Kurt Helin

CLEVELAND, OH - MAY 24:  LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts in the second quarter against the Atlanta Hawks during Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals of the 2015 NBA Playoffs at Quicken Loans Arena on May 24, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

LeBron James’ legacy does not ride solely on these Finals

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LeBron James’ legacy has become one of the “hot take” storylines of the NBA Finals, which finally tip off Thursday night. And how you spin it says as much about what you think of LeBron as it does his actual legacy.

When LeBron steps onto the court Thursday night, he will be playing in his fifth straight NBA Finals. Michael Jordan never did that. Nor did Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Tim Duncan, or Kobe Bryant. Nobody since Bill Russell and those 60s Celtics have pulled that off. It’s an impressive feat.

But getting to the Finals and winning are different things — and Jordan’s army of defenders (does he need defenders?) will be more than happy to point that out. MJ never lost in the Finals. Should the Warriors win these Finals (and they are the favorites), LeBron will be 2-4 on the NBA’s biggest stage.

Those, however, are just the simple answers, the easy ones for our “thumbs up or thumbs down” society.

The reality is LeBron’s legacy is more complex than that.

And ultimately LeBron’s legacy will not be defined by these Finals alone.

Rings do matter when discussing a superstar’s NBA legacy. Karl Malone and John Stockton had the misfortune of being at their peak in the Jordan era, and that lack of a title is part of how we see them now. Same with Charles Barkley. Or, on the other side, the ultimate legacies of players such as Kobe Bryant or Larry Bird are in part defined by their rings and winning.

LeBron’s legacy will in part be defined by how many rings he has — and if he can deliver one to title-starved Cleveland (this year or in future ones).

That said. LeBron has a couple rings already, he’s earned his championship stripes.

I personally never could stand the “look at the ringzzzzz” argument. It lacks nuance.

Consider at the teams LeBron has led to the Finals — they often have not been impressive squads. In 2007 he dragged a team not worthy of the Finals — the second and third leading scorers on the Cavs that season where Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden — to the game’s biggest stage. It was an amazing feat just to get a team that far. Do you want to ding LeBron’s legacy because he couldn’t lead that ragtag bunch past Duncan’s deep Spurs?

The same could be said of last season’s Heat team — was that team with a hobbled Dwyane Wade and no bench to speak of a serious threat to the best Spurs team we had seen in years? Is that loss really on LeBron alone? No.

The only time LeBron has made it to the Finals and didn’t win when it seemed like he could was 2011, when the Dallas Mavericks were on a roll and the Heat were just not ready yet.

LeBron very well may not win this time around. If he does he will have won the title three out of four years and brought one home a title to Cleveland— but if he doesn’t do it this year, he likely will in the next couple years. Very possibly more than one title. In five years we may look back with amazement he was able to get this banged-up roster of Cavaliers to the Finals in the first place and see it as the start of a run.

Which is why these Finals will not define LeBron’s legacy for all time. Whatever happens will be part of the conversation, as will his incredible physical gifts, his passing, his dunks and game winners. But it remains too early to define LeBron’s legacy. He’s still at the peak of his powers. We do not know now what we will think of him in 10 years.

But that doesn’t make for good copy, it doesn’t get clicks and viewers. So hot takes on LeBron’s legacy will remain the order of the day.

 

 

 

Warriors’ video staff pranked Alvin Gentry about Pelicans

Houston Rockets v Golden State Warriors - Game Five
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With the lengthy break between Golden State eliminating Houston and the start of the NBA Finals, Alvin Gentry had time to seal the deal on becoming the next coach of the New Orleans Pelicans, and still get back to do the scouting on Cavaliers.

The Warriors clubhouse is a loose and fun place — they are serious on the court, their system shows discipline, but a former player like Kerr is not going to let things get too heavy.

In that spirit, the Warriors and their video crew pranked Gentry. He had spent time breaking down the Cavaliers and how the Warriors want to attack them. But when it came time for showing the video to the team… we’ll let Gentry take it from there, via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

“I start in like, ‘Guys, here are some of the plays we ran against them that really worked well,'” Gentry says. “And I look at the screen and it’s all a bunch of fricking Pelicans highlights.

“They’ve got captions under the plays like, ‘Boy, this team has a lot of potential.’ There’s this play with Anthony Davis dunking and the caption says, ‘God, this guy is GOOD!'”

The whole room started rolling…

“At the end of the tape, there’s a milk carton with my picture on [it] that says, ‘Have you seen this guy? He’s been missing in action,'” he says.

 

Kerr had encouraged Gentry to talk to the Pelicans and go get that job. Like any good boss, he wants those under him to succeed. Even if in a few years he’s going to have trouble with Gentry’s Pelicans.

At points in these playoffs the Warriors have seemed a little tight at home, Kerr has set a tone and is trying to make sure they are loose. They will be rusty (both teams will be after that layoff), but Kerr is trying to make sure his team — which has no players with Finals experience — is not overwhelmed by the moment.

Report: Nuggets interview Mike D’Antoni for head coaching position

Mike D'Antoni
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Under George Karl a few years back, the Denver Nuggets ran their way to 57 wins (and might have done some serious playoff damage if Danilo Gallinari had stayed healthy). Then management decided to let Karl go and turn to a more traditional, defensive guy in Brian Shaw. However, they never significantly changed the roster to fit the change of plans and coach. The result was a disaster. Denver won 30 games last season.

Now they want to run again.

That means a new coach. And while long-time Denver assistant and interim coach Melvin Hunt remains the frontrunner, the Nuggets reached out and spoke with Mike D’Antoni about the job, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Mike D’Antoni met with Denver Nuggets management to discuss the franchise’s head coaching opening, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Denver general manager Tim Connelly conducted a sit-down with D’Antoni in California on Tuesday, league sources said. D’Antoni’s vaunted running game fits into Denver’s determination that it wants to play faster in the future. Melvin Hunt, the interim coach in the wake of Brian Shaw’s firing, remains a strong contender to retain the full-time job, league sources said.

Along with D’Antoni and Hunt, ex-Sacramento Kings coach Michael Malone has had conversations with Connelly and could soon emerge with a sit-down interview, league sources said.

While Mike D’Antoni has his detractors — a lot of them living in Los Angeles — the fact of the matter is his offensive system can win and can work. Both Gregg Popovich and Eric Spoelstra borrowed from what he did in Phoenix, and those two guys have the last three NBA titles.

But while those two adapted the system, D’Antoni is wed to winning his way, fitting players into his system. That helped lead to the mess in Los Angeles, where he was handed a roster that was ill fitting for what he wanted to do but was slow to adapt.

Denver has a good point guard in Ty Lawson, they have a quality stretch four in Gallinari, they have some pieces to make D’Antoni’s system work. But are they fully committed to it? If not, better to go another direction. Like the respected Hunt.

I also am a fan of Mike Malone. Another coach who did a good job building a culture (then was fired because the owner wanted a faster team),  a guy who deserves another chance. But Malone is about defense and deliberate play. Hire him and Denver needs to revamp the roster.

What kind of team does Denver management want? Answer that, and then get a coach and players to make it work. Then stick with the plan.

Nets GM: No chance Deron Williams bought out; Lopez, Young re-signings priority

Atlanta Hawks v Brooklyn Nets- Game Four
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The Brooklyn Nets are not going to just buy Deron Williams out of his contract. Try desperately to trade him? You bet. But not buy him out.

That’s essentially what Brooklyn Nets GM Billy King said on Wednesday.

There have been rumors the Nets would waive Deron Williams, using the stretch provision to essentially buy him out. That will not happen, reports Devin Kharpertian of The Brooklyn Game.

And, by the way, no change on the “we want to keep Brook Lopez and Thaddeus Young” front, either.

This is all pretty much what was expected from the Nets.

Williams is owed $43 million over the next couple years. If the Nets used the stretch provision on him, they could extend that pain out over five years of the cap — but that’s still nearly $9 million a year for five years. Better to bite the bullet.

The Nets would love to trade Johnson and Williams this summer. I would love to have Eric Ripert as my personal chef. To quote Mick Jagger, you can’t always get what you want.

PBT Extra: Long layoff before Finals will mean rust to start

Golden State Warriors v Memphis Grizzlies - Game Four
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The NBA didn’t expect this long a layoff before the NBA Finals started (a Game 7 in the conference finals would have happened Sunday). But once it became clear there would be a break of a week or more, the NBA tried to move up the date. It couldn’t.

Jenna Corrado and I discuss what that break means, both on and off the court.

Expect a rusty first half Thursday night.