Bulls

LeBron James leads Cavaliers to Cleveland's first NBA title with win over Warriors

LeBron James leads Cavaliers to Cleveland's first NBA title with win over Warriors

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- LeBron James cradled the shiny gold trophy and struggled to sum up what might be his sweetest championship yet, the one he is so proudly bringing home to his native northeast Ohio just as he promised to do when he returned to the Cavaliers two summers ago.

James and his relentless, never-count-them-out Cavs pulled off an improbable NBA Finals comeback, and Cleveland is title town again at long last.

Unfazed by the criticism and chatter all series, James delivered on a vow to his home state and brought the Cavs back as they became the first team to rally from a 3-1 finals deficit, beating the defending champion Golden State Warriors 93-89 on Sunday night to end a 52-year major sports championship drought in Cleveland.

"I'm happy to be a part of history," James said, then added, "I'm home. I'm home. ... I'm at a loss for words. This is unbelievable."

In a testy series of blowouts - and a few blowups - the winner-take-all Game 7 provided the thrilling finale with James as the finals MVP disarming two-time reigning MVP Stephen Curry and his record-setting Warriors.

Playing his sixth straight finals, James almost single-handedly carried the Cavs back into this series and finished with 27 points, 11 assists and 11 rebounds as the Cavs captured their first championship in franchise history and gave their city its first major sports winner since the Browns won the NFL title in 1964. He also had three blocked shots and two steals, overcoming five turnovers.

"CLEVELAND! This is for you!" James bellowed in his postgame interview before being announced as finals MVP.

An emotional James fell to the floor when this one ended with a second win in six days on Golden State's imposing home floor, surrounded by his teammates. Only seconds earlier, he went down in pain with 10.6 seconds left after being fouled by Draymond Green while going for a dunk, then came back out to make the second of two free throws.

After four successful seasons in Miami and two titles with the Heat, James came back to the Cavs in hopes of winning the title this franchise and championship-starved city so coveted. It took a second try against Golden State after Cleveland lost to the Warriors in six games last year.

Cleveland did it after a coaching change, with Tyronn Lue taking over in January for the fired David Blatt.

"We made history tonight," Lue said. "Cleveland, Ohio, we're coming back, baby!"

Kyrie Irving scored 26 points to cap his brilliant finals, including a 3-pointer over Curry with 53 seconds left.

"It was a fairytale ending," Irving said.

Curry sat briefly on the bench to take in the scene after the Warriors made their last basket with 4:39 left.

"It hurts, man," Curry said. "I'm proud of every single guy that stepped foot on the floor for our team this year. ... Hopefully we'll have many more opportunities to fight for championships and be on this stage. This is what it's all about."

Green had 32 points, 15 rebounds and nine assists, but the Warriors' record-setting season ended without the only prize this close-knit "Strength In Numbers" crew cared about from way back in the beginning - through the record 24-0 start as Coach of the Year Steve Kerr was out, Curry's second consecutive MVP campaign, and the 73 regular-season wins to break the 1995-96 Chicago Bulls' mark.

As Cleveland celebrated in the trophy ceremony, Green returned to the floor to congratulate the Cavs. He stopped by the winning locker room, too, and Warriors general manager Bob Myers delivered the winning nets freshly cut down.

The Warriors might always be remembered as one of the best teams ever that couldn't close it out, and Green is taking at least a good share of the blame after he sat out Game 5 on Monday night suspended for flagrant fouls.

The Cavs staved off elimination twice to force Game 7 back at Oracle Arena, where the Warriors went up 2-0 with a pair of lopsided wins to start this series.

This marked the first NBA game decided by five points or fewer since May 11, Golden State's 125-121 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 5 of the second round.

With its 100th postseason victory, Cleveland became just the fourth team to win an NBA Finals Game 7 on the road.

Curry - who said beforehand he needed the best game of his career - scored 17 points on 6-for-19 shooting, while Splash Brother Klay Thompson added 14 points while making 6 of 17 shots.

"I didn't do enough to help my team win," Curry said. "It will haunt me for a while."

Jersey from LeBron James' first-ever SI cover sells for over $180K

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USA TODAY

Jersey from LeBron James' first-ever SI cover sells for over $180K

LeBron James is arguably the second-greatest basketball player of all time, with a claim to being the true GOAT depending on who you talk to. But one thing we can all agree on, with James entering his 17th season in the NBA, is that we don't know how much longer we will get to see him grace the NBA hardwood. With the final stages of James' illustrious NBA career in sight, fans have started to buy up all of the LBJ merchandise they can find and as of Sunday night, one of the rarest pieces of James memorabilia is off of the market. 

The St. Vincent-St. Mary's Irish jersey that James wore on his first-ever Sports Illustrated cover went for a whopping $187,500 in a Goldin Auctions event. The SI cover that James wore the jersey on in 2002 featured the title "The Chosen One", detailing how NBA franchises were already lining up for their shot at drafting James despite him just being a high school junior at the time. 

The $187,500 paid for the jersey is (somewhat shockingly) more than the amount paid for Michael Jordan's final Bulls regular season jersey, which sold for $173,240 back in 2015, then the highest price paid for a Jordan collectible ever at any auction

Only time will tell if another piece of James (or Jordan) memorabilia will eclipse the $200k mark but with a decent chunk of James' career still left, one would think that is a strong possibility.

Though Goldin Auctions founder Ken Goldin was off a bit, projecting that the jersey would sell for somewhere in the ballpark of $300k or more, the now-legendary jersey still ended up breaking the record for the highest price paid for a LeBron James jersey. 

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Even with unproven wing depth, Bulls will monitor Otto Porter Jr.'s workload

Even with unproven wing depth, Bulls will monitor Otto Porter Jr.'s workload

As the Bulls played out the string last season, fielding glorified G League lineups, meaningful days still existed.

April 3 was one of them.

Not only did the Bulls scratch out a fun, one-point road victory over the Wizards, executive vice president John Paxson, coach Jim Boylen and general manager Gar Forman met with Otto Porter Jr. and his longtime strength coach from his alma mater of Georgetown.

That meeting mapped out Porter’s offseason plan and began the strong communication that continued Friday when Boylen and Porter met to discuss the organization’s approach for a proper workload for the crucial veteran. Following Sunday’s practice at the Advocate Center, Boylen for the first time publicly disclosed the Bulls’ plan to play Porter in the neighborhood of 30 minutes and approach back-to-back games on a case-by-case basis.

“We will manage him appropriately,” Boylen said. “He will not play over 30 minutes in anything we do to get going here. We’ll manage him on the off days in a real respectful way. Obviously, he’s a big piece. He’s our starting 3, a big wing. And we need him.”

The Bulls have a set of back-to-back games in this first week of the regular season, with their home opener against the defending NBA champion Raptors coming Saturday following a game at the Grizzlies Friday.

“We’ll see how he feels,” Boylen said. “It might be a situation where we manage him the first night in order to play him the second night. Or manage him the first night and the second night he feels maybe a night he doesn’t play. But we have a plan. It’s rough because it’s depending on how he feels.”

Right now, Porter feels good.

“Preseason has been great, making sure my body is healthy, making sure I get my reps in, making sure as a team we’re ready to go,” Porter said following practice. “I’ll hold it down for us until we get Chandler (Hutchison) back. That’s going to be always my job.

“But we got a lot of guards that can play the three too. We got a lot of guys that can play multiple positions. If somebody goes down, the next man always got to step up and replace – not replace but do more – and I feel like everybody is going to do more.”

Hutchison has yet to play with a hamstring injury. Shaq Harrison missed all five preseason games but is available for Wednesday’s opener in Charlotte, N.C.

Boylen said there are many options to keep Porter fresh even with Hutchison injured and Denzel Valentine currently out of the rotation, including Harrison or Tomas Satoransky at backup small forward and three-guard lineups. The Bulls also utilize big lineups with Thad Young at small forward.

“You’ve seen what we’ve done. We’ve had Coby (White), Arch (Ryan Arcidiacono) and (Kris) Dunn out there together. Playing small and fast is good. You can also put ‘Sato’ out there with that group,” Boylen said. “There may be opportunities where we go big depending on the situation of the game. We’ve practiced those lineups and scenarios.”

Porter played a huge role in the Bulls’ brief surge last February after arriving from the Wizards in a trade. He has battled nagging injuries in the past, including knee, shoulder and neck issues. Porter also underwent minor surgery on his left leg that knocked him out of the April 2018 playoffs to address a blood buildup around a contusion.

“Every season, there are ups and downs and teams go through it,” Porter said. “Right now, it’s a matter of depth and we want to start out fresh. You start out fresh, you’re already ahead of the game.”

Porter is encouraged by the Bulls’ offense during the preseason, including an increased emphasis on 3-point attempts.

“Right now, we might not be shooting a high percentage. But in the regular season, that number is definitely going to increase drastically because we’re practicing hard, making our open shots and just getting open looks,” Porter said. “We know what this offense can do for us.”