Kurt Helin

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How Iman Shumpert became reason DeAndre Jordan to Cleveland fell apart

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As late as the morning of the NBA Trade deadline a week ago, I continued to hear from sources what other reporters had said for days — the Cavaliers were still in serious talks with the Los Angeles Clippers about bringing in DeAndre Jordan, and the sides were trying to find a third team to make it work. It made sense. Cleveland needed a roster shakeup to inject energy into a stale lineup, they needed defense, and Jordan would bring both. He was the biggest name on the board.

However, by the end of that fateful Thursday Jordan was still a Clipper and Cavaliers GM Koby Altman had gone to three other trades — ones with the Lakers, Jazz, Kings, and Heat — to blow up a stale roster and get it younger and more athletic. It was a bold stroke that so far has paid off with an energized LeBron James and a couple of quality wins.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN detailed how Altman went from going hard at Jordan to a more radical plan. The big stumbling block turned out to be Iman Shumpert.

What’s more, there was significant progress: Altman had ownership approval to send the Clippers Jae Crowder, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert and the Cavs’ 2018 first-round pick for Jordan. The Clippers were willing to accept the trade, but on one significant condition.

Clippers general manager Michael Winger explained to Altman that LA didn’t want another shooting guard. He hoped to find a third team that would take Shumpert and his $21 million with draft compensation, and have the Clippers get a center back. Altman and Winger agreed to make more calls to try to find a third team to make the deal work. Winger wondered whether Altman would let him talk to Shumpert’s agent on a possible contract buyout, but Altman wanted trade talks to be further along before granting that permission.

Clippers president Lawrence Frank, Winger and Altman had talked for weeks on a trade, but they got nowhere. The Clippers wouldn’t take Tristan Thompson, JR Smith or Shumpert in a deal, and that never changed.

No third team could be found, and the Clippers fell out of the plans Thursday and the other trades that had been percolating in the background started to solidify. Cleveland went another direction.

In the end, it left the Clippers with Jordan and a legitimate chance to climb into the 7 or 8 seed in the West playoffs this season (fivethirtyeight.com says the Clippers have a 54 percent chance of getting into the postseason).

It also left the Clippers with a big question: What do they do about Jordan this summer when he hits free agency? Pay big money to keep him and put enough of a team around him to battle for a bottom half of the West playoff slot for years? Let him walk, trade Lou Williams, and rebuild? Owner Steve Ballmer doesn’t want to bottom out, so everything is on the table. If this trade had gone through, the decision would have been made.

Three Things to Know: LeBron is energized again, which should scare league

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Two games in for the new-look Cavaliers and they look dangerous again. Go ahead and make all the “small sample size” alert warnings you want after two games of the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers — both wins after the Cavs knocked off the Thunder in OKC Tuesday 120-112 — but there are two clear takeaways so far:

LeBron James is energized again — and that should scare the league. For the first 10 weeks of this season, LeBron was a serious MVP candidate playing arguably the best basketball of his career. He carried the Cavs as far as one man could, but that was only the three seed because of the injuries/abysmal defense/lack of effort from everyone around him. LeBron wore down and became part of the problem, settling for jumpers on offense and not getting back or rotating sharply on defense.

With a new crew healthy (except for Kevin Love, still out with a broken hand) and putting in effort around him, LeBron looks like his vintage self again and dropped 37 points, 8 rebounds, and 8 assists on the Thunder Tuesday.

• The bench play is suddenly legitimate for Cleveland. For all LeBron’s brilliance, the Cavaliers were -1 when he was on the court in this game, the Thunder starters were +5 as a unit in their 18 minutes. The difference was Cleveland has a bench now, one that extended the lead at the start of the fourth while LeBron rested and created a gap Oklahoma City could never close. Jordan Clarkson has the ball in his hands driving and making plays, Larry Nance Jr. is bringing energy and some high IQ play, and with Kyle Korver and Rodney Hood on the court there is plenty of shooting. That second unit, with Jeff Green making shots, started the fourth on a 9-0 run and created the separation the Cavs needed. Granted, the Thunder bench is an issue for them (and will be come the playoffs), but this is a good sign for Cleveland.

It’s just two games, let’s see what happens as the scouting reports pile up and teams adapt, but Cleveland looks like a real threat again. And with an engaged LeBron, this could be the team to beat in the East again.

2) James Harden looks every bit the MVP dropping 34 points on Minnesota. If the season ended today, James Harden would be your MVP. At least he’d have my vote (and I sense a lot of others).

It’s a recognition Harden wants badly, he feels he was robbed last year (a two-man race that Russell Westbrook won) and after a few seasons near the top of that race he wants his. Don’t expect him to let up now, with 26 games to go in the season. As evidence, look at the 34 points and 13 assists he dropped on Minnesota Tuesday night in another Houston win.

There is no simple formula to determine MVP, each voter has his or her own criteria, but most of the time the award ends up in the hands of the best player on a team with 55 or more wins, the guy having an elite season even by those standards. Houston is on pace for 63 wins and Harden leads the NBA in points per game (31.4), and he’s doing it efficiently which has him on top of a number of advanced stats categories (from the more basic PER to things like win shares per 48, and value over replacement player). After LeBron’s mid-season mental vacation, Harden has emerged as the man to beat in the MVP race.

3) Nuggets beat Spurs, and the back half of the West playoff race is stupid close. As of Wednesday morning, the San Antonio Spurs at 35-24 are the three seed in the West. (As a side note, if you’re one of the “disgruntled” Spurs fans trolling the team on Twitter for not being good enough this season despite doing this basically without Kawhi Leonard, you need to get outside, breathe some fresh air, and get a life. This team has overachieved.)

The Los Angeles Clippers are the nine seed and currently out of the playoffs — and they are just four games back of the Spurs. The 10th seeded Jazz are just five games back of the three-seeded Spurs, and the Jazz have won 10 straight and are the league’s hottest team now that they are healthy.

After the Warriors and Rockets, who are running away with the top two seeds, anything could happen in the West. The margins are slim and every game matters. Which is why Denver knocking off San Antonio 117-109 behind a triple-double from Nikola Jokic — 27 points 11 rebounds, 11 assists — matters. Denver is in the middle of that morass in the West and needs all the wins it can get — ones like this over the Spurs (or another recently over the Warriors) matters.

Let’s be clear, the Spurs, Timberwolves, and Thunder almost certainly hold on to their playoff slots (3-5) barring major injury (or, for the Spurs, another major injury). But after that, it’s five teams for three spots — Denver, Portland, New Orleans, the L.A. Clippers, and Utah — and they are all separated by two games. It’s the definition of wide open. Fivethirtyeight.com predicts the Jazz, Nuggets, and Trail Blazers will come out on top, but even the Clippers and Pelicans have a 50/50 chance (or slightly better) of getting into the postseason. It’s that close. For these teams, the playoffs start the day after the All-Star break.

Kyle Lowry hits ridiculous buzzer-beater three at half against Heat (VIDEO)

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Dwyane Wade may be back, and the Heat were wearing their Miami Vice look uniforms, but it was the Raptors that won by three at home on Tuesday night, 115-112.

No one shot or play is ever the difference in a 48-minute game, but if you’re looking for three unexpected points for the Raptors, check out Kyle Lowry‘s buzzer-beater three to end the first half. It’s ridiculous.

DeRozan brings the ball up looking for his own shot, but he finds his shot well contested from a range that would make Stephen Curry blush, so in the air he changes his mind and dumps it off to Lowry, who has to just throw it up over Goran Dragic, who is there with a good contest of his own.

Nothing but net.

Lowry was 4-of-8 from three on his way to 22 points in the Toronto win.

If things stay the way they are, this would be your first-round 1 vs. 8 matchup in the East.

LeBron James scores 37, Cavaliers knock off Thunder 120-112

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — LeBron James scored 37 points, and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers got a much different result this time against the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 120-112 victory on Tuesday night.

It was Cleveland’s second straight win since adding George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. in trades, and their fourth straight victory overall.

J.R. Smith added 18 points for the Cavaliers, who lost to the Thunder 148-124 on Jan. 20 with a very different roster.

Paul George scored 25 points and Carmelo Anthony 24 for the Thunder. Steven Adams added 22 points and 17 rebounds, and Russell Westbrook scored 21 points. Westbrook and Anthony had missed the past two games with sprained ankles.

James scored 14 points in the first five minutes of the third quarter, including two 3-pointers, to give Cleveland a 78-68 lead. He was 6 for 6 from the field during that stretch. The Thunder responded with an 8-0 run to get back into the game. Cleveland took a 91-87 edge into the fourth quarter.

The Cavaliers took control in the fourth, and a layup by James after driving on George pushed the Cavaliers ahead 115-106 with 49 seconds to play.

The Thunder trimmed their deficit to five in the final minute and could have come closer, but Alex Abrines missed a 3-pointer, and Nance got free for a dunk to seal the win for Cleveland.

The Cavaliers led 62-57 at halftime. James had 16 points, four rebounds and five assists, and Smith had 15 points on five 3-pointers. Adams scored 15 points before the break for Oklahoma City.

 

 

Ray Allen pays tribute to Paul Pierce on Instagram

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Ray Allen wasn’t at Paul Pierce’s jersey retirement last weekend. It was noticed. It fired up the rumor/speculation machine about the relationship between the two (or Allen and Pierce and Kevin Garnett) and how that Celtics era came to an end.

Tuesday, Ray Allen went on Instagram with a long post talking about how Pierce “will always be a Celtic” and playing down any rift in their relationship.

What we did in 2008 was special! Not only by Boston standards but by professional sports standards. The truth is, without any one of us on that team we would’ve never been able to do the unthinkable. Going from last place in one year to winning a championship is unfathomable. But, we did it! WE did it- Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo, Tony Allen, P.J. Brown, Sam Cassell, Glen Davis, Eddie House, Kendrick Perkins, Scott Pollard, James Posey, Leon Powe, Gabe Pruitt, Brian Scalabrine, Doc, Danny, everyone at the Celtics Organization, our wives, children, families, the Fans in The City of Boston and yes, me. Over the last few years I have been berated, lambasted and had my name smeared. You may not want to hear this, but I will always be a Celtic. (Fact). I will always cherish the bonds that I shared with all of my teammates and the people in the city of Boston. (Truth). We all gave everything we had. We all won and we all raised the 2008 NBA Championship banner together. (Ubuntu) Paul Pierce is the first guy that welcomed Kevin and me with open arms into his atmosphere from day one and we never looked back. Paul and I have spoken about our time together as teammates- going to battle night after night knowing we could count on one another and we have also talked about my decision to leave during free agency- a choice I made for my family. Despite what you may have heard or read or what is rumored- there is nothing but love. Paul and I are more interested in building bridges than putting up walls. To Paul, number 34, Congratulations on having your number raised up to the rafters. I salute you for your commitment to the city of Boston and to us the 2008 NBA Champions #thetruth

A post shared by Ray Allen (@trayfour) on

I’d like to say that ends all the speculation and debate, but we know better. At least it quiets down for now.