Warriors have options to guard LeBron James, but he’ll make them work

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source:  As much as anyone has the ability to slow down LeBron James, the Warriors have the ability to slow down LeBron James. They have the personnel and the scheme to counter whatever lineups Cleveland throws at them. The question, and maybe the key to the series, is whether the Warriors’ variety of weapons is enough to overcome the sheer will and power of James, whose presence alone can neutralize teams that, on paper, seem to have enough to stop him.

Golden State doesn’t have that singularly brilliant perimeter stopper that has allowed other teams to successfully limit James, the way Jimmy Butler was in the second round or Kawhi Leonard was in last year’s Finals. There’s no marquee matchup on the defensive end for James, no single nemesis. But the Warriors have such a well-rounded defensive attack that there are at least four different players in their rotation who can more than hold their own.

Harrison Barnes will likely get the first crack at defending James, with Draymond Green and Andre Iguodala getting some time on him as well. If Golden State can get away with keeping Barnes on James for stretches, that gives Green the opportunity to battle with Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov in the paint. Having that versatility is going to be crucial for the Warriors, given Thompson’s dominance on the glass. Green is the player most suited to defending James, but the Warriors have other players they can at least throw at him, so Steve Kerr will probably avoid using him as long as he can, to use him elsewhere.

The problem with defending James is that there are no shots you want to give him. He hasn’t been shooting well at all in the playoffs so far, so theoretically, the Warriors will want to give him plenty of open jumpers if it means not letting him get to the rim. The problem with this is that giving LeBron James open shots of any kind is just asking him to make you pay, no matter how he’s shooting at the moment, because of who he is.

The Warriors’ best-case scenario is that James’ jumper continues to be off. Even then, it hasn’t stopped him from dominating throughout the playoffs. He’s still been able to overpower defenders both with his own offense and with his still-elite playmaking skills. If the jumper starts falling again, that just makes him even harder to defend.

When the Cavs go small, with James at power forward and Tristan Thompson at center, Green will see the bulk of the time on him. Green’s success guarding James could be the deciding factor in the series — he has the smarts and the instincts, but James can overpower him. If Green sees extended time on James, especially if he plays him one-on-one, James will look to get him in foul trouble, and taking Green out of the game for an extended stretch would be bad news for the Warriors.

Another advantage the Warriors have is the ability to tire James out on the defensive end. Beyond him and Iman Shumpert, Cleveland’s defensive personnel is shaky, especially on the perimeter. James will see some time on Stephen Curry, since he always guards the other team’s best player. If Curry can make James chase him around the three-point line, it will go a long way. Klay Thompson can do the same thing if James gets switched onto him. There are no weak links in the Warriors’ offense, so no matter who James is guarding, they’re going to make him work. If they can get him in foul trouble, so much the better.

For the last five-plus years, James has been an unsolvable riddle for most of his opponents. The Spurs managed to neutralize him last season with Leonard’s otherworldly coverage and a smart team defensive scheme. Golden State has a similarly sound system and plenty of personnel to stop him. The question as always with James is, will it matter?

Adam Silver: Older coaches may not be on bench in Orlando “in order to protect them”

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Gregg Popovich is 71. Mike D’Antoni is 68. Alvin Gentry just turned 65.

People 65 and older have proven particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. The Center for Disease Control says 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States are people 65 and older.

As the NBA heads to the Walt Disney World resort complex in Orlando to resume the season, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver expressed concern for some of the league’s older coaches during an interview on TNT.

“There are people involved in this league, particularly coaches, who are obviously older people…” Silver said. “We’re going to have to work through protocols, for example, and it may be certain coaches may not able to be the bench coach. They may have to maintain social distancing protocols, and maybe they can be in the front of a room, a locker room… with a whiteboard, but when it comes to actual play we’re not going to want that that close to players in order to protect them.”

You can guess how that went over with D’Antoni and Gentry (and, likely, Popovich).

Pretty quickly, Silver was walking his statement back. Dallas coach Rick Carlisle, president of the NBA Coach’s Association, was quickly on the phone with Silver.

The league may want to take coaches who are members of vulnerable populations and find a way to add layers of protection for them, but keeping them from coaching their teams would be an incredibly tough sell to everyone around the league.

NCAA sets August deadline for early draft entrants to withdraw

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — The NCAA has set a new schedule for early entrants to the NBA draft to withdraw and return to school.

The NCAA announced Thursday that it would give players until 10 days after the NBA scouting combine or Aug. 3, whichever comes earlier. This comes three weeks after the NCAA postponed its deadline, which was originally scheduled to fall on Wednesday.

That June 3 deadline was set to come 10 days after the completion of the combine, but the NBA postponed the combine amid the coronavirus pandemic and has yet to announce a new date.

The NBA has announced the date of the 2020 NBA Draft Lottery, now set for August 25. Traditionally the NBA Draft Combine would follow a few days after that, although there has been no official announcement.

The NCAA’s date will force players to decide whether or not to stay in the draft before the combine takes place, or even before many have found out if they are invited. Some players who might otherwise have returned to school now likely will keep their name in the draft, only to not get a combine invite.

In a statement, the NCAA said the Division I Men’s Basketball Oversight Committee worked with the National Association of Basketball Coaches on the new timeline and “believes this is the most equitable alternative available in these unprecedented circumstances.”

“This provides the utmost flexibility to student-athletes testing the waters to make the most informed decision about their future during this uncertain time,” NCAA Senior Vice President for Basketball Dan Gavitt said in the statement.

 

More details leak on NBA return format in Orlando, here’s a timeline breakdown

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The NBA is back.

Or will be. Soonish. Thursday the NBA owners approved a restart plan featuring 22 teams, with training camps opening in late June and games starting July 31.

What exactly will all that look like? What are the timelines, and how many games a day? Here’s a breakdown of what we know, with the latest details on format, plus some of the things we don’t yet know.

• June 15: International players who returned home called back to team market

• June 21: All players report to their team markets for workouts.

• June 22: Coronavirus testing of players and staff starts. Once teams report to the Walt Disney World facility the league wants to have daily testing. What we don’t yet know is what form of the test the league will use. While many coronavirus tests are very accurate, some studies suggest a person has to have the disease for a few days before it shows up on a test, and there are false negatives. Which is why the league wants daily testing.

• June 30: Training camps begin at team practice facilities.

• July 7: Teams travel to Orlando, continue their team training camps at the ESPN Wide World of Sports complex there. The 22 teams invited are the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Miami Heat, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Orlando Magic and Washington Wizards from the Eastern Conference; and the Los Angeles Lakers, L.A. Clippers, Denver Nuggets, Utah Jazz, Oklahoma City Thunder, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, Memphis Grizzlies, Portland Trail Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, San Antonio Spurs and Phoenix Suns from the Western Conference. It’s the 16 teams in playoff position when play was suspended, plus the six teams within six games of the postseason.

We do not yet know many of the health and safety protocols players will go through both on arrival at the Walt Disney World resort and facilities, save for the fact the league is doing daily testing. We do know players can golf and eat at outdoor restaurants, so long as they follow social distancing guidelines.

• July 31: NBA “seeding games” begin (the league is not calling these regular-season games). Teams will play eight games stretched over 16 days, with 5-6 games a day (played in the style of Summer League, with games starting as early as noon and extending into the evening, alternating between courts). There will be a four-hour gap on each court between games to allow time for sanitization, and then full warmups by teams.

• After the regular season, if the ninth-seeded team is within four games of the eighth-seeded team, they will have a two-game play-in matchup for the final playoff spot. The nine seed has to beat the eight seed in both games to advance (the eight seed team just needs to win one of the two).

• A full, traditional NBA playoffs follows with seven-game series in each round. Games will be played every other day (no back-to-backs in the playoffs). This will not see the long breaks often associated with the first round of the NBA playoffs (and, obviously, no need for travel days).

• October 12: The latest date for the seventh game of the NBA Finals.

• October 15: The 2020 NBA Draft takes place.

• October 18: NBA free agency opens

• November 10: Training camps open.

• December 1: The 2020-21 NBA season tips off.

Those last four dates — everything in the offseason — could be pushed back, with the NBA possibly starting as late as Christmas. Players were reportedly caught off guard by the fast turnaround. The league and players still have a lot of financial negotiations to go through after the coronavirus fallout, and the start dates likely will be part of that.

There are still a lot of health and safety questions to be answered, but Adam Silver has the owners and players on board to try and make this work.

 

NBA G League cancels remainder of season

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The NBA G League shut down play in mid-March, at the same time the NBA did after the positive coronavirus test of Rudy Gobert. However, without a big television contract or much gate revenue, there wasn’t the motivation to restart the G League season, as the NBA is doing.

Thursday the G League made the expected official, canceling the remainder of its season. It will finish without crowning a champion.

“While canceling the remainder of our season weighs heavily on us, we recognize that it is the most appropriate action to take for our league,” G League President Shareef Abdur-Rahim said in a statement. “I extend my sincere gratitude to NBA G League players and coaches for giving their all to their teams and fans this season.  And to our fans, I thank you and look forward to resuming play for the 2020-21 season.”

The Wisconsin Herd (33-10) and Salt Lake City Stars (30-12) finished the season with the best records.

The G League did take care of its players, which was the right thing to do.

With the NBA starting next season in December, the G-League will follow that schedule, with games through the winter and spring. There is a real possibility of expanded NBA rosters next season due to coronavirus fears, which will impact G League rosters as well, but there are a lot of details still to be determined.