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Crucible of Game 7 will help shape legacies of LeBron James, Stephen Curry

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OAKLAND — “No.”

LeBron James had walked into the media interview room at Oracle Arena before practice Saturday wearing a hat with a picture Kermit the Frog sipping tea — the “that’s none of my business” meme — and was asked if Sunday’s NBA Finals Game 7 would define his legacy. He had a one-word answer. The reporter tried to follow up with, “You don’t see it that way?”

“No.”

In the social media/sports talk radio hot take world we live in now, there is a desire to define a player’s legacy as it happens, rather than sit back and wait until his career is over (or nearly over) to look back at the body of work. Nobody has dealt with this like LeBron. Although the one person who might relate is Stephen Curry, he and his Warriors have are dealing with the same thing.

LeBron is right. The outcome of this unpredictable Game 7 Sunday night will not define his legacy — the man already has two titles, four NBA MVPs, two gold medals, is high on the list of impressive NBA scoring and win records, and is arguably the most physically gifted player ever to play the game. For that matter, Curry has back-to-back MVPs, a ring, is considered the best shooter the game has ever seen, and regardless of what happens Sunday someday we’ll show our kids and grandkids YouTube clips (or wherever we show videos then) of Curry’s step-back 28-foot threes with amazement.

However, the crucible of Game 7 will help shape the legacies of both men and both teams.

No Game 7 in recent memory has had these kinds of legacy implications. What we think of at least one of these men will be different after Sunday night.

For LeBron it would bring a new level of validation — he bet part of his legacy on bringing a championship to Cleveland, the first one that city had seen since Lyndon B. Johnson was president, the first Ford Mustang rolled off an assembly line, and a young fighter named Muhammad Ali had just taken the heavyweight boxing crown from Sonny Liston (and changed his name from Cassius Clay). LeBron would have brought the promise of rings anywhere he went, but going home to Cleveland — for a variety of reasons — he has staked part of his legacy on ending the city’s title drought. He tells us in his Samsung ads it’s all about winning one for The ‘Land.

And he would do it in spectacular fashion — dominating on both ends of the court to lead the first 3-1 comeback in NBA Finals history. He would add another Finals MVP to the resume (he should do that win or lose Sunday). He would do it knocking off the guy in Curry who has stolen the mythical “best player on the planet” belt from him. It’s the kind of performance that should silence critics (but it won’t because LeBron’s haters don’t live in a world of reason or nuance).

One the other side, a win for Curry and the Warriors would bring a different kind of validation — this team desperately wants to be considered one of the all-time greats. They won a title, they won 73 games, and if they win when you and your buddies sit on barstools discussing the greatest NBA teams ever — Jordan’s Bulls, Showtime Lakers, Russell’s Celtics — you will at least have to put this team in the conversation. They have built the perfect team — with the perfect point guard in Curry — for the way the rules are enforced and the game is played today. This is a team that would be very good in any era, but a win gets them in the conversation with the greats — a validation they are very hungry to have. If they lose?

“It’s either win the whole thing or bust for us…” Klay Thompson said after Game 6. “So it would be a great season, but at the same time to us, the players, we’re so competitive, we’d feel like we failed.”

That brings pressure. A lot of pressure.

How teams handle it will go a long way toward determining a winner Sunday night.

“If you don’t feel pressure in a Game 7, you’re probably not human,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said “I told our guys that. Of course they’re going to feel pressure. Of course there’s going to be some anxiety. But how lucky are we to feel that pressure? You could play on a lottery team your whole career and just make a bunch of money and go watch Playoffs every year.”

LeBron approaches it differently.

“You don’t put too much more added pressure on it because it’s a Game 7,” LeBron said. “One thing we all know is it’s the last game of the season, so it’s not like you’re preserving any energy, be out there saying, okay, I’ve got to keep my body ready for the next game. There’s no next game. So look forward to the challenge. I mean, it’s a Game 7, but I don’t put too much more added pressure on it.”

There is no right or wrong approach, only what works for that player, that team.

But only one team will emerge from that crucible on Sunday night with the chance to crow about their legacy.

 

Adam Silver: Goal is to start next season in January, in team arenas

Adam Silver
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The NBA bubble — which has worked and gotten the league to the NBA Finals — may be a one-off.

The goal for next season is a January start with games being played in team’s arenas, even if fans are not yet filling the buildings, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in his annual address before Game 1 of the NBA Finals Wednesday.

“As for fans in seats, it’s certainly our goal, but it’s dependent on some additional advancements. Rapid testing may be the key here,” Silver said. 

Silver refused to be locked down to any details — most people around the league expect a February start, or later — and said the league might have to return to a bubble, or hybrid-bubble, for part of next season. However, he hoped testing and technology would allow NBA games in NBA buildings, with players going back to their homes at the end of the night.

This is dependent on rapid testing and where the virus is in our nation as we get into December and January than it is on a vaccine.

“Based on everything I’ve read, there’s almost no chance that there will be a vaccine, at least that is widely distributed, before we start the next season,” Silver said. “So I do not see the development of a vaccine as a prerequisite.”

The other part of starting next season is figuring out the league finances and setting a salary cap. The league’s revenue took a serious hit with around 20% of home games canceled, then the playoffs delayed and moved to a bubble. Silver said salary cap and other negotiations are taking place between the NBA and the players’ union. The league has set a date for the 2020 NBA Draft — Nov. 18 — however, the start of free agency, training camps, and the tip-off date for next season are still open and being discussed.

“I don’t have expectations of labor issues… I think while no doubt there will be issues and difficult negotiations ahead, I think we’ll work them out as we always have,” Silver said.

Those are the future. For now, Silver was clearly proud that the bubble worked and that there could be a lesson there for the nation.

“The basic protocols that we’re all following are working,” Silver said. “I mean, the testing is only needed to demonstrate that at this point. By wearing a mask, by exercising appropriate protocols, hand washing, appropriate cleanliness, et cetera, by maintaining physical distance… that’s what’s working.”

Also of note from Silver’s press conference, he was asked about there being just four Black head coaches in the NBA right now after Nate McMillan (Indiana), Alvin Gentry (New Orleans), and Doc Rivers (L.A. Clippers), all were let go (there are currently six open coaching jobs around the league).  Silver said he has had talks with teams that have had openings, making sure a diverse field of applicants is considered, but added the NBA has not thought of adding a “Rooney Rule” to the hiring process.

“I know we can do better,” Silver said.

 

NBA playoffs, Finals schedule 2020: Date, time, matchup for every game

2020 NBA Finals preview
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It may be five months after they were originally planned, but the NBA playoff schedule has reached the point the 2020 Finals are here.

It is down to the final two. There is LeBron James leading the Lakers against the team where he first won his ring. And then there is the gritty Miami team that nobody expected to be here — except themselves.

Here are a few notes on the NBA playoffs schedule 2020:

• The NBA is continuing to push the pace with games every other day — except for one two-day break between Game 4 and Game 5
Even more members of families for the players, coaches, and team staff are in the bubble for the Finals.

Here is the NBA playoffs schedule 2020 (all times are Eastern):

NBA FINALS

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Miami Heat

Game 1: Lakers 116, Heat 98
Game 2: Oct. 2, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 3: Oct. 4, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)
Game 4: Oct. 6, 9 p.m. (ABC)
Game 5: Oct. 9, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 6: Oct. 11, 7:30 p.m. (ABC)*
Game 7: Oct. 13, 9 p.m. (ABC)*
*If necessary.

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Conference Finals

Eastern Conference Finals

No. 5 Miami beat No. 3 Boston 4-2

Western Conference Finals

No. 1 L.A. Lakers beat No. 3 Denver 4-1

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: Second Round results

Eastern Conference

No. 3 Boston beat No. 2 Toronto 4-3

No. 5 Miami beat No. 1 Milwaukee 4-1

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat Houston 4-1

No. 3 Denver beat No. 2 Los Angeles Clippers 4-3

NBA playoffs schedule 2020: First Round results

Western Conference

No. 1 Los Angeles Lakers beat No. 8 Portland 4-1

No. 2 L.A. Clippers beat No. 7 Dallas 4-2

No. 3 Denver beat No. 6 Utah 4-3

No. 4 Houston beat No. 5 Oklahoma City 4-3

Eastern Conference

No. 1 Milwaukee beat No. 8 Orlando 4-1

No. 2 Toronto beat No. 7 Brooklyn 4-0

No. 3 Boston beat No. 6 Philadelphia 4-0

No. 5 Miami beat No. 4 Indiana 4-0

Miami injuries: Goran Dragic tears plantar fascia; Bam Adebayo tweaks shoulder

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The Los Angeles Lakers physically overwhelmed the Heat in Game 1 of the NBA Finals — and it led to some Miami injuries that could dramatically impact the rest of the series.

Miami Heat starters Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo both had to leave the game with injuries, not to return.

Dragic left the game in the first half not to return with what multiple reports have said is a torn plantar fascia. There is nothing official from the team, but this is a bad sign.

As Jeff Stotts wrote at In Street Clothes, it is possible to play through a torn plantar fascia but it is both very painful and limiting.

If he plays again this series, the Dragic that returns would be a shell of the Dragic that used his quickness to tear apart the Boston defense in the Eastern Conference Finals. Dragic’s ability to blow by his man in isolation and get into the paint helped make Miami’s offense a threat, and without this penetration they floundered against the Lakers’ length. Rookie Tyler Herro got the start in the second half for Miami Wednesday, and for the game he was -35 (tying the All-time NBA record for worst +/- with Kobe Bryant from Game 6 of the 2008 NBA Finals).

Another of the Miami injuries was to starting center Adebayo, who tweaked the shoulder that had bothered him in the Eastern Conference Finals against Miami.

There was no update from the team (as of this writing), but Tim Reynold of the Associated Press wrote Adebayo himself expects to play.

Adebayo is crucial for the Heat — he is their best defensive rebounder and the guy they will turn to in the crunch to cover Anthony Davis. He struggled against the length and physicality in

Having Dragic and/or Adebayo out will reduce the already-slim margin for error for Miami in this series to almost zero.

“We’re still expecting to win. We still know that we can,” Jimmy Butler said of the Heat mindset after the game. “Like I said earlier, we want [Dragic] out there with us. He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do, but until we can have him back, we got to go out there and we got to fight even harder. We got to try to cover up what he gives us and make up for it. We’re capable of it. We have to be capable of it. Moving forward with or without Goran we better hurry up and tie it up 1-1.”

The NBA continues its fast pace of games in the Bubbe: Game 2 of the NBA Finals is Friday night. Less than 48 hours away

 

Lakers crush Heat with Anthony Davis only center on floor

Lakers star Anthony Davis
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Anthony Davis dislikes playing center.

The Miami Heat let him get away with it.

The Lakers’ victory in Game 1 of the NBA Finals turned on the six minutes where Davis was the only center on the floor. No Dwight Howard, Markieff Morris or JaVale McGee for Los Angeles. No Bam Adebayo, Kelly Olynyk or Meyers Leonard for Miami.

The Lakers outscored the Heat by 18 points in those six minutes!

Davis dominated. He scored eight points on 4-of-5 shooting, blocked dunk-contest champion Derrick Jones Jr. at the rim and passed to a wide-open Alex Caruso for a 3-pointer during that first-half stretch.

Davis wasn’t too shabby the rest of the game, either. He finished with 34 points, nine rebounds, five assists and three blocks and was a team-high +23.

Davis’ 34 points rank among the among the highest-scoring NBA Finals debuts since the NBA-ABA merger:

  • 48 points by Allen Iverson in 2001
  • 36 points by Michael Jordan in 1991
  • 36 points by Kevin Durant in 2012
  • 34 points by Adrian Dantley in 1988
  • 34 points by Anthony Davis in 2020

Especially deep in the playoffs, teams have mastered using small lineups to flummox lumbering centers. But that’s not Davis. He’s mobile and skilled like a wing. And he still has size advantages at 6-foot-10.

Some shorter players can at least bother Davis, who prefers to avoid banging inside against stronger opponents. See de facto Rockets center P.J. Tucker. But a frontcourt featuring three of Jae Crowder, Andre Iguodala, Jimmy Butler, Solomon Hill and Jones lacks the brute force to compensate for its height shortcomings against Davis.

Adebayo’s lingering shoulder injury hangs over Miami’s ability to match up. Though he has size, Olynyk is far from an ideal defender. Leonard, who got a DNP-CD tonight, might have to play in Game 2 Friday.