This morning's headlines:
- Warriors ready to seal deal in Game 5
- Durant denies Green called him after '16 Finals loss
- LeBron unlikely to participate in Olympics 3-on-3
Warriors say this time it's different -- If there's a certain sense of deja vu in the air before tonight's NBA Finals Game 5, it's no surprise. After all, one year ago the Warriors held what seemed to be an insurmountable 3-1 lead over the Cavaliers heading into Game 5. Which of course set the stage for the historic comeback from the Cavs. But this time, as our own Shaun Powell writes, the Warriors things are different...
Surely over the last few days, you’ve been told to chew on that more times than Stephen Curry’s mouthpiece.
Different team, circumstances, luck, Draymond Green and year. Check, check, check (we think) and check. This 3-1 lead isn’t bringing along its evil twin that caused the biggest Bay Area 'quake since 1906 and sent the Golden State Warriors curled up in a ball and created a chant gone viral: “The Warriors Blew A 3-1 Lead.”
“C’mon, man,” said Green.
If not for that epic and historic collapse, the Warriors might not have signed Kevin Durant weeks later, the only silver lining from the 2016 NBA Finals, and he is Exhibit A when explaining what has changed. So, it’s very reasonable to expect the Warriors to close out a championship series, something they haven’t done now in four tries, perhaps Monday inside what will be a giddy yet tense Oracle Arena.
But what if they don’t?
Last summer it snowballed on Golden State at 3-1. That’s when Green reached the maximum allowable technicals and earned a one-game suspension, which he served next door at the Oakland A’s game. That was followed by a series-ending injury to center Andrew Bogut, whose defensive and interior presence irritated the Cavs and was very underrated. That was followed by Harrison Barnes falling into the deep freeze -- also known as a San Francisco summer -- and couldn’t make a bucket. That was followed by Curry throwing a sloppy behind-the-back pass, and "The Block" by LeBron James and "The Shot" by Kyrie Irving.
But suppose something nutty happens again?
The Warriors put themselves in this position by failing to sweep in Cleveland, which isn’t exactly a crime when you’re playing on the road and against the triple-double leader in NBA Finals history. But to lose for the first time in the post-season was still somewhat jarring and as expected, a painful reminder was thrown in their faces by the basketball world.
“You win 15 in a row during the playoffs and you think it’s going to happen, that you’re going to stay unbeaten,” said Green. “Then all of a sudden you get smacked in the face and you say, 'whoa.' You remember what happened.”
The man who jump-started the 2016 free-fall was rather confident on the eve of Game 5. Green will play in that game, which means he has kept his swinging foot to himself, and for the most part, his mouth as well. Although, Green being Green, he’s had a few close calls (Draymond always has something to say to the refs) and probably shouldn’t answer his cell if the caller ID shows a 216 area code.
A few days ago, in the aftermath of the Warriors’ only loss in the playoffs, Green said Cleveland fans aren’t “the sharpest” tools in the shed, Green wasn’t exactly wearing his walk-it-back shoes.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “Because everything I say, I know what I’m saying. When I say something, I’ve thought about what I was going to say when I say it. Because I’m a lot smarter than people think.”
Follow that? More from Draymond:
“I’m just saying my thoughts. They boo me and thought I had a tech that I didn’t have, so they’re not sharp. They played 'Hit The Road Jack’ and I didn’t hit the road.”
Durant says Green didn't call him following Game 7 -- After an ESPN report that Draymond Green called Kevin Durant from the parking lot following last year's Game 7 loss in The NBA Finals, beginning the process of getting some revenge, Kevin Durant said revenge isn't why he linked up with the Warriors, as Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle writes:
“That’s false,” Durant said. “A hundred percent false.”
In an article published Thursday, ESPN.com’s Zach Lowe reported that, after the Warriors’ 3-1 Finals lead over the Cavaliers devolved into a 93-89 defeat in Game 7, Green sat in his car in the Oracle Arena parking lot and called general manager Bob Myers to say, “It’s on you.” Green then dialed up Durant, who signed with Golden State two weeks later.
“If we win the championship, I’m like 99 percent sure we don’t get him,” Green told Lowe. “There are silver linings to everything.” Asked Sunday to clarify whether Green made that call, Durant said: “No, he didn’t make that call. Not right after the game.”
Pressed further, Durant appeared to get frustrated.
“I’ve been talking about this all season,” Durant said. “Like, I’m tired of it. At this point, I’m not mad or anything, but I’m just saying at this point in the Finals, I’m trying to stay where we are. I’m trying to stay locked in. And, like, it’s been the whole year now, so it’s over.”
The reporter told Durant that he was asking to explore the notion that the Warriors wanted Durant to avenge their Finals collapse last year.
“We don’t talk about, ‘This is why they needed me or this is why’ — no, we just continue to come out and play our game, continue to do what we have been doing since Day One in training camp,” Durant said. “We’re looking forward to going out there tomorrow and having some fun. That’s the only thing that matters.”
LeBron will probably pass on 3x3 basketball in the Olympics -- The International Olympic Committee recently approved the addition of 3x3 basketball for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. And while Cleveland's LeBron James says it should be "pretty great," he also says don't expect to see him playing 3x3 anytime soon, as ESPN.com's Brian Windhorst writes:
"I think it's great for basketball," James said Sunday. "For us to be able to add another category to the Olympics, another basketball category, I think it's pretty great. I haven't seen the full layout of how they plan on executing it; and are they going to use NBA guys or are going to use college guys?"
The IOC voted to add the sport on Friday. It will have eight men's teams and eight women's teams competing. As far as what teams are selected and how teams qualify, that's still unclear.
The world basketball governing body, FIBA, has been conducting events for years. This summer a new three-on-three league, BIG3, is launching with a series of former stars, including Allen Iverson, Chauncey Billups and Jermaine O'Neal, slated to be among the players.
James won gold medals with Team USA in 2008 and 2012 and a bronze in 2004. He retired from Team USA after the London Olympics.
"I'm not very good in a three-on-three thing, I'm more of a five-on-five guy," James said. "I stay out of the one-on-one matchups during our practice, the two-on-twos and the three-on-threes. So probably not. I probably won't be a part of the three-on-three matchup that it has to offer."
The best Cav at such a format, some players say, wouldn't be James anyway but teammate Kyrie Irving.
"Kyrie for sure," JR Smith said. "He's probably the best one-on-one player already. And Kyle [Korver] would be a really good three-on-three player because he moves without the ball and he can catch-and-shoot the [expletive] out of it."
Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green said the new event would serve better without NBA stars.
"I grew up playing street ball so to have 3-on-3 a part of the Olympics I think it's also something guys can win that are not pro athletes,'' Green said. "So I think that could be really good. You see in these other sports where they go compete in the Olympics but they have regular day jobs. I think that can be like that for 3-on-3. So I think that can be great.''
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