Kurt Helin

Reports: Kevin Durant, Draymond Green among those to play for USA in Rio Olympics

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For the past couple weeks, the focus has been on the players not going to Rio to play for Team USA in the Olympics this summer: Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Anthony Davis, James Harden, John Wall, and others.

But the pool of talent with USA Basketball is so deep, it will not matter.

Marc Stein of ESPN had a report on who is in for a summer trip to Rio.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant remains intent on playing in this summer’s Olympics after his looming free agency, unmoved by the recent withdrawals of a few high-profile names, according to league sources….

Sources say Indiana’s Paul George and Golden State’s Klay Thompson are also considered locks alongside Durant for the 12-man Olympic roster that will be revealed in coming days, joining Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins, whose inclusion was first reported by The Undefeated’s Marc J. Spears earlier this month….

Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, sources say, is regarded as a near certainty to claim a spot on the roster as long as he remains available — as expected — following the Cavaliers’ long playoff run.

Marc Spears of The Undefeated at ESPN added a name to the list.

Warriors forward Draymond Green has accepted an invitation to play on USA Basketball’s 2016 Rio Olympics team, a source told The Undefeated.

The big name still on the fence is LeBron James, who on Sunday night just carried Cleveland to its first ever NBA title. His decision likely will influence what Carmelo Anthony decides to do.

I would be shocked if Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler do not make the final roster, coach Mike Krzyzewski has a fondness for guys who can impact both ends of the court.

Damian Lillard likely will make the cut at point guard. The team will need another center behind Cousins, which will probably be either Andre Drummond or DeAndre Jordan.

Whoever makes the roster, Team USA will be the prohibitive favorite to win the gold.

The announcement of the 12-man roster is expected by the end of June. Team USA opens training camp in Las Vegas July 18. The Olympics begin with the opening ceremonies on Aug. 5, with basketball tipping off the next day (the schedule of games is not yet released).

Fan injured after fight leads to fall off second deck of Oracle Arena after Cavs’ win

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OAKLAND — Not long after the Cleveland Cavaliers had secured their first NBA champions, a fight broke out among fans seat in the second level of Oracle Arena, during which a man fell over the railing down a full level into the seats below, according to officials with Oracle.

The man, in his early 20s, was immediately attended to by arena staff and taken to Highland Hospital in Oakland, where he remained overnight. There is no word on his condition.

According to police, the man was apparently pushed over the railing.

Oakland Police are investigating the incident, including looking at arena security footage. They are looking for witnesses as well.

 

Cavaliers’ Richard Jefferson announces retirement after Game 7 win

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OAKLAND — Talk about going out on top.

After an NBA Finals where the veteran journeyman ended up playing a key role for the Cavaliers, allowing them to go small and match up with the Warriors for stretches, Richard Jefferson decided this was the time to retire. Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer broke the news.

Jefferson played 15 NBA seasons after Houston drafted him 13th out of Arizona back in 2001. He averaged 13.3 points per game for his career, with the high coming in 2008 when he averaged 22.6 for the Nets.

After the game, he talked about LeBron James and what he meant to Jefferson’s career.

“I’ll give you a little walk down right now,” Jefferson said. “I lost the national championship game to Duke, then I lost two straight NBA Finals (with the Nets), then my third year we lost to Detroit after being up 3-2 and they won the championship, then I lost to Miami and they won the championship, then to top it off I went to the Olympics and we were the worst (American) team of all time.

“My whole career has been so, so close. Then I had a stretch of six to seven years where you become a little bit of a journeyman. To be able to get on a team and walk in with a guy that says he’s going to be able to carry you and bring me here, I owe everything, every shot, every play, everything I’ve ever done to that man.”

Golden State looks back at Game 5 with regret, as moment they lost series

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OAKLAND — Golden State had just closed out a Game 4 win on the road in Cleveland, taken a 3-1 series lead, and the Cavaliers looked beaten. You could see in in their body language, their tone when speaking after the game. Nothing they had tried seemed to be working on the court, and the Warriors were about to go home where they were nearly invincible this season. The series appeared all but over.

Then news of Draymond Green suspension for hitting LeBron James below the belt came down, and the door cracked open a little. LeBron James took that as an invitation and blew the door off its hinges, pulling his Cavaliers teammates through that opening and to Cleveland’s first title.

After the game, the Warriors admitted Game 5 was where the series got away from them.

“This is why you can’t mess around,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said after Game 7. “Not that we messed around, but this is why every game counts. Game 5 was really the key. That was the turning point of the whole series. We didn’t play well enough to win. It was a tough game for us with the circumstances, and I thought they had two guys who played epic games, Kyrie (Irving) and LeBron. And that changed the whole series.

“But with that said, I thought we were going to take care of business tonight at home, and we just couldn’t get it done.”

It all started with Green’s suspension.

“If I don’t put myself in that position, and I don’t get suspended for Game 5, are we sitting here champions? Maybe, maybe not. I don’t know,” Green said. “But we’ll never know the answer to that question. But the answer that I do know is I won’t put myself in that position again, and that’s all I can really do, you know.”

Green tried to make up for it in Game 7, he was the best player the Warriors had. Green finished with 32 points on 15 shots, had 15 rebounds and nine assists. He was the best player on the Warriors in their biggest game. It wasn’t enough.

There was more to Cleveland’s comeback this series than simply Green being out Game 5. There was Tyronn Lue’s coaching moves, such as having LeBron James cover Draymond Green to allow for switches that cut off the Warriors’ best play. Cleveland got better at exploiting mismatches, and Golden State couldn’t counter. Andrew Bogut‘s injury. And on down the list.

But it all started in Game 5 with the Green suspension. Does he blame himself?

“As you know, I blame myself for everything,” Green said, later admitting this loss may stick with him the rest of his life. “That’s just who I am. I think as a leader that’s important. Hey, I’m not afraid to take the blame. I do think that’s where the series turned, but it happened. Move on from it. Like I said, I learned from it, and I’ll be better.

“But I’m not afraid to say that it’s my fault. I think it was.

“But this ain’t the last that you’ll see from us.”

LeBron James unanimous Finals MVP after legacy-cementing series

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OAKLAND — There was 1:50 left in Game 7 of the NBA Finals and it was tied, 89-89.

Kyrie Irving had missed a floater in the lane, four Cavaliers were down around the offensive glass, and the ball bounced out to Andre Iguodala, who took the rebound and was off to the races. He pushed the ball up court, passed to Stephen Curry who gave it right back, and it looked like Iguodala had a clear path to the layup that would put the Warriors ahead.

Then LeBron James happened.

That play was a microcosm of the entire 2016 NBA Finals.

Golden State was up 3-1, going home and seemingly in control. A repeat title seemed inevitable.

Then LeBron James happened. The Warriors didn’t see him coming and couldn’t do anything to stop him.

After back-to-back 41-point games that carried the series to seven games, LeBron posted a triple-double in Game 7 — 27 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists. He wasn’t just the best player on the court, he reminded everyone that he is the most dominant force in basketball right now, one of the all-time greats. LeBron was an absolute force of nature for the final three games of the series. He silenced his critics (well, at least for a day).

He was the obvious and unanimous choice as Finals MVP.

He cemented his legacy, adding to a long list of accomplishments being the man who brought Cleveland its first major professional sports title in more than five decades. He broke down in tears while holding the Larry O’Brien trophy because of that.

“I’m true to the game, and I know what I bring to the table,” LeBron said after the game, holding his daughter in his hands. “I came back for a reason. I came back to bring a championship to our city. I knew what I was capable of doing. I knew what I learned in the last couple years that I was gone, and I knew if I had to — when I came back, I knew I had the right ingredients and the right blueprint to help this franchise get back to a place that we’ve never been. That’s what it was all about.”

LeBron averaged ridiculous numbers through the Finals: 29.7 points, 8.9 assists, 11.3 rebounds, 2.6 steals, and 2.3 blocks per game. In the three elimination games for his Cavs this series he averaged 36.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, 9.7 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocks a night LeBron’s game has always been about how he wasn’t just elite at one thing, he is elite at nearly everything. He showed that this series.

But that wasn’t his biggest contribution; it was his leadership that convinced the rest of his teammates that a historic comeback was possible.

“Learning from a guy like that is amazing … that guy led us all year,” Kyrie Irving said. “He knew what it took and how to lead us. We all just took it from there. We all were great in our roles.”

“For me, when I came up (to the interview podium) after we lost Game 4 at home, I said, hey, listen, we’ve got to take one possession, one game at a time,” LeBron said. “We’re going to Golden State, so we’ve got to fly home anyways, so why not have another game? And I believed in that. And my guys believe in me as their leader every single day. I preach to them every single day. I’m their leader, and they allow me to lead those guys every single night. I was just true to that….

“I told my guys before the game: Listen, there is a game to be played, but there’s not many guys, there’s not many teams that get an opportunity to be in the NBA Finals in a Game 7. There’s just not….” LeBron said. “I just told the guys: Don’t take this for granted. Don’t take it for granted. Let’s go out. Our coaching staff gave us a great plan; let’s go execute it.”

Over the past few days, and after the win, several Cavaliers talked about the sense of calm LeBron exuded despite the long odds of a comeback. How did he do that?

“I don’t know. I don’t know,” LeBron said. “I can sit up here and say — I don’t know if it was “The Godfather,” I don’t know if it was “Couples Retreat” that I watched, I don’t know if it was “Ocean’s 11, 12, and 13,” I don’t know if it was the “Revenge of the Nerds” that I watched. I really don’t know.

But I was just so like, listen, you’ve put everything into the game. The game always gives back to people that’s true to the game. I’ve watched it. I know the history of the game, and I was just calm. I was calm. I was focused. I was locked in.”

This was LeBron’s third Finals MVP (he got the award both times he won in Miami). He joins some select company, the only players to win three or more Finals MVPs are Michael Jordan (six), Shaquille O’Neal (three), Tim Duncan (three) and Magic Johnson (three).

“LeBron, he deserves it. He’s a hard worker. He’s been the face of the NBA for 13 years…” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “The biggest thing with LeBron and the reason why I say he deserves it is because of the person that he is. He’s a giver. He’s always looking to take care of people. He’s always been nice to everyone. If anyone deserves it, LeBron James definitely deserves it.”

He does deserve it.

And he has given Cleveland sports fans what they wanted most.