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Unnamed Cavalier reportedly doesn’t think JaVale McGee is “smart enough” to play in Finals

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There are some regular rotation players who will end up with very good courtside seats but sharply reduced minutes in the NBA Finals due to matchups. It happens every year.

One of those could be the Warriors backup bigs — JaVale McGee in particular. If Tristan Thompson isn’t on the floor it might be difficult to find a good matchup for McGee (plus the Warriors will likely play small a lot themselves this series).  However, one anonymous Cavaliers player told Dave McMenamin of ESPN there is another reason McGeen could sit, a story the reporter relayed on ESPN’s The Basketball Analogy Show podcast with Brian Windhorst (hat tip to DefPen.com and Bleacher Report).

“I had a Cavs player disagree with your opinion of McGee, Brian. He postulated to me that he doesn’t even think McGee’s gonna be able to get on the court or certainly not stay on the court because he doesn’t think he’s quote, unquote ‘smart enough’ to be able to play in this series.”

There’s a little more motivation for the Warriors. As if blowing a 3-1 lead in the last Finals didn’t provide enough.

McGee has played well for the Warriors through the season and into the playoffs. He will get his chances. But if he is limited these playoffs it’s not about intelligence as much as it is matchups. Cleveland could face the same problem with Kevin Love, and improved perimeter defender but one who can be exposed out there and who will find himself in difficult matchups in this series.

PBT Podcast: NBA Finals preview with Dan Feldman

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It’s the NBA Finals we all expected and wanted — the two best teams in the NBA, teams with just one playoff loss between them, playing with a lot of legacy on the line. There are a lot of questions to be answered over the coming weeks:

Is Cleveland’s defense going to be focused for 48 minutes? How is Golden State going to handle LeBron on the pick-and-roll? What does this Finals mean for the legacy of LeBron James? Or the Warriors?

Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBC Sports delve into all that and more in this Finals preview podcast. They discuss the historic nature of this series as well as some things to watch. Then, of course, there are predictions.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (just click the button under the podcast), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

First ever NBA Finals virtual reality highlight packages will be free to fans

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You are not Drake. You will not be sitting courtside when the NBA Finals tip-off Thursday.

However, you can get the perspective of being courtside for every Finals game through a unique virtual reality highlight package available for free to fans this year.

“This is the first time ever, the NBA has done a full slate of highlights for the Finals like this,” said Danny Keens, Vice President of Content at the NBA’s virtual reality partner NextVR told NBC Sports. “And it’s available globally, for anyone with a VR headset.”

NextVR worked with the NBA to produce one game a week this past NBA season in virtual reality — the NBA was the first professional sports league to do that. They did the same thing with the All-Star Saturday night events. Next VR brings special cameras to the game — there will be six at the NBA Finals — ones that are located courtside or on the stanchion behind the basket. The result is the view usually reserved for the one percent — the world’s greatest athletes pushing the ball up court or seeming to crash right into your lap as they attack the rim or throw down a monster dunk.

It works like all VR does — if LeBron James drives and kicks it to Kevin Love in the corner for a three, you turn your head to follow the ball and the field of vision pans with you.

“The incredible thing about watching sports in VR is fans are stepping into the TV to watch the content, removing the fourth wall as it were and unlocking the screen,” Keens said. “It’s a transformational change in how people can watch the game…

“We saw our audiences continued to surge as we went throughout the year, but it’s also that the broadcasts got better as the year went on. We learned a lot in our first year.”

Now there will be a specially-produced highlight package for each NBA Finals game that fans can download and watch the following morning — complete with its own play-by-play calls (not the national broadcast, the VR package has its own team calling the plays). You may well have watched the games, or at least seen the conventional highlights, but this will change the perspective of what you witnessed — just how deep Stephen Curry took a three or just how fast Kyrie Irving was end-to-end with the ball.

To watch requires a Google Daydream View or Samsung GearVR headset, along with a compatible smartphone. Then just download the free NextVR app from the Google Play Store for Daydream or the Oculus Store on GearVR users. There is a special NBA Finals channel now in the NextVR app where the highlight packages will be.

“What’s great about our technology is it transports the fans to these really great seats,” Keens said.

It’s not quite a courtside seat, but it’s the next best thing, and you get to do it from the privacy of your own home.

Markelle Fultz: “I want to be the No. 1 pick really bad”

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Markelle Fultz is going to get his wish.

He will be the No. 1 pick in this draft — and he should be. Don’t get swallowed up in the Lonzo Ball hype, there’s excellent reasons almost everyone has Fultz higher on their boards. Read our breakdown. He is the top rated player for good reason.

Fultz wants the Celtics to take him No. 1, and he’s spoken to Boston’s Danny Ainge, as he told Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

“I’ve talked to Danny a few times, and they want to get me to come out there for a visit,” Fultz told ESPN. “They just want to get a chance to know me better as a person.”

“I want to be the No. 1 pick really bad,” Fultz added. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid, and I feel like I would fit well in Boston.”

At some point soon, Fultz said he will work out for Boston.

There’s nothing really surprising here. Of course Fultz wants to be the No. 1 pick, what kind of competitor wouldn’t? And of course he wants to be selected by Boston, look at that team — it’s combination of players and assets — and it’s not hard to imagine the next power in the East.

The difference between him and most people is Fultz is going to get what he wants. The question Celtics fans have to wonder is what he does once he gets it.

Report: As expected, Nuggets’ Danilo Gallinari will opt into free agency this summer

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When Danilo Gallinari can stay healthy and on the court, he’s the kind of guy a lot of teams could use — a 6’10” wing player who shot 38.7 percent from three last season, he can catch-and-shoot or create his own shot off the bounce, and he’s a solid defender against threes or fours. He averaged 18.2 points and 5.3 rebounds a game for the Nuggets last season. In the 63 games he played.  And that’s the issue — that’s the most he’s played in four seasons.

Because of his production, there is going to be a healthy market for Gallinari, which is why he was always expected to opt out of the final year of his deal with Denver — where he is owed $16.1 million — and test the market. He will do just that reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Denver Nuggets forward Danilo Gallinari intends to pass on the $16.1 million player option on his 2017-18 contract and become an unrestricted free agent this summer, league sources told The Vertical.

Gallinari will become one of the top available forwards in the July marketplace, but league sources say that he remains open to the possibility of returning to the Nuggets on a long-term deal.

Gallinari will be in the second tier of free agent forwards, but teams that strike out trying to land Blake Griffin, Gordon Hayward, or Paul Millsap (and all three of those players may take max offers to stay where they are) will likely pick up the phone and call about Gallinari. (I would expect Denver to put out feelers to Millsap.)

That said, Gallinari was a fantastic fit with Nikola Jokic — when those two were on the court together last season the Nuggets outscored opponents by 8.2 points per 100 possessions. His ability to space the floor is a perfect fit with Jokic’s vision and passing.  Plus, with those two on the court the defense was mildly improved over the team’s woeful average.

It will not be cheap, but Denver may choose to pay up and keep Gallinari. Then hope that he can just stay healthy and on the court.