Cavs build deep bonds behind scenes -- The Cleveland Cavaliers don't lack for pure NBA talent, what with former MVP LeBron James and All-Stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love leading their attack. A deep, well-rounded roster of former NBA standouts dot the depth chart and give Cleveland all it needs in a pure basketball sense to succeed. Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, however, digs into the culture that has crafted an team in search of a second straight title:
The glut of talent can be overwhelming. The Cavs can easily transform from a lethal isolation team to one that slices a defense with sharp ball movement and smart sets. They can run up and down the floor, scoring in transition with ease, or slow the game down. They've got a roster capable of playing big and bludgeoning teams in the paint or one that can shoot the lights out from long range. There's a balance of sage champions and hungry youngsters.
But the secret to the Cavaliers' success goes deeper than all of that. Much deeper.
"Talent only gets you so far," LeBron James told cleveland.com following Game 5 in Boston. "We've got talent obviously. But it only gets you so far if guys are not committed and guys don't have one agenda. Everyone here has one agenda and that's to win. Does it always result in a championship? No. We have great teams in this league that have the same goals and same priorities. But the commitment will put you in the best position to be successful if everyone has the same goals in mind. That's what makes our team very unique."
"It starts with the head of the snake and that's LeBron," Tristan Thompson said. "Him having his own legacy and then us being a part of that journey, you see it every year with wanting to come back and be special and be even better than he was the previous year. It kind of gives you that fire burning in your soul."
Constructing this Eastern Conference power has taken a lot of hard work. James has borrowed from Miami, instilling the qualities at the center of the Heat's success.
"It can be set from the higher level or the locker room," James said of the culture. "We know what we want to accomplish and be professionals and our locker room sets the culture. When I came back I knew what I wanted this thing to look like. I know what a winning culture feels like and what a winning culture looks like."
"Everybody fits. Everybody fits in their role and everybody accepts it," Smith said. "It's not always easy. Fortunately we've got veterans that understand what we're trying to achieve. The guys, Griff and the coaches did a helluva job picking the guys they did for this team."
"Nobody is worried about, 'This guy doesn't deserve minutes' and there's no inside bickering," Channing Frye said. "It's more about one thing: winning. You look at when the starters play and the bench is hype. When the bench plays and the starters are on the bench, they're hype. Nobody is sitting or pouting. We understand it's going to be a team thing. The season is long, the playoffs are tough so it's like you just have to be ready at any moment to help contribute and everybody is supporting the next person because they know it's going to help them in the long run."
Frye is another who embodies the team identity. Pivotal in the first two series, Frye didn't have a role against the Celtics and may not see much time against the versatile Warriors in the NBA Finals.
"Continue to support and be ready," Frye said. "Me and D-Will been some of the loudest people next to Dahntay and Kay (Felder). I couldn't be happier. As long as we're winning I don't give a s---. I stay ready, I work my tail off, I've done it all year and I understand for us to win we have the opportunity to play guys who should have been All-Stars. It's not about me, it's about the Cavs and winning."
As corny as it may sound, players in the locker room don't use terms like "franchise" or "organization." They use "family" and "brothers."
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Report: Kerr could coach at some point in Finals -- As we stated in this space yesterday, Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr says his health/back issues aren't going to end his coaching career early. That said, he's unlikely to coach in Game 1 of The Finals tonight (9 ET, ABC) and his return to the court remains as in doubt as ever. But according to ESPN.com, Kerr is likely to be back on the sideline at some point during The Finals:
Steve Kerr looks better than he has since he took a leave of absence during the Golden State Warriors' first-round playoff series, and there's a chance he will coach at some point against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, sources told ESPN's Ramona Shelburne.
Acting Warriors coach Mike Brown, speaking Wednesday to ESPN's Michael Wilbon, said he didn't know whether Kerr would return Thursday night for Game 1 and that the team wouldn't know until closer to the 9 p.m. ET tipoff.
Brown, in an interview to air Thursday night on ESPN's NBA Countdown, said that he would be ready to take a step back if Kerr did return.
"We have a veteran team. I don't think it will jolt our guys at all. I know it wouldn't jolt me," Brown said. "You know, I understand that that's my job. But Steve is so conscientious about the players -- and you know the storyline and all these other things -- that he wants to make sure that he feels good enough to come back and do it on a full-time basis and not rock the boat with anyone or not cause a distraction from our team. And I respect that. I'm OK with it however it happens."
Kerr had said Monday that his status remained "up in the air" but that he expected a final decision to be made shortly after Game 1, if not before. Golden State general manager Bob Myers has said he is open to Kerr returning when healthy, regardless of how deep the Warriors are in the Finals.
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Green denies any beef with Cavs, James -- Given the nature of last two NBA Finals matchups between them, it's impossible to say there are no bad feelings between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors. That said, one player viewed as a primary protagonist in this rivalry -- Golden State's Draymond Green -- insists he has no ill feelings toward either the Cavs or their star, LeBron James. Daniel Mano of The Mercury News has more:
Leave your vegetables and loaf of bread at home, there is no beef between the Warriors and Cavaliers as they head into their third straight NBA Finals matchup.
At least there isn’t beef between Draymond Green and Cleveland, as professed by the Golden State star during an interview Wednesday with ABC’s Good Morning America. Since Green is one of the Dubs’ vocal leaders, it’s hard to imagine their collective feeling is vastly different than his.
“I don’t have beef with them. I don’t hate them,” Green said. “It takes a lot of energy to hate someone. I’m not going to spend my time hating Cleveland. At the end of the day, you want to beat them — and that’s simply what it is.”
“When we step out there on the floor, they’re in our way of what we want to accomplish, and that’s simply it,” Green said. “But to say, like, ‘Ah man, we’re beefing; we hate them’ … That’s what people want it to be. Are we going to be best of friends when we’re off the floor? Absolutely not. But, Beef? Like, hate? Hate is a strong word, and it takes too much energy to hate someone.”
During this week’s interview on Good Morning America, Green deflected questions about James being the best player ever before powerfully stating that he wants to stop James from winning the 2017 NBA title.
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Ainge, Celtics just getting started in Draft process -- In recent days, we've heard how top Draft prospects like Markelle Fultz can't wait to be taken No. 1 overall in the 2017 Draft by the Boston Celtics. We've also heard how UCLA's Lonzo Ball "politely" declined a pre-Draft workout with Boston. But what of the Celtics' brass and team president Danny Ainge? What do they want to do with the pick? Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe caught up with Ainge to dig in on that and more:
Thanks to the fortunate bounces of Ping-Pong balls at the lottery, the Celtics secured the No. 1 overall pick in the June 22 draft. That has put Ainge and his staff in a position that is both unfamiliar and unbeatable.
But that is not to say that Boston’s coterie of decision-makers is simply sitting back and fawning over highlights of the presumptive No. 1 overall pick, Washington point guard Markelle Fultz.
Ainge said he has yet to identify the prospect he would select. And, most importantly, he is prepared to sift through all options that come from being in such a prized position. He said “a handful of teams” has already expressed interest in acquiring the No. 1 choice from the Celtics, and those suitors are probably just getting started.
“The only thing we know for certain is we have the No. 1 pick,” Ainge said in a telephone interview from Las Vegas. “What we don’t know for certain is who that person is yet and what sort of value the pick can get us if we choose to go another direction other than just drafting that pick.”
If the Celtics do consider trading the pick — and Ainge emphasized that he would be happy to keep the selection — there is a good chance they would get another first-round pick as part of the package they receive in return. And that is why they are hard at work grading the entire draft, not just the top of it.
“There’s two things that are happening,” Ainge said. “I think the value of [the pick] increases the closer you get to the draft is one, and two is we really need to know the value of the whole draft, because some of the conversations that you have are trading down in the draft and trading picks for players, moving backward and so forth.
“So we’re in the process of evaluating the whole draft, and we’re fielding phone calls.”
UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, who is widely rated as the second-best prospect in this class, declined the Celtics’ invitation to come to Boston. Ball’s camp — led by his father, LaVar — has made it clear that it wants him to be drafted by his hometown team, the Lakers, who hold the No. 2 choice.
Also, there are concerns from Ball’s camp that his playing time could be limited in Boston because the deep team that just reached the Eastern Conference finals already has a talented backcourt. Ainge said that Ball’s decision did not frustrate him, however.
“It’s just part of the game,” he said. “You know the rules. You know that the possibility exists.
“Certainly with all the guards we have, we understand how a point guard would prefer to play somewhere else, especially a kid that grows up in LA.
“I’m not offended by any of it. I’m not affected by any of it.
“We’ve followed him in the summer in the past and we’re prepared on who he is, and it wouldn’t affect us in any way. I certainly don’t hold it against him or take it personal.”
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: A fun little game -- guess the Golden State Warriors player based on their childhood photo ... According to a report, Chicago Bulls guard Rajon Rondo expects to be recovered from his wrist and thumb injuries by training camp ... Lonzo Ball may not be a lock to end up with the Los Angeles Lakers at the No. 2 pick ... LeBron James, apparently, always had his eye on what the Warriors were doing ...