Jan. 24 Shootaround -- LeBron James calls for Cavs to add a 'playmaker'
LeBron upset, wants Cavs to add playmaker | Griffin likely to return vs. Sixers | Wizards plan to wear all black tonight to game | Waiters steps up for Heat
UPDATE, 1:59 p.m. ET — LeBron James took to Twitter this afternoon to clarify his postgame comments about the Cavs’ roster and explain what, exactly, has him so upset:
I not mad or upset at management cause Griff and staff have done a great job, I just feel we still need to improve in order to repeat…
— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 24, 2017
if that's what we wanna do.
— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 24, 2017
No. 1: LeBron miffed at Cavs’ skid, wants ‘playmaker’ added — The Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t had the best start to their 2017, as they are 5-6 in the new year after last night’s stunning road loss to the Anthony Davis-less New Orleans Pelicans. After the Cavs traded for Kyle Korver earlier this month, star LeBron James made it known the team still needs a backup point guard/playmaker added to the mix. He made that request even louder after last night’s loss, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com:
After the Cavs fell 124-122 to an Anthony Davis-less New Orleans Pelicans team Monday night — Cleveland’s fifth loss in its past seven games — James unloaded on what he believes is a roster ill-equipped, in its current state, to become the last team standing and lift the Larry O’Brien Trophy come June.
“I just hope that we’re not satisfied as an organization,” James told a small group of beat reporters who travel regularly to cover Cleveland’s road games. “I just hope we’re not satisfied.”
The Cavs broke a 52-year championship drought in Cleveland last season, eliminating a Golden State Warriors team that went an NBA-record 73-9 in the regular season to do so. While Golden State re-upped with former MVP Kevin Durant, as well as veterans such as David West, Zaza Pachulia and JaVale McGee, and leads the league with a 38-7 record — including Monday’s upset loss to the Miami Heat — James says the Cavs have regressed.
“We’re not better than last year,” he said. “From a personnel standpoint.”
Cleveland opted against re-signing Matthew Dellavedova and Timofey Mozgov during free agency and waived Dahntay Jones. In their place, the Cavs drafted rookie point guard Kay Felder, acquired Mike Dunleavy (who has since been shipped out in the Kyle Korver deal) and signed Chris “Birdman” Andersen, who went down with a season-ending and potentially career-ending ACL injury.
Meanwhile, James listed other free agents who could have been had — Raymond Felton, who signed with the Los Angeles Clippers, and Michael Beasley, who signed with the Milwaukee Bucks — as players who could have helped the Cavs make it through the regular season.
“It’s great to have bodies,” James said. “Obviously, in the playoffs, you go down to what, eight max? And if somebody gets in foul trouble, you go to nine. You’re not playing back-to-backs. You have two days in between. You’re able to lock in.”
“It’s like when you don’t have bodies. It’s tough,” James said. “The f—ing grind of the regular season. We’re a top-heavy team. We have a top-heavy team. We top-heavy as s—. It’s me, [Kyrie Irving], [Kevin Love]. It’s top-heavy.”
“We need a f—ing playmaker,” James said. “I’m not saying you can just go find one, like you can go outside and see trees. I didn’t say that.”
However, the timing of playing both Golden State and the San Antonio Spurs within a week’s time seems to have opened James’ eyes even more to the disparity in talent between the Cavs and some of their fiercest championship competition.
“They’ve got bodies,” James said of San Antonio when asked about the Spurs’ beating the Cavs without Pau Gasol or Tony Parker. “They’ve got bodies. For the most part, all championship-contending teams has got guys that are ready to step in. Knock on wood, what if Ky goes down? For two weeks. Let’s say two. What if I went down for three weeks?”
A reporter responded to James that many wonder how Cleveland would do if James tapered his minutes at the end of the month, as Cavs coach Ty Lue said was the plan — let alone missed games. The Cavs are 4-18 in the past two-and-a-half seasons in games James sits out.
“Yeah, y’all are worried about five minutes. What if I went down for two weeks?” James said. “Trying to build something, you know?”
James, in his 14th season, said the urgency in beefing up the Cavs’ bench comes from the stage of his career.
“I don’t know what we got to offer,” James said. “I just know me, personally? I don’t got no time to waste. I’ll be 33 in the winter, and I ain’t got time to waste. That’s what I’m talking about.
“Listen, when I feel like physically and mentally, me personally, can’t compete for a championship no more or I feel like I can’t do it, then I won’t have this problem. But until that happens, and it don’t seem like no time soon …”
James trailed off.
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No. 2: Griffin ‘most likely’ back tonight for Clippers — Blake Griffin hasn’t suited up for the LA Clippers since Dec. 18, marking an 18-game absence in which the Clippers went 10-8. Griffin, who is mending from in-season knee surgery, is expected to suit up tonight in Philadelphia as the Clippers play the 76ers (7 ET, NBA LEAGUE PASS). Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times has more:
Blake Griffin is “most likely” playing with the Clippers on Tuesday night when they face the Philadelphia 76ers, Coach Doc Rivers said Monday night before the Clippers played the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena.
Griffin has missed the last 18 consecutive games recovering from right knee surgery.
The media tried to pin Rivers down on an absolute time on Griffin, but he still felt like joking about things even if the team and Griffin said Tuesday was the expected date for his return.
“Most likely, definitely. It’s an alternate fact,” Rivers, smiling, joked as the media laughed along.
Rivers laughed some more at his joking ways.
But the fact is that Griffin said he has been yearning to play after having a procedure to remove loose bodies from his knee on Dec. 20. He had told the media Saturday that “this trip, this is it” for him coming back.
Before the media left the Clippers’ shootaround Monday morning, Griffin was dressed in his workout gear shooting.
He has increased his workouts over the last several days and has been preparing to play for the Clippers before this three-game trip is over.
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No. 3: Wizards wearing all black to game vs. Boston tonight — The last time the Washington Wizards and Boston Celtics squared off in Boston, things got more than just a bit chippy between the teams. The Wizards’ John Wall and the Celtics’ Jae Crowder got into a mini-shoving match which netted a fine for each player ($15,000 for Wall; $25,000 for Crowder). It was another chapter in a burgeoning rivalry between the squads that will, apparently, get ratcheted up another notch tonight (7 ET, NBA LEAGUE PASS). J. Michael of CSNWashington and Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com have more.
First, here’s J. Michael’s report:
Set for a rematch less than two weeks after the two teams engaged in a postgame altercation, the Wizards plan to wear all black to their Tuesday night game against the Boston Celtics [6:30 p.m. on CSN] at the Verizon Center.
Forward Kelly Oubre, Jr. first revealed the plans following the Wizards’ win over the Hornets on Monday night:
“We’re wearing all black to the game. You know where we’re going with that,” Oubre said. “We’re ready for whatever. We’re wearing all black to the game. It’s a memo that the team is giving away. We’re ready for whatever, man. Round 3. Let’s get it.”
“All black everything,” guard John Wall added.
The Wizards appear to be sending a symbolic message to the Celtics, whom they have clashed with numerous times over the past year. Last January, Boston guard Marcus Smart broke Bradley Beal’s nose and gave him a concussion.
Apparently, wearing black was Beal’s idea:
Beal says it was his idea to wear all black for #WizCeltics and everybody agreed upon it.
— J. Michael (@ThisIsJMichael) January 24, 2017
Beal: "We've been battle-tested. We're ready. And we owe them one" #WizCeltics
— J. Michael (@ThisIsJMichael) January 24, 2017
And here’s Chris Forsberg’s report on the Wizards’ outfit choices for tonight:
Washington Wizards players are planning to wear all black to Tuesday’s home game against the Boston Celtics.
Recent games between the two teams have featured chippy play and plenty of trash talk.
Celtics forward Jae Crowder and Wizards guard John Wall were both fined after the two engaged in an after-the-buzzer dustup during the teams’ most recent contest. That Jan. 11 meeting culminated with five Boston police officers standing guard between the two locker rooms at TD Garden after players continued to bark at each other upon leaving the court.
“We’re wearing all black to the game. You know where we’re going with that,” Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. told reporters in Charlotte, North Carolina, following the Wizards’ 109-99 victory over the Hornets on Monday.
A follow-up question inquired as to whether the Wizards were preparing for a funeral or a war.
“We’re ready for whatever,” Oubre said. “We’re wearing all black to the game. It’s a memo that the team is giving away. We’re ready for whatever, man. Round 3, let’s get it.”
Reporters also asked Wall about the dress code, and he responded, “All black everything. A funeral.”
Washington’s Otto Porter Jr. accused Boston of playing dirty after the Jan. 11 meeting. Celtics players immediately dismissed the suggestion and did so again Monday.
“[Porter’s comments] went through this ear and out the other because we don’t play dirty, we know that,” Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas said. “I think a lot of teams around this league know we don’t play dirty, we just play very hard. Like I said before, it may seem dirty because we play so hard, but we’re not a dirty team.”
As Thomas said of another meeting with the Wizards, “We just gotta be ready for whatever comes our way. We’re not going to shy away from it. We’re all human, so there’s probably going to be a little bit of physicality, a little bit of things that carry over for [Tuesday’s] game. The most important thing we got to do is just try to take care of business and end their winning streak at home.”
Entering Monday’s action, ESPN’s Basketball Power Index predicted a 20.1 percent chance the Celtics and Wizards could see each other in the opening round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Boston currently sits third in the East, while the Wizards are fifth.
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No. 4: Waiters relishes his moment in sun — Miami Heat guard Dion Waiters has been somewhat of an enigma throughout his NBA career. He’s as natural a scorer and slasher as any of the best in the NBA, but consistency (as well as on-court blunders) have kept him from often realizing his potential. Last night against the visiting Golden State Warriors, Waiters showed his go-to guy skills as well as a flair for the dramatic as he lifted the Heat to an upset win. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald has more:
Could anybody have seen this coming? Anybody? Anybody at all?
Short answer: Not a chance.
A Heat team that lost 30 of its first 41 games not only won its fourth in a row Monday, but did it with a stunning 105-102 victory against a steamrolling Golden State juggernaut that entered not only having won seven in a row, but having annihilated teams (including Cleveland, Oklahoma City and Houston) by an average of 22.6 points over its past five.
After Kevin Durant tied the game with a driving dunk, Dion Waiters won it with a 25-foot three-pointer with 0.6 seconds left. Steph Curry badly missed a desperation corner three at the buzzer.
Waiters, remarkably, tied his career high in points (33) for the second game in a row.
“I wanted to get everyone space. He read that beautifully,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said of Waiters’ game-winning shot. “He wasn’t going to give that up to anyone else. He’s fearless. He’s not scared. He wants those moments as much as anybody. He took it into his own hands.”
“Those are the moments you live for,” Waiters said after the game. “I was thinking that was the moment I practiced as a kid. I am not going to shy away from those shots.”
The Warriors might have the NBA’s best backcourt (Curry/Klay Thompson), but Waiters was the best guard in this game, hitting two three-pointers in the final 1:33. Waiters shot 13 for 20, including 6 for 8 on threes. He scored 13 points in the third quarter and 11 in the fourth.
With Goran Dragic (5 for 14) scoring 19, the Heat’s starting guards outscored the Warriors’, 52-43.
“The close games are starting to become our comfort zone,” Spoelstra said. “You can see our guys are gaining more confidence in these games.”
Are they a different team?
“I don’t know if we are,” Spoelstra said. “We’re not just basing it on the result.”
Waiters put it this way: “If you play against Miami, you know it won’t be a walk.”
Warriors coach Steve Kerr, whose team scored 16 points below its season average, said he told Spoelstra “after the game how impressed I am with how hard they play night in and night out. That’s the sign of a well-coached team. Those guys are physical and they get after it. They make everything difficult and they’re smart. They were the smarter and tougher team tonight and that’s why they won. I know their record isn’t great [15-30]. They’ve got a lot of injuries, but they compete every night and that’s what it’s about.
“It’s not like they don’t have players. I mean Whiteside is a load. Dion Waiters was tremendous tonight and Dragic is one of the best point guards in the league. Let’s not forget that they’ve got talent. But it’s the way they play and how hard they play and how hard they compete. That’s what I think makes them a tough out every night.”
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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Orlando Magic GM Rob Hennigan answers some tough questions about why the team is struggling this season … Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr will coach the 2017 Western Conference All-Star team … Speaking of Kerr, he took umbrage with how some players cast their votes for NBA All-Star 2017 … Russell Westbrook is now tied for 5th with Larry Bird on the all-time triple-doubles list … Yesterday, the Minnesota Timberwolves purchased the Iowa Energy of the NBA Development League … For not having played a game in 2016-17, Mo Williams has been involved in a lot of transactions …