Posts Tagged ‘LeBron James’

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.

Stephen Curry has emerged as a bona fide star over the past two seasons but now he has a chance to hit the megastar platform.

Being named regular-season MVP of the NBA boosted him up another level and now he is about to embark on the NBA Finals stage for the first time when the Golden State Warriors face the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Take down the Cavs and a guy named LeBron James and Curry’s stock – on and off the court – goes skyrocketing to a new stratosphere.

It’s a good stage to be on for sure and more and more people have caught on that one of the faces of the NBA is a 6-foot-3 guard who was once passed over by all the major colleges and ended up being a major star at tiny Davidson College.

Of course, the slaps in the face continued on the night of the NBA Draft when the Minnesota Timberwolves picked some guy named Jonny Flynn – don’t Google him, not in the league – over Curry. That act of stupidly explains perfectly while the Timberwolves are indeed the Timberwolves.

So it has been a charming story to see Curry drain 3-pointers from all areas of the court and evolve into one of the top players in the NBA. His wife and daughter receive plenty of TV time as do his parents – father Dell played 16 seasons in the NBA – and the endorsement opportunities are rolling in.

His image is spotless.

Uh oh, did I say spotless?

Here is where the worrying begins: Are we seeing the real Stephen Curry or will he become the next athlete to combust at some point?

Too many times, we have been fooled by an athlete that appears to be an outstanding person and then we learn of some shady acts or despicable behavior.

Who saw the Tiger Woods sex harem scandal coming? A married man totally crafting his family image and Tiger was stripped down – pun intended – and exposed (yeah, also intended) and funny how his golf game also went into decline as his personal life did.

Who can forget Kobe Bryant being accused of rape in 2003? It was stunning a big-time star like him would even be in such a position and it has forever stained his legacy. Bryant didn’t serve jail time but he did apologize for his actions and he also settled a civil suit with the accuser, which is the athletes’ way of buying out of the crime.

And whatever was more stunning than the O.J. Simpson murder case? His ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and friend Ron Goldman were slaughtered by one of the all-time greatest running backs in football history. (Sorry, not using the word allegedly since he didn’t back up his boast that he would look for the real killers). I will never forget the surreal scene of a guy going from being totally beloved to being viewed as a totally despised monster in a matter of days. The White Bronco – not you Peyton Manning — lives on.

We could talk about disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong for hours. He was always a jerk, always treated people rudely, lied through his teeth all the time about his juicing and really has no redeeming positive qualities. Think of that, he is such a rotten apple that he doesn’t even belong in a good athletes turn into buffoons discussion.

New faces pop on the scene each year. Ray Rice was hailed as a great guy in the community before he smacked his then-fiance in the elevator and dragged her out like a carcass of meat. And how about Adrian Peterson beating his young child with a switch? I shook hands with Peterson once and my hand was sore for two hours so I can’t even imagine somebody of his unbelievable strength brutally whipping their son like that.

So this is what we are asking of Curry – don’t turn into a buffoon someday. Don’t become a moron. Don’t be living a secret life where you are scoring out of wedlock and eventually one gets pregnant. Don’t punch anyone in your family. Don’t be a fraud.

Seems like easy stuff to achieve but too many athletes fail at it. Though I’m from San Diego and two of the biggest stars in the city’s sports history had no troubles being good citizens with impeccable reputations.

Guys named Tony Gwynn and LaDainian Tomlinson.

Curry is on the same path as those two legends and let’s see if he can keep it up. The image is spotless, his popularity is out-of-control high and he’s one of the top outside shooters the league has ever seen.

And now he has an NBA title to chase and we can all sit back and watch the Curry vs. LeBron show. Should be an entertaining NBA Finals.

And let’s hope we are still talking about this Stephen Curry being a real good guy a decade from now.

I’m finally starting to get the image of Paul George’s leg out of my mind.

Whenever we see an image of a leg twisting and contorting in the wrong direction, the stomach gets queasy and you can’t help but quickly look away.

It’s natural to want to unsee what the eyes just saw when that type of compound fracture occurs. It is simply a very gruesome sight to see a leg break apart like a twig.

At least this time the devastating injury occurred away from the spotlight – yes, I know the USA Basketball exhibition was televised by ESPN – and wasn’t being watched by millions like the 2013 Final Four in which former Louisville player Kevin Ware suffered a similar leg injury.

Or if you’re a bit older – at least it wasn’t live on Monday Night Football like the night in 1985 when Joe Theismann’s leg snapped in half while being tackled by Lawrence Taylor.

George is one of the NBA’s rising stars and was the prime reason why the Indiana Pacers were being viewed as the favorites in the Eastern Conference now that LeBron James left the Miami Heat to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The 24-year-old George is set to begin a five-year contract worth more than $90 million so he at least secured his financial future before having this setback. He will make nearly $16 million while sitting out the 2014-15 campaign.

That doesn’t make his recovery any less challenging, of course. But also think of this:

Do you know somebody who is dealing with a tough situation? One that is frustrating and maddening and hard to deal with?

I bet George would write a check for $45 million to trade situations with that person and have a healthy leg.

But since he can’t do that, I expect we will see George approach this situation with incredible passion.

Top-flight professional athletes like George don’t become All-Stars in their sports without having supreme mental toughness. Adversity like this becomes another challenge to overcome and surely George will undergo his rehab efforts with a fierce competitiveness and fully planning to regain his past stellar form.

And I don’t bet against athletes like that. There are so many examples of players who returned to form after a devastating injury so I see no reason why George wouldn’t do the same.

I just wish I could fully unsee that visual of George’s leg.

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.

San Diego State has produced a signature basketball player and nothing seems more surreal than a product of the Aztecs’ program having the label of “NBA Finals MVP” affixed to his name.

Kawhi Leonard will be forever be referred to as the 2014 MVP after winning the honors for leading the San Antonio Spurs to a five-game series win over the Miami Heat. Leonard was sensational over the final three games of the series as San Antonio routed LeBron James and friends. (see stellar recap here – http://cbpost.sportsdirectinc.com/basketball/nba-boxscores.aspx?page=/data/NBA/results/2013-2014/recap882694.html).

If the world ends tomorrow, we’ll all know the reason: The creator of the universe can’t fathom this scenario of a San Diego State player being MVP of the finals and shuts down all the planets in response.

I covered San Diego State’s program for 13 seasons and I was an expert at writing about 20-point losses. Few players were actually good, even fewer people attended games and nobody cared the school had a hoops program.

Things eventually got better after Steve Fisher arrived as coach but I still only covered two NCAA tournament games – both losses – over the next eight seasons before being promoted to the NFL beat.

San Diego State finally won an NCAA tournament game in 2011 – yep, with Leonard on the team – and he already had crafted the second-best career in program history in just two seasons before departing for the NBA and landing with the Spurs.

In just three NBA seasons, he has already supplanted Michael Cage – the four-year San Diego State superstar who remains the best player in program history – as the best Aztecs’ player on the NBA level.

Cage won an NBA rebounding crown in the early portion of his 15-year NBA career in easily making the most impact of any player produced by the school. But now, at age 22, Leonard has surpassed him and given the Aztecs the type of marquee product that can deeply aid recruiting.

In the early part of Fisher’s tenure, he attempted to recruit high-level players by bringing up the “Fab Five” players he coached at Michigan. He had nothing to sell at San Diego State other than a vision so it made sense that he was tapping into his past.

With the Aztecs not part of an elite conference, they will always have trouble getting the best of the best recruits – even a local high school All-American like Chase Budinger didn’t give them a sniff – and what happened in these NBA Finals will be a big help.

San Diego State will always be able to point out that it produced a player who was named NBA Finals MVP. Kind of hard for outsiders and other coaches to ridicule that fact.

The cool thing is Leonard is just scratching his potential. When veterans Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili retire sometime in the near future – and Tony Parker follows suit later this decade – Leonard is going to be the next San Antonio superstar. He is only going to get better as he improves his game.

And the timing of Leonard claiming MVP honors on Father’s day is also significant as his father was murdered more than six years ago.

Pretty good story for a pretty good – and getting better – player. And now someone San Diego State can forever point to as a basketball legend.

Here we are heading into Game 5 and Miami’s Chris Bosh is telling us the Heat will beat San Antonio on Sunday night to keep the series alive.

Might be easier to believe him if Miami’s play was leaving that impression. It is actions that count – not words – and the manner in which the Heat got drubbed by the Spurs in back-to-back games doesn’t make one want to buy in to anybody’s vocal proclamations.

That includes anything LeBron James might say. The guy who repeatedly tells us he doesn’t look ahead and just focuses on the moment went one step further than Bosh did when his gums started flapping.

James knows that teams that trail 3-1 in the NBA Finals are pretty much goners. He knows nobody has ever recovered from that hole to win the NBA title.

“Why not us? History is broken all the time,” James told reporters while apparently forgetting that he only lives in the moment. “And obviously we know we’re against the greatest of odds. No team has ever come back from a 3-1 deficit in the finals but there was a point where no team came back from a 2-0.

“There was a point where no team came back from a 3-1 or 3-0 deficit in the ALCS, and then the Red Sox did it against the Yankees.”

So if you see Dave Roberts on the floor in San Antonio trying to steal a base, you can begin to get worried. Otherwise, there is no evidence that shows anything other than this: The Spurs will win this series, whether it is Sunday or another night.

Here is the stellar Game 5 preview — http://cbpost.sportsdirectinc.com/basketball/nba-preview.aspx?page=/data/nba/matchups/g5_preview_2.html

Some other thoughts:

–San Antonio small forward Kawhi Leonard might be walking away with NBA Finals MVP honors if he has a third straight strong game. The complexion of the series changed when Leonard exploded with the highest-scoring effort of his career in Game 3. If he has an average game Sunday and the Spurs win, look for veteran Tim Duncan (three double-doubles over the first four games) to claim it.

–All indications are that Duncan will return for at least one more season and why wouldn’t he? He still is a force at age 38 and has been one of the top players on the floor throughout the entire playoffs. Besides, he will get paid $10.3 million next year and retiring and finding another line of work wouldn’t close come to being that lucrative.

–In the previous 31 times a team has taken a 3-1 lead, the NBA Finals ended in five games on 16 occasions. Only twice has a series gone seven times and the last time that happened was way back in 1966.

It isn’t that the Miami Heat can’t win three straight games.

It’s more about if you can imagine them winning on Sunday.

I don’t see them winning, not after that horrid performance in Thursday’s 107-86 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in the pivotal Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

In fact, I think there’s more of a chance of Landon Donovan being added to the United States soccer roster for next Monday’s World Cup opener than there is of this series going the distance.

And the odds of Donovan being restored to his proper standing is none. Same as the Heat’s chances of winning the series – nil – after the embarrassing effort that has them trailing 3-1 in the series.

San Antonio routed the Heat by an average of 20 points in the two games in Miami and did everything but steal money from kids in the stands during the back-to-back beatdowns. (see stellar recap here — http://sltrib.sportsdirectinc.com/basketball/nba-boxscores.aspx?page=/data/NBA/results/2013-2014/recap882693.html).

I expect the Spurs to win the series on Sunday and then LeBron James can go about his business of luring more All-Star players to Miami to see if the Heat can compete with San Antonio next June.

Some other thoughts:

–There are rumors that the Heat could be a possible landing spot for New York star Carmelo Anthony. Based on how poorly Miami played in an important game, Anthony would fit in fine. Touche.

–Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard got the message after his poor efforts in the first two games and has been the star of the past two games. My mom thinks Leonard got motivated by my MrSportsBlog post but I’m guessing Leonard isn’t spending much time reading about himself. In a league full of egomaniacs, the soft-spoken Leonard is on the other side of the spectrum.

–Saw the Air Force basketball player bio of Gregg Popovich the other day and the final line was a classic – “his future plans include happiness.” Wonder if winning a fifth NBA title will make the legendary coach smile and feel proud. Um, probably not.

The Miami Heat never lose a postseason game if they lost the previous outing, right?

That fact will be put to the test on Thursday when Miami faces the San Antonio Spurs in the pivotal Game 4 of the NBA Finals.

San Antonio shellacked the Heat in Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead. Miami’s chances of winning the series are much better if they win tonight due to the format being changed from 2-3-2 to 2-2-1-1-1.

Lose Game 4 and Miami heads back to San Antonio with the Spurs having the chance to close it out.

So that streak looms large as tip-off approaches. The last 13 times the Heat have lost a playoff game, they have roared back to win the following game.

Miami needs to stretch that to 14 – or risk dropping its odds of winning a third straight title to a dire level. (See stellar preview here – http://www.ksat.com/sports/Spurs/2014-nba-finals/game-4-preview-spurs-at-heat/26453164)

Some other thoughts:

–Miami’s LeBron James figures to come out charging in Game 4 after being held to eight points over the final three quarters of Game 3. The Heat standout was outplayed by San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard (career-high 29 points) and his play doesn’t match up with a guy averaging 27.3 points in the series. Also alarming is that King James has more turnovers (15) than assists (13).

–Pretty amazing that San Antonio started Game 3 by making 19-of-21 shots and set an NBA Finals record by shooting 75.8 percent in a half. The Spurs obviously played superb but the Heat players certainly needed to take long looks at themselves in the mirror. That type of subpar defensive performance shouldn’t occur in Game 3 of the regular season, let alone Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

–Is Mario Chalmers home? Is he missing? Is an impostor wearing his jersey? Guys like Chalmers don’t typically win you an NBA Finals but they can help you lose one. The Spurs are dominating the point-guard matchup with Tony Parker and Patty Mills and Chalmers has been flat-out abysmal. He has 10 points on 3-of-12 shooting in the series with as many turnovers as assists (nine each).

That was quite a statement the San Antonio Spurs made while cruising to a convincing 111-92 victory over the Miami Heat in Game 3 of the NBA Finals.

San Antonio opened Tuesday’s game by making 19-of-21 shots and actually reached 50 points before the Heat made it to 30. The Spurs led by as many as 25, held off a Miami charge, and kicked it back into gear in the final quarter.

Kawhi Leonard scored a career-best 29 points on 10-of-13 shooting to pace the Spurs and Danny Green contributed 15 points on 7-of-8 shooting. San Antonio shot 59.4 percent overall while putting on a shooting clinic. (See stellar recap here – http://sltrib.sportsdirectinc.com/basketball/nba-boxscores.aspx?page=/data/NBA/results/2013-2014/recap882692.html).

Miami lost a home playoff game for the first time this postseason and you would have thought the Heat were playing in somebody else’s building while digging the huge deficit. LeBron James scored 22 points but 14 of them came in the first quarter.

The Heat will attempt to tie the series in Thursday’s Game 4. It should be noted Miami trailed last season’s series 2-1 also before winning three of the next four to claim the title.

Some other thoughts:

–Miami has won 13 consecutive postseason games following a loss and the impressive streak will be put to the test in Game 4. The competitiveness of James and guard Dwyane Wade seemingly soars another couple octaves higher whenever their backs are against the wall.

–Leonard picked a good time to emerge from his slumber with the standout outing. I mentioned his subpar series performance shortly before tip-off and the former San Diego State standout responded by scoring 16 first-quarter points on 5-of-5 shooting. San Antonio badly needs this Leonard and not the one that showed up for Games 1 and 2.

–Heat veteran Shane Battier has played just 16 minutes in the series and has yet to score. When Miami had no answers on how to keep the Spurs from scoring in Game 3, it might have been worth throwing Battier in there for a few minutes.