Kurt Helin

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Cleveland will not wear black, sleeved alternate jerseys for Game 6. If there’s a Game 7 however….


CLEVELAND — When the Cleveland Cavaliers came out for Game 5 of the NBA Finals in their black sleeved alternate jerseys, it turned some heads. Aside the funeral color, this was the jersey where back in November LeBron James was so frustrated with them (and his shooting) he ripped the sleeves midgame.

With some alterations — literally — the new look worked as LeBron went off for 41, Kyrie Irving matched him, and the Cavaliers won to force a Game 6.

Dave McMenamin explains how the black jerseys came around again and why the good luck jerseys will not be worn for Game 6 in a story at ESPN.

So Cashman called up a friend of his, Becky Zielinski, who works as a seamstress for the Cleveland Browns, and asked her to look into making some alterations on James’ jersey. She had experience over the years with quarterbacks who preferred to wear tight-fitting uniforms while having a looser fit around the shoulders and armpits to provide them greater range of motion to make throws. She made the same alterations for James….

The NBA does not allow the home team to wear a dark-colored uniform from their jersey set during home games in the Finals — so the Cavs will be wearing either white or gold jerseys for Game 6. But should Cleveland force a Game 7, there’s a good chance James & Co. will be back in black once again with a title on the line.

Maybe the Warriors should break out their black alternates for Game 6 on the road. Maybe it will help Stephen Curry‘s shooting.

It’s official: Andrew Bogut out 6-8 weeks with bone bruise, will miss rest of NBA Finals


CLEVELAND — If you’re looking for a bright side, Andrew Bogut will not need surgery.

But after a collision that left the Austrailian big man rolling around on the ground grabbing his knee, it was hard to expect him back in these NBA Finals.

After reports leaked out a little before (broken by David Aldridge of TNT/NBA.com) the Warriors have made it official: Bogut is out for the remainder of the NBA Finals. From the official press release:

Warriors center Andrew Bogut, who suffered a significant impaction injury to his left nee during Monday’s Game 5 of the NBA Finals, underwent an MRI yesterday in the Bay Area. The MRI revealed the impact resulted in bone bruises to the proximal tibia and distal femur. He traveled with the team to Cleveland for Game 6, but due to the remaining length of the NBA Finals and expected recovery time, a minimum of 6-8 weeks, he will miss the remainder of the series. The injury will not require surgery and he is expected to make a full recovery.

This will force Steve Kerr to alter his starting lineup, where Bogut has been a fixture.

There have been calls for him to start Andre Iguodala over Bogut for a while now — why waste time, go straight to the death lineup, when Draymond Green is at center the Warriors are +51 this series — but Kerr has resisted that up to now. He could start Festus Ezeli or Anderson Varejao (a little dig at the Cavs if he does the latter), but even if he goes that route expect the Warriors to go small early and stay small for much of Game 6.

NBA employee takes leave of absence to train for 2016 Rio Olympics

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Usually when people first meet Marvellous Iheukwumere, the conversation is about her first name.

Or the topic turns to her job out of college working in the NBA league office.

But she’s taken a leave of absence from that job to train for the Olympics, where she is trying to qualify as a sprinter for Nigeria. Seth Rubinroit of NBCOlympics.com wrote a fantastic feature about her, her journey as a child from Nigeria to Texas, how she fell in love with the NBA, and her quest to make it to Rio. Here are just a few hightlights:

“Her name describes her perfectly,” said Mark Tatum, the NBA’s Deputy Commissioner and Chief Operating Officer. “She is a marvellous person in every single way.”

When she started high school at Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy in Austin, Iheukwumere focused on basketball. The track coach, LaBoris Bean, happened to be in the gym during basketball tryouts, and noticed that none of the other girls could keep up with Iheukwumere during the three-man weave passing drill. He encouraged her to run track when basketball season ended. She agreed, despite never having seen a track meet.

Tradition called for freshmen to run for the junior varsity squad. In her first meet, she received the baton in last place on the anchor leg of the 4x200m relay. Without much difficulty, she passed the seven other competitors and crossed the finish line first.nStunned, the older students demanded that Bean move Iheukwumere up to varsity. He did not need much convincing.

She went on to run in college at Columbia — despite being recruited by track powerhouse Arizona State, she opted for the better academic school — and while there worked in the NBA’s summer internship program. That evolved into a being part of the NBA Associate’s program, followed by a full-time job offer.

However, she is on a leave of absence to chase her Olympic dream — with the full blessing of the NBA.

She moved to Phoenix and ALTIS, an elite training center and home of several Olympic champions, including hurdler Aries Merritt and long jumper Greg Rutherford. Iheukwumere calls the facility, which features two theatres and an executive chef, “an athlete’s heaven.”

After a nearly two-year break from competition, Iheukwumere is still striving to match her top times from college. Her personal best in the 100m is 11.63 seconds, and 23.54 seconds in the 200m. In 2016, she said her season’s best is 11.73 seconds in the 100m and 23.60 seconds in the 200m….

To qualify to go to Rio, Iheukwumere needs to meet the Olympic standard in either the 100m (11.32 seconds) or 200m (23.20 seconds) by July 11. Two Nigerian women have already met the Olympic standard in each event, according to tilastopaja.org.

She also needs to finish in the top three at Nigeria’s Olympic Trials, July 7-9. She finished fifth in the 200m at 2014 Nigerian Nationals.

If she can make it, Adam Silver will have a good reason to watch a sport other than basketball in Rio.

Craig Sager will join ABC broadcast crew to do sideline reporting for Game 6 of Finals

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CLEVELAND — Craig Sager has never worked an NBA Finals game.

Until Thursday night, that is.

Sager, the flamboyantly-dressed sideline reporter for TNT, has signed a one-game contract with ABC to work Game 6 of the NBA Finals, ABC announced on Wednesday. Sager and Dorris Burke will share sideline reporting duties.

“I’d like to thank Turner and ESPN for approaching me with this tremendous opportunity to be part of the Finals broadcast team,” Sager said in a statement. “I’ve been watching the series very closely and, while I do not want to distract in any way from the event itself, I look forward to being in the building for what will be an incredibly exciting Game 6. The NBA community is very special one and this is a great honor.”

Sager has been battling leukemia, and while he has twice fought it back it into remission it is not there now.

He is one of best broadcasters in the sport and someone beloved by fans, players, and coaches alike. Because he has worked for Turner Broadcasting (TNT and NBA TV), and they have not had NBA Finals broadcast rights, he has never been able to do one of those games.

Kudos to ABC/Disney and Turner for making this happen.

Damian Lillard says he hasn’t decided on playing in Rio Olympics


No Chris Paul. No Russell Westbrook. No Stephen Curry. No John Wall.

A number of the NBA’s top point guards have pulled out of consideration for USA Basketball’s team for the Rio Olympics. What about Damian Lillard? He’s still thinking about it, as reported by Kevin Berry at CSNNW.com.

Speaking in Taguig City while on tour for Adidas, Damian Lillard indicates that he hasn’t made any decision related to playing for Team USA in the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio.

The Manila Times quotes Lillard saying, “I have not thought about it yet.”

There’s a spot for Lillard now if he wants to go and pick up a gold.

Lillard and Kyrie Irving could well be the two point guards for Team USA this summer. If this were the NBA you’d have defensive concerns with that backcourt, but internationally the best point guards The USA will go up against are likely Matthew Dellavedova (Australia) and Jose Calderon (Spain). If France qualifies, Tony Parker may jump to the top of the list. Nobody that’s going to make the USA pay too much for their point guard’s defense, and even if someone gets hot Coach K can put Kawhi Leonard or Jimmy Butler or Paul George on him and take that threat away.

The USA is going to be just fine at the Rio Olympics.