Jazz put the ball in Kyrylo Fesenko's court, but he has yet to make a decision

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kyrylo_fesenko.jpgUkranian big man, Utah Jazz playoff stop-gap, and impeccable jokester Kyrylo Fesenko is still job-hunting, and hasn’t yet committed to a return with the Jazz next season. Utah has already extended a qualifying offer to Kyrylo, a restricted free agent, that would pay him around $1.1 million next season before becoming an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2011. However, according to HoopsWorld, Fesenko is entertaining the idea of signing with a European team for a more lucrative contract, even if he’s leaning toward re-signing with the Jazz.

I know. Late off-season rumors.

This may seem like a bit much for a player barely on the NBA radar until an injury to Mehmet Okur demanded it. After all, for all of the talk about Fesenko’s play in the post-season, this is a guy who posted a playoff PER of 3.0. Three. Mark Madsen danced circles around that.

Still, Fes played reasonably well considering the circumstances, and provided height and a pinch of defense for a Jazz team in a jam. Plus, he once vowed to become a more serious player by limiting himself to five jokes a day. This is a guy that we want in the NBA, even if he’s not registering regular playing time behind Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, and Mehmet Okur.

The Jazz are optimistic for Fesenko’s return, according to Brian T. Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune, so that’s something. He needs an NBA gig because we need him, and, if you really want to get into it, there are some legitimate basketball justifications available, too. He’s familiar with Jerry Sloan’s flex offense, which isn’t something that can be taught to a free agent big overnight. Offenses with that kind of complexity just aren’t made for rental big men, so it makes sense for Utah to hold onto Fesenko, who is a perfectly decent reserve.

For now, that’s all Fesenko is. He hasn’t shown the aptitude to evolve beyond that role as of yet, and I’m not sure he ever will. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with being a second or third center in the best basketball league on the planet. Nothing at all. Unless Fesenko really does want to chase the money and minutes a European team could offer, which would be a tragedy for us here in the States.

We’ve already had to live in a world with five or fewer Fes jokes a day. Can you imagine the NBA world with none at all?

Draymond Green guarantees Warriors will beat Rockets in Western Conference finals

AP Photo/David J. Phillip
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Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.

Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.

Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”

Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.

But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.

He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.

If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.

Danny Green: Kawhi Leonard told me he wants to stay with Spurs

AP Photo/Eric Gay
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The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.

Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green

Get Up on ESPN:

Green:

I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.

I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.

Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.

And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.

Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.

If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.

So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.

LeBron James flips elimination-game game on its head

AP Photo/Charles Krupa
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His Cavaliers down 3-2 to the Celtics in the Eastern Conference finals, how does LeBron James assess his situation?

"I don’t enjoy being in the position where it’s you lose and go home," LeBron said before Game 6 tonight in Cleveland.

He might not enjoy this position, but he’s pretty good in it.

Since he first reached the playoffs in 2006, other teams have won 26% of their elimination games. LeBron’s teams have won 57% of theirs.

Of course, LeBron hasn’t gone 12-9 in elimination games just because he’s lucky. He has willed his team off the mat numerous times.

LeBron has scored 40 points and/or had a triple-double in six straight elimination games, winning five of them. His line in his last elimination game before that streak? Just 32 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists.

A full history of LeBron’s elimination games:

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Rockets played with fire with Chris Paul, got burned

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Chris Paul played 79 minutes in three days.

Prior to Games 4 and 5 of these Western Conference finals, he hadn’t done that in more than two years. He hadn’t done it without both games going to overtime in more than three years.

The Rockets leaned heavily on the 33-year-old Paul, and they’ll pay the price.

Paul will miss Game 6 against the Warriors tomorrow. Given how quickly Houston ruled out Paul with a strained hamstring, he seems unlikely to play in a potential Game 7 Monday.

Injuries are somewhat – but not completely – random. Players are more susceptible when worn down. After missing the close of the 2016 postseason, Paul missed 45 games the last two regular seasons. He has accumulated a lot of mileage in his 13-year career.

Yet, Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni drastically shortened his rotation, anyway. Not only did Paul play big minutes in this series, he shouldered a huge load. He took the reins of the offense at times, allowing James Harden to conserve energy for defense, while maintaining his own strong-two way play. That’s never easy, especially in these high-intensity games.

This was the risk.

We can feel bad for Paul and his predicament. We can also acknowledge Houston got this far by gambling on Paul’s health.

That’s not to say it was a bad bet. This is what you save him for, the biggest playoff series of his career and maybe one of the last before he exits his prime. The Rockets would have been far worse off to this point resting Paul extensively and protecting him. Even with such a heavy workload, an injury was never fait accompli. And Houston got plenty from Paul before he went down. He was instrumental to wins in Game 4 and Game 5 that gave the Rockets a 3-2 lead in the Western Conference finals.

Now, they just must hope that’s enough of a head-start into a world of playing without Paul.