Irving shows he's ready for spotlight with Game 4 performance -- One need only remember Kyrie Irving's championship-clinching 3-pointer in Game 7 of The 2016 Finals to know he's no stranger to big performance on a big stage. Irving showed that mettle once again last night, as the Cleveland Cavaliers climbed from a halftime deficit and some LeBron James foul trouble to top the Boston Celtics in Game 4 of the East finals. As Shams Charania of The Vertical reports, Irving has gone from a sidekick to a superstar in a very short window of time:
Walking into a practice, shootaround or game, however, helps crystalize Irving’s purpose. He plays the role of maestro and sidekick for the Cavaliers, and serves as a savior in the most precious playoff moments. Irving delivered the game’s best performance on Tuesday night: a postseason career-high 42 points in leading Cleveland to a 112-99 win over the Boston Celtics and a 3-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference finals.
Irving has acknowledged the perception about his eventual leadership of a team. It’s created in moments like when he minimized the fact that James picked up his fourth personal foul midway through the second quarter, or when he scored 14 consecutive points to finish the third quarter with the game hanging in the balance.
“It hasn’t been anything short of difficult trying to figure out when will it be my time,” Irving said Tuesday night. “It’s hard not to think about because as I continue to get older and I’m playing with an unbelievable player like ‘Bron … but I just have to enjoy the ride. Individual goals, you just push to the side because with this team, nothing is promised.
” ‘Bron being so special, I’m trying to give him rest here and there and figure out where my spots are.
He’s transformed from a 19-year-old rookie who endured losing seasons and uneven habits on a young roster to this six-year pro distinguishing his talent and skill with observation and mentality. “Just being prepared mentally first, and then letting the physical tools that God has blessed me with take over,” Irving said.
He cherishes the responsibility alongside James and Love and the burden of elevating his basketball intelligence. Irving treasures his teammates, from working out with Iman Shumpert in Florida for part of last offseason to spending huddles discussing the game with Tristan Thompson and J.R. Smith, Dahntay Jones and Kay Felder. Most of all, Irving has embraced the most critical times of the playoffs, from the game-winner over Stephen Curry in Game 7 of last year’s NBA Finals to the same dagger shots now.
“He was built for this,” James said of Irving. “He was born for these moments.”
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Report: Bosh, Heat working toward agreement -- The Miami Heat and former star forward Chris Bosh have been in a state of limbo for a few years now. His recurring blood clot condition essentially ended his playing career in the eyes of the Heat, but Bosh still has a desire to suit up again in the NBA. According to Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel, the Heat and Bosh are closing in on a deal to let him do just that:
The Miami Heat and Chris Bosh are moving close to resolution that will allow the team to shed Bosh's salary from its salary cap without concern of that figure returning to its cap, parties familiar with the proceedings confirmed to the Sun Sentinel.
Bosh was sidelined this past season when he failed a preseason physical, after missing the second half of the previous two seasons due to blood clots. The Heat, NBA and National Basketball Players Association have been working toward a resolution that bridges the collective-bargaining agreement that expires June 30 and the one that goes into place on July 1.
Under the CBA in place until June 30, if Bosh returns to the league his salary-cap hit could be reinstated to the Heat's ledger over the remaining term of his contract, which expires after the 2018-19 season. However, under the CBA that goes into place July 1, if a medical panel comes to an agreement that it is no longer considered safe for Bosh to continue his career, that would end the risk of Bosh's cap charge or luxury-tax hit returning to the Heat's book.
The approach with Bosh, 33, from the league and union apparently is a one-time allocation, since Bosh’s preexisting condition comes amid the transition into new work rules.
With an agreement expected soon, that would allow the Heat to go into the June 22 NBA draft with certainly about its cap situation, allowing for transactions in advance of the new cap calendar that starts on July 1.
The Heat had the right to apply to exclude Bosh's salary from their salary cap on Feb. 9, the one-year anniversary from his last game played.
While the delay prevented the Heat from utilizing reclaimed cap space either at the Feb. 23 NBA trading deadline or the March 1 buyout deadline, the amicable negotiations allow the Heat to enter the July 1 start of free agency positioned with about $37 million in salary-cap space -- and without concern of future salary-cap space being compromised by a possible Bosh return to another team.
Bosh is under the NBA-maximum contract he signed in the 2014 offseason in the immediate wake of LeBron James' free-agency departure to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
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Popovich proud of Spurs' first post-Duncan season -- During the era in which Tim Duncan suited up for the San Antonio Spurs, a 60-win season and a run to the Western Conference finals were often seen as norms. The fact the Spurs accomplished those same feats in 2016-17 -- their first without the retired Duncan -- wasn't lost on coach Gregg Popovich. Michael C. Wright of ESPN.com details how Popovich is proud of his squad for their standout season:
Gregg Popovich summed up the San Antonio Spurs' 2016-17 campaign Tuesday as a "great season" that "was more challenging" because the team had several new players as it transitioned into the post-Tim Duncan era.
The Spurs became the fifth 60-win team in NBA history to suffer a playoff sweep Monday when they were eliminated 4-0 in the Western Conference finals by the Golden State Warriors.
"I'm really happy for the group," Popovich said. "There's only one happy team out of 30. At the end of the day, everybody else is sad at some point. But if you have half a brain, you put things in perspective.
"For the first year without Timmy's leadership, and [with] a lot of new players, these guys got it together to win 61 games, and just got better and better as the playoffs proceeded. We were basically on a pretty good roll starting Game 1 at Golden State. Some bad fortune, which happens to all of us at some point in our lives, and we don't get to be the last team standing. But when I think about what they accomplished, they deserve a lot of credit."
The Spurs would never admit it, but they entered Game 4 a lot more banged up physically than they let on. Already without All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard, veteran point guard Tony Parker and key bench contributor David Lee, the Spurs trotted out a starting group Monday night composed of Patty Mills, Danny Green, Jonathon Simmons, LaMarcus Aldridge and Manu Ginobili. It marked the first time Ginobili started a playoff game since Jun. 20, 2013, and he became the 12th Spurs player to start a game in these playoffs.
"We've seen [injury-plagued situations] on opponents. It never happened to us," Ginobili said. "Sometimes it happens. You catch a tough break, and you lose a couple of key players. Sometimes it feels like it's even unfair, because you were great for most of the season, you fought to get to this spot.
"And then you lose two key players you've been relying on for so long - a good test in some ways to see your personality and what you are made of."
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Magic enter new era with Hammond, Weltman -- A little more than a month ago, the Orlando Magic fired GM Rob Hennigan in an effort to reshape their front office. Yesterday was a busy one in Orlando as the team added new president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman from the Toronto Raptors and, hours later, hired Milwaukee Bucks GM John Hammond to fill that post with the Magic. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel breaks down how Hammond and Weltman will work together for the Magic:
Weltman and Hammond should complement each other well. Although Weltman has 28 seasons of NBA experience, he has never led a basketball operations department until now. But Hammond headed the Bucks’ basketball operations department for the last nine years.
Hammond won the NBA Executive of the Year Award for the 2009-10 season, and the Bucks reached the playoffs four times during his tenure, including this past season.
To borrow a phrase from the world of politics, the addition of Hammond is akin to balancing a ticket.
Some answers on how Weltman plans to divide the responsibilities should come Wednesday morning, when the Magic hold a press conference to introduce Weltman.
But Weltman, 52, and Hammond, 62, know each other well.
They also have proven they work together effectively.
In 2008, Hammond hired Weltman to serve as the Bucks’ assistant general manager. Weltman remained with Milwaukee for five seasons before the Toronto Raptors poached Weltman.
Weltman and Hammond previously spent one season together with the Detroit Pistons — Weltman as the director of basketball administration, Hammond as the vice president of basketball operations.
This time, the dynamic will change somewhat: In Orlando, Hammond will report to Weltman. And Hammond also had been a candidate for the job Weltman eventually got with the Magic.
Under Hammond, the Bucks acquired Khris Middleton in a trade with the Pistons following Middleton’s first season. Middleton has become a knockdown shooter and dependable scorer.
In 2013, the Bucks drafted Giannis Antetokounmpo 15th overall, a spot where teams can afford to take a risk. Antetokounmpo made his first All-Star team this past season and has blossomed into one of the league’s most promising young players.
And last year, the Bucks used the 36th overall pick to select shooting guard Malcolm Brogdon — who is one of three finalists for the Rookie of the Year Award.
Hammond’s record includes a few blemishes. Detractors argue that he overpaid for center Greg Monroe when he signed Monroe to a three-year deal worth approximately $51 million. But Hammond’s supporters likely would counter that the Bucks must overpay to lure players to Milwaukee.
The Magic will need to make their own luck in order to break their five-year playoff drought. The franchise lacks a cornerstone talent and doesn’t have anyone on its roster who has made an All-Star team. Meanwhile, the Magic received only the No. 6 pick in the NBA Draft Lottery to go along with the 25th, 33rd and 35th overall selections. And without making at least one savvy trade, the Magic could have just $15 million in cap space available to spend on free agents this summer.
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