Kurt Helin

LeBron on Cavaliers making NBA Finals: Nothing is guaranteed


In the wake of the Cleveland Cavaliers getting their head handed to them Monday by the Golden State Warriors, this has been the conventional wisdom:

The Cavaliers have the remaining three months of the regular season, plus the first three rounds of the playoffs, to figure out their problems — how to defend the pick-and-roll, how to better utilize Kevin Love, how to get improved play out of the bench, and a list of other issues that keep them from challenging the two transcendent teams in the league right now. They have all that time because the Cavaliers are clear and away the best team in the East and are destined to get back to the NBA Finals. It’s then, starting June 4, when they need answers for the challenges that Golden State or San Antonio present.

LeBron James says to back off that idea — the Cavaliers have no guarantees of making the Finals again or being elite. Here are the quotes, via Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.

“When I [talk about] us playing at a championship level, that doesn’t automatically guarantee us [playing] until June,” he said. “It’s all about the habits; I preach the habits more than anything. For me to look and say that we’re going to represent the East in the Finals would be absurd. I don’t really talk like that. That’s not what I’m about.

“I think we’re a good team,” he said. “But I don’t think we’re a great team right now. We’ve got to continue to get better. I really think it’s absurd to think about May and June; it’s not guaranteed, man. If we continue to win and put ourselves in position and we do make the playoffs, then we give ourselves a chance. … But that doesn’t guarantee you anything. One shot here, one shot there, a turnover here, a turnover there, can change a series. So for me, to focus on down that road when tomorrow isn’t promised, I think, is absurd.”

He sounds like someone who learned from Pat Riley — trust the process, build good habits, get better every day and by the playoffs and Finals you can be where you want to be. LeBron has said before his goal is to bring some of that culture to Cleveland, and this is where he needs to do so.

He’s right, nothing is guaranteed — but the Cavs making the Finals out of the East is about as close to a guarantee as you can get in sports. They are clear and away the most talented team in their conference. The problem is their real competition is in the other conference, and a couple of January benchmark games have shown Cleveland is not yet at that level. They are not elite.

There’s a lot of pressure on coach David Blatt to come up with the defensive and offensive strategies that better utilize the Cavs’ personnel — his job may well be on the line. However, the second part of Blatt coming up with those strategies is for  LeBron to buy in, and get the rest of the team to buy in as well. There has been resistance in the past to what Blatt wanted to do, but at some point the Cavs need to do things — get Love the ball at the elbow with cutters and shooters around him, for example — to take advantage of their strengths.

It’s going to be interesting to watch this process for the next three months.

Detroit’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope fined $10,000 for kicking chair

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The NBA league office has started a campaign to protect courtside chairs from violence. Apparently. Those chairs need our help. And won’t somebody please think of the children!?

Detroit Pistons’ guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been fined $10,000 for kicking a courtside chair in frustration as he was being escorted off the court Monday, the league announced Wednesday.

The incident happened the end of the third quarter Monday. Caldwell-Pope was ejected from the Pistons’ loss to the Bulls for arguing a call (that was pretty clearly a foul). He’d had an earlier technical for slamming a ball to the ground; this one was a second and an automatic ejection.

As Caldwell-Pope was leaving the court, he kicked a courtside chair (you can sort of see it in the video above at the :49 mark). That’s going to cost him.

Kobe Bryant’s retirement plans: Skiing, surfing, skydiving

Los Angeles Lakers' Kobe Bryant waves to fans as he walks off the court during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors Thursday, Jan. 14, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Associated Press
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Kobe Bryant‘s career will come to an end Wednesday, April 13, at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, when the Lakers end the season against the Utah Jazz. (Please basketball gods, let him remain healthy enough to play in that game and walk off the court on his terms.)

Then what?

Kobe wants to go skiing. His job has kept him busy in the winter for the past couple decades, and it’s not like Bryant was going to go Vladimir Radmanovic and take off to go snowboarding during a break. But now that he will have the time, he wants to do it — and mix in some surfing and skydiving, he told former teammate Rick Fox and Jared Greenberg Wednesday on SiriusXM NBA Radio (audio clip below).

“I’m looking forward to skiing a little bit. I’ve never been skiing before. Maybe do a little surfing, maybe. Maybe a little skydiving.”

Also during the interview, Kobe also talked about declining the offer to be part of the 30 guys on the final list for Team USA this summer.

Bryant also talked about being moved by both how the fans treated him in his final game in his hometown of Philadelphia, and by the All-Star voting where he leads all vote getters and will start for the West.

Pelican’s Eric Gordon fractures finger, could miss four weeks

New Orleans Pelicans guard Eric Gordon, right, drives to the basket against Sacramento Kings guard Marco Belinelli, of Italy, during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
Associated Press

In a season marred by injuries in New Orleans, Eric Gordon has been the one exception — he played in all of the Pelican’s first 41 games (starting 40).

So much for that. Gordon fractured the ring finger on his right hand — his shooting hand — during the Pelican’s victory against the Timberwolves Tuesday night, coach Alvin Gentry confirmed after the game in his press conference. Officially, there is no timetable for his return.

“We’ll get more information (Wednesday) and figure out what has to be done, and go from there,” Gentry said of Gordon’s status.

However, at the New Orleans Advocate Scott Kushner reports it could be a month before Gordon is back on the court.

While the Pelicans wouldn’t give an official timetable, sources told The Advocate they expect Gordon to miss four weeks.

The injury happened in the third quarter.

This is a serious blow. The Pelicans are six points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court this season, with much of that improvement on the defensive end. Gordon is averaging 14.9 points and 2.7 assists per game, is shooting 37.7 percent from three. This likely means either Norris Cole or Jrue Holiday will become the starter with Tyreke Evans, and all three of them likely get more run now.

The Pelicans are in the early part of a seven-game homestand that is critical for them if they want to get back in the playoff picture in the West.

Kevin Garnett slaps Ryan Anderson in face, Anderson called for foul


This is about the most Kevin Garnett play you’ll ever see.

He’s running up the court, the Pelican’s Ryan Anderson slides over close to him, and KG reaches out to smack Anderson in the head. The referee sees it and whistles Anderson for the foul.

The best part is the fans in the arena see the video and boo, the referees hear this and review the play with the help of Secaucus, and still keep the foul on Anderson, saying he got in KG’s way. Riiiight.

Anderson and the Pelicans had the last laugh, coming from 17 down to get the comfortable 114-99 win.