Dan Feldman

J.R. Smith gives tearful tribute to parents after winning championship on Father’s Day (video)

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J.R. Smith has been suspended, fined and arrested. He has publicly offered the pipe and untied shoelaces. He has been criticized for partying off the court and losing focus on it.

But he has grown into a more stable player in Cleveland, a journey that culminate with a championship last night.

After the Cavaliers’ Father’s Day victory, Smith powerfully addressed the influence of family on his life.

LeBron James reveals secret motivation

LeBron James, Erik Spoelstra, Pat Riley
AP Photo/J Pat Carter
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LeBron James revealed during last year’s NBA Finals that he had a secret motivation.

He refused to explain unless the Cavaliers won, and they fell to the Warriors.

Now that Cleveland is on top, LeBron spilled the beans.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

He told me that, actually, when he left Miami and people who he grew to, he thought to, have trusting relationships with – he said, I’m not going to name names, but someone told me that you’re making the biggest mistake of your career. And he said it really hurt him. Basically, he felt taken for granted. Like, Look, I just gave you four years of my prime, and you’re not going to be comfortable with my decision and root me on? You’re going to make me feel bad going out the door?

Everyone – understandably – is going to think LeBron is talking about Pat Riley.

Completely fair to Riley? No. But he hasn’t exactly earned the benefit of the doubt.

Whichever member of the Heat organization said that must be regretting his or her words today.

The smiling faces (with or without hidden agendas) are now in Cleveland.

Stephen Curry loses shooting touch, Finals and title of NBA’s best player

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Stephen Curry kept getting asked about his health. He kept denying he’d need surgery.

“I’m fine. I have three months to obviously get ready for next season. So…” Curry said. Then, he shrugged. “I won’t get injured celebrating tonight.”

Curry’s sadness following the Warriors’ loss to the Cavaliers in Game 7 of the NBA Finals on Sunday was rooted in a fundamental fact: He knows how fun it is on the other side. Teammates crashing into each other for chest bumps and hugs, champagne, boundless joy into all hours of the night – Curry lived it when Golden State won the title last year.

This year, he was reduced to watching Cleveland’s celebration after a dreadful finish.

The reigning back-to-back MVP scored no points on 0-for-5 shooting with a turnover and foul in the final six minutes.

“It’ll haunt me for a while,” Curry said.

Kyrie Irving made the game-winner over Curry, whose defense fell short throughout the series. Curry just couldn’t stick close enough to Irving, whose exceptional ball-handling made him a threat to drive.

Down three on the other end, Curry got Kevin Love switched onto him – a matchup the star guard loves. But Curry couldn’t shake Love and forced a contested long-distance miss.

“I was searching for a 3,” Curry said with a smirk that didn’t mask his pain, “and rushed and didn’t take what was there, which was probably better to go around him and try to get to the paint.”

It’s one of numerous moments Curry probably wants back from these Finals. Among them:

How did Curry go from beloved to a punch line to punchless so quickly?

Even before his late struggles, Curry made only moderate impact on Game 7. He finished with 17 points on 6-of-19 shooting with two assists, four turnovers and four fouls.

And that was the story of Curry in this series. He was fine for an average player. For an MVP, he didn’t even near the standard – much like last year, when Andre Iguodala won Finals MVP. That was just the second time someone won MVP and a title in the same year without also claiming Finals MVP (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1980). If Golden State won Sunday, Curry would have become the third, with either LeBron James or Draymond Green claiming Finals MVP.

That’s now Curry’s image: great in the regular season, not in the Finals.

The Warriors’ championship and injuries to LeBron’s supporting cast masked Curry’s decline last year. This year, it was all too evident.

A fan and media darling for the last two years, Curry should face more scrutiny now.

When push comes to shove, LeBron is still the best player in the NBA. Curry – three years younger than LeBron – can sustain elite play over a far larger sample. That’s why Curry deserved MVP this year and last. He out-produced LeBron and everyone else throughout the regular season, and that helped the Warriors win a record 73 games and secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.

But, as we saw, that wasn’t enough. LeBron outplayed Curry in the Finals, including Game 7 in Oakland.

Don’t mistake this for Curry playing poorly. He still set a Finals record for 3-pointers made, and he shot 40% from beyond the arc. He and Klay Thompson play off each other, and Thompson’s similar relative struggles sure didn’t help Curry. Neither did Green’s suspension. Curry’s teammates thrived at times, in part, because of all the attention Curry draws.

But if Curry wants to be recognized as the best player in the world, he must clear the highest bar. LeBron did.

Meanwhile, Curry and the Warriors fell apart late in the biggest game of their lives.

“A lot of it was kind of myself kind of leading the charge in settling too much,” Curry said.

Nearly every team – with Cleveland among the few even potential exceptions – would take Curry leading it throughout the regular season. In the Finals? The jury is still out, and that’s in deference to Curry’s large sample of excellence.

Not only was he clearly behind LeBron as the Finals’ best player, Curry wasn’t even the Finals’ best point guard. That was Irving, who grew up in front of our eyes as someone with a championship-level killer instinct.

Credit Curry for making himself into the caliber of player who receives this level of scrutiny. Also require him to meet the standard before anointing him.

I have little doubt Curry can excel on the biggest stage the way he did throughout the last two regular seasons. He has hit enough big shots in earlier playoff rounds, and the pressure can feel just as intense in the moment.

At a certain point, though, he’ll have to actually play better in the Finals to earn the highest praise.

Cavaliers complete unprecedented comeback after blowouts in Games 1 and 2

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The Warriors outscored the Cavaliers by 48 points in Games 1 and 2 – a Finals record.

The series looked over. The biggest question was whether Golden State would sweep or win at home in five.

Cleveland had another idea – the biggest turnaround in playoff history.

You’ve probably heard that the Cavs are the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, and that’s a great accomplishment. Here’s another:

Cleveland became the first team to get outscored by so much in the first two games of ANY series and then win it.

The previous record was 46 points by the Rockets, who came back to beat the Suns in the 1995 second round. The previous record in the Finals? Just 24, by the Trail Blazers (vs. 76ers in 1977) and Heat (vs. Mavericks in 2006).

Here’s every time a team got outscored by a combined 20 points in the first two games of a series and then came back to win:

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Trail Blazers hire former Sonics announcer Kevin Calabro

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PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — The Portland Trail Blazers have hired veteran television broadcaster Kevin Calabro as their new play-by-play announcer.

The announcement Friday comes two days after the team said on-air personalities Mike Barrett and Mike Rice wouldn’t return next season.

Calabro was the TV and radio announcer for the Seattle SuperSonics for 21 years but didn’t join the team when it moved to Oklahoma City in 2008. He has since worked for various national media outlets, including ESPN Radio and Turner Broadcasting, while based in the Pacific Northwest.

Blazers President and CEO Chris McGowan says the team is conducting a nationwide search for a color commentator to join Calabro.