Associated Press

Cavaliers hold lengthy, clear-the-air meeting after slow start

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James dressed up as Pennywise, the devilishly demented clown from the movie “It” for his annual Halloween party.

The makeup made him unrecognizable. He was menacing, frightening.

Lately, James and his Cavaliers teammates haven’t scared anyone on the floor.

With four losses in their past five games, defensive issues, injuries and new players still trying to figure things out, the Cavs had a lengthy meeting on Tuesday before they practiced. It was a chance to clear the air and perhaps reset a season for a team that hasn’t come close to playing up to its potential.

“The slow start that we’ve had prompted us to just all get on the same page and kind of figure out what we need to do,” center Kevin Love said. “I feel like we can get in better shape, that’s going to help us on the defensive end. Communication, energy and just getting the new guys adjusted. So time will tell how it’s going to play out, but we have a lot of really good positive energy from today, so, it was a great practice.”

After a night of connecting in costume, the Cavs, who host Indiana on Wednesday, didn’t hide their problems during their pre-practice discussion that coach Tyronn Lue described as a “long talk.”

“Off the court we’ve got great chemistry, great bond,” Lue said. “On the court we just gotta be better. Like, talking, communicating, enjoying the game together. Having fun. Right now guys are not having fun.”

There isn’t much to smile about.

Following losses to Orlando, Brooklyn, New Orleans and New York in the past 10 days, the Cavs are ranked near the bottom of the NBA in defense and are giving up nearly 14 3-pointers per game. They’re coming off losses by a combined 41 points in their past two games, prompting Lue to say that James, who missed much of the preseason with an ankle injury, and others need to get in better shape.

Cleveland’s transition defense has been brutal, and Lue said some of that may be due to conditioning. He pushed the Cavs hard at both ends during Tuesday’s workout and noticed a change.

“Watching us today, damn,” Lue said. “It’s a big difference. I’m screaming play with pace, and move the ball, move bodies, we got to get in better shape to do that.”

James sprained his left ankle during Cleveland’s second practice in training camp and only played in one exhibition. Although he hasn’t shown any major decline in his game, the 32-year-old is not having the impact Lue needs James to have on the defensive end.

It’s hard to ask him for more, but Lue has no choice.

“Missing the whole training camp and getting hurt the second day of practice really set him back as far as being able to fly around and push the pace offensively and defensively fly around,” Lue said. “He’s trying to work himself back in shape, but the games are coming so fast and it’s hard to really do that. The best way to do that is by him playing more minutes and getting in game shape and we just got to go from there.”

Lue knew this would take time. With Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Jeff Green and Jae Crowder among the new players on Cleveland’s roster this season, there were bound to be growing pains. Lue just didn’t expect them to hurt this much.

However, Lue has confidence the group is beginning to gel.

“They’ve been in winning situations,” he said. “We’re just trying to figure it out. Today’s start of film and practice, I think guys are getting a clear understanding of what they need to do.”

As the Cavs work out the kinks, they were able to relax at James’ party, which has become a social media must-see-event.

Love shaved off his beard and endured a long makeup session to dress up as WWE wrestler Sting. Kyle Korver was the Johnny Depp version of Willy Wonka, and Wade and his wife, Gabrielle Union, went as pop lip-synching sensations Milli Vanilli.

“I think it was good for us,” Love said. “I think it definitely lightened the mood and it was definitely a get-to-know-you moment with a lot of guys. We all get along, have fun, but I think in some odd way it will definitely help us.”

At this point, it can’t hurt the Cavs.

 

Arson suspected at bar where Zach Randolph’s brother killed

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MARION, Ind. (AP) Investigators have determined a fire likely was intentionally set at an Indiana bar, one day after the brother of NBA star Zach Randolph was fatally shot there.

The fire happened at Hop’s Blues Room in Marion early Sunday – less than 24 hours after 35-year-old Roger Randolph was found dead.

Firefighters extinguished the blaze that caused an estimated $20,000 in damage. Marion Fire Department Investigator Brandon Eckstein says the cause of the fire was arson.

Early Saturday, Roger Randolph died shortly after he was found shot in the parking lot of the business. Police say no arrests have been made.

Zach Randolph was a star player in Marion and now plays for the Sacramento Kings.

Authorities didn’t immediately say whether they believe Randolph’s death and the fire are related.

Report: First round picks will walk across draft stage with two family members

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The NBA Draft is a big moment for many young men entering the league. Before the picks are announced, TV coverage shows players waiting at their tables among parents, siblings, and their agents.

Now, the NBA is apparently turning the first round into even more of a family affair.

According to Yahoo! Sports, first round selections will be invited to bring two family members to walk across the stage with them as they are selected during the draft on Thursday night. Those members will also be in the greenroom, so they will get the full experience of what it’s like to be an NBA draft pick themselves.

Via Yahoo!:

This is going to be pretty neat to see, and it should make the smiles of the players even bigger as they get to experience a lifelong dream right alongside their support networks.

The 2018 NBA Draft kicks off on Thursday, June 21 at 4:00 PM.

It’s the 10 year anniversary of Kevin Garnett’s ‘Anything is possible’ (VIDEO)

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The Boston Celtics were world champions back in 2008. After a whirlwind summer in 2007 where the team traded for both Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen, things came together for the Celtics as Paul Pierce and Rajon Rondo filled out an impressive roster.

Boston had two consecutive seven-game series to open the postseason in 2007-08, beating the Atlanta Hawks in the first round and then LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in the second. They then dispatched the Pistons in six games in the Eastern Conference Finals, and Kobe Bryant’s Los Angeles Lakers in six in the NBA Finals.

The Celtics hadn’t won the championship since the 1985-86 season, and suffered through patently bad teams or talented ones that tended to get clumsy with early playoff exits.

When Boston finally did win their title, it was Garnett who game us one of the more iconic moments of their celebration, shouting “Anything is possible!” as he was interviewed after the game.

Via Twitter:

A decade later, Boston is again in the hunt for another championship and seemingly set up to do so for years to come.

Report: Minnesota’s Tyus Jones considered asking for trade, Thibodeau eased concerns

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If there was one thing at the top of the list that set off Timberwolves fans on Twitter last season — and that is a long list — it was the burying of backup point guard Tyus Jones on the bench.

Jones played well on the floor — he is an excellent pick-and-roll ball handler, knows how to run an offense, is strong in transition, and can knock down a spot-up jumper — and the Timberwolves were 5.8 points per 100 possessions better than their opponents when he was on the court. Yet coach Tom Thibodeau jerked Jones’ minutes around — he leaned heavily on starter Jeff Teague and backup guard Jamal Crawford, then mid-season brought in Derrick Rose and gave him run. Jones’ minutes were up and down when they never should have been — even Teague went to Thibodeau and said to play Jones more.

It got to the point that after the season, the third-year guard considered asking for a trade, reports Sean Deveney of The Sporting News.

But sources told Sporting News that Jones met with team management after the playoffs, and Thibodeau reasserted his support of Jones and his development. Even if the Wolves re-sign Rose, Jones was assured, his minutes and opportunities would increase because Crawford is not expected to return to the team. Rose mostly played shooting guard with the Wolves last season, so there’s a chance Jones could play alongside Rose as a backcourt bench unit.

Jones had considered requesting a trade, but the meeting with the team defused that notion before it arose. And for now, at least, the Wolves have no intention of dealing him.

Thibodeau is saying the right things, we’ll see if his actions back up his words. Jones will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2019 and he has a lot of fans around the league in other front offices. If Minnesota doesn’t give him enough burn he will hunt out a place that will (and may pay more than Minnesota wants to match).

It’s one of a number of issues around the Timberwolves that could derail, at least temporarily, a team that is on the rise in the West.