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GM: LeBron James saying Cavaliers might be satisfied ‘most misguided comment that came out of any of this’

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CLEVELAND — LeBron James called the Cleveland Cavaliers’ roster “top heavy” and questioned whether the organization was fully committed to winning a second title.

James met with his teammates, coach Tyronn Lue and general manager David Griffin earlier Wednesday to discuss the remarks he made following a loss on Monday at New Orleans. Griffin was most upset with the superstar’s assertion that the Cavs appeared satisfied.

“It was the most misguided comment that came out of any of this,” Griffin said. “It was the thing I think that was not wrought out of his frustration.”

Drama is nothing new to the Cavs, who have resembled a soap opera at times. Griffin said the team seems to operate best under duress. “It’s hard for me to tell you we’re dealing with a lot of adversity when we’re No. 1 in the East,” he said. “But we have a tendency to be our best when our backs are against the wall, so I have no reason to believe that won’t be true now.”

Cleveland certainly wasn’t its best against the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday.

Arron Afflalo dropped a 3-pointer with 17.3 seconds left in overtime, lifting Sacramento to a 116-112 win Wednesday night over the slumping Cavaliers, who lost for the sixth time in eight games amid criticism by James.

DeMarcus Cousins had 28 points and 10 rebounds for the Kings, who trailed by five in overtime before battling back. Darren Collison added 23 points for Sacramento.

After Afflalo’s 3, James missed a deep 3-point attempt for the Cavs, who were then forced to foul Cousins. Sacramento’s big man dropped one of two to put away the reeling NBA champions.

James finished with 24 points, 13 rebounds and 11 assists, and Kevin Love had 21 points and 16 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as the Cavs didn’t play with poise down the stretch.

Cleveland went 17 of 34 from the free-throw line.

There will be more dissect after the Cavs lost to a Sacramento team that had lost eight of 10 coming in and is on an eight-game road trip.

Cleveland was in control and seemed on its way to a win, leading 97-87 midway through the fourth. But the Kings kept chipping away, and thanks to Cleveland’s struggles at the line, Sacramento was able to force overtime.

Irving could have given the Cavs a three-point lead with 12.4 seconds left, but the All-Star guard missed the second of two free throws. The Kings then tied it when Cousins bulled his way for a layup with 3.4 seconds left.

TIP-INS

Kings: Sacramento’s grueling road trip includes three back-to-backs, putting a heavy physical strain on the players. Coach Dave Joerger said it’s a challenge to keep the Kings fresh. “We try to break it up a little bit, try to do something different at practice,” he said. “Keep guys loose, keep guys fresh, not wear them out. It comes around and goes around. Sometimes you are the beneficiary. We all think we’re getting the wrong end of it, but it does come around. We’re OK.” … F Omri Casspi missed his sixth straight game with a strained tendon in his right foot. Joerger doesn’t know how long Casspi will be out.

Cavaliers: F Richard Jefferson was excused to handle a personal matter. The team did not say when he’ll return. …

UP NEXT

Kings: Continue their eight-game road trip Friday at Indiana.

Cavaliers: Host Brooklyn on Friday before welcoming Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.

Report: No chance of traditional NBA playoffs this season

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The NBA playoffs have a familiar format – four rounds, best-of-seven series, games in front of fans at home arenas.

But the coronavirus, which has forced the NBA into an indefinite stoppage and disrupted life around the world, makes that untenable. Don’t expect the league to wait until that’s workable, either.

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

At this point, several team and league officials told SI.com, any chance of a traditional postseason is out.

A shortened playoffs in Las Vegas is gaining momentum. It’d allow the NBA, hemorrhaging money, to draw revenue sooner. A reduced postseason would also minimize disruption to future seasons.

But even that comes with major complications, especially containing coronavirus from undermining the entire operation. It could be a long time until its safe to hold games, even in a centralized location without fans.

It could be so long… a traditional playoffs could be back on the table. Though I find that unlikely, I’m still not convince people have a proper understanding of how lengthy this hiatus could be.

Everyone wants to finish the season. The playoffs are the NBA’s most lucrative time, and it feels right to crown a champion.

So, it’s good the focus is on alternative formats. It’d be naïve to expect business as usual when the NBA resumes.

Who should be drafted No. 1? Podcast talking NBC Sports mock NBA Draft.

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Should Anthony Edwards be the No. 1 pick?

Or James Wiseman? How would Obi Toppin fit with the Warriors?

More importantly, how is anyone preparing for a draft when nobody knows when it will take place?

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports joins me to discuss what they know and don’t know about the 2020 NBA Draft, starting with having no idea when it will take place. We discuss Obi Toppin, Lonzo Ball, sleepers to watch, and everything in between in a draft preview podcast.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

Bucks hoping to complete title pursuit after coronavirus stoppage

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — The NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks remain confident the coronavirus pandemic won’t put a permanent halt to the season and that they’ll get to resume chasing their first league title in nearly half a century.

The Bucks had a league-best 53-12 record when play was suspended three weeks ago. With Giannis Antetokounmpo having a potential second straight MVP season, the Bucks seemed poised to make a run at the title that has eluded this franchise since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar led them to an NBA championship in 1971.

Bucks general manager Jon Horst thinks they will get that opportunity.

“We believe that we’re going to play,” Horst said Wednesday in a conference call. “Everything that we’re doing every day in our communications, in our preparations, everything we talk about is being prepared to play at some point, finish out the season and have a resumption.”

That’s why Milwaukee coach Mike Budenholzer has spent part of this hiatus making sure the Bucks don’t lose their edge whenever they do get back on the floor.

He’s been studying the Orlando Magic and Brooklyn Nets — the Bucks’ two most likely first-round playoff foes — as well as other Eastern Conference teams Milwaukee could see later in the postseason. He’s tried to learn from his experiences as a San Antonio Spurs assistant coach during the NBA’s most recent work stoppages.

“One of my reference points with the coaching staff has been lockouts,” Budenholzer said. “Sometimes when you come out of a lockout, things have been kind of slow, you haven’t been able to maybe do your normal routines and preparation, and things happen really fast. Whether it’s three games in three nights, or playoff series are shorter or the time between the end of the regular season to the first playoff game, everything can be shorter or can happen quicker.”

His instructions to his players have focused on conditioning while understanding they might not have as much time to spend working on their basketball skills.

“I think that we feel that there are things they can continue to do as far as continuing to stay strong, continuing to maintain a conditioning level and really just put a lot of time and effort and energy into their bodies,” Budenholzer said.

After blowing a 2-0 lead to the eventual league champion Toronto Raptors in last season’s Eastern Conference finals, Milwaukee appeared to have all the elements in place to make a serious championship run this year before the pandemic struck.

The Bucks had just returned from a winless three-game trip west when the hiatus occurred, but that was the first time they had lost as many as two straight contests all season.

Despite their optimism and their confidence that league officials will do what’s best for the safety of everyone, the Bucks realize that play might not resume. However, Budenholzer said they aren’t thinking about what impact canceling the season might have.

“If for some reason this season is not played or there’s nothing to look forward to or to complete, I’ll process it then,” Budenholzer said. “I would add that I don’t think it’s being totally head-in-the-sand. I think hopefully watching news, listening to the commissioner, listening to whether it be Tony Fauci or Dr. (Deborah) Birx or whoever it is, it does feel like there is I think some realistic hope and belief that we will get through this.

“I know that there are some negatives, some less optimistic modeling, but literally all we think about is we are going to play and we want to be the best team when we do play so how do we prepare for that, how do we get better? It’s a great way to get through this.”

Report: DeMar DeRozan unhappy with Spurs

Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan
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Facing the Kawhi Leonard trade saga, the Spurs had a clear objective: Remain competitive. That’s why they traded Leonard to the Raptors for veteran star DeMar DeRozan rather than accepting a pick-heavy offer. That wasn’t optimal for the franchise’s long-term health, but it at least paid short-term dividends. San Antonio made the playoffs last year, qualifying for a record 22nd straight season.

Now, the bottom has fallen out.

The Spurs are just 27-36 and will almost certainly miss the playoffs. DeRozan has a $27,739,975 player option that he’ll reportedly decline if the Spurs don’t sign him to a contract extension.

Jabari Young of CNBC on ESPN San Antonio:

Listen, I don’t have to sugarcoat anything. DeMar DeRozan is not happy in San Antonio, OK? The offense is not running as smoothly as one should think with a guy like him in the lineup, and there are problems are there, right? And so you have to decide if you’re going to take that money of if you’re going to come back to a situation that’s just not suitable. I mean, it didn’t work. They got the deal done. It’s over. I mean, the experiment is not working.

This report came before the NBA’s coronavirus shutdown, which could significantly decrease next season’s salary cap. That makes DeRozan (and everyone else with a player option) more likely to opt in. Base on the prior report, DeRozan is willing to stay in San Antonio for the right price. It’s increasingly likely that option-year salary is the right price.

DeRozan is a good player whose scoring – and, at times, passing – can be central in building decent offense. But he has a tandem of deficiencies that make it difficult to fit him onto a good team:

1. He doesn’t shoot 3-pointers to space the floor.

2. He doesn’t defend adequately.

That means his team must surround him offensively with other outside shooters. That’s doable.

His team must also surround defensively with other sound defenders. Again, that’s doable.

But it’s difficult to do both. Players who both shoot 3s well enough to attract attention AND defend well are obviously scarce.

Though DeRozan definitely has fans around the league, it’s another thing for him to expect an offer next offseason that justifies declining his player option. He and the Spurs could be stuck in this imperfect arrangement another year.