Klay Thompson: Warriors were nervous in last year’s Finals, won’t be this year

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OAKLAND, Calif. — There’s a comfort level for MVP Stephen Curry and his teammates this time around on the big stage.

Coach Steve Kerr even senses a calm about the Golden State Warriors as they go into a second straight NBA Finals – a second straight against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, no less.

Everything was new last year. There were some serious nerves. Golden State’s daily schedule and routine got disrupted, which Kerr called “a bit of a shock to our guys’ system.”

“I don’t think anyone’s going to be nervous out there like we were last year,” Klay Thompson said.

The 73-win Warriors are fresh off a Game 7 victory against the Oklahoma Thunder that capped a remarkable comeback from a 3-1 deficit, and they hope to roll that momentum right into Game 1 on Thursday night in front of their rockin’ home crowd at Oracle Arena.

“I know we’re a better team than we were last year, just off experience and what we’ve been through in this postseason, better equipped to kind of handle the scene of the Finals and all that’s kind of thrown at you when you get here,” Curry said. “The first time, it’s a whirlwind.”

Cleveland has its own reasons for these Finals to feel far different from last June. Namely: The Cavs are at full strength as they try again for the franchise’s first championship after losing in six games last year.

Kyrie Irving went down with a devastating knee injury in a Game 1 overtime loss to Golden State last year. He is back for the rematch, and power forward Kevin Love is poised for his Finals debut after he missed last year’s series because of a dislocated left shoulder that required surgery.

Ask folks in Northern Ohio and they’re sure to say things would have turned out differently had those two stars been on the court, and the city’s five-decade championship drought dating to the Browns’ 1964 NFL title already would have ended.

“I don’t really get involved into the whole pressure thing,” James said of bringing a championship home to Ohio.

The healthy Cavs, who also added Channing Frye this season, like their chances with Love in the mix. Coach Tyronn Lue has all the confidence in Love.

“It’s nice not having to sit there and watch. I mentioned last year that it was very bittersweet. Bitter having to sit there and watch not being able to help, but sweet seeing so many guys that are the main reason we are where we are today stepping up and making big plays,” Love said. “That was the sweet part of now being here and being able to play.”

Even if he now draws menacing defender Draymond Green and those regular, celebratory muscle flexes.

“Them having all their guys is always going to be a challenge,” Green said.

While the Warriors have said all along that this special, record-setting season won’t matter in the end if they don’t hoist another trophy, they know how much Cleveland wants this. Desperately needs this, in fact, for a city starved of major sports triumphs.

“I think we’re stronger at our core, but we’re very similar as a basketball team,” Kerr said. “They are dramatically different. Obviously they’re healthy, but not only are they healthy, they’ve changed their style. They tried to grind us to a pulp last year playing big, and they were slowing the ball down, slowing the pace down. … They’ve got shooting all over the place, and they’re playing at a much faster pace. So it’s really a much different team that we’re seeing.”

It’s the 14th time in NBA history that the same teams square off in the Finals in back-to-back seasons. And in the Cavs’ favor? Six of the last seven teams to lose the Finals the previous year won the next facing the same opponent.

The 2015 Finals were crazy for Green, from the level of play on the court to the stresses off it like taking care of family members in town for games.

“Coming in last year, we had no idea what to expect. All this stuff was like, `Whoa.’ Everything was a shocker,” Green said. “You know how to deal with all that stuff now. I think it’s more the stuff before the game that you deal with better rather than the game. And then on top of that you know the intensity level that it takes to win an NBA Finals.”

Irving and the Cavs understand as well as anyone it takes some luck at this stage after a long season, too.

Something Cleveland didn’t have last year.

“Well, coming into the postseason you actually want to have a great bill of health, and we were just unfortunate of not having that going into the full extent of postseason,” Irving said. “They won the championship last year, and now we come in, two evenly healthy teams, and No. 1 and No. 1 in the Eastern Conference and Western Conference, respectively. This is what it’s about.”

 

Report: Doc Rivers accepts deal to become Philadelphia 76ers head coach

Doc Rivers philadelphia
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Doc Rivers was not out of a job long.

Considered an elite coach and leader of men, a guy pushed out the door in Los Angeles by a frustrated owner in Steve Ballmer, Doc Rivers has accepted a deal to become the new head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This was expected, and it came together fast. Rivers was let go by the Clippers on Monday and by Thursday had agreed to the deal with Philly.

Philadelphia had been looking for not only a coach but other voices in the front office to work with GM Elton Brand. Rivers, who had been team president in Los Angeles at one point, had that kind of voice with the Clippers in a collaborative front office. He likely will assume a similar role with the Sixers, having input on player and personnel decisions, not just Xs and Os.

Rivers also jumps from one roster expected to contend for a title but having fit and chemistry issues to another.

Doc Rivers needs to find an offensive system in Philadelphia where both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can thrive next to each other, along with Tobias Harris, Josh Richardson, and Al Horford. There’s not much spacing or shooting there, which is why Shake Milton was getting a lot of run from former coach Brett Brown.

Roster tweaks would be coming, but with Rivers the idea will be making better use of the existing roster — and the style of play it forces.

The buzz around the league is that Tyronn Lue will take the Clippers job, which leaves Mike D’Antoni looking at places such as Indiana and New Orleans.

Vince Carter wins NBA Sportsmanship Award

Hawks forward Vince Carter
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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.