Cleveland Cavaliers

Report: Kevin Love signs contract extension with the Cavs

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USA Today

Report: Kevin Love signs contract extension with the Cavs

Oregon native Kevin Love has reportedly signed a 4-year, $120m extension with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The news was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

Love’s contract was set to expire at the end of this season with a player option for 2019-2020. Now, the 29-year-old from Lake Oswego will be under contract with the Cavaliers until 2022-‘23.

Love’s future with the Cavaliers had been up in the air ever since LeBron James left Cleveland to sign with the Los Angeles Lakers. Love’s name was thrown around in trade rumors, he was linked to numerous teams including the Trail Blazers, and experts wondered if the Cavs would go full rebuild or just build around Love.

The answer is now clear: Cleveland is building a future with Kevin Love as its centerpiece. 

For his career Love holds averages of 18.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game.

 

 

 

What if LeBron heads West?

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NBCS NW

What if LeBron heads West?

The odds are out on where LeBron James will play next season, and his decision could have a huge impact on the Western Conference. James could still exercise his $35.6 million player-option and return to Cleveland, but the more likely scenario is to decline the option and hit the open market. 

According to the odds, the Lakers, Rockets, and Spurs are the three most likely teams in the Western Conference to land him. Here is how they can do it, and how it would impact the conference in 2018-19.

Lakers: +200

The Lakers currently hold the best odds of any team in the NBA to land LeBron James and will be heading into free agency with more cap space than any other team in the league. The Lakers will have enough free money that they can add James as well as another star, most likely Paul George.  Then the question is, do you keep Lonzo Ball or do you strike while the iron is hot, sell high, and trade him to bring in vets to complete the roster? Either way, a Lakers team built around James and George would all but assure the Lakers would end their playoff drought.

How it affects the West - Last season just two games separated the three seed Blazers from the eight seed Timberwolves, with the Nuggets dropping to ninth in the final game of the season.  A revamped Lakers squad would instantly be in the playoff mix, meaning any team that made playoffs last season (not named the Warriors or Rockets) would most likely end 2019 on the outside looking in.  

Rockets: +275

Houston is also a favorite to add James, but the Rockets would have to shake up the roster for it to happen. Chris Paul is heading to free agency and could be looking to make more than the $24.6 million he made last season. Star center Clint Capela is also hitting the open market. Capela made just $2.3 million last season and has a giant raise coming his way. That doesn’t leave a lot of money to sign James.

The Rockets may have to find ways to free up Ryan Anderson ($19.6mil), Eric Gordon ($12.9mil) and P.J. Tucker ($7.6mil) to make it all happen. Houston would have one heck of a starting five, but not much of a bench. Either way, they would still be a favorite to win the title in 2019.

How it affects the West - James to Houston wouldn’t impact the standings as much as James to the Lakers would, but it would most certainly make it a two horse race to the Western Conference Finals. The Rockets were penciled into the Western Conference Finals this season, and with James added to the roster you might as well use a permanent marker. The real impact would be in how teams adjust. If the Western Conference turns into Golden State, Houston, and everybody else (which you could argue it is already), you could really see some playoff caliber teams enter rebuild mode in an attempt to be ready for the post-Warriors/Rockets era. 

Spurs: +1000

The Spurs would be an intriguing landing spot simply to see what happens when the best player in the game gets paired up with the best coach in the game. However, like the Rockets, San Antonio is in a tough financial situation.

Tony Parker is hitting free agency, freeing up $15.5 million, while Rudy Gay and Danny Green could free up another $18.8 million combined if they both choose not to exercise their player options. If Gay and Green exercise their options, then you will most likely see the Spurs push hard to trade Patty Mills ($10mil) and Pau Gasol ($16mil) to free up space.

How it affects the West - A core of James, Kawhi Leonard, and LaMarcus Aldridge would instantly make the Spurs a top three team in the Western Conference. The Spurs finished seventh last season, and vaulting to three would mean a team like the Blazers could end up missing the playoffs when it’s all said and done.

The Spurs would also make it a lot tougher for the Warriors and Rockets to make a repeat trip to the conference finals.

 

LeBron left Smith -- and the game -- twisting in the wind

LeBron left Smith -- and the game -- twisting in the wind

OK, nobody else seems to want to write this, so apparently I'm going to have to do it.

LeBron James did not exactly show Hall of Fame leadership skills while his team snatched defeat from the jaws of victory last night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

Yes, his teammate, J.R. Smith, pulled one of the dumbest basketball plays you'll ever see late in the game when he rebounded a missed free throw with 4.7 seconds to go and dribbled the ball swiftly away from scoring territory -- quite obviously thinking his Cleveland Cavaliers were ahead of the Golden State Warriors, rather than tied. A disgraceful boner from a professional player who didn't even have the nerve to admit his mistake after the game.

But James reacted like a child. He showed Smith up on the court with his expression and body language and then went to the bench during the break before overtime and iced him out. Ignored him.

It was the baseball equivalent of a pitcher throwing his arms in the air after a shortstop just made a big error behind him. You just don't do that to a teammate. You tell him to hang in there and that you'll pick him up.

Understand, the Cavaliers had not yet lost the game. They were going into overtime in a contest they were favored to lose by a dozen. And who is to say Smith would have been able to score after that rebound? Or that the Warriors wouldn't have gotten the ball back after a timeout and hit a miracle three-pointer to win?

I believe in similar situations after a gaffe like that one, some cooling off is necessary. Step back for a few seconds and assess the situation. Good leaders don't look at how they just lost, but how they can still win.

And after a long TV timeout, there was none of that. Instead of patting Smith on the shoulder and saying, "Don't worry, we're going to bail you out" or "Hey, we've got your back," James went out in overtime and missed all four of his shots and, in general, seemed to do all he could to show the world that Smith's mistake cost the Cavaliers the game.

Of course on the podium afterwards, James acted as if he was supporting Smith by not criticizing him, but it was too late. His prior actions betrayed him. As the leader of his team, he should have tried to bring his team back together. Instead, he created a divide.

It was a strange game and a lot of Clevelanders came away thinking their team got the shaft. That block/charge call that was reviewed by officials and was (rightfully) switched to a blocking call was the big thing. What amazed me the most about that situation is how many NBA players and coaches know nothing about the rule governing such plays. The media seemed to be more in tune with it than anybody. The officials have the right to review it and they made the right call upon review. Lebron was moving and he wasn't even squared up to the offensive player. The contact with Kevin Durant was made by James' shoulder, not his chest -- which is usually one determining factor by NBA referees.

It was also interesting how ESPN uses former referee Steve Javie as its expert on such matters, who was speaking to the network from the NBA replay headquarters. Fun watching Steve trying to ride the fence by not criticizing his former partners or taking the chance of offending the league. Which is to be expected.

As it turned out, the game was much more memorable than most of us thought it would be. And my biggest memory will be LeBron James not coming to the aid of a teammate.

 

 

I'm getting very tired of the NBA's "Cult of personality"

I'm getting very tired of the NBA's "Cult of personality"

Well, here we go again. Cleveland vs. Golden State. And if you're not fired up about this matchup, well... join the club. It's likely to be a very short series and more of what we've been watching for the past several weeks in the playoffs, including:

  • The thing that's bothered me about the league for several years now: The total glorification of its star players unlike any other major sport. It's what's called a "Cult of personality." Webster's Dictionary defines that as "a situation in which a public figure (such as a political leader) is deliberately presented to the people of a country as a great person who should be admired and loved." For example, LeBron James -- whom the ESPN announcers just can't seem to find enough adjectives to describe. They are fawning all over him. He couldn't be more celebrated if he cured cancer. Yeah, OK, I've got LeBron Fatigue -- I admit it. But this has been going on for years in a league that has for decades celebrated individuals over teams.
  • Scott Foster. This referee is seemingly in hot pursuit of the impossible -- making the fans of every team in the league believe he's out to get their team. And it looks sometimes as if they might be correct.
  • Speaking of referees, there is no way in the world they should be paid in full for working playoff games. They simply don't do their job. They overlook fouls to the degree that when they call one, the reaction is always, "Wait a minute, you just let worse than that go at the other end!"
  • If I never see James Harden take another dive after a three-point field goal attempt I will be a happy man. And I would love not to watch him travel on his step=back move. And it's not fun to see him dribble endlessly between his legs without using it to go anywhere. Actually, overall, I have Harden Fatigue, too.
  • I fully understand the value of three-point field goals and why teams are hoisting them by the dozen. And really, it's only going to get worse. But what I don't get is why a team with a double-digit halftime lead doesn't try first to get easy two-point shots. When you have a solid lead, it's going to take a lot of three-point makes to overcome your two-point makes. And I'm talking about YOU, Houston. And by the way, if you just stood back and let Harden take it to the basket, he'd have been at the foul line all night and you wouldn't have lost.
  • I heard the jokesters on the TNT panel talking about Kevin Love missing a Game 7 because of a concussion and they, of course, bragged about how they would have played no matter what. You know, take a couple of Advil and go get 'em. And for all the things they make TV guys apologize for these days, this should have been one of them. My goodness -- concussion protocol is there for a very good reason and it's to protect players from their own stupidity. But here we are again with the macho garbage about playing with an injury that could lead to some serious brain damage.
  • That said, I cannot understand why ESPN can't come up with a halftime/pregame panel even remotely as good as the one on TNT.
  • Oh well, there's still the Finals to come. Let's all sit back and watch Lebron and Scott Foster do their thing. Enjoy!

Blazers upset bid unravels in the fourth quarter

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Blazers upset bid unravels in the fourth quarter

The Blazers held tough through three quarters with the defending Eastern Conference champion, but it all unraveled in the fourth. The score was tied 91-91 with 11:22 remaining before the Cavs went on a 19-3 run to blow the doors open. Coach Stotts waved the white flag, subbing in the end of his bench with 5:49 remaining and the Blazers looking at an 18-point deficit. The return of Damian Lillard wasn't enough to grab a victory, but the Blazers still played one of their better games of the season (if only for three quarters). 

Final Score: Cavaliers 127 – Blazers 110

(UPDATED): Isaiah Thomas will play vs. Blazers, but Kevin Love is ill

(UPDATED): Isaiah Thomas will play vs. Blazers, but Kevin Love is ill

UPDATED WITH CLEVELAND ILLNESS: At first glance, the NBA schedule has dealt the Trail Blazers a tough hand Tuesday night.

After an overtime win in Chicago Monday, Portland travels to Cleveland for a game tonight vs. the Cavaliers -- a back-to-back contest vs. one of the league's very best teams. But sometimes, the first glance doesn't tell the whole story.

Cleveland is facing a back-to-back, too -- and the backstory there is worth examining.

[NBC Sports Gold “Blazers Pass” premium-game Blazers streaming package for fans without NBC Sports Northwest – $34.99 – click to learn more and buy]

The Cavaliers' back-to-back features a trip to Boston on Wednesday night to play the Celtics -- a big rivalry game made even more heated by another matchup between the Celts' Kyrie Irving and his former team. The Trail Blazers' best hope would be that Cleveland is looking past this home game against Portland to that contest against the Celtics. The Cavaliers are also on a three-game losing streak, although those were road games and the Cavs have won 12 straight home contests.

Tuesday also will mark the season debut of Boston guard Isaiah Thomas, who has been sidelined with a hip injury. Is that good or bad for Portland? Thomas is expected to be on a strict minutes restriction against the Trail Blazers and will not play Wednesday at Boston against his former team. Often, the first game back after a prolonged injury absence can be a little rough, which would be another bonus for Portland.

Meanwhile, the Trail Blazers are expected to welcome Damian Lillard back to the lineup after a five-game absence due to a hamstring injury.

It's worth noting that last season at Cleveland, former Lake Oswego High School star Kevin Love was impossible for Portland to control. Love scored 34 points and made eight three-point field goals in the first quarter, the most points a player has ever scored in the opening quarter of an NBA game. Love is enjoying an outstanding season and has scored at least 20 points and hit at least three three-pointers in six consecutive games.

UPDATE: The bad news for Cleveland is that Love missed shootaround this morning and word is that he's suffering from food poisoning that has caused him to lose 10 pounds in two days. LeBron James is also suffering from a cold.

Coverage starts on NBC Sports Northwest at 3 o'clock with Rip City Live.

 

Once again, Danny Ainge proves he's not afraid to bet big on his own judgment

Once again, Danny Ainge proves he's not afraid to bet big on his own judgment

A few thoughts about the blockbuster Cleveland-Boston trade:

  • One thing I've always admired about Danny Ainge: He's got a lot of guts. He always has. He's totally unafraid. And in pulling the trigger on a trade with the team he's trying to beat in the NBA East, he's taking a gamble. In trading his team's best and most popular player he's making an even bigger gamble. And in taking on Kyrie Irving, well, he might be taking the biggest gamble of all. But he doesn't really care what anyone else thinks, he does what he thinks is right. It's the same as the trade he pulled off prior to the draft with the No. 1 pick. He thought Jayson Tatum was the best player in the draft and knew he didn't have to take him with the first pick, so he moved the pick. And he really didn't care what anybody else thought of the deal. The guy has had plenty of self-confidence and courage since the day he started playing basketball. I remember watching him as a high-school junior in the Oregon state basketball tournament and on the football field and marveling at how he laughed in the face of pressure. He seemed totally immune to it and probably still is.
  • In today's world, people running franchises who are willing to make a big gamble or controversial move without worrying about what fans or media will think about it are rare -- and usually worth their weight in gold.
  • Ainge has put a big burden on his coach, Brad Stevens. As well he should -- Stevens is one of the best in the business. But I think Stevens will need to be at the top of his game to find the kind of team chemistry the Celtics had last season. Irving, I've heard, is pretty tough to handle -- for his teammates and his coaches. Getting him to play the team game and keeping him out of calling his own number all the time might be a problem.
  • This deal has long-term ramifications that should not be ignored. Irving is four years younger than Thomas (who is dealing with a hip injury) and in better health. Most people in the league believe LeBron James is headed out of Cleveland after this season and Boston has positioned itself to be the next big thing in the East. Thomas has one year left on his contract and Irving has two years and a player option for a third. Ainge is making a move that's possibly good for this season but definitely good for the seasons after that.
  • Thomas is 5-9 and often listed at 185 pounds. He doesn't look as if he's within 20 pounds of that number, however. Irving is 6-3 and 193. Players as small as Thomas have a pretty rough ride in the NBA -- and I'm not so sure how long he can keep that slight frame healthy enough to carry the heavy load he carried last season. I certainly wouldn't invest in that body with a long-term max deal.
  • Kevin Love and Thomas played on the same AAU team in high school and I'm sure they will play well together. Cleveland will be OK next season if Thomas stays healthy. Of course, behind him is Derrick Rose, another player whose continued good health is no sure thing.
  • I don't know what to think of Irving and his desire to get away from James. But I have a feeling that PLAYING with LeBron is OK, it's just existing with him that's a problem. You hear stories about the entourage, about LeBron basically running the whole organization -- stuff that can't be easy on teammates.
  • The Celtics have reshaped their team coming off what was a very good season. That takes guts. But that's Danny Ainge.

 

OK, so tell me about Durant's "legacy" now

OK, so tell me about Durant's "legacy" now

As much as I detest the word "legacy" when people are talking about pro athletes (basketball players have careers, they don't have a legacy. Things like that are reserved for the likes of Dr. Martin Luther King and John F. Kennedy) I'm going to use it here.

Where are all those people who insisted that Kevin Durant would affect his "legacy" by jumping from Oklahoma City to Golden State and, as I heard so many times, "ride those guys' coat tails to a championship."

Well, as it turned out, Durant did the right thing. The Warriors would not have won without him. He was the MVP of the series. And he escaped having to play in a city YOU wouldn't live in to the Bay Area. And he escaped having to play with Russell Westbrook on a dysfunctional team and landed with a squad that was the most unselfish in the league.

When people look back on his career they're going to say he carried the Warriors to this championship -- not that they carried him to one.

And he did so while sacrificing pieces of his game for the sake of playing on a winning team. He would have scored more points and his stats would have looked much better had he stayed with the Thunder. But the NBA Finals stage allowed him to show just how talented he is -- leading many people to conclude he's the next big thing in the league.

As far as the Cavaliers are concerned, the Finals showed they have some work to do on that roster of theirs. Instead of stacking their bench with LeBron's buddies, they need to get some serious role players with talent. They need guys capable of contributing instead of just sitting and watching. In Game 5, the Warrior bench outscored the Cavalier bench 35-7, typical of the entire series.

The Warriors, too, had a big coaching edge. Golden State plays the prettiest game in basketball on offense and just about the best defense in the league. The Cavs take turns playing one-on-one with not enough defense.

The right team won. And Kevin Durant made the right move.

GOAT? Who knows... but there's never been another team like the Warriors

GOAT? Who knows... but there's never been another team like the Warriors

You can talk all day and all night about the greatest teams of all time. And you really can't come to any conclusions. Differing eras makes it too difficult.

But there has never been another team like this version of the Golden State Warriors.

Folks, time changes. And it has changed basketball in a very big way. You know that, of course, but it may be a bigger change than you think.

Yes, the Warriors shoot the three-point shot like nobody else -- in volume and accuracy. In Game 3, they made 16 of their 33 threes while Cleveland was hitting just 12 of 44. That's a huge edge.

And I must say, Steph Curry is just as unique as his team. I know Kevin Durant is getting most of the headlines from Wednesday's game -- as he should -- but we're already taking Curry for granted because he's been doing his amazing thing for a few years now.

It wasn't just that Curry made five of his nine three-point shots. It's that he made shots -- and continues to make shots -- from spots where other players don't dare shoot them. And he gets them off quickly, too. Curry's edge over most every other player in the NBA is that he's accumulating points three at a time on shots that nobody else makes with consistency. If he gets a glimmer of daylight from about 25 feet and in, he can be deadly. I don't remember any other player in the history of the game as proficient as he is at shooting in volume from distance.

And above that, he's a perpetual motion machine. He had 13 rebounds Wednesday because he's so active. He gets to the ball, whether in the air or on the floor. In his own way, he's as difficult to defend as any of the game's legendary players.

And yes, the Warriors also have other shooters. Klay Thompson and Durant are terrific. But what makes these guys special is that they move the ball and move bodies. They play an unselfish, equal-opportunity offense that doesn't allow the defense to lock in on anybody. In contrast to the Cavaliers.

Cleveland plays too much one-on-one. It's really not sustainable -- even as good as LeBron James and Kyrie Irving are at it -- over the long haul against a team moving the ball the way the Warriors do.

Wednesday, 72.5 percent of Golden State's made field goals were assisted. For Cleveland, it was just 42.5. EVERY SINGLE SHOT by Thompson, Draymond Green, David West and Shaun Livingston came off an assist. That's crazy.

And of course, when a lot of people are evaluating this series at some point, they're going to point fingers at the Cavaliers' "supporting cast" and conclude Cleveland didn't get enough production out of it. I think it's easy to say that, but my observation over many years of watching this game is that when one or two players are as ball dominant as James and Irving are, other players simply don't get a good feel for the game. What you end up with is players who are so eager to actually get a shot they burp up a bad one (J.R. Smith) or become more reluctant to shoot (Kevin Love). It's a natural response when you aren't getting consistent touches.

Basketball is changing at warp speed and the Warriors are leading the way. Shooting from distance is of paramount importance these days. You simply cannot afford to get outscored by a big number from behind the three-point line. It's so difficult to overcome that. And you've got to move the ball and play unselfishly to get open three-point shots.

And to beat the Warriors, you're going to need a great team. And there is only one great team out there right now and it's the Warriors. And they are so much different than any of the other great teams in history that it's hard to say where they fit.

A few other thoughts about Game 3:

  • I'm still not understanding why James didn't get out past the three-point line on Durant on that critical shot late in the game. That shot was too important to allow it to be wide open.
  • I'm also bewildered as to why the NBA allows these games to degenerate into a wrestling match. So many obvious fouls are being ignored that if you actually get called for a foul -- or a travel or a double dribble -- you're just flat-out unlucky. It's a joke.
  • People are saying that Green isn't playing his best during this series but he does so many things for his team. Wednesday night he led all players in contested shots with 15, had the best plus/minus of anybody with 14 and had a team-high seven assists to go with a team-high five screen-assists. That doesn't sound like a bad game to me.
  • The only team capable of beating the Warriors is the Warriors. If they don't move, or move the ball, or take a night off on defense, they can be had. But that's the only way.

 

 

Cavs down 0-2, will the NBA decide games need to be officiated differently?

Cavs down 0-2, will the NBA decide games need to be officiated differently?

Last season, with the Golden State Warriors on the verge of a second consecutive NBA Finals win, the officiating of the series suddenly changed. Cleveland began holding and bumping Steph Curry as he attempted to move without the ball. The game got more ugly.

And not a lot of fouls were called.

I've seen this kind of thing before and it's about time to start bringing out the usual NBA Conspiracy Theories.

In the old days, the story was often told that David Stern would just send an officiating team of "fixers" out to manipulate the outcome of games in order to ensure a longer Finals (more games = more money for the league).  And, it was often said, the league had a desire for the large-market teams to win. And I have to admit I actually suspected some hanky-panky in those days regarding certain games.

But Stern is gone and Adam Silver is now in charge.

So I'm just asking, can we look forward to some radical change in how the rest of the Finals games are going to be called? Will the Cavs be able to wrestle the Warriors into submission?

Well, I'd guess not. I'm not sure Cleveland is close enough to Golden State that officials could actually do much to help.

The Warriors are good. REAL good. I've seen a lot of teams come and go and I think this is certainly at least among the best. This team is in that conversation. And just like the Trail Blazers, the Cavs need help to beat them. I said from the start the only way Portland could beat the Warriors is to play its best game and have the Dubs play their worst.

And it's not much different with the Cavaliers.