June 25, 2016, 2:38 pm
Before we get into it, I’m going to leave the same disclaimer as last week. If there’s anything you want to read about, leave a comment, tweet at me @Mike_Pandador or us @HoopBallTweets, hashtag #OneBigThing and I’ll get to it. I promise I will. I won’t let you down.
So anyway, I was wrong.
To be honest with you, I was getting a little tired of writing about this matchup. I was upset that the Cavs pulled off a Game 6 victory not only for the sake of my ill-fated ‘Warriors in 6’ call but also because I just wasn’t sure how much was left to say. I thought I would just be relieved when the Finals had ended, but again, I was wrong.
Game 7 was an absolute delight. It’s hard to put into words, which sucks for someone who’s trying to write about it, but it was one of the most fun games I’ve ever been able to watch. There are just some moments where you put your feet up and think, ‘man, this is great.’ The kind that make you wish these two teams could just keep playing forever. Last Sunday’s game was constantly great. Constantly thrilling, gripping with tremendous ebb and flow.
With every punch came a counter. The entire game was Cleveland throwing hands at Golden States’ pursuit of history as well as picking at that little voice in your head that promised the Warriors wouldn’t lose at home; that LeBron James and company were merely delaying the inevitable.
Even when it felt like Cleveland’s victory was a very real possibility, surely there was a Golden State surge on the horizon. At 89-89, Cleveland had hung in much longer than most had expected. This is Oracle and surely the Warriors will score more points in the final 280 seconds of action.
Not three in a row. Not here. Not like this. Until suddenly, it was three in a row and it was there and it was just like that. Cleveland’s victory was a reality.
Now, I don’t normally do this, but I’m about to pull back the curtain. Here’s a look at the original draft of this column, written in the early hours of Monday morning:
1,500 words of that.
There’s little left to be said about LeBron James’ sheer brilliance. His performances are transcendent; he’s capable of things that most other humans on the planet can barely dream of doing.
If you were stubborn enough to keep LeBron out of Michael Jordan’s class before, you have no ground to stand on now. We’re seeing a once in a lifetime talent excel at his craft, and the lengths to which some will go to deny his greatness is astounding. It’s rare to see a boy touted as a phenom, and rarer still to see him grow into the spotlight, weighed down by expectations since middle school. Not only has LeBron James met those expectations, he’s skyrocketed past them.
LeBron James is not what we hoped for. He’s better.
Beyond the thrill of watching excellence incarnate, I’m also pretty happy for Kevin Love. In life, there are a lot of situations that just aren’t for you. I mean the royal you (pretend it exists), so don’t be offended. Everyone has a few things that they’re really good at but there just happen to be a lot more that they suck at. It happens.
Kevin Love was never going to blow the doors off in this matchup, and that’s fine. He didn’t become a garbage player overnight; he just didn’t fit. It was a constant cycle of Kevin Love’s deficiencies being put on blast and while some of the criticism is valid, I’m still happy to see someone take things in good spirits and come out on top. He had a really good Game 7 where he played to his strengths and made his presence known. With the Cavs leaving Oracle as champions, it seems like a lot of the trade winds have stopped blowing. Even if he isn’t the perfect fit, he was a big part of the team’s success. For now, there’s no more ‘they should trade Love’ or ‘he’s not gonna work in today’s NBA’ kind of talk.
Good for him. I hope he gets tan lines from carrying those wrestling belts all summer.
As for Golden State, there’s definitely some things to sift through. That’s not to take away from a truly fabulous year, but there’s no doubt that they’re disappointed. They should be. They had this one.
There was a point in Game 7, like I mentioned above, where the mood shifted and everyone fully braced for Cleveland’s win. While the Warriors could and should be vilified for going scoreless in the final 4:40 of the biggest game of the year, the seeds of defeat had been sown all series long.
Golden State, for whatever reason, seemed hypnotized by the allure of its bigger players. When Andrew Bogut went down the Warriors chose to thrust Festus Ezeli and Anderson Varejao into big moments rather than go small. Harrison Barnes’ struggles and Andre Iguodala’s ailments didn’t help the case for going small, but they certainly didn’t hurt as much as Varejao’s presence on the floor.
I’ve been pretty outspoken about my anti-Varejao stance, but his Game 7 stats are brutal. 8:29, 1 point, 0 rebounds and -9. Ezeli was also a -9, albeit in 10:45 and with some unfortunate bounces on good looks early in the game. While it’s admirable that Steve Kerr refused to concede the glass, the rebounding battle was never one that they could win.
If performances earlier in the series weren’t enough to concern Golden State’s decision makers, Game 7 served as their reckoning.
Coming into the series it didn’t look like the Cavs had any personnel mismatches that would allow them to dictate the terms of engagement. The Warriors erred by trying to counter Tristan Thompson and played right into Cleveland’s hands.
Beyond that, the Warriors were sloppy and disorganized, throwing bad passes and working their way to silly shots. For the first time in a long time, loose and fun didn’t work. The Warriors looked vulnerable. They looked human.
They looked like runners up.
As a jaded Raptors fan, I admit that I was thrilled with the early returns of the Finals. As Cleveland found a way to extend the series, I couldn’t help but fall for the idea of the Cavs pulling it off. For LeBron. For the story. For Cleveland.
As nice as it was to have the city of Cleveland at the bottom of the totem pole, there’s something immensely satisfying about seeing people celebrate so hard after waiting for so long. Everyone deserves one, and northeast Ohio got theirs.
When the last bits of confetti fell, the last Witnesses testified and when JR Smith finally found a shirt, the Warriors and Cavs joined the other 28 teams and looked to the future.
July 19, 2019, 5:52 pmKostas AntetokounmpoPF, Dallas Mavericks
The Raptors are planning to claim Kostas Antetokounmpo off waivers, per Eurohoops' Nikos Varlas.
Blake Murphy of The Athletic reports that the Raptors were interested in adding Antetokounmpo last season, but had their plans dashed when Dallas took Antetokounmpo with the final pick in the draft. He's incredibly raw still, but has the physical build that the Raptors seem to love in their developmental projects.
Source: Nikos Varlas on Twitter
July 19, 2019, 5:38 pmB.J. JohnsonPF, Sacramento Kings
The Kings have waived B.J. Johnson.
Johnson had a decent showing in Summer League but never seemed likely to last in Sacramento given the team's depth at forward. After making seven appearances on a pair of 10-day contracts with the Hawks last season, Johnson will look to find more concrete footing in the league this season.
Source: Jason Jones on Twitter
July 19, 2019, 5:07 pmKostas AntetokounmpoPF, Dallas Mavericks
The Mavs have waived Kostas Antetokounmpo, per Shams Charania.
The youngest Antetokounmpo was Mr. Irrelevant in the 2018 draft but only appeared in two games with the Mavs last season. Dallas opens up a two-way contract slot and will likely find a more NBA-ready player on the market, while Antetokounmpo will look to latch on with another team for camp. Perhaps the 20-year-old can make it a family affair, with both of his older brothers playing in Milwaukee.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
July 19, 2019, 4:46 pmChrist KoumadjeC, Philadelphia Sixers
The Sixers have agreed to a one-year, partially-guaranteed deal with rookie Christ Koumadje according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic.
Rich Hofmann of The Athletic reports that it will be an Exhibit 10 deal. Koumadje went undrafted but flashed his defensive potential by averaging 2.4 blocks in only 13.6 mpg at Summer League. The 7'4" big man will be a developmental project for Philly and is not part of the fantasy landscape for the time being.
Source: Michael Scotto
July 19, 2019, 4:34 pmJames HardenPG, Houston Rockets
James Harden has taken his name out of consideration for the FIBA World Cup this summer.
Harden will be focusing his efforts on getting ready for next season. There figures to be a large adjustment coming with Russell Westbrook replacing Chris Paul, and Harden playing alongside a ball-dominant scoring guard rather than a distributor will be something that figures to have a rough patch or two. Still, Harden reportedly told the Rockets that he's comfortable with playing off the ball more, so it should work out. Team USA, meanwhile, figures to be just fine considering the depth of talent available.
Source: Jonathan Feigen on Twitter
July 19, 2019, 4:12 pmJosh GrayG, New Orleans Pelicans
Josh Gray has agreed to a two-way deal with the Pelicans.
Gray had a cup of coffee with the Suns back in 2017-18 and spent last season playing in Korea. The former LSU product has always been adept at stacking up steals, but he's unlikely to see much playing time given the backcourt depth in New Orleans.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
July 19, 2019, 4:08 pmChristian WoodPF, Detroit Pistons
Christian Wood will be competing for backup center minutes this season, per Keith Langlois of Pistons.com.
Markieff Morris and Thon Maker will be his primary competition, and Wood has the edge if Detroit is looking for some strength and rebounding. If they're looking for shooting, then it's safe to say that we'll see some smaller bench groups this season. Wood has been dominant at the G-League level and had some monster games at the end of last season but it's not a great landing spot for fantasy value given that Detroit's roster is built on their frontcourt stars. Deep-league owners should keep an eye on that battle in the preseason.
Source: Keith Langlois on Twitter
July 19, 2019, 2:24 pmJustin HolidaySG, Indiana Pacers
Justin Holiday has agreed to a one-year deal with the Pacers as of Friday's reports.
Holiday will likely be a wing option off the bench for a secretly deep Pacers squad. There's some potential here if he can find an appropriate minute load.
Source: Shams Charania on Twitter
July 19, 2019, 1:08 pmIsaiah PineiroPF, Sacramento Kings
The Kings agreed to a one-year, partially guaranteed deal with Isaiah Pineiro on Friday.
This seems like just a depth move for the Kings to have a G-League option for this upcoming season. He played for the Kings in Summer League and clearly impressed enough to get a contract.
Source: Michael Scotto on Twitter
July 19, 2019, 11:34 amKosta KoufosC, Sacramento Kings
Kosta Koufos has reached an agreement with CSKA Moscow according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo.
Haynes goes on to say that Koufos' deal will make him the highest paid American in all of Europe next season, so it's safe to say that it was an easy sell for Koufos who appeared to be facing a rather tepid market. His deal will also include an NBA option that will allow him to opt out of his contract should he decide to return to the States.
Source: Chris Haynes on Twitter