2018 NBA Finals

Blakely: A ready-made rival to Warriors awaits LeBron in Boston

Blakely: A ready-made rival to Warriors awaits LeBron in Boston

BOSTON – Golden State once again steamrolled towards another NBA title while leaving LeBron James and the Cavaliers as the last bit of roadkill on the journey.

But the Warriors’ third title in four years was a secondary topic of discussion as James’ impending free agency was to the surprise of no one, the center of attention.

The future of James will dominate the NBA rumor mill for weeks with several teams – including the Celtics – being talked up as a possible landing spot.

But James coming to Boston will require a bit of role reversal to come to fruition.

In the past, teams have gone through a series of salary cap gymnastics, spending months, sometimes years, shedding salary to create enough space to bring James into the fold.

Boston hasn’t done anything like that with an eye towards acquiring James and won’t even consider going down that road unless James makes it absolutely crystal clear that he wants to be a Celtic.

Success at the highest level tends to travel with James, in part because of what’s already in place but also because of what – and who – he brings with him.

In Boston, the only thing James needs to bring is his ridiculously impactful game.

Because with or without James, Boston is built to compete for an NBA title now and in the near future.

The Cavs have very little financial flexibility to make major upgrades to their roster, which few envision will be good enough to contend for a title next season even if James decides to return.

Trades in Cleveland are always possible, but who’s really trying to holla at George Hill for $19 million? Or Jordan Clarkson, who has two years and $25.9 million left on his deal? J.R. Smith is owed $14.7 million next season, but considering his up-and-down, erratic – no, make that bad – decision-making...there’s not a viable market for him, either.

And while the Los Angeles Lakers have been the most aggressive team in terms of creating space to make a strong run at James, the Lakers will have to add at least one more proven star (Paul George? Trade for Kawhi Leonard perhaps?) to convince James to join the Purple and Gold.

Even LeBron-to-L.A. came to pass, the Warriors would still be the odds-on favorite out West with the Houston Rockets a close second.

Boston came one win away from being in the NBA Finals instead of Cleveland and the Celtics’ entire postseason run came without their two best players in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.

With those two back in the fold next season, the Celtics will begin the season as the odds-on favorite in the East along with Philadelphia.

The Sixers are one of the league’s youngest teams and looked the part in their second-round exit from the playoffs courtesy of the Celtics.

So, the need for them to add James is great.

As for the Celtics, like the rest of the league, they would love to have James on their roster for next season.

But the difference is that most teams see the addition of James dramatically improving their chances of competing for an NBA title.

The Celtics?

They’re already on the short list of title contenders and the addition of James would put them over the top.


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Next for LeBron? Healing hand he says he broke in Finals

Next for LeBron? Healing hand he says he broke in Finals

CLEVELAND - LeBron James walked into his final interview of the NBA Finals with one last surprise: A dark brace on his right hand, covering an injury he's hidden for a week.

"Pretty much played the last three games with a broken hand," James said.

The cause: He punched something after Game 1 of the finals, his frustration having obviously boiled way over when the Cleveland Cavaliers let the series opener against the Golden State Warriors get away amid late-game miscues and one overturned call that left him seething.

The injury was never disclosed, and James played basically every minute for the rest of the series and put up great numbers.

James didn't get the only reward he still seeks from the game of basketball. There will be no parade for him this year, no ring, no banner ceremony. All James has now is a few weeks to think, a few weeks to ponder his next move.

With that, the watch is on. What will LeBron James do next?

"I have no idea at this point," James said.

This ending - a loss - was inevitable: For as good as James was this season, his Cavaliers were not good enough. No one gave them a chance to beat the Golden State Warriors, for obvious reasons. And the ending was a sweep, the second of James' career in the NBA Finals and perhaps a most unceremonious end to his time in Cleveland.

The final on Friday night was Golden State 108, Cleveland 85. The Cavaliers probably should have won Game 1 and had a great chance to win Game 3, but there's no doubting who the better team is.

The Warriors are better. James knows that.

The Warriors are smarter. James knows that, too.

He scored 23 points in Game 4, by far his lowest-output game of the series. The Cavs led briefly in the first half, but it was over shortly after halftime. James was subbed out for Cedi Osman with 4:03 remaining, shook hands with a few of the Warriors players on his way to the bench and walked off the court shortly after time expired.

"He's a bad boy, and I love having him on our team," Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said. "He fights and competes to the end. Sometimes you can give everything you've got and still come up short. I thought that's what our group of guys did in this series."

It's entirely possible that James left the floor Friday night knowing he was wearing a Cavaliers uniform for the last time.

But it's hard to envision a scenario where James knows where he's going - if anywhere.

Houston and the Los Angeles Lakers are oft-mentioned as possible James destinations - but since they're in the Western Conference that would mean potentially dealing with the Warriors earlier in the playoffs. Last week, the LeBron-to-the-Celtics rumors emerged. He could go to Philadelphia and join an up-and-coming team, albeit one now dealing with front-office questions after the resignation of Bryan Colangelo in a Twitter-use scandal. He could return to Miami, a place he still loves.

Thing is, there's no obvious choice.

His decision will be based on what his family wants and where he can win.

"My family is a huge part of whatever I'll decide," James said.

Even if the Lakers landed James and another top-flight player like a Paul George this summer, it's still hard to see them being ready to overtake the Rockets and Warriors out West. Philadelphia might be on the cusp of contending in the East, but doesn't seem like a championship club yet. Houston may seem like the move, though it's anyone's guess how a James-Chris Paul-James Harden trio would work.

All that's clear is this: Cleveland isn't winning another NBA title anytime soon with a roster that looks like the one it had in this series.

And James wants more rings. That's why he spends well over $1 million a year to tweak and hone his body. That's why, in his 15th NBA season, he was as dominant as ever.

He is showing no signs of fading - yet.

But he's 33. Father Time is undefeated. James' window of greatness will close, someday.

"I think maybe the greatest testament to LeBron is that five years ago he was one of the top five players of all time," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "From five years ago until now, it seems like he's 10 times better, because he's added so much skill to his game."

James can leave without owing Northeast Ohio anything. He came back. He brought Cleveland an NBA title. He has given the city so much. Still, James will never forget the infamous letter that Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert penned when he left for Miami in 2010.

Whether he stays or goes, it's now the summer of LeBron again.

Many free-agent moves around the league after July 1 will be held up while teams wait to see what James does. His decision, whatever it is, could mean Kevin Love gets traded. His decision, whatever it is, could decide whether Lue returns as coach. His decision, whatever it is, will dictate if Cleveland is a contender next season or a tanker. There really isn't any in-between.

It's all up to James.

How the league looks a year from now hinges in so many ways on what he decides a few weeks from now.

"We'll see what happens," James said.

With that, he was gone. Cleveland can only hope he comes back.

© 2018 by The Associated Press.


 

Torey Krug compares Draymond Green to a certain Bruins teammate

torey-krug-draymond-green-60118.jpg
File photos

Torey Krug compares Draymond Green to a certain Bruins teammate

Before and after J.R. Smith’s hijinks in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, Draymond Green was poking LeBron James in the eye, mocking the Cavs bench with a little dance and getting in the middle of an altercation with Tristan Thompson.

It all reminded the Bruins’ Torey Krug of someone:

Green, however, did not appear to lick any opponents. At least not with his tongue. 

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