David Thorpe says if he were Gregg Popovich he'd prepare his team for Game 7 with the message "we're better than them." What he'd tell the Heat, what worked in an epic Game 6. and more. TrueHoop TV at the Finals.
Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News: After their Game 6 meltdown in Miami, the Spurs began the healing process over dinner. It proved therapeutic. “The other option is (for) a bunch of us to go back to our rooms and sit there and beat yourself up,” Duncan said. At dinner, Parker talked about his experience with the French national team at the 2005 European championships. He lost to Greece at the buzzer in the semifinal round, then faced a quick turnaround to face Spain in the bronze-medal game. “We bounced back and won,” Parker said. The key, Parker said, was to stop thinking about the opportunity his team had lost and instead focus on the opportunity that was still in front of them. It is the same message Parker will preach now. “I think everybody wants to be ready for (Game 7),” he said. “If you’re not ready, you’re going to regret it for the next 10, 15 years.” By the end of Thursday night, the Spurs will find out whether that celebratory flight over the Gulf of Mexico has been cancelled. Or simply postponed.
Dave Hyde of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Sports is full of hard lessons, and strange things, inexplicable things, have happened in this series. The Heat haven't won a consecutive game in their previous 13 games. Watching them play through this is like expecting orange juice and drinking chocolate milk. "Game 7 is an opportunity, that's all it is,'' Heat forward Shane Battier said. 'In the words of Yoda, 'You do or do not. There is no trying.' '' Emotionally, physically, strategically two teams spent Wednesday recovering from Game 6 and preparing for the season's final game. Therapy for Dwyane Wade's sore knee. Massages all around. "I'll watch Spongebob with my sons,'' LeBron said. "I'll have a Bud Light, talk to my wife, go to bed,'' Battier said. What does a classic Game 6 mean? It means there's one more game to play, one more night to sweat, one final moment waiting to happen. "I said last year it was the hardest thing I've ever done, winning my first [title],'' LeBron said. "Last year doesn't even come close to what we've gone through in the postseason and in these Finals." That Allen shot in practice? When it came down Wednesday afternoon, it came down just like it did Tuesday night. Swish. Now a day to remember becomes one to forget.
Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: Hall of Fame center Patrick Ewing didn’t get a single interview for one of the NBA’s dozen head-coaching openings this offseason. He believes he knows why. “We get pigeon-holed,” said Ewing, who will serve as lead assistant to new Charlotte Bobcats coach Steve Clifford. “How many big men have gotten (head-coaching) jobs in the last 10 years? (Phil) Jackson and (Kevin) McHale. Not too many big men get that opportunity.” Former point guards seem constantly in vogue as NBA head coaches. Most recently the Brooklyn Nets hired Jason Kidd as head coach, just days after he retired as a player. While Ewing doesn’t begrudge Kidd this chance, he does wonder why 10 years as an NBA assistant, atop a playing career as illustrious as his, doesn’t get him more job interviews. He interviewed for the Bobcats job a year ago, when it went to the since-fired Mike Dunlap. “I guess they think because the guards run the team on offense, that they’re barking out orders,” then they must be natural coaches, Ewing said. “But they don’t see what the big men do. I was always a leader of my team, barking out defensive scheme, and some (offensive) plays, too. All I want is an opportunity to succeed or to fail.”
Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun: File this one under good things come to good men who wait. Raptors head coach Dwane Casey had a year left on his contract no matter what the organization’s still-changing front office decided on him. There are men who would gladly take a year off with pay and bid their former team a fond farewell. Casey is not one of them. He came to Toronto looking to take an organization that was stuck in neutral and get it moving again in the right direction. He did that in his first year. In his second year, for a myriad of reasons that certainly weren’t all his fault, that gear slipped back into reverse, giving back the gains they had made in his first year. To have the opportunity to get those gains back — and then some — is far more important to a man such as Casey than taking a year off. Wednesday’s announcement that he would be asked back to finish off the third year of his contract — and potentially earn an extension at the end of it — was by no means a surprise. The surprise was that it took as long as it did for new team president and general manager Masai Ujiri to determine that this was a guy he wanted guiding his team. The Raptors will hold a news conference on Thursday to make Casey’s return official.
Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: He is basketball's Jack Del Rio, a man who thrived at playing defense and now comes alive coaching it, using deft methods to make men into maulers. Could Lionel Hollins turn the Nuggets into defensive stalwarts as defensive coordinator Del Rio did the Broncos? That's part of the allure, part of why Nuggets management interviewed Hollins on Wednesday for the team's head coaching job. The 59-year-old Hollins, recently relieved of his duties as the Memphis Grizzlies coach, could end up swapping jobs with George Karl, the fired Nuggets coach who is a candidate to succeed Hollins in Memphis. Hollins is coming off a trip to the Western Conference finals. In Denver, Hollins is in competition with Indiana Pacers assistant coach Brian Shaw, who had a second interview with the Los Angeles Clippers on Wednesday, according to media reports. The next few days could clear up the picture for numerous NBA teams looking for a head coach. … New Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly, like many young executives, respects advanced stats in regard to evaluating talent. But the Nuggets also want to win, and Hollins has shown he can do that without having a star player in a major market.
Tim Bontemps of the New York Post: Nets general manager Billy King said earlier this week that now that Jason Kidd has officially been brought into the fold as the team’s next head coach, the Nets will be bringing players back in for additional workouts in order to allow Kidd to get a look at them ahead of the draft next Thursday. You would think that the idea of having to go back and take another look at some players like that could potentially be an issue for a scouting group trying to take advantage of every possible moment in the limited amount of time left leading up to the draft. But for Nets director of player personnel Gregg Polinsky, having Kidd’s perspective – coming off a Hall of Fame career – will only be a benefit to the process.
Dwain Price of The Dallas Morning News: Rick Carlisle has no doubt Jason Kidd will be a successful head coach in the NBA. But in order to accelerate that impending success, the Dallas Mavericks coach would like Kidd to make one very important telephone call. “I think one of the things that he’s going to do, and I’ve talked to [Kidd] about this, is talk to Larry Bird about it, because Larry Bird did this, too,” Carlisle said. “[Bird] didn’t do it nine days after retiring -- he did it a few years afterwards. “But [Bird] went into the job of an NBA head coach without any coaching experience. And so Jason will talk to him and I think he’ll get some good insights on it.” Kidd might need those insights from Bird after the Brooklyn Nets pulled a mild surprise June 12 when they chose Kidd as their head coach. It’s a mild surprise because Kidd was a mere nine days removed from retiring from the NBA after a stellar 19-year career, yet he was able to secure the Nets’ job without having any prior coaching experience.
Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: So how does DeMarcus Cousins feel about the Kings' new regime? There was a pause, followed by a "no comment" and a chuckle from the 22-year-old center, who's entering his fourth season in the NBA. Cousins, who usually has a lot to say, is back in Sacramento this week, hosting the DeMarcus Cousins Elite Skills Camp for youths that began Wednesday and ends Friday. The smile on his face and the rolling of his eyes showed how hard it is for Cousins to play the silent role. But he has to. His agent, Dan Fegan, has instructed Cousins not to speak on anything relating to the Kings team, management or ownership. Cousins is eligible for a contract extension this summer, and Fegan wants a maximum deal for his client with the threat of a trade demand looming if a deal isn't reached.
Michael Lee of The Washington Post: Bradley Beal is still more than a week away from his 20th birthday, but there is another significant date that the Wizards’ shooting guard is possibly monitoring with even greater anticipation: The day when he will finally be cleared to participate in basketball-related activities. According to people with knowledge of the situation, Beal remains sidelined but is expected to be cleared by July 1, nearly three months after doctors diagnosed a stress injury in his right fibula. The delayed recovery puts in doubt Beal’s availability for NBA summer league in Las Vegas, which begins on July 12, sources said. A person close to Beal maintained that it’s “too early to say” if he will be able to participate in summer league. Another added that “summer league is not imperative. There is a chance that he doesn’t” participate.
Jody Genessy of the Deseret News: Jerry Sloan is back with the Utah Jazz. The Hall of Fame coach has been hired in a front-office position by the team he led to two NBA Finals and coached for 23 years. The 71-year-old Sloan will take on a role of senior basketball adviser, mostly helping out with scouting on the professional and college ranks, among other duties. … This is the second big reunion for the Jazz this offseason. Although Utah lost assistant coach Jeff Hornacek to Phoenix, the Jazz recently hired Hall of Fame power forward Karl Malone on a part-time basis to help tutor the team's big men. Could John Stockton be the next one to return to the fold? "John is a great friend of the organization and is part of the Jazz family, and always will be," Jazz president Randy Rigby said in a phone interview with the Deseret News. With a chuckle, he added, "There have been no discussions ... yet."
Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal: By the time this week concludes, the Cavaliers should have a clear plan regarding the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft. All five candidates under consideration will visit Cleveland Clinic Courts this week, including Kentucky’s Nerlens Noel today. Most mock drafts around the country project the Cavs to select Noel, but sources within the organization seem cool on him. Noel played in just 24 games because of a left knee injury his freshman year and his offensive skills are limited. He has spent time during his rehab working on his shooting. … Rumors of problems regarding the people around him have surfaced this week, but two league executives outside the Cavs organization dismissed that this week as bogus. He recently signed with agent Andy Miller, who represents about 40 players across the league, including the Boston Celtics’ Kevin Garnett.
Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: This might not endear him to ACC fans, but here’s how Indiana big man Cody Zeller makes his sales pitch to NBA teams: “(The Big Ten) was the best league in the country this year. Every night you were going against a first-rounder,” said Zeller, who worked out for the Charlotte Bobcats Wednesday at Time Warner Cable Arena. Zeller has a point. Between Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State and the Hoosiers, it was quite a men’s basketball conference this past season. Zeller, a 7-foot sophomore, was certainly tested. He averaged 16.5 points and 8.1 rebounds, and figures to be a lottery pick. There was a time last fall when Zeller was talked about as perhaps the best player in the 2013 draft. Then he was overshadowed by the rise of teammate Victor Oladipo. It’s indicative of his uncertain status in next Thursday’s draft that Zeller has already auditioned for eight teams. … Obviously the Bobcats need help inside, particularly scoring, so Zeller would make some sense in Charlotte. Whether they could justify using the No. 4 pick on him, relative to other candidates, is debatable. What does Zeller see as his distinctive attribute? “More than anything my work ethic. It’s carried me to this point and it will carry me a long ways,” Zeller said. “Day-of-game, after the game, I’ll always come in the same way.”
Staff of ArizonaSports.com: New general manager, new coach, new players, new logos? The Phoenix Suns, in an effort to freshen things up, are rumored to be going with a new look on the court next season, and that is not just in relation to the players. It's possible the team's new logos leaked Wednesday,and long-time fans of the team may be a bit disappointed. After all, they're probably asking, "where's the purple?" However, the concept shouldn't come as much of a surprise after last season, as the team unveiled a new floor that featured far more black than before, so the idea that their new logos would be the same sounds about right.
Seven things that matter about the Finals as we head head into a historic Game 7 in Miami. With J.A. Adande, Israel Gutierrez, Alvaro Martin, Michael Wallace, Tom Haberstroh and Royce Young. TrueHoop TV at the Finals.
Getty ImagesThe head coaches for both teams have made the right moves throughout this series.
Game 7 won’t just come down to the players on the court. The two coaching staffs in the NBA Finals have each made adjustments throughout the series that have paid off significantly.
Let’s run through what they’ve done so far:
Game 2: Heat go to Chalmers-James pick-and-roll After the Heat went 0-for-4 on Mario Chalmers/LeBron James pick-and rolls in Game 1, Erik Spoelstra had faith his team would fare better.
The Heat went to this combo often during Game 2's most pivotal run.
The Heat made 6-of-7 shots and scored 16 points on pick-and-roll plays with Chalmers handling and James screening during a 33-5 run in the Heat’s series-evening win.
GAME 4: Mike Miller inserted into the starting lineup The Heat used a lineup with one traditional big man for all of Game 4 after doing so 65 percent of the time in Games 1-3.
This opened up driving lanes. The Heat shot 11-of-15 off drives by James and Dwyane Wade, with Wade hitting all six of his field goals off his drives.
GAME 5: Manu Ginobili starts for first time since June 6, 2012
Spurs use Boris Diaw extensively on LeBron James Gregg Popovich inserted a slumping Manu Ginobili into the starting lineup and Ginobili responded in a huge way. He scored a season-high 24 points, including 14 on drives to the basket. His nine points on drives during the Spurs 19-1 fourth-quarter run helped put the game away.
Popovich and crew also gave Boris Diaw an extended look against LeBron James.
James was 1-for-8 shooting against Diaw for the game.
GAME 6: LeBron James attacks with Wade on the bench The Heat were outscored by 15 points with Dwyane Wade on the court in Game 6, the worst +/- among any Miami player.
LeBron James in NBA Finals With Dwyane Wade On/Off Court
FG inside 5’
>>Per 48 minutes
Wade was subbed out with 39 seconds remaining in the third quarter with the Heat down 12 in Game 6. When he returned with 3:48 left in the fourth, Miami had a 3-point lead.
James was given more space to drive after Dwyane Wade sat on the bench for the first 8:12 of the fourth quarter, going 3-of-4 on drives in the fourth quarter/overtime.
James was the ball handler on the pick and roll 15 times in Game 6, nearly twice as often as his usage on those plays the first five games of the series.
The Heat shot 7-of-9 on pick and rolls when James was the ball handler in Game 6 (10-of-30 in Games 1-5).
Will this carry over to Game 7? Therein lies some interesting discussions for potential adjustments.
In the series, Miami has been outscored by 56 points with James and Wade on the court together (+48 when James is on the court without Wade)
James is shooting 13-of-14 inside five feet with Wade out of the game in this series, and just over 50 percent on such shots with Wade on the floor.
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThis is what they'll be playing for on Wednesday night.
There are so many storylines for Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Let's take a look at the ones that relate to the history of Game 7s in this round.
Home-Court Advantage The last team to win Game 7 of an NBA Finals on the road was the 1978 Washington Bullets, who upset the Seattle SuperSonics in Seattle, 105-99. Six Bullets scored in double figures that game, which may best be remembered for the shooting struggles of future Hall-of-Famer Dennis Johnson, who went 0-for-14 from the field.
There have been five Game 7s since, four of which came after the NBA went to the 2-3-2 format in 1985. Each of the previous five was won by the home team, but was reasonably close. The average margin of victory of those five games was six points.
In the last 30 postseasons, home teams are a combined 17-2 in Game 7s in the Conference Finals and NBA Finals.
The two losses were by the Sacramento Kings against the Lakers in the 2002 Western Conference Finals and the Pistons against the Heat in the 2005 Eastern Conference Finals.
The NBA has the longest drought among the three major sports for a Game 7 winner, but only by one year. There hasn't been a Game 7 of the World Series won by the road team since the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Baltimore Orioles in 1979.
Come So Close in Game 6, what happens in Game 7?
Best Game 7s by Player
1. Walt Frazier, 1970 Knicks
36 points, 19 rebounds, 7 assists; Knicks win 1st title vs Lakers
2. Bill Russell, 1962 Celtics
30 points, 40 rebounds in OT win vs Lakers
3. James Worthy, 1988 Lakers
36 points, 16 rebounds and 10 assists; 1st career triple-double
4. Bill Russell, 1966 Celtics
25 points, 32 rebounds; Red Auerbach's final game as coach
The 1974 Celtics share the distinction with the Spurs of being the only ones to lose in overtime (on a sky hook by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of the Bucks with two seconds left). Those Celtics bounced back to win Game 7 handily, but unlike the Spurs, they had the advantage of being at home.
The two most recent cases both lost.
The 1988 Detroit Pistons lost a heartbreaker to the Lakers in Game 6, then lost another very close game in Game 7 in Los Angeles.
And the 1994 New York Knicks had their Game 6 hopes of victory end in the same way the Spurs’ did, with a 3-pointer blocked (in this case, John Starks by Hakeem Olajuwon) at the buzzer.
That shot (which would have been a title-winner if made) was the Knicks' best shot. They lost to the Rockets in Game 7, 90-84.
LeBron and Duncan in Game 7s LeBron James is 2-2 all-time in Game 7s, with wins in his last two. In those four games, he’s averaging 33.8 points and 8.3 rebounds, almost a match for his numbers in his last Game 7 (32 points, 8 rebounds)-- the win over the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Tim Duncan is 2-1 in Game 7s, including a win in Game 7 of the 2005 NBA Finals against the Detroit Pistons. Duncan had 25 points and 11 rebounds in that game en route to winning the NBA Finals MVP.
Duncan and James share the common bond of having their highest-scoring Game 7 in a loss. Duncan scored 41 in a Game 7 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in 2006. James scored 45 in an Eastern Conference semifinals loss to the Celtics in 2008.
The Experience The Heat have been through the Game 7 rigors quite a bit (including the once previously this season). Their roster has a combined 48 games worth of Game 7 experience (in any series), though only one player (Ray Allen) has been in an NBA Finals Game 7 (2010 with the Celtics).
The Spurs have three players with NBA Finals Game 7 experience-- their Big 3 of Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili. Their roster in total has a combined 14 games of Game 7 experience.
Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News: How painfully close were the Spurs to their fifth championship? Scores of Heat fans — admittedly, not exactly a die-hard bunch — were already streaming for the exits at American Airlines Arena as the final seconds of Game 6 wound down. The Spurs had endured a massive Heat rally, fighting back from three down with 2:09 left to lead by five in the final minute. The game, and the Larry O’Brien Trophy, seemed all but assured. The Heat, however, showed their championship mettle, stunning the Spurs — with the aid of two missed free throws and a pair of offensive rebounds — to force overtime on 3-pointers from LeBron James (20 seconds left) and Ray Allen (six seconds). They did it again in the extra session, finishing on a 6-0 run to erase a three-point Spurs lead. The Spurs failed to score over the last 2:42, one last stretch of futility in a game that was so close, and yet so very far. “We were a few seconds away from winning the championship,” said Manu Ginobili, “and we let it go. It hurts because it’s one of those moments where you’re going to be thinking about what we could have done better in the last few possession so many times all night long, all tomorrow until the next game. I have no clue how we’re going to be re-energized. I’m devastated. But we have to. There’s no Game 8.” … The Heat will seek to become just the fourth team in history to overcome a 3-2 deficit with consecutive home victories in the 2-3-2 format after a 2-2 tie. The Spurs, meanwhile, will try to earn only the fourth road victory in the seventh game of the Finals, and the first since Washington won at Seattle in 1978.
Greg Cote of The Miami Herald: Miami is now 7-0 after losses in this postseason and has won 13 in a row overall after losing. This is a team that responds well to adversity. It did again Tuesday when doing so was an absolute must, and when fatigue was fighting every player on the floor. “We were not only taking the tank all the way down to ‘E,’” said LeBron, “but also using the reserve tank.” It was simply one of the greatest games and greatest triumphs we have ever seen in local sports. Now all they have to do is do it again. There was an interesting, telling little give and take by Wade and James in the interview room after the Game 5 loss in San Antonio. They’d been doing interviews separately lately but happened to be at each other’s elbow that night. It was mentioned how Miami lost a Game 6 on its home floor to fall short to Dallas in the 2011 NBA Finals, the first year of the Big 3. Heat players endured the indignity of the Mavericks celebrating on their own court that year. “We’re a better team now,” Wade had said, with certainty. “We’re going to see,” added James, with a small smile. They proved Tuesday night they ARE a better team than they were. Now all they have to do is prove it one more time, on Thursday night. When it matters even more. When it is ALL that matters.
Harvey Fialkov of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel: With the Heat down 10 points to start the fourth quarter, James led a 22-9 run with Wade on the bench for the entire burst. But still the Heat needed a Ray Allen 3-pointer with 5.2 seconds left to force overtime. "Just no quit in this team," Wade said in a happy locker room. "The game of basketball is a funny thing. I wish we could say how and why [we won]. That's why we love this game. It's unpredictable. That's why the only thing you can do when things look dim and dark is just keep going." Wade re-entered with 3:48 left and did have a block and two made free throws to give Miami a 3-point lead with 2:09 left in regulation. Tony Parker quickly erased that with a fadeaway 3-pointer. Wade said the Heat drew extra motivation when they saw the arena workers preparing for the postgame trophy presentation to the Spurs. "When they brought out the yellow rope [for the trophy presentation], you know you're not the one that's going to celebrate and it hurts, so we just kept fighting to the last minute, to the last second, and it happened tonight." Wade is looking forward to what could be an epic Game 7 of the NBA Finals back at AmericanAirlines Arena. "I've never wanted to play a Game 7 so bad," Wade said.
Greg Stoda of the Palm Beach Post: The Heat’s 27-game winning streak during the regular season means nothing without a title. James’ fourth MVP award means nothing without a title. If anything, in fact, those accomplishments will stand as mocking reminders of what Miami couldn’t do when the games mattered most if the Heat lose Thursday night. But the Heat are still breathing when it looked for all the world that they were finished. Allen did that for them. “He’s the greatest shooter of all time,” said Bosh, who got the ball to Allen after rebounding a James miss on a triple. “How he was open, I don’t know.” The shot capped a Miami comeback from 13 points behind late in the third quarter, and by 10 behind to start the fourth. “Ray did what he’s done for so many years,” Spoelstra said. “We’ve seen it on the other side so many times.” It shoved the Heat into a Game 7. The opportunity to define themselves awaits with a championship on the line.
Gary Dzen of The Boston Globe: ESPN Boston's Chris Forsberg wrote today that Garnett has become something of a forgotten man as rumors have swirled around Rivers. He's right. Sure, the fans will miss the coach if he decides to leave, but Garnett's departure would be franchise-altering. The Celtics would be losing a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Pierce is even more of an afterthought. We could be 12 days away from the end of the career of one of the five or six greatest players in Celtics history, and no one is talking about it. Pierce is the second-leading scorer in franchise history. He is first in 3-pointers, fourth in assists, and seventh in rebounds. A generation of kids from Ipswich to Wareham to Pittsfield has never needed to replace the jersey of the first Celtics star they ever cheered for.
Vincent Bonsignore of the Los Angeles Daily News: All that's left now for the Clippers is to convince Chris Paul they are truly committed to going the distance to win a championship, hire a new coach, sooth the feelings of young center DeAndre Jordan and make up with Blake Griffin, who was all but offered up to the Lakers on a silver platter for Dwight Howard. Not to mention move on without one of the top two coaches in the NBA and a pair of tough, savvy veterans who would have instantly made the Clippers an NBA championship contender. Other than that, the summer is going dandy for L.A.'s other basketball team. On one hand kudos to the Clippers for trying to land Doc Rivers, one of the great coaches in the NBA, and fierce veterans Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce in a blockbuster deal for Jordan, an expiring contract and multiple draft picks. On the other, upon learning this morning from a Clippers source the deal is officially dead right now you can't help wonder if they can successfully pick up all the pieces and put it back together again. The ripple effect from the very public high-wire act they performed the last few days is enormous. Who knows what this means for Paul, who is set to become a free agent July 1st and is free to talk and walk to the team of his desire. … Fact is, the Clippers must now move on. The question is, how dramatically has the futility of the last few days altered their present and future?
Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post: On Tuesday, Paul George worked out with his summertime basketball trainer, former Los Angeles Lakers reserve Mike Penberthy. "Paul does credit Brian Shaw with a lot of his development," Penberthy said of the Pacers assistant coach. "He said Brian deserves a head coaching job. He's had his run as an assistant and it's time for him to get his chance." Shaw might get his chance with the Nuggets. He interviewed with the Nuggets on Tuesday, an NBA source confirmed, and is in competition with former Memphis Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins, who is set to interview Wednesday. So just who is Brian Shaw? Interviews with those who know the 47-year-old former guard reveal a likable, versatile, passionate basketball mind, yearning to break out as a young coach.
Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News: Mark Jackson is the Zen Don Nelson -- similar Warriors success, much less frantic financial agitation. So: Jackson is not going to scheme for a bigger, longer contract this summer after leading the Warriors to a surprise playoff run, though that's exactly what Nelson did after the franchise's previous postseason berth. If a new deal for Jackson comes before the season starts, then fine. If it doesn't (and Jackson said there have been no serious talks as of yet this offseason) ... well, Jackson might not be 100 percent thrilled with that, but he almost certainly won't stage a Nelson-style holdout. "I'm thrilled to have a job and to coach this group of guys -- and with great ownership, a great front office and fan base," Jackson said from Los Angeles in a phone interview Tuesday. "I'm a guy with great faith. I know it'll work out. So I don't get caught up in it. This isn't standard 'coach line.' It's the truth. It'll work out. I do know that." The reality is that Jackson is signed through next season, and the Warriors have a team option for 2014-15. I presume both sides would like to take a look at a longer agreement relatively soon, but you never know when a deal can be struck. And if Jackson has been upset by any perceived delay, I'm sure he'd let everybody know. I asked: He isn't upset.
Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee: Shortly after the Kings announced the hiring of general manager Pete D'Alessandro, the restructuring of the organization's business and basketball departments resumed. As expected, several employees who worked under basketball president Geoff Petrie were released, including his son, assistant basketball vice president Mike Petrie, basketball vice president Wayne Cooper, scouting director Scotty Stirling, video coordinator Joe Cook, security guard Joe Nolan, property manager Steve Schmidt and administrative assistant Sheli Gottlieb. The biggest surprise might have been media relations spokesman Devin Blankenship, a native Sacramentan who had been with the franchise for 13 years.
Bob Young of The Arizona Republic: At a time when the Suns have stockpiled draft picks, including two in the first round next week, and created some salary-cap flexibility, everybody in the basketball operation is finally on the same page. “Ryan and Pat pride themselves in knowing every player in the world,” Babby said. “It gives me peace of mind going into this (draft) process. If a name comes up, they know everything about the guy, including what he had for breakfast.” That goes beyond players coming up through the college ranks. McDonough has assembled a staff of scouts and consultants, some holdovers and some new, who are wired into the world. That has never been more important, as evidenced by the success of the San Antonio Spurs. There is synergy and energy in the building. “It’s palpable,” Babby said. “You can feel it through the whole organization. We always envisioned it working this way, and we have a chance now to make it work. It’s not really a reflection on the people we had before. It’s just kind of the circumstances of how it happened. In fairness, I’ve learned a lot in the last three years about how to do my job better and provide a measure of clarity throughout the organization.” Will it translate to victories on the floor and fannies in the seats? “It takes a while,” Babby said. “We haven’t done anything yet, so it’s a little early to congratulate ourselves.” That’s fine. For hiring a coach and GM who can work together, we’ll do it for you.
Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer: So to every Charlotte Bobcats fan who has said, “Hey, I could run that front office as well as those guys…’’ Here’s your start, so long as you have a computer-science degree, are willing to work long hours and can respond to obscure requests on the quick. The Bobcats are searching for a “Basketball Operations System Developer,’’ which sounds a lot like how general manager Rich Cho got his start in the NBA. Cho was attending Pepperdine Law School, with a degree in engineering, when Wally Walker, then running the Seattle Supersonics, brought Cho in as an intern to create a high-tech basketball data base. Cho is particularly proud of the database he assembled for the Bobcats a year ago, and this job ad sounds like someone who’ll obtain and feed fresh info into that system. The Bobcats need someone with a whole lot of computer experience and an appreciation for advanced basketball statistics. And you must be confidential (like, don’t tell the Observer who they’ll draft with the fourth pick next week). Sure it’s grunt work. The ad specifically asks for those willing to work extended hours “nights, weekends, holidays.’’ Wait a minute…that sounds way too much like sports writing. Think twice before applying.
Twists, turns, villains, heroes and Ray Allen; Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals was overloaded with drama. Bomani Jones and J.A. Adande discuss the Heat's come-from-behind overtime victory that sets up Thursday's Game 7. TrueHoop TV at the Finals.
Key Plays Allen tied the game with 5.2 seconds left, his fifth postseason game-tying or go-ahead 3-pointer in the final 10 seconds of the fourth quarter or overtime. That’s the most by any player in the past 15 postseasons. Robert Horry and Reggie Miller are the only other players with multiple such shots in that span.
It was the second 3-pointer after an offensive rebound for the Heat in the final 20.1 seconds (James made it a two-point game after his miss was rebounded by Mike Miller).
Chris Bosh struggled defensively early on; Tim Duncan shot 9-for-9 with Bosh defending him in the first half. After halftime, Bosh pulled down six rebounds, none bigger than the offensive rebound that led to Allen’s game-tying 3-pointer.
He also blocked the Spurs’ final two field-goal attempts of the game, both in overtime, including a potential game-tying 3-point attempt by Danny Green at the buzzer.
All-Around Domination The MVP had 32 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists, his 11th career postseason triple-double -- tied for second-most all-time, according to the Elias Sports Bureau -- and his fourth in the NBA Finals (only Magic Johnson has more, via Elias).
Triple-Double in Elimination Game NBA Finals History
>> Source: Elias Sports Bureau
In fact, the past four NBA Finals triple-doubles have been recorded by James.
He joins an illustrious list of players to register a triple-double in an NBA Finals elimination game (see chart on the right) and he’s just the fourth in history with a 30-10-10 game in the NBA Finals, according to Elias.
And he came alive late, scoring 18 points in the fourth quarter and overtime after scoring just 14 in the first three quarters combined.
The Other Superstar Tim Duncan came out firing on all cylinders, scoring 25 points on 11-for-13 shooting in the first half, the most he’s ever scored in the first half of an NBA Finals game. Over the past 15 seasons, only Allen Iverson in 2001 and Ray Allen in 2010 scored more in the first half of a finals game.
Tim Duncan By Half in Game 6
His 25 points were the same as the rest of the team combined and more than Miami’s Big 3 (21 points combined). But the rest of the game was a different story.
He attempted only eight shots after halftime, making just two of them, and scoring five points in the second half and overtime.
A Rare Loss for Spurs The Spurs led 94-89 after Manu Ginobili hit a free throw with 28.2 seconds remaining, but were outscored 6-1 the rest of the fourth quarter. Over the past 15 postseasons, teams win 98.6 percent of the time when leading by exactly five points with between 20 and 30 seconds left.
Looking Ahead to Game 7 The Heat’s win came exactly seven years to the day after they beat the Dallas Mavericks in overtime in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. Two days later, they won their first NBA title.
The Spurs can look to the 1974 Boston Celtics, who are the only team to lose Game 6 of the NBA Finals in overtime. They came back to beat the Milwaukee Bucks on the road in Game 7 and win the NBA title.
Is it possible the first five games of the NBA Finals have increased the chances the Heat will win Games 6 and 7? According to the betting markets, the answer is yes.
Betting markets, such as Betfair, are real-money markets in which users wager millions of dollars daily on the outcome of sporting events. And the price of the wagers is a historically strong predictor of the outcome. At the beginning of the Finals, Betfair lines predicted the Heat had a 63 percent chance to win Game 7. Now, even though they are down 3-2 and have lost two games by more than 10 points, the betting markets make the Heat 73 percent favorites to win Game 7, should they get there, and a 73 percent shot in Game 6. Yes, you read that right; the betting markets have increased their confidence in the Heat by a whopping 10 percentage points over the course of the series. These per-game likelihoods mean the market still favors the Heat to win the series (54 percent), despite facing elimination in Game 6.
If this all seems a bit far-fetched, you certainly are not alone. The expert ESPN Forecast panel has lost confidence in the Heat, currently giving the Heat a 54 percent chance to win Game 6, down from 57 percent at the start of the series, and a 57 percent chance to win Game 7, down from 65 percent. The implied chance the ESPN Forecast panel gives the Heat to win the series is only 31 percent, just more than half the betting market’s prediction.
If you have been following the ESPN Forecast predictions, you will have noticed that generally the expert panel and the betting markets have been pretty closely aligned for the entire playoffs. When the Finals started, the panel and the market differed by only two percentage points, the panel giving the Heat a 63 percent chance to win the series and the market predicting 65 percent. Yet now they are 19 percentage points apart on Games 6 and 7.
The question is, whom do you trust, the experts or the market? Are the Heat still the favorites, or are they 2-to-1 underdogs? Unfortunately, they won’t play these last few games 100 times so we could have clean scientific experiment as to who was right and who was wrong. The only reasonable explanation for an increase in the likelihood of a Heat victory is concern over Tony Parker’s health, but he had a strong Game 5 that should have dispelled most concerns. Thus, it is hard for us to justify an increased confidence in the Heat based on the series outcomes so far.
What explains this difference between the market and the experts? We assume that both the markets and ESPN’s panel of experts have access to the same information, but there could be some information the market or panel knows that the other one does not. More likely, the markets weigh users by the amount of money they are willing to wager, while the ESPN panel weighs everyone evenly. ESPN’s smart money is on the Spurs, but there are some people heavily invested, big money, in a Heat victory.
How could the Los Angeles Clipperspossibly walk away from a negotiation that would’ve yielded them Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers for a relatively unproven young center, a couple of first-round draft picks and the relatively small burden of taking on one or two mid-level contracts?
That’s the question gnawing at some Clipper fans and many Clipper skeptics on Tuesday, but however ineffectual the organization appears on the surface for folding up their tent, the Clippers made a sound decision.
Two key points:
What’s the hurry? The Celtics’ situation is in flux and they’ve signaled to the world that they’re ready to pursue the wise course of rebuilding. If they buy out Paul Pierce’s contract on or before June 30, where does that leave Garnett and Rivers? Neither is wild about the idea of being part of the reconstruction process without their comrade, and both would prefer they join forces with a team driving for a title, a team like the Los Angeles Clippers.
In other words, if the Clippers want to acquire Kevin Garnett for DeAndre Jordan, they can do so after July 1. The only complication there is the report that Garnett isn’t interested in playing for any coach other than Rivers, a primary reason this whole drama started.
That’s why if I’m the Clippers, I hold off on hiring a coach until after the Pierce situation is resolved. Apart from the Clippers, the only remaining coaching vacancies are Memphis, Philadelphia and Denver. There’s virtually no overlap between the Clippers’ short list and that of 76ers president of basketball operations and general manager Sam Hinkie. Memphis will likely hire current assistant Dave Joerger. At worst, the Clippers lose one of their top three choices (most likely Lionel Hollins or Brian Shaw) to Denver while they wait. In exchange, they maintain the possibility that Rivers could join them after July 1. Boston will have no more impetus to pay Rivers $7 million to coach a bubble team than they do now. Ditto for Garnett’s $18 million guaranteed, assuming KG would return to a Pierce-less Celtics team.
There’s some worry that the Clippers’ inability to strike a deal with Boston might prompt Chris Paul to look elsewhere, but the concern has been overblown. If the Celtics are truly moving into rebuilding mode, time is on the Clippers’ side. If the Celtics decide to fire up the wagon for another run, then so be it.
Was the deal worth it? Few veterans in the league bring Garnett’s gravitas, pedigree and presence and it’s easy to be charmed by the prospect of Garnett’s taking Blake Griffin under his wing and teaching him the dark arts of defending the pick-and-roll and becoming a championship power forward.
But Garnett is 37 and isn’t good for more than 26-28 minutes per game going forward. As transformative as he is as a minister of culture, Garnett’s past performance isn’t a reliable indicator of what kind of production he’d give the Clippers next season -- and the season after if the team decided to pick up his $12 million option for 2014-15.
So far as the leadership, Garnett is regarded as one of the league’s best teammates and mentors, but the Clippers went down that path last offseason when they brought back Chauncey Billups, signed Grant Hill and loaded up on good-guy vets to add to the collection they already had. Veteran leadership wasn’t the problem when the Clippers lost four straight to Memphis in the first round.
If anything, the Clippers need to get younger and establish a sustainable core around Paul and Griffin. Truth be told, Jordan probably isn’t the best frontcourt counterpart to Griffin since both are most dangerous in the basket area. And although Garnett would offer the midrange stretch that would best complement Griffin and is still a very steady defender, is 2,000 minutes of Garnett the best the Clippers can do for Jordan, whose athleticism and talent have many admirers around the league?
We don’t know the answer to this question, but a team like the Clippers that desperately needs a couple of wings who can defend and shoot from distance has an obligation to listen to offers -- and they’re out there for Jordan, both in the form of talent and picks.
Rivers is one of the five best coaches in the game and clearly has the respect of NBA players. But there’s a reason teams don’t trade assets for coaches. Doc Rivers can’t guard Russell Westbrook, Tony Parker, Ty Lawson, Mike Conley, James Harden and Stephen Curry. A few front office execs who were asked about the idea of handing over a pair of first-round picks for the privilege of paying a coach $7 million per season found the proposition absurd. While there was almost unanimous respect for Rivers’ acumen, the transaction was seen more as a salary dump than anything else.
The notion that a pair of first-round draft picks is a paltry sum to pay for Garnett and Rivers is short-sighted. With the new collective bargaining agreement in place, first-round picks have never been more valuable. They are the mother’s milk of the NBA trade market. With the exception of a few superstar max contacts, rookie-scale contracts represent the best values in the game. All across the league, there are young executives who know how to turn post-lottery picks into Chandler Parsons, Serge Ibaka and Eric Bledsoe, among others.
Teams value these picks and will offer the Clippers quality, on-court talent for them. A first-round pick is the kind of asset that could get a team to swallow the final year of Caron Butler’s contract, and could accompany Eric Bledsoe to get a top-line starter in exchange.
The Celtics also wanted the Clippers to take on additional payroll in the form of Jason Terry and/or Courtney Lee (this in addition to the $1.5 million that would’ve been added to the Clippers' salary number in a Jordan-for-Garnett swap). With only Griffin, Jordan, Butler, Jamal Crawford and Bledsoe locked in for next season, and Paul due a maximum salary, the Clippers need to preserve all their available exceptions. But adding Terry and/or Lee would’ve brought the Clippers precariously close to a place where they’d lose one or more of those slots, which are going to be vital in filling out their depleted roster.
It’s entirely possible the Clippers blew it big time by turning down an opportunity to sign a Hall of Famer in the twilight of his career and one of the most respected coaches in the game. Acquiring Garnett and Rivers would’ve made Paul ecstatic and endeared the team to the local media that have been pounding them in recent weeks.
But in forfeiting one option, the Clippers open themselves up to many others, including several that might actually address the team’s needs beyond 2014. In the meantime, Garnett and Rivers are still in Boston awaiting word on the direction of their team. If and when the Celtics decide to break up their current core, Garnett and/or Rivers will be looking for life rafts -- and the Clippers still have one.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE/Getty ImagesThe Heat have been good with Chris Andersen on the court.
Why hasn't Chris Andersen played since Game 3?
That's what I have been wondering. He's a big dude with -- it would seem -- the ability to hinder those Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili drives that have been causing so much trouble for the Heat. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are good at getting the ball into the paint, where Andersen is good at turning touches into buckets.
Andersen is shooting -- wait for it -- 82 percent in the playoffs and 78 percent on 7-of-9 shots in these Finals.
There are two theories explaining Andersen's benching:
Tim Duncan abused him in the post.
The Heat have been good playing small, for instance with Mike Miller taking Birdman's minutes.
So, thanks to the media version of NBA.com/stats, I dialed up all of Duncan's shots in the paint in this series, and assessed:
Duncan has attempted a grand total of one shot against Andersen. It came in the second quarter of Game 1, when the big Spur backed Birdman deep into the paint, turned and scored easily with a little up-and-under move.
As it happened, ESPN's Jeff Van Gundy said, "Chris Andersen brings great energy, but Tim Duncan can do work against him in the low post." An idea was born. Only, as it happens, Duncan has yet to do that work. Just for fun, I went back and looked at several recent years of these two facing each other, which hasn't happened much. Duncan has been his typical self against Andersen -- some years shooting better than average with Andersen in the game, some years worse.
Andersen is best off the ball, including against Duncan. As a counterpoint to the idea that Andersen loses that matchup, consider this: In Game 1, at one point, Duncan found himself with excellent post position guarded by LeBron. Andersen threatened to help. Whether it was the threat of James, Andersen, or both, Duncan -- one of the best short-range shooters in NBA history -- missed a short jumper off the top of the backboard.
The Heat lost Game 1 at home, and change was inevitable. Birdman has played 36 total minutes in the series and none since Game 3.
The Heat are pretty good against the Spurs with Birdman in: plus-9 over 36 minutes. They are also good with Miller in: plus-34 over 101 minutes. They are also good with both in: Perhaps Miami's best run of the series came in Game 2, when for the key stretch, it was LeBron, Miller and Andersen with Ray Allen and Mario Chalmers. That lineup rattled off 22 points in seven minutes, while giving up a mere five.
There has been that one-bucket hint, but certainly no trend, that the Heat are abused while Andersen is on the court.
Put it all together, and I don't know that we can say with any certainty that Birdman must play. But without a doubt, he should be considered. He is a well-rested, highly effective and energetic big man with good hands, and the Spurs have shown no signs of "solving" him.
At full speed, the Heat may well be unstoppable. But even in these NBA Finals, you can see the Heat occasionally deciding not to bother challenging Danny Green, for instance. Ethan Sherwood Strauss has interesting ideas about intensity.
AP Photo/Lynne SladkyLeBron James is averaging 31.5 points per game in games in which his team faced playoff elimination
Historical storylines abound going into Tuesday's Game 6. Can the San Antonio Spurs continue their road closeout dominance? Will LeBron James have another big scoring game to stave off elimination?
Here's a look at the numbers in support of each team.
Why the Spurs Will Win The Spurs enter Game 6 leading the series 3-2. Teams up 3-2 in the Finals have gone on to win the series 83.3 percent of the time (35-7) all-time. Since the 2-3-2 format was instituted in 1985, teams up 3-2 have gone on to win the NBA Finals a virtually identical 82.4 percent of the time (14-3).
Even with the final two games of the series in Miami, the Spurs have recent history on their side.
The Spurs are an NBA-best 14-2 in potential series clinching games on the road in the Tim Duncan/Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili era since 2002-03. Those 14 wins are six more than any other team over that span.
Potential Series Clinchers On Road Best Record Since 2002-03
Gregg Popovich is 19-5 when his team had a chance to clinch a playoff series on the road. Only one head coach in NBA history has a higher career winning percentage than Popovich in those games (min: 2 games): Tom Heinsohn (8-1, .889).
The Spurs closed out each of their previous three series on the road this postseason, taking down the Lakers, Warriors and Grizzlies. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only two teams in NBA history have won four series clinching games on the road in a single postseason: the 1989 Pistons and 1999 Spurs.
San Antonio is just one win away from its fifth NBA Title and would remain one of just two teams in NBA history with multiple NBA titles without a Finals loss (Bulls, 6-0). It would also be their first NBA Finals series win without home-court advantage.
Why the Heat Will Win Not surprisingly, it all starts with LeBron James.
He’s averaging 31.5 points per game in his career when facing playoff elimination. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, that’s the highest for any player in NBA history (min. five games). In fact, only Michael Jordan (31.3) and Wilt Chamberlain (31.1) are also above the 30 PPG threshold.
Potential Series Clinchers On Road Best Record Since 2002-03
The Heat have been here before. In 2012, they climbed back from a 3-2 deficit to beat the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. However, Miami couldn’t pull it off in the 2011 NBA Finals, falling to the Mavericks 4-2.
Only three teams under the current format have won the NBA Finals after trailing 3-2 with the remaining two games at home. Most recently, the Lakers came back to beat the Celtics in 2010.
Won NBA Finals After Trailing 3-2 Played Games 6 and 7 at Home
>> Since 2-3-2 format in 1985
On the most basic level, it’s the Heat’s turn on Tuesday. Neither team has won back-to-back games in this series, just the third time that’s happened through five games of the NBA Finals since 1985.
Miami has been dominant following a loss this postseason, winning all six games by an average of 20.7 points. The Heat haven’t lost back-to-back games since January 8-10, going 12-0 following a loss since then.