BREAKING: LeBron James announces he will return to the Cleveland Cavaliers

Posted in NBA - Cavaliers with tags , , , , on July 11, 2014 by Deep in the Q

“I’m coming home.”

On June 26, 2003 the Cleveland Cavaliers chose LeBron James and on July 11, 2014 James chose Cleveland.

After months of speculation,  Akron native and 4-time league MVP LeBron James announced his intent to return to Cleveland in a self-written SI piece as told by Lee Jenkins released Friday a little after 12 p.m.

Throughout the free agency process, James and agent Rich Paul had been very quiet, leaving media and fans to read tea leaves, track Cavs planes, outsource sources from local bakeries, friends of friends of friends and the-like, all in an effort to fill the void and come up with some piece of evidence that might point to a James reunion with the Wine and Gold. Just four years and two days removed from “The Decision,” James returns to Northeast Ohio intent on keeping his promise to ‘bring an NBA championship to Cleveland.” A promise 12 years in the making.

From 2003 to 2010, James appeared in 548 games for the Cavaliers and his mark has been left across the Cavaliers all-time record books in games played (seventh), points (first), total rebounds (fifth), steals (first), minutes played (first), and blocks (fourth) [1]. While LeBron’s 2010 exit certainly created enemies in Cleveland, James is a man who values his legacy and knows he has an opportunity to still hold true on his promise to bring a championship to Cleveland.

Leading up to PR debacle that was The Decision, James’ last moments in a Cavaliers uniform were viewed as controversial in some respects. From an elbow injury in the 2010 Boston series and a Boston Garden crowd chanting “New York Knicks,” to the public removal of  his jersey before he had even reaching the locker room, the exit wasn’t ideal for James.

James, who regularly posts ‘Just a kid from Akron’ on his social media accounts and website, values the opinions of his hometown fans and the City of Cleveland and Thursday’s decision to return to the team he once publicly walked away from on national television was clearly an effort to mend a relationship once as thick as blood.

Although his agent, business associate and friend Maverick Carter, and marketing agency LRMR have done wonders to repair his image, James’ decision to return to the Cavs is telling. James was vindicated in his decision to team up with friends Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh by winning two titles and heading to the NBA Finals four consecutive years.

But, yet, his time in Miami had seemingly run its course. Akron will always be his home, but it was really the perfect storm that brought LeBron back to Cleveland; not for what has become an annual off-season stay, but on a more permanent basis. While James was in Miami, back in Cleveland the Cavaliers fell off the rails.They are on their second general manager and third head coach in four years, acquired a record of 91-215, and ranked among the league’s worst on both ends of the court from a statistical point. But while the Cavs certainly had their struggles, they had an opportunity to rebuild and rebuild the traditional way through the draft and by making trades to acquire assets and young talent all in the hopes of one day reaching their dream of winning an NBA title.

So how did the Cavs – once viewed as a long shot – land themselves arguably the greatest free agent to hit the market in league history?

 

The tale begins win former GM Chris Grant hit a home run at the trade deadline back in March of 2011 by flipping point guard Mo Williams to the Clippers for Baron Davis (later amnestied) and their 2011 lottery pick which turned into the No.1 overall selection –  used on Kyrie Irving who has gone on to become a two time All-star and the 2014 NBA All-star MVP. Also in that 2011 draft the Cavs selected Texas forward Tristan Thompson, who is represented by James’ agent Rich Paul, seemingly laying the floor plan for an ongoing rapport with Paul leading up to James’ return to Cleveland. In subsequent drafts the Cavs would add guard Dion Waiters (2012, No.4 overall), Anthony Bennett (2013 No.1 overall), and most recently Andrew Wiggins who was the top pick in this past June’s first year player draft.

While the odds were certainly improbable, the Cavs had won the draft lottery three times in four years and are armed with young talent to be used to take some miles off of James who was really tested this past season shouldering the load for Miami with Wade sidelined for 30 games and with an aging supporting cast around him. However, the smoke surrounding what is being called The Return, didn’t really develop into anything tangible until 10 a.m. on Wednesday when current Cavaliers GM David Griffin swung a three-team trade with the Nets and Celtics to clear up enough cap space to sign James to the max contract he was seeking sending guard Jarrett Jack’s $6.3 million salary and 2013 No.19 selection Sergey Karasev to the Nets and center Tyler Zeller’s $1.7 million contract to Boston in exchange for the Celtic’s $10 million trade exception as a part of the Paul Pierce trade last summer to open up $24 million in cap room.

As the Cavs were acquiring talent and assets, the Heat had slowly run its course – culminating in their loss to the San Antonio Spurs by a Finals record margin in this year’s playoffs.Wade could no longer keep up with opposing players on defense without significant rest between games, the combo of Allen/Haslem/Anderson showed their age (all 35+), and the end of the bench became thin after team president Pat Riley and owner Micky Arison amnestied sharpshooter Mike Miller the previous off-season and packaged Joel Anthony’s deal to Boston along with a 1st round pick to save money and get below the luxury and repeater taxes. Suddenly, the same management group that had pulled out all the stops to bring the Big 3 together and surround them with nice complimentary talent was no longer willing to commit financially to James and company and provide them with a good supporting cast.

It is hard to say what the tipping point was between James and the Heat organization or if it was just time for him to come home; however, it seems evident that a combination all of the before mentioned resulted in James testing the market by opting out of his contract on June 25. The decision came at a surprising time as James opted out five days before he had to decide, effectively putting  Riley and the rest of the league on notice that he would entertain offers and allow teams time to put together compelling packages to possibly sway him from Miami.

For years national media pundits stuck to their guns that James would never consider leaving Miami for Cleveland and Dan Gilbert after his infamous letter made rounds the day after The Decision. Even in recent weeks opinion leaders were still slow to consider the Cavs as a viable landing spot for James even though there were plenty of signs saying otherwise along the way (as seen in my hastily made reddit thread here)- severely undervaluing his Akron roots and relationships in the process.

While there still are moves to be done with the Cavs roster, including a possible deal to be swung to bring Kevin Love to Cleveland, some would say The Return offers the sports world its’ Hollywood script for the the perfect ending to an incomparable love story. “The prodigal son returns home. To bring the city its first championship since 1964.”

You can plaster it on t-shirts, LeBron biographies…even billboards that Nike was rumored to have bought in the Greater Cleveland area for a potential Return campaign.

When the dust settled, it was Cleveland who came out on top with their pitch to James who created room for him with the Jack trade and offered longevity on James’ career with a youthful roster who can help take valuable miles, soreness off of LeBron’s basketball wheels heading into the next chapter of his career. And certainly that was a valuable selling point to James who had turned in four straight seasons without any rest between playing in four consecutive Finals, Team USA duty, and picking up the baton for Wade while Heat coach Erik Spoelstra had Wade on a resting plan for much of last season.

Meanwhile as the Cavs were making their moves and playing the waiting game, the Heat made their moves as they signed Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts in hopes to strengthen their supporting cast around the Big 3. But ultimately it was their prior commitments that did them under financially – Wade and Bosh. In the end, while Bosh and Wade would have taken pay cuts and were willing to and did opt out of millions of guaranteed dollars over the next few years, the Heat were committed to all three. The friendship of Bosh, Wade, and James was their selling point and if they had succeeded in bringing them back there was no way dollars could have been stretched to overhaul their roster.

There was no other scenario and if they had been successful in their attempt to retain the Big 3, they would have had only $8-9 million to spend on free agents to upgrade their role players. From the improbable lottery luck to cap preservation and acquiring young talent, it truly was a perfect storm for Dan Gilbert and his Cleveland Cavaliers.

Maybe in the long run, even though The Decision was something very real and very painful to Clevelanders far and wide, the city will look back on LeBron’s tenure with the Heat as a trip to college of sorts- where he spent four years coming into his own, figuring out the world and becoming a stronger player and leader in the process. But for now James will be in a Cleveland uniform for the foreseeable future and with him, a chance at redemption. Redemption for how things ended, redemption for The Decision, and redemption for the City of Cleveland and for Dan Gilbert’s letter.

At the age of 14 I got into the game of basketball because of all of the media hoopla surround one LeBron James. I wrote my first sports article on James on my grandfather’s typewriter – ink ribbon, white-out, and all.

From his gun-slinging performance in the Palace of Auburn Hills against the Pistons where he scored 25 of the team’s final 26 points, to the Air Canada Center where he dropped a Cavs record 56 points against the Raptors, LeBron is one of the greatest talents we have every seen play the game from the small forward position.

But for a guy who has seemingly done it all – MVP’s, championships, All-star selections – there is unfinished business in Cleveland for him and his second tenure in Wine and Gold is only in its infancy and only a championship .

From the start the Return was a very calculated decision for James and one he certainly and understandably took his time with. But don’t call it a  comeback. James and the Cavs have done this pony dog and pony show once before and they came up short in their quest for a title.

Once again the two sides will try to bring a championship and a winning culture to Quicken Loans Arena and once again we are all witnesses. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gOQ7steuMY0

Cavs tout Wiggins as latest franchise cornerstone

Posted in NBA - Cavaliers with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 27, 2014 by Deep in the Q

 

Photo credit Gullpress WNA

Photo credit Gullpress WNA

After weeks of trade rumors and back-and-forth discussion, the Cleveland Cavaliers selected Andrew Wiggins No.1 overall in the 2014 NBA Draft Thursday night.

The two-way guard out of Kansas University became the third Canadian born player on the Cavaliers roster and the second No.1 overall selection from north of the border in NBA history (Anthony Bennett 2013).

In his one and only season under Bill Self at Kansas, the 6’8″ guard/forward combo averaged 17.1 ppg, 5.9 rpg, and 1.2 spg.

“Andrew is a player we thought had the most upside in the draft. He’s also a player that we’re very excited to have be part of our family,” said Cavs General Manager David Griffin. “As we said from the beginning when I started coming in front of all of you from a press conference standpoint, you’re either all the way in or you’re all the way out. And Andrew Wiggins is all the way in on Cleveland, and we’re really excited about having him.”

Wiggins fills an immediate need for the Cavs as a player who can contribute on both ends of the floor. While he may start out at the small forward position following the likely departures of free-agent to be Luol Deng and Alonzo Gee (part of a draft day trade with Houston), Griffin sees his new franchise cornerstone as a lengthy shooting guard in the long-term.

“I think it’s become really tantamount to winning playoff games to have players that, when they’re at their best, are big for their position and can defend multiple positions. And if Andrew finds greatness in this league, it’s going to be as a very big two guard.”

What stood out most to Cavs management about Wiggins was his ability to run the floor in transition, his versatility as a wing defender, and his upside. While the debate over recent weeks was always between Wiggins and Duke forward Jabari Parker, Wiggins’ athleticism and ability to contribute immediately on the defensive end was what ultimately put him over the top for the Cleveland brass.

Addressing areas of need

While Cleveland played close to .500 basketball following the all-star break, they struggles at times to knock down open shots and surround slashing guards Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters with spot up shooting to pass to when they attacked the basket.

So at No.33 in the second round of the draft, Griffin and the front office selected Virginia guard Joe Harris to help spread the floor and provide some much needed perimeter shooting.

In his four-year career at the University of Virginia, Harris averaged 12.6 ppg on 48 percent shooting from the field and 41 percent from deep. A high IQ player with some improvement to be made on the defensive end of the floor, Harris will fill an immediate need as he transitions from the Virginia Cavaliers to the Cleveland Cavaliers in terms of his ability to put the ball in the basket.

Prior to obtaining a stress fracture to his navicular bone in his right foot, Kansas center Joel Embiid was thought to be the consensus No.1 pick and a no-brainer for Cleveland at the top spot in the draft. When plans fell through the Cavs still needed to find some additional front court depth to bolster their roster.

As of now the Cavs have Anderson Varejao on a partially guaranteed contract (often playing out of position at center), Tyler Zeller, Tristan Thompson, and Anthony Bennett all seeing time at the four and five last season. Mid-season acquisition Spencer Hawes’ future is still up in the air as he becomes an unrestricted free-agent on Tuesday.

While the trade might not be announced until July 10th per league rules, by all accounts the Cavs have reportedly acquired 6’11” Stanford forward Dwight Powell from Charlotte (No.45 overall) along with veteran center Brendan Haywood in exchange for swingman Alonzo Gee.

Haywood’s role with the team is still yet to be determined at age 34 after missing all of last season due to a left foot injury, but Powell will transition into a stretch four in Cleveland and provide some additional front court depth.

While Powell has good range for his size he will need to work on his consistency at the pro level, but his athleticism and craftiness around the rim cannot be denied.

Even though the Cavaliers have already made some serious improvement to their roster as of Thursday night’s draft, they will most certainly be active come 12:01 a.m. on July 1 as the free agency period begins in the NBA.

Not sold yet on LeBron to Cleveland yet? Better change your tune

Posted in NBA - Cavaliers with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 19, 2014 by Deep in the Q

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The 2013-14 season is in the books. The Spurs have won the NBA title. The NBA Draft is a week away and LeBron James can become an unrestricted free agent if he decides to opt out of his contract June 29.

After being knocked out of the Finals by the Spurs in five games and with an ailing Wade and aging roster LeBron has yet another decision to make – this time without the fanfare and television specials.

“I’m in position to be able to [be flexible],” James said in season-ending exit interviews Tuesday. “Not saying I want to take that option right now. I’m not sure yet. There’s a lot of time when you’re not in control of your future in professional sports. I’ve been fortunate to have two opportunities to do that — in 2010, and if I decide to use it now, I can be in control of my future now.”

James went on to say that he will consult with Wade and Bosh about their future together in the coming weeks after some needed vacation time and that he “[doesn’t] need to hear anything” from the Heat front office about in terms of what they might bring to the table in a future meeting.

So if you are LeBron it really comes down to two options and two options only. Miami or Cleveland? While public opinion holds that James will stay in Miami, a return to northeast Ohio would be a redemption story of epic proportions – the prodigal son returns home. Even Don Draper of Mad Men has put together a presentation for LeBron.

The one thing almost as important to James is his image. His brand. His legacy. After The Decision debacle of 2010, James and LRMR Marketing have worked hard to rebuild that image. For that reason, James does not want to be seen as a ring chaser who hops ship every three to four years. If LeBron stays put in Miami he can continue to add to his success story that includes four consecutive trips to the Finals and two rings.

But what does Cleveland offer that Miami can’t?

Let’s first look at the rosters.

Currently, Miami has one contract on the books for the 2014-15 season in Norris Cole after Chris “Birdman” Anderson’s camp announced his intent to opt out of his contract and become a free agent earlier this week. Dwyane Wade, James, and Chris Bosh all have player options they can opt into north of $21 million for next season. Obviously, the Heat need to get younger and need to restructure deals in order to do so.

But if you are Wade – who played in only 58 games during the regular-season and struggles to play long stretches in the post-season – are you really going to turn down that much money at this point in your career? Wade’s knees are not getting any better and he is shell of his former self and especially on defense (as seen here). Wade’s days as a top earner in this league are long behind him and if he were smart he opts in to this deal. $21 million is $21 million after all.

Additionally, as the Heat need to free up cap space to sign younger and better supporting talent around the Big 3, owner Mickey Arison is tired of paying the luxury and repeater taxes and would like his stars to take less. Come July 1, the Heat may have a lot of flexibility with one, maybe two players under contract if Wade opts in, but I’m not as big of a proponent of Pat Riley’s wheeling and dealing schemes to put a great supporting cast around LeBron to entice him to stay.

Do not get me wrong here. Riley is a great coach and leader and has a lot of rings to back up whatever he says, but did he really orchestrate the Big 3? Or did Wade, Bosh, and James make a decision that he lucked into, gaining a lot of credit in the process?

Let’s look at Riley’s track record after the Heat won their first title in 2006. Here are the Heat rosters following their ’06 title up until the formation of the Big 3 in 2010.

2007-08 (15-67) Blake Ahearn Joel Anthony Earl Barron Mario Chalmers Daquan Cook Ricky Davis Anfernee Hardaway Udonis Haslam Luke Jackson Alexander Johnson Bobby Jones Stephane Lasme Shawn Marion Alonzo Mourning Shaquille O’Neal (traded before trade deadline) Amish Parker Kasib Powell Chris Quinn Jason Williams Dwyane Wade Chris Quinn Dorrell Wright

2008-09 (43-39) Joel Anthony Marcus Banks Michael Beasley Marc Blount Mario Chalmers Daquan Cook Yakhouba Diawara Udonis Haslam Luther Head James Jones Shaun Livingston Jamaal Magloire Shaun Livingston Shawn Marion Jermaine O’Neal Chis Quinn Dwyane Wade Dorrell Wright

2009-10 (47-35) Rafer Alston Joel Anthony Carlos Arroyo Marcus Banks Michael Beasley Mario Chalmers Daquan Cook Yakhouba Diawara Udonis Haslam James Jones Shavlik Randolph Quentin Richardson Dwyane Wade Dorrell Wright

If Riley were able to slam his ring box on the table and get whoever he wanted, where was he between 2006 and 2010? I’m not by any means slamming Riley, but in my estimation it was in these three seasons where Wade shouldered too much of the load, dragging his teams to the playoffs and dropping 40 points on a nightly basis just to get dropped in the first round where his knees began to deteriorate.

To sum things up, I for one am not as confident in Riley’s abilities as team President to completely overhaul the roster this summer – especially when the rest of the league is hesitant to lend a helping hand to Miami.

So how about Cleveland?
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Cleveland is where it all started for LeBron. He grew up in 40 minutes south of Cleveland in Akron, OH and still owns a 30,000 sq. foot home in Summit County. He took a flight from Chicago to attend former teammate Zydrunas Ilguaskas’ jersey retirement ceremony mid-March. His kids reportedly will attend school in Akron this fall. He regularly contributes to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary High School’s athletic programs and wants his kids to go to school there. But, while he has done a lot of public relations work to fix what happened from the Decision – it still happened and serves as the only blemish on his career in the NBA thus far.

 

Deep down LeBron doesn’t want to be remembered as ‘just a kid from Akron, Ohio’ (as he always says on social media) who disappeared in the 2010 Boston series, had a mysterious elbow injury, who’s last moments in Cleveland jersey were broadcast on national television as he took off his jersey heading to the locker room and while he was shooting free-throws to a chanting crowd of “New York Knicks.”

As for what the Cavs bring to the table on the court, they bring flexibility and cap room.

They have $32 million on the books for 2014-15. Add in about $4.5 million for their No.1 overall selection next Thursday (based off Anthony Bennett’s $4.4 million contract last year and adjusting for the increase in cap) and you have $36.5 mill used up in a cap of $58.6 million. Giving LeBron his $21 million max contract would bring that number up to $52 million with about $6 million left to play with in terms of filling out their roster and about $15 million or so to work with for Dan Gilbert in luxury tax space that he would be willing to pay.

Could the Cavs bring on another max player with LeBron? Say a Carmelo Anthony? You bet they can as pointed out by Bill Simmons yesterday, but let me dive into the numbers real quick.

If it comes down to flipping Waiters/Thompson to make it work like Miami did with Beasley they’ll do it, but give LeBron and Melo their $20 million max contracts and you’re looking at $76 million without shedding additional cap space. That leaves Dan Gilbert to cut a check for $18 million over and then again for repeater taxes and so on. And again, that’s IF the Cavs don’t shed salary and stay as is.

But instead of trading Waiters/Thompson the more likely option is the Cavs declining Anderson Varejao’s $10 million option and asking him to take a Haslem paycut for a vet minimum that’s only $8 million over the cap. $22 million less than what the Heat payout on their roster was this year.

If LeBron wanted this to happen it’ll happen. Likely? No, but could it happen? Yes.

The Cavs also have an all-star MVP in Kyrie Irving to pair with James who by the way is only 22.

Add in a top talent in the No.1 overall pick in next Thursday’s draft, a great talent in Dion Waiters, and a bevvy of trade assets (Scottie Hopson deal, Varejao’s non-guaranteed expiring, etc) and you have a team to surround LeBron to extend his career and increase his longevity in this league.

While I am still hesitant to say LeBron will once again don Wine and Gold come Opening Night this October, it is undeniably the only other serious option for James outside of a return to Miami.

Some of these Miami-based bloggers and national writers best not get too comfortable in Miami as they have over the  past four years due to increased revenue from the formation of the Big 3, because it is easily 50-50 at this point that James comes home.

But if you are still on the fence and are adamant that James to Miami is a for sure thing, I’ll help you out and give you a head start on finding a new place in Cleveland.

Here’s a link to Apartment Finder.

 

Cavaliers win unprecedented third No.1 overall pick in four years

Posted in NBA - Cavaliers with tags , , , , , on May 21, 2014 by Deep in the Q

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After the Cleveland Cavaliers won the 2013 NBA Draft Lottery Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert said his team was done with the lottery and after tonight I bet he is glad he got one more crack at it.

Entering with just a 1.7 percent chance and the ninth best odds to secure the No.1 overall selection, the Cavs found lightening in a bottle for the third time in four years. 

In what many consider to be one of the most talented draft classes in recent memory, Cleveland will once again receive the opportunity to turn their franchise around that saw LeBron James leave in 2010 – and with it the winning. 

Rounding out the rest of the lottery, the draft order goes as follows: 

2. Milwaukee Bucks

3. Philadelphia 76ers

4. Orlando Magic

5. Utah Jazz

6. Boston Celtics

7. Los Angeles Lakers

8. Sacramento Kings

9. Charlotte Hornets

10. Philadelphia 76ers (via New Orleans)

11. Denver Nuggets

12. Orlando Magic (via Dwight Howard trade)

13. Minnesota Timberwolves

14. Phoenix Suns

Now, as the franchise moves forward they have a very important decision to make as to who will be there No.1 overall selection in June. And while Anthony Bennett certainly did not get a fair opportunity to play under the departed Mike Brown, the Cavs will need to go with a much safer bet this go around. 

As for where newly appointed GM David Griffin and the Cavaliers management team might be leaning? There are clear cut three above the rest. 

Duke’s Jabari Parker and Kansas teammates Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins. 

In the coming weeks there will be many interviews conducted, research done, and workouts at Cleveland Clinic Courts to be organized to give Gilbert and management as much information as they need to make an informed decision come next month’s draft. 

And while the franchise still has many questions left unanswered regarding their draft pick, a coaching hire, and free agency, overnight Cleveland has become a very interesting city for potential free agents and coaching candidates.

In the famous words of Cavs owner Dan Gilbert’s son Nick Gilbert – who’s lucky bow tie was again in attendance for Tuesday’s draft lottery (in GM David Griffin’s pocket) – “what’s not to like?”

Cavs part ways with Mike Brown for second time in four seasons; Griffin named full-time GM

Posted in NBA - Cavaliers with tags , , on May 12, 2014 by Deep in the Q

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On Monday afternoon, the Cleveland Cavaliers parted ways with head coach Mike Brown just one season into his 5-year, $20 million contract.

“This is a very tough business. It pains all of us here that we needed to make the difficult decision of releasing Mike Brown. Mike worked hard over this last season to move our team in the right direction,” said Cavaliers majority owner Dan Gilbert. “Although, there was some progress from our finish over the few prior seasons, we believe we need to head in a different direction. We wish Mike and his family nothing but the best.”

The move comes after a disappointing season in which many felt the team under performed despite improving their overall record for the the third consecutive year. 

The Brown-Cleveland reunion began with a lot more optimism than what it finished with and had its fair share of plenty of bumps and bruises along the way culminating in former General Manager Chris Grant’s firing back on Feb. 8. 

Now with All-star point guard Kyrie Irving eligible to either accept or turn down his first chance at a max contract extension this July, the Cavs now move forward with what has quickly become a very critical off-season in Cleveland.

In a related move, interim GM David Griffin who took over for Chris Grant back in February was announced as the full-time GM of the Cleveland Cavaliers in the release today and will be introduced at press conference tomorrow morning (11 a.m. at Cleveland Clinic Courts). 

 

 

Sunday Recap: Clips, Pacers overcome large deficits late

Posted in NBA - Cavaliers with tags , , , , , , on May 12, 2014 by Deep in the Q
Photo cred: Joseph Glorioso, Flickr

Photo cred: Joseph Glorioso, Flickr

After being taken to the cusp of elimination against the Atlanta Hawks in the opening round, the Indiana Pacers look more and more like the Indiana Pacers of old after overcoming a 19-point deficit in the nation’s capitol en route to a 95-92 win over the Wizards and a 3-1 series lead.

Box score

Paul George scored a playoff career-high 39 points (7-10, 3-point) and also pulled down 12 rebounds in the Pacers win.

Washington, who was in control for much of the game, more or less faded down the stretch and executed poorly when they needed a bucket late leading to their demise.

With the Pacers down three with 6 seconds to go following a David West miss at the rim, all they had to do was inbound the basketball and they failed to do so resulting in a turnover after an errant inbound pass by swingman Trevor Ariza.

While the Wiz didn’t do themselves any favors by taking shots early in the shot clock, giving up easy buckets in the paint, and being indecisive on both ends of the court, they certainly were in a position to tie the game late and their inexperience as a team would ultimately cost them.

If you were head coach Randy Wittman, you drew up the play as best as you could and it was just a case of poor execution.

NBA champion Trevor Ariza was your inbounder and he was trying to get the ball in to the team’s franchise player in John Wall (guarded by Paul George). Obviously in clutch time you will live and die with the game in the hands of your superstar, but Ariza’s inbound pass was wide of Wall coming off a screen and went into the backcourt where George would secure possession for Indiana.

While Bradley Beal appeared to be open cutting to the basket and was missed by Ariza, you can’t fault him or Wittman for trying to get the ball into Wall’s hands; however, the Wizards collapse began a lot earlier on in the third quarter where the Pacers would erase what was a 19-point deficit.

As evidenced by the win probability chart below (credit: ESPN Stats and Info), the Wizards were fully in control of this game to start the second half, but the Pacers fought back with fierce team rebounding and solid rotations defensively and big performances by Roy Hibbert (17 points, 9 rebounds) and Paul George in the third to make it a game.

George simply couldn’t miss from distance – flaring out from down screens for spot up opportunities, scoring from Iso gathers, and even falling down earning a chance for a four-point play in the fourth.

Whatever happened on that George, Hibbert boating trip last week has worked. The Pacers are 3-0 since. And Andrew Bynum is no longer with the team.

This boating trip that Hibbert talked about after Game 2 is quickly reaching Germany knee transfusion territory. We may never know what happened, but the Pacers have rebounded from their slow start to the 2014 playoffs and can secure their spot in what is assumed to be a rematch with Miami in the Conference Finals with a win over D.C. Tuesday night in Indianapolis.

 

Clips erase 22-point deficit, steal Game 4

Box score

As I am writing this and reviewing the box score I notice that Kevin Durant quietly had 40 points. 40 points! And the Thunder still allowed the Clippers to even the series and erase a 22-point deficit in a 101-99 loss in L.A.

So what happened?

Like the Wizards would go on to do after this Clips-Thunder contest, the Thunder would fold down the stretch as the Clippers would make a solid run in the 4th quarter and they never recovered.

In short, it was a multitude of things: 1) Thunder got Iso happy with Durant and Westbrook which turned into hasty decision making due to Clippers double-teams 2) Serge Ibaka allowed 10 layups/dunks in the quarter (and giving up and going for groin punches) 3) turnovers 4) and Darren Collison went off.

https://twitter.com/MySportsLegion/status/465882986823417856

Collison had 12 of his 18 points in the quarter – including the game-deciding layup after a full-court Wes Unseld outlet pass that caught the Thunder napping.

The Thunder had a chance to tie the game in the waning seconds of the game, but Russel Westbrook’s 3-point attempt rimmed out as time expired.

The Clippers should not have won this game, but Oklahoma City fell into the same rut that has gotten then eliminated from the playoffs in years past by taking it easy, handing the ball to Westbrook, and playing isolation basketball to eat clock.

Late in the contest, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers made an interesting decision when he decided to put point guard Chris Paul on Kevin Durant which really worked wonders at face value. What wasn’t discussed as much was the fact that L.A. immediately doubled Durant forcing him to give up the ball.

While Durant needed to be a bit more aggressive down the stretch, Westbrook attempted to pick up the slack and fell short – settling for contested jumpers and unforced errors offensively.

But, perhaps one of the more head scratching decisions on the night by the Thunder came from head coach Scott Brooks who elected not to foul down by two when the Clippers held possession and in a position to leave four to five seconds left on the clock with a lot shot in the shot clock.

While Griffin missed a contested layup and Westbrook would get a chance for a clean look in transition, the Thunder really did themselves a disservice by not fouling and leaving more time on the clock to set something up offensively.

The Thunder had no timeouts at that point, but with more time they could have found away to get a better look or get the ball into the hands of Durant had they chosen to foul.

Nevertheless, the series is now tied 2-2 and after an opening round that saw five Game 7’s played out, this is our best chance to see one with Miami, Indiana, and San Antonio taking care of business in the second round.

 

NBA, Commissioner Silver reach decision; ban Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life

Posted in NBA - Cavaliers with tags , , , on April 29, 2014 by Deep in the Q

After a three day internal investigation conducted by NBA commissioner Adam Silver regarding the leaked TMZ audio of L.A. Clippers owner Donald Sterling making racist comments in a taped phone call, Silver and the league announced Tuesday afternoon that they have decided to ban Sterling for life and have fined him $2.5 million.

Per the release from the league office, “As part of the lifetime ban, Mr. Sterling may not attend any NBA games or practice, be present at any Clippers office or facility, or participate in any business or player personnel decisions involving the team. He will be barred from attending NBA Board of Governors meetings and participating in any other league activity.”

While Sterling has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing, his inflammatory comments have created a national media frenzy since the tape’s release this past Saturday resulting in several protests by fans, owners, and players – including the Clippers who worse their warm-up shirts inside out for Game 4 their series with the Warriors in Oakland.

“The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive and harmful,” said Silver. “That they came from an NBA owner only heightens the damage and my personal outrage.Sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principals of inclusion and respect that form the foundation of our diverse, multicultural, and [ethnic] league.”

Additionally, Silver announced his recommendation to the NBA Board of Governors that they should “exercise their authority to force a sale of the team” (a 3/4 majority vote is needed to out Sterling as an owner according to NBA bylaws).

With legal suits and formal proceedings are still to be seen at this point, reaction from around the league was very supportive of Silver’s findings and swift decision to ban the controversial Clippers owner for life.

Early reports say that Sterling has made it known ‘the team is not for sale’ and all indications are that the this whole ordeal will be fought out in the legal system before the NBA would would be in charge of the sale of the Clippers with a 3/4 vote.

Perhaps one of the most interesting things Silver said regarding the future of the players affected by Sterling’s comments came in the Q&A after his opening remarks where a reporter asked essentially what would happen if a current Clippers player didn’t want to play for the team anymore.

Silver left the door open on the topic stating: “In the future if a player on the Los Angeles Clippers is under contract and does not want to play for the team anymore we will deal with that when it happens.”

As for the first official test in Commissioner Silver’s tenure, who took over for David Stern this past February, he passed in terms of the court of public opinion, but the real test lies ahead where this case will almost assuredly be drawn out into the legal courts where success will only be achieved with the Clippers being sold out from under Sterling’s majority control.

Update: Letter to fans from Commissioner Silver