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NBA Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban

Should The NBA Change The Schedule And Playoff Format?

Most of this summer’s off season moves have shifted the balance of power in the NBA further west re-invigorating the argument for a change to the playoff format and, by inference, how the regular season is played out. So, should NBA commissioner Adam Silver consider making changes?

The desire for owners in the West that blew it and have fallen out of playoff contention like the Dallas Mavericks Mark Cuban or teams hoping to crack a tough top eight in West for the first time in a long time like the Timberwolves or Kings can try to make the case that it would be easier in the East, but the NBA Writer’s Blogtable (on 7-12-2017) didn’t hold back in shooting down any ideas about making changes to how the playoffs are seeded.

Steve Aschburner: we’re supposed to get all bent out of shape and throw tradition overboard because of a couple of seasons of stronger low seeds in the West?

Fran Blinebury: if I were Mark Cuban, I’d still be kicking myself for breaking up the 2011 championship team. … I really don’t want to start hearing their crying in April when they have to go Miami to Portland in the first round.

Scott Howard-Cooper: it’s an interesting idea to debate from a competition standpoint, but flawed and impractical in many ways.

Shaun Powell: you’re only hearing this noise from owners and coaches of teams in the West who are fighting for the last few playoff crumbs.

Ian Thomsen: it would be heresy for the Celtics and Lakers (or Cavaliers and Warriors) to meet anytime other than the championship round.

Lang Whitaker:if you’re going to do away with Conferences, then do away with them altogether in favor of one big table of all thirty teams.But at some point someone will come along and make the East great again.

Whitaker emphasizes the biggest problem with changing the current playoff format. To do it fairly, any change to how the postseason is run needs to be reflected in the regular season and too much travel is already a major issue with the current unbalanced East/West schedule.

The NBA has been making changes every year in an attempt to ease the rigors of the schedule on its players. Back-to-backs are down, a longer break is being provided around the All-Star Weekend, fewer preseason games are being played and more days are being added to the schedule.

Increasing travel for players during the regular season or the playoffs isn’t, and will likely never be, on the table and it shouldn’t be.

If anything, changes to the schedule should be stealing from the other major professional leagues, MLB and NHL. In those leagues, more games are played within divisions to both save money and travel time, but more importantly create rivalries that are not dependent on unpredictable meetings in the postseason.

The NBA doesn’t have to and probably shouldn’t just copy what MLB and the NHL does with their schedules, rather, they should find the model that protects NBA traditions while maintaining the opportunity to see every other NBA franchise in your building at least once per year.

It shouldn’t be all that hard to accomplish.

Teams within a division would play 22 times. 5 times against each “rival” every year, plus two additions games within the division.

Teams outside a division, but with the same conference would play 30 times on 2 home, 1 away or 1 home, 2 away format.

Games against the other conference would continue on the current 1 home, 1 away schedule totaling 30 games.

Playing teams within your own division 5 or 6 times a season will, over time, make these games more important and should help create more regular season rivalries.

However, the real reasons for modifying the regular season schedule and not touching the current playoff format are the same as in the NHL and MLB. It saves money, travel and some wear and tear on the players.

 

 

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Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Houston Rockets Ryan Anderson

Which NBA GM Will Risk Their Career On Ryan Anderson?

The Houston Rockets want to trade for the Knicks Carmelo Anthony in the worst way. The only problem seems to be they want to off load Ryan Anderson and the $61 million remaining on his contract to do it and for perfectly obvious reasons, New York isn’t interested. So, is there another NBA GM willing to risk their career to help facilitate this trade?

Other than the season-ending neck injury in 2013-14 and the typical 10-20 games he’s missed each season since then, Anderson is a reliable stretch-four. Sure he rebounds like a guard and his defense is suspect, but he does stretch the floor.

Last year he averaged 13.6 points per game, right about his career average, but is that enough production for a $20 million per year player? How many first round draft picks should a team with salary cap space be demanding to absorb a contract of this – even by today’s standards – massive proportions that doesn’t go away for three years? It’s hard to imagine just one first round pick would be enough for a third team taking on what would be almost certainly be considered a salary dump.

A big problem is the Rockets traded away their 2018 first round draft pick to the Clippers when they acquired Chris Paul and the Knicks were thinking they deserved a draft pick as part of this trade, not give a pick away to be rid of Melo.

While no one should ever be surprised by an off the wall decision from an NBA GM, taking on a contract like Anderson’s is usually something one would expect the Knicks would do and they’ve already said no. The Nets got a first, a second and dumped a small contract back when they absorbed DeMarre Carroll and his $30 million remaining over two years from Toronto. They are going to want a lot more to fit the bulk of Anderson’s contract into their remaining space.

Trading Anderson to a team over the cap means the Knicks have to want the players another GM was willing to give up. It’s almost certain, that’s just shifting the problem further out and for maybe the first time in a long while, the Knicks aren’t going to be the team that gets fleeced.

When you sign a one-dimensional stretch-four to an $80 million contract, generally speaking, he’s yours, right to the end. If the Rockets really want Melo, unless they can find a (few) GM(s) willing to risk his career to help out, they are going to have to dig a little deeper and sacrifice some players other teams might actually think are on good contracts.

Daryl Morey is really going to earn his salary working this deal.

 

 

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Stephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

NBA Boston Celtics Gordon Hayward

What’s Next After Gordon Hayward Picks The Celtics?

So Gordon Hayward has picked the Celtics according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and will rejoin his college coach Brad Stevens, but that’s not the end of this story. Not by a long shot. As things sit, Boston doesn’t have the salary cap space to sign Hayward to a max deal as described by ESPN,

Boston would now need a series of transactions to create cap space for Gordon Hayward. The Celtics would have to pull the qualifying offer on Kelly Olynyk, renounce free agents Jonas Jerebko, James Young, Gerald Green and waive the contracts of Jordan Mickey and Demetrius Jackson (or trade). The Celtics would be left with $27.6M in room and likely need to move the contract of Terry Rozier or Marcus Smart. Trading Rozier would have the Celtics short $1M of a max salary a lot.

Bobby Marks, ESPN

Now Hayward’s agent has replied to the news saying no deal has been finalized, so maybe the details are still up in the air, but as noted by Rick Kamla during NBA Summer League, if Hayward was rejoining the Jazz, he would have just said that.

(The article on ESPN has since been edited to reflect Hayward’s agent’s comments.)

The Celtics will look very different next season. Gone will be veteran centers Amir Johnson, Tyler Zeller, Kelly Olynk, stretch four Jonas Jerebko and second year big Jordan Mickey.

Al Horford will be the last big man standing with NBA experience and a team that couldn’t rebound the ball might struggle to ever see another board.

Still on the roster are small forwards Jae Crowder, Jaylen Brown and this year’s third overall draft pick Jayson Tatum. Even if Hayward is moving to power forward, something has to give and fast. There wasn’t enough minutes to go around at his position before he got there.

And sure Hayward at 6’8 could possibly play a combo forward role in the new small ball NBA, but with Horford averaging 6.6 rebounds and Hayward coming in averaging 6.1 rebounds, the Celtics could well become the worst rebounding team in NBA history. Another move has to be in the cards on this front as well, doesn’t it?

It wouldn’t make sense to just DNP-CD Brown or Tatum next season and the Celtics need a veteran big man. So, the obvious fix is to dangle the team friendly contract of Crowder and see just how good the offers are coming back.

A starting caliber big man or rotation ready young center or power forward with a nose for the ball would go a long ways to re-balancing this guard and wing heavy lineup and president of basketball operations Danny Ainge has the extra pieces already on his roster to land a very good player.

Gaining Hayward’s commitment to sign can only be the first step in putting the Celtics into contention for the NBA Finals next season. If ESPN’s Bobby Marks has his math right, Ainge has to dump $3 million in salary and then, from a practical standpoint, he has to find somebody(s) that can rebound.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA New York Knicks Carmelo Anthony

Phil’s Gone, Knicks Carmelo Anthony Puts Himself In Play

Now that Phil Jackson is gone, Carmelo Anthony took the biggest impediment to trading him off the table putting himself in play. Adrian Wojnarowski reports Melo will waive his no trade clause for Houston or Cleveland, the two teams closest to knocking off the dynasty in Golden State.

The Cavaliers have desperately been searching for another star to play beside LeBron James. What James has got has got him to the NBA Finals for three straight years, but realistically, he can only expect to beat the Dubs with what he’s got if something goes seriously wrong for his rival.

The Rockets went all-in by trading for Chris Paul, but to beat the Warriors, they are going to need a third superstar scorer and Melo could give them a real chance.

The Knicks want to go young and need draft picks, something that both teams should be willing to part with. The big issue is going to be finding enough salary to send back to make the trade math work with Anthony’s $26.2 million salary.

To get young guys and picks, the Knicks are going to have to absorb a big ticket player they probably don’t want as well, but, with a little luck, they’ll be able to flip the player(s) they don’t want elsewhere by the trade deadline.

After all, the Knicks are rebuilding, so what’s the rush. They just need to get some assets that can fit for the long term as the dump an asset that obviously doesn’t fit and is finally willing to leave.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

2017 NBA free agents Raptors Patrick Patterson and Timberwolves Shabazz Mohammad and Warriors Ian Clark and Pacers Jeff Teague collage

Some NBA Free Agents Your Team Can Actually Get

There is no more exciting time for most teams and most fans than NBA free agency, but it can quickly become the most disappointing couple of weeks in the off season when you strike out.

If a team is going to put all their focus into hitting a home run, they had better have a really good idea about why that player is going to choose them over all of those other opportunities because as you wait, the next best options are coming off the board.

Here’s our list of getable free agents that if you act fast, you just might just lock up before the competition realizes what happened.

Point Guard

Jeff Teague, Pacers UFA, 29-years-old

2016-17, 15.3 pts, 4.0* rbs, 7.8* asts, 1.2 stls, 35.7% 3FG

* career best

A former one-time All-Star, reliable starting point guard who has only played one year with the Pacers. While other teams are wasting their efforts pursuing Kyle Lowry and George Hill, impress Teague and solve your point guard issues.

Micheal Carter-Williams, Bulls UFA, 25-years-old

2016-17, 6.6 pts, 3.4 rbs, 2.5 asts, 0.8 stls, 23.4% 3FG

The 2014 NBA ROY saw his minutes slashed in Chicago and made an unrestricted free agent this summer, but if your team is out of cap space and not planning on a postseason run, giving this big point guard another second chance might not be such a bad idea. He was an 11/5/5 player with 1.5 steals for the Bucks two seasons ago.

Shooting Guard

Dion Waiters, Heat UFA, 25-years-old

2016-17, 15.8 pts, 3.3 rbs, 4.3 asts, 0.9 stls, 39.5% 3FG

It was a breakout season for Waiters and teams will have their eye on the possibility of stealing him from the Heat as his current team doesn’t hold his Bird Rights. Strike fast with a big offer while Miami is focused on Gordon Hayward and you might just steal him.

Ian Clark, Warriors UFA, 26-years-old

2016-17, 6.8 pts, 1.6 rbs, 1.2 asts, 0.5 stls, 37.4% 3FG

The Warriors only hold Clark’s early bird rights, so this is one player you can outbid a luxury tax sensitive team for. He put up those numbers in less than 15 minutes a game. It’s time he got his chance to show everyone what he’s made of.

Small Forward

Shabazz Muhammad, Timberwolves RFA, 24-years-old

2016-17, 9.9 pts, 2.8 rbs, 0.4 asts, 33.8% 3FG

While the Timberwolves are busy gloating over the acquisition of Jimmy Butler and looking for the next piece of the playoff puzzle, Shabazz is kind of sitting on the outside looking in, but this a solid young defensive wing who could become a real steal if, as the expression goes, “the lights come on” with a change of scenery.

Luc Mbah a Moute, Clippers UFA, 30-years-old

2016-17, 6.1 pts, 2.1 rbs, 0.5 asts, 1.0 stls, 39.1% 3FG

The Clippers are in trouble and only hold Mbah a Monte’s early bird rights, so pile on and pick apart the carcass. This guy went from a defensive forward to a  much more valuable ‘3-and-D’ forward last season and there is a lot of teams that could use him coming off the bench.

Power Forward

James Johnson, Heat UFA, 30-years-old

2016-17, 12.8 pts, 4.9 rbs, 3.6 asts, 1.0 stls, 1.1 blks, 34% 3FG

A non-bird free agent means the Heat have to use salary cap space to re-sign him, thus making James Johnson a great target for other teams. A breakout season that James should be crediting to the tough love he got in Toronto – the place where he finally figured out how and when to shoot the three-ball without it being embarrassing.

Patrick Patterson, Raptors UFA, 28-years-old

2016-17, 6.8 pts, 4.5 rbs, 1.2 asts, 37.2% 3FG

While the Raptors are distracted by Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka and P.J. Tucker, Patterson should be an easy target and a reasonable contract.

The ‘3-and-D” Patterson is one of those glue-guys who makes other people around him better even if he isn’t filling the stats sheet while doing it.

Center

Dewayne Dedmon, Spurs UFA, 27-years-old

2016-17, 5.1 pts, 6.5 rbs, 0.6 asts, 0.8 blks

Dedmon played 17.5 minutes a game for Pop last season and that alone should put this guy on your radar.  The Spurs don’t hold his bird rights either, so he is very getable.

Zaza Pachulia, Warriors UFA, 33-years-old

2016-17, 6.1, 5.9 rbs, 1.9 asts, 0.8 steals

If your team needs an infusion of toughness, grit, nastiness, Pachulia can still bring it. Culture change in a 6’11 don’t give a crap how it gets done center. The Warriors don’t hold his bird rights.

 

If your team is on the cusp and has a load of salary cap space to burn, sure take a run at Hayward, Blake Griffin, or Paul Millsap. Not sure any of those big name free agents are using your team as anything more than a free lunch and a means to extract a better contract from someone else? Then move down a tier and get a player that can actually help move you closer to your goals before someone else gets them.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

NBA New York Knicks Joakim Noah

What Is Phil Jackson Trying To Do To The Knicks?

By Frank McLean

Phil Jackson, the 70-year old hippie who is seems to be intent on wrecking the New York Knicks, is at it again and this time it could be the finishing touch.

In a story that was published in the New York Post, sources confirmed that Jackson was looking to move his first round pick from two seasons ago Kristaps Porzingis because, are you ready for this, he did not attend his exit meeting with Jackson at the end of the season.

The only reason he hasn’t pulled the trigger on a deal is that he has not found something that piques his interest.

An exit interview is professional sports way of doing a performance review like employers do in the real world. You sit down with the coach and general manager and you go over what you did good, what you did bad, and what you need to work on. Sometimes a physical exam is required but otherwise it’s a glorified performance review.

In an interview with MSG network, Jackson let his frustration show.

“We’re getting calls,’’ Jackson said. “You know as much as we value Kristaps and what he’s done for us, but when a guy doesn’t show up to an exit meeting, everyone starts speculating on his duration or movability from a club. We’re listening, but we’re not intrigued yet at this level. But as much as we love this guy, we have to do what’s good for our club.”

Sure Phil, you have to do what’s good for the club, but really here is the real reason Jackson is crapping all over his only good young up and coming player on his roster. Jackson will not admit that he has done a poor job running this team, I mean he has done a great job running it into the ground, but he needs a scapegoat and Porzingis, and you can count his treatment of Carmelo Anthony as well, fits the bill.

If you are Knicks fan you probably couldn’t help but roll over on the floor in pain on hearing this nugget from Jackson.

“I think we know what we’re doing. That’s all I can say, even though it hasn’t been apparent in our record the last couple of years. We’ve grown from within, gotten young players that are on the move up. It takes time to rebuild with youth and I think they have confidence in the fact that we are going to have good players, a good team and be competitive on the court.’’

Jackson went on to say that in 25-years this has never happened to him,  that a player did not come to an exit interview, but apparently Shaquille O’Neal did it to him when he was with the Lakers.

If the Knicks had responsible ownership, and Madison Square Garden boss James Dolan is not, he would bite the bullet and fire Jackson’s ass ASAP. (Anyone else feel that just maybe this is what Phil wants?)

Playing in the NBA is every young basketball players dream and New York is the mecca of pro basketball, but no one, no draft pick or a potential free agent will want to come to the Knicks when management uses their players as scapegoats for their own shortcomings.

And if players don’t want to come to your team, well you will be like the Los Angeles Clippers when Donald Sterling ran the show.

The Knicks are one of the original flagship franchises in the NBA and they don’t deserve to be Clipperesque.

Jackson has to go.

 

   

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

   Featured image courtesy of Larry Millson

 

 

 

 

NBA San Antonio Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge

Don’t Overlook Spurs LaMarcus Aldridge This Trade Season

The ink was barely dry on the contract LaMarcus Aldridge signed with the Spurs in 2015 when questions began to arise about how happy he was with his decision. Speculation abounded about the Spurs trading Aldridge during his initial season and the honeymoon seemed to be over after the Spurs lost in the second round of the playoffs. Heading into this year’s draft, the trade rumors have started up again, stronger than ever as reported by Sam Amick of USA Today Sports.

The Spurs are known to be talking to several teams about the possibility of trading Aldridge

According to a person with knowledge of the Spurs forward’s situation, it’s the 31-year-old’s unhappiness in San Antonio that is the driving force behind the Spurs’ trade talks

It was just two summers ago that Aldridge was the hottest free agent target actually available and he made stops in Phoenix, Toronto and elsewhere before heading to San Antonio and a perceived shot at contending for an NBA title.

Well that dream has run headlong into a Golden State Warriors team that doesn’t look like they’ll have to face a major decision about their devastating roster until Klay Thompson becomes a free agent in the summer of 2019.

The soon-to-be 32-year Aldridge isn’t enjoying the same level of personal success any more either. This past season was the first time Aldridge wasn’t an All-Star since 2012. He posted his lowest scoring (17.3 points per game), fewest field goals made (6.9) and worst rebounding numbers (7.3) since his rookie season way back in 2006-07.

Then in the playoffs with Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard injured, Aldridge averaged just 15.5 points on 41.3 percent shooting and 5.8 rebounds in the Conference Finals as those impressive Warriors swept the Spurs out in four straight.

The Spurs are well enough run to never let it leak they are looking to dump Aldridge and the $21.5 million owing next season plus the 2018-19 player option for $22.3 million, but there is virtually no doubt he was made available during the NBA Draft.

The Spurs have already used up what would have to be considered the best two years of Aldridge’s four-year deal, but that won’t stop them from trying to extract maximum value for a player who should still be able to make an impact on a good team.

However, just as the Pacers are experiencing in their attempts to trade Paul George, teams are justifiably reluctant to give up too much for a player that has the option to become an unrestricted free agent next summer. Expecting a Lottery pick in this year’s draft for Aldridge was never very realistic, but the Spurs have plenty of other needs heading into July.

At 35-years-old Tony Parker may have suffered a career-ending injury and even if he eventually gets back in time to play in the second half of next season, no one should be expecting he’ll be the same. Add in half the roster will be testing free agency, plus rumors of Danny Green being dangled and the Spurs need everything.

The Raptors had a good meeting with Aldridge two summers ago, however, there have been no indications as yet if their interest then translates into interest today.

Even though nothing got done, the Raptors, like several other teams, were active at this year’s draft. If Toronto wants to remain a top four team in the Eastern Conference, president Masai Ujiri has accumulated a surplus of young players still on their rookie deals that needs to be cashed-in. The only concern with trading any of them to Spurs general manager R.C. Buford is, if he wants them, you’re probably losing the trade.

Despite the down year Aldridge will generate interest from teams hoping to take a step up next season and the Raptors should be included in that group. However, who will step up to get fleeced by Burford remains to be seen.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA Indiana Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard

Pacers Paul George Is Still Being Shopped After The Draft

The Indiana Pacers Paul George didn’t get traded at the NBA Draft, but that doesn’t mean general manager Kevin Pritchard has taken his team’s All-Star off the market. After the “gut punch” from George’s agent, Paul George is still being shopped hard.

“At the end of the day Paul is a special player and he’s been good for this organization,” Pritchard said in his press conference after the draft. “We felt like in a few of the talks over the summer that he wanted to win and he wanted to win here, so it was a little bit of a gut punch for us.”

After the last couple of seasons ended in first round playoff exits and the team had to adjust to popular head coach Frank Vogel being let go a year ago, one can only assume George wasn’t convinced anything was about to change for the better in Indiana. He was ready to move on and it was the Pacers that would have to do the adjusting.

“We are adjusting right now,” Pritchard said. “At the end of the day we want to build a winning team and we want players that want to be here.”

While nothing got done with George at the draft that doesn’t mean nothing was going on. The Lakers were  rumored to have put a young player and a couple of late first round draft picks on the table. The Celtics were rumored to have put a package for George together and there were undoubtedly other serious attempts to pry George out of Indiana.

However, Pritchard didn’t think he was getting enough for a franchise player on an expiring deal who had made it known the Lakers were his preferred destination in free agency next summer. Maybe his expectations were a little high?

“It was a gut punch for me,” Pritchard reiterated. “But at the end of the day, I think you got to do this, you got to get past mad. He has his own perspective of the situation and I try to see that through his eyes. I can be empathetic because he wants to go back home or potentially go back home.”

If Pritchard can acknowledge George’s desires for a return to L.A. next season in a press conference, they aren’t rumors. They are facts and George’s trade value will reflect that no matter how many deals the Pacers look at.

“We are going to look at a lot of deals,” Pritchard said. “Doesn’t mean one won’t get done in the short term, but we are not going to take any bad deals either.

“Right now there is enough on the board that we feel good about that we could pull the trigger at any time.”

Surely Pritchard realizes the window on some of those deals will start closing in less than a week as teams start pursuing other opportunities in free agency. From pursuing their own free agents to trying to convince other teams free agents to switch organizations, money will start to be committed, open roster spots will disappear, commitments will be made that can’t be unmade this summer. It is completely reasonable to expect that Pritchard will have seen his best offer within days of free agency opening up.

“We could go a lot of different places,” Pritchard said. “We could go a little younger and start developing, but there were offers where good players were coming back that were veterans and we are not afraid to do that.

“We want to build a winning team and sometimes you got to look a little short term and sometimes you look long term.”

If this was the sales pitch to George, it’s no wonder he said get me outta here. Pick a direction and get negotiating before the deal you really wanted isn’t there anymore.

If you are going to go shopping, know what you want to buy or you could end up coming home with something you neither need nor want.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Atlanta Hawks Dwight Howard

Hawks Dump Dwight Howard On Charlotte

The Atlanta Hawks signed eight-time All-Star center Dwight Howard to a three-year $70.5 million contract last summer and this summer they are dumping him in Charlotte for Miles Plumlee and Marco Belenelli.

Howard put up a solid stat line with the Hawks of 13.5 points on a career high 63.3 percent shooting, 12.7 rebounds, 0.9 steals and 1.2 blocks in 29.7 minutes over 74 regular season games. Unfortunately, he kind of disappeared in a first round playoff series loss to the Wizards.

Currently 31-years-old, Howard is owed $23.5 million next season and $23.8 million in 2018-19.

The Hornets were doing some dumping of their own when they sent Miles Plumlee the other way.

Plumlee was acquired from the Bucks in February after he had signed a four-year $50 million contract in August. At the time of the trade, Plumlee was averaging just 2.6 points and 1.7 rebounds in 9.7 minutes for the Bucks. After the trade, those numbers “improved” to 2.4 points and 3.2 rebounds in 13.4 minutes. (Ouch)

Plumlee will be 29-years-old in September, so it’s not like anyone is expecting him to “develop” at this point.

The 31-year-old Belinelli is on a $6.6 million expiring deal, so the Hawks are in line for some significant savings over the next two seasons. Although, they will be giving most of that back in year three when they would have been out from under the Howard deal.

Belinelli is known as a streaky three-point shooter who can impact games. However, he hasn’t been quite as good over the last two seasons shooting below his career average of 37.7 percent from three. (30.6 percent in 2015-16 and 36 percent last year.) He did score over 10 points per game in each of the past two seasons. Also, his shooting was better in the four times he got to the postseason, so maybe the Hawks can flip him at the trade deadline?

If Howard is happier in Charlotte, the Hornets will “win” this trade, but it feels more like both teams were shipping out players they didn’t want for players the other team didn’t want and hoping things turn out better afterwards.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA GMs Celtics Danny Ainge and 76ers Bryan Colangelo

The 76ers Process Is Over But The Celtics Is Just Starting

By Frank McLean

It was deal that has been speculated to happen over the last few days and it officially became a fact on Monday as the Boston Celtics and Philadelphia 76ers made a deal which lets the two teams flip spots in the first round of Thursday’s NBA draft.

The Celtics, who had the first pick overall thanks to being the beneficiary of bad deals made by the past management of the Brooklyn Nets, flipped spots with the 76ers who were to pick third.

The Celtics also get for helping the 76ers either a first-round pick in 2018 or 2019. If the Los Angeles Lakers hold a pick between number two and five next season, Boston gets that one. If not, Philadelphia will send Boston either its own first-rounder in 2019 or Sacramento’s first-rounder that year which the Celtics hold the rights to.

This deal is all about the 76ers trying to build a contending team right now while the Celtics stockpile more draft picks to use to get players that can help them – now?

For Celtics basketball boss Danny Ainge he now has something to offer teams to get a player that can go with Isaiah Thomas and Al Horford and help them keep the number one seed in the Eastern Conference. Maybe a phone call to the Indiana Pacers for a one year rent a player like Paul George.

TNT reported over the weekend that George told the Pacers that when his contract runs out next season he plans on leaving and going to play for his hometown Los Angeles Lakers. The Pacers would be wise to trade George now and get something for him now instead of losing him for nothing in free agency.

Like the Raptors and Wizards, the Celtics are looking for the piece to challenge Cleveland for the Eastern Conference title and Golden State for the NBA title.

“This is certainly a trade that is under the microscope more than others,” Ainge said Monday. “But we’re not afraid of that.”

After Monday’s trade the Celtics have SEVEN! First round picks over the next three drafts and that includes Thursday night’s draft.

For the 76ers, well they will get the first pick overall for the second straight season and this time they hope they will get a player that can play.

Last year’s pick Ben Simmons did not play a game a game last season after breaking a bone in his foot. The player it seems they want this year is guard Markelle Fultz of the University of Washington.

Fultz has just one year of college experience. He averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists in 25 games standing out on a team that finished 9-22 and lost its final 13 games. He led the Pac-12 in scoring and finished sixth among all Division One players and led all freshman in scoring.

“We are very pleased with the outcome of this trade, which puts us in the enviable position of selecting first overall in consecutive draft years,” 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said. “History suggests that number one has the greatest odds of producing franchise level talent and we are confident that this year’s draft class has that very potential.”

Here’s my take on the trade if you are the Raptors.

For the 76ers, if they draft Fultz, it’s a start but they will not be a playoff factor this year or next year and probably not the year after that.

Fultz joins a core of young potential stars, Jahlil Okafor and 2017 Rookie of the Year finalists Joel Embiid and Dario Saric. But they need players that can help this team contend and that’s going to take about three years to acquire.

Now the Celtics, they have a ton of bargaining chips to make themselves championship contenders with the seven first round draft picks. This has to make the Raptors, Wizards and Cavaliers concerned with the make-up of their current rosters.

If Danny Ainge can get veteran talent to go with what he has that just might be enough for them to win the East outright and get a shot at Golden State or Houston.

However, the one thing the Celtics doesn’t have is rebounding, but they have the chips now and it’s up to Ainge to cash them in.

 

   

DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.

 

 

 

 

NBA Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

Cracks Appear In LeBron James’ Cavaliers

After cruising through the Eastern Conference, what happened in the NBA Finals was hard on everybody with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Maybe it was inevitable that cracks would start to appear in what had been a very successful organization on the court since LeBron James’ return.

It didn’t take long before the rumors LeBron James might leave next season if big improvements to the roster couldn’t be made. Then rumors of Kevin Love being shopped for Pacers star Paul George, Bulls star Jimmy Butler, Knicks Carmelo Anthony and there should be no doubt more rumors were on the way.

Sort of lost in the noise was the Cavs general manager David Griffin still didn’t have a contract for next season. If something didn’t get done, he wasn’t even going to be around when free agency opened.

Well something didn’t get done.

Perhaps the biggest surprise was this move was all on Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. Apparently James was advocating to keep Griffin around and it makes sense. Griffin had done a good job of surrounding James with talent, talent that wasn’t there when James first agreed to return to Cleveland.

Griffin spent freely via big trades and re-signing free agents, ignoring the financial implications. It was just what James wanted and the rumored trades would have significantly increased the team’s financial commitment to winning.

It leaves one to wonder if Gilbert didn’t consult with James because he already knew what the response would be. Losing big bucks year after year eventually has to take it’s toll, even on a billionaire.

He should be concerned. Other teams were already concerned about trying to cut a deal with a Cavs GM that didn’t have a contract for next month and that concern isn’t going to go away until Gilbert hires Griffin’s replacement.

Gilbert might think he can act as the team’s GM, but no one likes dealing with team owners directly on basketball decisions. There’s just too much that can go wrong or get flaky when dealing with unfiltered inexperienced decision-makers.

And not just Griffin, assistant general manager Trent Redden is also gone. Talk about leaving a team in limbo right in the middle of trade discussions ahead of the NBA draft.

As disappointing as the situation is for James, it’s worse for Gilbert. There were GM jobs out there to go for and he would have been a leading candidate – a month ago.

Griffin has a right to be upset by the situation even if he’s taking the high road on the way out the door. If Gilbert didn’t like the way Griffin built this team with his cash, he could have let him know after Game Five of the NBA Finals.

It looks like Gilbert has a candidate to lead his organization and, hopefully, hire a respected general manager to pick up the pieces of this potential disaster. He better get on that soon, real soon.

Nothing like putting your high priced team in the hands of someone who has never been in senior management before. But maybe the very business savvy James hasn’t noticed? Cracks, cracks everywhere.

Maybe Gilbert is trying to create hope in Boston, Washington and Toronto?

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Toronto Raptors Kyle Lowry DeMar DeRozan Pacers Paul George Raptors PJ Tucker and Serge Ibaka

Pacers Star Paul George Puts Himself In Play

Pacers star Paul George has been rumored to be wanting out of Indiana for some time now, but with no action forthcoming from general manager Kevin Pritchard, he decided to put himself in play. He made sure “The Reliable Source” for NBA rumors Adrian Wojnarowski knew he wanted out of town and couldn’t be talked into re-signing next summer.

Make no mistake, the “rumor” and timing was deliberate. By making it seem likely he’ll only be a rental until next season when he can bolt to L.A. as a free agent, teams won’t give away the farm to get him and rebuilding teams won’t even look at the possibility. Plus, less than a week ahead of the NBA draft, good teams with a chance to contend for the conference finals might be willing to part with a prospect and a late first round draft pick and under the circumstances, that’s more than generous.

Pritchard might be hoping the Lakers would ante up some of that young talent, but thanks to Wojnarowski, they’d look like idiots for giving away anything of value for a player they can sign for nothing in a year.

If anyone thinks Boston is going to give up the talent they fleeced the Nets for to take a risk on a rental, they should think again.

The Clippers should be interested in taking a run at acquiring George as it would help them re-sign their own free agents Chris Paul and Blake Griffin and remain relevant in the West. Not having a first or second round draft pick this year doesn’t help their chances though.

The Cavaliers may be temporarily in panic mode (that should pass), but the reality is, unless the Pacers are in love with Kevin Love, they’ll have trouble coming up with a package that Indiana would be interested in.

The Raptors should be the most motivated to take the risk and they do have some young prospects and a first round draft pick. President Masai Ujiri hates giving away any of his young talent, but for a chance at George, it should be possible to convince him to relinquish something Pritchard believes has value in a rebuild.

If Ujiri can re-sign his own free agents (and he believes he can), the Raptors could have a starting lineup of:

Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeRozan, Paul George, P.J. Tucker, and Serge Ibaka.

That just might be good enough to win Toronto first place in the East during the regular season and let the chips fall where they may in the playoffs.

At the very least George has significantly upped the potential for excitement at this year’s draft.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Houston Rockets James Harden and OKC Thunder Russell Westbrook and Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

Three Is The Key As Small Ball Rules The NBA

The traditional center in the NBA might not be dead, but unless he can hit a three, small ball rules and he’ll be sitting on the bench in the fourth quarter.

“That’s what the game is going to,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “The days of boom, boom, boom, pound it, pound it, pound it (are over) – you can do it two or three times, but as the game goes on they are going to send bodies, send traps off cutters, traps baseline and it’s clogged up and you’re not going to get anything done.”

The 51-win Raptors were in the bottom third of the league averaging 8.8 made threes on 24.3 attempts and improving on those marks will be a top off season priority.

This year the NBA averaged 9.7 made threes on 27 attempts with Houston leading the charge at 40.3 three-point attempts and Cleveland (33.9), Boston (33.4), Brooklyn (31.6) and Golden State (31.2) rounding out the top five.

It wasn’t all that long ago the leading scorer in the NBA wasn’t expected to ever hoist a three-ball, but today every single player in the top 25 averages more than one three-point attempt a game as do 94 percent of the top 50. More players are firing threes every year and more of them are firing with at least acceptable efficiency.

The reason for change probably comes down to simple math for most teams. A player that can hit on 33.3 percent of their threes, in theory, scores just as effectively as someone putting down half of their two-point attempts. Trading twos for threes is a good bet.

No where was the power of small ball lineups firing up three-pointers more obvious than in this year’s postseason.

The only conference finals team that wasn’t one of  the top five regular season three-point shooting teams was San Antonio and they led the NBA in three-point shooting percentage (39.1).

The Rockets led the postseason with 38.5 three-point attempts, but it was the Cavaliers leading in three-point makes (14.2). Houston (12.8 makes) barely edging out the better shooting Celtics (12.7) and Warriors (12.7).

In the NBA Finals, the Cavs shot 13.2-34.6 (38.2%) from three and the Dubs were 14.2-37.2 (38.2%) and the defense was actually pretty good. No team in the NBA should be under any delusions that an NBA Finals appearance is going to be realistic if your team can’t keep up from beyond the arc.

The trend towards small ball and an ever increasing number of three-point attempts isn’t going anywhere. If anything, next season NBA teams will average over 10 made threes a game on over 30 three-point attempts. The days of controlling the game by pounding the ball in the paint are over, at least for now.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

Raptors Jonas Valanciunas Is Working On A 3-Point Shot

Even Raptors traditional center Jonas Valanciunas has been hunting down 15 foot jump shots in games and practicing his three-pointers in warm-ups.

 

 

NBA Golden State Warriors Draymond Green

NBA Officiating – At Least Don’t Make It So Obvious!

No one should be put in a position of thinking the Cleveland Cavaliers didn’t deserve to win Game Four of the NBA Finals. The Cavs shooting was outstanding and by comparison the Warriors were firing bricks, but damn it, why does it happen so often with NBA officiating that it seems obvious one team is being handed a big advantage.

Like just about every NBA player, coach and fan, Toronto Raptors free agent Patrick Patterson has seen this movie before. The referees put Cleveland on the free throw line 22 times in the first quarter providing overt help they didn’t need as the Cavs scored an NBA Finals record 49 points and built a lead they would never surrender.

Hopefully Patterson was careful enough in his tweet to avoid the wrath of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, but he wasn’t alone in his thoughts. The twitterverse was far more direct.

The worst part about that first quarter was the Cavs didn’t need the help as they were red hot from three, hitting on 7-12 attempts, but all those “extra” trips to the charity stripe set a tone and created a lead that turned what should have been a much closer game into a 20-point blowout.

Later the referees didn’t do themselves any favors when they handed Draymond Green his second technical foul for waving at Marc Davis after a soft foul was called on him in the third quarter. Everyone thought Green was done since he had already picked up a tech from John Goble in the first quarter. Then true comedy ensued.

From ESPN,

“I thought they called [the first technical] on Draymond,” Kerr said. “I thought I deserved it. But I thought I heard the PA announcer say that it was on Draymond. So then I thought the second one, Draymond was going to get kicked out, but they explained that the first one was on me.”

Asked about the officiating overall, Kerr said, “Nice try.”

“It was just an incredibly physical game,” he added. “That was obvious from the beginning. Ton of fouls called early, a lot of holding and grabbing and pushing and shoving. It got out of hand a little bit, and the third quarter it seemed like the game was stopping every time.”

Green did confirm he thought the first tech was on coach Kerr and the referees begged off by saying they weren’t paying attention? I guess we’re just supposed to laugh it off?

LeBron James had a 31/10/11 triple-double. Kyrie Irving scored 40 points and hit 7 three-pointers. The Cavs shot 24-45 from three while the Warriors were 11-39 and after gifting the Cavs a big advantage at the free throw line in the first quarter, the refs found their unbiased whistles – the Draymond comedy minute notwithstanding.

There’s a case to be made that the refs got the Dubs off their game in the first quarter, but the refs didn’t make Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry each shoot 2-9 from three and if you don’t hit shots, there is no comeback in your future.

Blame the refs for those first quarter free throws, believe if you want that the NBA and their TV partners didn’t want this series to end so soon, but don’t blame the refs for the the Dubs three-point shooting. Almost everyone wanted a Game Five anyway.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

?

There’s Reefer Madness In An NBA Finals Locker Room

It’s just a sign of the times, although the NBA has rules against using marijuana, in California and some other states, reefer madness just isn’t that big a deal any more. Not even during the NBA Finals. (We hope.)

And Mike Wise was not imagining things either. He got solid confirmation from Brian Windhorst later on First Take.

Maybe, hopefully, this bit of journalistic? fun moves the conversation about the medical benefits of marijuana for athletes dealing with pain forward a couple of steps. (Even if no athlete was actually partaking.)

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Utah Jazz Gordon Hayward

Why The Celtics Aren’t Looking For A Max Free Agent

Why aren’t the Boston Celtics looking for another max contract free agent this summer? The new national TV deal with the NBA means every team is awash in cash and cap space so, obviously, the Celtics can just grab what they need to become an NBA Finals contender?

At first glance it looks like the Celtics only have $62 million in guaranteed salaries for next season and with a projected salary cap of $101 million, giddy-up, here comes Gordon Hayward. Not so fast says Celtics Blog Keith Smith as he makes a solid case for why this is very unlikely to happen.

The Celtics can get to a maximum of just over $36 million in cap space, but that would mean renouncing all free agents, waiving Demetrius Jackson, Jordan Mickey and Tyler Zeller and agreeing to not sign any of the draft picks. That is an extremely unlikely scenario.

Make all those moves and the Celtics are still shy of the $30.6 million it would take to sign Hayward by about $1.4 million. Before you say the math is off, remember that you have to add what is called an Empty Roster Charge

It’s not impossible to create the space necessary to sign a max free agent, it’s just really, really painful and objectively stupid. You don’t just dump a number one overall draft pick to create salary cap space and there are no future considerations another team could offer that is going to be equivalent.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge hasn’t been in the habit of giving away his assets for nothing and he’s got some more big decisions coming up a year from now.

Next summer Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Marcus Smart will be free agents and could eat up to $85 million in salary cap space all on their own. Having those highly talented players acquired with his high draft picks (thanks Brooklyn) is going to become really important if Ainge wants to keep his core together and that’s still true if he wants to use one of those “salary slots” to facilitate a future trade to acquire an equivalent talent at forward or center.

If he can, Ainge will certainly be open to making trades this summer and next to fix the holes (rebounding maybe?) in his roster. He does have too many very good guards, but like last summer, he isn’t giving away his hard won assets for less than they are worth.

Nabbing that big free agent, however, just doesn’t look realistic.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

So What LeBron James Turns The Ball Over

Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James is feeling some heat for turning the ball over eight times in Game One of the NBA Finals against the Golden State Warriors, but so what? It’s not like this is anything all that unusual for the oft described “best player in the NBA.”

If it seems like the ball goes thru James’ hands on almost every Cavs play that’s because it does. He’s one of the most used players to handle the ball for their team every year and, not surprisingly, that also puts him up near the top in turnovers as well.

This year he averaged 4.1 turnovers per game. 32 times he turned it over five or more times, 16 times it was six or more, but his team was still a respectable 20-12 in those games. Thrice he turned it over eight times with a 1-2 record, proving even the Cavs can get in trouble eventually.

But to put it in perspective, James still had a better than respectable 2.1:1 assist to turnover ratio during the regular season. So again, so what about all those turnovers.

Up until the Finals, James’ turnovers weren’t costing his team too much of anything in the postseason. He turned the ball over eight times in a first round Game Two win over the Pacers. The Cavs won Games Three and Four in Toronto with James handing the ball back five and six times respectively. Then he was turned over six and five times in Games Three and Four against Boston. All those turnovers cost the Cavs was one game they could’ve/should’ve won against the Celtics.

During the regular season against Golden State the Cavs split the series 1-1 and James turned the ball over five times in a one-point win and six times in a blowout loss. No one should be suggesting turning the ball over to the high powered Warriors offense is a good thing, but if James turns it over even four or five times, it shouldn’t be a determining factor.

James could be more cautious with his passes, take fewer risks on the fast break and limit his drives to wide open opportunities and his turnovers will drop to insignificant, but that’s not how the Cavaliers play and it’s definitely not how James plays.

The Cavs need to score to beat the Warriors in Oracle Arena and they aren’t going score by becoming a passive grind it out team. Where eight turnovers was too many for James, two or three probably means he isn’t playing like the force he needs to be if he’s going to give his team a chance to win Game Two.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

Can The Cavs Afford To Keep Buying Championships?

LeBron James came home to Cleveland as much because the Miami Heat wouldn’t spend to win as much as Dan Gilbert and the Cavs promised they would. However, buying a championship caliber roster doesn’t come cheap and at some point, the question of affordability has to be asked. That was the whole point of the dramatically higher luxury tax rates the NBA instituted in the previous CBA.

As Kurt Badenhausen wrote in Forbes:

The reality is that owner Dan Gilbert has spent money at almost an unprecedented level. Last season’s $115 million payroll triggered a $54 million luxury tax bill. Add in benefits, (etc) and Gilbert spent roughly $185 million last season on his roster.

Gilbert’s massive commitment to spend whatever’s necessary to win a title led to a loss of $40 million last season

Gilbert spent the second most in NBA history (to the Nets) to put together his NBA Champion Cavs last season and he upped the amount committed to players’ salaries this year and next.

Thanks to another rise in the NBA’s Luxury Tax line, last year’s $169 million in player’s salaries plus tax is expected to drop by about $5 million this year even with the dreaded repeater tax of an extra dollar per dollar over the tax line added in. But if Gilbert lost $40 million last season, he could easily lose that much or more again this year.

Not much is going change in 2017-18. The Cavs are already committed to $126 million in players salaries for next year and that’s estimated to be $5 million into the tax with up to seven open roster spots to fill.

James isn’t about to let Gilbert cheap out either. He has a player option for 2018-19 and can keep the pressure on Gilbert to re-sign the team’s free agents and use the team’s exceptions to keep/add the talent James believes is necessary to get back to the NBA Finals again.

Keeping James happy is expensive and that, by the way, was the whole point of changing the luxury tax rules. It’s supposed to be hard to keep “super teams” together.

It isn’t hard to imagine Gilbert’s loses exceeding $100 million over a three year period with no end in sight and even a billionaire notices when that much cash disappears.

To all those finding the inevitability of a Cavaliers/Warriors NBA Final unfulfilling, how long this billionaire can afford to keep buying championship contending rosters is a important issue.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

 

NBA Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James

Why Cavs LeBron James Has Been Unstoppable This Postseason

The Cleveland Cavaliers LeBron James has been unstoppable in thru the first two rounds of the postseason and what he has been doing different has make it impossible for opposing defenses to adjust.

Why the Cavs perennial MVP candidate has stepped up yet again in the playoffs isn’t a mystery to head coach Tyronn Lue, we just weren’t paying attention during the second half of the season.

“Since the second half of the season (James) really went to another level,” Lue said. “Starting the second half of the regular season and carried over to the playoffs and we’re just riding him right now. The way he has been playing is phenomenal. He is carrying this team.”

Coach Lue wasn’t blowing smoke about his best player’s improving performance.

In the first half of the season the Cavs went 30-11, but King James was a pedestrian (for him) 25.5 points on 51.5 percent shooting, 7.8 rebounds and 8.3 assists. However as his team struggled in the second half, James stepped up his game significantly.

The Cavs slumped to 21-20 over the final 41 contests, but James upped his game to 27.3 points on 58.2 percent shooting, 9.6 rebounds and 9.2 assists. If you weren’t facing him night-to-night, his impact may have gone unnoticed, but once the postseason kicked in, he took things up another notch. Saying James is carrying his team isn’t an overstatement.

The way to guard James has always been to turn him into a shooter, preferably from beyond the three-point line where he shot a more manageable 35.4 percent over the Cavs final 41 regular season games.

Unfortunately, that strategy hasn’t worked in the postseason.

“When LeBron is shooting the three-ball the way he is, at the rate he is shooting it, the average he’s shooting it, (the Cavs) are difficult,” Raptors head coach Dwane Casey said. “They are very difficult to beat when he’s shooting the ball like (that).”

James ripped into the seventh-place Pacers averaging 32.8 points on 54.3 percent shooting, 9.8 rebounds and 9 assists in the four game sweep. He upped his three-point attempts from 4.6 in the regular season to 5.0 and he shot like a three-point specialist by hitting 45 percent of them.  He also abused the Pacers with 3 steals and 2 blocks per game, more than double his regular season averages of 1.2 and 0.6 respectively.

Against the Raptors defensive pressure, James launched an unexpected 6.8 three-point attempts per game and he filled the net at a 48.1 percent clip. There is no defense for that. While his stats for rebounds (8.3) and assists (5.3) where below his regular season averages and his steals (1.3) and blocks (1.0) came back down to earth, he upped his scoring to 36 points per game in another four game sweep.

Even Kyle Korver has been impressed, “LeBron, Kyrie and Kevin have been playing so good, especially LeBron knocking down shots.”

“No matter who I’ve faced over the last few years, myself, my teammates and the coaching staff have always just tried to raise our ability, raise our (intensity), raise our game plan, raise our attention span to go out and compete every single night no matter who the competition was,” James said.

If James can fire three-balls at the rate and efficiency that he has so far in this postseason, he just has to many options for any defense to contain. Right now, he is unstoppable.

 

 

Stephen_Brotherston_insideStephen Brotherston covers the Toronto Raptors and visiting NBA teams at the Air Canada Centre and is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

 

 

 

NBA Cleveland Cavaliers Kyle Korver

Kyle Korver Is Living The Dream In Cleveland

By Frank McLean

There is an old saying that if you wait and be patient good things will come and after a long NBA career, Kyle Korver is living the dream in Cleveland.

For Korver good things came back in February when he was traded by the Atlanta Hawks to the Cleveland Cavaliers and he finally got his best and quite possibly his last chance at an NBA Championship.

Korver was brought to Cleveland for one specific skill and that’s his ability to come off the bench and hit three point baskets. A noted Raptors killer in his days with the Atlanta Hawks, the Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue used his ability to hit three’s to kill just about every Raptors attempt at a comeback in each of the four games.

In Sunday’s series clincher Korver did all the work he needed in the second quarter. With the scored tied 28-all at the end of the first quarter he played the entire 12-minute period going six-for-eight from the field, four-for-six behind the three point arc for 16-points. He finished the game with 18-points by hitting a pair of free throws in the fourth quarter, but like someone doing a mob hit he did his work in the second.

Korver is pinching himself each day when he realizes that he is with a future a hall of famer like LeBron James and other players in the Cavaliers locker room who will be considered.

“It has been a whirlwind couple of months for me and my family,” Korver said. “Everyday is great to be playing with these guys.”

Korver will be going to his third conference final in his 16-year career, but this time he doesn’t have to worry about LeBron James knocking him out, this time they are on the same team.

“This is the way it goes, when I was in Utah we lost to the Lakers every year. In the Eastern Conference in Chicago and in Atlanta we lost to Lebron every year, whether it was Miami or here,” Korver lamented. “It’s just so nice to be on the other side now, but nothing is guaranteed I know that, but this is an amazing opportunity for me in this part of my career.”

Korver’s role as a three point specialist is a lot like the designated hitter in baseball, where you come to bat three maybe four times a game and then you wait. Now in baseball all the stadiums have batting cages near the locker room where you can keep loose and hit live pitching out of a machine. Not so in basketball and Korver agrees that the comparison is close but he has to prepare different from the Edwin Encarnacion’s of the world.

“There is no place where I can practice shooting that’s for sure but I have to stretch and keep loose on the bench as there is no excuse for me to tighten up. When I’m put in the game my job is to make shots.”

Korver knows it’s LeBron James’ team, but what he and others in the locker room want is to take the pressure off him of doing everything.

“That’s what me and the rest of guys try and do when we are in the game, make shots and try and take the pressure of LeBron when he’s in there.”

The Cavaliers, in the four games against Toronto, shot 61-for-131 behind the three point arc for an incredible 183-points. Korver is a big part of an attack that has the three pointer as a featured weapon and because of his talents there, that’s why he is getting a shot at a championship.

If you wait long enough good things happen and for Kyle Korver good things are happening for him in Cleveland.

 

 

   DeMar DeRozan & Frank McLeanVeteran journalist Frank McLean has covered nearly every Raptors game in Toronto since their inaugural season at the Skydome back in 1995-96. He has seen it all. The good, the bad and the really bad and he is one of the very few journalists in Toronto that has kept coming back for more.