Dan Feldman

Report: Warriors coach Steve Kerr might return during NBA Finals

4 Comments

Monday, Steve Kerr said he wasn’t ready to coach a game.

But the Finals don’t begin until Thursday.

ESPN:

Steve Kerr looks better than he has since he took a leave of absence during the Golden State Warriors’ first-round playoff series, and there’s a chance he will coach at some point against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, sources told ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne.

Kerr has been speaking with the media, a sign he’s readying for a larger load. Obviously, coaching a game is another level.

The Warriors would be better off if Kerr can return. They haven’t faced any significant adversity throughout these playoffs – and they’re so good, they might not. But if Cleveland can stress Golden State, Kerr has proven adept at calming and focusing the Warriors. That’s an important skill on this high-pressure stage.

More importantly, if Kerr coaches, that means he’s feeling better, which is always a good thing.

Book: LeBron James tweeted about doing other activities to cover for watching Warriors last season

Jason Miller/Getty Images
2 Comments

LeBron James has long downplayed a Cavaliers-Warriors rivalry, not wanting to compare the teams or acknowledge the glaring pettiness between them.

Yet, Golden State practically became appointment viewing last season. The Warriors marched toward 73 wins (breaking the Bulls’ 72-win record), and matchups the Spurs (who’d finish with an even better point difference per game than Golden State) were particularly anticipated.

Not that LeBron seemed to care.

While the Warriors were blowing out San Antonio in January, LeBron tweeted:

As Golden State toppled the Spurs in April, LeBron tweeted:

But LeBron apparently did care.

Return of the King” by Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin:

He didn’t like admitting he was keeping such a close eye on the Warriors, to do so would give them a bit of a mental edge. In fact, as the season unfolded, he sometimes posted on social media during Warriors games, commenting about shows or movies he was watching as if to imply he didn’t care about Golden State. It was all a cover; he cared deeply.

James knew Kobe Bryant was going to retire before Bryant made the official announcement in late November. When James came back after home games or on off nights after his kids went to bed or he was on the road in a hotel, he wanted to watch Bryant play in those West games that started at 10:30 p.m. He wanted to savor Bryant’s final days and even take some notes—someday that would be him on the swan song.

But he couldn’t help himself. His eyes would wander to the channel with the Warriors game. What were they doing? Often it was blasting another opponent, their drive both impressive and depressing to James. Whether it was their continuity, their talent, or their desire to shut people up about the “lucky” narrative, they were playing together like a philharmonic. Late in those nights James couldn’t help but compare, and he didn’t like how the Cavs were measuring up.

This context makes it even more interesting how LeBron occasionally blurted out concerns the Warriors – saying they looked hungrier than Cleveland and were the healthiest team he’d ever seen.

LeBron’s (attempted-to-be-quiet) obsession with the Warriors paid off with a legendary individual Finals and Cavs championship.

Will LeBron hit the right notes again this year?

Disclosure: I received a promotional copy of “Return of the King.”

Newcomers to Cavaliers-Warriors rivalry embrace Finals

Jason Miller/Getty Images
Leave a comment

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) Watching Part II of the Cavaliers-Warriors NBA Finals trilogy last spring, Kyle Korver came to a realization.

“These are the two best teams and if you were on one of these two teams you were hopeful that you’d be here at the end,” Korver said Wednesday, a day before the teams meet for the third straight Finals. “I’m excited this worked out that I could be here.”

Korver got added to the mix midway through the season when he was dealt from Atlanta to Cleveland and is one of a dozen players on the two rosters who weren’t on these teams last June when the Cavs rallied from 3-1 down to win the title.

While much of the focus leading up to Cavs vs. Warriors III has been on how the addition of Kevin Durant to Golden State’s star core led by Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson will make life even more difficult for LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers, there are several other newcomers to the rivalry who could play a key role in determining which team wins a second title in this trilogy.

“It’s pretty intense,” Warriors center Zaza Pachulia said. “Obviously when you play against somebody and it’s the third time in a row and split the seasons and championships, they don’t like each other. … Even though I wasn’t here the last couple years, talking and hearing the stories and watching the film kind of transfers me and I feel like I’ve been part of this team.”

Pachulia passed up a chance at bigger money to have a chance for a title when he signed with Golden State last summer for $2.9 million. He’s part of a revamped center position along with fellow newcomers JaVale McGee and David West.

Swingman Matt Barnes adds more energy off the bench and rookie guard Patrick McCaw has provided another boost.

The Cavaliers added a 3-point specialist in Korver, along with backup point guard Deron Williams and swingman Derrick Williams to the mix in hopes of giving James more offensive options around him.

Many of these players had to take on smaller roles now that they had joined so-called super teams filled with stars. But it was all worth it because of the quest for a championship.

“I felt like when I got here, I could fill in some gaps, fill in some holes just in the way these guys approach the game and the level of seriousness it takes every single day,” West said.

All the newcomers remembered watching these two teams square off the past two Junes as fans. There was Golden State winning its first title since 1975 when the Warriors bested a short-handed Cavaliers squad missing Irving and Kevin Love on Cleveland’s home court in 2015.

Then the Cavs got their revenge last year when they rallied back to claim their city’s first major team championship since 1964 with a Game 7 win in Oakland.

“They’ve been battles, they’ve been wars,” Barnes said. “This is really the grudge match. I think the world has been waiting for this to finally get here.”

Barnes wasn’t exactly a neutral observer last year, having grown up in Northern California and having played with the Warriors before their recent run of dominance. Barnes was a key reserve on the “We Believe” team in 2007 that made it to the second round of the playoffs and said his heart never left the East Bay.

He started this season in Sacramento before getting waived in February and joining the Warriors for the stretch run. Now he’s ready to help avenge last year’s disappointment.

“They know they left a ring on the table,” Barnes said of his teammates. “It kind of goes without saying. It’s not something we talk about. Everybody has been waiting to get to this point in the season.”

Some have waited longer than others. Korver ranks second among all active players with 104 playoff games without a Finals appearance, trailing only Joe Johnson‘s 112 games. West (95 games), Barnes (90) and Deron Williams (85) aren’t far behind.

That all changes Thursday.

“It’s been a long journey, some ups and downs but it’s well worth it once you get here in the Finals,” Williams said. “It’s definitely exciting. I feel blessed to be in this position to compete for a championship.”

Adam Silver: LaVar Ball will ‘settle down’ once Lonzo Ball gets drafted

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
10 Comments

Lonzo Ball will get picked high in the 2017 NBA draft. (We don’t know exactly where, but my money is still on the Lakers taking him No. 2.)

But his outspoken father, LaVar Ball, has become a prominent part of evaluating Lonzo.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, via ESPN:

“I think his dad will invariably settle down once his son is drafted and a team has the appropriate discussions with him. So I’m not concerned about that,” Silver said.

Publicity-hungry LaVar has generated a ton of publicity by unapologetically and myopically saying outlandish things. His plan is working to perfection.

What makes anyone think he’ll stop after the draft?

Austin Rivers: Glen Davis ‘constantly out of shape, late, don’t remember plays’

AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
Leave a comment

Asked about Glen Davis’ weight loss a couple years ago, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said, “It’s like throwing a deck chair off the Queen Mary.”

This year, Davis accused Rivers of playing him on a broken ankle and called his former coach “lucky as hell” to win a championship with the Celtics. Davis – nicknamed “Big Baby” – also apparently put a face behind the reports of other Clippers somewhat resenting Austin Rivers‘ favored status.

Austin, via Fox Sports 1:

That’s a bunch of BS. That’s just Baby talking outside of his lane. I’ve heard Baby say to me multiple times, “Oh, man, you know why Doc is so good?” “Doc is so great.” And then now he’s saying bad things about him. It’s a huge contradiction.

And I don’t have a problem with Baby. Me and Baby have always been cool.

But it makes no sense to what he’s doing, and whatever he has between him and his pops – my pops said the jokes about his weight and stuff. It was hard – Let me ask you something: If someone is constantly out of shape, late, don’t remember plays, how the hell are you supposed to play him?

So, I don’t know where that even goes with the team. That has nothing to do with him coming at my father. I really don’t care. That’s between him and my pops.

But as far as him talking about me, being my coach – that has never had a play in the team. I’ve earned every stripe that I’ve gotten. I’ve earned every playing time. That’s just him talking out the side of his neck. I don’t even understand where that comes from, so I’m not even paying that no mind.

It’s impossible to hear this as anything other than Austin sticking up for his dad – which is exactly what the guard is trying to avoid. But playing for his dad invites that perception, fair or not.

Austin has worked hard to improve and earn a bigger role. He leveraged the Clippers lack of flexibility to replace him into a big contract.

Whatever aid Doc provided, Austin did his fair share. I understand why Austin would resent any implication to the contrary. But Austin also ought to understand why – just situationally, if nothing else – he receives this scrutiny.

As far as Austin’s claims about Davis: Davis played his whole career out of shape. He made it work for a while. It’s also a tough way to last in the league.