Issues regarding race, police on forefront of many Clevelanders' minds as LeBron James marches Cavs within a win of The Finals
POSTED: May 25, 2015 1:12 PM ET
Off-the-court news in Cleveland has tempered how some of the city's residents are viewing the Cavs' playoff run.
CLEVELAND — There is a juxtaposition within the job I love.
On the one hand, covering sports was dismissed as being the "toy department" decades ago by others in media who covered more meaningful and honest topics -- like politics, one guesses.
Hawks vs. Cavaliers Game 3
LeBron James scored 37 points, grabbed 18 rebounds and dished out 13 assists to lead the Cavaliers to an overtime victory over the Hawks, 114-111.
Certainly there is no equating sports with economic displacement, or war, or other issues that are complex and hard to solve. But while covering games falls well short in the context of our human condition, I have always thought it mattered some. Doesn't sports do some good for some people some of the time?
This was tested this weekend in Cleveland.
We arrived Saturday afternoon. The Cavaliers, with a 3-0 series lead over the Hawks in the Eastern Conference finals after Sunday night's thrilling overtime win, are five wins away from capturing this city's first major team sports championship since the Browns won the NFL title in 1964 -- so long ago they didn't even call the title game the Super Bowl yet.
The litany of failure by the city's teams upon getting close since then is well-known shorthand -- The Interception, The Drive, The Fumble, The Single, The Decision -- a quintet of civic angst and pain.
"This is my first year here, and I understand what the culture is, and how they really get behind the team here," Cavs forward Shawn Marion said. "Being a diehard Blackhawks and Cubs fan growing up, I understand how they feel. Of course, we had championships with the Bulls when I was growing up, and the White Sox definitely won. But being a Cubs fan, I understand what they're going through. I'm a Cubbie to the heart."
LeBron James has taken the conference finals by the scruff, as he has so many others, bending the Atlanta Hawks to his will, including Sunday's triple-double, despite a litany of hurts that he detailed postgame. He has had any number of special postseason performances over the years, but this one -- against a very good Atlanta team, on a Cavs squad without Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving -- is among his very best. Normally, that would be more than enough fodder for a heroic tale.
LeBron James Interview On Court
Rachel Nichols interviews LeBron James immediately following the Cavaliers overtime victory.
It is an easy story: James' return to his hometown offers both he and it a chance at redemption. This is a different James than the one who played in Miami alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. These are not the SuperFriends. This is a fully mature James, the unmistakable leader of the franchise, trying to exorcise the demon that has lain in this city's heart since the Johnson Administration.
It would be easy to go to some local bars and detail how business has picked up around Quicken Loans Arena since he's returned, note that local TV ratings are much improved, find some fans who'd burned James' jersey after he left in 2010 but who have now forgiven and forgotten now that he's back in the home white.
But that feels hollow these days.
The world makes me sad a lot these days.
If the Cavs beat the Hawks, or win the whole thing in a few weeks, it will not assuage the anger felt by so many here. Those feelings continued Saturday after a judge acquitted a Cleveland police officer of voluntary manslaughter and felonious assault in the shooting deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams in 2012, who were shot at 137 times while in their car by 13 police officers at the end of a chase that lasted 22 minutes and involved more than 100 officers. Police said they believed Russell and/or Williams, who were African-American, had a weapon in the car.
Michael Brelo, the officer who was acquitted, discharged his own weapon 49 times, according to the prosecution, firing the final shots from his gun while standing on the hood of the car Russell was driving.
It will not assuage the continued anger in the African-American community here over the shooting death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice last year by another Cleveland police officer, who fired on Rice within two seconds of arriving at the scene after police had been told a man with a gun was in the vicinity. Rice had what was later determined to be an Airsoft gun -- a replica weapon used in hunting games -- under his shirt. Six months after Rice's death, no one has been charged with anything.
It would be unfair to paint everything in town as bleak, though.
Cleveland is 36th nationally (tied, ironically, with Baltimore, another city that recently dealt with protests stemming from the death of an arrested man in police custody) out of 51 large metropolitan areas in unemployment rate, according to the March, 2015 rankings by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The city had a 5.7 percent unemployment rate. But that's a big improvement from the 7.5 percent unemployment rate Cleveland had in December, 2013.
The massive Cleveland Clinic is providing both job opportunities and serving as a springboard for cutting edge medical research and development that is stabilizing the local economy. And James' return to the city has brought at least some economic benefit, though it's likely far less than the $500 million boom predicted last year.
On Saturday, after the Brelo verdict was announced and there were the usual calls for calm, Ohio State sophomore safety Erick Smith tweeted this
The Brelo verdict and the response to it dominated local newscasts. There was not much mention of the Cavs and their prospects of ending the city's championship drought.
The Cavaliers practice in Independence, a town about 10 miles south of Cleveland -- and that much closer to James' hometown, Akron, a half-hour or so further down the road.
"I don't think this will be another Ferguson," the cab driver says on the way to the practice facility. "The people in this city are way too cool for that."
The Cavaliers are feeling confident, on their toes. Irving is practicing on one of the courts. James' dominance of Game 2 and the subsequent injury to Atlanta's Kyle Korver -- on top of the Hawks' DeMarre Carroll being limited with a sprained knee -- have given this series a sense of fait accompli. James says all the right things about not letting up, but it's hard to swallow.
After a few minutes, though, James is asked about the Brelo verdict.
"I am aware of the verdict," James begins. "I'm not fully aware of all the details. So I'm not going to elaborate or comment too much on it. I don't speak upon something that I'm not fully knowledgeable about. It's not where I stand. Obviously, I'm gonna take a look at it and read up on it, and if I get more knowledge about it, I may give a statement. I may say something. But all I saw today was the verdict, and that's all I know about."
He is asked, given the temperament of the times around the country, if he has anything to say to the community.
"Violence is not the answer, and it's all about trying to find a solution," he continues. "For good or for bad. For me, in any case, in anything that goes on in our world, or our America, the only people that we should be worried about is the families that lost loved ones. You can't get them back. You can never get them back. We should worry about the families and how they're doing and things of that nature. For the city of Cleveland, let's use our excitement, or whatever passion we have for our sport (Sunday), for the game (Sunday) night."
I ask James if he thinks the victories of any sports team locally can have a tangible or meaningful effect on a city like his when it's going through a crisis.
Violence is not the answer, and it's all about trying to find a solution. For good or for bad. For me, in any case, in anything that goes on in our world, or our America, the only people that we should be worried about is the families that lost loved ones.
– Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James
"I think so," he says. "I think sports in general -- no matter what city it is. Something that's going through a city that's very traumatic, or traumatizing, any of that case -- I think sports is one of the biggest healers in helping a city out. Sports just does something to people. Either if you're a player or if you're a fan, if you just have something that has anything to do with that city, you just feel a certain way about rooting for a team that you love. It can get your mind off of some of the hardships that may be going on throughout your life, or in that particular time and period. It just does that."
A follow-up -- asked inarticulately by me: was any part of James' decision to return to Cleveland shaped by that notion that he can be more than just an athlete, and help the city continue to regain its footing?
"Well, I know my position. I know my power. I know my responsibility," James said. "I take it very seriously. So whatever ways I'm able to affect anyone's life, and for the greater good, I'm blessed and I'm happy that I'm able to do that. And I don't take that for granted."
James has not shied from linking his return to Cleveland to being about more than just playing basketball again for the Cavs. And he has been lauded for the work his foundation has done for schools and students in Akron. There is no question he cares greatly for the community.
But later Saturday afternoon, as protestors begin to gather downtown, in front of the Justice Center, on Sheridan Street, where Brelo was acquitted, James is not on anyone's thoughts. At the beginning, there aren't more than a dozen people in front of the building, holding conversations with one another. Additional protestors, one of them says, are on their way.
During the next half hour, more trickle in. It is a diverse crowd in race and gender. It is very young -- adults, but young ones. Many seem to know each other. A few write slogans in chalk on the sidewalk. There are police officers watching from the top steps of the Justice Center. They do not intervene.
A man drives by, in a shirt and tie, slows down, gives the protestors the finger, and drives away. The protestors shrug. Apparently, this happens a lot.
Some are paying attention to what James and the Cavs are doing.
Cavaliers on Game 3 Victory
David Blatt, LeBron James and Matthew Dellavedova address the media after Sunday's Game 3 victory.
"I've been a sports fan my whole life. It'll be great to brag about sports with your friends -- hey, LeBron came back and won us a championship," says John Pennymon, a native Clevelander. "But a little kid died three miles away from my house. And the community wanted to have a counter protest because they thought we were going to tear up their property. We don't care about your property, man. We care about our lives."
Pennymon and his friend, Molly McIntyre, co-host The Pennymon Doctrine podcast geared to millenials. McIntyre knows James through friends of friends. They like him, respect what he does for the community. But I ask them, does anything that James does, or can do, on the court have any real impact?
"You've got the best guy in the world, best basketball player in the world, who grew up in her neighborhood," Pennymon says. "Playing 30 miles up north, carrying the team on his back -- you've seen the commercials. At the end of the day, that's his job, that's what he's supposed to do. Obviously that brings him millions of dollars and things like that. He wins, that's going to feel great. The next day, then what?
"But people want to escape. They want to escape from all this reality. They want to escape from their job, that when they're leaving, they're driving down the street and flipping people off. They want to escape in some way, shape or form. That's why having the Browns back, and the moves that they're making is important to them, and the Cavs doing good is important to them.
"But at the end of the day, if you're not going to actually take care of your city and love and respect the people are in it, it doesn't matter what LeBron James (does) -- who is a black man, who could have very easily been someone who was killed in Akron, if it wasn't for his mother, if it wasn't for the game of basketball, if it wasn't for his height, if it wasn't for his friends. He could have been right in that.
"But at the end of the day, to answer your question -- nah, it doesn't matter."
McIntyre says she doesn't know her own race, but has two black children. Her family sees her children for who they are, not their color. But she worries what will happen when her kids encounter the outside world.
"Maybe people would start caring about black lives if they realized their entire basketball team might be murdered," she says. "Then maybe you're going to start caring. So, what, you need to see a bunch of black (players) driving after a game in a car, celebrating, and get pulled over and get killed to realize that black lives matter? Really? Is that what it's going to take?"
More protestors arrive. The crowd is now around a couple hundred. They go onto Lakeside Avenue and stop traffic. After a few minutes, they move aside and let the cars go through. There is disagreement among them about the merits of conducting peaceful protests.
"The Mayor has labeled us as rioters," an elderly man says into a bullhorn. "We're not rioting. We're not here to burn down nothing."
And then, the police arrive in force. They come on motorcycles, on horseback, in cars, circling the intersection of 3rd and Lakeside. They do not move toward the protestors, or do anything that can be considered provocative. But they make their presence clear.
The protestors soon pick up and march up 3rd. Rumor is they're heading to Progressive Field to block traffic just as the Indians game is ending.
I walk back down Sheridan. Alone. And then, walking in the other direction, towards me, is a police officer. There isn't anyone else within shouting distance. It's just him and me. And, suddenly, I'm very nervous, even though I'm not doing anything but walking. He has a shaved head. He does not look happy.
Am I doing anything wrong? Anything that can be perceived as doing anything wrong? Why am I assuming the worst from this man -- whom I have never met, and who should be given the same benefit of the doubt about his intentions and beliefs as I would demand he give me?
"How you doin' there, buddy,?" he asks, not breaking stride, walking past me.
"F-fine," I stammer.
I walk back to the hotel.
And so it goes.
(Last week's record in parentheses; previous ranking in brackets)
1) Golden State (3-0) : Thirteen playoff games, 11 wins, average margin of victory: 12.5 points per game. They're having as strong a postseason as many of the great teams in history. But the Warriors will need a championship to solidify their place.
2) Cleveland (3-0) : Let's just say Matthew Dellavadova will not be getting the Fulton County Chamber of Commerce Man of the Year award any time soon.
Al Horford becomes entangled with Matthew Dellavedova resulting in a technical foul for Dellavedova and Horford's ejection.
3) Atlanta (0-3) : Showed a lot of heart in Sunday night's overtime loss, lowlighted by Al Horford's second-quarter ejection for elbowing Dellavadova above the shoulders. A Flagrant 1 to Horford would have sufficed there.
4) Houston (0-3) : Unfortunately for Dwight Howard, the image of Steph Curry boxing him out for an offensive rebound in Game 3 is going to stick with him for a long time.
5) Memphis : Season complete.
6) L.A. Clippers : Season complete.
7) Washington : Season complete.
8) Chicago : Season complete.
9) San Antonio : Season complete.
10) Dallas : Season complete.
11) Portland : Season complete.
12) Milwaukee : Season complete.
13) Toronto : Season complete.
14) Brooklyn : Season complete.
15) New Orleans : Season complete.
Cleveland (3-0): Cavaliers are really banged up and need to finish off the Hawks as soon as possible. Getting an extra 48-72 hours of rest before The Finals could be crucial to getting LeBron James and/or Kyrie Irving as close to full speed as they're going to be the rest of the way.
Houston (0-3): Stunned by the Rockets' fetal position Game 3 loss at home Saturday to the Warriors. Golden State may well be the better team, but getting plugged like that with the season on the line is something that's going to linger with those players for a long time.
Inside the NBA: Gone Fishin'
Go Fishing with the Inside crew and some of their favorite NBA players and celebrities.
Where do the teams that lost in the semifinals go from here?
The season ended well before the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies and Washington Wizards expected. And while all of these teams have strong talent bases on which to build, they also have huge offseason decisions to make.
It's a precarious position. You don't need or want to blow up your roster, but you have to make precise and correct choices to continue going forward. Otherwise you'll find yourself capped out with no way to get better. It's a tough position to be in -- yet a lot of teams would happily trade places with this quartet.
Regular Season: 50-32
Playoffs: Defeated Milwaukee Bucks 4-2 in first round; Lost 4-2 to Cleveland Cavaliers in semifinals
2015 Draft Picks: Bulls have their own first-round pick; traded second-round pick to Orlando
2015-16 Returning Players/Salaries ($ amounts in millions): G Derrick Rose ($20), F/C Joakim Noah ($13.4), F Taj Gibson ($8.5), F/C Pau Gasol ($7.4), F Nikola Mirotic ($5.5), F Doug McDermott ($3.3), F Tony Snell ($1.5)
GameTime: Future Of Chicago
TNT's David Aldridge speaks on the future of the Chicago Bulls.
What to do ... what to do?: Everything hinges, obviously, on the resolution of coach Tom Thibodeau's future (or lack thereof) with the team. Almost no one expects he'll be back for the final two years of his contract, the relationship between him and the team's front office, seemingly, irrevocably broken. When and if Thibodeau is removed, the question of succession will determine the Bulls' future. Iowa State's Fred Hoiberg has been linked to the Chicago job for months, with good reason -- "The Mayor" was a well-liked player and teammate at each of his three NBA stops over a decade-long career, and has made a seamless transition to coaching. Or could the Bulls pull a 180 and bring in a go-go offensive mind like Mike D'Antoni -- the front-runner in Chicago five years ago before, at the last minute, negotiations broke down?
Either way, the new coach will have to find that balance between better offense, which Chicago displayed this season playing more through Gasol, and the Bulls' normally superior defense -- which declined significantly (falling from second in 2013-14 to 11th this season). The Bulls have maintained that they'll pay whatever it takes to retain Butler, who earned a huge payday with a breakout season. But teams disappointed with their Lottery positioning may well come calling. (Yes, I'm looking at you, New York.)
Chicago also needs to re-sign Dunleavy. During the time he missed in January and early February with a bad ankle injury, the Bulls' offensive rating fell from 105.9 to 103.5, and Chicago went 9-10 after going 24-10 before he got hurt. But the Bulls are well-positioned cap-wise to do both of those things and retain their strong rotation, including Mirotic, McDermott and Snell off the bench. It wouldn't hurt Chicago, though, to find a veteran center willing to take minimum money who could help reduce the minutes load on Noah, who didn't look like himself all year following offseason surgery. Is Omer Asik ready for a tearful reunion with his former team in the Second City?
Regular Season: 56-26
Playoffs: Defeated San Antonio Spurs 4-3 in first round; lost 4-3 to Houston Rockets in semifinals
2015 Draft Picks: Clippers have traded their first-round pick to Boston (compensation for Doc Rivers being allowed to leave the Celtics for Los Angeles in 2013), and traded their second-round pick to Denver (completing a 2009 deal with the Nuggets for Cheikh Samb)
The Starters: Next Moves For Clippers?
What does the future hold for the LA Clippers?
What to do ... What to do?: In theory, Doc Rivers was right after the Clippers collapsed against the Rockets and blew their 3-1 series lead. It takes a long time to win a championship, and most teams have to experience heartbreak before doing so. But there was an unmistakable sense that the Clippers might never have a better path to a title than they did this season. They'd gone to the mat against the champion Spurs and beaten them, gaining invaluable postseason cred. Griffin played as well as anyone in the playoffs. Austin Rivers emerged as a legit option off the bench for his father. And even though Paul had been slowed with a hamstring pull, he still summoned up special performances. All that came crashing to the ground against Houston, each loss more inexplicable than the last, leaving Los Angeles with serious issues entering the offseason.
Doc Rivers said the team was committed to maxing out Jordan, which would mean another $100 million contract on the cap -- leaving precious few additional resources available to fill out that precariously thin bench. The Clips were already hard-capped this season after exceeding the luxury tax apron; starting Jordan out next season at $16.6 million would leave L.A. at $75 million in salaries for just six players -- already over the cap, and left only with the mini mid-level exception for capped out teams ($3.7 million next season) to go after free agents. And, they have no Draft picks. The only trade chip they could realistically use is Crawford, due $5.5 million next season. But if they move him, they lose almost all of their bench production. It's a conundrum, but Doc Rivers has to wear this one: he signed Hawes last summer with the regular mid-level, but Hawes didn't fit most of the season.
Maybe Paul Pierce will walk away from the second year of his deal ($5.5 million) in Washington in order to finish his career in his hometown, playing for his old Celtics coach and his former teammate-turned-Clippers assistant Sam Cassell for less money. Maybe Rivers can cajole other vets with some tread left on their tires -- people like J.J. Barea come to mind here -- to take minimums to fill out the bench for a real shot at a ring.
But why are the Clippers locking themselves into maxing out Jordan? Nothing against DeAndre, a good dude who's earned himself a significant payday. But the reality is that Jordan is a player who cannot score on his own, and can't make free throws consistently enough to avoid Hack-a strategy from opposing coaches in the playoffs, which derails the flow that made the Clippers' offense the best in the league during the regular season. A defensive-minded center is well worth having; Dallas won a title with Tyson Chandler in 2011. So did the Pistons when Ben Wallace -- a four-time Defensive Player of the Year -- gave them their identity and voice in the middle. But neither guy got a max deal when they became free agents -- though the Knicks did use all of their available cap space to create a sign-and-trade deal with Dallas for Chandler in 2011. Chicago signed Wallace to a four-year, $60 million free agent deal in 2006, and almost immediately regretted it.
The Clips may feel that a max deal for Jordan today will look relatively benign when the cap ascends past $100 million in two years, as is projected. Maybe. But that's a whole lot of maybes, and a whole lot of minutes for the starting five in the interim.
Regular Season: 55-27
Playoffs: Defeated Portland Trail Blazers 4-1 in first round; lost 4-2 to Golden State Warriors in semifinals
2015 Draft Picks: Grizzlies have their own first-round pick; traded their second-round pick to New Orleans (Jeff Green trade)
2015-16 Returning Players ($ amounts in millions): F Zach Randolph ($10), G Mike Conley ($9.6), G Courtney Lee ($5.6), G/F Tony Allen ($5), G/F Vince Carter ($4), G Beno Udrih ($2.1), F Jordan Adams ($1.4), G Nick Calathes ($1.1)
Grizzlies on End Of Season
David Joerger, Mike Conley and Marc Gasol address the media following a game 6 loss to the Warriors.
What to do ... What to do?: The Grizzlies have one major task this summer: keeping Gasol. The 29-year-old plans to hit unrestricted free agency for the first time and teams are lining up to make pitches. Whether or not San Antonio gets in the game, as many have speculated, someone is likely to make a tempting offer. But Gasol is a perfect for the Grizz, on the court and temperamentally, and it will take a lot for him to leave. If he is re-signed Memphis then needs to look long and hard at its wings.
The Grizz know internally they have to add more shooting. They were 23rd in the league in 3-point percentage this season. Lee started off hot, making 52 percent of his 3s in November, but dropped steadily every month thereafter through March (43.8 percent in December; 42.6 percent in January, 37.9 percent in February, 20 percent in March) -- though he did rebound in April (back up to 47 percent). Carter never got untracked all season and it's fair to wonder how much he's got left.
The Grizzlies have their first-round Draft pick, but at 25, a blue-chip shooting prospect like a Devin Booker figures to be long gone. Even with cap holds on Gasol and Koufos, and with Randolph's extension kicking in, Memphis should have enough cap room to go after a decent free agent. Would taking a run at, say, Mike Dunleavy, Jr. (career 41.6 percent on 3-pointers) the Spurs' Danny Green or Minnesota's Gary Neal make sense? If Gasol's camp would accept the timing, the Grizzlies could then exceed the cap to re-sign him, though it would put them in luxury tax territory.
Regular Season: 46-36
Playoffs: Defeated Toronto Rapotrs 4-0 in first round; Lost 4-2 to Atlanta Hawks in semifinals
2015 Draft Picks: Wizards have their first and second-round picks
2015-16 Returning Players/Salaries ($ amounts in millions): G John Wall ($14.7), F Nene ($13), C Marcin Gortat ($11.2), G/F Martell Webster ($5.7), G Bradley Beal ($5.6), F Kris Humphries ($4.6), F Otto Porter ($4.4), G Ramon Sessions ($2.1)
Wizards On End Of Season
Randy Wittman, John Wall, and Bradley Beal address the media following a game 6 loss to the Hawks.
What to do ... What to do?: Washington's main issue is complacency. The Wizards could stand pat if Pierce decides to return to D.C. next season rather than opt out of his deal, but many around the league believe Pierce will do just that and finish his career back home in Los Angeles with the Clippers. Either way, the Wizards need a long-term solution at power forward to go with their electric backcourt of Wall and Beal and the emerging Porter, who was a terrific 3-and-D man during the playoffs and looks ready to claim the small forward spot full time.
Coach Randy Wittman made it clear after his team's six-game loss to the Hawks that he wants a stretch four going forward that would allow Washington to play small ball all season. The Wizards thrived with Pierce at the four and Porter at the three in their first-round rout of the Raptors, but Wittman didn't use that lineup during the regular season because he wanted to save Pierce's legs for the playoffs. Fans in D.C. dream of getting Kevin Durant to return home in 2016, but the Wizards shouldn't be so starry-eyed. They shouldn't wait for the summer of '16, when the new TV deal kicks in and almost every team in the league will have cap space, increasing the number of competitors for any player, including Durant. (Especially Durant.)
They should attack now, and think big. Washington has $20 million in potential trade bait available. Nene's contract expires in '16, and Martell Webster and DeJuan Blair have team options for 2016-17 -- in essence, making their contracts expirings for next season as well. So why not take a run at, say, Kevin Love? The Wizards have all their upcoming picks, including their '15 first-rounder; if they could find a third-team to act as intermediary (Hinkie!!!), a sign-and-trade extravaganza including Nene, Webster, Seraphin -- likely to leave, anyway -- and picks going in some combination to Cleveland and/or Philly could get things rolling.
Only Love knows his true level of frustration with the Cavs, but if he wants to leave, and makes that clear to Cleveland, Washington is a familiar and fond destination. His father Stan played for the Baltimore Bullets in the '70s, and Kevin Love's middle name, Wesley, is in honor of Wes Unseld, the Hall of Fame Bullets center and Stan Love's teammate. If Kevin Love is content in Cleveland or wants to go to Boston, a scenario on which the rumor mill has fixated, the Wizards could make other deals.
Getting Ryan Anderson from New Orleans -- which doesn't have a '15 first-rounder, and needs a center to play next to Anthony Davis -- would bring a quality stretch four as well, and at significantly less money than Love would demand going forward, allowing Washington an easier path to give Beal the near-max extension he'll seek and deserves. However it's achieved, the Wizards' postseason style of play needs to be adapted for full-time regular season use next season. They now know what it's like trying to defend a team like Atlanta with shooters all over the floor and guards who can get to the rim at will.
He's Hacked Off. From Olli Berlin:
First of all, I love the Morning Tip and I agree with you more often than not. But on the topic of Hack-a-whoever I think you're missing the bigger picture. Changing the rules would be another quick fix to make the game more enjoyable for casual observers and help the flow, no question. But at the same time it would be the next step to water down the overall skill level in the NBA ... free throws or shooting in general is (sic) like the ultimate fundamental. The first thing you do as a kid is trying to put the ball in the basket. Helping guys who can't even make their free throws at a reliable rate does nothing for the game, it's an insult to the game and all the great players that have helped shape this league. I love what DeAndre Jordan does on the defensive end and I admire him for not taking bad shots on offense, which ends up in his obscene FG percentage. I love Dwight Howard and I hope he'll get back to full strength and dominate the way he should.
Should 'Hack-A-Shaq' Rules Be Changed?
Adam Silver said the NBA will look at the current 'Hack-A-Shaq' rule — should it be changed?
But I can't give those guys a pass on their free throw shooting. Work on it, get your head straight and make at least 60 percent. As every advanced stat guy will tell you, the hacking strategy doesn't work if a guy hits 60 percent of his free throws as really good teams score about 1.1 points per possession ...
In Europe there is no such thing as AAU ball, where the best kids team up and run over weak teams. The kids in Europe learn way more fundamentals and face more or less equal competition at that age and because of that they can carve out a niche for themselves in the NBA though they normally lack some athleticism compared to U.S. players. They simply know how to shoot or set a pick. So please, no more quick fixes to the game because it won't help the game in the long run. I don't want to lose interest in it because it turns into track & field with an orange ball.
To discuss this issue correctly, Olli, we must first agree on what we're discussing. You and those who say "just make your free throws" are addressing a point -- but it's not my point. I am not interested in the results of Hack-a; that is, whether they make the free throws or not. That's a secondary issue. The main issue, to me, is the tactic itself. I am against anything that impedes the flow of the game, including the incessant timeouts that occur, especially during the playoffs. Basketball is the only team sport in the world that has a natural flow between being on offense and being on defense. You team shoots, and whether the ball goes in or not, you then have to retreat and play defense. And, vice versa. That flow is an important part of the game's beauty. It is what allows players to display their incredible gifts, both athletic and cerebral. Interrupting that flow, no matter the reason, takes away from the game.
No Children Shall Lead Them. From Hamish Alexander:
I was just thinking about the value of veteran play while watching Paul Pierce hitting his game winner. When was the last time a team won the championship without a single player on the roster with championship experience? 1946?
Actually, it isn't that long at all, Hamish -- which surprised me, too. The Mavericks won it all in 2011 without one player that had won a ring before. Several players on the roster -- Jason Kidd (2002 and '03, New Jersey) Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry (Dallas, '06) and Sasha Pavlovic ('07, Cleveland) -- had been on teams that reached The Finals before, but none of them broke through until '11.
No Justise, no peace. From Jonny Elishayev:
What do you think of Justise Winslow in a Knick uniform? Great two-way versatile player that can get the job done on both sides of the court. Slasher, great defender, rebounds well for his position, strong when attacking the basket and finishes well. His offense has a lot of potential we saw in the tournament how he shot 41% from behind the arc. Reminds me a lot of Kawhi Leonard and potential to be a better version of Harden because of his defense.
Winslow is going to be a terrific pro, and the comparison to Leonard isn't a bad one, Jonny. (Harden? Not so much.) Will he be great in the pros? I don't know. With the Knicks, of course, everything has to be looked at through the triangle prism. At first glance, I don't know that Winslow would be a good fit in that system, especially if he has to play off of Carmelo Anthony. It wouldn't surprise me, given Phil Jackson's preference for big guards in that system, if the Knicks don't take a long look at Ohio State's 6-foot-5 freshman point guard D'Angelo Russell -- though they'll almost certainly have to figure out how to get above Philly, picking third, to get him.
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1) Stephen Curry (35.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 6 apg, .613 FG, .813 FT): Look, I voted for James Harden for MVP for the regular season, and I wouldn't change that vote. But Curry is running away with playoff MVP honors, and he's making it look easy. He has been sensational.
2) LeBron James (32.7 ppg, 11.7 rpg, 16.7 apg, .424 FG, .793 FT): Got off to the worst postseason start of his career Sunday night, missing his first 10 shots from the floor against the Hawks -- and then notched his 12th playoff triple-double, passing Jason Kidd for second on the all-time list, behind Magic Johnson's Beamonesque 30.
3) James Harden (27.7 ppg, 8 rpg, 7.3 apg, .474 FG, .833 FT): There will come a time -- maybe later this summer, maybe a year from now, maybe when he's 64 -- when Harden will look at what he did in the final seconds of Game 2 against the Warriors, take a deep breath, exhale, and acknowledge to himself that it was a big, big mistake.
4) Chris Paul: Season complete.
5) Blake Griffin: Season complete.
Stephen Curry's Record Breaking 59 Post-Season Threes
Watch each of Steph Curry's record breaking 59 three-pointers of the 2014-2015 NBA postseason.
64 -- Three-pointers by Stephen Curry so far this postseason, breaking the previous playoff record of 58 set by our TNT colleague Reggie Miller, set in 2000. Curry is shooting an obscene 44.8 percent (64 of 143) on threes in the playoffs. (By contrast, as basketballinsiders.com's Tommy Beer pointed out, Dwight Howard is 58 of 143 -- 40.6 percent -- from the foul line in the playoffs.)
33 -- Years since the Lakers have had a Draft pick as high as they got from the results of last week's Lottery. Los Angeles will pick second, the best pick the franchise has had since it took James Worthy with the first pick overall in the 1982 Draft. That pick came three years after L.A. selected Magic Johnson first in the '79 Draft.
$85 -- Amount that former NBA player Craig Smith says he had in his bank account in 2012 after allegedly being swindled out of more than $2 million by his former business manager. Smith told the L.A. Times //www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lazarus-20150522-column.html he has learned not to trust anyone when it comes to money.
1) A meaningful Memorial Day to you and yours, as we remember those who have made it possible for us to enjoy not only this day, but every day, with an opportunity to try and make things better for ourselves and our kids.
Curry's Daughter Steals the Show
Warriors star Stephen Curry's two year old daughter Riley steals the show during the Game 1 postgame press conference.
2) Riley Curry is, as the kids say today, totes adorbs. (And, if you have a problem with her or any other kid on the podium postgame ... get a life.)
3) An informative read from ESPN.com's Nick Friedell detailing how the relationship between Tom Thibodeau and the Bulls' front office became so toxic.
4) The Wolves had a very good Tuesday. They can't go wrong taking either Karl-Anthony Towns or Jahlil Okafor, but the guess is that Minnesota goes for Towns, given the offensive punch the Wolves already have with Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine. Towns' defensive potential inside would complement Wiggins and LaVine nicely.
5) I'm not a huge IndyCar fan, but enjoyed watching Juan Pablo Montoya win his second Indianapolis 500 Sunday in a thriller over second-place finisher Will Power. It remains amazing how a race can have so many crashes from which drivers walk away as the safety technology continues to evolve.
1) Injuries around the league have wrecked this season, and they're threatening to capsize the playoffs as well, with Kyle Korver's high ankle sprain and Kyrie Irving's tendinitis only the latest.
2) I thought John Wall was exaggerating when he talked about the lack of respect he tends to get when compared to other elite players. Until last Thursday, when he was somehow left off the All-NBA third team in a vote of national media, while Cleveland's Kyrie Irving made it along with Golden State's Klay Thompson. Look, you couldn't put Wall first team ahead of Steph Curry or James Harden. You wouldn't put him ahead of Russell Westbrook or Chris Paul for second team. Understood. And Thompson has been sensational on the best team in the league. But Wall had a better season than Irving.
GameTime: Marques Haynes
Marques Haynes (1926-2015) is remembered by the GameTime Crew for his pioneering efforts in the game of basketball.
3) RIP, Marques Haynes. Do yourself a favor and pull up a YouTube of him playing with the Harlem Globetrotters. No one -- no one -- was a better ballhandler and showman. He was as important a member of the Globetrotters -- who, he points out again, saved the NBA in its early days as a draw that brought much-needed dollars to NBA owners in their buildings, while their nascent teams struggled to gain interest -- as anyone.
4) In 1982, two shows debuted on NBC in late night, after Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show" went off the air. One was an incredibly well-written, observant, occasionally snarky look at the world. The other was the "Late Show with David Letterman". But unlike "NBC News Overnight", the former (which only lasted a little more than a year, despite the pleas of college students at the time like myself), Letterman reinvented the genre of the show he hosted. No one did "found" comedy the way he did; few lacerated puffed-up Hollywood personalities as deftly or effectively. And after major events -- his open heart surgery, 9/11 -- no one was as poignant, a quality almost no one expected he had within him. There are very good late night hosts nowadays, but there will never be another Letterman.
-- Kobe Bryant (@kobebryant), Friday, 6 p.m., after the "news" last Friday that Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak indicated that next season will be Bryant's last. Kupchak has said that for months, to local and national outlets. Of course it's ultimately Bryant's call how long he plays, and if he wants to go another year or more with the Lakers, they'll happily oblige. But Kupchak's words weren't anything he hasn't said before.
"My friend ... used to tease me about a tattoo I had right here, but it was so big and what he was teasing me about -- he said it looked like a flying monkey. It's supposed to have been a grim reaper holding a ball. But it did look like a monkey. He was teasing me so much that I had to cover it with the panther. I had to. It had to be something big. So this really is the only one that don't mean anything. This was just a cover up."
-- Allen Iverson, to the Huffington Post, about the one tattoo on his body that holds no special significance to him.
"The value for Andrew is $1.9 million."
-- Warriors Coach Steve Kerr, teasing his center Andrew Bogut after Bogut made the NBA's All-Defensive first-team -- an achievement that triggered a $1.9 million bonus in Bogut's contract.
"Russell is not banned, but that shirt will not be making another appearance."
-- Thunder GM Sam Presti, after Russell Westbrook's unsuccessful attempt at beating Oklahoma City's longshot odds of getting a top three pick in last week's Lottery -- going the usual out-ot-the-box route sartorially.
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