Posts Tagged ‘Kyrie Irving’

Making a Top 10 list of the 2017 NBA Finals could be done with just one player: Kevin Durant.

The move from Oklahoma City to the Bay Area has been a knockout success for Durant and he was the star of these NBA Finals as the Golden Warriors dispatched the Cleveland Cavaliers in five games.

Durant topped 30 points in each contest and was named MVP of the finals. He averaged 35.2 points and shot 55.6 percent from the field.

The good thing for Durant is he no longer has to listen to any nonsense about not having a ring. Now his only issue is trying to win another one.

The Warriors and Cavaliers have met in each of the past three NBA Finals with Golden State winning two of the crowns. It looks highly possible that the two teams could meet against next June.

The only possible problem might be Cleveland GM LeBron James — we know who runs the franchise — messing things up with his latest teammate demands.

Here are 10 takeaways from the 2017 NBA Finals:

 

10. Just how mad is Russell Westbrook tonight after seeing Durant celebrating his NBA title?

9. Television announcer Mike Breen yelled “BANG!” after a 3-point basket … which I’m sure families who have had somebody shot to death always appreciate while watching a SPORTING EVENT.

8. Did Golden State’s David West and Cleveland’s Tristan Thompson kiss when they had that little love scuffle? Who proposed to whom in that scenario?

7. Kind of funny to me that some people are just discovering how good Kyrie Irving is — do they not watch basketball until the Finals?

6. My back gets sore just looking at Warriors coach Steve Kerr. I can’t imagine how painful it must be to battle spinal fluid issues.

5. LeBron James has been in the NBA Finals seven straight seasons. Was about to think how tough that is to do until I see Cleveland benchwarmer James Jones (eight minutes played in the series) has achieved the same thing.

4. No more Doris Burke questions for five months. Thank God.

3. Draymond Green’s annoyance level is now higher than his talent level, a sad development when you consider what a great story it was for a second-round selection to become a big star.

2. Games feel disappointing when Stephen Curry doesn’t make at least one 60-footer in a game.

1. Some buffoons at an Oklahoma City newspaper once called Durant “Mr. Unreliable” in a headline. Hopefully the entire staff was fired.

Well, I guess we can never dog LeBron James any more.

Was fun while it lasted.

Can’t do nothing but praise the man known as “King James” after the Cleveland Cavaliers became the first team in NBA history to recover from a 3-1 deficit to win the NBA Finals.

James and the Cavaliers won the city’s first major professional sports championship in 52 years with Sunday’s 93-89 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 7 of the rout-infested series.

James’ legacy had been questioned – particularly after Cleveland fell into the 3-1 hole – but a third world title in his career silences that debate.

If the Cavaliers had lost the series, James would’ve been 2-5 in seven NBA Finals appearances. And it would have been more than fair to question his ability to deliver a ring.

Remember, he won his first two titles with the Miami Heat when he had Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh as teammates. He was supposed to be part of a three-star circus in Cleveland too but Kevin Love has proven to be a terrible fit with James, leaving Kyrie Irving as the lone true other star on the squad.

James helped Cleveland stay alive with back-to-back 41-point performances and climaxed his strong series with the third Game 7 triple-double in NBA Finals’ history, joining Los Angeles Lakers icons’ Jerry West and James Worthy. James had 27 points, 11 rebounds and 11 assists on Sunday.

He was the unanimous MVP of the series and I’m pretty sure he would have been named MVP even if Golden State had won.

Oh yeah, Golden State. Let’s discuss that team for a minute.

If Cleveland is the first team to overcome a 3-1 deficit in the NBA Finals, guess what that makes the Warriors?

Yep, the first team to blow a 3-1 series lead.

That takes a good amount of luster off their remarkable regular season in which they set a record with a 73-9 mark. But they lost the same number of games in the postseason and no longer possessed that look of a hard-to-beat team.

Golden State came close to not reaching the finals as the Oklahoma City Thunder held a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference finals before failing to close the deal.

Then the Warriors suffered three double-digit defeats to Cleveland before going scoreless over the final 4:38 in Game 7 and watching Irving drain the tiebreaking 3-pointer with 53 seconds left.

Draymond Green’s absence in Game 5 due to picking up too many flagrant fouls was a crusher. Then two-time MVP Stephen Curry suffered a Game 6 meltdown, displaying signs that the pressure was getting to him.

Talk about legacy? How the Warriors rebound next season will help determine a lot about how history looks at them.

Instead of being a two-time defending champion, Golden State will enter the next campaign with a ton of wins and just one banner.

As tough as the Western Conference is, it could be hard to get back. What if this band of Warriors win just one title?

“We understand, I think, when you look at the history of the league, how few teams repeated,” Curry said in the postgame press conference. “That was our goal, and we didn’t do it. It’s going to be a long three months over the summer thinking about it.

“But that doesn’t mean we can’t put this as another little unfortunate notch in the belt and move forward and come back stronger next year. That’s the mindset.”

Now that Cleveland has won a pro sports title — the 1964 Browns of the NFL were the most recent champions — guess what city has gone the current most seasons without winning a major pro sports championship?

San Diego!

Guessing a lot of you got that one right. San Diego has a streak of 109 straight seasons without a title – 52 by the Chargers, 47 by the Padres and 10 from two former NBA teams (Clippers six, Rockets four).

Cleveland got rid of that dubious distinction primarily because of James, the guy who returned to the franchise and made it a goal to end the city’s title woes.

And well, I guess he has been motivated by those of us who didn’t mind pointing out the truth in the past. There were tears everywhere as he relished Sunday’s accomplishment.

“Those emotions came out of me, just leading 14 guys and understanding, like I said, what our city’s been through over the last 50-plus years since Jim Brown,” said James, referring to the legendary running back. “Then also people just counting me out.

“Throughout my 13-year career, I’ve done nothing but be true to the game, give everything I’ve got to the game, put my heart, my blood, sweat, tears into the game, and people still want to doubt what I’m capable of doing.”

OK, OK — we get it. You’re now 3-4 in the NBA Finals.

Maybe you might want to win the next one you’re in as well to get the mark to .500.

But ridicule LeBron James for not coming through when the stage is at its biggest?

Pretty sure that is no longer an option.

You see, he won a title in Cleveland.

LeBron James has decided that you can go home again.

The decision by King James to return to Cleveland didn’t stun me all that much as I felt he was playing things way too close to the vest during the recent postseason. If he was intent on solely returning to Miami after the playoffs ended, all he had to do was say so.

He was on a team that was in the NBA Finals for the fourth straight season – no easy task regardless of his immense talents. He had running mates in Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade that he enjoys as both people and players.

I don’t think how badly the Heat were rolled by the San Antonio Spurs in the finals had anything to do with this decision. I think James had returning back to Ohio on his mind for a while.

It’s hard to beat being home – and even better when you can be super rich as you return.

James appears to be comfortable with the notion that he will unlikely be on a team that reaches the NBA Finals next season. He seems OK with it taking a bit of time for the Cavaliers to finish building toward a title-worthy team.

“I see myself as a mentor now and I’m excited to lead some of these talented young guys,” James told Sports Illustrated, the entity in which he chose to release this latest decision.

NBA All-Star Game MVP Kyrie Irving is on the roster and Cleveland selected Andrew Wiggins with the No. 1 overall pick in June’s draft. That gives the Cavaliers a pretty solid trio right there.

Rumors abound that a deal to pry Kevin Love away from the Minnesota Timberwolves could occur and that would give Cleveland a real solid group – depending on the price to obtain Love.

What’s interesting this time around is James quietly announced his decision. None of that “The Decision” special-show silliness like when he chose the Cavaliers in 2010.

The way James went about leaving Cleveland brought him a lot of criticism. Nearly all of it deserved.

But he obviously learned a lesson and went about it differently this time. That’s a sign of maturity and, well, a solid decision.

I’m sure people in Miami are unhappy but they did receive four years from James in the prime of his career. Two NBA titles, two other trips to the championship round and the value of the franchise skyrocketed.

But it does seem like Northeastern Ohio – Akron is James’ hometown – is a better fit than South Beach. And to me, it always felt like James would someday play for the Cavaliers again. Kind of better that he returns why he’s still at the top of his game and not say at age 34 or 35 when his skills start declining.

Cleveland owner Dan Gilbert ripped James in a letter in 2010 after the departure and there clearly was some fence-mending needed. Once that discussion was had, I’m guessing it wasn’t all that hard for James to make this decision.

While Cleveland fans are ecstatic, there can’t be many people more excited than David Blatt.

Never heard of Blatt? No problem – neither had most of us until he was hired as coach of the Cavaliers.

Now this dude gets to coach LeBron James … in Cleveland.

Because the King is returning to his once-proud throne.

I kept hearing over recent weeks that Kawhi Leonard’s draft stock has been dropping.

Wasn’t a total surprise to hear such stuff. Despite all the positive attributes to his game, the San Diego State standout doesn’t have the outside shot that most 6-foot-7 NBA players have and he didn’t elevate his game to a higher level during the program’s rare visit to the NCAA tournament.

When Leonard declared for the draft, he was seen as a player who would be selected between the 15th to 20th picks and he was hoping to move into the Top 10 through his workout performances.

The NBA draft is about to commence and I spent the hour before it reading everything I can find about Leonard. I see stuff that he might go as high as the sixth overall pick and there are several mock drafts that have him in the Top 10.

So where is this stuff about his stock dropping coming from?

Going from a mid-first round projection to a Top 10 selection is not a downward spiral.

Regardless, Leonard will be San Diego State’s initial first-round pick since school legend Michael Cage in 1984 and the first Aztecs player to hear his name in the draft since Randy Holcomb went late in the second round in 2002.

His rebounding prowess alone – he had 23 double-doubles last season – will assure Leonard will be a solid NBA contributor. The guess is figuring out how much he can help a team early in his career and then seeing if his scoring abilities improve as he further develops his game.

In a perfect situation, Leonard would have remained in school one more season. He turns 20 early next week and he would have been a preseason All-American if he had returned for the 2011-12 campaign.

He helped the Aztecs to a school-best 34-3 record and the first two NCAA victories in program history so his place in school history is secure. Cage is easily the school’s best-ever player and Leonard is right there in the discussion for second-best despite only playing two seasons at the school.

But this is a weak draft so it made sense that Leonard waved good-bye to text books and hello to large paychecks.

The draft will start soon and it will be interesting to see which team selects Leonard, a player of great promise who works hard and should be a good citizen.

Some other draft thoughts:

–The Cleveland Cavaliers have the first and fourth overall picks in the draft and the scuttlebutt is that the franchise will pick point guard Kyrie Irving of Duke with the top pick. Irving played just 11 college games. If I were running the Cavs, I would take Arizona forward Derrick Williams with the first pick and then take Kentucky point guard Brandon Knight with the fourth pick.

–The biggest area of intrigue is whether the Utah Jazz will take BYU star Jimmer Fredette with the 12th overall selection. The franchise is under a lot of local pressure to do so and can you imagine the uproar if the Jazz pass on Fredette and he becomes a big star elsewhere? The other concern is what if you pick him and his defense isn’t up to par and he becomes a major bust?

–What is Butler star Shelvin Mack doing in this draft? He could have been one of the biggest and brightest stars in college basketball next season and he’s rated nothing better than a second-round pick. With a lockout rating as a possibility, there are several players like Mack that made major mistakes in entering the draft.

San Diego State has never won a single NCAA tournament game and finds itself in a position that would have shocked even the most positive alumnus just 18 months ago – a 2 seed in this year’s edition of March Madness.

The Aztecs being a 2 seed among all the giants of the college basketball world is similar to the Detroit Lions showing up in uniform on Super Bowl Sunday or the Chicago Cubs getting their fingers measured for World Series rings.

In other words, it defies logic at every level above preschool intelligence. Even a porcupine would’ve told you that you were nuts if you had predicted such a thing would occur in your lifetime.

But there is Steve Fisher’s team with a gaudy 2 next to its name on the bracket sheet. That’s the same seed as North Carolina and a better seed than every school in the field except for the four No. 1s – Ohio State, Kansas, Duke and Pittsburgh.

Look on the 3 line and laugh at Syracuse and Connecticut, two Big East powers that would never consider playing a road game at San Diego State. Over there on the 4 line is Kentucky, another elitist program. Longtime West Coast power Arizona is a 5 seed. Oh my, is that cocky UCLA way down there as a 7? The program that won’t even consider traveling two hours down the road to play the Aztecs is a 7 seed while San Diego State is a 2?

Ouch.

I see Michigan State is playing the Bruins in the first round as a 10 seed. Yeah, the same Spartans who were in the Final Four last season.

It almost lines up as “Bracket Gone Wild” to see San Diego State drawing a 2 seed and then getting favorable destinations along the way as long as it wins – first two games in Tucson, next two games up the road in Anaheim.

That type of easy path is normally reserved for the heavyweights of the college basketball world.

The Aztecs (32-2) open play on Thursday against 15th-seeded Northern Colorado and it will be a major surprise if the game is close for more than 12 to 15 minutes. And I say that fully aware that San Diego State has a well-earned reputation for falling short in the two major sports (football being the other).

I’ve dissected the bracket and I can only come up with one thing that can prevent San Diego State from reaching the Sweet 16. That would be possible second-round opponent Penn State. But first the Nittany Lions have to get past Temple.

Sorry fans of the Owls, I’ve dissected Temple pretty good and can’t figure out any way that tournament underachieving coach Fran Dunphy can win two games in this NCAA tournament with one of them being against San Diego State.

Penn State is the type of team that will give San Diego State problems. But I’m guessing the Aztecs aren’t going to be overlooking any team during this tournament. That comes with the territory when your program has zero NCAA tournament wins in its history.

The nucleus of this San Diego State squad came up short in last year’s March Madness, falling to what I felt was a very beatable Tennessee squad in the first round. Funny how the Volunteers ended up in the Elite Eight and I’m sure that memory is still very fresh in the minds of super sophomore Kawhi Leonard and seniors D.J. Gay, Malcolm Thomas and Billy White.

I see the Aztecs having a solid chance at playing Duke in the Elite Eight and it’s too bad that the Blue Devils’ Kyrie Irving is expected back from a toe injury. It would be hard enough for San Diego State to deal with accomplished stars like Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith – two big-time performers from Duke’s 2010 championship team – and the big Plumlee brothers (Mason and Miles) on the interior but now Irving will be back in the mix as well.

But hey, that’s a problem San Diego State hopes to face down the road. For now the Aztecs need to make sure they get NCAA tourney win No. 1 out of the way Thursday and figure out how to hold off Penn State on Saturday.

Of course, how dreadful would it be if the Aztecs end up being one of the high seeds that gets booted out in its first game by an upstart program nobody expects to win?

That can’t possibly happen, can it?

Then again, nobody had a 32-2 record and a 2 seed ever happening at San Diego either.

And nobody had Butler nearly beating Duke in last year’s title game either. Or George Mason reaching the Final Four in 2006.

So who knows what will happen as March Madness gets rolling on Thursday. San Diego State has been treated mighty fairly by the Selection Committee.

It’s time to see if the Aztecs can live up to the 2 seed.