LeBron James had already begun griping about the Cavaliers’ roster before Cleveland hosted the Kings on Wednesday. But the game offered an opportunity for the Cavs to reverse their on-court struggles and diffuse tension. Instead, they fell in overtime, a result that usually exacerbates problems.
Perhaps, there’d be a different feeling in Cleveland if the game featured correct officiating down the stretch.
LeBron should’ve drawn a Willie Cauley-Stein shooting foul with 1:20 left, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:
Cauley-Stein (SAC) make contact with James’ (CLE) arm that affects his shot attempt.
A correct call would’ve given LeBron, who’s making 70% of his free throws this season and 74% for his career, two attempts from a line. Sure, the Cavs could’ve made more than 17 of the 34 free throws they actually took. But two more tries late in the fourth quarter could’ve made the difference.
Instead, Cauley-Stein blocked LeBron’s shot and secured the defensive rebound. Sacramento took the ball the other way and eventually won in overtime.
Tristan Thompson also got away with a defensive three-second violation in overtime, according to the league, but if LeBron drew the correct whistle earlier, Cleveland might have just won in regulation.
After last week’s Warriors-Thunder game, Russell Westbrook told someone, “Don’t say what’s up to that b— a—.”
Whom was he talking to? And whom was he talking about.
Oklahoma City teammates Enes Kanter, Anthony Morrow and Jerami Grant were in the vicinity. And, of course, Westbrook is beefing with Durant.
Kanter, via Erik Horne of The Oklahoman:
“Ask him (Westbrook), man,” Kanter said. “He said somebody but ask him. He’ll probably tell you. He’ll probably give you a better answer than me.
“It wasn’t Kevin. He’d already walked out. I didn’t even see him after the game.”
As I wrote before: You will never convince anyone Westbrook is referring to anyone but Durant.
Before the season, Blake Griffin‘s camp was reportedly adamant he’d re-sign with the Clippers this summer. But it always going to depend how the year went, even if Griffin entered the season with that intention.
Where does he stand now, having missed several weeks due to knee surgery while watching the Clippers sink in the standings?
Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:
Sources close to Griffin said recently that he is not remotely interested in changing teams and they expect the deal process to go very smoothly and quickly this summer.
The Clippers will still give Griffin more to consider, and this season’s results could create an impression. Would another early playoff exit send Griffin into free agency with an unexpectedly bitter taste in his mouth?
But if Griffin is this certain now, I doubt the postseason result swings his opinion.
No matter how the Clippers fare this season, Los Angeles still offers things – endorsements and proximity to show business – Griffin can’t get elsewhere. The Clippers are also reportedly willing to spend whatever it takes to re-sign Chris Paul. If Paul and Griffin return, the Clippers should keep winning, especially if J.J. Redick also re-signs.
Griffin re-signing, considering their improved relationship and on-court chemistry, only increases the odds of Paul re-signing. But Paul has been far more mum on his intentions.
It’s too soon to fully count Griffin as back, but the Clippers can probably turn their attention to convincing Paul to re-sign. As with Griffin, the best thing the Clippers can do is win and send the stars into free agency on a high note.
Dwyane Wade and Jimmy Butler sounded off publicly about their teammates not caring enough.
The source of Wade’s and Butler’s frustration?
Apparently Bulls teammates Nikola Mirotic and Michael Carter-Williams.
K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:
Sources said Nikola Mirotic and Carter-Williams have frustrated Wade and Butler more than most players and that both Wade and Butler addressed players privately before airing their frustrations to reporters.
After a promising start to his career, Mirotic has declined each season. Carter-Williams has now fallen out of favor with at least two teams since winning Rookie of the Year, the Bucks and Bulls removing him from the starting lineup in the last two years. (It’s unclear whether the 76ers lost faith in Carter-Williams or just traded him because an extremely valuable draft pick became available.)
Does this mean Mirotic and Carter-Williams have inadequate work ethics? No, and Rajon Rondo stuck up for them while criticizing Wade and Butler.
But, coupled with Wade’s and Butler’s criticism, the slipping production of the two younger players is circumstantial evidence of a problem.
That’s not the Bulls’ only problem, though. There’s a clear rift in the locker room. Butler has become a legitimate star, and Wade’s has an elite résumé while maintaining quality production. They’ve earned a right to lead, and if teammates aren’t following, Wade and Butler expressing frustration isn’t a cardinal sin. It might be misguided depending on what’s happening internally, but it’s not a monumental violation of decorum.
Lesser players like Mirotic, Carter-Williams and now Rondo don’t get the same leeway. They can try to get Wade and Butler to set a different tone, but it’s ultimately up to the three sub-stars to fall in line.
Carmelo Anthony had a tough time setting up a meeting with Phil Jackson.
It seems Anthony isn’t the only person who struggles to communicate with the Knicks president.
Bobby Marks on The Vertical Podcast with Chris Mannix:
I’ve talked to a lot of teams, and it’s not just the media that he’s not out in the public with. He’s not an easy man to get in touch with. If you’re going to try to make a trade proposal with the Knicks, you’re not going to Phil Jackson. You’re going to Steve Mills. And that’s how it’s been for teams in the trade process.
Mills, the Knicks’ general manager, has held this responsibility for a while. Even with Jackson seemingly taking a more active role earlier in the season, that apparently hasn’t changed – though I wonder whether it’s still true for bigger issues like shopping for an Anthony trade.
This will only reinforce the perception that Jackson – who held no front-office experience before New York gave him $12 million per year – is more interested in cashing checks than actually doing the job. He leaves games early. He took a vacation in the middle of a coaching search. And he doesn’t even take trade calls himself?
Not all team presidents handle those day-to-day operations. For example, Pistons president Stan Van Gundy has general manager Jeff Bower handle most trade discussions until they become serious enough to bring in Van Gundy. But Van Gundy also coaches Detroit. Jackson’s only role is as an executive. Kings general manager Vlade Divac has also been notoriously difficult to reach, but that’s not good company, anyway.
Jackson hasn’t built a good team. He’s not playing a leading role trying to improve the franchise’s standing through trade. He’s not even putting a reassuring face on the franchise, refusing to speak publicly during numerous fiascos this season.
Why are the Knicks paying him so much?