LeBron on trash talking incident during Draymond Green’s rookie season: ‘He started it, and I finished it’


LeBron James in not much of a trash talker.

While some of the game’s all-time fiercest competitors use this tactic to motivate themselves and get under their opponent’s skin at the very same time — guys like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant, for example — James prefers to be more of a quiet assassin, focusing on the task at hand.

But when others engage, James is more than willing to strike back.

Speaking to reporters at media availability on Friday, LeBron responded to a question about an incident that took place with Draymond Green during Green’s rookie season — but James made it clear that the back-and-forth exchange wasn’t his idea.

Q: LeBron, Draymond remembers when he was a rookie the first time I think he faced you when you were with the Heat in 2012. There was a play in the post that you kind of abused him and you said, You’re too small. He said that motivated him to this day; he still thinks about it. Do you remember the moment, and what do you think of the way he’s evolved since that moment in his rookie year?

LEBRON JAMES: Well, if you knew Draymond, he started the trash talking first in that game. I’m not much of a trash talker, but he started it first his rookie year. So don’t let him try to start up a story on why he’s motivated because I said something. He started it, and I finished it (smiling).

“You’re too small” is the most benign form of trash talk possible. It’s a phrase players use all the time to chide their opponent when not intending to be mean-spirited, and when not attempting to inflict too much emotional damage.

James, at this point, is very savvy when it comes to answering questions like these. His honesty is refreshing, as is his ability to see what the angle is while setting the record straight.

LeBron James: “You don’t let me have 40. I go and get 40.”


OAKLAND — LeBron James has always been a master of controlling the narrative. When you’re the most powerful person in the sport of basketball, any little public action will immediately change the conversation. That’s exactly what he did on Friday.

Thursday night, James missed a stepback jumper at the end of regulation of Game 1 of the Finals, which would have given the Cavs a road victory over the Warriors, and it’s still eating away at him. At the beginning of Cavs practice on Tuesday, he took an unusual step: before his media availability, he walked out onto the Oracle Arena floor and worked up a legitimate sweat, practicing the exact shot he missed to force an overtime. The missed shot and missed opportunity were clearly still eating away at him a day later.

“It’s not a great feeling, for sure,” James said. “I didn’t get much sleep last night.  You just play  your mind just plays with you so much throughout the course of the night.  Different plays, different scenarios, different points of the game where you could have made a play here, could have made a play there to help your team win. So the mind never lets you at ease.  So it’s always a tough 24 or 48 or whatever case, how many hours it is.  But at some point you get to the film room, which I’ve already started, and you start to prepare yourself mentally on what needs to be done going into Game 2.”

James couldn’t have done much more than he did in Game 1. He scored 44 points, a Finals career high. But that’s exactly what the Warriors wanted — if he scores that much and his teammates can’t get going, this banged-up Cavs roster is much more solvable than it is when he’s in distributor mode.

“You definitely take the 44 with not as many assists,” Golden State forward Harrison Barnes said on Friday. “As opposed to him getting 25 and 10 assists, and then J.R. Smith, Tristan Thompson, Dellavedova, those guys having big games. So we’re forcing him to be a scorer. You kind of let him do that and try to limit everybody else.”

James took exception to the notion that any team was letting him score as a primary defensive option.

“First of all, you don’t let me have 40,” he said defiantly. “I go get 40.  It’s not like they’re just getting out of the way.  So those guys aren’t saying we’re okay with letting him have 40.  You don’t let me have 40; I’m making those shots.”

There are different kinds of LeBron James 40-point games, something the Warriors understand well. Sometimes he’s such a force of nature that the defense is helpless to contain him. Other times, he gets his points but has to take difficult shots. That’s what the Warriors forced him to do, and that’s why they were able to overcome the will of the greatest player in the world.

“There were some times when he played the defense perfectly,” Barnes said. “Got into the paint, the help was there, we contested a shot, and he makes a difficult shot. You have to live with those. And then there are other times when, OK, you got beat under a screen and he was too wide open and you let him get into his rhythm. You have to know the difference between, ‘he made a tough shot’ and ‘we could have made that shot tougher for him.'”

That’s how the Warriors are going to continue to play James, and he’s going to have to make them pay, especially with the news that Kyrie Irving is out for several months with a knee fracture. That’s why he was working on the exact shot he missed at the end on Thursday.

“When you take a shot and you miss you have so many different thoughts in your mind saying okay, I should have done this or I should have done that,” James said. “When you take a shot and you make it, there is really nothing else to think about.  But for me I got to a spot where I’m comfortable making the shot. Stepback going left, that’s a shot that I’m very capable of making obviously in rhythm, which I was.  It just didn’t go down for me.”

For the Cavs to not get swept, it will have to.

Festus Ezeli’s accidental (and important) overtime contributions

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With five minutes left in a tied NBA Finals game and nobody fouled out, there was a surprise player on the floor to begin overtime Thursday:

Festus Ezeli.

Warriors coach Steve Kerr said he started the center in overtime to maximize Golden State’s chances of winning the jump ball.

Winning the opening tip is probably overrated. It might help to begin the fourth quarter with the ball (which the opening-tip winner does), but no matter who secures possession first, both teams will begin two quarters with the ball. The opening-tip loser gets the ball to start the second and third quarters.

But it matters in overtime, when the jump-ball loser doesn’t automatically get the ball later.

So the 6-foot-11 Ezeli went out – and lost the tip to Timofey Mozgov.

Kerr planned to remove Ezeli as quickly as possible, but the Warriors and Cavaliers played six possessions – three on each side of the court – before a stoppage.

Ezeli wasn’t involved offensively, but he played sound defense and grabbed a couple key defensive rebounds. Cleveland missed three shots on its three overtime possessions against Ezeli.

Ezeli’s board work came against the dangerous Mozgov-Tristan Thompson combo. With those two in during regulation, the Cavaliers grabbed 9-of-21 potential offensive rebounds – a monstrous 44 offensive-rebounding percentage. They were 0-for-3 against Ezeli in overtime.

His positional defense might have been even better.

The Warriors shaded their bigs toward LeBron while also expecting them to recover and defend their man. Ezeli was particularly lively threatening to block driving lanes and bouncing back close to Mozgov.

This probably explains why.

Here’s how many minutes each overtime starter played entering the extra period:


Ezeli looked fresher than everyone else because he was fresher than everyone else.

This was an important stretch – holding the Cavaliers scoreless and stripping them of their offensive rhythm.

Kerr said he and his assistant coaches even debated leaving Ezeli in, but they pulled him for Harrison Barnes at the first stoppage.

Probably for the best.

Draymond Green at center strikes again


Steve Kerr waited and waited and waited. Then, the Warriors coach finally played his trump card:

Draymond Green at center.

The lethal lineup didn’t appear until the final possessions of regulation, but it outscored the Cavaliers 8-2 in overtime of Golden State’s Game 1 win.

The Warriors have now played 367 minutes with Green at center and four wings/guards – a combination of Harrison Barnes, Andre Iguodala, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa, Justin Holiday and Brandon Rush – behind him. The results:

  • Offensive rating: 119.0
  • Defensive rating: 93.2
  • Net rating: +25.8

Thursday, Green was flanked by Curry, Thompson, Iguodala and Barnes the entire time.

The Warriors first used the lineup on the final two possessions of regulation.

With five shooters on the court for its final shot, Golden State spread the floor and cleared the lane of any defenders. Curry drove for what appeared to be an open layup, but Kyrie Irving made an incredible block at the rim.

The Warriors stuck with the small group to defend Cleveland’s final possession, which was essentially a one-on-one battle between LeBron James and Iguodala.

The unit reappeared in overtime, and that’s when Golden State went on a run to pull away.

Green drives it all.

Watch how he fortifies the paint defensively and gets the ball going the other direction quickly:

This lineup thrives because Green strong enough defensively to allow the Warriors to play four skilled and fast players behind him. Plus, Green is comfortable running with the rest.

Initially, the Cavaliers had Timofey Mozgov and Tristan Thompson in the game against this group, but they couldn’t capitalize on their size advantage. David Blatt tried to match up by going smaller, inserting James Jones for Mozgov, but that played into Golden State’s hands. That’s a major talent drop for the Cavaliers, and Jones isn’t quick enough to keep up, anyway.

Unlike many small lineups, the Warriors don’t sacrifice defense for offense. The Cavaliers’ only overtime points came on this LeBron pity bucket:


Kevin Pelton of ESPN argues the game didn’t swing because of Golden State’s small lineup, but because of Irving’s injury costing the Cavaliers during a crucial defensive possession.

On the most pivotal play during small ball – Harrison Barnes’ corner 3 (starts 40 seconds into the Green highlight video above) – the Warriors were playing 5-on-4 because Irving couldn’t move. Pelton argues Cleveland, with a foul to give, should have hacked the Warriors to stop the game and get out Irving. Barnes’ open triple was due more to that numbers advantage than a size mismatch.

And that’s true.

But why didn’t the Cavaliers make the correct call to foul?

I’d argue they were too busy scrambling to keep up with Golden State’s up-tempo attack to realize they should have fouled. They just got matched up defensively and had a moment to catch their breaths when Barnes hit the shot.

With Green at center, the Warriors go quickly and pressure opponents into quick decisions.

The Cavaliers, already in a bad spot due to their injury misfortune, couldn’t handle it. Maybe they would have fared better against small ball without that possession. Or maybe they would have fouled if Golden State weren’t pushing the pace.

But the Warriors weren’t waiting to find out.

They’re going to play Green at center and show no mercy.

Was Riley Curry cuter pregame or postgame? (videos)


Here’s Stephen Curry, and his daughter, Riley, getting pumped up before Game 1 of the NBA Finals:

And here’s Riley celebrating the Warriors’ win with a few dance moves:

Which was cuter? I’m going with pregame, but that might just be because everything is better in slow motion.

Both are freakin adorable.