Superhuman LeBron James finds his kryptonite as Celtics take Game 1

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There’s some kind of synergy in the way Game 1 went for the Cleveland Cavaliers against the Boston Celtics. For years in Ohio, LeBron James has been surrounded by teams that simultaneously achieved higher than their worthiness while being constituent of parts amounting to more than their sum.

This year’s squad in Cleveland is certainly that.

Sure, LeBron has dragged some truly dreadful rosters to the NBA Finals with the Cavaliers. The 2006-2007 squad comes to mind as James towed the likes of Daniel Gibson, Sasha Pavlovic, and Eric Snow to the final round. But this year in Cleveland is the other kind of Cavaliers roster, one with stars and hopeful youngsters that didn’t quite seem to mesh together well enough to help LeBron the way they should.

Kyle Korver, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, JR Smith, and others have been up and down throughout this second stint with the Cavaliers for LeBron, and indeed from game-to-game during these playoffs. Several of those players your favorite team would be delighted to add, perhaps as the missing piece. Together, they were squashed by the Celtics on Sunday by a score of 108-83.

Yes, Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Finals went to the Celtics as they continued their almost offensively team-oriented play. Reflected against the Cavaliers’ individual play, Boston dominated the way they have throughout the playoffs.

Four of the Celtics’ five starters scored in double figures, and Boston dominated the assist margin against the Cavaliers 27-18. Brad Stevens, who has been given massive credit for both his strategic game planning and in-game tactics, formulated a defensive structure to force the ball out of LeBron’s hands. The Celtics had a defensive rating of 88.9, allowing an effective field goal percentage of just 38.4 percent. Boston scored 17 points off of 10 Cavaliers turnovers.

Thanks in large part to Boston’s defense, the Cavaliers offense looked completely shook. James didn’t even lead the team in scoring after averaging 28 points per-game over the past 10 contests. The King scored just 15 points to go along with nine assists and seven rebounds — although LeBron did not have any offensive rebounds. Love scored 17 on five-of-14 shooting with eight rebounds and three assists.

Jaylen Brown led the Celtics in scoring with 23 points, adding eight rebounds and one assist. Marcus Morris had 21 points and 10 assists as he helped slow down LeBron. Aron Baynes and Marcus Smart contributed off the bench despite not scoring much to make a dent.

The series isn’t over but the worry for Cleveland was that the Celtics would find a way to do something nobody has done since Game 2 against the Indiana Pacers and that’s slow down James. LeBron’s dominance has covered for poor play by the rest of his team all postseason long, and if Stevens and Boston can figure out how to keep him contained they can expose the rest of the Cleveland roster.

Game 2 is in Boston on on Tuesday, May 15 at 5:30 PM PST.

Cavaliers officials reportedly joke about LeBron James: ‘The tread is off his tires’

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LeBron James has played more minutes, regular season and playoffs combined, than Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal and John Stockton did in their entire careers. Last year alone, in his age-33 season, LeBron played 3,947 minutes – the most by anyone since LeBron in his first season with the Heat and the most by anyone so old since Michael Jordan in his last season with the Bulls.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

Cavs officials have privately joked that “the tread is off his tires” as James transitions to L.A. after playing so much last season.

I wonder how much genuine thought is behind that joke. I’d bet some, though I bet it’s also some self-perceived true belief masking a coping mechanism.

If LeBron wanted to sign a five-year max contract last summer, the Cavaliers would’ve jumped to do it. Instead, he left them for the Lakers.

I also wonder how LeBron feels about that joking. He takes his training seriously and has defied typical aging curves.

This is why LeBron was right to leave for Los Angeles if that’s what he wanted to do. For players with power to do something about it – LeBron definitely qualifies – NBA careers are too short to work with people whose vision doesn’t align with theirs. I’m not sure whether this qualifies as a divide, but there was already plenty of acrimony between LeBron and the organization in Cleveland.

That said, the Lakers unconditionally believing in LeBron’s staying power could do them in. He is in his 16th season and will turn 34 in December. He’s not worn down yet, but the clock is ticking.

Jeanie Buss: Phil Jackson fired by Knicks because ‘people close to you will take the knife and put it in your back’

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When he hired Phil Jackson as team president, Knicks owner James Dolan infamously said he was ceding control “willingly and gratefully.”

But New York kept Steve Mills, who had been running the front office, on staff as general manager. Mills also replaced Jackson as president after Jackson got fired.

That served as a lesson for Jeanie Buss, Lakers owner and Jackson’s former fiancée.

Sam Amick of The Athletic:

Jeanie had learned from Jackson’s mistakes in New York, where he took that job as the head of the Knicks front office in March of 2014 and was fired three years later after, as she saw it, he fell prey to the internal politics that have plagued that franchise for decades.

“He should’ve made sure (to control) who was surrounding him, because the people close to you will take the knife and put it in your back,” she continued.

Buss doesn’t name Mills or anyone. But it’s hard not to jump to man who was both Jackson’s predecessor and successor. After regaining control, Mills said he tried to steer Jackson in other directions (which, hopefully).

This reflects poorly on Dolan, whose poor leadership has cast a shadow over the organization for years. There is a toxic culture within the Knicks, from the top down.

But it’s not as if Jackson were simply a victim of that culture. With the notable exception of drafting Kristaps Porzingis, Jackson failed miserably in roster-building. He contributed to the malaise with a comedy of incompetence.

Maybe Mills stabbed Jackson in the back. But Jackson was his own problem, anyway.

Report: Knicks, Lakers, Clippers will pursue Kevin Durant in free agency

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The Warriors are reportedly bracing for Kevin Durant to leave in free agency next summer.

Just because of the New York rumors? Maybe. They’re spreading like wildfire.

But the Knicks won’t be the only team chasing Durant.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

The New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers will take a run at the back-to-back Finals MVP, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Of course, every team wants Durant. But not every team will actually pursue him. Many teams believe they have no chance of signing him and won;t waste their time.

It’s probably not coincidental this early list of suitors includes only the very biggest markets. Durant already plays for the best team in a desirable location. How do you differentiate yourself from Golden State? Maybe by being in an even bigger market.

The Clippers are reportedly the frontrunner to sign Kawhi Leonard. Could they get Durant, too? That’d be intriguing.

The Lakers are definitely looking to get LeBron James a star teammate, and Durant’s name has at least come up. But Durant is already dogged by the perception he’s just riding the Warriors’ coattails. He wouldn’t change the narrative by joining LeBron.

The Knicks don’t even project to have max cap space, though they’d rush to move Courtney Lee or someone else to get Durant. But this is already the worst team on the list. New York is going to further deplete its assets while remaining appealing to Durant? Hey, it could happen.

Or maybe Durant will look at these teams and see has it pretty good in Golden State.

It could also go the other way. If Durant gives even the slightest indication he’s interested teams not yet planning to pursue him, they’d jump to get into the race. So, don’t assume Warriors, Knicks, Lakers and Clippers is anything more than the preliminary pool of vying teams.

Report: Jimmy Butler trade talks ‘mostly dormant’

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Timberwolves president Tom Thibodeau reportedly raised his asking price for Jimmy Butler after the star’s explosive return to practice.

Unsurprisingly, potential trade partners – who already weren’t offering enough to satisfy Minnesota – didn’t rush to meet Thibodeau’s new demands. Not even close, apparently.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

For now, Minnesota’s talks with teams around the NBA are mostly dormant, league sources told The Athletic.

Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor and Butler reached an agreement: Minnesota would continue to try to trade Butler, and Butler would be a good teammate and play hard.

But how long will this détente last if the Timberwolves aren’t making progress on a trade?