Weekend Observations: 25 notes about the trade deadline

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We’re thee days past the trade deadline. Some players have already landed and played a game with their new teams, some haven’t even arrived in their new destinations (does Hasheem Thabeet really have that busy of a calendar?). But we’re starting to recover from the shock of a still-nuts-if-quieter-than-last-year deadline that saw two coaches let go the same week so many players switched laundry.

With that in mind, here are 25 things that came to mind from the decisions made in the past week.

1. So many “nothing to lose deals.” Sam Young to Philly, Leandro Barbosa to Indiana, and in part, Ramon Sessions to L.A..

2. The Cavs’ move of Ramon Sessions in terms of how you view it essentially comes down to whether you believe that the market for Sessions was good enough to get better or not. It’s easy to say that Chris Grant got poor return on what is considered a starter-quality point guard as a reserve (a position of leverage), but the point guard market was simply pretty weak at the deadline. Raymond Felton was a player mentioned repeatedly and that’s only because Portland would have sold off children to get rid of him.

3. What sold me on the trade for Cleveland was the pick swap in 2013. Should the Lakers continue to regress given that they have yet to make a significant move and both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol will be a year older, there’s a good chance that the Cavs could see their second draft pick in 2013 move up from 28-30 all the way to somewhere between 18 and 20. A ten-spot bump can be the difference between a training camp flameout and a quality rotation player.

4. I do hate them taking on the extra money from Luke Walton’s extra year. It doesn’t hurt because of their cap situation, I just hate the idea of a team that isn’t primed to contend with dead money.

5. What exactly did George Karl do to God? He seems like a good man, a good father, has tried to live his life well and coach his players responsibly. Why has God responded by giving him Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and JaVale McGee inside of two years?

6. John Wall had to have been skipping when he found out he was getting Nene. “A real live NBA player!”

7. Flip Saunders is somewhere going “Now you get veterans. I get it.”

8. Nick Young’s not a bad pick-up for the Clippers, he just doesn’t solve any of the significant issues they have in front of them. The bleeding won’t stop because of Nick Young.

9. The Warriors were always going to make a move like they did in the Monta Ellis trade. They’ve been in pursuit of a defensive change to their culture for a year now. That’s why Mark Jackson was brought in. New ownership doesn’t want the fun and gun identity the Warriors have had. It’s going to take time and several moves to get a new mindset installed but adding Bogut, however healthy he is, is a good start.

10. For the Bucks, one thing that you have to hope Scott Skiles will do is post Monta Ellis. He’s a surprisingly killer post player and with the offensive putback bigs the Bucks have, a forced miss could be okay if they crash effectively.

11. There’s been a lot of hand-wringing over Ellis playing next to Brandon Jennings. But considering there rampant talks of moving Jennings, it doesn’t seem like the Bucks are sold on him long-term. The real challenge is Skiles getting Ellis to commit defensively.

12. The Lakers have never been big on sentimentality. So moving Derek Fisher shouldn’t stand as a monster shock for them. Ownership has long put the emphasis on the greatness of the team and its legacy rather than any individual player.

13. In unrelated news, Kobe Bryant is making $30 million in two years when the new CBA’s most punitive tax measures kick in and the team still hasn’t used its amnesty clause.

14. Mitch Kupchak was criticized for not amnestying Luke Walton and for the Jason Kapono contract. Then he managed to move both players and a pick they inevitably will not need for a significant upgrade. It’s like teams just line up to take the Lakers’ roster flotsam and jetsam.

15. Jordan Hill’s a better pick-up than considered, also. He’s not going to dominate at any time on the floor, but he’s a quality rebounder with some athleticism, the area they were really missing the most.

16. This is the team that has made D.J. MBenga and Josh Powell look capable, after all.

17. How did the Blazers not move Raymond Felton or Jamal Crawford? How do you have the two most unhappiest, most disruptive, arguably best value trade assets and not move either one? Or are those things related? Taking dirt-for-dollars on Felton likely would have been the best move for both sides.

18. But getting the Nets’ pick was genius. They sent them a player which can only help to make them slightly better but not significantly better, meaning they have a great chance at even the 4th pick, especially if one team leaps them in the lottery. That could work out disastrously for the Nets, who need to tank, violently.

19. New Jersey: “Well, we didn’t get Dwight yet, which means that our massive gamble of our long-term future failed and we’re facing losing Deron Williams after giving up all that for him in the trade to get him. I know! Let’s double down, mortgage more of our future, and do it for a player who if he opts in, costs us cap space and if he doesn’t means we have an even worse team to try and lure Deron back. Great!”

20. Gregg Popovich would have had to think about acquiring Stephen Jackson for about 35 seconds. Jackson doesn’t have to shoot well, doesn’t have to score a lot, just has to defend and wait for open shots. He can’t disrupt the locker room and he won’t fight with Popovich because of the respect he has. It works for both sides.

21. Detroit reportedly tried to move Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Should have tried harder. They’re among a handful of teams that should have done a deal at the deadline.

22. There were discussions to move D.J. Augustin to OKC according to a report from Oklahoma TV. That would have been the ultimate Thunder one-up of the Lakers on their grab of Sessions.

23. Richard Jefferson was in uniform and played Saturday night. Same for Barbosa. It doesn’t matter how they played. It’s the matter of professionalism. A lot of other, younger players still haven’t shown up for their teams yet.

24. There was a brief moment in time when the Blazers had on roster Hasheem Thabeet and Greg Oden. Let that sink in.

25. When Dwight Howard say he was just happy that “it’s over,” I wanted to know just what exactly he thought was over. Because in two months when the Magic are eliminated in the second round, the whole thing starts over again. Yay.

Cavaliers were clutch all season, then again in it’s biggest moment

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The Cleveland Cavaliers had the point differential of a 43-39 team this season, just a couple of games above .500. Yet they finished the season 50-32, seven games better than their differential suggested — the highest variance in the NBA.

Why? Because LeBron James and the Cavaliers were clutch. In games that were within five points in the final five minutes this season, Cleveland was 30-15 with a +18.2 points per 100 net rating (second best in the NBA, behind Houston).

That has carried over to the playoffs, where the Cavaliers came into Game 7 Sunday night 6-1 in clutch games with an insane +36.2 per 100.

Game 7 was another clutch one — it was 76-72 Cleveland with five minutes to go — and once again the Cavaliers won, advancing to the NBA Finals. This is the fourth straight year for this team, and the eighth year in a row for LeBron to make it to the NBA’s biggest stage.

In the final five minutes of Game 7, LeBron had six points, while the Boston Celtics team had 7. When we say the Cavaliers are clutch, it all starts with LeBron (as do all things Cavaliers at this point).

“He craves those moments. He loves those moments,” Kyle Korver said after LeBron was clutch in the Cavaliers’ Game 6 win that set up Sunday’s showdown, but what he said applies now, too. “When the game’s on the line, when the season’s on the line, he’s been rising up. That’s what the great players do.”

LeBron accepts that challenge, and through the postseason he has had an impressive 58 true shooting percentage, with a ridiculous 44.3 percent usage rate. Bottom line, he has had to carry the Cavaliers in the clutch, and he has done so efficiently.

“I’m the leader of this team, and I’m going to give what I’ve got,” LeBron said. “My teammates, they respect that.”

It’s going to take more than clutch LeBron and friends to win in the Finals — both of the teams in the West are much tougher than anything the Cavaliers have seen so far. However, we know that LeBron is going to give everything he has left.

And if the game is close late, don’t bet against the Cavaliers.

 

 

 

Jayson Tatum throws down epic dunk on LeBron James (VIDEO)

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The Boston Celtics and Cleveland Cavaliers held a barnburner of a Game 7 on Sunday, with Boston’s Jayson Tatum going head-to-head with LeBron James.

For his part, LeBron was everything we expected in a Game 7. The King played spectacularly, willing his Cavaliers squad to yet another NBA Finals appearance as Cleveland edged Boston.

But before things were sealed, and the game decided, Tatum got off a raucous dunk right in James’ eye that made many wonder if the torch was on the cusp of being passed.

The play came with 6:45 left in the fourth quarter with Tatum driving down the lane and LeBron moving over to help recover on defense. It would have been easy to anticipate another big LeBron playoff block, but Tatum continued his surprising season by dunking all over The King.

Via Twitter:

Cleveland won the game, 87-79, but Tatum’s dunk on the big stage is just one of many reasons why the Celtics are going to be a complete hassle next year when they’re back to being fully healthy.

LeBron James is the greatest player of all-time

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He’s done it again. LeBron James, the King in the East, played 48 minutes en route to his eighth straight NBA Finals appearance after beating the Boston Celtics in Game 7 at TD Garden on Sunday, 87-79.

Bow down to the greatest player of all-time.

Much has been made of LeBron’s place in history as his legacy has began to galvanize toward the end of his career. The conversation has raged on about LeBron vs. Michael Jordan, or Wilt Chamberlain, or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Preference varies greatly between fans, while some still pick the centrist route and say there’s no simple way to compare across eras. There’s been mathematical attempts to rank the two, and even MJ’s old teammates have said LeBron is a more complete player.

On Sunday, James bounced yet another Eastern Conference Finals opponent, carrying his teammates on his shoulders and playing without All-Star Kevin Love. There was never a doubt for many watching Sunday’s matchup in Massachusetts. Before the final buzzer, LeBron had won 23 straight Eastern Conference playoff series. His determination was absolute, and the cards were always stacked against Boston even given their postseason record at home.

You could sort of just see it coming.

James was the motivating force in the first half for Cleveland, scoring 17 points while no other teammates tallied in double digits. The Cavaliers shot an abysmal 12 percent from beyond the arc, and the Celtics looked like they would be able to control the rest of the game as the crowd at home motivated them forward.

But Cleveland came roaring back in the second half, continuing to put on a defensive show, the kind we would not have expected of them during the regular season. Without Love, the Cavs had to make do with Jeff Green, who turned in a surprising performance. Green scored 19 points, shot 50 percent from the field, and grabbed eight rebounds.

In the face of a strengthening Cavaliers attack, the Celtics seems to retreat. Boston’s final offensive possessions in the fourth quarter were hectic, slow, and unsuccessful. While the Cavaliers tried their hardest during the final eight minutes to get Al Horford switched on to LeBron in isolation sets, the Celtics surprisingly mirrored the same offensive tactics. Instead of playing their regular offense, or running plays to get shooters free, or trying to attack the paint against James (who was in foul trouble) Boston resorted to trying to exploit any mismatches found through Cleveland’s switches.

The result was four field goals inside the 3-point line for LeBron in the fourth quarter, as much as the entire Celtics roster combined.

The play of the game came with 1:04 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Cavaliers leading by nine. LeBron was out on the break, with Marcus Morris trailing behind him. Morris went to foul LeBron, making no obvious attempts on the ball as he grabbed onto the Cavaliers star’s shoulders. Even with all of his might, Morris couldn’t stop James from scoring while drawing the foul. It was indicative of the entire fourth quarter for the Celtics, who scraped, clutched and grabbed as much as they could but did not have an answer for LeBron.

So here we are, with LeBron having won another Game 7 out in the Eastern Conference as he heads to another Finals. He probably won’t match Jordan’s championship mark. But Jordan didn’t match Russell’s. Or Horry’s. Or Havlichek’s, either.

Instead, we have to rely on what we see in front of our eyes combined with their dominance, weighted for context. Sunday night’s performance should help push LeBron over Jordan, if he wasn’t there already. James is a more complete player, which has always been apparent, and now he’s survived every challenge that’s been thrown at him. Declaring James the best player of all-time did not come because of Sunday’s game. It’s been years in the making, throughout the entirety of his 15-year career. The win over Boston was just an indication of his place in history.

LeBron has gone nuclear with 40+ point performances. He was part of the greatest comeback in NBA Finals history against the Golden State Warriors. He beat the Indiana Pacers all by himself, in the playoffs, just this very season. James has had a career season at age 33, playing 48 minutes in the 100th game of the 2017-18 season. LeBron has willed his way to yet another NBA Finals, with perhaps his worst team since the 2006-07 squad that was swept by the San Antonio Spurs in the season’s final series. To add to the accomplishment, LeBron pushed this Cavaliers squad past a stunningly good team in the Celtics, on the road, and without Love.

James is the greatest American sports story of our generation, and he’s the best player the NBA has ever seen. If you disagree, that’s OK. But after Sunday night, you’d be hard pressed to convince me otherwise.

Watch Victor Oladipo drive the pace car at the Indianapolis 500 (VIDEO)

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Victor Oladipo is Indiana’s favorite son after the Indiana Pacers guard blasted through the competition during the 2017-18 NBA season.

Oladipo averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists, and led the league with 2.4 steals per game. Oladipo’s 3-point shooting improved year-over-year, and his VORP skyrocketed in his new leadership role. Many feel the Pacers won the Paul George trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder thanks to Oladipo.

Thanks in part to his stellar play, Oladipo was invited to drive the pace car at the start of the 2018 Indianapolis 500. Turns out he was pretty good at it.

Via Twitter:

Oladipo is apparently going to be honored with the steering wheel from the pace car he drove. No doubt taking part in a classic local sporting event like the Indy 500 will help ingrain Oladipo into the sports fabric in Indianapolis even further.