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LeBron James feeling stress of facing mighty Warriors again

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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.”

Jaylen Brown heads to restart with Boston, plans to use voice for social justice

Jaylen Brown Boston
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The Celtics’ Jaylen Brown has been one of the most active NBA players in the Black Lives Matters movement — even driving from Boston to Atlanta to lead a protest.

That’s not changing because he’s going to Orlando for the NBA restart.

Brown admitted he considered not playing in Orlando due to the pandemic, but the opportunity the NBA’s platform provided to speak on social issues was too great to pass up, Brown said in a conference call with reporters Monday, via the Associated Press.

“Once I thought about the opportunity that the organization and the NBA presented to play for something bigger than myself, I was signed up,” he said. “I plan on using my voice while I’m down there. I plan on spreading light on things that are getting dimmed and hopefully the NBA and our organization can understand.”

Brown is not alone in thinking that. Portland’s CJ McCollum is on the executive committee of the National Basketball Players Association as well and said a lot of players see the same opportunity.

“But now [the talk is] more around what impact we can make to support what is going on in the real world, to continue to support Black Lives Matter and the things we’re facing as a society,” McCollum told NBC Sports. “Those are the calls we’re having now. How can we impact? How can we spread awareness on certain things in the world that are going on?…

“The biggest thing is to take advantage of the platform [in Orlando], to coincide with the NBA and figure out productive ways we can continue to spread information, to continue to educate, to continue to put light on things that have often been behind closed doors and never been brought out to the public eye, so I think those are the conversations we’ll continue to have.”

One way players can make a statement is by replacing the name on the back of jerseys with a message pre-approved by the league. Brown, like 76ers forward Mike Scott, is not a fan of how the NBA handled it.

“I think that list is an example of a form of limitations,” Brown said. “I think we should be able to express our struggle just a little bit more…

“The bottom line is there are improvements that need to be made,” Brown said. “The NBA has a great voice, a lot of resources and a lot of influence. We’re appreciative that they’re helping and aiding in a lot of those things that we care about. That’s really important.”

Brown understands the NBA’s voice, and he heads to Orlando planning to use his.

76ers’ Mike Scott on social-justice messages on NBA jerseys: ‘That was terrible. It was a bad list’

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The NBA approved a list of social-justice messages players can wear on their jerseys:

  • Black Lives Matter
  • Say Their Names
  • Vote
  • I Can’t Breathe
  • Justice
  • Peace
  • Equality
  • Freedom
  • Enough
  • Power to the People
  • Justice Now
  • Say Her Name
  • Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can)
  • Liberation
  • See Us
  • Hear Us
  • Respect Us
  • Love Us
  • Listen
  • Listen to Us
  • Stand Up
  • Ally
  • Anti-Racist
  • I Am A Man
  • Speak Up
  • How Many More
  • Group Economics
  • Education Reform
  • Mentor

76ers forward Mike Scott, via Paul Hudrick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

They gave us some names and phrases to put on the back of jerseys,” Scott said. “That was terrible. It was a bad list, bad choice. They didn’t give players a chance to voice their opinion on it. They just gave us a list to pick from. That was bad. That’s terrible. Just voice your opinion, how you feel.

“I don’t know how you can use your platform. I don’t know. Vote. Of course, vote. See what laws we can change. But I’m all about just doing, instead of just saying or posting or putting something on the back of your jersey. I don’t think that’s going to stop anything. I don’t know how you do it. I don’t know.

Celtics wing Jaylen Brown, via Darren Hartwell of NBC Sports Boston:

“I would like to see — because I think it can still happen — more options available to put on the back of our jerseys,” Brown said Monday in a video conference with reporters. “We understand anything vulgar our league doesn’t necessarily represent, but for histories and causes such as now, I think that that list is an example of a form of limitation. I think we should be able to express our struggle just a little bit more.

” … I was very disappointed in the list that was agreed to. I think things were tried and attempts were made to add to that list, but the NBA agreed that that list was satisfactory. Hopefully we can get some more names on that list.”

“Maybe ‘Break the Cycle,’ ‘Results’ — that’s what everybody is really playing for — ‘Inequality by Design,’ ” Brown said, “things like that I think may have a deeper impact than some of the things that were given to us. I think it was a little bit limiting.”

As far as Scott’s complaint about players not having a voice in the list, the plan was presented as developed in conjunction with the National Basketball Players Association. Perhaps, this is another example of union leadership not being on the same page as its members. But to be fair, it’s difficult to satisfy everyone. Scott and Brown don’t necessarily speak for players en masse.

Of course the NBA – a multi-billion-dollar company – was going to allow only sanitized phrases. The middle has shifted, but not enough for mainstream support for a sharp criticism like Brown’s “Inequality by Design.” (He’s right, though.) The NBA doesn’t want too much controversy.

However, simply by operating, the league gives players platforms and resources .

Nobody should have expected these jersey messages to be the primary means of change. They’re fine and can help draw attention.

But players can do more outside the league’s formal structure, including speaking up in interviews – like Scott and Brown did today.

Pelicans sign Sindarius Thornwell as substitute player. For whom?

Sindarius Thornwell vs. Pelicans
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Three Pelicans tested positive for coronavirus. At least.

Is one of them not playing in the NBA’s resumption at Disney World?

Despite having a full roster, New Orleans is signing Sindarius Thornwell.

Pelicans release:

The New Orleans Pelicans today announced that the team has signed free agent guard Sindarius Thornwell as a substitute player for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

Thornwell will wear #12 for the Pelicans.

Christian Clark of The Times-Picayune:

At this stage, only players who can’t play due to coronavirus or choose to it out can be replaced. That’s not Darius Miller, who’s still recovering from an Achilles injury.

With Zion Williamson looking fit, the Pelicans could be dangerous. They’re in a tight race to force play-in games. But they don’t have much margin for error in the playoff race.

So, keep an eye on whom Thornwell is replacing.

Sean Marks denies rumor of Nets trying to poach Spurs coach Gregg Popovich

Former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich
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The Nets are reportedly seeking a blue-chip coach as they hope to enter championship contention. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is one of the greatest coach’s of all-time, a five-time champion.

Brooklyn’s coach must get along with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. Durant and especially Irving have appeared fond of Popovich.

Nets owner Joe Tsai has the deep pockets to give a raise to Popovich, who’s reportedly already the NBA’s highest-paid coach.

Brooklyn general manager Sean Marks played and worked for Popovich in San Antonio.

The Spurs will likely have their lengthy playoff streak end. Of their two biggest stars, LaMarcus Aldridge keeps talking about returning to the Trail Blazers and DeMar DeRozan is reportedly unhappy in San Antonio.

Could all that circumstantial evidence add up to the Nets hiring Popovich?

Gerald Brown on “Let’s Get Technical:”

There’s a story going around that the owner of the Brooklyn Nets is looking to make a Godfather offer to Gregg Popovich. And when I say the Godfather, it’s something he can’t refuse. Hearing this story – and it’s probably going to circulate a little bit more in the days to come – I’m not really buying it at all.

It’s telling that the person who sent the rumor mainstream did so with the caveat that he doesn’t believe it.

Marks threw even more cold water on the rumor.

Marks on “Benigno and Roberts” on WFAN:

Pop has a job. So, I will say that. And, obviously, we all know he’s an amazing, amazing coach, and to be quite frank, an even better leader. So, I will let Pop continue to coach for the Spurs, and he owes it to them and they owe it to him. I’m sure he’s quite happy there.

That’s a strong denial. If he believed Popovich might come to Brooklyn, Marks probably wouldn’t say Popovich “owes it” to the Spurs to keep coaching them. That wouldn’t cover for a possible move while things are worked out privately. That backs Popovich into a corner.

Popovich is 71 and appears quite comfortable in San Antonio. For all the speculation on why Popovich could join the Nets, there are also strong reasons it wouldn’t make sense.