Getty Images

Warriors not expecting LeBron James, Cavaliers to lose edge

6 Comments

OAKLAND, Calif. — All the chatter is that underdog Cleveland could be completely deflated from the way it flopped in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. Determined and as motivated as ever might be more appropriate and fitting whenever LeBron James is in the mix.

“It’s one of the toughest losses I’ve had in my career,” James acknowledged Saturday, “because of everything that kind of went on with the game and the way we played. Obviously, we all know what happened in the game.”

There were miscues aplenty, most notably J.R. Smith‘s offensive rebound in the final seconds of regulation that he dribbled back toward half-court in a tie game rather than shooting for a chance to win it – later insisting he knew the score, though that remains a huge mystery. The decision baffled a frustrated and stunned LeBron, who signaled at his teammate with arms pointed toward the basket.

“The game’s over. There’s nothing we can do about it,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “We’ve got to move on, move forward.”

James has done so all postseason with an edge, intensity and ability to all-out carry the Cavs – will them to win after win, if you wish.

Yes, with King James on the other side in this familiar June rivalry, Golden State knows much better than to fall into such a trap that the Cavs might be down and out, even if the defending champions have some momentum going into Game 2 on Sunday night back home at Oracle Arena.

The Warriors learned that lasting lesson two years ago, when James led the Cavaliers back from the brink – a daunting 3-1 series deficit – to capture a title in Game 7 on the Warriors’ home floor.

“I know it’s not the exact same team, but we had them down 3-1 a couple years ago. They might have been deflated, and they came back and won, so we’re expecting another great effort from them,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We’ve been through this too many times. We beat Houston on the road in Game 1 and the narrative was, you know, series is over. It seems to always be that way. There is just overreaction after a game.”

Draymond Green didn’t sugarcoat it: Golden State got a little lucky to win Game 1 on a night James scored 51 points and the defending champions caught some big breaks.

The Warriors hope to be far better with a chance to take a 2-0 series lead before the series shifts to Northwest Ohio.

“Sometimes you need a little luck. It’s good to be lucky sometimes,” Green said. “I’ll take it.”

Kevin Durant wants the Warriors to remove the luck factor going forward. He even nit-picked that offensive board that Smith secured as something he should have done.

“As you try to lock in on the details as much as possible, that luck factor – good luck, bad luck – you don’t have it creep in if you figure out the detail parts,” Durant said. “To be good at those parts of the game, then you don’t let the luck creep in.”

Golden State gave up 19 offensive boards in all while getting only four.

The Warriors know James is going to score his share of points. They just want to make it harder for him to get good looks, something that is a top priority going into Sunday. James, in his eighth straight NBA Finals and ninth overall, shot 19 for 32 to go with eight assists and eight rebounds in the opener.

“We’ve got to make them work harder in general,” Kerr said. “I thought our defense was subpar the other night.”

James said he is taking antibiotics and using eye drops after getting poked in the eye by Green in the first half. The outer area of James’ eye was still red Saturday.

Klay Thompson expects to play though is listed as questionable with what he called a sprained left ankle while Andre Iguodala remained doubtful as he works back from a bone bruise in his left knee suffered in Game 3 of the Western Conference finals against Houston and has cost him the last five games.

Cleveland’s J.R. Smith slid into Thompson’s left leg in the first quarter of the series opener Thursday night. Thompson was dealing with stiffness, swelling and more pain Saturday.

“It is a Finals game, and I’m going to do everything I possibly can to play,” Thompson said. “It’s something you definitely don’t want to have in the NBA championship.”

Nor does James want blood in his eye to affect his vision or alter his view of the basket.

So, did he go off for 51 with only one good eye?

“No, I had some points before that already,” a good-natured James said, chuckling.

 

John Wall calls Washington’s off-season moves “pretty interesting”

Getty Images
Leave a comment

After another season where the Wizards underwhelmed — due to injuries, due to chemistry issues, due to a lot of things — what were the bold moves of this summer in our nation’s capital? Well, they signed Jeff Green. And in a trade they got Austin Rivers.

The other part of that Rivers’ trade was the big news — they sent center Marcin Gortat to the Clippers. That cleared the way to sign Dwight Howard this summer. The idea of adding Howard to a locker room with questionable chemistry is a bit of a punch line.

In a podcast with Chris Miller of NBC Sports Washington, Wall called the Wizards’ summer “pretty interesting” and praised Howard.

“Even though [Howard] is older, he’s still an athletic big averaging 16 [points] and 12 [rebounds],” Wall said in the pod. He talked up Howard as a pick-and-roll threat lob threat as he rolls to the rim, saying defenses can’t cheat off of him.

“Not only do you get more layups, probably, you get more wide open threes.”

That’s great, but Howard got the ball back as the roll man on 12.5 percent of his possessions last season — it has never been something he wants to do a lot. Post-ups, however, accounted for 40.1 percent of his possessions, once you include his passes out of the post (and the Wizards scored a rather meh 0.85 points per possession on those post ups). Howard has long been better as the roll man, he just dislikes to do it.

Last season, Marcin Gortat got 20.9 percent of his shots out of the pick-and-roll and just 18.2 percent on post-ups. The Wizards don’t want to take the ball out of Wall’s hands. Nor should they.

Howard, even at this point in his career (when he is not the force of nature he was back in Orlando), can be an upgrade for the Wizards at center, but not a massive one. Nothing else GM Ernie Grunfeld did this summer moved the needle in Washington.

It’s all “pretty interesting” I guess. The Wizards look like another middle-of-the-pack team just not living up to all the potential on the roster, and it’s hard to see what changes about that this season.

 

Report: Tobias Harris turned down $80 million extension from Clippers

Getty Images
5 Comments

Is $80 million enough for Tobias Harris? Tobias Harris certainly doesn’t think so.

The lengthy Los Angeles Clippers forward is just 26 years old, and is in line for not one but probably two more significant contracts. That being said, according to a report from TNT’s David Aldridge, Harris recently turned down an extension offer from the Clippers in the area of four years, $80 million.

That reported number would have been a significant increase over the contract Harris signed with the Orlando Magic back in 2015. That deal was for four years and $64 million, but it appears that Harris is biding his time and waiting for the summer of 2019 when more teams have cap space.

Via Twitter:

Harris turning down this extension sort of leans into something I’ve been mentioning lately, and that is that some of these mid-range or cusp-level stars might end up taking less than they expect while waiting for 2019.

Yes, there is cap space to be had next summer. But there’s not an unlimited amount, and I believe that many GMs will be reticent to spend money the way they did a couple of years ago after the cap spiked. Teams handed out some crazy contracts in 2016, and several GMs will have learned their lesson.

Eighty million dollars is completely reasonable for Harris, so it seems he is either wanting more cash or perhaps he wants a change of scenery. What LAC reportedly offered Harris was an extension, and now it appears he will head straight into unrestricted free agency.

Harris is still young, and he is a good 3-point shooter. He shot 41.4 percent from deep for the Clippers last season, and he has the ability to play several positions. It’s possible that a team who wants to move into the modern, small ball type of play we’ve seen over the last couple years steps up with a big offer.

The question is who that might be.

James Harden on adding Carmelo Anthony: ‘It would be a great acquisition for us’

15 Comments

Carmelo Anthony is all but a Houston Rocket at this point. The veteran forward secured his buyout with the Oklahoma City Thunder this week, and the favorite to land him are the Rockets.

We are still waiting for everything to be official, but it seems that Anthony’s potential future teammates are excited about having him on board.

Speaking to media this week, NBA MVP James Harden said that he felt like Anthony was a good pick up for the team that gave the Golden State Warriors a run in the Western Conference Finals before losing Chris Paul to injury.

Via Chron.com:

“It would be a great acquisition for us,” said Harden, who did run into Anthony at Paris Fashion Week last month when Harden was making the rounds with teammate P.J. Tucker. “Melo’s a proven vet. He just wants to win at this point, so it would be great for him to be on our team. The current roster we have now, we’ve got good guys back and we keep making forward progress.”

It’s not clear how Carmelo will integrate into Houston’s offense just yet. The Rockets lost Trevor Ariza to the Phoenix Suns this summer, and we’ll need more 3-point shooting outside of Eric Gordon. Anthony shot 35.7% from 3-point range last season, which is just about league average.

Even in an offense with a lot of isolation sets, Carmelo isn’t a home run. People make the mistake of thinking that the Rockets simply dribble the ball down the floor then go one-on-one. That’s not really the case.

The Rockets were 13th in the NBA in pace last year, and scored a league-leading 1.2 points per possession in transition. Their isolation sets were additive to their transition offense, and even then a lot of their iso ball sets were designed to create assists on mismatches.

Anthony has shown the ability to be a good passer over his time in the NBA, although last season with the Thunder he recorded a career-low two assists per 100 possessions. Many of his isolation plays are geared toward Anthony getting a shot up for himself, so whether Mike D’Antoni can convince him to work within the system is a big question moving forward.

Anthony could be useful for the Rockets, there’s no doubt about it. But what seems more likely is that he might gunk up the works for Houston, especially come playoff time. The Rockets need to do something — or at least they feel they do — to get past the Warriors this time around.

Will Anthony be the answer there?

Drew Hanlen is rumored to have fixed Markelle Fultz’s jumper

Getty
4 Comments

All aboard the Markelle Fultz PR train. Last stop is the Eastern Conference Finals.

On Sunday, two rumors surfaced about the embattled Philadelphia 76ers point guard’s jumper. The first came from former teammate Richaun Holmes‘s mother, Dr. Lydecia Holmes.

Speaking on The Burner podcast, Lydecia said that Fultz has had his jumper rebuilt and that he should be a much better shooter for the Sixers in 2018-19.

Via The Burner Podcast, h/t Sixer Sense:

“Markelle is going to be very, very surprising this season. You’re going to be very pleased with Markelle. He is going to show you something this year… on and off the court.”

Fultz had his jump shot mysteriously disappear last year. It was supposed to have been something having to do with a shoulder issue, but over time the public opinion gradually shifted to Fultz perhaps having the yips.

The Sixers point guard has been working out with jump shot expert Drew Hanlen, and many have high hopes for Fultz’S new stroke for the upcoming season.

According to Yahoo’s Jordan Schultz, Fultz is coming along nicely as we move through the summer.

Via Twitter:

Getting Fultz back would be a huge boost for the 76ers. They failed to land Kawhi Leonard in a trade this year, and having the No. 1 overall pick from a season ago will bolster their guard rotation if he shows flashes of what he did during his one season playing for the Washington Huskies.

Then again, this could all be to prop up Fultz given the idea that much of his issue was mental. Either way, there is hope that Philadelphia will get him back from one of the oddest injury lapses in recent NBA memory outside of Leonard himself.

We don’t need to see a million videos of Fultz and his in-progress jumper from practice like we did last season. I’m hoping we can wait and see it as a finished product sometime as we approach the fall.

Do you have burning NBA questions you want answered? Submit your questions to Pro Basketball Talk for our mailbag! E-mail us at pbtmailbag@gmail.com to get your question featured right here on PBT.