected in the middle of the first round of this summer’s NBA Draft.

He may already have a promise from the Thunder at 14, and has refused a workout with the Bucks at 17 because his agent believes he could potentially go much higher.

The Knicks have the fourth overall pick, and will have Payne in for a workout next week. It’s unlikely they’d select Payne that high, so if they do end up liking him, then trading down remains a realistic option.

From Ian Begley of ESPN New York:

League sources with knowledge of the team’s thinking say the Knicks are doing more than their due diligence by working out Payne; they are “serious” about considering him in the draft, those sources say.

Payne is widely viewed as a player who will be taken in the middle-to-late first round. So the Knicks’ interest in Payne and, to a lesser degree, their interest in Willie Cauley-Stein, is a sign that they are at least considering trading down from No. 4.

Both Knicks president Phil Jackson and GM Steve Mills have said that the organization would consider all of its options with the pick, including the possibility of trading down.

Phil Jackson has admitted to being a little impatient as far as rebuilding is concerned, so if trade possibilities arise that would involve New York dealing the No. 4 pick for some established talent that could help immediately, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him pursue this option — especially if it’s one that could include the Knicks receiving a later first round pick in return as part of a potential package.

The Knicks have plenty to consider, and have been linked to so many prospects — Trey Lyles, Justise Winslow, Emmanuel Mudiay, to name a few — that it’s going to be tough to predict which way they’ll lean before they fully complete the evaluation process.