Dan Feldman

LeBron James scores while passing (video)

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CLEVELAND – LeBron James can’t miss – even when he’s passing.

After opening Game 3 7-of-8 from the field, the Cavaliers star put this pass through the rim for two points. Kevin Love added a free throw, as Cleveland battles back against the Warriors.

Report: Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg a candidate to coach Ohio State

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The Bulls said they wouldn’t fire Fred Hoiberg.

But maybe he’ll take matters into his own hands.

Ohio State parted ways with Thad Matta, creating an appealing vacancy for an accomplished college coach like Hoiberg, who previously coached Iowa State. Apparently, the fit is a little more than circumstantial.

Gary Parrish of CBS:

There are multiple reports.

Columbus would be a soft landing for Hoiberg, who has looked in over his head in two seasons with the Bulls.

Hoiberg has seemingly failed to engender much confidence from his players, and Jimmy Butler has repeatedly publicly critiqued the coach. Whether his own players or opponents, Hoiberg has just stumbled into too many odd and unnecessary complications. Or his players bypass his leadership altogether, like when Butler and Dwyane Wade and Rajon Rondo publicly sparred over the team’s direction.

We still haven’t seen Hoiberg’s offense fully unleashed in the NBA – a product of Chicago’s uneven roster – and he might want to see this through. But after all the headaches, he might prefer to return to college, where he’d have greater control over his players

Hoiberg’s job security appears low. The chance he could be fired next season and the appeal of coaching the Buckeyes might push him into a preemptive move.

NBA playoffs in unprecedented competitive drought

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Avery Bradley‘s shot bounced high off the rim, teetered around the cylinder then fell. Celtics 111, Cavaliers 108 – the biggest playoff upset in NBA history, fittingly capped by a thrilling game-winning buzzer-beating 3-pointer.

That was 17 days ago.

The Warriors and Cavs emphatically closing out the conference finals, a prolonged break before the NBA Finals and a Golden State-dominant start to the Finals has produced an unprecedented competitive drought. There have been a record 16 days within a postseason without a single-digit game.

Cleveland and Golden State could end the drought in Game 3 tonight, but this span stands alone:

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Dirk Nowitzki: Mavericks haven’t told me whether they’ll exercise $25 million team option

dirk nowitzki
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
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The Mavericks’ $25 million team option on Dirk Nowitzki is more than six times bigger than the second-largest team option for next season (Pacers’ $4 million option on Lavoy Allen). It’s rare, if not unprecedented, a team controls so much money in the form of an option.

What will Dallas do?

Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com:

https://twitter.com/EarlKSneed/status/872138661026025473

Nowitzki:

There’s an obviously an opt out – or a team opt out. They haven’t told me if that’s what we’re going to do, if that’s the route we’re going to take. I think Mark is vacationing somewhere with the family as of now. I’m sure when he gets back, we’re going to sit down and see what’s best. As of right now, I don’t see anything changing.

Nowitzki said he plans to return next season, and it’s hard to see him playing for another team after spending his first 19 seasons with Dallas. The production of Nowitzki, who turns 39 this month, is no longer worth anything near $25 million. But this contract was more large honorarium than competitively bargained.

The question isn’t whether Nowitzki returns to the Mavericks. It’s at what price.

If they decline Nowitzki’s option and convince him to take a large discount (to something like the $4,328,000 room exception), they can pursue big free agents like reported target Jrue Holiday. If they strike out, they could always re-sign Nowitzki to a big one-year deal as a retirement gift.

Or they could just guarantee Nowitzki a $25 million sendoff by exercising his option. That’d delay major talent upgrades beyond the No. 9 pick another year, but Dallas probably isn’t winning much next year anyway.

Here’s guessing Nowitzki and Mavericks owner Mark Cuban amicably options (pun intended) rather than just the team unilaterally making a decision.

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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