This morning's headlines:
- Memories of '07 return for Cavs?
- Ray: Durant, Warriors want Finals sweep
- Report: Butler, Bulls have 'positive' meeting
- Embiid, Simmons out for Summer League
LeBron's lack of Finals help stirs memories of '07 run -- The 2007 NBA Finals were the first the Cleveland Cavaliers made as a franchise -- and they were over quickly. LeBron James was solid in that series, but a lack of help from his supporting cast led to a 4-0 sweep at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs. As Cleveland stares down a 2-0 deficit in The 2017 Finals, Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal sees similarities between this team and the one from 10 years ago:
But now with the Cavs staring at an 0-2 deficit against the Warriors in the NBA Finals as the series switches to Cleveland for games Wednesday and Friday, the “perfect roster” does not look so perfect.
That compliment from Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens during the Eastern Conference finals sounded good at the time, especially considering the Cavs continued dominance of the overmatched East. But against a team like the Warriors, who are loaded with offensive firepower and play several levels above the Cavs defensively, the Cavs are being exposed.
Once again, James doesn’t have enough help.
And even if a Cavs roster with eight players 30 or over gets an infusion of youth in the off-season, the Warriors have constructed a dynasty that may dominate what’s left of James’ prime years.
Curry is 29, Durant turns 29 in September. Thompson and Green are 27. The Warriors roster has five players 30 and over. They’ve put together the right balance of experience, youth and off-the-charts talent.
Everyone knows the clock is ticking on James’ prime, even though he continues to defy normal limits at age 32. On Sunday, he turned in his second triple-double of the 2017 postseason with 29 points, 11 rebounds and 14 assists. It marked the 18th of his career in the playoffs and his eighth in the Finals, tying Magic Johnson’s record.
But the Durant-led Warriors are not the 2016 Warriors, which seems to shorten the window on James delivering more championships.
The Warriors are using two or three players to box out Tristan Thompson and keep him off the glass, and he’s allowing it to happen. J.R. Smith has reached the virtually unplayable stage and may be benched for Iman Shumpert in Game 3, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. In their first Finals, the moment has looked too big for Kyle Korver and Deron Williams.
The Cavs may bounce back at home, but it doesn’t feel that way. They are 1-3 in four meetings with the Durant-led Warriors this season and needed an Irving turnaround fadeaway with 3.4 seconds left to win one in Cleveland on Christmas Day. The other three losses have been by 35, 22 and 19 points.
Once again, James doesn’t have enough help, and it’s hard to say where it’s going to come from. They have no picks in the June 22 draft and few tradeable assets beyond Irving and Love. General Manager David Griffin is working without a contract for next season and could be two games away from being let go by owner Dan Gilbert.
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Ray: Warriors, Durant want to sweep Cavs -- The Golden State Warriors are in Ohio now, gearing up for Games 3 and 4 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. While Golden State sports a 2-0 edge in The Finals, they know their job is hardly over (after all, they were up 2-0 on the Cavs last year and lost the series). Former Golden State standout Clifford Ray, in an interview with 95.7 The Game on Monday, says Warriors star Kevin Durant and his teammates want to sweep away the Cavs. Daniel Mano of The Mercury News has more:
The Warriors repeatedly refrain from sharing a thirst for sweeping the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
But former Golden State star Clifford Ray need not hold back. In fact, Ray recalled a recent conversation with Kevin Durant that indicated the Dubs desire to finish 16-0 in the playoffs during an appearance Monday on 95.7 The Game.
“Like he told me, Kevin — I think they really want to be undefeated,” the 1975 NBA champion said. “I think that’s the goal that quietly is in all of their heads right now.”
It’s easy to wonder if Durant has asked about that season when the two have talked, including Sunday night after Game 2.
“I was able to sit with him and talk with him briefly after the game, in the locker room,” Ray said. “He’s been able to showcase his defensive prowess (in this series). … He’s enjoying the process of playing great defense and being with a great defensive team.”
Ray added that KD’s defensive skills were evident to him even when Durant played for the Thunder.
“He did some really great things last night to ignite that team and he continued to do that throughout the season. I kinda laugh because those things (went) unnoticed, because of his great offensive skills, when he was with Oklahoma City,” Ray said. “But I would see him block shots on a regular basis, just like LeBron would. So it’s really interesting to see him fit into a team where he can roam and he can use his length, with that 7-foot wingspan. So it’s just been a great thing.”
Report: Bulls, Butler have 'positive' exit interview -- Chicago Bulls All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler has heard his name mentioned in trade rumors for the last year or so. In a recent visit to the "Jimmy Kimmel Show", Butler expressed his desire to stay with the Bulls and according to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune, Butler's recent exit interview with the team also seemed to go well:
Back in Chicago after spending much of the last month working out in Los Angeles, Jimmy Butler had what one source described as a "positive" season-ending exit meeting with management Monday.
Butler spoke briefly with team officials on April 29, the day after the Celtics eliminated the Bulls from the playoffs. Both sides agreed to meet more substantively after taking some time to decompress, a plan management also employed with Dwyane Wade.
Management has been consistent with its message to Butler, the subject of trade rumors both last June and this February. Executive vice president John Paxson has said the franchise greatly values their three-time All-Star, isn't looking to trade him but has to listen to any interest out of due diligence.
Butler has been consistent with his feelings as well — that he wants to not only remain with the Bulls but win with the Bulls and be a centerpiece of that effort.
The Bulls and Celtics engaged in serious trade talks last June centered on Butler and the No. 3 pick in the 2016 NBA draft, which the Bulls would've used to select Providence guard Kris Dunn. But the Bulls failed to reach organizational consensus on whether to undertake a full rebuild after previously trading Derrick Rose to the Knicks and also never felt the Celtics' offers made sense for Butler.
Since then, the Bulls signed Rajon Rondo and Wade in free agency. With management all but publicly guaranteeing Rondo's $13.4 million option for 2017-18 will be picked up and also preparing for Wade to exercise his $23.8 million option, the franchise appears poised to keep its financial flexibility intact for the summer of 2018.
By then, they'll know for sure if Butler has qualified for a designated player exception by making an All-NBA team for the second straight season. If Butler does — he'd also have a chance to qualify in 2018-19 if he doesn't next season — his extension could be worth five years and $246.4 million.
Serious trade talks typically don't occur until closer to the NBA draft, set for June 22 this year. The Celtics wouldn't even offer their 2017 first-round pick from the Nets without protection on it when they held brief talks again with the Bulls in February.
Colangelo: Embiid, Simmons out for Summer League -- Steps toward the future and a return to championship-contending status have always been the top goal for the Philadelphia 76ers' team brass. With that in mind, Sixers president Bryan Colangelo made it clear yesterday that young phenoms Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons won't be suiting up in Summer League play. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer has more:
Folks looking to see Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid play in the summer leagues need to turn their attention to Furkan Korkmaz.
"They are not playing in summer league," team president Bryan Colangelo said of Embiid and Simmons.
However, Colangelo did say that the team wants Korkmaz, a 2016 draft pick stashed overseas, to play in the summer leagues. The Sixers will play in the Utah Summer League from July 3 to 6 and the NBA Summer League, which runs July 7 to 17 in Las Vegas.
It shouldn't come as a surprise that Embiid and Simmons are sitting out the summer leagues. The Sixers actually said Embiid wouldn't play months ago. At that time, the assumption was that Simmons would also bypass summer play against 2017 draft picks, selected veterans and free agents.
For Korkmaz, this could be an opportunity to get an advance look at the Sixers system. The team could also use the time to evaluate him in game situations while he spends time with the Sixers this summer.
The 6-foot-8, 190-pound Turkish shooting guard will arrive in the Philadelphia area in the coming days - if not Tuesday - to work out and meet coaches and staff members. The team picked him 26th overall in 2016. Korkmaz is still under contract with Turkish Basketball Super League team, Anadolu Efes.
"We want to instill as many ideas and things that are going to help him develop whether he comes or not at this early stage of his development," Colangelo said of the 19-year-old. "So, getting with our strength-and-conditioning staff, performance staff and talking about ways to get better, bigger and stronger."
Korkmaz is athletic, agile and good three-point shooter. However, at 6-foot-8 and 190 pounds, he desperately needs to gain weight and get stronger to play in the NBA.
"I think even just seeing him here working out with some of our guys will give him a better feel for where he is," Colangelo said, "and give us a better feel for just how he rates right now with respect to the components of his game."
In regards to Simmons and Embiid, Colangelo said they are doing well health wise. He said they are on pace for a healthy return this season.
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