Challenges of Memphis series primed Golden State for Finals comeback, win

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They had been there before.

They had been down 2-1 to a grinding team who had a defender  opposing fans thought was their “Curry stopper.” The Golden State Warriors had been pounded inside before in these playoffs. They had heard the “jump shooting teams can’t win in the playoffs” before.

Golden State had heard all of that against Memphis — and they made a key adjustment and rattled off three straight wins.

That helped prepare them for the Cleveland Cavaliers and the NBA Finals — where the Warriors again made an adjustment and rattled off three convincing wins.

“Going into the playoffs and playing a Memphis, where that’s a tough team to beat.  All that stuff primed us for this moment,” Draymond Green said drenched in Champaign after the Warriors had completed their comeback against the Cleveland Cavaliers and won an NBA title. “It primed us for our non-shooters to make shots.  It primed us for somebody to think they can stop Steph Curry and then all of a sudden you see Steph Curry.  It primed us for we’re too small, we’re a jump shooting team, it will never work.  It primed us for all of that.

“So playing in the Western Conference on the daily, nightly basis, night to night, it gets you ready for everything.  That’s why I think it’s the best conference in the NBA because you see all brands of basketball.  So all of a sudden you run up against the Cavs and, I mean, LeBron James is great.  There is no one like him.  But you’re prepared for everything else because we’ve seen everything.”

Against Memphis in the second round, the adjustment was to ask big man Andrew Bogut to defend light-shooting guard Tony Allen. That allowed Bogut to hang back and protect the rim, helping out on Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, and not pay a price.

Against Cleveland, there were a few adjustments but the key one was to sit Bogut and start Andre Iguodala — to go small. Bogut barely played the final few games, and more offensive bigs like David Lee got key minutes and run. The shorthanded Cavaliers could not adjust.

“Game 3 of The Finals we figured something out in the fourth quarter, and we decided to go small,” Lee said after the win. “On any other team, a guy like Andrew Bogut is angry and causes a fit.  Instead, he’s the first one up cheering off the bench.  So everybody has had their time to shine this year and that kind of sacrifice is how you win championships, and we were able to bring it home.”

The Warriors players to a man praised the chemistry on the team.

“That’s one thing you don’t see that often in the league,” Iguodala said in an interview on NBA TV. “You got stars and guys who want to be stars. Guys are ‘me, me, me, I want to get paid. I want to be a superstar. I want to have my own shoe.’ But we got just a great group of guys. Management did a great job, I don’t know if they knew personalities and how to match them, it’s crazy because we all really like each other. 

“Teams say that all the time but you know guys don’t really like each other that much. You have three or four cliques — they hang out, they hang out, they hang out. But we had like 10 guys go to dinner, eight guys go to the movies. We had like seven guys go to the movies last night. We all can joke with each other, we throw punches each other and nobody takes it personal.”

In the end, the roster that shot too many jump shots was able to make the adjustments and win the NBA title. Coach Steve Kerr said he knew they could because of what they did on the other end of the court.

“Everyone wanted to talk about how many threes we took.  We’re the number one defensive team in the league, and that’s what wins,” Kerr said. “You’ve got to be able to score points somehow, but you have to be good defensively.  You have to be great defensively to win a title. For whatever reason, that seemed to be overlooked this year.  But the combination of the offense and the defense, that matters, and I don’t think people pointed that out enough.”

They should now.

Report: Spurs ‘shut the door’ on Lakers’ Kawhi Leonard trade inquiry

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After shooting down trade inquiries before the trade deadline and brushing off proposals earlier this offseason, the Spurs are reportedly hearing out offers for Kawhi Leonard.

Except from the Lakers.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

The Lakers are reportedly Leonard’s preferred destination. Of course, San Antonio isn’t obligated to send him there. But he can influence the process by stating a plan to sign with only certain team(s) in 2019 unrestricted free agency.

The Celtics and 76ers might have better assets to send the Spurs. But if only the Lakers have a commitment from Leonard to re-sign, they might offer a greater share of their assets than Boston or Philadelphia would (especially if Los Angeles believes acquiring Leonard would be the first domino in also landing LeBron James and Paul George).

Between Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart and future first-round picks, the Lakers could offer roughly commensurate value for Leonard. San Antonio might not like those particular players, but a third team could always get involved. Send some combination of Ball, Ingram, Kuzma and Hart to a team that wants them and have that third team convey players more desirable to the Spurs.

But that takes thoughtful negotiating, and San Antonio doesn’t seem interested.

There’s a belief San Antonio won’t trade Leonard to a Western Conference team, especially another historically strong franchise like the Lakers. That sentiment seems foolish to me, but it didn’t emerge out of thin air. There are real people – and real hurt feelings – involved here. Grudges sometimes trump rationality.

Maybe the Spurs will eventually explore whether the Lakers present the best offer. But this is at least circumstantial evidence San Antonio will handle this crisis stubbornly.

League buzz: Kings will take Marvin Bagley III at No. 2, Luka Doncic gone at three

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It’s hard to see through all the smoke and tell if things around the 2018 NBA Draft are solidifying as we get to fewer than three hours before the Phoenix Suns go on the clock.

The Suns are a lock to take DeAndre Ayton at No. 1.

After that, the Kings more and more seem to be leaning toward taking Marvin Bagley III at No. 2, according to multiple reports of those close to the team.

At three things really open up. Atlanta is listening to trade offers but one way or another is likely to pick Luka Doncic. There are rumors that multiple teams — Dallas, Orlando, others — would then trade their pick plus some other asset (young player/future pick) to the Hawks for Doncic. Who the Hawks reportedly really want is Trae Young, but they can move down to get him.

If the Slovenian is off the board, it’s more likely that Memphis trades the No. 4 pick, according to sources. However, there are questions about whether Memphis can get what it thinks is fair value for selling the No. 4. So maybe they just take Jaren Jackson Jr.

How is it going to shake out?

That follows my final mock draft, which was put together Wednesday for the video above. It has:

1. Phoenix: DeAndre Ayton
2. Sacramento: Marvin Bagley
3. Atlanta: Luka Doncic
4. Memphis: Jaren Jackson
5. Dallas: Mo Bamba
6. Orlando: Trae Young
7. Chicago: Michael Porter Jr.
8. Cleveland: Wendell Carter Jr.
9. New York: Kevin Knox
10. Philadelphia: Mikail Bridges
11. Charlotte: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
12. LA Clippers: Robert Williams
13. LA Clippers: Collin Sexton
14. Denver: Miles Bridges

The problem with any mock draft now is accounting for trades, and those are coming.

Report: Spurs hearing out Kawhi Leonard trade offers, including from Lakers

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The Spurs shot down Kawhi Leonard trade offers before the trade deadline. They brushed off Leonard trade offers earlier this offseason.

Then, the already strained situation got even worse.

Leonard put out word he wanted to leave San Antonio, ideally for the Lakers. He met with Gregg Popovich this week in San Diego, reportedly directly telling the president-coach he wants out.

What are the Spurs doing now?

Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:

The Lakers are in that mix.

The Spurs can try to mend their relationship with Leonard. They could even use a super-max contract – projected to be worth $219 million over five years – to aid that process. They don’t have to trade him.

But the clock is ticking toward tonight’s draft, teams using their cap space in other ways and Leonard’s 2019 free agency.

San Antonio has no choice but to get more aggressive in handling Leonard’s future. This is a small step in that direction.

Report: Nets to buy out Dwight Howard

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The Magic, Lakers, Rockets, Hawks and Hornets all grew tired of Dwight Howard.

The Nets did it in record time.

After acquiring Howard in a trade from Charlotte yesterday, Brooklyn is moving toward shedding him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

In the trade, the Nets dumped Timofey Mozgov‘s $16.72 million salary for 2019-20. Now, they could get a reduction on Howard’s $23,819,725 expiring contract. Brooklyn is doing a great job of unloading bad money.

Next year, the Nets will have their own first-round pick for the first time in six years. Though he has declined considerably from his Hall of Fame peak, Howard can still play some. Brooklyn didn’t need him interfering with its tanking and culture.

Instead, the Nets can focus on developing Jarrett Allen and losing enough to secure the best draft position possible.

It’ll be interesting to see how much Howard surrenders and where he goes. Again, he can still play. But the league is moving away from traditional centers, and he’s high maintenance.