This morning's headlines:
- West: Warriors are truly 'something special'
- Parsing LeBron's off-day comments
- Report: Sixers looking to deal second-round pick
- Wallace says '04 Pistons would beat Warriors
West marvels at 'dominance' of Warriors -- Pick a stat and you can see just how dominant the Golden State Warriors have been in The Finals. As Game 4 of the series nears (9 ET, ABC) and Golden State looks for its second title in three years, Tim Kawakami of The Mercury News caught up with Warriors adviser Jerry West. The Hall of Famer opened up about this Warriors playoff run, the future of the team and more:
“I’ve been so fortunate in my life to be part of some really fun things, and some incredibly disappointing things,” West told me by phone from Ketchikan on Thursday morning.
“But they’ve shown a dominance that I can’t remember ever seeing. I’ll never see it again in my lifetime, I don’t think. It’s just special; the legions of fans that the Warriors have and the fans of the Bay Area, my gosh, you’re seeing something special. And you may not ever see it again.
“As my basketball life passes before me, I marvel at what’s happening.”
West’s long-view perspective is particularly relevant now as he ponders whether to end his six-season run as a key Warriors adviser and join the Clippers in a similar role.
“Kevin — his greatness prevailed,” West said of Durant’s closing spree. “One of the things I was sure of, he was going to show people what a great all-round player he was. (In Oklahoma City), there was so much pressure on he and Russell (Westbrook) to score. And they did score.
“But in this situation, Kevin is showing that he’s can do everything. He’s a generational player.”
And West said it is aggravating to hear anybody — especially former players — line up to criticize Durant for his decision to join the Warriors, who were already championship favorites and now are essentially unbeatable.
That isn’t Durant’s fault, West said. Why blame him for being great and making a great decision?
“To come here and have all the crap that was put on him, ‘Can’t believe he would do this’ … That was so stupid,” West said. “For anyone to say that, they should be embarrassed.
“He had a choice to make. If he had gone back to Oklahoma City, and they had lost… then what would people say? If the Lakers got him, would people be complaining like this? No. If Boston got him, would people be complaining? The answer is no.
“And the way he’s been treated by some people, ex-players in particular… I think it’s horrible. He’s just a great person.”
West was an architect of both the Magic Johnson/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar “Showtime” dynasty and the Kobe Bryant/Shaquille O’Neal three-peat, and played on one of the greatest teams of all-time (the 1971-1972 Lakers) and is weary of hearing former players deride this Warriors team.
Johnson was the latest, saying he thought his “Showtime” team could sweep the Warriors.
“None of these players from the past need to be talking,” West said. “I know everyone’s prideful with the careers they’ve had.
“I just think they should understand it’s a different time and a different era and don’t even try to compare teams.”
His contract with the Warriors expires next month, and West has told some associates that he’s not sure how much the Warriors need his input because general manager Bob Myers has risen to the top of his field.
There also could be some money issues, especially if Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is willing to open up his vast checkbook; Myers and Lacob have both said that they want West to stay and that they would talk to him again after the Finals.
“I’ve got a decision to make,” West said. “I don’t know what that decision is going to be. I don’t really want to talk about it."
Parsing meaning behind LeBron's words in interview -- The Cleveland Cavaliers stand on the brink of playoff elimination this morning, staring down a 3-0 deficit in The Finals. In yesterday's media availability session, Cavs star LeBron James was anything but curt with the media, providing insight on the Golden State Warriors' roster, his different Finals journeys and more. Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com digs into LeBron's comments yesterday and provides his take on what James' answers to certain questions may have meant:
A day after falling behind 3-0 in the NBA Finals, LeBron James gave one of his most thoughtful and wide-ranging news conferences of the last year.
Below is a partial transcript of James' comments, marked by highlights and italicized annotations.
Q: Having changed teams a couple times and knowing how hard it can be, how long can it take for it all to come together? Can you appreciate for Kevin (Durant) maybe, how fortunate maybe he is that it looks like he found a situation for him where it just blends perfectly right and maybe it can be quicker, he can find a fulfillment easier?
LeBron James: Well, first of all, with all the success that he's gotten throughout his career, I've always been proud of him, and I'm always excited to see him grow as a player. I don't think that our careers are the same as far as changing teams. Their team was already kind of put together, and you just implement a guy that's ready to sacrifice, a great talent, a guy that's willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win. But that team, they knew what they were about. He just had to come in and just do what he had to do. And that's what he been doing.
This could be perceived as James taking a minor dig at Durant, that he joined a powerhouse team that was already built. In the past, James has noted the difference between going to Miami with Chris Bosh to build a contender and if he had gone to Boston and played with the then-powerhouse of the East that had beaten him twice in the playoffs. Though James has generally been supportive and continues to be throughout this interview.
Q: Ten years ago you began your Finals run against a team that was in the midst of a dynasty. Now you're up against a team that looks like it's built to last. Does that change the challenge, does that fuel you? How do you feel about that?
The Spurs swept James and the Cavs in 2007 -- it was San Antonio's fourth title in nine years. Whether or not that qualifies as a dynasty is up for debate, but it was the only time James has been swept. In this answer, James takes a bit of a "woe is me" stance but once again praises the Warriors and admits he's facing another juggernaut team for years to come.
LJ: Well, I think it's just part of my calling to just go against teams in the midst of a dynasty. This has been the best team in our league the last three years. They won a championship, and last year it was the greatest regular-season team we had played, probably one of the best postseason teams that everybody's ever seen as well, but we were just able to overcome that. And they're playing like one of the best teams once again. So like I said, there have been times throughout my career where I just played teams that were just in the midst of something that can last for a long time. And obviously, this team is built to be able to do that with the talent that they have. Obviously, you never know what's going to happen, but as it stands right now, they look pretty good, as far as the future.
Q: I know you don't like to look too far down the road, but as well as you're playing and as good as you're feeling, have you kind of recalibrated how long you want to stay around?
LJ: I don't know. I don't know. I feel good. I actually feel better. I don't feel good right now, but I feel pretty good where my game is right now. But I don't know. I don't know. I haven't really thought about it, how long I want to stay around. I definitely want to compete. I want to compete for championships every year, and so we'll see what happens.
When it comes to his future, James clearly doesn't know, but he has said all season he feels good and continues to imply he wants to continue playing for a while.
Q: Obviously, you're no stranger to criticism, right? There are some people that feel that with 50 seconds left in the game, you guys up two, they would like to see you kind of force more in those moments to try to score that basket yourself as opposed to dishing it away. I'm just curious to know what your message to those critics would be.
James gave a bemused expression to this question but at the same time was glad to get it. He showed restraint in answering, but this is one of the most artful ways he has ever expressed his view on the subject. If an interpretation of this could be offered, it would probably look like this: (expletive) critics.
LJ: I don't know if you've been here for the last couple years or heard me talk. I don't even really care. I had a 101 drives last night. I didn't have 101, but you get the gist of it. I'm sorry I didn't go for 102. But at the end of the day, I don't really -- what is a critic? It doesn't matter. One of my favorite quotes, when I really stopped caring about what people say, is Theodore Roosevelt, "The Man in the Arena." So if you read that, you'll see where I'm at right now in my life. It doesn't matter to me.
Starting in his second season in Miami, James posted Roosevelt's famous 1910 speech in his locker.
Report: Sixers shopping second-round picks -- The Philadelphia 76ers have four second-round picks in the 2017 Draft to go along with their No. 3 pick overall. Throw in the fact they have a roster already bursting at the seams with young talent and it's not a big surprise that Philly is shopping at least one of their second-round picks. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer has more:
The thought around the NBA is that the 76ers are set on trading at least one of their second-round picks in the draft to alleviate a possible roster crunch, according to multiple league executives.
"They're trying to sell one of the second-rounders," said an executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Another said: "Their last two second-rounders are in play [for possible trades]. The word is out there."
It's not surprising that the Sixers want to trade picks. As one executive pointed out, they won't have room on their roster to take in five rookies and add quality free agents.
To help create room, the team is also considering using a second-round pick on a player who would play overseas for at least a season before joining the Sixers.
NBA rosters will expand from 15 to 17 players this season under the new collective bargaining agreement. The 16th and 17th roster spots will be two-way contracts. Two-way players will go back and forth from the NBA to the G-League, formerly the NBA Development League.
Still, it's going to be tight.
Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Saric, Timothe Luwawu-Carrabot, Jerryd Bayless, Jahlil Okafor, Justin Anderson, and Nik Stauskas all have guaranteed contracts. T.J. McConnell, Richaun Holmes, and Shawn Long have non-guaranteed deals. The Sixers have a team option on Robert Covington, whom they are expected to sign to a new deal or an extension.
Gerald Henderson has a partially guaranteed deal. The shooting guard will make $9 million by remaining on the roster past June 30. If he does not, he will walk away with $1 million.
That doesn't factor in Alex Poythress, who is set to become a restricted free agent. The power forward, who is working out with the Sixers, could become a candidate for a two-way deal.
Also, Furkan Korkmaz could join the squad. Korkmaz, who was drafted last summer, is stashed overseas with Efes. His goal is to get out of his European contract and play for the Sixers next season.
Wallace says '04 Pistons would beat Warriors -- In The 2004 Finals, the Detroit Pistons pulled off one of the bigger upsets on that stage, topping the Kobe Bryant/Shaquille O'Neal/Karl Malone/Gary Payton-led Los Angeles Lakers in five games. As the Golden State Warriors close in on their second title in three years, one of the stars of that '04 Pistons team -- Rasheed Wallace -- says his squad could beat the 2017 Warriors. Ryne Nelson of Slam.com has more:
Wallace says his 2004 Pistons would be able to defensively “lock down” Golden State.
Do you see any comparisons between the 2004 Pistons and teams today?
Sheed: “Oh, we’d run through them. Not even close. We play defense.”
Mike Brown compared the defense of today’s Warriors and that Pistons team. Do you agree?
Sheed: “I’d agree to a certain point. But I think the Warriors’ defensive strategy is, I’ma put up more shots than you. And if you try to match that, then you assed out because they got exceptional shooters.
“So that’s their whole defensive thing. I don’t call it good defense if the man came down and he shot a jump shot or shot a three and missed it, and the Warriors went back down to the other end and scored it.
“That’s not good defense, and that’s what happens a lot in this game now. They’re not shutting nobody down. Even though you can’t shut a scorer down—you can slow him down.
“With the way that we played in Detroit, we’d lock [players] down. The things that we did in Detroit will never be done again.
“Our record of holding seven teams under 70 points will never be done again.”
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Detroit Pistons are reportedly gauging the trade market on Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson ... Take former Cleveland Cavaliers coach/current Golden State Warriors assistant coach Mike Brown off the list of namesfor the Ohio State job ... Former Sacramento Kings star Chris Webber is more than grateful to be a new father ...