Dan Feldman

LeBron James says his wife’s and mom’s initial reaction to returning to Cleveland: ‘F— that’


Two days before LeBron James announced he’d sign with the Cavaliers in 2014, a report emerged that his entire inner circle wanted him to return to Cleveland.

If that were true, it apparently took some convincing.

LeBron, via ESPN:

When I decided to go back to Cleveland, I had to decide – because our owner at the time when I left decided to put out this f—ing article that we all know about, where he completely bashed me and disrespected, not only me as an individual, but disrespected my name. And my name is not just myself. It’s my wife. It’s my kids, my grandfather. You know what I’m saying? My mother, so many more people.

So for me, when I decided to go back, and I talked to Mav, Rich and Randy and everybody, and I had to let them know cause some people was on the fence. Even my wife was like – my momma and my wife was like, “F— that. I ain’t with that.” My mom was definitely like, “F— that. We ain’t going back.”

And for me, it was more, I had to finally just be like, “You know what, mom? It ain’t really about that. Me going back is more of this. It’s more of a bigger picture, and it’s more of a all these kids, all these people that need inspiration and need a way to get out. And I believe I’m that way out.” So, I had to be like – as much as my mom means everything to me, and my wife means everything to me, my kids.

My mom, she was so like, “Listen, you go back. I ain’t going back with you.” She was like, “I’m staying in Miami or I’m going somewhere else. You send me somewhere else.”

I had to be like, “Let’s not worry about the small s—. Let’s worry about us trying to build something that’s bigger than our name.”

It still stuns me LeBron and Cavs owner Dan Gilbert put aside their issues, but it’s to their credit. LeBron got an owner willing to spend, and Gilbert got the best player in the world back on his team. Their arrangement produced a championship, and back in Cleveland, LeBron has made an incredible impact in the community.

I do wonder whether LeBron’s wife and mother, Savannah James and Gloria James, have changed their attitudes or whether they and LeBron are just adults who’ve agreed to disagree and have moved forward without deeply personal public attacks.

Rumor: Jazz fear Heat as Gordon Hayward challenger

AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

The Jazz could have possibly kept Gordon Hayward off the market if he made an All-NBA team.

Alas, he didn’t – and now suitors are coming from all angles.

It’s not just the Celtics, who boast Hayward’s college coach in Brad Stevens, a strong present and a brighter future with those Nets picks. The Heat are also a contender for Hayward.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Heat president Pat Riley said he was taking a new approach, forgoing “whale hunting” to keep the team’s core in tact. Maybe old habits die hard – though for good reason.

Hayward would be a big upgrade between Hassan Whiteside and Goran Dragic. Players like Dion Waiters and James Johnson overachieved last year, but retaining them will cost more money, and there’s no guarantee they duplicate their career years. Hayward is a proven star and, at 27, young enough to maintain his production.

Miami can offer a great basketball culture, warm weather and a state with no income tax. It’s appealing.

Still, Utah can offer more money and would probably be a better team with Hayward than the Heat would. The Jazz’s organizational culture is good, too.

Hayward will have multiple appealing options in free agency. It’s just a matter of what he prioritizes.



Counter-reports: Markelle Fultz not visiting Kings this weekend

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Markelle Fultz working out for the Kings? It seemed too good to be true.

Because it probably is.

James Ham of NBC Sports California:

Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings weren’t getting Fultz, anyway. He’s likely to go No. 1, and Sacramento – even with the Nos. 5 and 10 picks – lacks the assets to trade up that high.

But the Kings have more modest goals, like convincing people around the league that Sacramento isn’t “basketball hell.” A visit from the draft’s top prospect this weekend would have helped.

The Kings will have to find other ways, potentially including flying out Fultz at a different time. But, considering another report said he’d work out for only the Celtics, that seems unlikely.

Kevin Durant, hounded by criticism for joining Warriors, imposing his will on NBA Finals


CLEVELAND – Kevin Durant never wanted the backlash, the implication he cheated the chase. He holed up in the Hamptons for days after picking the Warriors. He insisted he never would have signed with them if they won the title last year.

But when a former MVP still in his prime joins a 73-win team, whether or not it won in the Finals, the handwringing is unavoidable: Durant schemed, rather than earned, his way to a championship.

The Warriors were favored to win the 2017 title before signing Durant. Sure, there were rumors about him joining Golden State, and that was baked into the odds. But few thought he’d actually sign with the Warriors. They were favored on the core of Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson.

The perception was Durant would just ride their coattails after nine seasons of falling short in Oklahoma City, where he already built a reputation for deferring too much to Russell Westbrook. And that was only one star teammate. Durant would seemingly fade into the background playing with the back-to-back reigning MVP and two additional stars.

Reality is to the contrary.

Durant is overwhelming these Finals with an undeniable magnificence. The Warriors are one win from a championship because they rode Durant to a 3-0 lead over the Cavaliers.

He attacked the rim relentlessly in Game 1, turned up his defense while maintaining his offensive firepower in Game 2 and stepped on the Cavs’ hearts in Game 3. He has stared down Rihanna, played center and sparked a debate of whether he’s the best player in the world.

“This is his moment. This is his time,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said of Durant, who’s averaging 34.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 6.0 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.3 steals per game in the Finals. “He’s earned it. He’s been in this league for a long time, and he’s, I think, at the top of his game at the biggest time.”

Durant entered these Finals in a unique place – the only player on either team with Finals experience but who didn’t participate in the first two series of the Warriors-Cavaliers trilogy. His Thunder lost in the 2012 Finals in five games to the LeBron James-led Heat, but Durant acquitted himself well, averaging 30.6 points per game on 54.8%/39.4%/83.9% field-goal/3-point/free-throw shooting.

Joining Golden State got him back to this stage, but he could have taken a backseat once he got here. Not only do the Warriors have three other stars, they have former Finals MVP Andre Iguodala.

But Durant is on pace to become the first newcomer to join an incumbent playoff team and lead it in shots during the Finals since Latrell Sprewell with the 1999 Knicks. (Patrick Ewing, who led New York in shots during the regular season, suffered a season-ending injury in the conference finals. But Sprewell was already leading the team in playoff shots at that point.)

“I feel like every team I’m on, in order for us to go to the next level, I have to assert myself,” Durant said. “Since I was playing for the P.G. Jaguars when I was 10 years old, I felt like if I didn’t assert myself, we weren’t as good as we should be.”

Durant has asserted himself in a way that allows Curry to thrive, too. The fear from the rest of the league when Durant signed is coming to fruition: The Warriors are more talented and cohesive than everyone else.

But Durant and his teammates aren’t totally on the same page. Other players have spoken about how they were refocused by blowing a 3-1 lead to Cleveland last year, an experience Durant didn’t share.

That Finals loss hastened their pursuit of Durant, who could be seen as a hired gun – especially when Golden State talks about avenging last year. Yet, he can relate.

“I know what losing is like, and I know how you can lose a game or give a series away or give a momentum swing,” said Durant, whose Thunder blew a 3-1 lead to these very Warriors in last year’s conference finals. “I know all about it.”

These are the absurdities that drive people mad about Golden State – overcoming a 3-1 deficit against Oklahoma City then blowing a 3-1 lead against Cleveland was apparently the exact right combination to lure Durant. If Curry’s ankles weren’t damaged goods when he signed his contract extension or the players union accepted cap smoothing, this wouldn’t have been possible.

But the perfect storm happened, and Durant took the shortcut to a championship.

He can talk all he wants about just wanting to be around good people and in a good basketball environment, and those were surely factors. But he also took the path of least resistance to a title.

Yet, he’s not coasting to the finish one bit.

Beyond all the noise – free-agency rumors, a feud with Westbrook, hot-take debates on legacy – Durant is a hell of a basketball player. He’s doing everything he can in the Finals to turn the focus back to that.

What happens when teams take 3-0 lead in NBA playoff series?


You probably already know no team has ever overcome a 3-0 lead in an NBA playoff series.

But will the Warriors – up 3-0 on the Cavaliers – wrap up the NBA Finals in Game 4 tonight?

History is on their side. Most teams up 3-0 have swept.

Here’s how teams have fared in best-of-seven series when up 3-0:


Sweeps when up 3-0 have been even more likely in the Finals, though that’s a far smaller sample:


All five teams to go up 3-0 this year, including the Warriors three times, swept. Golden State was also the last team up 3-0 to drop a game, losing Game 4 to the Rockets in the 2015 conference finals then winning in six.

The Warriors could make short-term financial gains by losing tonight, but they could etch their names in history as the first undefeated playoff team. There’s more incentive – especially felt by the players involved – to win.

To me, it’s simple: Cleveland hasn’t figured out how to beat Golden State yet. Why is that going to suddenly change tonight?