Supporting cast holding back Cavaliers


Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue showed nearly the bare minimum amount of trust in J.R. Smith in the second half of Game 2. Lue also said Smith would still start Game 3.

Cleveland just appears short on options – and the problem runs far deeper than Smith.

LeBron James has been brilliant. Kevin Love is giving everything he has. Kyrie Irving has had moments despite overall underwhelming play.

The Cavaliers’ supporting cast has just come up empty in the NBA Finals, which the Warriors lead, 2-0.

Beyond its Big Three, Cleveland’s other players are shooting 29.9% from the field, including 21.4% on 3-pointers. Deron Williams (0-for-9 overall, 0-for-4 on 3-pointers), Smith (1-for-6, 1-for-4), Kyle Korver (2-for-7, 1-for-7), Iman Shumpert (3-for-12, 1-for-5) and Channing Frye (1-for-5, 0-for-1) have been particularly inept. (Whew, that’s a long list.)

Tristan Thompson is getting kept off the glass. He has eight rebounds in the series – half as many as Stephen Curry. (Credit Zaza Pachulia, whose sudden villainy overshadows a quietly impressive game, for boxing out so well.)

The Cavs’ role players haven’t collectively been up to snuff defensively. It’s not just that they haven’t blocked a single shot, they’re routinely getting beat. Admittedly, defense isn’t the calling card for many of them. But it’s still a glaring flaw – especially when their shots aren’t falling.

Maybe they’ll play better at home. Game 3 is in Cleveland tonight, and Game 4 will be there Friday.

But they’ve set a low baseline.

The Cavaliers’ supporting cast – players other than LeBron, Love and Irving – has combined for a cumulative Game Score (a rough measure of a players’ contributions) of just 35.6.

For perspective, Kevin Durant (67.3), Stephen Curry (52.2) and LeBron are each beating that individually. Love (35.2) comes close.

Of the 68 teams to play in the Finals since 1984, as far back as Basketball-Reference records go, the 2017 Cavs’ supporting cast (defined as all players beyond the team’s top three in Game Score) has the 11th-worst cumulative Game Score through two games.

Here’s every time a team’s supporting cast produced a cumulative Game Score below 40 in the first two games of a Finals. The team’s opponent is noted, as are its three leaders in Game Score.


Report: Mike Woodson close to joining Suns coaching staff

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The Phoenix Suns are bolstering their coaching staff. After spending most the 2017-18 season under interim head coach Jay Triano, Phoenix finally settled on Igor Kokoskov as their top man.

Now, it appears they’re adding some veteran talent to the front row.

According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, the Suns are in talks to bring former New York Knicks coach Mike Woodson in as Kokoskov’s right hand man. Meanwhile, is reporting that the decision has already been made to hire Woodson.

Via Twitter:

Woodson, 60, was last on the bench with the Los Angeles Clippers from 2014-2018. He was head coach of the Knicks from 2012-2014, and helmed the Atlanta Hawks from 2004-2010.

This is a smart hire for the Suns, who have needed some legitimacy after firing Earl Watson just three games into the season this year. Phoenix has been in a bit of a freefall since letting Jeff Hornacek go in 2015. Indeed, despite for one outlying 48-win season in 2013-14, Phoenix hasn’t been a very good team in this decade.

With a solidified coaching staff and the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, there’s hope yet for the Suns. Now, the question is who they take with that pick. Luka Doncic? Deandre Ayton? The draft continues to intrigue.

Andre Iguodala out for Game 4 Tuesday vs. Rockets

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“When we’re right, when we’re playing how we are supposed to play, Andre’s right in the middle of it. His defense and being smart, making good decisions. Andre is one of the guys who seems to set the tone for that for us.”

That’s Warriors coach Steve Kerr on Andre Iguodala

The Warriors are going to have to be without that tone Tuesday night, Iguodala will miss the game with a knee contusion.

This is a blow to the Warriors, who have started small with Iguodala through the first three games of this series. The Warriors have been 4.3 points per 100 possessions better with Iguodala on the court through the first three games of this series.

Expect Kevon Looney or Nick Young to start, with the rest of the minutes divided up between Shaun Livingston, Jordan Bell, and David West.

Whatever Kerr and the Warriors go with, expect James Harden and the Rockets to attack it.


WNBA team rehearses ring ceremony at practice of team it beat in Finals

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The NBA does petty very, very, very, very, very, very, very well.

The WNBA is trying to give the NBA a run for its money.

The Minnesota Lynx and Los Angeles Sparks have met in the last two WNBA Finals, the Lynx winning last year and the Sparks winning the year before. Minnesota hosted Los Angeles in the season opener Sunday, and the Lynx unveiled their banner and presented players with rings.

Before that, while the Sparks were practicing in Minnesota, the Lynx played their video for the event.

Holly Rowe of ESPN:

The Sparks beat the Lynx on Sunday, but I don’t think that’s enough to override Minnesota’s power move.

Kobe Bryant on Kanye West’s comments: “What the hell are you talking about?”

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Kanye West, the President Trump backing hip-hop star, drew a lot of backlash for his comments on TMZ:

“When you hear about slavery for 400 years — for 400 years? That sounds like a choice. You were there for 400 years and it’s all of y’all. It’s like we’re mentally imprisoned.” 

Mentally, maybe in some cases. But more so physically, with guns and whips and attack dogs and a whole lot more weapons that were all on one side. Nobody chooses slavery.

Tuesday, Kobe Bryant surprised a group of about 300 high school students at WE RISE — a 10-day pop-up festival dedicated to sparking a movement for change in the mental health system — in Downtown Los Angeles. One of the students asked him about Kanye’s comments. Kobe is not down.

“I’m sure (I feel) the same way everybody else here in this room feels. What the hell are you talking about? I think that was my reaction as is everybody else’s reaction….

“The thing about our country is that you have the right to say whatever it is that you want to say…that’s the beautiful thing about living in a democracy. I think, for him, he’s one of these entertainers that’s always in a constant state of growth, he’s always challenging … himself, doing a lot of questioning internally himself…so I just take it for what it is and completely disagree.”

If I need to explain to you why Kobe is in the right here, you need to take a basic American history course again.

Good on Kobe for his comments. More importantly, good on Kobe for taking the time to promote mental health awareness.

“It’s easy for us as people to kind of ignore the emotional side of it,  especially when it comes to things that deal with negativity, things that deal with insecurity, things that deal with fear,” Kobe said. “It’s very easy to take the fear and just push it down, try to act like it doesn’t exist. The reason why it starts with imagination is because you first must imagine the life that you want to have. You must first imagine what it is you dream of becoming.”

Kobe did that, and now he’s got an Oscar. Oh, and a few basketball awards, too.