PBT Extra: For Cavaliers to compete with Warriors in future, they need roster changes

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are the second best team in the NBA. They have the best player in the game. (Yes, we can argue who is the best, but for the point here let’s just say he’s seriously in the discussion at the least.) They have two other All-Stars. They have a good enough supporting cast to have won an NBA title last year. What Cleveland has assembled is a powerful team good enough to be in three straight NBA Finals.

Yet, if they want to challenge the Warriors down the line, roster changes are needed. And not conventional ones.

In this PBT Extra, I talk about the chances of a Cleveland comeback, and what they will need to consider to compete in future years. The answers are not that simple.

Bring on the Herd: Bucks round up D-League team name

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OSHKOSH, Wis. (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks will be rounding up the Herd.

The Bucks announced that their new NBA Developmental League team in Oshkosh will be known as the Wisconsin Herd. A new arena is being built for the team, which starts play in November.

“The Wisconsin Herd is so much more than a team name; it’s a brand that embodies a group of players fighting to join the Milwaukee Bucks, along with an excited fan base ready to rally behind Wisconsin’s newest team,” said Wisconsin Herd President Steve Brandes. “We hope the people of the Fox Valley join the Herd today with family-affordable season tickets to watch future NBA talent.”

“We are proud to call our D-League team the Wisconsin Herd, which we believe will resonate with fans across the state,” said Bucks President Peter Feigin. “The Herd will become an important brand extension of the Bucks and we’re excited to watch the emerging talent in the upcoming season.”

A logo for the Herd will be unveiled on June 22. The Bucks say they chose the “Wisconsin Herd” name to reflect the NBA team’s brand and connections to the state.

Oshkosh is about 90 miles northwest of Milwaukee.


LeBron James defends pass to Kyle Korver late in Game 3 from criticism


LeBron James is the first NBA superstar of the social media age, and with that has come a microscopic level of scrutiny — seemingly often from people who do not know the game.

The latest idiotic bit of criticism of LeBron comes from his decision to pass to Kyle Korver in the corner for a good look three with under one minute to go in the game and the Cavaliers up two. Korver missed, Kevin Durant took the ball the other way and hit what would prove to be the game-winner.

The criticism is that LeBron should have shot rather than passed. Which is stupid on multiple levels. Of course, LeBron was asked about that play after the game and if he would do it differently if he could do it over again.

“If I could have the play over again, I would come off a three screen situation,” LeBron said. “Draymond would switch on me with five fouls. I would get him leaning. I would drive left. I would see K.D. step up. I would see Stephen Curry drop on Kevin. And I would see Kyle Korver in the corner, one of the greatest three-point shooters in this league’s history, and give him an opportunity in the short corner. I would do the same exact thing.”

LeBron has been criticized since before he won his first ring for making plays like this — he chose to make the right basketball play rather than jack up a contested shot, and fans get on him if the shot doesn’t fall. He gets the blame for not playing hero ball, even though we can watch the team smacking the Cavaliers around in the Finals to see why hero ball is not how you win big.

Here are some other thoughts.

• Kyle Korver shot 59 percent on left corner threes this season, he was 50 percent from the left corner in the playoffs (7-of-14). He is fifth on the NBA’s all-time list of most made three-pointers in a career. It’s not like LeBron passed it to Tristan Thompson for a three, this is Kyle Freakin’ Korver.

• LeBron was not driving directly at the rim, so you’re talking a leaner over multiple defenders, including Durant’s length. That is not a high percentage shot, not as good as Korver from the corner.

• No, you don’t know that Draymond Green would have fouled him. Green’s a smart player who had gone five minutes without fouling out, and again the help defender was there. If you’re saying that LeBron should have driven at him, well…

“I had a 101 drives last night (laughter). I didn’t have 101, but you get the gist of it,” James said. “I’m sorry I didn’t go for 102.”

• LeBron had a 39/11/9 night, he was +7 in the game — the Cavaliers were -12 in the 2:23 he was rested. But sure, it’s his fault they lost.

• A lot of the criticism of LeBron online (especially Twitter) seems to come from the self-appointed guardians of the legacies of Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan. People emotionally invested in seeing LeBron fail because they falsely believe it makes their guy look better (these people love the “count the ringzzzzz” argument). I’m pretty sure I remember Jordan passing to Steve Kerr and John Paxson in key moments. I’m pretty sure I remember Kobe Bryant passing to Derek Fisher or Robert Horry or Shaq in key moments. Would Kobe have taken that shot? Probably. But his clutch numbers suggest that may not have been the best option.


LeBron, is it fair the Warriors added Durant? “I don’t care…. It’s great for our league”


“It’s not fair.”

That’s the cry not just from Cavaliers fans, but also from some online (or with sports talk radio microphones) complaining about competitive balance in the NBA. Last summer Kevin Durant made a move that decimated one contender (Oklahoma City) and turned a team that had already been to the Finals two years running into a juggernaut.

LeBron, is that fair?

“Oh, I mean, it’s part of the rules,” LeBron said. “The difference between my situation is — well, the best thing with Golden State’s situation is a lot of their guys are drafted. They drafted a lot of their guys. Three of their best players were already drafted, so they were able to hold on to them because they own the Bird rights, if everybody knows the CBA. So they’re able to keep Steph, Klay and Draymond and able to go out and sign someone else like they did this past summer by just getting rid of a couple pieces in Harrison Barnes and not re-signing Barbosa and Bogut and guys from last year’s team….

“But is it fair? I don’t care. I mean, I think it’s great. It’s great for our league. Right now, look at our TV ratings, look at the money our league is pouring in. I mean, guys are loving the game, our fans love the game. I mean, who am Ito say if it’s fair or not? No matter who I’m going against, if I’m going against four Hall of Famers, like I said before the series started with Draymond, Klay, Steph, and K.D., or if I’m going against two or whatever the case may be, I’m always excited to play the game. And I’m not one to judge and say if it’s fair or not if guys are adding players to their team. So that’s what you want to do.

“Is it fair that the New York Yankees in the ’90s was adding piece after piece after piece after piece? I mean, if you have the opportunity to do that — is it fair that the Cowboys added Deion Sanders?

“I mean, listen. It happens. It’s sports. You have an opportunity to sign one of the best players, and you can do it, go ahead and do it. Why not? If I become an owner, I’m going to try to sign everybody.”

First, we need to note LeBron is both a Yankees and Cowboys fan.

Second, LeBron is right that the Warriors had to let a couple of people go, but that’s not the main reason they got KD. They landed Durant because the NBA salary cap spiked dramatically thanks to a new television deal. The league and NBA owners wanted to smooth that rapid rise in over several years to prevent this kind of thing, but the players union — of which LeBron is a VP — shot that idea down. So there was a flood of money in the system last year, and that opened the door.

Third, and as noted by LeBron, outside KD Warriors built this team the way the league hopes every team would build — they drafted well and developed their guys internally. They didn’t just buy a team, they built one. Same with how the Spurs built their dynasty. The Warriors added Durant, but it’s not like they violated league rules to do it, so of course it’s fair. They were lucky and smart enough to pull it off, more power to them.

LeBron jumped ships to potentially great teams, but in both Miami and Cleveland there were a lot of new pieces thrown together, and they had to work stuff out. Both teams didn’t win a title until year two The difference for Durant is he stepped into, and fit perfectly with, an existing structure. It was about fitting in, not building.

For all the complaining about competitive balance, these NBA Finals have seen a spike in television ratings from a year ago (and that does not include streaming numbers, which also are way up). It may bother some hardcore people, but it’s not bothering most fans. The NBA got its best ratings in the 1990s when Jordan’s Bulls were THE dominant force — the NBA thrives with its biggest stars on its biggest stage. Dynasties — from the ’60s Celtics though the Magic/Bird era through Jordan — are good for the NBA. Golden State may just be adding to that.

And that is fair.

LeBron James after Game 3: “I’m drained right now, both mentally and physically”


Maybe LeBron James needed a couple glasses of wine this time.

When asked after the game about the comments by Steve Kerr and other Warriors that the goal was to wear him down, LeBron denied he was tired and that was one cause of the Warriors’ late run.

“I gave everything that I had, so at times throughout the game I was tired, but that’s just because I was just playing as hard as I could,” LeBron said. “But I was able to get second and third and fourth winds. I don’t contribute as losing this game because we got tired. We missed some shots, and they made some.”

Walking out of Quicken Loans Arena, LeBron said this to Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“I’m drained right now, both mentally and physically,” James said.

These statements are not incompatible — of course LeBron was drained in the hours after Game 3, he couldn’t have played any harder. He had a 39/11/9 night, he was +7 in the game — the Cavaliers were -12 in the 2:23 he was rested. You can pick apart his end-of-game decisions, but that was not where the game was lost (besides, kicking to one of the games great three-point shooters ever in Kyle Korver for a good look at a three is a smart basketball play, the shot just didn’t fall).

LeBron will be ready to go in Game 4, the only question is how the team responds when the inevitable Warriors’ run happens. Does the air come out of the balloon?