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?

Kevin Love tries to ignore trade rumors, “let the chips fall where they may”

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Cleveland Cavaliers GM said he has no interest in trading Kevin Love.

You can count the number of people around the league who believe him on one hand. There’s a good chance Love is still on the Cavaliers at the end of this season, but that’s more about him being in the first year of a four-year, $120 million contract extension than it is Cleveland’s willingness to trade him (or interest from other teams, if money was not an issue). The Cavaliers are rebuilding, and if they can get young players and picks for Love, they have to consider it.

With Portland off to a slow start, and Love growing up in the Pacific Northwest, that rumor has floated around. There are others. Love is just trying to ignore them and play ball, he told Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times.

“I know there’s talk about me possibly being the missing piece somewhere,” Love said. “There’s been constant chatter since I signed that I could be traded. It’s one of those things where I’m going to keep doing right by the team, by Cleveland and by the organization. If my number is called, so be it, but I’m going to stay true to my commitment and let the chips fall where they may.”

Love, who has been open in recent years about his struggles with anxiety and mental health, said dealing with the trade rumors that constantly swirl around him can be a challenge on that front.

“A big aspect of mental health is just staying in the present but it’s so hard,” he said. “You have to try to not get too far ahead of yourself or get worked up. You can get that anxious feeling or fear for the future, but you have to try to stay focused on getting better and let things work out the way they should.”

Kevin Love has played well to start the season, averaging 18.3 points and 11.3 rebounds a game, shooting a respectable 34.7 percent from three. He could help a lot of teams, particularly ones in the West who want to be in the mix for a ring but who look at the Lakers and Clippers and think, “we have to get better fast.”

The rumors around Love are just going to get louder the closer and closer we get to the trade deadline. Love will have to do a lot of work to tune all that out.

 

Bulls big man Luke Kornet out following surgery on sinus obstruction

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Just before last Christmas, Luke Kornet broke his nose. Apparently, that never healed quite right.

Kornet underwent surgery to repair a sinus obstruction on Monday, the Chicago Bulls announced. There is no timetable for his return, although coach Jim Boylen suggested it could be less than two weeks.

Bulls coach Jim Boylen added this at practice, via NBC Sports Chicago.

“Kornet had sinus surgery this morning. He had blockage and some issues from a previous fracture from when he was in New York. We just felt it was time to go in there and clean that thing out. That happened this morning at 6 AM. He’s out. Surgery went well. We’ll have more to report as we go. Originally, it was a seven-ten-day thing where he’d be back. I think it’s one of those things they don’t know until they get in there how extreme it is. But he had blockage and it needed to be done.”

This does not impact the Bulls much on the court as Kornet has fallen out of the rotation in recent games (in part because of the sinus condition, in part because he just hasn’t played well). Kornet signed a two-year, $4.5 million contract with the Bulls over the summer.

D’Angelo Russell says weather played ‘major part’ in picking Warriors over Timberwolves

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D'Angelo Russell wants to play with Karl-Anthony Towns. Towns’ Timberwolves were reportedly interested in Russell last summer.

Why did Russell join the Warriors instead of Minnesota?

Russell, via Chris Hine of the Minneapolis StarTribune:

“I thought the opportunity here was amazing … ” Russell said after Warriors shootaround Friday. “It was definitely something I was considering very strongly. But then when this opportunity came, the weather is way better, so that helped me.”

“I did my first winter in New York and that was tough,” Russell said. “So to get the opportunity to go somewhere where it’s warm again, I think that played a major part in my plan.”

I don’t blame him one bit.

Russell grew up in Kentucky then finished high school in Florida. He spent his first couple NBA seasons with the Lakers.

He also played collegiately at Ohio State and a a couple years for the Nets. In other words, he spent enough time in cold-weather locations to know how miserable they can be.

This is an issue that will always hinder teams like the Timberwolves. It doesn’t mean they can’t attract free agents. It’s just a disadvantage.

There will always be players who don’t have multiple max offers. Minnesota can separate itself with money, playing time and other considerations.

But good for Russell for playing himself out of that group and earning a max contract in the Bay Area.

Kyrie Irving (shoulder) out for Nets-Pacers

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Kyrie Irving missed the Nets’ win over the Bulls on Saturday.

He’s not healthy enough to play the Pacers tonight.

Nets public relations:

Kyrie Irving (right shoulder impingement) is OUT.

Brooklyn (5-7) lags behinds Indiana (7-6) in the Eastern Conference’s middle morass. The Nets must try to catch up in the playoff race without their best player.

But it’s a long season. Brooklyn has plenty of time to gain ground. Spencer Dinwiddie is capable in relief, and the unselfish Nets can create ball movement while Dinwiddie rests.

I’m more concerned about next week. A segment of Brooklyn’s schedule:

  • Nov. 24 at Knicks
  • Nov. 25 at Cavaliers
  • Nov. 27 at Celtics

That’s the team Irving spurned in free agency, the team Irving requested a trade from and the team Irving just left after pledging to re-sign. Those are juicy matchups. Hopefully, Irving is healthy enough to play in all three.