Kurt Helin

Jerry West

Report: Jerry West threatened to resign if Warriors traded Klay Thompson for Kevin Love

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Last summer, the Golden State Warriors were in the mix to get Kevin Love out of Minnesota, but Flip Saunders would not back off his asking price — Klay Thompson. A lot of people (myself admittedly included) thought they should pull the trigger.

They didn’t. It was the right move.

Thompson blossomed this season under Steve Kerr, who gave him added responsibilities. Meanwhile the Warriors found the versatile four they needed in Draymond Green.

Who was maybe the most vocal about keeping their shooting guard? Arguably the best shooting guard of all time — Jerry West. The part owner and consultant to the team was ready to walk if ownership pulled the trigger on the deal, reports Chris Ballard in a brilliant piece for Sports Illustrated (his work is almost always must read).

Perhaps West’s biggest contribution came last summer, though, when, along with Kerr, he adamantly opposed a trade centered around Thompson and Love. West argued that trading Thompson would be an enormous mistake. The Warriors were built on defense and Love, while a skilled offensive player, was a subpar defender. What’s more, West was certain Thompson would continue to improve, giving the Warriors a potential Hall of Fame backcourt for the next decade.

West felt so strongly that, according to one person close to the negotiations, he threatened to resign if the team made the trade. Chances are, West wouldn’t have actually done it—that’s just the way he talks—but when the most successful talent evaluator in league history feels that adamantly about something, it’s probably worth listening.

West tends to feel strongly about everything. And he’s right far more often than he’s wrong.

As it is with Steve Kerr and his coaching staff and players, the Warriors front office moves are a collaborative effort. It is not a top-down dictatorship. GM Bob Meyers, Kerr, owner Joe Lacob, West and a couple of assistant GMs (including Lacob’s son Kirk) all collaborate on team decisions. There are debates and disagreements, things are hashed out and a decision reached.

That doesn’t mean there is always a consensus, and there wasn’t on trading for West. But as a group they reached their decision. Thompson stayed.

And now the Warriors are within one win of an NBA title because of it. In part, because of West.

 

 

Five things to watch in NBA Finals Game 6: Will LeBron get any help to force a Game 7?

2015 NBA Finals - Game Two
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We know who and what the Golden State Warriors are, we’ve seen it for 103 games now. We’ve seen Stephen Curry hit those ridiculous step-back threes off the bounce, and we know he can keep doing it. We have seen Draymond Green defend and knock down threes. We’ve seen this team destroy opponents in transition. We’ve seen this team defend brilliantly.

After the last two games of these NBA Finals, we have a pretty good idea what the Golden State Warriors will bring in Game 6 Tuesday night as they try to win the franchises’ first title since David Beckham was born. They will go small and bring everything mentioned in that first paragraph.

The big questions are all on the Cavaliers side at this point — they need to find an answer to the Warriors small-ball lineup. David Blatt tried going big and lost by 21. He tried going small and lost by 13. Now what?

Here are five things to keep an eye on as we head into Game 6:

1) Can LeBron do anything more? There have been so many statistics — LeBron James scored or assisted on 70 of the Cavaliers 91 points in Game 4 — and so many stories written about the load LeBron is carrying. This is my new favorite stat (via Seth Partnow): On LeBron’s shots, assists, and the offensive rebounds off his shots the Cavaliers have an eFG% of 51.6 percent, on all other shots not created by LeBron it is 30.7 percent.

Can LeBron do any more? He may have to if the Cavaliers want to play one more game.

“I don’t put a ceiling on what I can do,” LeBron said after Game 5. “I don’t know. I mean, tonight I gave up two offensive rebounds, one to Barbosa in the first half, one to Harrison Barnes, which allowed him to get an and-one with Iguodala with the left-hand trick shot. I had a couple turnovers, a couple miscues defensively, and I’ve got to be better. I don’t know. Like I said, I don’t put a ceiling on what I’m capable of doing. I know I’m shouldering a lot of the burden, but it is what it is.”

2) Will any other Cavaliers step up and knock down some shots? LeBron’s kingdom for a little help.

The Cavaliers have struggled faced with a bit of their own medicine. Against the Atlanta Hawks, the Cavaliers went under picks and dared Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap, or any other Hawk not named Korver to beat them from three. Atlanta couldn’t. Now the Warriors are daring Matthew Dellavedova, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and any Cavalier save LeBron to beat them from three. They haven’t, not consistently.

Through the last two games the Cavaliers are 23-of- 65 (35.4 percent) on uncontested shots. The Cavaliers need to knock down their open looks.

3) Will the Cavaliers have the legs left to close out the game, or will fatigue get them again? Those shooting numbers speak to a team with dead legs. So does the fourth quarter collapses the last couple games. The Cavaliers are going with a seven-man rotation and asking those guys to give NBA Finals level effort for heavy minutes. They wear down. LeBron gets gassed. And they fade late while the Warriors seem just to get hot (despite shrinking their rotations some the last couple games). Now add in just one day off between games (with a lot of travel) and you could see a fatigued Cavaliers team.

Mostly, the Cavaliers need to defend better late somehow.

“You know, we needed our best defensive quarter tonight in the fourth quarter, and we didn’t get it,” LeBron said after Game 5. “We gave up 31 points in the fourth.  Some of them were free throws, but a lot of them were them just breaking us down.  So we’ve got to do a better job of that.”

One other note: Will the Warriors fade a little? Kerr has tightened his rotations, and Stephen Curry needed fluids (not an IV) after feeling dehydrated after Game 5. Will his legs be a little dead, too?

4) Will David Blatt go big or small? He’s tried both. Neither worked. It’s counter-intuitive to go small against the Warriors, who would rather play at the pace small ball tends to generate (and Game 5 was five possessions faster than Game 4, more to the Warriors liking). However, while Timofey Mozgov may have poured in 28 in Game 4 he was exposed defensively out on the perimeter (plus the paint opened up, as did transition opportunities for the Warriors). The problem for Blatt is he just does not have the chess pieces to move around the board here. There are no good options that will obviously work. Maybe he throws a little of both at the Warriors this time around.

But it feels like the Warriors have solved the puzzle. And the series.

5) Are the Warriors ready to withstand the Cavaliers best punch? Closeout games are the hardest ones to win. Especially on the road. The Warriors may have figured out how to win the Xs and Os battle, they may be the deeper and fresher team, but can they withstand the effort and intensity of what will be a desperate LeBron and Cavaliers team. For the first three games of the series, the Warriors were not ready for the level of energy and focus on every possession needed to win the NBA Finals. They finally figured that out.

But now the Cavaliers are about to crank that up to 11. Has Golden State figured that out too? Will they withstand the opening rush that the Cavaliers will bring to start the game?

If so, this likely is the end of the NBA season. If not, the dance will continue on Friday night.

Rumor: If Towns, Okafor, Russell off board Knicks more eager to trade No. 4 pick

Phil Jackson
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Are there more rumors right now about what Phil Jackson and Knicks will do the No. 4 pick, or what the Kardashians are up to?

It’s close. With that, all the rumors about the Knicks and their plans should be taken with an entire salt flat.

Including this one from Chad Ford of ESPN saying the Knicks want one of three guys or they want out.

Sources say the Knicks are entertaining trading down in the draft if Towns, Okafor and Russell are all taken in the top three picks. It sounds as if they remain on the fence about both Emmanuel Mudiay and Porzingis. That’s why they’ve been looking at players such as Cameron Payne and Frank Kaminsky in recent workouts. If the Knicks can get a valuable veteran and still land somewhere in the back end of the lottery, it might make more sense for them than taking a player they aren’t sold on at No. 4. We know several teams, including the Nuggets and Pacers, are trying to move up in the draft.

The only thing that seems certain at the top of the draft is that Flip Saunders has come around to the Karl Anthony Towns camp and the Timberwolves will take him at No. 1.

After that, I have heard that the Lakers prefer Jahlil Okafor, but other reports have them still very interested in D’Angelo Russell. Then the question becomes what will the Sixers do with the No. 3 pick. Early on it was reported GM Sam Hinkie liked Russell — and that he wouldn’t let Rusell fall to the Knicks —but there are now credible reports he might take Kristaps Porzingis at No. 3. If true, that would mean the Knicks could get one of the guys they want.

If the top three picks go to form, the Knicks may try to move that pick. However, unless there is a team that has fallen in love with with Porzingas, the Knicks are not going to get anywhere near value in this transaction that they hope.

Arkansas draft prospect Michael Qualls tears ACL in workouts, out for at least six months

Arkansas v North Carolina
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He was a potential second round draft pick if there was a team willing to develop him, but now Arkansas shooting guard Michael Qualls has a much longer road to the NBA.

He has torn his ACL and it’s going to be a while before he is back on the court. From Jonathon Givony of Draft Express:

Qualls is a two-guard who was second team all SEC and averaged 15.9 points, 5.3 rebounds and 1.7 assists for the Razorbacks as a junior. However, there were doubts his jump shot was really NBA level (he shot 33.3 percent from three last season). He had the physical tools to attack the rim, but again there were questions about his ability to finish at that level.

Hopefully next summer we can be talking about him getting a shot on a Summer League roster to prove he does belong in the NBA.

Steve Kerr’s openness to new ideas has Warriors on brink of title

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors
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OAKLAND — It’s been noted a lot in the past few days: Golden State decided to go small and start Andre Iguodala over Andrew Bogut at the suggestion of Nick U’Ren, a 28-year-old with the title “special assistant to the head coach” who is sort of a jack of all trades for the Warriors.

The last time the Warriors were down 2-1 in a series against Memphis, it was assistant coach Ron Adams who first suggested putting Andrew Bogut on Tony Allen defensively, the creative and brilliant adjustment that changed that series around.

In both cases, head coach Steve Kerr listened to the ideas, liked them, implemented them and they have the Warriors on the brink of an NBA title. Golden State is up 3-2 over the Cleveland Cavaliers can close out the series Tuesday night with a win in Cleveland.

These two instances are high profile, but it follows the pattern of being open to input the Warriors have had all year, said assistant coach Luke Walton.

“Another thing Steve’s been great at is he wants an open line of communication with everybody…” Walton said before Game 5. “Sometimes we’ll have a plan we come down with and Draymond (Green) or Andre (Iguodala) or both of them, or whoever, will say ‘we want to guard it like this.’ And we’ll scrap what we did upstairs and say we’ll do it the way you guys want to do it, and if it’s not working this is how we’ll make the in-game adjustment.”

Not all coaches work that way. Not even close. Often it is more of a top-down dictatorship. Kerr wants to hear what everyone says. Even the special assistant to the coach in texts at 3 am.

“Coach Kerr always tells us, ‘I listen to anybody — video guy, video intern.’” Draymond Green said. “Those guys watch a ton of film. You know, sometimes they may even watch more film than coach does, they’re the ones breaking it all down. So it just says a lot about Coach Kerr’s character that he would listen and get it worked out.”

Kerr, despite his rings as a player and a pedigree that includes playing next to Michael Jordan and Tim Duncan, is fairly egoless as a coach. He’s modern in that way, more like other successful new coaches (Brad Stevens in Boston, Jeff Hornacek in Phoenix). It’s a collaborative effort.

And it’s working.

It may even get Kerr another ring. And the first title for the Warriors in 40 years.