There are a lot of people watching these NBA Finals thinking “LeBron James looks exasperated with his teammates and tired of carrying them.” He has been otherworldly good through the playoffs, at age 33, and yet had two seven-game series just to get to the Finals, where he and the Cavaliers are down 0-2.
It’s led to even more “where will LeBron play next season?” speculation.
Including among NBA players. That played out on Twitter during Game 2, with Jared Dudley, C.J. McCollum, and Jamal Crawford having a not-so-private discussion.
Houston has one of the teams reportedly on LeBron James’ list (which LeBron said is not true), and Rockets GM Daryl Morey has said he would go after him. The Rockets’ new owner Tilman Fertitta reportedly will pay the tax to keep his contender going.
Dudley is right, the only way to really make this work for Houston is LeBron to do what Chris Paul did to get to Houston last summer — but even that is difficult to make work.
It starts with LeBron telling Cleveland he’s leaving, but he will opt into the $35.6 million he is owed next year if they trade him to Houston. The math works sending Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson back to the Cavs, the Rockets would do that and throw in a first in a heartbeat, but why would Cleveland do it? That trade would leave Cleveland with a team of Kevin Love, Gordon, Anderson, whoever they take at No. 8 in the draft, and the rest of the current roster — and an $80 million luxury tax bill. That’s a lot of tax for a roster that might not even make the playoffs in the East, the Cavs would be better off letting LeBron walk rather than taking on that deal (unless Cavs’ GM Koby Altman wants to start making second trades and moving Gordon, Love, and others). There are other ways to construct this trade, but the Rockets are not deep with good young players that fit into these kinds of deals for a rebuilding team (most of the kinds of players the Cavaliers would want to the Clippers in the Chris Paul trade). It’s going to be hard to convince the Cavs to play along, and a third team may need to be brought in.
Whether you’re an NBA player or fan, get out the popcorn and make yourself comfortable — it’s going to be an interesting summer of NBA trades.
Marquese Chriss and Jared Dudley got off light.
There should have been suspensions involved for the cheap shots leveled on Ricky Rubio by the pair during Thursday night’s blowout Jazz win. Instead, the pair were fined $25,000 a piece by the league Saturday for this incident.
Rubio has a knee contusion from the incident Jazz coach Quin Snyder confirmed, however, Rubio is available to play Saturday vs. the Kings.
Dudley was given a flagrant 2 and ejected at the time, Chriss was handed just a flagrant 1 for his escalation. I don’t completely buy Dudley’s explanation here either — I think they were pissed Rubio stepped over a down Chriss to inbound the ball and made him pay for it — but he did own up to it being excessive.
So to be clear, if you throw a haymaker and miss — as Aaron Afflalo did recently — that’s a two-game suspension. But if you throw or body check a player to the ground, that’s just 25 large, no time missed. Players wanting retaliation will take note of that.
Roulette tables are less random than the NBA’s enforcement policies.
Basketball has some dumb unwritten rules. One of them, apparently, is that you can’t step over a player’s legs to get the ball if they’ve recently airballed a dunk.
Utah Jazz point guard Ricky Rubio violated that rule on Thursday night when Phoenix Suns big man Marquese Chriss whiffed on a dunk attempt in the third quarter. The ball went out of bounds after Chriss’ miss, and in order to get the offense going Rubio hopped over the end of his legs to inbound the ball.
That set off Suns veteran Jared Dudley, who went straight to the body of Rubio as he was running down the court seconds later. Rubio got up to confront Dudley, then was pushed to the ground by Chriss as he rushed up the court.
Chriss appeared shaken up on the play, and that seems to be what initially sent Dudley off the rails. Then again, if it was just about disrespect from stepping over a player — ie. Allen Iverson did to Tyronn Lue — the way to avoid that is to not airball a dunk in the first place.
Dudley was hit with a Flagrant 2 foul and ejected. Chriss was hit with a technical foul and ejected. For the Jazz, both Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles picked up techs.
Look for more information tomorrow about what kind of fines will be assessed to both Dudley and Chriss. They will presumably be large given the nature of the altercation. Meanwhile, Ingles and Mitchell will probably also see fines for rushing into the scrum.
Utah beat the Suns, 116-88.
Steve Kerr allowing Warriors players to run huddles during a win over the Suns was more nontroversy than controversy.
Was anyone actually upset with Kerr besides Phoenix guard Troy Daniels, who clearly directed his dismay at Kerr (and seems to look for chips to stack on his shoulder)? Even Suns forward Jared Dudley, who called the tactic disrespectful, acknowledged the problem was Phoenix might not deserve respect.
It seems people just assumed other people somewhere would be bothered by Kerr’s plan. That alone was enough to make it a heavily discussed storyline.
Some coaches would just want to stay clear of the noise. Not Kerr, though.
Kerr on 95.7 The Game:
I’ve been quickly reminded today of what an insane world we live in and how everything now is just a story and constantly judged and picked apart. And this really isn’t that big of a deal. It’s a basketball game. We have a veteran team. You turn over the timeout huddle to the players so that they can discuss strategy on their own.
I don’t think it’s like earth-shattering news. I really don’t. And I don’t think it’s that big of a deal. I just think it’s a good coaching tactic to try to change things up but it’s the world we live in. So, everyone’s going to debate it. Whether it’s a controversy or not, it has to become one, I guess.
I don’t think it’s something we would do often, but I think it’s a good exercise. I think there’s a lot of things that coaches can do that are sort of outside the box that can be very positive, and I think it’s good to experiment with them.
This is every single day for seven, eight, nine months depending on how your team does. And so everything gets pretty monotonous. I think you’ve got to do your best in the NBA to try to keep things light and loose and occasionally throw the team a curveball. So I can see doing it again one time, a couple times. We’ll see.
Kerr did this to motivate his players. The Warriors are too good, and they’ve gotten bored by winning. They probably correctly believe they can just turn it on when it counts. But Kerr wants to safeguard against bad habits creeping in, so he found a way to engage his players.
And it seemed to work. Why would Kerr shelve a successful strategy? Protecting opponents’ feelings – if any of them were actually besides Daniels’ – isn’t a good enough reason.
As Jared Dudley pointed out, the Suns are getting disrespected, because they’re playing like a team that doesn’t deserve respect.
Phoenix lost games by 48 and 42 points in the first four days of its season. But the Suns fired Earl Watson, promoted Jay Triano and traded Eric Bledsoe. Phoenix got more competitive and appeared to leave its biggest troubles behind. Losing by 48 to the Spurs last week could have just been an anomaly, the type of thing that randomly happens to ordinarily bad teams.
But a 46-point loss to the Warriors last night fuels a different perception: The Suns are historically prone to getting crushed. Not only are they bad, they fold in uncompetitive games, allowing the margin to soar.
Phoenix has already lost four games by more than 40 points this season. That’s unsurpassed, and it’s not even the All-Star break. As the Suns tank to the finish, the next couple months could get even uglier.
Here are the teams to lose the most games by more than 40 points in a season, with their record and margin of those losses:
The 1969 San Francisco Warriors and 1979 New Jersey Nets made the playoffs. I wouldn’t count on that for Phoenix.