AP Photo/Carlos Osorio

LeBron James feeling stress of facing mighty Warriors again

10 Comments

CLEVELAND – Kevin Durant hit a dagger pull-up 3-pointer from the left wing in Game 3 of the 2017 NBA Finals in Cleveland. Kevin Durant hit a dagger pull-up 3-pointer from the left wing in Game 3 of the 2018 NBA Finals in Cleveland.

“Nah, that wasn’t the same shot,” LeBron James said. “The one he made tonight was about four or five feet behind the one he made last year.”

LeBron has shown off his memory throughout these playoffs, but he wasn’t flaunting here. He wanted everyone else to remember just how good these Warriors are. Don’t treat what they do as routine, because it is not.

Since adding Durant, Golden State has put itself in discussion as the greatest team of all-time. Stephen Curry can shoot 3-for-16, including 1-for-10 on 3-pointers, on a Klay Thompson off night, and the Warriors can still win because of Durant. Golden State’s talent – don’t forget about the other star, Draymond Green – is perhaps unrivaled.

LeBron was asked to expound on the difference between the 2015-2016 Warriors, whom the Cavs faced in the Finals both years, and the 2017-2018 Warriors with Durant

“You guys asked me this last year, what was the difference between the Warriors the previous year and this year, and what was my answer?” LeBron said.

The question wasn’t rhetorical. LeBron stared at the questioner until someone else in the room yelled out “Kevin Durant.”

“Alright,” LeBron said. “There it is.

“Kevin Durant was my answer. He’s one of the best players that I’ve ever played against that this league has ever seen. His ability to handle the ball, shoot the ball, make plays at his length, his size, his speed. So, there it is.”

Remember, the Warriors won the title in 2015 and a record 73 regular-season games and three Finals games in 2016. They were already elite without Durant.

Now?

“It adds a level of stress,” LeBron said. “Because you know that you can never relax. You know if you relax, they make you pay, and making you pay could cost you a game.”

The Cavaliers could realistically be up 2-1 in these Finals. They blew a chance to win Game 1 on J.R. Smith‘s late boneheaded play, and they led Game 3 with three minutes left.

Instead the Warriors are up 3-0 with a chance to sweep Friday. Give them an inch, and they take a mile.

Dating back to Kyrie Irving‘s trade request, the Cavs have given many feet. That leads to questions about whether LeBron will use his player option to leave Cleveland this summer.

But even if the Cavaliers led the Finals 2-1, Golden State would still be favored in the series. The heavy speculation about LeBron’s future might be delayed in that scenario, but it’d still be coming. It’s as inevitable as these Warriors.

So, what will LeBron do about them? At this point, it’s a question for the offseason, primarily – though not completely yet.

“Friday morning when I wake up,” LeBron said, “I’ll be locked in and ready for Game 4.”

Bruce Bowen after Kawhi Leonard-related ouster: If Clippers can’t attract free agents to L.A., that’s on them, not me

Scott Roth/Invision/AP
2 Comments

The Clippers ousted Bruce Bowen as TV analyst after he ripped Kawhi Leonard, a Clippers target in 2019 free agency.

The Dan Patrick Show:

Bowen:

Oh yeah, it was, well, basically, “We don’t view your views that way and because of your comments of Kawhi Leonard, we are choosing to go a separate way.”

One thing that I’ve thought about in all of this is that Kawhi never said, “I want to play for the Clippers.” Kawhi said he wanted to play for the Lakers. And so unfortunately, if you’re going to run your organization based on hopes, maybe, and getting rid of others – now, again, if I tore him down and I was disrespectful to him, that’s one thing. But that’s not the case. As an analyst, I’m supposed to talk about what I see and what I feel for this game that I love. And so, if you can’t do that, what does that say about your organization?

I don’t think I’m that powerful, where I would be the reason why someone would not want to go to a team. What are you doing? Are you playing, or are you listening? And if you are listening, then listen to the words that are said and receive the constructive criticism. Because that’s my job, to be critical of someone’s play. Now, if I’m just tearing a player down, that’s one thing. But I don’t think I’m big enough that someone would say, “You know what? I’m not going there, because Bruce Bowen is there, and he’s on the mic. I’m not going to deal with that.”

If you can’t get free agents in California – in Los Angeles, that is – that has nothing to do with Bruce Bowen. That has more to do with the organization.

It’s unclear whether Leonard prefers the Lakers or Clippers. I wouldn’t take Bowen’s telling as gospel on that.

It’s also worth revisiting exactly what Bowen said about Leonard:

“First, it was, ‘Well I was misdiagnosed.’ Look here: You got $18 million this year, and you think that they’re trying to rush you? You didn’t play for the most part a full season this year. And you’re the go-to guy, you’re the franchise and you want to say that they didn’t have your best interest at heart? Are you kidding me?…

“I think he’s getting bad advice,” Bowen said. “I think what you’re starting to see now is an individual given a certain amount of advice, and it’s not the right advice. Here it is: You were protected in San Antonio. You were able to come up during a time where you still could lean on Tim [Duncan] Tony [Parker] and Manu [Ginobili]…

“As a player, if I’m a leader of a team, my team goes on the road in the playoffs, I’m with my guys,” he said. “Because that’s what it’s all about. It’s about camaraderie. It’s about fellowship. It’s a brotherhood. When that didn’t happen, it’s all kinds of sirens and alarm signals that says to me, ‘Is this person fully vested?’ … I don’t want to take on a player who’s not willing to support his guys during the course of their time needing him.”

Despite his latest spin, Bowen didn’t simply critique Leonard’s play. Bowen ripped Leonard’s leadership and, more troublingly, implied Leonard wasn’t as hurt as the star forward claimed.

Bowen’s TV work was intertwined with the Clippers, an organization trying to win. Nobody should have ever viewed Bowen as an objective journalist. His job was, in part, to help the Clippers promote their product. That can, at times, include criticism of players. It’s just basketball. Critiques help fans understand the game and engage.

But this went beyond that, and I have a hard time siding with someone who suggested Leonard embellished his injury. We’re not in his mind or body. We can’t know he feels. Maybe Leonard was malingering, but I don’t see a better method than just giving him the benefit on the doubt.

Bowen is right: We shouldn’t overstate his importance to free agents. But this was also an opportunity for the Clippers to signal how well they look after players. Maybe Leonard will appreciate that. Maybe he won’t. It’s tough to get a read on the quiet Leonard. But he’s potentially so valuable, I understand trying to preemptively appease him.

Considering Bowen’s status as a Clippers-adjacent employee and what he actually said, ousting him looks fairly reasonable.

Watch Aretha Franklin own national anthem before 2004 NBA Finals Game 5

AP Photo/Al Goldis
Leave a comment

The NBA is at its best when teams have strong identities, and the 2004 Pistons sure had one. Overlooked, proud and hustling, they fit the city they represented.

That’s why there was nobody better to sing the national anthem before their championship-clinching Game 5 of the NBA Finals than Aretha Franklin, who grew up in and proudly represented Detroit:

Franklin died at age 76 yesterday, and everyone who heard her music was blessed – anyone at The Palace of Auburn Hills that night particularly so.

Report: 76ers hire former WNBA No. 1 pick Lindsey Harding as scout

AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
Leave a comment

The 76ers were reportedly looking for a female scout.

They’ve found her.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

The Philadelphia 76ers have hired former Duke and WNBA star Lindsey Harding as a full-time scout for next season.

Harding – the No. 1 pick in the 2007 WNBA draft – played nine years in that league. She was an assistant coach for the Raptors’ summer-league team and completed the NBA’s Basketball Operations Associates Program. By all appearances, she’s well-qualified for her new position.

NBA teams haven’t hired enough women in basketball operations. Relative to men, there are far more women with an aptitude for these positions than are on NBA payrolls. Teams should hire the best person for the job, but fair consideration will lead to more women hired than currently.

At some point, an NBA team hiring a woman as a scout wouldn’t be so notable. But the league isn’t there yet.

Greg Monroe says he’s working on shot to help Raptors space floor

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Last season, Greg Monroe took zero three pointers. Not one in Phoenix, nor Milwaukee, and zero in Boston. He’s not a guy known for his shooting range, last season 90 percent of his shots came within 10 feet of the basket. His game is old-school.

That’s not what is going to get Monroe more run in Nick Nurse’s unleashed offense in Toronto. Kawhi Leonard and Kyle Lowry can drive into the paint, but they need shooters around them to space the floor and finish the shots they create. Monroe gets it and is trying to fint in, he told Josh Jewenberg of TSN.

 

We’re not going to nickname Monroe “Curry Jr.” but if becomes any kind of a threat beyond the paint it will help. It also would help Monroe’s longevity in the league.

That said, we’ll buy in when we see it. This is not some flip-the-switch change to make.