Kurt Helin

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Report: Minnesota wants to use No. 5 pick as centerpiece of Jimmy Butler trade. Good luck with that.


We know two things:

First, the Chicago Bulls may consider moving Jimmy Butler this summer if the right offer comes along. Bulls management has denied those rumors, but there are questions about Butler’s leadership and the chemistry in the Chicago locker room.

Second, we know Tom Thibodeau loves Butler.

Which leads us to this report from Marc Stein and Chad Ford of ESPN.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are prepared to part with the No. 5 overall pick in this month’s draft, as the centerpiece of a trade package, if they can use it to construct a deal for Chicago Bulls star swingman Jimmy Butler, according to league sources….

The No. 5 pick alone clearly wouldn’t be sufficient to pry Butler from the Bulls, but Minnesota’s own cache of trade assets — given the various up-and-coming players on its roster — would theoretically enable the Wolves to either deal with Chicago directly or assemble a multi-team trade scenario.

Do not bet on this. Frankly, don’t bet on any Butler trade this off-season.

First, the Bulls are a conservatively run organization — they don’t make blockbuster trades. It goes against their style. They like to keep players around and build.

Second, the Bulls are going to want a boatload of assets for Butler. The No. 5 pick is a nice start, but what quality starting player are you going to throw in? Then figure out a reserve to add in also. And probably a future second rounder. No, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng and the pick are not going to be enough.

I expect the Bulls will stand pat in the backcourt and try to use their cap space this summer to improve a frontcourt likely to lose Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah. Then they will use the money freed up by Rose leaving to go big game hunting in the deep class of 2017.

But don’t expect the Butler trade rumors to stop.

Tyronn Lue puts ball in LeBron James’ hands, he responds with 41-point night


OAKLAND — With the Cavaliers’ backs against the wall down 3-1, coach Tyrone Lue tweaked his game plan in one key way early:

He put the ball in LeBron James hands more. If the Cavaliers were going down, it was going to be with an all-time great player at the helm.

The Golden State Warriors didn’t change their defensive plan on LeBron, they laid off him and dared him to shoot jump shots. They switched on picks and tried to make him indecisive. Things they have done all series. Through the first four Games LeBron was 5-of-16 from three and 4-of-12 from the midrange.

Lue’s plan worked. LeBron’s jump shot started falling, and the threat of a jumper meant he could be aggressive attacking the rim.

“He was hitting his shots we were giving him the first three games,” Klay Thompson said.

LeBron set a tone. A tone Kyrie Irving and the other Cavaliers followed.

In the second half he was dishing (6 assists in the third quarter), defending Stephen Curry for stretches, and doing whatever it took to get the Cavaliers the 112-97 win that sends the NBA Finals back to Cleveland for a Game 6.

“I mean, obviously, it’s do or die for us. Coach Lue said he wanted the ball in my hands a little bit more. I finally did a great job of not turning the ball over and got to my spots, got my teammates involved,” LeBron said. “Just tried to put us in position to be successful. Obviously, it’s not always a bed of roses on the court for 48 minutes, but you just try to go out there and trust your keys. That’s something I’m very comfortable with, and I’ve been comfortable with before in the past. Coach wanted to make that adjustment, and I was able to take advantage of it when I had the ball in my hands.”

LeBron was more comfortable with his jump shot Monday night — in Game 5 he was 4-of-8 from three and hit a respectable 4-of-10 from the midrange. When his jumper is falling, it opens everything else up.

It also helped that the suspended Draymond Green wasn’t there on the switches and protecting the rim.

“I think from a mental standpoint it wasn’t about anybody that was on the floor,” LeBron said, trying to play Green’s absence down. “We just had a mindset that we wanted to come in here and just try to extend our period and have another opportunity to fight for another day.”

“He’s their best defender,” Lue said, being honest about Green’s absence. “I’ve said it all along that he is the best guy in the NBA as far as reading when to help, triple switches and kicking guys out of mismatches, knowing when to go, when not to go. He’s an underrated shot blocker, and he can guard one through five, so that definitely help hurt their defense.”

The way LeBron controlled the game and was more aggressive reminded people of 2012, when his Heat were down 3-2 to Boston and he came up with a performance that saved the Heat season. If Boston beat Miami, if the Heat had regressed after reaching the Finals the year before, that history of a couple of titles in South Beach might feel very different. He changed Miami’s legacy with that game, did he do it again with the Cavaliers?

“Going into Boston, being down 3-2, you know, we understood that, hey, listen, the season is over if we don’t go out and try to take care of business,” LeBron said. “Being a big part of our success, I had to come out and do some things to help us win that ballgame, and tonight was just another example of that. Understood the magnitude of this game. I knew how great of a team we were playing, but I just had to come out and just — I know my teammates trust me, I trust them, and that was the result of it.”

LeBron now has to do it again.

Cleveland is going home but Golden State gets Green back (and rested), it’s going to take another night with LeBron setting the tone, putting up big numbers, and looking every bit like a guy not ready relinquish the “best player on the planet” card.

LeBron was a beast in Game 5, but he’s got to do it two more times to get one for the ‘Land.

LeBron James sets tone, Kyrie Irving gets hot, Cleveland extends Finals with 112-97 win


OAKLAND — All series long, the Cavaliers have struggled to stop the Warriors’ offense.

Without Draymond Green, the Warriors couldn’t stop the Cavaliers’ offense.

The result was an old-fashioned, fast-paced shootout (102 possessions, the most in this series) — and in that setting, LeBron James thrived on his way to 41 points. He set the tone with aggressive, attacking play on both ends. Kyrie Irving, not seeing Green every time he tried to drive, felt comfortable and hit inside and out, and racked up 41 of his own and put on the best display of his career on the biggest stage he’s ever been on.

The Warriors couldn’t keep up that pace (3-of-21 from three in the second half), and the result was a 112-97 Cavaliers win that sends the series back to Cleveland for Game 6 Thursday. Golden State still leads the series 3-2.

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James combined to score 72 percent of the Cavaliers’ points. Add in assists and they combined to generate 98 of the team’s 112 points. They are the first teammates ever to both score more than 40 points in the same NBA Finals game.

“They had two great games, two breakout games,” Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. “We need those two guys to give us confidence early, and they both did that.”

“At this point, it’s whatever it takes,” LeBron said of playing a larger role in the offense. “Obviously making shots and things of that nature are something that you sometimes really can’t control. Sometimes the ball go in; sometimes it don’t. How hard you play, how locked in you are on the keys to get a victory.”

LeBron has been aggressive driving the lane all series, what was different in Game 5 (besides Green not being there to protect the rim) was that his jump shot fell with regularity. All series long the Warriors have been going under picks, backing off, daring LeBron to shoot jump shots, and for the first time this series he made them pay. Here is his shot chart on the night:

LeBron Game 5 shot chart

Irving was efficient all night long — 17-of-24 shooting, including 5-of-7 from three. He made tough shots, he created space, he played well in transition, and was the best player on the court in the fourth quarter when the Warriors tried to make a comeback.

“Kyrie was great tonight, he had my number,” Klay Thompson said after the game.

Led by those two, the Cavaliers were attacking from the start but gained confidence as the game wore on and they felt more comfortable. No Green played a role in that, but it was not the entire story.

“We weren’t very good defensively,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We obviously knew we were without Draymond, so there’s no point in harping on that. We had to play better, and we didn’t. Both those guys played terrific games, shot the ball well. I thought our defensive communication was lacking. We had some plays where we didn’t pick up in transition, and we had some cross matches that we didn’t identify and they got free, especially Kyrie, and made a lot of shots in transition where we just weren’t there.”

The Warriors came out with defensive intensity early with a couple of strips inside, pressuring LeBron who started 0-of-2, but he found his jump shot stroke early and went 2-of-2 from three, plus hit some mid-rangers in the first quarter. The Warriors got the lead up to seven, but mostly it was a close first quarter where Cleveland shot 52.6 percent but were undone by eight turnovers. It was 32-29 Warriors after one.

Cavaliers opened the second quarter on a 7-0 run but the Warriors closed the gap because Klay Thompson flat out could not miss — he had 18 points on 5-of-5 shooting in the second alone. But the Warriors had seven second quarter turnovers and that undercut Thompson’s shooting. So did the fact LeBron (25 first half points) and Kyrie Irving (18 points on 8-of-10 shooting) were red not, feeling the freedom of no Green switching on to them. It was 61-61 at the half.

In the third quarter, Andrew Bogut went down with what looked like an injury that will have him out for the rest of the series. Bogut rotated over and rejected the layup of a driving J.R. Smith, but the collision left him in pain below the basket, grabbing his left knee in obvious pain. Play continued for a minute before Kerr called a timeout.

Meanwhile, the Cavaliers came out attacking the rim in the third, while the Warriors just missed shots — Golden State was 2-of-11 from three in the third, with several airballs. With the Cavaliers attacking — and LeBron knocking down the jumpers they dared him to take all series — the Cavaliers pushed out to a 93-84 lead after three.

Golden State could not hit their threes and close the gap, with Cleveland pulling away and extending the series. The Cavaliers won the first of three they need to win. The Warriors remained confident.

“Well, we’re in the same place we were last year, up 3-2 heading back to Cleveland,” Kerr said. “If you told me this before the series, I would have taken it. So we’re in a good spot. We’re disappointed we didn’t win tonight, but, like I said, they outplayed us.”

Andrew Bogut leaves game with knee injury, called a sprain with MRI coming Tuesday


OAKLAND — That looks ugly.

Andrew Bogut rotated over and rejected the layup of a driving J.R. Smith, but the collision left him in pain below the basket, grabbing his left knee in obviously tremendous pain. The Warriors went down and had a full possession 4-on-5, the Cavaliers came back and had a full possession, and the Warriors were headed back up the court before coach Steve Kerr stepped in and called a timeout.

Bogut had to be helped off the court straight to the locker room, he could put no pressure on his left leg.

The Warriors are calling it a sprain right now and say an MRI is scheduled for Tuesday. From the replay, it looks to me like a hyperextension, but that’s just speculation.

He’s out for the rest of Game 5, and maybe for the series.

Klay Thompson cannot miss on way to 18 second-quarter points

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OAKLAND — You know Klay Thompson is feeling it when he takes a three Stephen Curry might think was a little deep.

In a fast-paced, entertaining first half of an NBA Finals game, nobody was hotter than Thompson — he was 5-of-5 shooting, 4-of-4 from three on his way to 18 second quarter points. That shot above was just one of his highlights.

However, the Warriors seven second quarter turnovers undercut Thompson’s shooting. So did LeBron James (25 first half points) and Kyrie Irving (18 points on 8-of-10 shooting) being hot as well. It was 61-61 at the half.