Kurt Helin

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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.

Reports: Kings’ “deflated” when George Karl wasn’t fired, Joerger setting new tone

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The Sacramento Kings desperately want to turn the page on the past 10 seasons — they are moving into a new building and see that as a new era and a chance to change the dynamic around the team.

They also have a new coach in Dave Joerger they are counting on to lead that change.

Caron Butler was on the kings Last season and was on ESPN’s First Take Friday, and talked about the impact former coach George Karl had on the locker room (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“As players, from All-Star break and everything, I mean, as far as we knew, he was fired. We’re in Philadelphia a game before All-Star break and all of a sudden it’s like, ‘You’re not moving [on], I’m coming back.’ It was deflating to the locker room, it was deflating to the guys, and we tried to move forward and tried to do the best that we possibly could. But that was deflating to the team, it was a big blow and it was tough to move forward.”

Everyone in the locker room and, frankly, around the league knew the Karl/DeMarcus Cousins relationship was doomed. From the start. The franchise needed to move on.

Joerger is trying to move on, trying to create a new culture. So far so good, at least to hear Willie Cauley-Stein say it. Here is what he told Jared Zwerling on the NBPA’s website:

“Yeah, I’ve spoken with him. A lot of it is just expanding my game out, allowing me to become something instead of being labeled as something. He’s giving me a chance to label myself, whereas other coaches in the past that automatically label you as something else.”

We’ll see if he and the organization can carry some of that momentum into the fall.

Gordon Gund selling his 15% stake in Cleveland Cavaliers

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Want to be LeBron James‘ boss?

Have an extra $160 million lying around?

Then we have a deal for you. Former Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Gordon Gund is selling his 15 percent minority stake in the team, reports Bloomberg.

Billionaire venture capitalist Gordon Gund is selling his 15 percent stake in the Cleveland Cavaliers, who for the second year in a row are playing for the NBA championship, according to two people familiar with the situation.

The pro basketball franchise best known for four-time MVP LeBron James is worth about $1.1 billion, said valuations expert Peter Schwartz. The stake held by Gund, who owned the Cavaliers from 1983 to 2005, is worth as much as $160 million, said Schwartz, a presidential research scholar at New York University. Gund, 76, and his late brother, George, sold their controlling interest in the team to a group led by Quicken Loans Inc. founder Dan Gilbert in 2005 for about $375 million.

Gund may have sold the majority of the team a little early, the way the value of NBA franchises have skyrocketed (although they bought the team in 1983 for $20 million, so they turned a tidy profit). However, right now he’s not rumored to be the only owner (majority or minority) considering cashing in their chips.

My guess is he will have little trouble finding a buyer. The challenge for minority owners is they tend to be people who are captains of industry (it’s why they have $160 million to spend on a hobby) who are used to getting their way, but as minority owner they don’t have control. Dan Gilbert has the ultimate hammer. He will listen to them, talk to them, but ultimately decide to do what he thinks is best. The minority owner, however, still get to help pay the bills. That can lead to tension.

We’ll see who wants to own a part of the Cavaliers. So long as LeBron is there, the franchise value will remain very, very high.