Old Cavaliers vs. young Celtics a battle for the ages

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Neither the Cavaliers nor the Celtics were satisfied with the 2017 Eastern Conference finals.

Cleveland doesn’t want to just beat Boston but not be able to hang with the Warriors in the NBA Finals. The Celtics don’t want to try in vain to topple LeBron James.

So, both teams set out to change.

The Cavs traded star point guard Kyrie Irving, wound up with a messy locker room then made sweeping changes just before the trade deadline. In all the chaos, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is relying on his most-experienced players in the playoffs. Beyond, Cleveland is pinning its long-term hopes on the acquired-in-Irving-trade Nets’ first-round pick, which obviously isn’t contributing this postseason.

Boston acquired the stars it could, Gordon Hayward and Irving, without sacrificing its young core. When those stars got hurt, the Celtics gave greater responsibility to the young players – namely Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Terry Rozier. Improbably, Boston won a couple playoff series.

So, the Cavaliers and Celtics meet again in the Eastern Conference finals – just with many new faces. Two-thirds of the players who played in last year’s series are no longer with the same team.

Amid the turnover, both teams have codified their position. The Cavaliers, trying to win now, are the oldest team in the postseason. The Celtics, with an eye toward the future, are the youngest.

This is the 14th time the oldest and youngest teams in the postseason have met in a series. The older team has gone 12-1.

Here’s each of those series with the teams’ average age* in parentheses:

  • Cleveland Cavaliers (30.4) vs. Boston Celtics (24.8) in 2018 conference finals
  • Dallas Mavericks (31.6) beat Oklahoma City Thunder (23.8) in 2011 conference finals, 4-1
  • Indiana Pacers (31.2) beat Philadelphia 76ers (25.9) in 1999 conference semifinals, 4-0
  • Utah Jazz (29.5) beat Denver Nuggets (24.8) in 1994 conference semifinals, 4-3
  • Boston Celtics (29.5) beat Chicago Bulls (25.4) in 1987 first round, 3-0
  • Boston Celtics (29.3) beat Atlanta Hawks (25.1) in 1986 conference semifinals, 4-1
  • Washington Bullets (28.8) beat Atlanta Hawks (24.9) in 1979 conference semifinals, 4-3
  • Los Angeles Lakers (29.4) beat Milwaukee Bucks (25.9) in 1972 conference finals, 4-2
  • Boston Celtics (29.8) beat New York Knicks (24.6) in 1967 division semifinals, 3-1
  • Boston Celtics (28.7) beat Cincinnati Royals (26.5) in 1966 division semifinals, 3-2
  • Boston Celtics (28.7) beat Los Angeles Lakers (25.7) in 1965 NBA Finals, 4-1
  • Boston Celtics (28.4) beat San Francisco Warriors (25.5) in 1964 NBA Finals, 4-1
  • Minneapolis Lakers (25.9) beat Detroit Pistons (27.5) in 1959 division semifinals, 2-1
  • St. Louis Hawks (27.7) beat Minneapolis Lakers (25.4) in 1957 division finals, 3-0

*Weighted by minutes played in the postseason, holding each player’s age constant as of Feb. 1 of that season

The Cavaliers’ and Celtics’ exact average ages will fluctuate as they finish their playoff runs. But Cleveland is much older and Boston is much younger than any other remaining teams. The Cavs and Celtics are pretty locked into their spots.

If the 5.6-year average-age gap holds, it’d be the 10th-largest ever between teams meeting in a playoff series. Here’s every series featuring an average-age gap above five years:

  • Dallas Mavericks (31.6) beat Oklahoma City Thunder (23.8) in 2011 conference finals, 4-1
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (25.7) beat Dallas Mavericks (32.6) in 2012 first round, 4-0
  • Houston Rockets (32.7) beat Minnesota Timberwolves (25.9) in 1997 first round, 3-0
  • Dallas Mavericks (26.1) beat Utah Jazz (32.6) in 2001 first round, 3-2
  • Los Angeles Lakers (29.0) beat Oklahoma City Thunder (22.9) in 2010 first round, 4-2
  • Indiana Pacers (30.0) beat Cleveland Cavaliers (23.9) in 1998 first round, 3-1
  • Los Angeles Lakers (25.9) beat Seattle SuperSonics (31.6) in 1998 conference semifinals, 4-1
  • Boston Celtics (30.7) beat New York Knicks (25.1) in 1988 first round, 3-1
  • Miami Heat (31.1) beat Charlotte Hornets (25.5) in 2014 first round, 4-0
  • Cleveland Cavaliers (30.4) vs. Boston Celtics (24.8) in 2018 conference finals
  • Miami Heat (29.4) beat Chicago Bulls (23.9) in 2006 first round, 4-2
  • Brooklyn Nets (30.7) beat Toronto Raptors (25.2) in 2014 first round, 4-3
  • Boston Celtics (30.1) beat Philadelphia 76ers (24.7) in 2012 conference semifinals, 4-3
  • Indiana Pacers (31.2) beat Philadelphia 76ers (25.9) in 1999 conference semifinals, 4-0
  • Boston Celtics (29.8) beat New York Knicks (24.6) in 1967 division semifinals, 3-1
  • Chicago Bulls (30.8) beat Washington Bullets (25.7) in 1997 first round, 3-0
  • Oklahoma City Thunder (25.6) beat San Antonio Spurs (30.7) in 2016 conference semifinals, 4-2
  • Boston Celtics (28.9) beat Atlanta Hawks (23.8) in 2008 first round, 4-3

In those 17 series, the older team has gone 13-4.

It’s not as simple as experience winning out. Teams let themselves get old when they’re ready to win. They care more about a player’s current ability than his future potential.

That’s why the Cavs have traded for players like Kyle Korver (37) and George Hill (32) the last couple years. Cleveland wants to win now with LeBron.

The Celtics aren’t ready to accept that tradeoff. They want to win as much as they can while retaining long-term upside.

Eventually, LeBron’s dominance over the Eastern Conference will end. But the Cavaliers are committed to continuing it this year. The Celtics are more concerned with having next.

That shows in the teams ages, and it will probably show in the series.

Kawhi Leonard to give away 1 million backpacks to kids in Southern California

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Kawhi Leonard is back in his home area of Southern California, and now that he’s a member of the Los Angeles Clippers he’s decided to get into the swing of charitable giving.

Leonard recently decided to team up with the Clippers organization to give out one million backpacks to children in need as a way to relieve some of the pressure from low-income families as students head back to school in the fall.

The Clippers and the NBA star worked with Baby2Baby, an organization that provides for low-income children from ages 0 to 12 for basic necessities. This week, Leonard started giving away backpacks to the Moreno Valley Unified, Los Angeles Unified, Inglewood Unified school districts. Leonard went to school in the Moreno Valley system as a kid.

Via the OC Register and Twitter:

“Going to the NBA, this is what I wanted to do; I wanted to give back to my community,” said Leonard, who started his day in Moreno Valley, where he brought backpacks to Cloverdale Elementary, his old school. “That’s why I’m so happy to be back home.”

“With the Clippers, just want you to know we got you guys’ back, as long as you work hard and have a goal set,” said Leonard, who Tuesday was working to fulfill one of his own.

“That’s a goal of mine for this year, being great on and off the court,” he said. “And I felt like this was a great way to start.”

This is an extremely cool and directly effective way to give back to the community. Helping disadvantaged kids in need directly has a ripple effect on their lives, and anything players like Leonard can do to help is a huge win for the children in these districts.

Clippers reportedly add Tyronn Lue to coaching staff

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Tyronn Lue will be coaching in Los Angeles this upcoming season, but it won’t be for the Lakers.

News broke on Tuesday that Lue had accepted a job on Doc Rivers’ staff with the Los Angeles Clippers. Lue is yet another big-name addition to a squad that already added players Kawhi Leonard and Paul George this offseason.

Lue was a championship-winning coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2016, and he has an innate understanding about how to deal with star players in the NBA.

Via Twitter:

It’s also important to understand what kind of culture Rivers, Steve Ballmer, and the rest of the Clippers front office is trying to build in Los Angeles. In addition to their proposed new stadium in Inglewood, the Clippers are trying to take over L.A. one big-name at a time. That includes everyone from players to coaches, even ones who won championships as the head honcho.

There’s no doubt that Los Angeles is striving for the Finals this season, and adding a guy like Lue to the bench is yet another reiteration of that fact.

Rumor: Stephen A. Smith is coming to ESPN’s NBA broadcasts

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National NBA broadcasts are about to get a little bit different this upcoming season.

We already got word that Michelle Beadle would not be on NBA Countdown on ESPN for the 2019-20 NBA calendar year. In her place will be Rachel Nichols, a favorite of most thanks to her work on The Jump, and Maria Taylor. And apparently ESPN’s studio show is about to get an analyst boost as well.

According to the big lead, Stephen A. Smith will be added to the analyst panel for ESPN studio show, likely on Wednesday nights. The bombastic First Take host will give his NBA takes either to the delight or dismay of fans nationwide.

Via The Big Lead:

Stephen A. Smith is in ESPN’s plans for NBA studio coverage this upcoming season, The Big Lead has learned from multiple people with knowledge of the situation. An ESPN spokesperson declined to comment on the news.

Our sources indicate that Wednesday night is the most likely time for him to be involved, but cautioned that plans are not yet set in stone.

People lost their collective minds on Twitter this summer when it was announced that ESPN had given another huge contract to Stephen A. to continue to do… whatever Stephen A. does. Namely, yell and act incredulous in a way so insincere it’s hard to believe anyone is entertained by it, much less could take it at face value.

No doubt Smith will fill the role, aesthetically, that Charles Barkley does for TNT. He’ll talk in big, wild soundbites that get Twitter all riled up, thereby allowing some VP at the network to pitch his superiors about “leverage” and “engagement” from Smith’s appearances.

Good luck to everyone watching the NBA on national TV this year. Maybe locate where the mute button is on your remote now so you know where it is come autumn.

Gordon Hayward says he’s feeling confident in his ankle for next season

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Gordon Hayward still wasn’t particularly good last season. He never really looked all that comfortable playing with the Boston Celtics, and Brad Stevens’ insistence on playing him led to some reported rifts in the Boston locker room.

But Hayward is expected to come back at full strength this year, and it could be just in time for him to shine in light of Kyrie Irving‘s departure to the Brooklyn Nets.

His severely dislocated left ankle is now long behind him, and it appears that Hayward has been putting in the work necessary this summer. Speaking to Mass Live, Hayward said that he is starting to get more confident in his game.

Via Mass Live:

“Reps is what gives you confidence, so being able to do things over and over and over and not worry about how my ankle’s feeling, or having to be cautious with it, has been really good, especially for my confidence,” Hayward said. “I think last year was a lot of hoping and not really knowing what was going to happen just because I didn’t have the reps… going into a summer training as hard as I want to, it’s a lot better for my confidence this year and expectations-wise as well.”

A healthy Hayward would really change the dynamic of the Celtics in the Eastern Conference this year. Losing Irving is huge, but Boston is going to have a real depth of talent on its hands if it can add Hayward to other wing talent Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum, and Marcus Smart.

It seems cliche to point out at this point, but people have slept on how good Hayward was on both sides of the ball during his time with the Utah Jazz. He’s a complete player at the small forward position when healthy, and bringing back his superstar firepower could ease the pain of losing Irving to Brooklyn.