Dan Feldman

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Cleveland studio releases LeBron James-Kevin Durant rap excerpt (audio)

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LeBron James and Kevin Durant collaborated on a hip-hop song in 2011.

As the Cavaliers and Warriors stars meet in the NBA Finals, knowledge of the track’s existence became public. Anticipation built.

Spider Studios:

As Alfred Hitchcock said, “There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”

Reports: Cavaliers locker room smelled of marijuana after Game 2

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NBA teams open their locker rooms – already full of players and team personnel – after games to media, arena staff and others who snag a credential. It can get quite crowded, and LeBron James speaking in the Cavaliers’ visiting locker room rather than at the podium after their loss to the Warriors in Game 2 of the NBA Finals likely drew even more people into the confined space.

So, there are no shortage of suspects for this strange development.

Mike Wise of The Undefeated:

Brian Windhorst of ESPN confirmed:

This story is more amusing than anything else.

Nobody has pointed the finger at the Cavs. Would any of them really toke up in an NBA Finals locker room with so many people around?

But what if it were a Cleveland player? LeBron said he’d recover from the game with wine, and nobody batted an eye. Recreational marijuana is legal in California. The Collective Bargaining Agreement prohibits players from using marijuana, but that stance based on antiquated ideas about the difference between marijuana and alcohol.

I’d have no problem with a player unwinding from a game with weed. Not-at-all-well-kept secret: It already happens.

To do it in a crowded locker room during the NBA Finals would be needlessly reckless, so there are other layers here. But that’s why I doubt is was a Cavalier anyway.

Report: Markelle Fultz will work out for only Celtics

AP Photo/Young Kwak
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Markelle Fultz wants the Celtics to draft him No. 1 overall, and – with a workout in Boston scheduled for today – he’s proceeding as if they will.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

How will we evaluate a player working out for only one team without handwringing about his father?

Fultz faces less risk than Lonzo Ball of falling past his desired draft spot. The Washington point guard is the consensus top prospect in the draft.

I doubt Fultz is turning down other workouts on a whim. This is yet another indication the Celtics will pick him No. 1.

He’d bring an advanced offensive skill set with a physical profile that should allow his talent to translate. Fultz would be an awkward fit with Isaiah Thomas, but they’re at least saying the right things. Fultz’s long-term outlook justifies the initial uneasiness.

And if Boston shows a hesitancy to draft him or trades its pick, he could always work out elsewhere. He’s not beholden to this plan.

Report: ‘Several’ NBA executives doubt Lakers actually pass on Lonzo Ball

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The Lakers drafting Lonzo Ball felt like destiny.

They have the No. 2 pick, and if there’s a consensus No. 2 prospect, it’s Ball. They’re rumored to be enamored with him, and the UCLA point guard wants to stay in Los Angeles.

But multiple reports suggested they could pass on him.

Adam Zagoria of Zagsblog:

Meantime, several NBA executives told ZAGSBLOG they don’t buy an Internet report that the Lakers will pass on Ball, who is slated to work out for them on Wednesday.

One source suggested the Lakers might be open to trading down and want to create the impression that they are interested in Kansas’ Josh Jackson so teams who like him would consider trading up to get the No. 2 pick. The Lakers then could still get Ball or Fox after the second pick, the source suggested.

There are so many smokescreens this time of year. The Lakers clearly want people to believe they have doubts about Ball, whether or not they actually do. They’ve convinced some, though obviously not everyone.

Here’s guessing they stay at No. 2 and draft Ball, because teams usually don’t find satisfactory trade offers – and, again, Ball will likely be the top prospect available after the Celtics pick Markelle Fultz No. 1.

Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry thriving together in NBA Finals

AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez
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Kevin Durant has been so good in the NBA Finals, he has overshadowed the back-to-back reigning MVP.

This time, it isn’t because Stephen Curry has struggled.

Curry (30.0 points on 46% shooting, including 45% on 3-pointers, with 10.5 assists, 8.0 rebounds 2.0 steal per game) has been sensational in helping the Warriors to a 2-0 lead over the Cavaliers. Durant (35.5 points on 56% shooting, including 50% on 3-pointers, with 11.0 rebounds 7.0 assists, 2.5 blocks, 1.5 steals per game) has just been even better.

The Golden State stars have combined for a cumulative Game Score of 119.5 – the best mark by a team’s top two players in the first two games of an NBA Finals since at least 1984, as far back as Basketball-Reference records go.

Durant’s cumulative Game Score, a rough measure of overall contributions, in the Finals is 67.3, and Curry’s is 52.2. For perspective, LeBron James has a cumulative Finals Game Score of 51.9.

This is the “Two MVPs are greater than one” math. Durant (2014 MVP) and Curry (2015 and 2016 MVP) are making the game easier for each other. LeBron is trudging along with far less support. Kyrie Irving has underwhelmed, and though Kevin Love is putting his best foot forward, he’s not an MVP.

Here’s how Durant and Curry compare to the other top tandems in the first two games of a Finals since 1984, by combined Game Score:

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Magic Johnson-James Worthy, Michael Jordan-Scottie Pippen, Shaquille O’Neal-Kobe Bryant – they never started a Finals like this. LeBron and Love crack the leaderboard, but if Durant-Curry is surpassing those all-time great duos, how can the Cleveland pair hold up?

LeBron might still be the best player in the world right now. Durant outplayed him in Games 1 and 2, and Curry rivals LeBron’s contributions so far. But Durant and Curry benefit from playing together, clouding the picture.

As long as this remains debatable, the Warriors have a major advantage.

Cleveland has one MVP playing at an elite level. Golden State has two. It’s mostly that simple.