NBA Finals Preview: Series will impact legacies of LeBron, Durant

NBA Finals Preview: Series will impact legacies of LeBron, Durant

BOSTON – For the third year in a row (a first for an NBA Finals), the last two teams standing in the NBA are Cleveland and Golden State with each winning an NBA title. 

This NBA Finals will do more than just break the 1-1 title tie between these two the last two seasons. 

It will have a rippling effect on the legacies of several players, notably LeBron James and Kevin Durant. 

James will be gunning for his second straight title with Cleveland, which came after having won a pair of titles with the Miami Heat. 

And then there’s Durant, who left Oklahoma City in the offseason to join the Warriors – the team that prevented the Thunder from getting to the NBA Finals last season. 

James is looking to add to his already-impressive legacy that when all is said and done, will stack him up favorably with the all-time greats to have played in the NBA. 

For Durant, winning his first title will validate in many ways his decision to join an already loaded Golden State team in addition to taking him off the list of highest scoring NBA players (Durant has a career 27.2 points per game average) in league history to never win an NBA title. 

Durant has tried to downplay the significance of the Finals in terms of what it would mean to his legacy. 

“I'm just trying to be the best me I can be,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “That's the only pressure I worry about. If I don't play up to my standards, then that's what -- that's when I get upset. I have bad games, but it's just a matter of me just trying to be the best me I can be, go out there and work extremely hard on my game and try to showcase it.”

Although James arrived in the NBA four years prior to Durant, the two have what James calls a “very good” relationship. 

“Our relationship consists of, if someone needed something, we can always reach out to one another,” James told reporters. “And if not, then it doesn't take away from it. We have always had a mutual respect of one another, being competitors. I've always wanted to -- because I was in the NBA before him and when he came in, I watched him and things of that nature, even before he came in I always gave him just an, ‘if you need anything to bounce off’ or someone to bounce something off, you can always use me because I had experience being drafted to a franchise that now they're expecting you to be the franchise player.

James added, “I've always had an open-door policy with K.D.”

Regardless of how this series turns out, James will walk away a champion having won an NBA title three times previously. 

That has led many to believe the pressure to win a title and thus cement his legacy as one of the greats of this generation, lies squarely on the shoulders of Durant. 

"As far as pressure, I think pressure is what you make it,” Golden State’s Draymond Green told reporters on Wednesday. “To say he's going to be under pressure because everyone is going to try to make it like he's under pressure, I don't think that -- I know that doesn't matter because I know as a competitor and as someone who tries to reach greatness every day and knowing that Kevin, who reaches, tries to reach greatness with every single thing he (does), from going through an individual workout and every move he (does) is hard.

Green added, "That's how focused he is on being great. No one would be able to put more pressure on him than he's going to put on himself or expect more than for what he's going to think of himself, that decision is what it is, it was made a year ago, and it's behind us.”

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

Ainge: 'Setback' wrong word to use about Hayward

When is a setback not a setback?

When Danny Ainge says, "You know what? Sometimes I talk too much," Ainge told the Boston Herald over the weekend. "'Setback' wasn't the right word, so let me rephrase that because it's not exactly true to say it - or say it that way.

The Celtics president of basketball operations, in his weekly radio interview with Toucher and Rich on 98.5 The Sports Hub and simulcast on NBC Sports Boston, used that word when he was describing how Gordon Hayward is coming along in his recovery. 

"He had like one setback for a couple of weeks, maybe a month and a half ago," Ainge said on the radio last week. "We were progressing a little bit too fast, we thought."

Ainge clarified that to the Herald's Steve Bulpett. 

"What happened is he went on the AlterG [anti-gravity treadmill] the first day and he felt some soreness," he said. "It was the first day he tried the AlterG, a long time ago. He just wasn't ready for it at that point. That's all it was."

Celtics coach Brad Stevens has been adamant that Hayward, recovering from his gruesome leg and ankle injury in the season opener, will not play for the Celtics this season. On Sunday, Stevens, via MassLive.com's Jay King, characterized Stevens' soreness as a "small" issue. 



Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

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Chest pains and lack of sleep lead to medical leave for Cavs coach Lue

CLEVELAND - Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue is taking a leave of absence from the team to address health issues that have included chest pains and loss of sleep.

Lue said Monday in a statement that tests have offered no conclusion about what the issue is and offered no timetable for his return. The coach said he feels he needs to step away "and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation" from which to coach the rest of the season.

Here's a portion of Lue's statement:

I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is.

"While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team. I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season," Lue said. "My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the championship we are all working towards."

A stress-filled season for the Cavs has taken a toll on the Lue, 40, a former Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers who led them to the 2016 NBA championship after taking over for David Blatt midway through that season. They are j40-29, third in the Eastern Conference, behind the second-place Celtics and East-leading Toronto Raptors, and have endured roster shake-ups, injuries and other distractions as they try to return to the NBA Finals.

David Aldridge of TNT reports that the plan is for Lue to return in a week. The NBA playoffs begin April 14. 

"We all want great players, we all want the best teams, but with that comes a lot of pressure as well. And what Ty Lue has had to go through this year with that team, with the trades and the injuries and the pressure, it's unrelenting," Denver coach Michael Malone said. "So I hope that he gets healthy and is able to get back in time for the playoffs and help that team win as many games as possible."

Lue spent the second half of Cleveland's victory in Chicago on Saturday in the locker room because of an illness, the second time this season he left a game because he wasn't feeling well. The former NBA guard also sat one out against Chicago at home in December.

Associate head coach Larry Drew coached the second half of Saturday's game, the finale of a six-game, 11-day road trip. Cleveland is back home to host Milwaukee on Monday.

"We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues," general manager Koby Altman said.

Charlotte coach Steve Clifford also left his team to address his health this season. He took six weeks off. Medical tests revealed that the 56-year-old Clifford did not have any internal problems, but the doctor's diagnosis was the coach was suffering from severe sleep deprivation.

AP Basketball Writer Tim Reynolds contributed to this report.

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