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On LeBron James and Coaching

Originally posted on Between the Lines:

Today, ESPN senior writer Marc Stein wrote a piece lambasting LeBron James for behavior Stein described as “unbecoming” and “unflattering.”  Apparently, Stein witnessed

LeBron essentially calling timeouts and making substitutions. LeBron openly barking at Blatt after decisions he didn’t like. LeBron huddling frequently with Lue and so often looking at anyone other than Blatt.

Stein went on to contrast this “unpalatable behavior” to Spurs’ star Tim Duncan’s support for Gregg Popovich, even before the coach was “POP.” I think this is the worst kind of moralizing, patronizing, unconsciously racist reprimand, resting on a tower of unstated and unsavory assumptions with a long history in the culture of basketball.

Let me tell you a story to clarify why I think this and why I feel so incensed.  Back in the Fall of 1981, Magic Johnson told reporters that he wasn’t “having any fun” and that he wanted to leave the Lakers…

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The NBA Finals Through 2 Games

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There’s something to be said for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who were immediately (and to be honest with validity) written off once Kyrie Irving broke his kneecap in Game 1 of the NBA Finals. After Sunday night, with the Cavs D stymieing the Golden State offense once again I think the question becomes can we finally believe that the Cavs can win this series?

LeBron James while struggling to shoot the ball again (11-35) found a way to get 16 rebounds and dish out 11 assists and completely control the pace of the game. The Warriors have had trouble getting their offense on track as Steph Curry went 5-23 and 2-15 from 3. We’d all think that at some point the Cavaliers would regress to the mean and the Warriors will break out offensively. Without Irving and having Dellavedova in the lineup the Cavs have defended like monsters and overall in the postseason they’ve done the same.

I’m fascinated to see how the Warriors respond in Cleveland offensively. Their defense for the most part has been fine though part of defense is rebounding and the Cavs were able to create 24 extra possessions in Game 2. This also doesn’t seem like something that will change much as long as Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov are healthy. Klay Thompson was able to get going with 34 points but he needed 28 shots to get them and he was reckless in certain instances. It’s all about making guys volume shooters and so far both teams have done as such, hence the tightly contested first two games.

I thought David Blatt should’ve played Mosgov down the stretch more. In the 1st half when the Warriors went to their small lineup he was able to stay on the court and be effective on both ends of the court. The Cavs won so they may think nothing of it, but I’m not so sure the Warriors come back if Mosgov stays out on the court.

Make no mistake about it this was an incredibly gritty victory by the Cavaliers, and this is a series. From Cleveland’s perspective the only question is will they eventually wear down, but from an execution standpoint defensively, they couldn’t have asked for more out of these first 2 games. These Finals have lived up to the hype so far, and now we see if Golden State can raise it’s game. This is a unique challenge for them going forward.

The NBA Finals-Guarding LeBron James Part I

Feb 26, 2015; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives between Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson (left) and guard Stephen Curry (30) in the third quarter at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

 

Guarding the best player in the world seems like a daunting challenge. Guarding him when he’s trying to win his 3rd NBA Championship will be and even more interesting challenge. The Golden State Warriors who in total are 79-17 this season are 4 wins away from their first championship in 40 years. The Cleveland Cavaliers haven’t won a championship period. While the Cavs are a prohibitive underdog in the series, the one reason that everyone is giving them a puncher’s chance in this series is LeBron James. How he is guarded, watched, shadowed, and covered by the Warriors is going to be very fascinating.

Golden State has multiple defenders that they can throw at James. I’m assuming they’re going to at least start with Harrison Barnes. In the last regular season meeting, James was 15-25 from the field and scored 42 points in 36 minutes on the court. Via NBA.com here was James shot chart for that game.

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Here’s a quick view vs. Barnes.

 

 

 

 

 

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For a lot of this game, there wasn’t much double teaming or even digging down. James went into the post against Barnes on the regular, and for good portions lived in the paint drawing fouls or finishing strong. Considering that Kevin Love is not in this series, the spacing here will be crucial. One will have to wonder if the Dubs play LeBron straight up to start, and change as they go along. Or if LeBron is dominating post play, will they be forced to double team?

 

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I’m also sure with switches we’ll see plenty of Draymond Green on LBJ. Green who is one of the best defenders in the league will also have his work cut out for him at least at the outset. If I’m the Warriors I’m not double teaming as you see in this play. If I’m the Cavaliers I’m trying to force that double team and break the Warriors principles. On this play James drew a foul on Green as the Warriors didn’t give any help in that instance.

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I would like to see Andre Iguodala guard James more than anyone else. He’s long enough to contend with James’ backdowns in the post and can keep him perimeter. LeBron primarily used Pick and Roll’s to attack Iggy. He was so good offensively that night that it didn’t really matter who covered him. The Warriors have to mix it up though. I’m curious to see if James is so aggressive/dominant that it leads to…

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The dreaded double team/converge on him. It will be hard to contend with the Cavs if he’s playing on that level. The role players will have to make shots and the Warriors will have to make choices.

 

Guest Post-What’s Next For The Clippers

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What’s Next for the Clippers

 

After winning in the first round against the San Antonio Spurs, some people who follow the Los Angeles Clippers thought that this team was finally turning the corner. This group has built a reputation on coming up short in the playoffs, but the 2015 season was supposed to be different. After jumping out to a 3-2 series lead and a huge lead in Game 6, the Houston Rockets appeared dead. Then, the collapse happened.

 

Fans in Los Angeles were stunned when the Houston Rockets found away to win to keep the series going. Of course, after losing such a devastating game like that, few people gave Los Angeles a chance to bounce back and win Game 7. They didn’t play terribly, but at the same time Houston was able to win fairly easily and move onto the Western Conference finals.

 

When you look at the core roster for Los Angeles, it is definitely an issue that they have never experienced the Western Conference finals. Yes, the Western Conference is loaded with talent, but some of the best players in daily fantasy basketball are on the Clippers. Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan make up the core of the team, and they have also relied on others to stay competitive.

 

The most important move this summer is going to involve the free agency of Jordan. He is one of the most intriguing free agents in recent memory, and what Los Angeles does with him could really determine the next five or so seasons for the franchise. There is no doubt that he is one of the best centers in daily fantasy basketball, but at the same time management needs to make sure that they properly weigh the pros and cons when it comes to having him on the team.

 

On any given night, Jordan is capable of putting up 20 points or grabbing 20 rebounds. Unfortunately, he is also capable of missing 20 free throws if given the opportunity. He is one of the worst free throw shooters in NBA history, and teams are not afraid at all to use it against him. Head coach Doc Rivers pretty much needs to determine every single game whether to keep him in and watch him get foul, or take him out. If a player is that much of a liability, are they really worth a maximum contract?

 

Signing Jordan to a lucrative contract would also tie up a lot of money. The Clippers had very little depth this year, and obviously they would be unable to go after a lot of talent without sufficient funds. If they decide not to bring back Jordan, they could use that money to get two or possibly three players who can be part of the rotation.

 

Until this team breaks through, they are going to be one of the punching bags in the media. It’s time for them to start making some smart decisions in free agency to build a better team overall.

 

 

 

 

Cavs vs. Hawks Preview/Prediction W/ 5 Takes

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As the Eastern Conference Finals begin Wednesday in Atlanta, I’m thinking and really believing this is going to be an incredibly fun series. The Cleveland Cavaliers and the Atlanta Hawks have had long strange trips to get to this point, but they’re here and it’s time to decide an Eastern Conference champion.

It’s been a tough playoffs for both of these teams. Cleveland while going 8-2 in their 10 playoff games lost Kevin Love in the 1st round and played the majority of the 2nd round with a banged up Kyrie Irving. JR Smith was suspended for two games, lineups have changed plenty over and they’ve had to adjust their game on the fly. Of course their one constant is LeBron James who when it was time to put up or shut up in Games 4 and 5 against the Bulls, the best player in the world followed suit with a buzzer beater in Game 4 and a 38-12-6 performance in Game 5 to put the Cavs in control of the series. Cleveland’s key in this series is not only diversity offensively, but their ability to guard the Hawks potentially potent offense. Atlanta won 3 out of the 4 games but you have to throw most of that out with all of the turnover from the start of the season plus these teams just look and feel different now as opposed to then.

As far as Atlanta goes, they’ve gone 8-4 in these playoffs and in a lot of ways are still trying to find the consistent ball movement that got them 60 wins during the regular season. Really from game to game they’ve been inconsistent. Their bench has struggled and they’re also a bit banged up as well. Here’s 5 thoughts on the series plus a prediction.

 

1. Kyle Korver has to get going again.

Kyle Korver shot 49% from the 3 in the regular season. He’s down 14% points from that in the postseason. The Cavs really don’t have a defender in my opinion who can contain him well like Washington did. I feel like he’s going to get loose. He has to if the Hawks are to advance. He’s such a big part of their offense and opens up things for everyone.

2. DeMarre Carroll can’t get into foul trouble.

Atlanta lost Thabo Sefelosha towards the end of the regular season and are really limited in terms of wing depth. If DeMarre Carroll gets into foul trouble the Hawks are in some trouble. We may see some Kent Bazemore but beyond that Carroll has to stay on the court and be able to make LeBron work on defense enough to make him inefficient on offense.

3. An explosive Kyrie helps Everyone.

Kyrie Irving played the majority of the last series banged up. He’ll have to be plenty more explosive to take pressure off of LBJ and everyone else on the Cavs. It will also help mitigate and lessen the impact of his defense or lackthereof as he’ll have to guard Jeff Teague. Irving has to be good more less great for the Cavaliers to get to the Finals.

4. The Frontlines Will Play A Big Part In This Series.

See what I did there? It’s no secret that Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov had a huge impact last series against Chicago with their activity, energy, and effort. Will they do the same here? It’s a tougher matchup for them as Paul Milsap and Al Horford are talented and tough to deal with offensively. Milsap has played banged up this postseason and we’ve only seen occasional spurts out of him. Horford won Game 5 of the Wizards series and has been consistent as well. The Hawks are undersized and have been out-rebounded for much of the season and playoffs. If the Cavs can make this matchup even, they have a good shot to win.

5. The Hawks Will Win This Series.

Everything on this series schematically tells me that the Hawks will win. Overall depth and health, more versatility in terms of lineups and matchups. The Cavaliers have to hope that LeBron is great, and Kyrie is good enough to help pull along the rest of the squad in order to win. If the Cavs had homecourt I might think of this series differently, but I like the Hawks in 6.

The Draft Lottery Open Letter From A Knicks Perspective

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The 2012-2013 season feels like a window into a bizarro time for the New York Knicks franchise. 54 wins and the 2nd best record in the Eastern Conference. Yes they lost to the Pacers in the 2nd round in a heartbreaking Game 6 but that was a season of mostly good feelings and mostly good vibes. If you take away that season, what since the 2000 run to the conference finals has given any other real positive feeling with reinforcement? Getting Carmelo? It was cool at the time, but to this point what have the Knicks had to show for it besides a couple of playoff appearances? Not much.

I keep thinking to myself as we get closer to Tuesday’s draft lottery that this is the kickoff point for the biggest stretch of decisions in Knicks history at this stage. They need to get this right for so many more reasons than just winning the lottery. The Phil Jackson situation as he is a novice executive with no track record of any sort is put to the test. If the Knicks get a pick lower than 2 will they trade it? I hope not because I believe in order to break the cycle and change the cycle you have to change what you do completely. When was the last time the Knicks had a draft pick this significant? I won’t quiz you guys because the fans know but you get my drift. I’m going to be sitting on my couch watching this draft lottery Tuesday night with all the hope that something will finally go right for the New York Knicks franchise.

This awful season that the team just endured wasn’t for the draft situation to get screwed up right? Right. The Knick fan (and rightfully so) has been conditioned to think that bad things will happen. Of course at this time we hear the story of Isiah Thomas taking a possible minority ownership stake in the New York Liberty which of course tells us that he’s back in Knicks fans lives to a degree. This feels like a sign of bad things to come, doesn’t it?

I think with everything thought and said I have to believe it will be alright this time. I have to believe that something will go right, and something will bounce the Knicks way, because it’s been enough of the other way, right? To all Knicks fans who will be watching that draft lottery with baited breath hoping to get the number 1 pick, I just have to ask; why not us?