Dan Feldman

LeBron James: ‘We don’t play slow-down basketball’

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Of the 15 Warriors-Cavaliers NBA Finals games the last three years, Games 1 and 2 this year have been the fastest-paced. Golden State has run Cleveland off the floor in both contests.

Should the Cavs try to reduce the tempo?

LeBron James:

That’s not our game. We don’t play slow-down basketball.

We play at our pace, and we play our game. We’ve got to this point playing our way. We’ve won a lot of games playing the way we play. So, we’re not going to change.

There is a logic to slowing the pace. LeBron and Kyrie Irving are exceptional isolation scorers against set defenses, and Kevin Love can isolate in certain matchups. Even if that scheme isn’t as efficient as running and hunting 3-pointers, it might be worth the defensive tradeoff. The Cavs have been awful at getting back and picking up men in transition. A slower tempo could also alleviate the Cavaliers’ depth issues.

But Cleveland is 0-5 with the estimated pace below 90 in the Finals against the Warriors and 6-2 with it between 90 and 99, per Basketball-Reference. The estimated pace was 99.5 in Game 1 and 106.4 in Game 2 this year.

Playing slow is playing scared. It’s what the Cavaliers did in 2015 with David Blatt, and they performed better than expected, pushing Golden State to six games. Tyronn Lue had the Cavs play unencumbered last year, and they won the title.

Ultimately, I’m not sure there’s a right answer. No matter how fast Cleveland plays, Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson are still on the other side.

I think playing slower would make the Cavaliers less likely to embarrassed, but continuing to play fast would give them best chance to win the series. Speed increases variance, and Cleveland should increase variance.

That said, the Cavs could stand to slow down in certain situations rather than force transition. Especially in Game 1, they got just a little too out of control and turned the ball over, leading to easy Warriors points. Again, LeBron and Irving isolations or pick-and-rolls are good fallback options.

The trick is doing that while maintaining an attack mentality. Given LeBron’s comments, it sounds like a balance this team isn’t trying to recalibrate.

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

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
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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.