Kurt Helin

Thompson acknowledges Zika concern, but wants to play in Rio

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CLEVELAND — Not even Zika worries will deter Klay Thompson from playing in the Olympics if asked.

The Golden State guard, while he and other potential Olympians in these NBA Finals acknowledged having some concerns about the Zika virus, made clear Tuesday he would accept any invitation that comes his way to represent USA Basketball at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“It would be an honor to play for Team USA,” Thompson said. “I’d love to go to Brazil.”

His insistence that he wants to play came one day after his Warriors teammate Stephen Curry announced he won’t, citing needs to rest and heal as his primary reasons.

The Cleveland-Golden State finals matchup is loaded with Olympic prospects. Curry won’t be going, but as many as seven other players in the series may still represent the U.S. this summer – and there’s likely international Olympians like Australian teammates Andrew Bogut and Matthew Dellavedova, plus Nigeria’s Festus Ezeli.

Warriors forward Draymond Green was downright emphatic about his hope to be there.

“Hell, yeah,” Green said when asked if he wants to play, dragging his words out for theatrics.

Golden State’s Harrison Barnes also said he wants to go, and 2012 gold medalist Andre Iguodala also hopes to play – but indicated he isn’t sure to make the cut.

“I’m on the list,” Iguodala said, “but I think I’m the No. 14 pick.”

There are 12 slots on the U.S. roster.

Cleveland star and three-time Olympian LeBron James hasn’t decided about playing in Rio yet, part of the reason why USA Basketball is working on two different roster scenarios in advance of the anticipated team announcement later this month. Kevin Love remains a possibility, and Kyrie Irving said he will decide after the finals.

Irving said the Cavs are in a tough series with the Warriors, “so I haven’t really thought about it.”

What many are thinking about, however, is Zika and its risks.

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus and although there have been outbreaks across other countries, Brazil has been hit hard. Zika is known to cause severe birth defects, part of the reason NBC “Today” show anchor Savannah Guthrie – who is pregnant – said Tuesday she will not accompany the network’s team to Brazil for the Olympics.

U.S. cyclist Tejay van Garderen has already cited Zika concerns as his reasons for dropping out from Olympic consideration, and the World Health Organization is putting together an emergency committee to study the virus and examine risks of the games behind held in Brazil.

Bogut can’t stand getting shots, so him already getting several as precautions for visiting Brazil shows how much he wants to represent Australia.

“Just being bitten by a mosquito and then come down with something is a pretty scary prospect,” Bogut said. “I’ve had my yellow fever shot already, which is a battle in itself. And then you’ve got malaria and you’ve got Zika. So being able to get that from an insect is pretty scary stuff.”

He then half-seriously detailed a precaution option.

“Might have to buy a hazmat outfit to arrive,” he said.

Curry said Zika fears didn’t factor into his decision. He wants to use the time off this summer to prepare for next season, the rigors of two years capped by NBA Finals appearances taking a toll.

“As his coach, I’m pleased,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He needs rest. … He weighed all the dynamics and realized that a summer of rest would be the best thing for him long-term. And I think that’s the wise choice.”

But Thompson said he thinks a couple weeks off between the finals and Olympic preparations will be enough for him.

“The best thing about Team USA, no one’s logging heavy minutes,” Thompson said.

Thompson acknowledged Zika worries him somewhat – “mosquitoes love me,” he quipped – but not enough to deter him from wanting to play.

“It’s no joking matter,” Thompson said. “It’s a little concerning. But at the same time, you’ve just got to take the precautionary steps to avoid it.”

 

UPDATE: Likely No. 1 pick Ben Simmons has signed with Nike

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While the Philadelphia 76ers refuse to admit it officially, that they are going to use the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft to take LSU’s Ben Simmons is about as big a secret as Bruce Wayne being Batman.

Since he knows where he is going to land (and the size of the market), he sat down and hammered out a shoe deal with Nike, something first reported by Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports and later confirmed by Simmons himself.

Adidas reportedly had a larger original offer was around $10 million plus incentives, and that was eventually increased to where it could be worth $17 million if he hit those targets, reports Nick DePaula of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports. Nike’s offer ended up at around $12 million for five years.

Rookie shoe deals are sort of like other rookie contracts — it’s a lot of money to you and me, it’s a lot more money than these players have ever seen, but if they perform well the real money is in the next contract. Simmons has elite player potential, but there are questions about his motor and drive to get better. If he’s got that, Nike will have another star in the fold.

LeBron James on Game 3: “It’s a do-or-die game for us”

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We all know the statistic: No team in NBA history has come from 0-3 down to win an NBA title. None.

Cleveland comes home for Game 3 of the NBA Finals Wednesday night down 0-2, and LeBron James is very clear about what all this means.

“Obviously, it’s a do-or-die game for us,” LeBron said at practice  We can’t afford to go down 3-0 to any team, especially a team that’s 73-9 in the regular season and playing the type of basketball they’re playing. So it’s a do-or-die game for us, and we understand that.”

Urgency — or as Tyronn Lue has said, “playing with force” — has been lacking for the Cavaliers this series. The Cavaliers have not won the battle for loose balls or on the boards, and that combined with inconsistent defense has left them looking overmatched. Playing with fire is the one thing that coming home should change for the Cavs.

Lue tried to put a more traditional spin on the first two games, saying the Warriors have only held home court and that now his Cavaliers just need to do the same. Sounds good on paper. The reality is they lost those first two games by a record combined 48 points and didn’t look competitive. Can home cooking change that?

“Just being at home, they won two games on their home floor, and we’re confident in coming back home here,” Lue said. “We haven’t lost here all Playoffs. We play very well, and our guys understand that. They’re a good team. That’s why they won 73 games this year, and they play well at home. They had two big games and now we’ve got to come home and protect our home court.”

The bigger question is how do the Cavaliers do that?

Lue was careful not to give away any strategy or lineup changes (such as if we will see more Timofey Mozgov), but he did preach that the team in general — and Kyrie Irving in particular — needs to stop being hesitant.

“Just talking to Kyrie about attacking, attacking early on in the shot clock,” Lue said. “Don’t let the switching make him stagnant. But he’s one of the players that we have on our team that can go one-on-one, because they’re switching one through five. But he has to make sharp, quick moves. He understands that, but we need Kyrie to be aggressive.”

If you want a more detailed breakdown of what to expect from Cleveland in Game 3, check out the latest PBT Podcast with Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman.

PBT Podcast: What does Cleveland need to do in Game 3?

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It’s been a rough first two games of the NBA Finals for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who lost those games by a record combined 48 points. And that’s without the Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson going off yet.

Cleveland heads home for Game 3 on Wednesday, what has to change for them to get back in this series? What are they talking about doing? Is it more LeBron James, or maybe a better Kyrie Irving than we saw in the Bay Area? And if Kevin Love can’t go what moves should the Cavaliers make?

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports break it all down — and say they’re not sure if ultimately it will matter what the Cavs do.

The duo also debates how the Cavaliers handled Love’s blow to the head, and discuss Curry pulling out of the Rio Olympics.

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes, listen via the fantastic Stitcher app, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

 

PBT Extra: If Kevin Durant wants to win a title he should…

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Kevin Durant is by far the best free agent on the market this summer.

Like every free agent, he says what matters most is winning and a good basketball environment. The difference is, since he’s a max contract guy wherever he lands, for KD it is true — he can make his decision for basketball reasons.

But where is he going to go that is closer to a ring than Oklahoma City?

I can think of $85 million reasons to sign a one-year deal with the Thunder, but the best one is OKC is the second best team in the NBA. Jump to the East now and that is far from guaranteed, a trip to the conference finals is almost assured but which of those teams is better suited to get him a ring than the Thunder?

I lay this all out for Jenna Corrado in the latest PBT Extra.