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NBA: Leonard mum on next step

"It's not time to stress, it's still time to have some fun. I've just been enjoying my experience." - Kawhi Leonard #NBA.....»»

Source: Tempo TempoCategory: News14 hr. 53 min. ago Related News

Leonard quiet on future as Raptors celebrate with parade

By Ian Harrison, Associated Press TORONTO (AP) — Fresh off leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title, Kawhi Leonard received the key to the city at Monday’s (Tuesday, PHL time) championship parade. For now, however, the two-way star and two-time NBA Finals MVP still isn’t saying whether he’ll use it to keep a door open, or close it behind him and move on. Leonard spent several days partying with his teammates in Las Vegas and Los Angeles after last Thursday’s (Friday, PHL time) Game 6 clincher, returning to Toronto in time to ride in one of five open-top double decker buses that carried the Raptors along a crowded parade route. A three-time All-Star and two-time NBA defensive player of the year, Leonard is expected to decline the player option on the final year of his contract and become a free agent. Toronto can offer him a five-year deal worth around $190 million, one year and some $50 million more than any other team. Before stepping on stage Monday (Tuesday, PHL time) for a ceremony in the square outside Toronto’s City Hall, Leonard said he hasn’t been thinking about his future. Instead, he’s trying to extend the celebratory vibe as long as possible. “I’m enjoying this” he said. “It’s not time to stress, it’s still time to have some fun. I’ve just been enjoying my experience.” After precisely two months of playoff basketball, Leonard doesn’t have a lot of time left to be a fun guy — free agency gets underway at 6 p.m. on June 30 (6am, Monday, PHL time). “I’m going to take the right time,” he said. “You don’t need too many days to figure it out. We’ll see what happens. Once that time comes, then we’ll all lay the pros and cons out.” Visibly bothered by soreness during stretches of the Eastern Conference Finals against Milwaukee, Leonard declined to say how much pain he endured en route to winning his second career title. “We’re always battling through things,” he said. “You know, knee pains, ankles, fingers. Everybody was just grinding it out.” Injured for all but nine games in his final season with San Antonio, Leonard played 60 regular-season games for Toronto and another 24 in the postseason, upping his minutes once April arrived. While winning a trophy was an obvious success, Leonard said he’s enjoyed all aspects of his season north of the border, even the varied Canadian weather. “It was a good experience, experiencing Mother Nature, all four seasons,” he said. “Man, it was a great experience. Everybody off the court was great. The fans, just meeting people in Canada. It’s been fun.” Fans chanted ‘Stay! Stay! Stay!’ when Toronto mayor John Tory presented Leonard with the key. Later, the festive mood of the event was marred by gunfire. Four people were shot, leading to a stampede. Three people were arrested and two guns were recovered, Toronto police said. Leonard is one of three Raptors starters with uncertain futures. Center Marc Gasol also has a player option, while guard Danny Green is a free agent. Guards Kyle Lowry and Fred VanVleet, and forward Serge Ibaka, are heading into the final year of their deals. Ibaka and Leonard have become friends in their time together as teammates. “I’ve been talking with him a lot during the season and in the playoffs, but after we won, I can see the man is happy,” Ibaka said. “That’s the most important. We play this sport because we want to enjoy and have fun and be happy and be somewhere people love you. I’m sure he feels that people here love him, and after this moment, that’s the most important.” Lowry attended the parade wearing a game-worn Damon Stoudamire pinstripe Raptors jersey. Stoudamire was the first player drafted by Toronto in 1995, and won rookie of the year honors in 1996. Lowry and Stoudamire were teammates in Memphis from 2006 to 2008......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJun 18th, 2019Related News

Leonard quiet on future as Raptors celebrate with parade

TORONTO — Fresh off leading the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA title, Kawhi Leonard received the key to the city at Monday’s (Tuesday, Philippine time) championship parade. For now, however, the two-way star and two-time NBA Finals MVP still isn’t saying whether he’ll use it to keep a door open, or close it behind […] The post Leonard quiet on future as Raptors celebrate with parade appeared first on Cebu Daily News......»»

Source: Inquirer InquirerCategory: NewsJun 18th, 2019Related News

The ten most intriguing NBA free agents for 2019

By John Schuhmann, NBA.com We knew that the postseason would affect free agency. But the idea was that the success or failure of certain teams would affect what their free agents' thoughts about staying or leaving. Unfortunately, the last two games of The Finals brought devastating injuries to two of the three most coveted free agents on the market. Kevin Durant, arguably the best player in the world, tore his Achilles in Game 5, just 12 minutes into his return from a calf injury. And Klay Thompson tore his ACL in Game 6. The two injuries will certainly have repercussions beyond the two players and the Golden State Warriors. Maybe they already have. With the Western Conference seemingly wide open next season, the Los Angeles Lakers have reportedly made a deal for Anthony Davis, sending a bevy of young players and future picks to New Orleans so they can team the 26-year-old star with 34-year-old LeBron James ... and maybe another star added in free agency. As always, the free agent market and the trade market are tied together. The pending Davis trade could affect the decisions of players and teams come July 1. And if teams miss out on the free agents they're seeking, they could always fill their cap space by making a trade. With all that in mind, the players listed below aren't necessarily the 10 best free agents (or potential free agents). They're the 10 (actually 12) most interesting in regard to where they're going and what kind of contract they get. For players to be on this list, there needs to be some intrigue regarding their (and/or their team's) decision this summer. That's why Thompson isn't included. 1. Kawhi Leonard, Toronto (Player option) Whether he leaves or not, trading for Leonard last summer was well worth it for the Raptors, who won their first championship, with Leonard averaging 30.5 points per game in the postseason. The Raptors' "load management" program (which limited Leonard to just 60 games in the regular season) clearly worked, and director of sports science Alex McKechnie should be seen as a major asset in the quest to keep Leonard in Toronto. There should be a "run-it-back" sentiment for the new champs, with Danny Green also a free agent and Marc Gasol holding a player option this summer. A short-term deal would make sense, unless Leonard is looking for long-term security, having missed almost all of the 2017-18 season with a leg injury. It's all up to Leonard, maybe the toughest player in the league to read. If he takes his two-way talent elsewhere, the Raptors may have to go in a new direction. Number to know: In the postseason, Leonard had a true shooting percentage of 69.1 percent, the highest mark for a player that averaged at least 30 points per game in the playoffs and won the championship. 2. Kevin Durant, Golden State (Player option) Durant's torn Achilles probably won't scare any team, including the Warriors, from paying him as much as possible. As deep and talented as this free agent class is, the top two guys on this list are in a class by themselves. Rumors have long had Durant ready to leave Golden State and even with his injury, he seems more likely than Thompson to find a new home. But an ESPN report had Thompson's father talking about "unfinished business" after overhearing a conversation between the two injured Warriors. Durant could always put free agency off for a year by exercising his player option and remaining on the Warriors' payroll through his rehab. Number to know: Durant was the first player in NBA history to average 30 points per game in at least 10 playoff games while shooting at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from three-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line. 3. Kyrie Irving, Boston The disappointment of the Celtics' season, along with Irving's questionable leadership with a group that underachieved, has taken some of the shine off his star. Irving's injury history also must be taken into consideration. But talent is the most important thing in this league and Irving is one of its most talented players. He's still just 27-years-old and he can still get buckets when buckets are needed. A return to Boston appears far less likely than it did six months ago (especially with Davis being traded elsewhere) and there have been a lot of signals that Irving is bound for Brooklyn. Number to know: In the regular season, Irving had an effective field goal percentage of 56.1 percent with the score within five points in the last five minutes of the fourth quarter or overtime, the second-best mark among player with at least 50 clutch field goal attempts. 4. Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, Philadelphia The Sixers lost to the eventual NBA champions on a Game 7 buzzer-beater that bounced on the rim four times before falling through. They're right there. But their starting lineup, which outscored its opponents by more than 21 points per 100 possessions in 334 total minutes (regular season and playoffs), includes three free agents. In regard to future assets, the Sixers didn't give up as much for Butler as they did for Harris. And of course, Butler has more baggage in regard to accepting his role. But, with his defense and his ability to get his own shot, he's is the most important of the three. Harris struggled a bit in the conference semifinals against Toronto and is the least important of the Sixers' three free-agent starters; J.J. Redick's shooting was clearly more critical in the postseason. But Harris isn't easily replaceable and he appears to be the most likely to leave, with a lot of teams looking for versatile forwards. Number to know: In the regular season, Harris shot 41.3 percent on pull-up three-pointers, the second-best mark among 69 players who attempted at least 100. 5. Kemba Walker, Charlotte Walker has expressed some level of loyalty to the Hornets. But immediately after the Davis trade was agreed to, there was a report that Walker would be a "top target" of the Lakers with their cap space. Walker would be an ideal offensive complement to James and Davis, in that he can play off the ball (though he shot less than 35 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers last season) and take some of the playmaking burden off of James' shoulders. The Hornets, meanwhile, would likely have a tough time upgrading their roster around Walker, with Nicolas Batum, Bismack Biyombo, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marvin Williams and Cody Zeller all under contract next season for a total of $85 million. Number to know: Walker led the league with 126 field goal attempts with the score within five points in the last five minutes. That was 43 percent of the Hornets' total (295). His effective field goal percentage on those shots (49.6 percent) ranked 15th among 45 players with at least 50 clutch field goal attempts. 6. D'Angelo Russell, Brooklyn (Restricted) A finalist for the Most Improved award, Russell took a big step forward this season, both in regard to his production and his maturity. He earned himself an All-Star appearance and helped the Nets reach the playoffs with a 14-win increase from last season. He's only 23-years-old and is one of the league's most flammable shooters. But because he doesn't get to the basket or the free throw line very often, Russell is neither all that efficient (his true shooting percentage of 53.3 percent ranked 66th among 94 guards with at least 500 field goal attempts) nor consistent, and he struggled (shooting 36 percent) in Brooklyn's first-round loss to Philadelphia. If the Nets are targeting another ball-handler in free agency (with Caris LeVert and Spencer Dinwiddie already under contract), they'll probably let Russell head elsewhere. Number to know: In the regular season, Russell ranked second with 11.4 pick-and-roll ball-handler possessions per game. He scored 0.89 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball-handler, the 26th best mark among 44 players that averaged at least five ball-handler possessions. 7. DeMarcus Cousins and Kevon Looney, Golden State Cousins hadn't made it back to 100 percent from his Achilles tear before he suffered a torn quad in his second career playoff game. He made it back for The Finals from that injury and showed flashes of his old self with 14 important points in the Warriors' Game 5 win and a big bucket in the final minute of Game 6. But he also struggled on both ends of the floor at times, and the Warriors were outscored with him on the floor in seven of his eight playoff games. Now he goes back on the free agent market with teams still not sure of what they're getting. Looney is an unrestricted free agent at 23-years-old, and he was the Warriors' most important center this season. The Western Conference champs have Looney's Bird rights, but they could also be spending a lot of money to retain Durant and Thompson (and possibly extend Draymond Green). Another team might have a larger role and more money for an improving young big. Number to know: In the regular season, the Warriors' lineup of Curry, Thompson, Durant, Green and Looney scored 121.5 points per 100 possessions and outscored opponents by 18.7 per 100. Those were the best marks for points scored and point differential per 100 possessions among 40 league-wide lineups that played at least 200 minutes together. 8. Malcolm Brogdon, Milwaukee (Restricted) The Milwaukee Bucks were the best team in the league through the first two games of the Eastern Conference finals. But, with four of their top eight players being free agents (or potential free agents) this summer, they have a lot of work to do if they want to keep Giannis Antetokounmpo surrounded by players who can get it done on both ends of the floor. Brogdon, Khris Middleton and Brook Lopez are the three key pieces. They're all due a pay raise and they all belong on this list. Brogdon is the restricted free agent, but he's also the youngest of the three (he'll be 27 in December) and the one that could be projected into a larger role on another team. Number to know: Brogdon shot 47.5 percent on catch-and-shoot three-pointers, the third-best mark among 223 players who attempted at least 100. 9. Julius Randle, New Orleans (Player option) After five years in the league, Randle is still just 24-years-old. So he's not necessarily a bad fit for David Griffin's plans for the future in New Orleans. But the Pelicans might not be ready to commit the money Randle is seeking (should he opt out of the final year of his contract) after averaging a career-high 21.4 points per game. Defense remains an issue, but Randle has expanded his offensive skill set; he was a respectable 34.4 percent from three-point range this season, taking 18 percent of his shots from beyond the arc (up from six percent over his three previous full seasons). Number to know: Randle averaged 13.2 points in the paint per game, seventh most in the league, and he made more three-pointers (67) than all but one of the six players in front of him. 10. Ricky Rubio, Utah According to Rubio himself, he's not Utah's top priority in free agency. He remains a good defender and one of the league's best passers, but the Jazz need to get more potent offensively if they're going to take the next step. At 31.1 percent, Rubio ranked 153rd in three-point percentage among 163 players with at least 200 attempts. There could be as many as 10 teams (not including the Jazz) in need of a starting point guard this summer, and Rubio could have more value on a team more in need of a distributor. Number to know: The Jazz were 5.8 points per 100 possessions better offensively with both Rubio and Donovan Mitchell on the floor (scoring 110.4 per 100) than they were with Mitchell on the floor without Rubio (104.6). John Schuhmann is a senior stats analyst for NBA.com. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJun 17th, 2019Related News

WATCH: Kawhi s postseason for the ages

    OAKLAND, USA – When Toronto traded DeMar DeRozan, the face of the franchise for a decade, to San Antonio to bring Kawhi Leonard to the Raptors, it was a risk. Leonard had been the 2014 NBA Finals Most Valuable Player for the champion Spurs and was NBA Defensive Player of the ........»»

Source: Rappler RapplerCategory: NewsJun 15th, 2019Related News

WATCH: NBA game recap and highlights

  OAKLAND, USA – An upstart Toronto Raptors squad dethroned defending champion Golden State, defeating the Warriors 114-110 to win the NBA Finals and capture the first crown by a club from outside the United States. Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam each scored 26 points while Kawhi Leonard and ........»»

Source: Rappler RapplerCategory: NewsJun 14th, 2019Related News

With the Raptors, a global game now has a truly global champion

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Canadian flag, soaked in beer and champagne, was waved in the Toronto locker room. Pascal Siakam wore the flag of Cameroon around his shoulders. Marc Gasol was yelling some happy phrase in Spanish. Every team that wins an NBA title calls itself “world champions.” These Toronto Raptors might actually be worthy of such a moniker. The new kings of NBA basketball are the first outside the U.S. to wear the crown. And they come from all corners of the globe. Team President Masai Ujiri was born in England and raised in Nigeria. Serge Ibaka is from the Congo. Gasol will play again for his native Spain this summer in the FIBA World Cup. Coach Nick Nurse won his first championship in Britain, where reserve OG Anunoby comes from. Even the team’s superfan, Nav Bhatia, comes from India. It’s a global game. It’s a global team. They’re the global champions. “It meant a lot, just having guys from different countries and speaking different languages,” Siakam said. “I think it kind of got us closer together. And you kind of have all those little kinds of friendship with guys that you can speak the same language with, and from Spanish to French to English, different cultures. I think kind of it represents Toronto in general, having that diversity.” He doesn’t even have the whole list. Jeremy Lin, an Asian-American, speaks Mandarin. The assistants on Nurse’s staff have backgrounds from stints as players or coaches in France, England, Germany, Italy, Australia, Israel and more. The director of sports science is Scottish. The head trainer is from Ontario. Jamaal Magloire, who has been on the staff since his playing days ended, is a Toronto native. “It means a lot,” Magloire said as he watched champagne spray all over the locker room. “Canada and Toronto especially are very diverse places. And this team, all the diversity that we have, it served us well.” There’s a parade — Ujiri said it was scheduled for Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), though he also wasn’t exactly certain at the time — coming to Toronto. The red and white flag with the giant maple leaf will wave. There will be plenty of other flags there as well. And more than a few proud Americans will be on that route as well, like NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and the longest-tenured Raptors player, Kyle Lowry. “I’m very happy for them,” Golden State coach Steve Kerr said, tipping his cap to the Raptors. “Winning a championship is the ultimate in this league, and they have got a lot of guys who have earned this. So congrats to Toronto, to their organization, to their fans. They are a worthy champion.” At NBA headquarters in New York, they truly didn’t care who won the series. That doesn’t mean they don’t realize the Raptors’ title is a good thing for the league’s future. Basketball Without Borders is the vehicle that basically helped Siakam start his journey to the league seven or so years ago. There are NBA academies popping up in Africa and Asia. The league is helping to establish a new pro league in Africa that’s set to begin play early next year. The sport takes every opportunity it gets to promote what it bills as the Jr. NBA Global Championship, a tournament for kids. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said before the series that the league is aware of 700 million cellphones being in use in Africa, more than half of those being smartphones. The NBA wants people watching on those phones, and the infrastructure is such now in many places that it is actually possible. “It’s been revolutionary in terms of the people of Africa’s ability to watch our games in real time on hand-held devices,” Silver said. “So we see enormous growth opportunities both in terms of players and for participation and ultimately an interest for the league.” Having champions from Cameroon and the Congo, having the executive who gets credited for putting it all together being from Nigeria ... it’s not going to hurt the game in Africa one bit. The NBA champions are, indeed, champions of the world. “As a kid, I didn’t have the opportunity to dream about this moment,” Siakam said. “I didn’t think I could make it. I didn’t think this was possible as a kid. And I think a lot of kids don’t think that it’s possible. Just me being able to be here today and telling them that, ’Hey, look at me, I was a little scrawny kid from Cameroon ... but here I am, as a champion.”.....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJun 14th, 2019Related News

Raptors capture first NBA title

Kawhi Leonard and the Toronto Raptors captured Canada's first NBA championship with their most remarkable road win yet in the franchise's NBA Finals debut, outlasting the battered and depleted two-time defending champion Golden State Warriors 114-110 #NBA.....»»

Source: Tempo TempoCategory: NewsJun 14th, 2019Related News

Ilonggos don’t love the underdogs?

By: Alex P. Vidal “I like being the underdog so they don’t expect what’s going to happen. It pushes me to work harder and do the things I’m not doing better.” – Kawhi Leonard THERE are probably more Ilonggos living in Oakland, California than in Toronto, Ontario, thus the Golden State Warriors apparently have more […] The post Ilonggos don’t love the underdogs? appeared first on Daily Guardian......»»

Source: Thedailyguardian ThedailyguardianCategory: NewsJun 13th, 2019Related News

Family tragedy taught Kawhi to enjoy life and hoops

  OAKLAND, USA – After coping with the trauma of his father's murder as a 16-year-old, Kawhi Leonard has no difficulty putting basketball in its proper perspective. On Thursday, June 13 (Friday, June 14, Philippine time), the Toronto Raptors star will try to lead the Canadian franchise to their first NBA Finals ........»»

Source: Rappler RapplerCategory: NewsJun 13th, 2019Related News

Warriors play final game at Oracle trying to force Game 7

By Janie McCauley, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Stephen Curry offered a long list of things motivating the Golden State Warriors to extend their season once more and keep alive the chase for a third straight championship. Winning for injured teammate Kevin Durant certainly ranks No. 1 heading into Game 6 of the NBA Finals. A victory in the last game at Oracle Arena is right up there, too. “I don’t think much needs to be said about the motivation that we have or are going to have tomorrow,” Curry said Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time). ”... To protect our home court, feed off our crowd’s energy, play for ‘K’ and try to keep our season alive. There are a lot of things that you can kind of tap into for energy tomorrow. We’ll be ready.” Kawhi Leonard, Kyle Lowry and the Raptors are playing for Canada’s first NBA crown, not to mention the country’s first major title since the Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1993. Toronto lead the series 3-2 series and are 3-0 on the Warriors’ home floor this season. “For some reason I think both teams are really good road teams and have been all season,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said. “That’s one thing. Two, two really tough-minded teams playing and you’ve got to be a little more tough-minded on the road. And I think a lot of those games probably could have went either way.” The Warriors might have to overcome being both emotionally and physically spent after watching two-time reigning Finals MVP Durant go down again. Durant had returned from a monthlong absence with a strained right calf to start Game 5 only to rupture his right Achilles tendon in the second quarter. Durant announced Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) on Instagram the severity of his injury and that he had undergone surgery. The Warriors also lost reserve big man Kevon Looney as he re-aggravated a cartilage fracture in his right collarbone area. Klay Thompson expects more energy than ever given the Warriors have recently gone through, not to mention all of the highs and lows during 47 seasons at Oracle. “We’re just thinking about enjoying this last show at Oracle we’re about to give our fans. And I expect our fans to be the loudest they have ever been, especially in the name of Kevin and bringing his type of spirit he would bring to the fight and the competitiveness,” Thompson said. “I know our fans will do that because we deserve it, but more importantly Kevin does for what he gave this team, this organization. There wouldn’t be banners if it wasn’t for his presence.” Here are some other things to watch for going into Game 6: SPLASH AWAY Splash Brothers Curry and Thompson will be looking to repeat their hot shooting from Game 5, when they combined to go 19-for-44 from the field and 12-of-27 from deep. “We don’t want to give up that many to those guys,” Nurse said. “I think you got to guard them, got to find them in transition. They get a good chunk of them in that.” Momentum maybe? “It’s definitely a real thing,” Curry said. SUPPORTING DURANT Some well-intentioned Raptors fans, meanwhile, started a campaign to support Durant’s foundation as a way to offer their care and concern after some fans at Game 5 cheered the injury. “Sorry KD. That’s not what Canada is about. We want to make it up to you!” the post read. GREEN’S TECHS Draymond Green has six technicals during this postseason, and one more draws an automatic suspension. Green needs to control is emotions in Game 6 because should the Warriors win he would not want to sit out Game 7 in Toronto on Sunday (next Monday, PHL time). Green had 10 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists in Game 5. MOVIN’ ON UP Leonard goes into Game 6 with 710 points this postseason, 14 shy of passing Allen Iverson (723) for fourth place on the NBA’s single-postseason scoring list and 16 from moving past Hakeem Olajuwon (725) for third. LeBron James is second with 748 last year behind Michael Jordan’s 759 points in 1992. “He’s a gamer. He’s shown that. He’s a Finals MVP back in the San Antonio Spurs days for a reason,” Curry said of Leonard. “He just makes winning plays. He’s obviously expanded his game since then and shown offensively how dynamic he is. He requires attention at all times.” END OF AN ERA Game 6 will be the final hurrah for Oracle. Golden State’s players have said all season the want to leave a legacy on this special home court — and winning a Game 6 would be the ideal outcome for Warriors fans. The Warriors already watched LeBron James and the Cavaliers clinch a Game 7 finals win in Oakland three years ago — it’s not something the home team wants to repeat. “This has been just an incredible environment in which to coach and play back in the day,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “Even when the Warriors weren’t any good, to come in here as a visitor and feel the energy in this building, you could tell that the fans loved the game. This was a basketball hotbed. And just the atmosphere out there, the energy, the noise, over the last five years with our team’s rise, combined with that organic energy that this place has always had, it’s just been an incredible experience to coach here.”.....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJun 12th, 2019Related News

Even being injured, Durant leads free-agent pack

By Tim Reynolds, Associated Press OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — This was already going to be a summer filled with fireworks in the NBA. Nothing has changed. Kevin Durant’s Achilles injury, the severity of which isn’t yet confirmed, means he probably won’t be able to play much — if any — next season. But this is a testament to how much he overshadows much of the NBA landscape: Durant will still likely dictate how the free-agency dominoes fall this summer. Durant could exercise his $31.5 million player option and stay with the Warriors, and that’s likely going to be his worst-case financial scenario. He could opt out and sign a longer deal to stay in the Bay. Or he could opt out, sign elsewhere and start collecting massive checks from either the New York Knicks or Brooklyn Nets or Los Angeles Clippers or someone else. Kyrie Irving’s decision could hinge on what Durant does. Kawhi Leonard’s decision could be affected by what Durant does. How the Knicks, Nets, Clippers, Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks and all the other teams who have cap space will start spending their money on June 30 ... it all will be determined, at least on some level, by what Durant does. If he stays in Golden State, that’s more money for everyone else. If he hits the open market, it’ll be about what team wants to gamble. Here’s a tip to those teams that wanted Durant before he got hurt again in Game 5 of the NBA Finals. If the opportunity presents itself, sign him. Free agency usually isn’t about just one year. It’s about the long haul. Durant is only 30-years-old. He’s not a high-flyer who plays above the rim all the time. He’s not a plodding big man. He’s not someone with a lot of gray in the goatee. He’s a world-class scorer and jump-shooter in his prime. A year from now, if the recovery from the Achilles injury indeed takes that long, he’ll be far from over the hill. “This is a devastating injury for a basketball player, but Durant can return to be the same or very close,” Dr. David Chao, a longtime NFL team physician, practicing orthopedic surgeon and now a sports medical analyst with a large following wrote Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time). “This does not mark his downfall as an elite player.” In the short term, it just means Durant’s NBA Finals are over. Game 6 is Thursday night (Friday, PHL time), and the Warriors trail the Toronto Raptors 3-2 in the title series. In the long term, it might mean so much more — including the possibility that his time playing for Golden State is over. Achilles recoveries for basketball players have typically taken about a full year. Even if it turns out to be a partial tear, it’s still a tear. Some team was going to pay Durant a lot of money in 2019-20 and some team still will, probably without the immediate on-court services of perhaps the best player in the world in return. The first decision is the medical course of action. The financial course of action will be decided soon after. All will not be lost next season for the team that has Durant on its roster. That team will apply for, and get, a disabled player exception that will allow them to sign someone else for probably about $9 million and not have that count toward the team’s cap. That player won’t be of Durant’s caliber, because so few players are. But a year or so later, the team would have Durant. There’s risk with any signing. And signing any player that will command so much of a team’s salary cap while facing a grueling rehab would seem particularly risky. “He’s going to come back stronger though,” Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. “That’s the kind of fighter he is.” The Nets swung a trade earlier this month to clear enough cap space for two max contracts this summer — and there’s no doubt that they would love Durant to take one of those spots, possibly alongside Irving. The Knicks have been mentioned as a hopeful in the Durant sweepstakes for months. The Clippers were expected to make a pitch for him as well. The Warriors surely want to keep him. The chatter about Durant’s injury indicates it’s all a mystery now, although it really shouldn’t be. Players have made comebacks off Achilles surgery, with relative levels of success. DeMarcus Cousins, Kobe Bryant, and Rudy Gay all came back; Cousins hasn’t regained past form yet. Dominique Wilkins had an Achilles tear happen to him at the peak of his career and he arguably was good as ever afterward. Elton Brand, now leading the Philadelphia 76ers’ front office, had it as a player and said he was never the same. Christian Laettner went from a star to a role player when his Achilles ripped. “I’ve been there,” 15-time golf major winner Tiger Woods said Tuesday (Wednesday, PHL time) at the U.S. Open. “I’ve had it to my own Achilles. I’ve had it to my own back. I know what it feels like. It’s an awful feeling. And no one can help you. That’s the hard part.” Woods fought his way back toward the top of his sport, and is the reigning Masters champion. Durant isn’t going to let an Achilles injury end his reign as one of the game’s best. Teams would be foolish to think otherwise. ___ Tim Reynolds is a national basketball writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at treynolds@ap.org.....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJun 12th, 2019Related News

Durant s injury devastates victorious Warriors as they head home

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com TORONTO — When a superstar crumples to the floor like that, after everything he’d been through, after mustering the will to return to action, after giving his team the lift it so desperately needed in a win-or-go-home game, everything that happens next is muted: The flow of a tense game, the pulsating fourth quarter, even the Warriors’ inspired Game 5 victory in the final seconds. All that’s left is a siren blaring and asking … Why? Why did the Warriors clear Kevin Durant to return to the NBA Finals on Monday (Tuesday, PHL time)? Why did he feel compelled to do so after missing nearly a month with a calf strain? Why did a segment of the basketball populace question the severity of his injury -- and, by extension, his heart -- during the lead-up? And why do the basketball Gods seem to have it in for a two-time Finals MVP and all-time great who put his team first, and possibly just put his career in jeopardy? The Raptors fans who lined up 24 hours early in the rain just to watch on TV outside Scotiabank Arena aren’t shook. The citizens who braced for a championship celebration into the wee hours and now must deal with deflation aren’t shook. Not even the Raptors, who coughed up a six-point lead with 3.5 minutes left and now must fly 3,000 miles for another tip. No, it’s the Warriors who were left dazed and confused despite extending the series to another game with the 106-105 victory, and it was all captured in the quivering voice of team president Bob Myers while revealing Durant suffered an Achilles injury early in the second quarter. “He’s a good teammate,” Myers finally managed to say. “He’s a good person … it’s not fair … he just wants to play basketball and right now he can’t.” No, he can’t, and Tuesday's (Wednesday, PHL time) MRI will determine when that can happen again. Slow-motion TV replays that showed Durant executing a dribble move past Serge Ibaka and then dropping quickly to the floor were not positive. When Durant grabbed his leg on May 8 (May 9, PHL time), he reached high on his calf. This time, he reached low. A segment of the fans initially cheered Durant’s misfortune, and when Kyle Lowry and Serge Ibaka put them in check, the reaction quickly flipped from insensitive to respectful. But it didn’t matter in the big picture that they applauded Durant. He was helped to the locker room by director of sports medicine and performance Rick Celebrini and Andre Iguodala. Stephen Curry left the bench and walked behind Durant, consoling him. Durant cursed loudly as he reached the tunnel. Then he disappeared from view and later left the arena by crutches right after halftime. In the history of the NBA Finals, there was no tougher scene to witness, no matter the rooting interest. This was a basketball betrayal, pure and simple, that happened to Kevin Durant. But should it have? Plenty of questions now surround the medical protocol used by the Warriors. Durant took part in what was loosely termed a practice for the first time just a day earlier. Was that enough? Did he pass all the stress tests by then? Did the exams and MRIs give a green light? Were the experts fully apprised? And, perhaps most crucially, how much of this Achilles injury could be directly related to the calf injury and should that have been perhaps a larger concern? “He went through four weeks with a medical team and it was thorough and we felt good about the process," Myers insisted. "He was cleared to play tonight, that was a collaborative decision. I don’t believe there is anyone to blame, but I understand in this world that if you have to, you can blame me.” Beyond that, was there any pressure -- either implied or indirectly placed or discreetly suggested -- within the organization for Durant to return and rescue the Warriors? They were down 3-1 without him. Durant is famously sensitive about how he’s perceived, especially regarding his toughness. Maybe he felt pressure himself to quiet the noise and whispers. Complicating matters is his pending free agency. Durant stood to make hundreds of millions on the market this summer, and a torn Achilles, if that’s what the MRI will show, can require a year to rehab. In the moment, Durant's injury had a temporary bonding effect between the two teams; a handful of Toronto players approached Durant before he checked out and both benches appeared equally stunned. “In this league,” explained Lowry, “we’re all brothers, and it’s a small brotherhood and you never want to see a competitor like him go down.” Before the injury, Durant showed flashes of the next-level skills that helped him lead the Warriors to the last two championships. He hit his first two shots, both from deep. He commanded coverage from Kawhi Leonard, Toronto’s best defender. He had a presence. This injected confidence within the Warriors, who broke out a nine-point lead with Durant on the floor and seized early command. He, Curry and Thompson were 12-for-19 shooting for 36 points through the early second quarter. With their missing star in the fold for the first time this series, Golden State looked whole again. Once Durant left the floor, the game tightened until the fourth. Leonard (26 points), who shot poorly to that point, made his move, with 10 quick points to send a quake through the arena. Curiously, Raptors coach Nick Nurse called a timeout with his team buzzing and up five with three minutes left. Did that kill the momentum? Curry and Thompson answered with consecutive three-pointers to tie and then take the lead with 56 seconds left. Then, on Toronto’s final possession, Thompson and Andre Iguodala trapped Leonard and forced him to surrender the ball. It found its way to Lowry, deep in the corner. But Draymond Green got his fingertips on the ball, Lowry’s shot was harmless and the buzzer sounded. No confetti fell from the ceiling, no bottles were popped in the home locker room, no trophy was ceremoniously awarded. Curry and Thompson combined for 57 points and took 27 three-pointers, making 12. They’ll need to duplicate that production Thursday (Friday, PHL time) in Oakland and beyond if the Warriors force a seventh game. DeMarcus Cousins was helpful post-Durant and had 14 points. “They’ve accomplished so much over the years and that doesn’t happen just with talent,” Kerr said. “There has to be more that goes into it and it’s that fight, that competitive desire and ability to stay poised under pressure. It was brilliant to watch.” And yet: There was little joy. “It’s hard to even celebrate this win,” said Klay Thompson. “I told the team I didn’t know what to say because, on one hand I’m so proud of them for the amazing heart and grit they showed, and on the other I’m just devastated for Kevin," Kerr said. "So it’s a bizarre feeling that we all have right now.” It’s a reflex to say the Warriors were inspired by Durant and perhaps they were. When he fell, they had their excuse, yet thought otherwise. For them to play the final 2.5 quarters while dealing with a fractured state of mind says plenty about their mental toughness. “It had made it difficult, especially with the start we got off to and Kevin was playing so well, so it was a real shock when he went down,” said Kerr. “So I give our guys credit.” Durant at times became a magnet for his personality quirks and especially his non-commitment regarding free agency; it was even raised by Green when the two infamously clashed on the bench earlier this season. If nothing else, the injury further endeared Durant to the locker room and, in particular, to his fellow MVP. “Everybody gets so wrapped up in chasing championships, but life is more important in terms of caring about an individual and what they’re going through,” Curry said. “And you see the commitment and the challenges and just what has been thrown at KD this whole year, really. He gave us what he had, he went out there and sacrificed his body and we know how that turned out. “When you get to know somebody and see how genuine they are and how committed they are to basketball, you root for those type of guys. All those emotions come into play when you see him go down like that. It’s not even about this series; it’s about long term, his mindset and being able to get back to being the player and the person he has shown consistently over the course of his career.” The Warriors return to Oracle Arena for the final game in the old barn before moving to San Francisco next season, so there is motivation to shut it down in style. Of course, there’s the goal of forcing a seventh game, and finally, to win a title so Durant’s injury won’t be in vain. “We do it for Kevin,” said Thompson. “He wants us to compete and the highest level, and we’ll think of him every time we step on the hardwood. You think of him every time you dive for a loose ball or go for a rebound, because I know him and I know how bad he wants to be out there. I’m going to miss him, man. It’s not the same being out there without him.” Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJun 11th, 2019Related News

Leonard nagisa sa depensa

ISANG basket lang ang naghihiwalay sa Toronto Raptors at sa Larry O’Brien Trophy, pero binutata ni Draymond Green.The post Leonard nagisa sa depensa appeared first on Abante News Online......»»

Source: Abante AbanteCategory: NewsJun 11th, 2019Related News

NBA Finals: Raptors title win would be “special” for Toronto says Fil-Canadian Matthew Wright

Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t answer it directly so ABS-CBN Sports got someone who would delightfully answer the question of what would an NBA title win mean for Toronto and Canada. While Phoenix guard Matthew Wright is not exactly just “somebody on the street,” he’s a huge Raptors fan and can certainly offer a better response to the question given to Leonard. Wright is not in Toronto now, the Fil-Canadian guard is trying to have a professional basketball career across the world in the PBA, but he’s been watching his Raptors try to make history in the NBA Finals against two-time defending champion Golden State. If the Raptors, currently up 3-1 on the Warriors, can pull this championship win off, it would be pretty special not only for the city of Toronto but for the whole of Canada. The way fans celebrate every win in this incredible postseason run should be proof of that. “You guys see it, the frenzy that happens outside the game, you see the fan support in Canada. I’m just proud. When I was growing up watching them, from then until now, they’ve made a huge jump,” Wright told ABS-CBN Sports. “I don’t wanna jinx it, there’s still one game left. Just making it to the Finals and having the world see how big of a basketball country Canada really is or what it’s becoming, especially the city of Toronto, it’s really special. You can see it for yourself, the fanbase is crazy there,” he added. As soon as LeBron James left the Eastern Conference, the Raptors find themselves in the NBA Finals and on the verge of taking down one of the greate modern-day NBA dynasties in the Warriors. After years of torture at the hands of the King, this Finals run has to be a delight to witness for fans like Wright. However, while those losses were painful, no one really remembers them in the grand scheme of things, especially if Toronto could pull it off this year. Winning will get you remembered. “I know from my career and my perspective, you don’t really remember the losses. You remember the wins,” Wright said. “You remember the good things. When it’s all said and then, that’s history. I guess all the Raptos can do now is enjoy the present. All those losses to LeBron, that’s what brought them to this point, like how Jordan used to lose to the Bad Boys. You do have to go through tough losses in order to achieve something,” he added. Up 3-1, Toronto has three chances to close out the Warriors and end Golden State’s reign on top of the NBA. Two of those chances will be at home in Canada and the Raptors can win the title as early as Game 5 Monday [Tuesday in Manila]. Wright won’t make a prediction but if the Raptors can win the whole thing, he might have to go home to Toronto real quick. “I’m not saying anything, I haven’t said anything the whole year. I’ve spoken too soon in the past so I’m just gonna keep my mouth shut and enjoy every game,” he said. “[But] if the Raptors pull it off, I might have to book a private jet home for a couple of days just to celebrate,” Wright added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Source: Inquirer InquirerCategory: EditorialJun 10th, 2019Related News

NBA Finals: Raptors title win would be “special” for Toronto says Fil-Canadian Matthew Wright

Kawhi Leonard wouldn’t answer it directly so ABS-CBN Sports got someone who would delightfully answer the question of what would an NBA title win mean for Toronto and Canada. While Phoenix guard Matthew Wright is not exactly just “somebody on the street,” he’s a huge Raptors fan and can certainly offer a better response to the question given to Leonard. Wright is not in Toronto now, the Fil-Canadian guard is trying to have a professional basketball career across the world in the PBA, but he’s been watching his Raptors try to make history in the NBA Finals against two-time defending champion Golden State. If the Raptors, currently up 3-1 on the Warriors, can pull this championship win off, it would be pretty special not only for the city of Toronto but for the whole of Canada. The way fans celebrate every win in this incredible postseason run should be proof of that. “You guys see it, the frenzy that happens outside the game, you see the fan support in Canada. I’m just proud. When I was growing up watching them, from then until now, they’ve made a huge jump,” Wright told ABS-CBN Sports. “I don’t wanna jinx it, there’s still one game left. Just making it to the Finals and having the world see how big of a basketball country Canada really is or what it’s becoming, especially the city of Toronto, it’s really special. You can see it for yourself, the fanbase is crazy there,” he added. As soon as LeBron James left the Eastern Conference, the Raptors find themselves in the NBA Finals and on the verge of taking down one of the greate modern-day NBA dynasties in the Warriors. After years of torture at the hands of the King, this Finals run has to be a delight to witness for fans like Wright. However, while those losses were painful, no one really remembers them in the grand scheme of things, especially if Toronto could pull it off this year. Winning will get you remembered. “I know from my career and my perspective, you don’t really remember the losses. You remember the wins,” Wright said. “You remember the good things. When it’s all said and then, that’s history. I guess all the Raptos can do now is enjoy the present. All those losses to LeBron, that’s what brought them to this point, like how Jordan used to lose to the Bad Boys. You do have to go through tough losses in order to achieve something,” he added. Up 3-1, Toronto has three chances to close out the Warriors and end Golden State’s reign on top of the NBA. Two of those chances will be at home in Canada and the Raptors can win the title as early as Game 5 Monday [Tuesday in Manila]. Wright won’t make a prediction but if the Raptors can win the whole thing, he might have to go home to Toronto real quick. “I’m not saying anything, I haven’t said anything the whole year. I’ve spoken too soon in the past so I’m just gonna keep my mouth shut and enjoy every game,” he said. “[But] if the Raptors pull it off, I might have to book a private jet home for a couple of days just to celebrate,” Wright added.   — Follow this writer on Twitter, @paullintag8.....»»

Source: Inquirer InquirerCategory: EditorialJun 10th, 2019Related News

NBA free agency could make Raptors, Warriors both losers

TORONTO, Canada – Defending champion Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors are battling for supremacy in the NBA Finals, but both teams could lose superstar talent in upcoming free agency for next season. Toronto's Kawhi Leonard and Marc Gasol and Golden State's injured Kevin Durant as well as Klay Thompson ........»»

Source: Rappler RapplerCategory: NewsJun 10th, 2019Related News

Durant s return looms large heading into potential clincher

By Shaun Powell, NBA.com TORONTO — Let us dismiss the tasty-yet-faulty comparison folks will try to make regarding Game 5 and Kevin Durant and the fate of the Warriors in these NBA Finals: In 1970, when Knicks center Willis Reed famously limped out of the tunnel at Madison Square Garden for Game 7, he only hit two jumpers and was done, too gimpy to go any further. The Warriors, starved for points against a toothy Raptors defense, will require plenty more than that from Durant before he’s done. Back then, it was winner-take-all, New York vs. L.A. Durant and the Warriors are trailing 3-1 and face elimination at Scotiabank Arena. They’re staring down a far deeper and darker tunnel. This is the stark reality for a would-be savior and his recuperating calf and the desperate two-time defending champions. Durant was upgraded to questionable for Monday (Tuesday, PHL time), which means it's likely he’ll at least be on the floor. Whether he stays long enough to break a sweat or plays well enough to make the Raptors perspire is the real issue. Perhaps never before has an injury to a superstar of this magnitude been this mysterious – and perhaps costly – in the history of The Finals. Remember, with Reed, the Knicks won at the end. Maybe there's more in common with Magic Johnson pulling a hamstring in 1989 during Game 1, but again, Magic was finished for the series, and so were the Lakers, swept by the Pistons. Durant is trying to return and in the process squelch the innuendo swirling about his recovery and also trigger a historic comeback. Can he pull this off after not playing since May 8 (May 9, PHL time), and practicing for the first time only Sunday? It was a practice, but only in the tamest sense. Durant joined his teammates and took part after the media was hustled off the court, leaving no outside witnesses or sneaky TMZ footage. The Warriors, this time of year, only conduct light drills. And it was over within an hour. To recap: Durant is supposed to step into an intense basketball game after missing a month, and battle a Toronto defense led by Kawhi Leonard, and thwart a championship bid by a team and city bracing for a maddening celebration around midnight, and … rescue the Warriors? OK, then. “I think it’s pretty easy to realize we obviously miss him out there and he’s propelled us to two championships in two years,” said Warriors guard Klay Thompson. “So it would be pretty storybook if he could come back and help us do the same.” If it sounds like the Warriors are so stretched for answers and solutions that they’re banking on Durant being close to normal after a lengthy layoff, well … maybe they are. When you’re facing elimination, there’s really no other choice. And the Warriors haven’t been able to solve the Raptors without him. Yet Durant has set himself a high bar. Before his injury, which occurred in the conference semifinals against Houston, he was on another level, nearly galactic. He averaged 34 points, five rebounds and five assists in 11 games and was a finalist for everyone’s “best player in the playoffs" honors with Giannis Antetokounmpo. Since then Leonard, the postseason leader in points, and rebounds, and minutes, has yanked that praise for himself. The Raptors, as a result, are heavy favorites to lift the trophy. Durant may not be 100 percent, leaving what he can possibly do an open question: Will he be more of a decoy than a legitimate offensive threat? And on defense, how can the Warriors cover for him, since the Raptors will surely try to exploit the situation by running Durant through screens? Without Durant, the scoring burden had to be carried by Thompson and Steph Curry, and while both have done fairly well, the Warriors have had little margin for error. Whenever Draymond Green or Andre Iguodala or DeMarcus Cousins failed to lend support for Thompson and Curry, the results have been disastrous for Golden State. Coach Steve Kerr feels Durant’s presence will be enough to cause a ripple effect that influences what both teams do when he’s on the floor. “The game plan changes if Kevin is out there, or if he’s not,” Kerr said. “So you adapt accordingly. It changes matchups, it changes rotations, all that stuff.” It’ll be a surprise if Durant’s return causes issues within the Warriors and the system that was tweaked in his absence. Although they’ve been without him for nine games, he did play three seasons with the club, so there shouldn’t be any adjustment problems. Quite the contrary, says Curry. “We’ll be able to adjust in transition pretty smoothly,” said Curry. “He’s been in plenty of Finals and has played well. No matter what the percentage he’s at, I’m sure he’ll be impactful and effective.” It’s always tricky to play doctor and determine how much time Durant should’ve missed, although that never deters anyone from doing so. Taking it a step further, while none of his teammates or coaches publicly questioned the depths of Durant’s injury, dealing with the daily dose of “is he or isn’t he?” became tiring to some. They all suspect that if Durant could’ve played, he would. What possible motive would encourage him to stay out longer than necessary? To show everyone how much the Warriors need him? That seems a stretch for someone who craves a championship. Possibly not his pending free agency either; if anything Durant would get bonus points for playing through pain and would have all summer to recover in the event of re-injuring the calf, which is not considered career-threatening. Injured players have no obligation to speak to the media, and Durant hasn’t, with his silence only feeding speculation. “I feel for Kevin,” Thompson said. “I know what type of competitor he is and we obviously miss him dearly. But whether it’s tomorrow or Game 6, we just have to do everything in our power to help him get back. He will be very welcome, I’ll say that much. Kevin’s (injury) is serious and I know how badly he wants to be out there. He’s one of the best competitors I’ve been around.” The stretchy shooting range, the high release of a shot that’s nearly impossible to block or discourage, the energy and determination and ability to make plays in tense moments, those are the elements Durant brings and the Warriors have missed in The Finals. They’ll take whatever he can give, whatever that might be.   “I would like to think he would make a difference,” Shaun Livingston said. “Again, it’s just any time a player of that caliber comes back or goes out of the lineup, it’s going to be felt certain ways. We’ll see what happens.” And if Durant is unable to play extended minutes or sputters around the floor, making mistakes and dogged by rust and fatigue and inefficiency? Then it’ll fall on his teammates, a group that couldn’t beat the Raptors in two games at Oracle Arena yet somehow must thrive in a Canadian madhouse that awaits Monday (Tuesday, PHL time). “You’re going to see a resilient Warriors team,” Thompson said. “We’ve had our backs against the wall with this same group. Obviously, it’s a little more daunting being down 3-1 but usually when our backs are against the wall, we respond the best.” Question is, will Durant have their back? Or will he and that wall crumble under pressure from these hungry Raptors and the long odds? Shaun Powell has covered the NBA for more than 25 years. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here, and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting. .....»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: LifestyleJun 10th, 2019Related News

Live Updates: NBA Finals Game 5

Kawhi Leonard and the Raptors hold a dominating 3-1 lead over defending champions Golden State and are set to return to action with homecourt advantage......»»

Source: Philstar PhilstarCategory: SportsJun 10th, 2019Related News

Five things we learned from Game 4 of the 2019 Finals

By Steve Aschburner, NBA.com OAKLAND, Calif. – Five things we learned from the Toronto Raptors’ 105-92 victory over the Golden State Warriors in Game 4 of the 2019 NBA Finals on Friday at Oracle Arena: 1. Dynasties eventually become ‘die-nastys’ Will we get one more game at Oracle Arena? The scene of so much Golden State wonderfulness the past five seasons? A building about to be abandoned when the Warriors move from Oakland to a state-of-the-art arena across the Bay? Hold up. Asking one more game out of the Warriors seems a lot at the moment. These guys just suffered their second consecutive home playoff loss by 10 points or more, something that hasn’t happened to this franchise in 50 years. After three straight games scoring precisely 109 points, the Warriors came up 15 short Friday (Saturday, PHL time). They are 0-9 overall this season when held to double digits, and 0-11 in the playoffs during the Steve Kerr era, when they score 94 or fewer. And now they’re on the wrong side of a 3-1 deficit, lacking everything from certain healthy bodies to an edge, a sharpness that was missing in the second half. Granted, Golden State once held a 3-1 edge in a Finals, all the way back in 2016 … when LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and the Cavaliers chased them down and became the only Finals team to claw out of such a chasm. The Warriors did the same to Oklahoma City in the 2016 Western Conference finals. So they not only have a blueprint, they have the know-how and an opportunity to do it again. Like Kerr before him on Friday's (Saturday, PHL time) postgame podium, Warriors forward Draymond Green spoke of simply trying to win one basketball game, the next game, as the proper way to dig out of this series hole. But then he dropped his guard and mentioned winning three in a row, something the Warriors have done often. But they’re a whole year removed from doing that in a Finals (last year’s sweep of the Cavs) with a healthy Kevin Durant. This is a more worn-down, tired team. In fact, Game 4 was more than Golden State’s 102nd game of 2018-19, regular and postseason combined. It was the 102nd playoff game of their five consecutive Finals runs, which means they have crammed an extra season-plus into their schedules compared to the underachievers on lottery teams sitting at home. From the looks of it Friday (Saturday, PHL time), these guys are ready to be toppled, like the Lakers in 1989 and again in 2004, like the Heat in 2014 and the Cavaliers last June. The boisterous Raptors fans who staged their takeover of the Warriors’ building after Game 4 were merely mirroring what their favorite team did on the court from halftime on. Golden State could not stop it. Rudy Tomjanovich might still be inclined to scream into the darkness. (“Never underestimate the heart of a champion!”) But pride only takes you so far, and that’s mostly what the Warriors have left. 2. Third quarter? That’s Toronto’s now It took the Raptors more than 18 minutes to score 30 points Friday night (Saturday, PHL time), stymied by the pace of the game and particularly Golden State’s scrappy, hustling defense. Immediately after halftime, it took Toronto only 12 minutes to put up 37. The time of death for Golden State on Friday was immediately after Kawhi Leonard drained consecutive three-pointers – “F-you” shots, teammate Fred VanVleet memorably coined them – that boosted Toronto from a four-point deficit to a 12-point advantage. The Warriors already had played well enough to rightly feel they should have had a bigger cushion; falling behind so rudely seemed to buckle the defending champs. That they feel third quarters are their birthright made the switcheroo intolerable. “We had a big problem with the third quarter in Game 2,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said. “We had to make some adjustment there to try to combat the way they come out of the half. We made the decision to put Fred in, [first] in Game 3 and then Game 4 again. Mostly it's to try to keep up pace of our offense going. It gives us two point guards out there that can push the ball, get it in and get it going, and it kind of paid off. “I know Kawhi's two big three's to start the half really changed the whole feel of everybody. Everybody was like, ‘Okay, man, we know we are here, let's go,’ and we just kind of kept going from those two three's.” For the Warriors, who have done that to so many others, turnabout was a pain in the rump. “Oh, this sucks,” Draymond Green recalled thinking as Toronto took control of the quarter. “It sucks really bad. You just try and do whatever you can to change it. Get a stop, get a bucket, get some momentum.  Every time we did, they answered.” Green was asked about the difficulty of rattling the stone-faced Leonard with whatever defensive tactic Golden State could muster, and brushed the question aside. “I don't think you're ever going to rattle Kawhi. Not sure we used that word one time in our scouting report, ‘We're going to rattle him,’” Green said. But it’s not just Leonard now. It’s the Raptors. Time after time, whenever Golden State revved up with a couple of scoring possessions, signaling to their fans they ready to make a run, Toronto snuffed it with a three-pointer or a well-executed pick and roll. They’ve got a team of Kawhis-in-training, unflappable lately if not as inscrutable. “Most teams will take cues from their leaders or their star players, so I think that spreads around a little bit,” Nurse said. But he also praised vets such as Marc Gasol, Danny Green, Kyle Lowry and VanVleet for how steady they’ve been. Now, with the temptation to imagine hoisting a championship trophy, the Raptors might be expected to buy into the stat that, of the 34 teams in The Finals who have led 3-1, 33 of them got their rings. But this team is so focused, so resolute in taking care of business down to the smallest and most mundane task, that all Nurse might have to do is remind them how many aspiring champs won three games in a Finals and still headed into summer empty-handed. (It's 19.) No trophy, no rings. 3. A surge from Serge The chemistry between Serge Ibaka and Kyle Lowry was evident in their playful banter on the podium Friday night. Each slipped into his role, Lowry as the instigator, Ibaka as the target of his playful jibes. “You joining me?” Lowry asked, as Ibaka got to the podium a half minute after him. “Serge Ibaka, everybody. You all know him. Nice outfit. Worth a lot of money. Is that jacket real leather?” “Yes, it’s real leather,” Ibaka said. "Pants too tight, he can't even sit down,” Lowry said. On court, Ibaka’s defensive impact and 20 points in reserve dampened a lot of Warrior enthusiasm. There are nights when Ibaka comes across like Chief in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” a large, lumbering and rather stiff option near the rim with very little to say. Some nights, he even seems to be asleep. But still waters often run deep, too deep for the Warriors in Game 4, it turned out. Ibaka’s here-today, gone-tomorrow shooting touch had him playing in a way that none of Golden State’s three centers – DeMarcus Cousins, Kevon Looney or Andrew Bogut – could match. “Once he gets into the series," Nurse said, "which he did in Game 3 with the blocked shots and the rebounding and stuff, he seems to stay in the series. He usually gives you all of it.” Said Lowry, about knowing when a Serge surge is coming: “He doesn't say anything. When Serge is effective defensively is when he's at his best. I think the scoring just comes. We're going to make sure he gets that pick-and-pop jump shot, he's rolling … When he brings that intensity and that fierceness, it's kind of tough to stop him on both ends of the floor.” 4. Stephen Curry had a bad game One of the most famous pieces of magazine journalism ever was entitled, “Frank Sinatra Has a Cold,” by Gay Talese, a profile written when Sinatra obviously was ill of body and temper, and didn’t even grant Talese an interview. So our headline kind of tells the story as his did: Curry, one of the top five players in the NBA and probably the greatest overall shooter of all time, was not his two-time MVP self. He wasn’t even the Game 3 version (47 points). The Warriors point guard scored 20 fewer points in this one, and was 2-of-9 from three-point range. He missed all five of his shots from the arc in the first half and he picked up some obvious frustration fouls. Curry played 43 of the 48 minutes, and Golden State was outscored by 11 points when he was on the court. “It wasn’t his best game,” Kerr said. Evaluating Curry, for the Warriors, was going to come down to breaking down video and keeping the faith. Evaluating him, for the rest of us, is getting complicated these days by a sense that Curry did not get his due in past Finals – at least in terms of winning the Bill Russell Award as Finals MVP. But that’s no excuse to don rose-colored glasses every time he hits the floor. As scintillating as his performance was in defeat Wednesday (Thursday, PHL time) as the Warriors’ only healthy threat, his Game 4 work was raggedy and unproductive. “They have been aggressive all series and trying to take space away from me and Klay,” Curry said. “I missed some shots early that I usually make, especially from the three-point line. But overall, I thought I got good looks.” Every game doesn’t need to be a referendum on the level of Curry appreciation. He might have deserved more consideration as Finals MVP in 2015, when Andre Iguodala snagged it with a strong performance in the clinching game. And even though Kevin Durant was an easy choice in 2017, there were some who felt Curry was more essential (including this voter). In some cosmic and just way, Curry probably should have been recognized with hardware somewhere among the three. But all signs are pointing to Leonard now, so Curry might have to muddle along with "only" those two Maurice Podoloff trophies for regular-season MVP, along with his All-NBA berths and assorted accolades, his ginormous contract and bounty of commercial endorsements, three rings (unless this series turns around) and a better life than most people who’ve ever walked the planet. 5. Durant to play in Game … 8? It’s possible that Durant will come walking through Rick Pitino’s proverbial door and seize what’s left of the championship series by the throat, playing like the two-time Finals MVP he is. Failing that, if there’s a Game 6, maybe that’s the night Durant at least does a Willis Reed impersonation, limping through the Oracle tunnel to a thunderous roar and hitting a couple of early shots to inspire his teammates to something special. (There still, alas, would be a pesky Game 7 for which to account, back in Toronto, likely muddying the drama.) Then again, maybe Durant doesn’t come back at all. For The Finals or with the Warriors, period. Speculation at this point is all over the map. Some think the Warriors planned to hold him out until things got really dire, to buy extra healing time and maybe not use him at all. Others now believe Durant’s rehab process of his strained right calf back-slid to some degree on Thursday, when he participated in a checkpoint workout with the training staff. A few folks think he never was going to return, regardless. After all, the All-NBA forward hasn’t played since May 8 (May 9, PHL time), missing nine fairly important games. This is a league where injuries typically face an “If this were a playoff game, would he play?” threshold. Durant has been nearly as absent from this NBA postseason as LeBron James. Look, all injuries are different, and even the same type of injury can have different timelines with different sufferers. Klay Thompson rushing back from his hamstring issue after skipping only Game 3 is at the crazy-resilient end of the durability scale. Kevon Looney basically rose from the ashes, giving the Warriors a rim runner and 10 points with six rebounds in 20 minutes off the bench. He had been ruled out for the rest of the series after suffering a rib cartilage fracture in his crash to the floor in Game 2. After anticipation of Durant’s availability got out in front of his reality for a few days, the chatter is more tempered now. There’s a shrug and a whiff of uncertainty folded into every mention. If Durant had his Thursday workout, he would have played Friday (Saturday, PHL time). If he had a setback … Heck, at this point it might be more pragmatic for the medical peeps to declare him out and let the Warriors who’ve come this far see this through, yea or nay. “As far as KD, there's been hope that he will come back the whole series,” Draymond Green said. “So that's not going to change now. Obviously we hope to have him, but we'll see what happens. We don't make that final call, he don't really even make that final call.  His body will tell him if he can get out there or not. And if he can, great. And if not, you still got to try to find a way to win the next game.” The Warriors had been holding out hope for Durant’s return as if he was their ace in the hole, imagining him with zero rust or rhythm issues once back and no limitations on his gait. But he has passed the “In case of emergency, break glass” point of urgent help possibilities. Now Durant resembles more the keg hanging from a Saint Bernard dog’s collar. It’s a nice idea, but when was the last time one of those dogs saved somebody who literally drank from the little barrel? Toronto is in a foreign land, by NBA standards. But it ain’t the Alps. Steve Aschburner has written about the NBA since 1980. You can e-mail him here, find his archive here and follow him on Twitter. The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting......»»

Source: Abscbn AbscbnCategory: SportsJun 9th, 2019Related News