Cleat Geeks

Atlanta Hawks: Don’t Let the Door Catch Your Cape!

Photo: Natalie Behring

 

With a collective sigh of relief, Atlanta Hawks fans bid farewell to Dwight Howard this week. Dwight Howard was a huge disappointment this season and spent the biggest moments of the Atlanta Hawk’s miserable playoff appearance on the bench. The star center, formally known as “Superman”, also managed to make headlines after being cited for speeding, no registration, and no insurance in the wee hours of the same day as the Hawk’s playoff elimination game.

In the weeks leading up to the trade, Howard, who has made 5 three pointers his entire career, claimed he was working on his three-point shooting and perimeter game this summer. Dwight Howard is 6’11, 265 pounds and, thankfully, a Charlotte Hornet now.

The Hawks sent Howard and the No. 31 overall pick in Thursday’s NBA draft to Charlotte for center Miles Plumlee, shooting guard Marco Belinelli and the 41st pick, getting the deal completed late Tuesday night.

Howard, an eight-time All-Star and three-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, will be playing for his third team in three seasons following a disappointing one-year return to his Atlanta hometown.

Howard signed a three-year, $70.5 million deal with Atlanta and then sat out the fourth quarter in two of six playoff games in the Hawks’ first-round loss to Washington. Howard, 31, is due to earn $23.5 million each of the next two seasons. Plumlee, 28, still has three years remaining on his contract at $12.5 million per season. Belinelli, 31, is set to earn $6.6 million in the final year of his deal.

 

 

 

 

Sixers & Celtics Trade Draft Picks, But Are They Done?

Photo By; Michael Dwyer

The Sixers and Celtice did in fact swap picks. The Sixers now will likely take Washington shooting guard Markelle Fultz, to pair him with last years first pick Ben Simmons. Boston is interested in taking Kansas forward Josh Johnson. The Celtics are loaded at the guard position with Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Marcus Smart.

The 76ers announced that Fultz worked out for the team Saturday. Philadelphia also held an individual workout with Kentucky guard De’Aaron Fox on Saturday.

Ironically, the last time the Celtics traded the first pick in 1980, they landed two hall of famers. Boston traded Purdue’s Joe Barry Carroll for Robert Parish and the third overall pick, which was used on Kevin McHale.

The Celtics gave up the No. 1 pick for the Sixers’ No. 3 pick and either the Lakers’ 2018 first-round pick (if it falls between 2-5 next year) or the Kings’ first-round pick in 2019.

As a result, the Celtics now have a treasure trove of picks. In addition to the picks received from the 76ers, the Celtics also have all of their own  first-rounders, plus the Brooklyn Nets’ 2018 first-round pick, and a future first-round pick from the Grizzlies.

But, the Boston Celtics’ reported pick-swap trade with the Philadelphia 76ers may only just be the beginning of their big moves. Many around the NBA believe the Celtics could be gearing up for a big trade that could land them a superstar before they even go into free agency with cap space. There are no official reports on the matter, but there is chatter. In Chad Ford’s latest NBA mock draft, he wonders if the Celtics might flip the third pick for Jimmy Butler or Paul George, who is on the trading block.

“Another realistic scenario? The Celtics use No. 3 and the newly-acquired Lakers/Kings pick to make another run at either Jimmy Butler or Paul George.”

Likewise, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said on “First Take” that the Bulls talked to the Sixers about trading Butler for the No. 3 pick. With the Celtics now owning the third pick, Smith thinks they’ll engage in trade talks with the Bulls.

“The Bulls were talking to the Philadelphia 76ers. They wanted the No. 3 overall pick and they were willing to unload Jimmy Butler … Boston and Philadelphia were obviously willing to swap picks, and as a result, Boston is planning on acquiring Jimmy Butler. They don’t know if they’ll be able to, but their hope is they’ll be able to use the No. 3 pick, get themselves Jimmy Butler, go into free agency, get Gordon Hayward… and making a legitimate run at the Cleveland Cavaliers.”

The Celtics have close to max cap space this summer to sign a star like Hayward or Blake Griffin, should they leave their respective teams. Hayward has been an obvious choice because of his links to Celtics coach Brad Stevens, who coached him in college at Butler.

If the Celtics were to trade for Butler, they would not have the cap space to sign Hayward to a max-level contract. They would have to include higher-salary players like Tyler Zeller, Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder, or Marcus Smart into the trade for Butler or find teams to take their salaries. However, it wouldn’t take much to open that room back up.

 The Celtics could be content to continue drafting young players and adding them to a core that has proven good enough to finish first in the East and make it to the Eastern Conference Finals. But that doesn’t seem to be the feeling.

 

The King’s legacy

After the Cleveland Cavaliers lost to the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals for the second time in 3 years, some are asking what will LeBron James’ legacy look like. James has been on a team that has made the finals in 7 consecutive seasons. He is not the superman that some expect him to be every single time, when in-game 3, he turned the ball over at the worst time and Kevin Durant, made a three in his face. No one can take away from him that he has won 3 championships and 4 MVP awards. Recently, he said he was beyond the point of having to prove himself. “I stopped caring a long time ago, so it doesn’t even bother me at all,” He said. The Golden State Warriors were the super-duper team and when the opponent stops one player, the Warriors have other lethal scorers who score at will.

The King basically gave the Cavaliers a fighting chance as he averaged 33 points per game, 10 assists, 12 rebounds, averaged 42 minutes per game, became the first ever NBA player to average a triple-double in an NBA finals series. Was it his fault that besides Kyrie Irving, the supporting cast was not terribly impressive? No way. Just remember last year, the Cavaliers were down 3-1 against the Warriors in the finals and in-game 7, the king took over when he blocked a sure lay-up from Andre Iguodala late in regulation. How quickly we forget that.

Despite the loss, James actually enhanced his legacy. It seems that he can do no right with some people. In his first stint in Cleveland, James knew he was not being judged like other players and if he did not leave Cleveland for Miami, who knows if he would have not won a championship ring. If that scenario played out, that would have been the discussion, does James care about winning like another superstar in New York? Cleveland fans showed their disapproval when he left Cleveland in 2010 by burning #23 jerseys, it is not uncommon for superstars to join teams they think they can win a championship ring. Take Kevin Garnett, he played in Minnesota and knew if he stayed there, he would never have won a ring. He got traded to the Boston Celtics big three, Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Rajon Rondo and guess what, won a ring. Clyde Drexler lost two times as part of the Portland Trail Blazers and requested to join the Houston Rockets and won his only ring in his hometown in 1995.

In the years that James’ teams have come up short, losing actually increased the urgency for his teams to win a championship, and they want him to win by himself only to lose so they can knock him down even further.  Too many forget to look at the entire picture or differentiate between eras to make a legit comparison between James and Michael Jordan. Just remember that his teams have been the underdog in more than half of his finals appearances, and you can not say that the Cavaliers lost the series because of him. James could have easily given up after going down 3-0, but he did what he could to bring another championship to Cleveland. His critics have seemed to suggest that he can win a best of 7 series by himself when you are going up against Durant, Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, that is a steep mountain that is too much for a superstar on the other team to overcome. In 17 playoff games, the Warriors averaged 119 points per game and had 4 players who averaged 3 or more assists a game. The Warriors were clearly the better team and what else could critics have expected from #23? Just look at his stats in the 2017 NBA finals, they should impress even the biggest LeBron critics.

Cross-Court Cavs: An Unhappy Ending

They left it all on the line. Every single one of them. The 2017 NBA Finals were not what the Cavs were hoping they would be, but for us as fans, it something we can look back on and witness greatness.

The Cavs were finished off in 5 games Monday night, with the Warriors being crowned champions for the second time in 3 years. It was a tough battle all along, and the Cavs deserve all the credit in the world for sticking with them, but the Warriors are just too good and have so many weapons to beat you with.

There isn’t a whole lot to say about these Finals, other than the fact that if you think about it, the Warriors needed 2 MVPs, a DPOY, and at least 5 HOF’s just to take down the GOAT, LeBron James. Now, I am not trying to rip the Warriors for what they did, because they deserve a lot of credit for building a fantastic team, but LeBron also gets ripped all the time for the silliest things and it is about time people start sticking up for him, as he will be the greatest of all time, if not now, soon.

All in all, this Cavs team was fun to watch all year long, and although we didn’t snag another title, I could not be more proud of our guys and I hope we continue to thrive for years to come.

GO CAVS!

Cavs Avoid Elimination behind LeBron & Kyrie’s Huge Performance

Game 4 of the NBA Finals was a must win game for the Cleveland Cavaliers. After a heart breaking loss in game 3, where they dominated most of the game, but chocked away the victory, they bounced back strong. The Cavs set multiple records in game 4. Cleveland scored an NBA Finals record with 86 points in a half, making 13 3s in the first half and also scoring 24 3s total in a Finals game. James says to reporters setting records is something the Cavs look to do.
 
“That’s part of who we are,” James said. “We set a lot of records since we kind of assembled this team the last couple years.”
 
 Cleveland lead by double digits most of the game and never trailed Friday night. Every time the Warriors cut the Cavaliers lead down to 12, they Cavs answered back with clutch and high percentage shooting.
 
Kyrie Irving was hot all night leading all scorers with 40 points on 15 of 27 shooting. Jame’s triple-double consisted of 31 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assists. That was James’s ninth triple- double, which put him past Magic Johnson with the most Finals triple-doubles of all time. James also past Michael Jordan on the all time Finals scoring list in the first quarter.  Kevin Love had 23 and J.R Smith had 15 points, including 5 3s.
 
Things got a little heated throughout the game, as there was a total of 7 technical fouls. Head coach of the Cavs Tyronne Lue talked to reporters after the game about his teams execution.
 
“You get down 3-0 and you’re fighting and you’re trying to get a win, you do whatever it takes,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “I thought our team was very energetic.”
 
Kevin Durant led Golden State in defeat with 35, but only shot 9 for 22. Steph Curry struggled from the field only making 2 out of 9 three point baskets, while he only finished the game with 14 points. Klay Thompson struggled to find his shot, as he only had 13. Draymond Green, who received a technical foul in the first half, finished with 16 points.
During Garbage time with three minutes left when Cleveland put in all their back ups the fans were chanting “Cavs in 7.” The Cavs led by as many as 22 points.
Now that the series is 3-1 Golden State, just like last year. Can the Cavs come back and win in 7 again? Monday on ABC @ 9 will be game 5.

Warriors Take A Commanding 3-0 Lead In NBA Finals

When the pressure was on and things got tough Kevin Durant delivered for the Warriors with a clutch three point shot to put the Warriors up with 45 seconds left in the game.  Draymond Green told reporters after the game that Durant knew the outcome.

“He knew he was taking that shot the whole way,” Warriors forward Draymond Green said. “That was huge. He wanted that moment.” Head coach Steve Kerr marveled in Durant’s big game ability, when he spoke to reporters. “He took over,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “You can tell, he knows this is his moment. He’s been an amazing player in this league for a long time and I think he senses this is his time, his moment, his team.”
Durant, who had 31 points, scored a jumper the prior possession to bring the game within two. The Warriors finished the game on a 11-0 run and Cleveland was scoreless the last three minutes of the game. Durant down played his huge performance, as he told ESPN “We’re still playing.” “This isn’t over. I can’t say if it’s the biggest.”
Kevin Durant finished the game with 31 points on 10-18 shooting. Durant was excellent from the three point line shooting 4-7. Although he had a quiet third quarter, Durant proved in the fourth quarter that he is an elite player, who is hunger to win his first championship. Steph Curry added 26 points and Klay Thompson scored 30, after scoring 16 points in the first quarter.
As for the Cleveland Cavilers game 3 was the best they played all series. They out scored the Warriors 33-22 in the third quarter. For the third and most of the fourth quarter LeBron James and Kyrie Irving dominated offensively and looked unstoppable. Unfortunately the Cavs could not close the game out and they let Kevin Durant get hot. James will ultimately be judged by passing up shots late in the fourth quarter. James told reporters after the game that the Warriors are one of the best teams he ever played.
“It’s probably the most, most firepower I’ve played [against] in my career,” James said. “I played against some great teams, but I don’t think no team has had this type of firepower.”
Cleveland will try to avoid getting swept when they lay Friday on ABC @ 9 ET.  Teams who trail a series 0-3 has come back to win the series and only nine teams have stretched a 0-3 deficit to seven games.

 

Cross-Court Cavs: Rough Start

KD. Steph. Klay. Dray. Kerr. Those are the only names that have come to mind in Cleveland Cavalier fans over the past week. Those 5 men along with several others have gone out and torched the defending champs in the 2017 NBA Finals, as the Cavs currently hold a 2-0 deficit to one of the more stacked teams we’ve ever seen in NBA History. In all honesty, the Warriors went out and snagged 4 All-Stars just to take down LeBron James, but that’s none of my business.

But for the series, it got started in Oakland for Game 1 on Thursday night where the Warriors just completely dominated. The Cavs looked nervous and scared, as the Warriors just ran all over them, cruising to a 113-91 victory.

Game 2 on Sunday was more of the same for the Warriors, as Durant and Curry went off again, rolling to a 2-0 lead with a 132-113 victory. The Cavs lazy defense and lack of energy took them right out of the game, and they need to turn it up a notch to try and regain some ground in this series.

Last year it was a rough start as well. Can the Cavs turn 0-2 into a series deficit into a 7 game finals win for the 2nd year in a row?

Durantt & Curry Lead Warriors Past Cavs Take 2-0 Finals Lead

 

 

For the second consecutive game the Warriors blow out the Cavs, to take a commanding 2-0 series lead. Kevin Durant scored a game high 33 points and Steph Curry had a triple-double. Kevin Durant is playing at a high level and is determined to get his first ring. In the first two games of the series he is averaging 35.5 points a game. Durant is scoring at will and is scoring at ease, even when LeBron James is guarding him. The All Star small forward is not just dominating on the offensive end, he is also dominating defensively. Last night Durant had 5 blocks and 3 steals to add to his all around Finals greatness. According to Power Forward for the Golden State Warriors Draymond Green Curry and Durant are locked in. He reminisced to reporters about a story when Durant played against him last year, when Durant was on the Oklahoma City Thunder. The only time he’d seen Durant come close was when Durant was with the Oklahoma City Thunder and “he put 52 up on my head.” Durant corrected him and said “54” ,  “My fault,” Green said. “Shortchanged him. Other than that, when you got somebody doing you like that, it’s just like a burning fire in their eye and you know you don’t stand a chance. But that’s like the look that I see in him throughout this Finals. And both of them, to me, it seemed like it’s personal for both of them. And you are talking two of the greatest players that we got in this world locked in the way they are, that’s why we’re up 2-0.”
It’s not like the Warriors needed additional help, but getting Steve Kerr back was a huge boost. Kerr was out with lingering back issues he had from surgery back in 2015. In Kerr’s absence Mike Brown, the assistant coach for the Warriors posted a record of 11-0 in the playoffs. Kerr told reporters that he is glad to be back coaching in the NBA Finals. “That’s why I got into coaching,” Kerr said. “My TV gig was pretty good, but I love the competition. This is such an epic match-up. These guys are so damn good. It was frustrating not to be there for Game 1. It’s frustrating not to be with the team the last five to six weeks on the sidelines. It’s just great to be back.”
 
In defeat LeBron James had a triple double for the Cavs scoring 29 points, dishing out 11 assists and grabbing 14 rebounds. The problem for the Cavs was their defense. They gave up 18 three pointers and allowed the Warriors to shoot 52 percent from the court. The Cavs also got no production out of their bench Daron Willams, Charlie Frye and J.R Smith, who combined for 2 points. Kevin Love had 27 points and Kyrie Irving added 19.
After the game James looked clearly frustrated, as he refused to go to the podium for post game interviews. Instead he did it from the locker room. When he was asked by a reporter, he declined to comment.
The Cavs are in a familiar spot, as last season in the Finals, they went down 2-0. They won game 3 and that ultimately jolted their historic comeback to defeat the Warriors in 7 games. Unfortunately for Cleveland is that this year is different. They have to deal with Kevin Durant, who they have not been able to stop in the first two game of this years Finals.

 

Why The Bulls Should Keep Rondo

Even though the Bulls benched him for 5 games in January, the team needs to keep point guard Rajon Rondo in Chicago for next season. Yes, I understand he is not the best shooter, but before he got injured in the playoffs, his presence was making his teammates that much better against the Celtics. In the two games he played, Rondo had 20 dimes, 7 steals and 17 rebounds, 10 of them on the defensive end. In close games, the ability to get defensive rebounds prevents the other team from getting second chance shots is a quality that Rondo has had for most of his career. In his 11 year NBA career, Rondo has 3,483 total rebounds and 2,694 of them are defensive rebounds.

One of my favorite aspects of his offensive game is his ability to fake out defenders with a fake pass.

One of Rondo’s top strengths is playing the fast break with a change of pace that can manipulate defenders to leave him to find an open teammate for an easy bucket.

Another reason why the Bulls must keep Rondo is that he is a good mentor especially with younger players including Jerian Grant, Michael Carter-Williams, Denzel Valentine, Paul Zipser and Isiah Canaan. Despite his earlier antics off the court, his presence should help those young players. Just recently, John Paxson said there is a “really good chance” the Bulls will keep Rondo on the team next season. It is not just the top management that wants to keep Rondo, Bulls stud Jimmy Butler said in May that he wants Rondo back in Chicago.

Not that personal attributes mean everything, but Rondo was the second Bull’s player to record 10 assists and 5 steals in a playoff game, the other being Michael Jordan. Before his injury, Rondo left a better impression of the team’s front office, plus during a timeout, he acted as the head coach while in street clothes, giving his team a strategy on how to overcome his absence.

His career accolades are pretty impressive. Rondo is a 4 time NBA All-Star, 3 time assist leader and has averaged 14 points per game in the playoffs vs. 10.7 in the regular season.

Yes, many NBA fans prefer players who can score, but over the last 10+ years, Rondo is a perfect example that you don’t have to score 30 a game to have a positive impact on a team. His ability to play tough physical defense against some of the league’s best, is something that maybe overlooked by fans, but get noticed by coaches.

I have always been a fan of Rondo because he plays the game from a deep strategic view. He knows how to expose other teams, weaknesses and is basically a player coach. Plus, he has played defense against the league’s elite and a player such as Grant can make significant strides in his game this summer by spending time around a man who has defended LeBron James and Kyrie Irving. Plus Rondo was an integral part of the Celtics championship in 2008. He is a breath of fresh air to watch because he uses his slick and sneaky skills to his advantage. While the NBA has become a scoring league, watching an NBA player who can finesse his way to manipulate others on both ends of the court is a quality that adds to the greatness of basketball.

Kevin Durant Leads Warriors Past Cavs In Game 1

Lead by Kevin Durant’s 38 points points, the Golden State Warriors defeat the Cleveland Cavilers 113-91. Durant is just the fourth player is NBA history to score 25 or more points in his first six Finals games. The All-Star small forward knew coming into this series he would have to make a huge impact and he started off great with the best performance in game 1. Durant gave credit to his teammates after the game when he spoke to reporters. “I’m only as good as my teammates,” Durant said. “Steph and Klay [Thompson]and Draymond and Zaza [Pachulia] and the rest of the guys, we just complement each other, try to complement each other and try to make the game easier for each other. And I only can get in transition because we got stops and rebounding.”
The Warriors have now improved to 13-0 in the post season and continue their quest for playoff perfection. Kevin Durant obviously stole the spotlight by scoring a game high 38 points, but Steph Curry played great as well. He scored 28 points on 6 of 11 shooting from the three point line. Curry scoring well was not the surprise, but his ability to make an impact defensively in game 1 was. Warriors Forward Draymond Green told reporters he was impressed by Curry excepting the challenge.

“When [Curry] takes it personal like that and he accepts the challenge, we’re a damn good defensive team,” Green said. “He was up the floor on his shows as opposed to getting strung out, and guys were locked in behind the play. So if there was a miscommunication on one show or two, there were guys that were helping. We were all locked in on the screen together.”

In the first two quarters of the game Cleveland struggled with turnovers, but they kept the game close and within 10 points. That all changed in the second half when the Warriors opened the third quarter on a 13-0 run to put distance between themselves and the Cavaliers. By the end of the third quarter the Warriors lead by 21 points. When LeBron James was asked by ESPN what stood out to him about the Warriors in game 1, he said “KD.”

If Cleveland wants to bounce back in game 2 Sunday on ABC, they will have to take care of the basketball and limit their turnovers. They committed 20 turnovers compared to only 4 by the Warriors.

 

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