kurthelin

Getty Images

Once again, John Wall, Bradley Beal, Wizards look ahead after 2nd-round exit

3 Comments

WASHINGTON (AP) — For the third time in four seasons, John Wall and Bradley Beal exited the playoffs in the second round, extending the Washington Wizards’ nearly four-decade drought without a conference finals appearance.

“It feels a little different, but a little bit of the same. It’s kind of like I’m tired of being in this situation. I’m tired of losing in the second round. I’m kind of at that point now,” Beal said Tuesday, about 15 hours after Washington was eliminated with a Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics.

“I felt like we were right there,” he added. “That’s the worst thing, especially about the day after.”

Still, it’s primarily because of backcourt mates Wall and Beal that the Wizards do have reason to look on the bright side after winning only a single playoff series.

“Obviously, having those two guys on the team, like Brad and John,” center Marcin Gortat said, “we’re always going to have expectations.”

This season began with a new coach – Scott Brooks replaced Randy Wittman, who was fired after missing the playoffs a year ago – and with questions about the chemistry between Wall and Beal. It also started with a 2-8 record.

But Washington turned things around, thriving at times under Brooks and finishing with 49 wins, and its guard tandem could smile Tuesday while discussing the perceived rift between them.

“It didn’t do anything but make our friendship and brotherhood become more tight,” Wall said.

As for where they need to improve, Wall sounded a note he’s hit after past postseason exits.

“I’m tired of saying the same thing,” the four-time All-Star said, “but we’ve got to do a better job of closing out games.”

Beal wants this season’s ultimate disappointment to fuel the Wizards for the future.

“For sure, I’m confident in our team. … It’s on to getting better this offseason. And next season, it’ll be totally different,” Beal said. “We’ve got to remember that feeling that we have now and be better next year.”

Here are other things to know about the Wizards as they head into the offseason:

GORTAT’S FIT

Gortat tends to speak his mind and did so again Tuesday, raising the possibility that he might wind up elsewhere despite still being under contract with the Wizards. “I’m just going to sit down in the summer and talk to my agent, talk to my people, my closest people,” he said, “and I’m going to analyze if this is the right fit.”

A couple of other nuggets from him:

– About his critics, “I know there’s a lot of freaking idiots looking directly at the column with the points, telling me that, `You scored only four or six points; team lost because of you.”‘

– About his position’s place in today’s NBA, “Nobody respects centers anymore. Nobody looks at them as a valuable piece.”

– About the way the season ended, “Yeah, we could say `If, if, if, if.’ There’s a lot of `if.”‘

PORTER’S PATH

One key question is whether restricted free agent Otto Porter Jr. will return to his only NBA team. He didn’t shed any light on the matter, saying, “I haven’t really thought about that yet.”

BROOKS REVIEW

Brooks received glowing praise from players after Year 1 of his five-year, $35 million contract. “As a team, we respect him, we respect how he coaches, the way he does and how he is as a person, outside of coaching,” Beal said. “I loved him. He granted everybody confidence, freedom, on both ends of the floor.”

INJURIES

Reserve forward Kelly Oubre Jr. said that he had an MRI exam last week on his injured right knee but did not want to hear the results, so he doesn’t know if he will need offseason surgery. Backup center Ian Mahinmi, who missed a chunk of the regular season with a knee problem and the start of the playoffs because of a calf issue, said he is not sure whether he might need any sort of procedure now that the season is over.

 

J.R. Smith, wife Shirley buy mother’s day flowers for every mom of child in Cleveland Clinic NICU

3 Comments

The Cavalier’s J.R. Smith‘s wife Shirley is a nurse in one of the most heart-wrenching places on the planet — the neonatal intensive care unit of a major hospital. It’s where babies at risk of imminent death go as doctors and nurses work to save them, and where new parents are understandably emotionally distraught. It takes a special kind of person to work there.

Smith wanted to brighten a Mother’s Day for new moms spending it in a hospital, so he and his wife teamed to buy every mom flowers, as reported by Fox 8 in Cleveland. Shirley wrote about it in her blog.

My husband came up with the brilliant idea of getting all of the mothers in the NICU flowers today so we did just that. When the flowers arrived I pushed the cart and Demi placed an arrangement of flowers in every room…it was super special and we both enjoyed it.

It was a thoughtful, generous gesture to brighten the day of people he did not personally know. J.R. Smith is not just a guy who rides a hoverboard around the arena drinking a beer after a big loss, or who hates shirts, he’s far more complex than that.

Hat tip to Reddit NBA.

LeBron James subtly trolls Celtics with shirt in advance of Game 1

1 Comment

Coincidence? I don’t think so.

LeBron James is as media savvy a player as there is — the man is smart and has been in the brightest of spotlights since age 16 — so everything he says or does is already calculated in his head. Much like on the court, he’s two moves ahead of almost everyone.

So it turned some heads when LeBron showed up for his post-practice interview Tuesday wearing a shirt from his high school, the St. Vincent-St. Mary Fighting Irish — whose logo just so happens to be a Leprechaun. Not unlike the Boston Celtics. Except this one has a halo as if it were already dead.

Think it’s a coincidence? Then you probably also thought it was a coincidence when LeBron got off the plane in Cleveland last year after having vanquished the Warriors and won an NBA title wearing his “Ultimate Warrior” WWE shirt. LeBron denied that was a thing, but anybody who knows how he thinks didn’t buy that for a second.

LeBron’s just having a little fun with the Celtics and their fan base. The question is can the Boston players really do anything about it?

PBT Extra: What does Boston need to do to hang with Cleveland in conference finals?

3 Comments

Boston is the No. 1 seed in the East, but good luck finding anyone — from Vegas books through talk radio anywhere but New England, and frankly even there — that gives the Celtics much of a shot against the Cleveland Cavaliers starting Wednesday night.

What does Boston need to do to give itself a shot against Cleveland? I break it down in this PBT Extra.

They need to find someone who can defend the red-hot LeBron James. They need to defend the arc well and crash the boards with authority. And they’ll need both big games from Isaiah Thomas and the bench. All of that combined is a lot to ask.

On target: Kyle Korver has the perfect shot as Cavs aim for title

Associated Press
1 Comment

INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — For months, Kyle Korver felt a little lost in his new surroundings.

Even though he has been around since January after being traded by Atlanta, he still can’t believe he’s with the Cavaliers, the defending champions and his longtime nemesis.

The team he couldn’t conquer.

“I find myself still saying, `The Cavs’ and not `Us,”‘ Korver said with a laugh after practice last week. “And I think, `Wait, that’s me. I’m a Cav! It’s us! It’s we!’ You spend so much time focusing on trying to beat this team, it is a little trippy. I think I’m past it now. I think I’ve gotten to a good point.”

At last, Korver feels at home in Cleveland.

One of the game’s deadliest outside shooters, the 36-year-old forward has helped the Cavs steamroll through the first two rounds of the playoffs without a loss and into the Eastern Conference finals. They begin Wednesday, with Cleveland facing Washington or Boston in what will be Korver’s 100th career playoff game.

After being closely guarded by Indiana in the first round – and used as a decoy by the Cavs – he averaged just five points in the first six games of the playoffs. But Korver broke out in Games 3 and 4 against Toronto, with the Cavs finding weak spots in the Raptors’ defense.

Korver scored 14 points on 5 of 7 shooting in Game 3 and followed in Game 4 by scoring 16 in the second quarter and finishing with 18 points.

The two-game burst – he went 8 of 12 on 3-pointers – boosted Korver’s confidence and gave future opponents even more to think about, as if scheming for LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love weren’t enough.

With Korver on the floor, defenses face a dilemma: Stay close and not let him shoot or give him space and deal with the consequences.

“It’s a bonus for us because teams are not going to leave him and that’s what allows LeBron and Kevin and Kyrie to play efficient and get to the basket,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “Teams are not going to leave him and we understand that, so even when he’s not shooting the basketball, that’s a weapon that we can use and we understand that. So if they do leave him, he’s going to make them pay. So it’s a weapon for us and we enjoy it.”

Korver has had playoff runs in Atlanta and Chicago ended by James. When he first arrived, the three-time champ told him that his job was simple – catch and shoot. James even studied film to see where Korver most liked to receive passes before he lets loose a shot as pristine as any around.

However, not everything went as planned. Korver’s adjustment lasted longer than he or the Cavs anticipated. A challenging schedule limited his practice and a left foot injury slowed his play.

Now, Korver’s shot and the Cavs are both on target.

“You know sometimes it’s mind boggling just to see that he hasn’t had a shot in six or seven minutes and he gets that one shot and it doesn’t touch the rim,” Lue said. “That’s what happens when you’re a pure shooter and we’re just fortunate to have him on the team. He’s made big shots for us in these playoffs and hopefully he’ll continue to do that for us.”

Beyond his ability to stretch defenses to their breaking points, Korver has brought more knowhow to a veteran team. He’s a tireless worker, obsessive about his habits and unwilling to cut corners. The consummate pro’s pro.

“That’s how I’ve had to be, to make it in the NBA,” he said. “I’m not the most physical gifted person. I have to grind. I have to take care of myself. We brought a lot of guys who have played over 10 years and if you want to last that long, you have to figure out what you need and stick with it every day. It’s what I’ve had to do.”

All that’s left for Korver is to win a ring. And because his days on the floor are dwindling, he’s relishing every pass he catches from James, every practice, every 3-pointer. He’s a free agent at the end of a season that began in Atlanta and could finish with a parade through Cleveland.

“You’re not guaranteed tomorrow,” he said. “How many more games do I possibly get to play with this team? I don’t know, so I definitely savor playing with him and all of these guys. It’s been great.”

And, finally, he knows where he’s at.