Cleveland Cavaliers

Did Ron Harper ask to guard Michael Jordan before 'The Shot?' Ehlo, Price unsure

Did Ron Harper ask to guard Michael Jordan before 'The Shot?' Ehlo, Price unsure

It’s one of the most memorable moments from Episode 3 of “The Last Dance” and will certainly endure as an iconic quote from the series.

Ron Harper on Michael Jordan’s game-winning, series-sealing, buzzer-beating jump shot over Craig Ehlo in Game 5 of the 1989 Eastern Conference first round against the Cleveland Cavaliers: 

“We up by one. I said, ‘Coach, I got MJ. I got MJ. So the coach tells me, 'I’m going to put Ehlo on MJ.' And I’m like, ‘Yeah, OK, whatever. F**k this bulls**t.’”

RELATED: MJ’s shot over Ehlo was fueled by Bulls reporters doubting him

But now, scandal!

Ehlo and Cavs teammate Mark Price offered differing accounts of the events in interviews with Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com in the wake of this anecdote being sprayed out to millions via “The Last Dance.”

“Back then, Harp and me were on the court at the same time, and he was our big offensive threat,” Ehlo told Fedor. “So, when I came in, it was a no-brainer that I would guard Jordan so Harp could rest on defense and play on offense.

“Harp had never really talked about defense or guarding people. He wasn’t a bad defender, I will give him that much, but I think those years with the Bulls where he got those championships, he was definitely third or fourth fiddle, so all of a sudden, he becomes this lockdown defender, apparently. I don’t really remember him during our time wanting to play defense that much. He kind of shocked me with those comments, saying he wanted to guard Michael.”

Harper’s defensive prowess was renowned in his time with the Bulls during the second three-peat, so hearing him purport to want the Jordan assignment in that moment was certainly believable. And with such meme-able delivery. But apparently, this story isn't so simple.

“That caught me a little off guard. I didn’t know Ron had such strong feelings about that because I didn’t really remember all that,” Price told Fedor. “Maybe it’s because we were in the midst of everything, or maybe that was something where Ron had talked to (Cavaliers coach) Lenny (Wilkins) on the side or before. I didn’t ever really recall that situation being a big deal at the time when the game was going on. I just remember Lenny kind of telling us what we were going to do, and then going out and trying to do it. Obviously, it’s something that had bothered Ron.

“Whoever (Lenny) picked, it wasn’t really a major factor as far as I was concerned. I thought, overall, it was a contested shot. It was good effort.”

Fair enough. Jordan’s anti-gravitational bounce and clutch shot-making certainly had more to do with the outcome of that game than Ehlo’s defense. 

The Cavaliers of yesteryear don’t appear ready to stand idly by and let Harper, in their estimation, rewrite history.

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Michael Jordan green-lit 'The Last Dance' after LeBron James' 2016 NBA title

Michael Jordan green-lit 'The Last Dance' after LeBron James' 2016 NBA title

It was 1997 when a producer from NBA Entertainment, Andy Thompson, reached out to Adam Silver and executive Gregg Winik about making an all-access documentary following the 1997-98 Bulls. Silver was the head of NBA Entertainment at the time and thought, correctly, that it was an excellent idea. The footage would be filmed over the 1997-98 season, which concluded with Jordan and the Bulls beating the Utah Jazz to become six-time NBA champions.

That footage would be locked up in a special part of the NBA's library in Secaucus, New Jersey. There were no plans actually make the docuseries until June 2016.

The Cleveland Cavaliers had just knocked out the Golden State Warriors (one of the few dynasties that actually comes close to the '90s Bulls) in an NBA Finals that was so hard fought, LeBron James would go on to say, "That one right there made me the greatest player of all time."

RELATED: Which superteam ruined the game more: Chicago Bulls or Golden State Warriors?

Of course, debates raged on in the never-ending Jordan vs. LeBron argument. But with James' legacy growing immensely over the last decade, that 2016 NBA title, along with the proclamation that he is the best player of all time, was enough to pique Jordan's curiosity and green light "The Last Dance".

Perhaps the biggest factor in getting MJ to agree to the documentary was a heartfelt letter from producer Michael Tollin, who wrote, "Dear Michael, every day, kids come into my office wearing your shoes who've never seen you play… it’s time."

"The Last Dance" is sure to be a great history lesson for younger generations who have never actually seen Jordan play. The documentary will also stand as, perhaps, the biggest (and best) piece of evidence to reference in the eternal Warriors vs. Bulls and Jordan vs. LeBron debates. 

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Cleveland Cavaliers will look to salvage stilted rebuild when NBA resumes

Cleveland Cavaliers will look to salvage stilted rebuild when NBA resumes

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we'll be examining the impact of the NBA's current on hiatus on each team in the league. Today, the Cleveland Cavaliers — whose rebuild suffered through a stilted season — are up.

Past installments: Chicago Bulls | Golden State Warriors

The Cleveland Cavaliers decided on a bold change of direction last spring when they hired highly-successful college coach John Beilein for his first NBA coaching job at the age of 66.

But Beilein almost immediately clashed with many of his veteran players who complained about his “college-style” coaching that included lengthy practice and film sessions. Later, Beilein was alleged to have used the term “thugs” in a speech to the team, which he attempted to explain away as meaning to have said “slugs” in regard to the players' effort and energy level.

From that point on, it was only a matter of time before Beilein would have to be replaced as head coach since most of the players had completely tuned him out. Beilein resigned on Feb. 19, walking away from the four-plus years remaining on his contract. The Cavaliers tapped assistant J.B. Bickerstaff to replace Beilein, eventually signing him to a multi-year extension. The Cavs had a 19-46 record at the time the NBA schedule was suspended, worst in the Eastern Conference.

Player Development

Beilein was hired to develop the talent for one of the league’s youngest teams that included three first round picks from the 2019 draft: Darius Garland, Kevin Porter Jr. and Dylan Windler.

But from the start of the season, it was clear that pairing Garland with 2018 lottery pick Collin Sexton wasn’t a good idea. Both young point guards needed the ball in their hands to be successful, and Garland struggled as the de facto shooting guard, averaging 12.3 points a game on 40.1% shooting from the field (though he did shoot a respectable 35.5% from 3 point range). Sexton wound up leading the Cavs in scoring at 20.8 points per game while shooting 47.3% from the field and 38% from long distance. But the second year guard never developed as a facilitator in the offense, averaging just three assists over 33 minutes per game. His ball-dominant style appeared to frustrate many of his teammates.

Porter showed potential as a slashing wing, averaging 10 points in 23.2 minutes per game, while Windler missed all of his rookie season because of injury. Cedi Osman, 24 years old, failed to take hold of the starting small forward job, averaging 11 points per game, while the team gave up on combo guard Jordan Clarkson, trading him to Utah just before Christmas for underwhelming former lottery pick Dante Exum. Clarkson immediately thrived as a high-scoring sixth man with the Jazz, while Exum struggled to find a role in Cleveland, averaging 5.6 points and 1.4 assists in 24 games.

Roster Decisions

It seems like the Cavs have been trying to trade Kevin Love ever since he agreed to a multi-year contract after LeBron James left in the summer of 2018. Love was rumored to be available before this year’s trade deadline, but few teams were interested in taking on the three years and $90 million remaining on the contract of a 31-year-old power forward with a lengthy injury history.

The Cavs will also most likely have veteran center Andre Drummond back next season. Drummond holds a $28.7 million player option for 2020-21, and its hard to imagine another team offering a max-level multi year contract for a low post center whose skills don’t really translate to the modern NBA game.

Depending on how the lottery shakes out, the Cavs could have a top three pick in this year’s draft, and they could go in a variety of directions. Dayton star Obi Toppin and Israeli forward Deni Avdija present possibilities to bolster their frontcourt. Cleveland could also go for the top shooting guard available, Georgia’s Anthony Edwards.

Outlook

After the Beilein experiment failed so quickly, general manager Koby Altman will be under enormous pressure to get the rebuild back on track this offseason. It won’t be easy to find a trade partner for either Drummond or Love, and it appears the Cavs won’t be able to move forward starting a pair of undersized point guards in Sexton and Garland. Plus, Exum has one year left on his contract at $9.6 million.

Bickerstaff is anxious to put his stamp on the team after replacing Beilein following the All-Star break. It’s the third time in Bickerstaff’s coaching career he’s taken over an NBA team during the season, and he’s hoping to be given some time to get through the painful early stages of a complete rebuild. Unfortunately for the Cavs, there isn’t a superstar player like Luka Doncic or Zion Williamson in this year’s draft, and LeBron isn’t walking back through that door for a third stint in Northeast Ohio.

Better keep that 2016 NBA championship trophy nice and shiny while asking the fans to be patient once again.

Check back in Monday for a breakdown of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.