Kurt Helin

Report: No league punishment for Dellavedova’s shot to Iguodala’s groin. Nor should there be.

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OAKLAND — If this wasn’t Matthew Dellavedova — a man with a history of reckless, some would say dirty, play — we wouldn’t be talking about this.

But the Cavaliers’ guard does have that history, and he did hit the Warriors’ Andre Iguodala in the, er, groin area during the third quarter of Game 1. That has led some to wonder if the league would step in. No, they will not, reports Sam Amick of the USA Today.

This is the right call. In both cases.

Dellaveova clearly is trying to make a play on the basketball, Iguodala wisely moves it out of his way, and Delly’s hand follows through to a place he didn’t intend. I understand Iguodala’s reaction, but this was a common foul, nothing more. The referees and the league got it right.

All of this is the same with Draymond Green‘s “kick” of Kyrie Irving. There is a backlash going on — particularly on Twitter — about the play of Green. And no doubt, the man does flail to get calls. But in this case, he was pulled backwards off his feet and the reaction was natural, not intentional. Again, if this were any player but Green right now nobody would care.

Nothing to see here, move along.

No stranger to adversity, Cavs have more of it in NBA Finals

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers know what’s being whispered – and sometimes shouted – at the NBA Finals.

The Cavaliers play in the Eastern Conference, they say. They haven’t been tested, they say. What happens when the adversity finally hits?

It came in Game 1, with the Golden State Warriors not even needing their two biggest stars while flattening the Cavaliers in the din of Oracle Arena. Now everyone wants to know how the Cavaliers will respond, how will they react after a body blow in Round 1 showed no indication that a fully health Cavaliers team was any more capable of defeating the mighty Warriors than the depleted unit that James dragged along with him for six games last year.

The Cavs cruised through the inferior Eastern Conference all season, the narrative goes, and now their reckoning is upon them. Game 2 is on Sunday in Oakland, and the Splash Brothers will be frothing at the mouth after a tepid Game 1. It’s up to the Cavaliers to show they belong on the same court with the defending champions.

“We’re not a team that loses our composure over anything,” James said.

In reality, the Cavaliers have been tested like few others. Such is life on Planet LeBron, the most scrutinized, most followed, most nit-picked athlete in America. His gravitational pull draws in fans, teammates and anybody with a notebook, a microphone or a blog, for better and worse.

“It was funny because people were talking about not having been through adversity, and, I mean, we’ve been through adversity all season,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “And I thought our guys did a great job of just coming together and understanding we have one common goal to start the season, and throughout that we had a lot of bumps in the road and a lot of things that happened.”

No adversity? How about firing a coach who led them to the NBA Finals a year ago and got them off to a 30-11 start to this season?

How about James raising eyebrows with his cryptic tweets, public challenging of teammates and midseason refreshes in South Beach?

How about Kevin Love trying to find his way in an offense dominated by James and Kyrie Irving?

Sure, they won their first 10 games of the playoffs. Sure, the Raptors were never truly a threat to them in the East finals, even after tying the series 2-2. Sure, the Eastern Conference remains far less challenging on a night-to-night basis than the West.

But these Cavaliers have lived in a pressure cooker ever since James decided to return to Cleveland two summers ago. They know that the city’s tortured fan base pins its hopes on them to end a 52-year championship drought. They have been pushed and prodded and poked at all season long.

“There’s good things that can come from it and feeling like your back is up against the wall,” Love said. “Then you have to push back and fight. I think we’ve been a team that has kind of thrived in, I don’t know if chaos is the right word, but thrived in adversity and been able to bounce back. We’re going to look to Sunday as definitely a bounce-back game and try to go 1-1 back to Cleveland.”

Then again, there is adversity, and there is Golden State.

The Warriors have returned the finals even better than the team that throttled the league a year ago. They won a record 73 games in the regular season, survived some injuries to star Stephen Curry in the early rounds of the playoffs and then were pushed to the brink by the Oklahoma City Thunder in the West finals.

Surviving that crucible – coming back from a 3-1 deficit – only served to embolden a team that needed no such emboldening.

“I think that experience of going through that definitely makes us closer and a lot tougher,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “That wasn’t an easy series by any means. Then coming down and coming back from down 3-1, it gives you a certain amount of confidence.”

The Warriors also know what can happen when they ease up against James. Last year they took Game 1 and then dropped two straight to a James-led team missing Irving and Love due to injury.

They also know it’s highly unlikely that Curry and Klay Thompson clank jumpers like they did Thursday night.

“I don’t think it will be a problem,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “I think we’re much more experienced. We have that memory in our mind. We’ve been through this now, and we understand you can’t let up ever. Sunday is obviously a huge game. We’d like to go take care of business and get out on the road with a 2-0 lead. But we’ve got to play well.”

Jerry West calls criticism of LeBron James’ finals record “ridiculous”

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Jerry West is a bit touchy on the subject of NBA Finals record. West was as fiercely competitive as Jordan or Kobe or anyone else you want to name, and he led the Los Angeles Lakers to nine NBA Finals appearances. He won once. Often it was Bill Russell’s Celtics in his path.

Along those lines, West does not get the criticism of LeBron James, who is 2-4 in the NBA Finals, and very well could fall to 2-5 (especially if his Cavaliers don’t win Game 2 Sunday night in Oakland). From Stephan Bondy of the New York Daily News and Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report.

West makes a valid point in this sense: LeBron has pulled seven teams to the NBA Finals, but not all of them probably should have been there. As Sharon Katz pointed out at fivethirtyeight.com, LeBron has had 2.5 more Finals appearances than he should considering the unimpressive supporting casts he has dragged to the NBA’s biggest stage. The only time you can say LeBron’s team “should” have won and didn’t was 2011, the first Heat trip to the Finals against Dirk Nowtizki’s Dallas Mavericks. And Mark Cuban would love to debate you on the “should” part of that, it was a very good Dallas team.

That includes this season. For as much as these Cavaliers are healthier and better than a season ago, they are not the favorite, few predict they can beat the 73-win defending champs.

Yes, Michael Jordan was 6-0 in the Finals. First, Jordan’s legacy doesn’t need you to defend it. He stands just fine on his own.

Secondly, are you discrediting Jordan for not being able to get his inferior Bulls teams past the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons? Detroit did beat Jordan’s Bulls three straight years in the playoffs. LeBron has been able to get inferior teams to the Finals, something Jordan couldn’t do. If you’re saying “that’s a ridiculous argument,” know that’s how your argument about LeBron in the Finals sounds. The “ringz” argument is a silly one, basketball remains a team game. Did you see Game 1 of the NBA Finals? Did Stephen Curry beat LeBron? No, the Warriors depth and defense beat the Cavaliers, but LeBron had a vastly superior game to Curry. But if the Cavaliers lose some of you will pin this on LeBron.

He’s one of the games all-time greats. Accept it. Savor it. Guys like him just do not come around often.

After surgeries on both knees, John Wall says he’s ready to “be myself” next season

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John Wall wants to get back to being himself.

He’s got a new coach in Washington, one with a pedigree of playing faster and winning in Scott Brooks. But that’s just part of it for Wall — he’s finally going to be healthy.

Wall had surgeries on both knees this summer, which likely has him missing part of training camp but will have him feeling good for the regular season, Wall told Michael Lee of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Wall’s priority is to get healthy after having procedures on both knees – the removal of loose particles from his right knee and calcium deposits from his left patella tendon….

“It’s something I feel like I had to do,” Wall told the Vertical. “It was painful. You watch a lot in games, I jumped off my right leg, or I jumped off two feet. I never jumped off my left leg. That’s the reason I rarely went right, because I had to jump off two feet, because this leg, I couldn’t get off of it. … Dr. Parker told me, ‘I don’t know how the hell you were able to do it.’ [Famed orthopedist] Dr. [James] Andrews told me the same thing: ‘You’re basically playing on one leg, to be honest with you.’ “

Wall considers the upcoming season to be a career “relaunch” because he plans to return without painful restrictions in his left knee. “It’s going to be like the first time I’ll be really healthy and be myself,” Wall told The Vertical. “If you know me, you know I’m a person that’s going to attack it like nothing else. I’m taking this challenge on. It’s a tough challenge to try to rebuild everything and get stronger. It’s a challenge I’m willing to take to come back to be a better player, and come back and try to have the best season I’ve ever had.”

The Wizards were disappointing and missed the playoffs last season and finishing .500 at 41-41. The Wizards did play faster (fifth in the league) and scored more points, but they gave up 2.3 points more per 100 possessions — Washington fell from a top five to a bottom 10 defense in one season. That’s not going to get it done. That’s one thing Wall and Brooks must improve.

But maybe a healthy Wall and more comfort pushing the pace (and attacking the rim off the pick in the half court, and with a healthy Bradley Beal) will have Wall leading a Wizards’ offense that is one of the more feared in the NBA.

 

Harrison Barnes would “love” to stay in Golden State this summer, but who knows

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Is Harrison Barnes worth a max contract?

Golden State’s starting small forward is a restricted free agent this summer, in a market awash with cash. He’s young, athletic, has been to the mountaintop, and is exactly the kind of player other teams will try to poach. But doing that — and keeping him — will mean max or near max money.

Will Golden State match? It depends on a lot of things, including in part what Kevin Durant decides.

How is Barnes dealing with it? He spoke to Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.

“It’s out of my control,” Barnes said. “People say, ‘Do you want to be here in Golden State?’ A lot of it is, look, I love Golden State. I’d love to be here. But there’s also some other factors that factor into that, you know what I’m saying?”

If Durant decides to listen to other teams, the Warriors have long been reported to be at the front of the line. But if they add another max salary — and they will have to give Stephen Curry one in the 2017 summer — keeping Barnes is almost out of the question.

However, if Durant is not in the picture, expect the Warriors to match — why would you break up this core? Durant would be the only reason. The Warriors would like to keep Barnes, even at a steep price. He’s a starter on a team that very well could have two rings soon. Continuity has value.

For Barnes, that may be max value.