Back to business for LeBron and Cavs, who will face Raptors

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — As the score became more and more lopsided in Toronto, LeBron James started to change.

And as the final seconds ticked toward all zeroes on the clock, James took one last look at the scoreboard at the bottom of the TV screen and decided it was time to get serious again.

“Uh, 114-86,” James said, relaying the Raptors’ huge lead over the Miami Heat in the waning moments of their Game 7. “That’s when I flipped the switch.”

James and the Cavaliers are back in playoff mode. Bring on Toronto.

After a week of waiting for an opponent, the Cavs finally learned they’ll face the Raptors, who clobbered Miami 116-89 on Sunday to earn their first trip to the Eastern Conference finals. Toronto’s delirious fans chanted “We want Cleve-land!” down the stretch and they’ll get what they wanted: a well-rested Cavaliers squad in Game 1 on Tuesday night.

James met with media members shortly after the Toronto-Cleveland series became official. The four-time MVP wasn’t as talkative as earlier in the work and chose his words carefully as he discussed the Raptors, who won two of three against the Cavs during the regular season.

“We’re a totally different team than the regular season,” James warned.

The Cavs haven’t played since wrapping up a four-game sweep – their second of the postseason – over Atlanta on May 8. When they take the floor Tuesday, it will have been nine days between games – a break Cleveland used for rest and recovery. James said the time off was huge for him and his teammates.

“I’ve always said anytime you get an opportunity to get some rest throughout the course of our season, it’s always beneficial for anybody,” he said. “Doesn’t matter if you’re a 31-year-old guy who’s played a lot of basketball or you’re a 19-year-old kid who just came into the league. It doesn’t matter – you get a couple days in the postseason, there’s a benefit.”

Before practice, the Cavs broke down some game tape of the Raptors, who are enjoying the greatest season in their franchise’s history and don’t want it to end anytime soon.

Toronto has been nipping at Cleveland’s heels all season and the East finals will match up the conference’s top two teams.

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said the clubs have been on a collision course.

“They played at a high level all season, winning 56 games this year and they’re a confident group,” he said. “They feel great, getting out of the first round this year, getting the monkey off their back so they’re up for the challenge – and so are we.”

The Cavs will focus on slowing down the Raptors’ two-headed guard tandem. Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan combined for 63 points in the series-clinching win over the Heat and present a matchup problem for any team because they can drive to the basket or pull up and knock down jumpers. Lowry burned Cleveland by scoring a career-high 43 points in a win on Feb. 26.

“They’re two All-Stars for a reason,” James said about Lowry and DeRozan. “And that’s the reason that they’re in the Eastern Conference finals because they’re two All-Stars. They wouldn’t be in this position without them.”

Toronto’s win denied James a chance to go against the Heat, his former team, and good friend Dwyane Wade. James recently said he had entertained the possibility of a Cavs-Heat matchup, which would have provided a sexier national story line and tested his mental toughness like no other series.

“I didn’t really indulge into it too much,” James said of a possible meeting with Wade and a team he led to four straight Finals. “I was just waiting around, just like the rest of the guys, getting my work in, and whoever advanced we’d be ready to play against.”

For the Cavs, who are a perfect 8 for 8 so far in the playoffs, the anticipation is over.

It’s game time again.

“We know who we’re playing,” James said. “We’re going to start diving in on their personnel, diving in on what they do best. They was chasing us all year for the No. 1 seed. We look forward to the matchup, just as well as we looked forward to Detroit and also Atlanta.”

Vince Carter wins NBA Sportsmanship Award

Hawks forward Vince Carter
Jason Miller/Getty Images
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Vince Carter’s 22-year NBA career ended amid the chaos of coronavirus, preventing him from getting the deserved fanfare.

But fellow players will send Carter into retirement with the NBA Sportsmanship Award.

NBA release:

NBA players have selected Vince Carter as the recipient of the 2019-20 NBA Sportsmanship Award, the NBA announced today.

Carter, who spent the 2019-20 season with the Atlanta Hawks, announced his retirement from the NBA in June after playing a league-record 22 seasons.  He receives the Joe Dumars Trophy as the winner of the NBA Sportsmanship Award.  Dumars, a two-time NBA champion and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer, played 14 NBA seasons and won the inaugural Sportsmanship Award in the 1995-96 season.

Each NBA team nominated one of its players for the NBA Sportsmanship Award, which is designed to honor a player who best represents the ideals of sportsmanship on the court.  From the list of 30 team nominees, a panel of league executives selected one finalist from each of the NBA’s six divisions.  Current NBA players selected the winner from the list of six finalists, with more than 250 players submitting their votes through confidential balloting conducted by the league office.

Full voting (with first-, second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place votes and voting points):

1. Vince Carter (Hawks): 143-70-34-13-4-2-2,520

2. Garrett Temple (Nets): 22-78-63-52-25-26-1,746

3. Steven Adams (Thunder): 34-57-41-52-58-24-1,632

4. Harrison Barnes (Kings): 24-25-75-48-35-59-1,418

5. Langston Galloway (Pistons): 23-22-29-60-79-53-1,244

7. Tyus Jones (Grizzlies): 20-14-24-41-65-102-1,016

What a nice honor for Carter, who gracefully aged from high-profile star to veteran mentor.

Heat: Bam Adebayo, Goran Dragic doubtful for Game 2 of NBA Finals

Heat players Bam Adebayo and Goran Dragic
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Bam Adebayo‘s and Goran Dragic‘s injuries… not looking great for the Heat approaching Game 2 of the NBA Finals.

Heat:

This is a disaster for Miami. The Lakers dominated Game 1, and now the Heat have two starters hobbled at best. At worst and more likely, Adebayo and Dragic are out.

Adebayo would be the bigger loss. Miami was completely overmatched when facing Anthony Davis without a center. Kelly Olynyk and Meyers Leonard can try to keep up, but they’re far from great solutions.

At least the Heat have more options at point guard. Kendrick Nunn can get an elevated role (especially after excelling in garbage time of Game 1). Jimmy Butler can become the de facto point guard. Tyler Herro can also play the position. But Dragic was playing so well during Miami’s run through the Eastern Conference. This is also a major setback.

 

Report: Tyronn Lue ‘early favorite’ to become Clippers head coach

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Doc Rivers is gaining momentum in the 76ers’ coaching search.

As for the job Rivers left behind with the Clippers… Clippers assistant and former Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, unsurprisingly, has the inside track.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Clippers are planning to interview other candidates, starting soon, sources said.

The New Orleans Pelicans are planning to interview Lue in the near future too, sources said.

Lue would be a sensible hire. He has championship experience, which would help the Clippers hit the ground running in a make-or-break season before Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can become unrestricted free agents. Lue managed stars in LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. The Clippers must improve their chemistry around their stars. And the last time Lue got promoted from assistant to head coach, his team won a title.

New Orleans also has an appealing job. But the Clippers are far closer to championship contention. And if both teams want Lue, I bet Clippers owner Steve Ballmer would outspend Pelicans owner Gayle Benson.

Still, the Clippers are conducting a coaching search. Other candidates could emerge. This isn’t necessarily Lue’s job for the taking.

How long would he wait on L.A. if the Pelicans make an offer? Lue has shown he values being entrusted.

Report: 76ers focused on Doc Rivers and Mike D’Antoni in coaching search

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The 76ers appeared focused on Mike D’Antoni in their coaching search.

Then, Doc Rivers surprisingly became available.

The former Clippers coach met with the 76ers and is now in the center of the conversation.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

For the Sixers now, the focus is on Rivers and D’Antoni, a source told ESPN. A decision is expected this week.

Rivers would be an easier fit with this roster than D’Antoni, whose style doesn’t appear to work as well with both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Rivers also looks like he’d help Philadelphia take the next step.

But that seemed like it’d be true with the Clippers and wasn’t.

Tyronn Lue’s candidacy with the 76ers has clearly faded. Could he join the Clippers, Rockets or Pelicans? If Philadelphia hires Rivers, maybe D’Antoni still lands with the Pacers?

Rivers’ availability has definitely thrown a wrench in the coaching carousel.