Shootaround (Jan. 16) -- LeBron James, Cavaliers gear up for 'dangerous' Warriors
LeBron: Warriors more dangerous than last year | Clippers will try to stop Westbrook, somehow | Time for Melo and Phi to talk … trade? | Van Gundy ready to get rid of replay
No. 1: LeBron: Warriors ‘more dangerous’ than last year — LeBron James isn’t ready to call his team’s ongoing saga with the Golden State Warriors a “rivalry.” But he fully understands what the Cavaliers are dealing with tonight (8 ET, TNT) in the new-look Warriors. And he’s convinced they are more dangerous crew than the outfit that won a NBA record 73 games last season, took a 3-1 lead on the Cavaliers in The Finals and then added Kevin Durant after the Cavaliers stormed back to beat them in said Finals. Chris Fedor of the Plain Dealer explains:
While most teams dread the trip to what has become one of the league’s most imposing buildings, the Cavaliers have plenty of fond memories after rallying from a 3-1 deficit and capping their historic NBA Finals comeback in a thrilling Game 7 at Oracle.
“I think when you walk into the building, you’ll initially have some thoughts of it,” LeBron James said Sunday, following the Cavaliers’ first practice in nearly three weeks. “I think all of us will, no matter where you were at that time and place, if you’re at that arena, you’re just going to remember where you were back in June.
“But I’m in a different place right now than I was in June. It’s a different mindset. I’m in a different situation right now.”
Kyrie Irving will be able to point to the spot on the right wing where he buried a 3-pointer. Kevin Love can relive his stop on Stephen Curry in what appeared to be an obvious mismatch with the game on the line. James might have flashbacks to The Block, one of James’ signature plays in a career that has been defined by them. And perhaps the visitor’s locker room will still have that intoxicating odor — a unique mix of champagne and beer.
Then, after the nostalgia vanishes, it will be time for the second matchup of the season between the league’s two best teams.
“They’re even more dangerous,” James admitted. “They’re even more dangerous than they were last year and that’s pretty hard to say because they were a damn great team last year and they’re even better this year.”
The numbers seem to back it up. The new-look Warriors have increased their points per game, point differential and field goal percentage from last season.
James — and the Cavaliers — got a taste of that potential on Christmas Day.
Kevin Durant, the Warriors’ prized pickup in the off-season, made his debut in the rivalry, scoring a game-high 36 points to go with 15 rebounds.
“Well, what it did was when you’re able to have Steph have a bad game, which is not very often, they have a guy who can go get it one on one,” Lue said of Durant. “So you always have that guy who can go get it on his own. So, we’ve tried to do a good job of taking Klay (Thompson) out, taking Steph out, taking the 3-point shooting out. If you do that nowadays, when Kevin is here now he can go one on one, he can go score 40. So, that’s a different dynamic they have on their team.”
In the much-anticipated Finals rematch, Golden State led for all but 42 seconds. However, just like Game 7 in June, the Cavs saved their best for the final minutes, coming through with numerous clutch plays, including Irving’s game-winning fadeaway jumper and a defensive stop, which the NBA admitted should’ve been a foul on Richard Jefferson for tripping Durant.
Since then, the Cavaliers are 6-4, having to navigate food poisoning, Irving’s hamstring issue, rest and an altered roster.
The Warriors, meanwhile, are 7-1, with the lone loss coming against the Memphis Grizzlies, a night they blew a 24-point lead that re-opened questions about chemistry and late-game offense.
“I don’t pay that much attention to what they’re trying to do as far as fitting in,” James said. “You have to be around them every day to know that. But they’re a great team, a hell of a team, probably one of the best teams ever assembled and they’re going to continue to get better and better as the season goes along.”
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No. 2: Clippers will try to stop Westbrook, somehow — The Clippers know the task at hand. All they have to do what no one else has been able to do this season and that’s stop Russell Westbrook, the league’s most prolific triple-double machine since Oscar Robertson or Wilt Chamberlain (take your pick). Just because you know the question ahead of time doesn’t mean you have an answer, as Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times explains about the Clippers’ challenge (10:30 ET, TNT):
Twice last week, Clippers Coach Doc Rivers was glued to his television to watch what is becoming the artistic masterpiece of work by Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook.
Rivers viewed what the entire NBA has witnessed this season.
“Westbrook is like a force of nature,” Rivers said.
On Monday night, during a national televised game on TNT that’s a part of its Martin Luther King Jr. Day coverage, Rivers and the Clippers will be presented with the supreme challenge of trying to slow down Westbrook.
“You can’t invest all your time trying to stop him, because you’re not anyway,” Rivers said Saturday afternoon. “And you have to try to slow him down. But you’ve got to try to not allow all the others that he gets involved to play well.”
It has been a season in which Westbrook has mostly demolished the league, his force of nature putting the 6-foot-3 point guard on pace to be in the NBA history books.
He’s averaging a triple-double, placing Westbrook in position of joining Oscar Robertson (1961-62) as the only players in league history to achieve that feat.
Westbrook had 19 triple-doubles before the Thunder played at Sacramento on Sunday night.
He was averaging a league-best 30.8 points per game, 10.5 assists (second in the NBA) and 10.7 rebounds (11th).
Besides those numbers, Westbrook is perhaps the most difficult player in the NBA to game-plan for because he’s always on the attack and always pushing the pedal from anywhere on the court at any moment.
“Yeah. Yeah. Yeah,” Rivers, his eyes wide now, said glowingly about Westbrook. “You know he’s coming at you. I mean, that’s the one thing.”
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No. 3: Time for Melo and Phil to talk … trade? — Carmelo Anthony, long the target for whatever ails the New York Knicks at a given time, says he’s never thought about waving his no-trade clause. But in response to reported chatter from a Phil Jackson source that Anthony’s time with the Knicks is nearing an end, Anthony might be ready for at least a face-to-face conversation with the Knicks’ boss. Ian Begley of ESPN.com provides some details on the latest batch of drama surrounding this team:
The organization hasn’t talked to Anthony about waiving his no-trade clause. But Anthony made it clear that if Rosen’s opinions are shared by Jackson, and the Knicks wish to trade him, that’s something he’d like to address with the club directly.
“If that’s the case, if that’s where it’s coming from, that side, I guess it’s a conversation we should have,” Anthony said. “If they feel my time in New York is over, I guess that’s a conversation we should have.”
Anthony would have to agree to waive his no-trade clause and give New York permission to trade him; he can control if and where he is dealt. Jackson included the no-trade clause in the five-year, $124 million contract he gave Anthony in the summer of 2014.
Anthony appeared frustrated by the topic on Sunday. When reporters in Toronto pointed out to Anthony that Rosen, not Jackson, suggested that the Knicks were better off without him, Anthony said: “Listen, if that’s how they feel, if that’s coming from that side, then that’s what’s coming from that side. I haven’t thought once about that. I hear it, hear all the rhetoric going on out there. I still come to work every day, play and bust my ass, and try not worry about it.”
The Knicks have dropped 10 of their past 12 games and are 18-23 at the season’s midway point. Predictably, there is plenty of frustration among players amid all the losses. The Knicks fell to the Raptors 116-101 on Sunday and trailed by as many as 38 points in the second half.
“It’s disappointing,” Anthony said of having just 18 wins at this point in the season. “It’s not something I’ve thought about right now … It’s a disappointment, but what can we do other than change it at this point?”
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No. 4: Van Gundy ready to get rid of replay — Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy has never been one to hold his tongue where the game is concerned. So it should come as no surprise that he has an idea or two about how to speed up games. Aaron McMann of mlive.com has more:
Millennials’ dwindling attention spans have the National Basketball Association with ideas on how to speed up its games.
Speaking Thursday in London, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said the league began studying the issue last year with regard to timeouts in the last two minutes.
Detroit Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy has an idea, but it’s non-convetional and not likely to be taken up anytime soon.
“You know with me, I’m one of the few who are anti-replay,” Van Gundy said. “Let’s just go with the referees’ calls. That ain’t ever going to happen, because they don’t want to watch on ESPN the next day (their wrong call).”
At the crux of Van Gundy’s argument is the pace of play disrupted with replay. The NBA, which has specific guidelines requiring officials to review events like last-second baskets, flagrant fouls and player altercations, off-the-ball fouls, among other things, says the average time spent reviewing plays during the 2015-16 season was 31.9 seconds.
That’s down from 42.1 seconds during the 2014-15 season, but the number of replays also rose nearly 6 percent.
“We really don’t care happens the first 46 minutes, but we want to get every call right (in the final two),” Van Gundy said. “Actually, we don’t even care if we get every call right in the last two minutes — we pick and choose the calls we want to get right in the last two minutes. So, we end up in replay.
“We want to get all the out-of-bounds calls right in the last two minutes. Surprisingly, the most important thing is, we don’t care about getting foul calls right in the last two minutes. But, we’ve got to get out-of-bounds and goaltending and that stuff right.”
Van Gundy’s comments came Thursday at Golden State, just weeks after he criticized the NBA for its handling of the Last 2-Minute Report.
He said he really noticed the disruption during his two seasons out of the league, from 2012 to 2014, when he served as an analyst for ESPN.
“I mean, if we’re going to go replay with the idea to get it right, well, then at least let’s get every call right,” Van Gundy said. “Run a play, (then) let’s go to the replay and make sure we got it. Let’s go another play and go to the replay and make sure we got it. Otherwise, let’s just play. Let’s just play.
“And that’s been my thing — the time I spent out, you’re sitting there just watching it and going, ‘Oh God. Another replay.’ I mean, referees are really good in our league. Sometimes they’ll make a mistake — that’s all part of it — and if we’re not going to replay fouls, then I don’t see what the point is. I really don’t.”
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Thunder center Steven Adams is in the league’s concussion protocol and might not be available for tonight’s game against the Clippers … There will be no rest for James Harden and the Houston Rockets during their busiest week of this season … Jazz fans can breathe a sigh of relief now that Rodney Hood’s knee injury has been diagnosed … The most critical issue facing the Pacers today against the Pelicans is, surprise surprise, containing one Anthony Davis … There’s no doubt about it, the Philadelphia 76ers are doing their best to showcase Jahlil Okafor … Mike Dunleavy is making himself right at home with the Hawks … The Trail Blazers are still thinking playoffs this season, despite a rough start … Denver’s Nikola Jokic has shed the wrist brace but he’s still not “100 percent” …