Tag Archives: NBA

A Post-Victory Look at My Earlier Take on the 2016 NBA Finals.

big3iI wrote this post before the Finals started. And when the Cavs were down 3 games to 1 after Game 4, it might have seemed like I would have to eat crow. But, somehow, I never lost faith that LeBron and my Cavs would prevail. (You can ask my daughter, Emilia.) With all due humility, I’ve highlighted the best parts in bold.

Okay. It’s the NBA Finals.

Starting tonight — Thursday, June 2nd — the battle between the Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the Western Conference Champion Golden State Warriors will get underway.

And as a Cleveland boy, born and raised, I must call my shot.

lebron-james_416x416So, I’m calling LeBron “King” James and the Cavs over Stephen “Mouthpiece-Masticating” Curry and his Golden State NBA golden boys.

Of course, Warrior fans will say I’m favoring Lebron and the Cavs simply because I’m a myopic, championship-starved Northeastern Ohio native looking to Lebron James through the distorted prism of a basketball-related messianic complex.

But, while that’s true — it’s not the whole reason.

15970992-mmmainI’m calling this NBA Finals series for the Cavs mostly because of the fact that, this year, Lebron is heading into the Finals with a healthy team: with All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving fully fit for service.

In the 2015 Finals, Stephen Curry and the Warriors barely held off James and the Cavaliers in 6 tightly contested games – without Love and Irving on the court. Now, with Kevin and Kyrie healthy and ready to compete – the balance of power has shifted toward Cleveland.

150202105528-kevin-love-lebron-james-kyrie-irving-020215.1200x6723-point shooting has been the hallmark of Golden State’s potent offense. But in the first two rounds of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, the Cavs lit it up from beyond the arc. James, Love, Irving, J.R. Smith, Channing Frye and Co. rained threes in an historic fashion. In fact, the Cavs’ 3-point shooting percentage in the 2016 playoffs is higher than that of Golden State’s sharpshooters. But hoisting threes isn’t the key to Cleveland’s game.

gettyimages-474678790Golden State has no answer for Cleveland’s interior strength. As much as Golden State wants to run up and down the court jacking up crazy threes from half-court, the team that controls the paint (and the boards) will still have the advantage. And I’ll take Cleveland’s big men, Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov, over Golden State’s Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli every game.

538861d3df6acbb8d03d65d024fe6e76_crop_northAnd let’s keep an eye on the Warrior’s volatile emotional touchstone, Draymond Green. He’s just two technical fouls away from big trouble – and one flagrant foul away from suspension. Can he last the series without getting himself suspended for a game or two? Count on the Cavs to take it to the rim against Green early and often. Draw contact. We’ll see whether trash-talking, crotch-kicking Draymond can control his dramatics – and his cheap shots.

Ch0WHZwXEAAPR3GI could go on and on about the specifics of match-ups and man-to-man breakdowns — but ultimately, I’ll confess that my take on the 2016 NBA Finals is less analytical than emotional.

Cleveland hasn’t won a major sports championship since the great Jim Brown and Frank Ryan’s Browns won an NFL Title in 1964. That’s 52 long years in the wilderness.

images-1This year — with Cleveland hosting Donald Trump’s madcap Republican National Convention this July, my downtrodden but proud, hardworking hometown needs a prophylactic, honorable, full court shot of redemption.

I believe Lebron and the Cavs will make that shot.

So, I say Cavs in 6.

Or less. (Okay, here’s where I went over the top.)

Game on.usa-today-9094536.0

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One Cleveland Boy’s Take on the 2016 NBA Finals.

big3iOkay. It’s the NBA Finals.

Starting tonight — Thursday, June 2nd — the battle between the Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers and the Western Conference Champion Golden State Warriors will get underway.

And as a Cleveland boy, born and raised, I must call my shot.

lebron-james_416x416So, I’m calling LeBron “King” James and the Cavs over Stephen “Mouthpiece-Masticating” Curry and his Golden State NBA golden boys.

Of course, Warrior fans will say I’m favoring Lebron and the Cavs simply because I’m a myopic, championship-starved Northeastern Ohio native looking to Lebron James through the distorted prism of a basketball-related messianic complex.

But, while that’s true — it’s not the whole reason.

15970992-mmmainI’m calling this NBA Finals series for the Cavs mostly because of the fact that, this year, Lebron is heading into the Finals with a healthy team: with All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving fully fit for service.

In the 2015 Finals, Stephen Curry and the Warriors barely held off James and the Cavaliers in 6 tightly contested games – without Love and Irving on the court. Now, with Kevin and Kyrie healthy and ready to compete – the balance of power has shifted toward Cleveland.

150202105528-kevin-love-lebron-james-kyrie-irving-020215.1200x6723-point shooting has been the hallmark of Golden State’s potent offense. But in the first two rounds of the Eastern Conference Playoffs, the Cavs lit it up from beyond the arc. James, Love, Irving, J.R. Smith, Channing Frye and Co. rained threes in an historic fashion. In fact, the Cavs’ 3-point shooting percentage in the 2016 playoffs is higher than that of Golden State’s sharpshooters. But hoisting threes isn’t the key to Cleveland’s game.

gettyimages-474678790Golden State has no answer for Cleveland’s interior strength. As much as Golden State wants to run up and down the court jacking up crazy threes from half-court, the team that controls the paint (and the boards) will still have the advantage. And I’ll take Cleveland’s big men, Tristan Thompson and Timofey Mozgov, over Golden State’s Andrew Bogut and Festus Ezeli every game.

538861d3df6acbb8d03d65d024fe6e76_crop_northAnd let’s keep an eye on the Warrior’s volatile emotional touchstone, Draymond Green. He’s just two technical fouls away from big trouble – and one flagrant foul away from suspension. Can he last the series without getting himself suspended for a game or two? Count on the Cavs to take it to the rim against Green early and often. Draw contact. We’ll see whether trash-talking, crotch-kicking Draymond can control his dramatics – and his cheap shots.

Ch0WHZwXEAAPR3GI could go on and on about the specifics of match-ups and man-to-man breakdowns — but ultimately, I’ll confess that my take on the 2016 NBA Finals is less analytical than emotional.

Cleveland hasn’t won a major sports championship since the great Jim Brown and Frank Ryan’s Browns won an NFL Title in 1964. That’s 52 long years in the wilderness.

images-1This year — with Cleveland hosting Donald Trump’s madcap Republican National Convention this July, my downtrodden but proud, hardworking hometown needs a prophylactic, honorable, full court shot of redemption.

I believe Lebron and the Cavs will make that shot.

So, I say Cavs in 6.

Or less.

Game on.usa-today-9094536.0

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Small Ball? Please. The Cavs Go Big. Big Time.

Cavs 5Please pardon this Clevelander for crowing – but the Cavaliers have had a very good offseason so far. After taking the Golden State Warriors to 6 games in the 2015 NBA Finals without Kyrie Irving or Kevin Love, the Cavs are fully reloaded for the 2015-16 season.

635490647420316139-USATSI-8144247With Kevin Love’s re-signing on the first day of free agency, the message to the rest of the NBA is clear: The Cavs will be going back to the Finals. And this time, barring injury, Stephen Curry and Co. – or anyone else — won’t be enough to stop them.

So many trendy NBA pundits and executives have gotten all excited about “small ball” and how the Cavs were done in by Golden State’s jump-shooting lineup of shorter players. But the fact is that the Warriors were nearly down 3-0 to a Cavs team without Irving wreaking havoc at the point or Love stretching the floor, grabbing rebounds and knocking ‘em down from long distance.

635597185906014271-2015-02-16-LeBron-KyrieTake a moment to consider the Cavs starting five. This is a team that can start All-Star Kyrie Irving at the 1. LeBron James at the 2: easily the leagues most overpowering shooting guard. All-Star Kevin Love (6’10”) at the 3, Tristan Thompson (6’10”) at the 4 and Timofey Mozgov (7’1”) at the 5. Let anyone else play small ball. The Cavs front line is a shot-blocking, rebound-eating animal – with a guy in Kevin Love who will murder you from the 3-point line.

With this lineup, there is so much less pressure on LeBron night after night. He doesn’t need to score a triple double every night like he averaged in the NBA Finals. He’s got more than enough help in every facet of the game.

AR-150629943A word to David Blatt: This is your starting five. Do NOT be afraid to start such a big front line. There will be plenty of room in the paint for LeBron and Kyrie to drive to the hoop when Love leaks out to the perimeter and a defender has to follow him. And on defense, no opponent is getting to the rim easily — if at all.

16233532-mmmainI’ll be interested to see what the Cavs can do to improve their bench. But just sending Iman Shumpert and J.R. Smith back to the bench is a good start. And I love Matthew Dellavedova and his hustle, but we could use a bit more bench help at the point. (Though I do want to keep Deli!)

Say a prayer for good health, Cavs Fans, our long municipal nightmare may soon be over.

And given that the average age of our starting five is just 26 years old — the future of the Cleveland Cavaliers looks very, very big.

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My Mid-Season NBA Prediction.

NBA BannerNBA Banner 2Mark the date, NBA fans. Today I’m announcing that the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Los Angeles Clippers will face each other in the 2015 NBA Finals.

Cleveland Cavaliers v Atlanta HawksFull disclosure: I was born and raised in Cleveland – and I’ve spent the bulk of my adult life living in Los Angeles. So, you’d be justified in thinking that I’m less than objective. But you’d be wrong.

I’m not betting on The Cavs and Clips just because they’re my favorite Eastern and Western Conference teams. I’m banking on the basketball brilliance of LeBron James and Blake Griffin, Kyrie Irving and Chris Paul, Kevin Love and DeAndre Jordan.

The Cavaliers and Clippers both began the season with high expectations – and both spent much of the first half of the season dashing those lofty hopes.

458127466-jpgFans and detractors alike expressed concerns about the Cavalier’s first-year head coach. It didn’t help that his name was Blatt – and his team played flat. But just as speculation rose that Blatt’s all-star players were gunning for him behind his back – LeBron and Kyrie and company ran off eight straight wins. (And counting as of this writing.)

DeAndre Jordan, Omer AsikThe Clippers have also gelled in recent weeks – with Lob City finally airborne and the league’s best sixth man, Jamal Crawford, raining shots from every corner of the court. With Doc Rivers, their sage head coach and general manager, making just the right personnel moves, the Clipper’s improving chemistry has been evident in their recent six-game winning streak. (And counting as of this writing.)

Both teams have the talent to get to the finals.

Both teams have the postseason experience.

Both teams have superstars at three positions, a brace of perimeter sharpshooters, dominant inside power and rim protection, speed and athleticism.

2013-04-23T193255Z_1_CBRE93M1IB000_RTROPTP_3_SPORTS-US-NBA-CLIPPERS_JPG_475x310_q85And both teams are improving. Just this week, Cavs guard Kyrie Irving just dropped 55 points on the 32-14 Portland Trailblazers – winning without LeBron. And Clippers super sub Jamal Crawford filled it up for 21 points in the 4th quarter to beat the Denver Nuggets.

And they’re just getting started.

Sorry Warriors, Hawks, Blazers and Wizard fans.

It’ll be The Cavaliers versus The Clippers in the NBA Finals this year.

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The (Not So) Favorite Son Returns?

cleveland_skylineScreen Shot 2014-07-10 at 11.45.28 PMAs a Clevelander who never blamed LeBron James for taking his talents to South Beach, let me add my own column space to the ten million blogs currently weighing in on The Decision Part Two:

I’d love to see King James come home to the Best Location in the Nation.

And then I’d like to see Dan Gilbert publicly eat that letter of his at center court!

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One and Dumped.

One and Done Pauley Pavilion at Duskslam167_cover1The very best thing about the first weekend of March Madness is that so many of the all-too-hyped freshman “one-and-done” NBA prospects were bounced from the NCAA Tournament.

Schools with squads laden with upper classmen earned upset victories over programs that rely on rented hoop mercenaries, whose only interest in college is as a one-season showcase for their talents.

When Mercer beat Duke and Stanford knocked out Kansas, maturity and team play proved superior to the ballyhooed skills of freshmen like Jabari Parker, who made only 4 of his 16 shots and was 0-3 from 3-pt range against Mercer —  and Andrew Wiggins, who managed just 4 points on 1 of 6 shooting against Stanford.

w&P

John CalipariIf only Wichita State had been able to close out Kentucky — whose coach, John Calipari, has embraced the “one and done” phenomenon.

In recent years, Calipari hasn’t so much recruited as reloaded, stocking up on NBA-bound prospects for short-term success. He started 5 freshmen against Wichita State.

Wichita State, led by senior Cleanthony Early’s 31 points, fell just 2 points shy of sending Kentucky home short of the Sweet-16.

coursey-parker-ap2Still, March Madness has already taken some of the overheated air out of the puffed-up one-and-dones. In fact, after Coach K’s Duke powerhouse – a 3 seed — got clocked in the first round by Mercer – a lowly 14 seed — USA Today is reporting that Jabari Parker is now “unsure” of the NBA draft.

fc28a0e298abf1f1fdfd3980e6ff99f1_crop_northFor years now, the NBA and the college game have struggled with the growing problem of student-athletes leaving school early to go pro. Largely it’s a problem of the NBA and NCAA’s own making.

But that problem may finally be getting solved in the best possible way: on the basketball court.

1380746998000-USATSI-7153278I’ll be rooting for UCLA – whose starting five include two seniors (Travis and David Wear), one junior (Norman Powell), two sophomores (Jordan Adams and Kyle Anderson) – and not one freshman one-and-done!

If that makes me a grumpy old man, so be it.

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The Biggest Man in Pro Sports Today…

k-bigpicWhat a great day for professional sports.

DownloadedFileThe film “42” is in theatres, celebrating the transformational story of how Jackie Robinson broke the color line in Major League Baseball with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947.

Today, 66 years later, professional basketball player Jason Collins overcame another taboo in pro sports by announcing to the world that he is a gay man – becoming the first openly gay man active in a major American professional sport.

xxx-stanford---usc-3_4_r536_c534A first round pick in the 2001 NBA draft, Jason Collins is a 12-year NBA veteran. An All-American center at Stanford, Jason and his twin brother Jarron both enjoyed decade-long careers in the National Basketball Association. Jason’s dozen years in the NBA are further proof – as if needed – that it’s not if there are gay men in pro sports – but how many pro athletes are gay? And why should we even care?

COLLINS THOMAS WEATHERSPOON HARRINGTONThe New Jersey fans that cheered for Jason Collins during seven seasons with the Nets – and the ticket buyers who rooted for him in his NBA stops since leaving New Jersey – weren’t cheering for a heterosexual man or gay man. They were cheering for a talented and durable big man who fought for rebounds and scored consistently in the paint. Team player Jason has also always been considered a good guy in the locker room.

975820-jason-collinsTrivia note: The Dodgers played in Brooklyn NY when Jackie Robinson made history in 1947. The Nets, the NBA team that drafted Jason Collins in 2001, is now playing its first season in Brooklyn. (Significant? Probably not. But us sports fans love us some trivia.)

la-me-ln-jason-collins-aunt-20130429Jason’s revelation regarding his sexuality reminds me of the silly debate over gays in the military. There have always been gay men in the military – and there have always been gay men in sports. From the first moment men clashed in battle – whether in war or on the playing field – a percentage of those men have been gay. That’s only natural. Completely natural.

jason-collins-siSo, congratulations, Jason Collins!

I’m honored that Jason attended the same San Fernando Valley grade school that my daughters attended. Sierra Canyon School should be prouder than ever of Jason.

His college and NBA basketball achievements have been laudable.

His honesty and courage today make him an American hero for the ages.

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