Kurt Helin

Adam Silver

Adam Silver again suggests NBA will no longer reward division winners

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OAKLAND — The Los Angeles Clippers and San Antonio Spurs — the two teams many people thought were the second and third best teams in the Western Conference — met in the first round of the NBA playoffs this season. It was an epic seven-game series, one of the best of the postseason, but one that took so much energy from the Clippers to win they started to fade against the Houston Rockets the next round (L.A. led 3-1 but lost the last three).

Los Angeles and San Antonio only met in the first round because under the current NBA rules Portland, which won 51 games, had to be the four seed in the West because it won the Northwest Division. That put them ahead of the 55-win Spurs. The NBA’s rules say if a team wins its division it can be no lower than the four seed. In the next round, Houston was the higher seed with home court against the Clippers because it won its division, even though both teams won 56 games.

For a couple years NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has suggested the divisions (or at least rewarding their winner) should be done away with, and he reiterated that again on Thursday, addressing the media before Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

“Having said that, we are very focused on the divisional seeding process, and I think we are going to take a very close look at whether we should seed at least 1 through 8 by conference as opposed to giving the division winner that higher seed,” Silver said. “So that is something we are taking a close look at that, and we may change that fairly quickly. As I’ve said earlier, that is a vestige of a division system that may not make sense anymore.”

Silver added the NBA is not yet going to just put the best 16 teams in the playoffs and seed regardless of conference, as has been suggested by some fans and media members.

“I think ultimately where (the owners) came out is this notion of 1 through 16 seeding, while it seems attractive in many ways, because of the additional travel that will result, it just doesn’t seem like a good idea at the moment,” Silver said. “This notion of, for example, this team would have played Boston in the first round under a 1through16 seeding and would have had to crisscross back and forth across the country, which does not seem like a good idea, especially based on the earlier question based on the health of our players, and focusing on actually reducing the amount of travel and back to backs.”

In other comments during his 45-minute talk, Silver said:

• Don’t expect changes to the intentional fouling rules to limit hack-a-whoever strategies.

“On the Hack-a-Shaq, you know, as I’ve said before, again, another issue we had a long discussion about at our general manager’s meeting recently in Chicago.  And while we looked at the data, it’s true most of the general managers in that room were not in favor of making the change,” Silver said. “In essence, what the data shows is that you’re largely talking about two teams throughout the playoffs, in fact, 90 percent of the occurrences of HackaShaq involve the Rockets and the Clippers, and then for the most part it’s two players, 75 percent involved two players, DeAndre Jordan and Dwight Howard. So then the question becomes should we be making that rule change largely for two teams and two players?…

“But, in addition, one of the things I’ve raised before is I’m also concerned sort of as a steward of the game what it means if we change the rules as well, and that’s from literally the hundreds of emails I get from high school coaches, junior high coaches, AAU coaches saying you can’t possibly change the rule to accommodate players who can’t make free throws.

“So it’s a balance of issues, but I think it’s one that the owners will end up having a sort of robust discussion on this summer.  Ultimately, I think I said the other day, my personal view is it would help to look at another season of data, because in so many of the situations with which it was used this year, putting aside the fact it was largely two teams, it flat out wasn’t effective.  Even in terms of players hitting their free throws, roughly, if a player can hit 50 percent of his free throws, it defeats the strategy.”

• He said he would be open to a discussion of alterations to the NBA’s concussion protocol in the wake of the injury to Klay Thompson. However, he didn’t make it sound like change was coming.

• He talked about the plans unveiled in Milwaukee for a new stadium: “There is a bit of a negotiation going on.  I don’t know how else to say it.  There are some moving parts there.  You have the State making a contribution, you have the City making a contribution as well.  But I’m fairly confident it will all get worked out.”

Super agent Arn Tellem to join Pistons as executive

arn tellem
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Arn Tellem is the star agent of the powerhouse Wasserman Media organization, which represents Russell Westbrook, Derrick Rose, Anthony Davis, and the two biggest free agents on the market this summer: Marc Gasol and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Actually, we should say Tellem was the star agent for Wasserman.

He is leaving his role as an agent to become a powerful force in the Pistons front office and business side, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Wasserman Media Group’s Arn Tellem, one of the most powerful and prominent player agents in the history of the NBA, is finalizing an agreement to become vice chairman of Palace Sports and Entertainment, the company that owns the Detroit Pistons, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Tellem will answer directly to billionaire owner Tom Gores, but will not become the ultimate authority on the Pistons’ basketball decisions, sources said. That responsibility will remain with president and coach Stan Van Gundy, who signed a five-year, $35 million deal a year ago.

If you believe that Tellem will be able to keep his hands off of basketball operations, well, I have a little bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

Tellem does have ties to Michigan, having gotten his law degree at the University of Michigan. And as the face of ownership with the Pistons he’s going to have a lot more to do than simply deal with the basketball side of things. He will spend more time on the business side.

But this is a change in the power structure in Detroit, which could have a lot of ramifications down the line.

Did Cavaliers miss their best chance to win at Oracle?

LeBron James, Jason Phillips
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OAKLAND — LeBron James had a career NBA Finals high of 44 points, posting up and overpowering every defender the Warriors threw at him (although Andre Iguodala did a solid job). Kyrie Irving, coming off eight days rest for his sore knee, was moving well and making plays. The Warriors started off ice cold shooting in the first quarter, opening the game 4-of-18 (1-of-5 from three).

In the end, the Cavaliers had a situation they will take every time — the ball in LeBron’s hands with a chance to win the game.

And still the Cavaliers lost.

Now — especially considering Irving’s knee injury — it feels like the Cavs best chance to earn a split of the first two games in Oracle Arena went skipping off the rim, like Iman Shumpert’s shot at the regulation buzzer.

“Realistically, we put ourselves in position to win that game the way we played it,” Cavs coach David Blatt said.

“It’s our game plan, and our game plan worked,” LeBron said. “ We put ourselves in a position to win, we just didn’t come through.”

LeBron, Blatt and the rest of the Cavaliers went into these NBA Finals knowing they were about to face their toughest test by far — their margin for error was nonexistent. They couldn’t miss out on opportunities.

That’s exactly what happened.

It wasn’t for lack of effort, in fact Blatt said fatigue from that effort may have played a factor in Cleveland scoring just two points in overtime. Cleveland doesn’t have the depth of Golden State.

To open the game Cleveland was the more mature, focused team — they were the team that had guys that had been there before. The combination of rust and the bigger stage seemed to overwhelm the Warriors. Meanwhile LeBron and Irving were making shots, and when they missed Tristan Thompson seemed to get his hands on the rebound.

“We did start extremely well,” Blatt said. “We were prepared, and we had a game plan that we followed well early. But the NBA game is a long game. A 48-minute game is a long game, lot of stops, lot of changes in momentum. You know, a tough away game.

“Teams are going to make their runs. They did. We ran back. They did, we ran back. But still we were in a position to win that game in a very tough and hard fought game by both sides.”

What should worry the Cavaliers — outside of Irving’s potential knee injury — is that the Warriors can play a lot better. The combination of Cleveland’s athletic defense and some nerves/rust had the Warriors not looking like the Warriors early. As the game wore on the Warriors started to find and exploit the holes in the Cavs defense. That will only get worse with time to watch the film, plus a comfort level with the stage.

The same is true of the Cavaliers.

“We had a lot of miscues tonight. I think they would say the same,” LeBron said. “We had a lot of breakdowns, a couple of transition threes they made that we kind of pinpointed on saying we don’t want to give those up. But at the end of the day, we gave ourselves a chance, man. I missed a tough one. But we had so many opportunities to win this game, and we didn’t. It’s up to us now to look at the film, watch and make some adjustments, what you need to do and be ready for Sunday.”

Adjustments as the series has gone on has been the purview of the Warriors this postseason — by the third or fourth game of every series they had figured out what they wanted to do, and the opponents couldn’t counter.

The Warriors are going to get better as this series goes on.

The Cavaliers may have just missed their best chance to steal a game. It certainly feels that way.

Kyrie Irving re-injures knee; status for Game 2 (and series) up in air

Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson
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OAKLAND — For four quarters Kyrie Irving was looking like he could be the difference in the NBA Finals.

He may end up being, but not in the way he intended.

Irving re-injured his left knee and had to leave the game midway through the overtime of Game 1, a Cavaliers loss. He limped back to the locker room, then after the game badly limped out of the locker room with ice packs on his knee.

There is no diagnosis yet — there will be an MRI on Friday — but Irving left the locker room on crutches. He told the media to “listen to the tone of his voice,” noting that he sounded worried. He said this injury felt different than the tendonitis he had been battling.

“He’s with the doctors right now being evaluated,” Cavaliers coach David Blatt said after the game. “I can’t give you any specifics yet. We just don’t know.”

“It was very tough to see, I’ve seen how hard he worked the past eight days to get back to the level he was playing at tonight,” LeBron James said. “It was hard to see him leave the locker room on crutches.”

If Irving is going to miss games, or be limited, the Cavaliers’ chances in this series drop off severely.

During regulation, Irving was showing few effects of the knee tendonitis that had kept him out of two games the last round and limited him when he was on the court these playoffs. Irving had 23 points, seven rebounds, six assists, he was 10-of-22 shooting, he even hit 7-of-14 on contested looks. Then late in the fourth quarter had a game-saving block on what looked like a wide-open Stephen Curry layup.

Then at 2:22 in the fourth and the Cavaliers down four and needing a bucket, Irving drove to his right putting his shoulder into Klay Thompson, then by the elbow tried to stop up for what may have been a pull-up jumper, but his feet seemed to come out from under him. Irving fell to the ground.

He got up, tried to run to the other end on defense but just limped. He was quickly taken out of the game and went straight to the locker room.

“It’s something I hate to see,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.  “I never like to see anybody get injured on either team.  I want everybody healthy.  And I hope he can play.  I mean that.  You probably don’t believe me, but I mean that.  You want everybody healthy.  You want everybody playing.  This is the dream of every player, to come to the NBA Finals and perform and compete.  So I hope he’s okay.”

The Cavaliers already felt like they let a game they could have won get away Thursday night. Combine that with this Irving injury and the mountain the Cavaliers must climb suddenly looks like Everest.

J.R. Smith beats buzzer just before halftime

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 04:  J.R. Smith #5 of the Cleveland Cavaliers shoots against Klay Thompson #11 of the Golden State Warriors at the end of the in the second quarter during Game One of the 2015 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 4, 2015 in Oakland, California. 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 Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Every playoff team needs a guy who just doesn’t give a… well, any manure about the moment. A guy unfazed by pressure.

J.R. Smith is that guy for the Cavaliers.

He had nine first-half points, topped off by this three to give the Cavaliers a 51-48 lead at the half.

By the way, really nice play design/call by David Blatt to set that up. (Well, unless you want to credit LeBron for everything Blatt does right, as some do.)