Cats in the NBA
Former Kentucky Players in the NBA
Good afternoon, folks. DeMarcus Cousins got the start in Game 2 and came through when the Warriors need him most. Let’s talk NBA Finals.
(1) Warriors – 109 @ (2) Raptors – 104 (Tied 1-1)
- Game 2 of the NBA Finals put everyone’s patience up to the test early. The Golden State Warriors fought through a horrendous first-half shooting slump – thanks to plenty of whistles – to overcome a five-point halftime deficit and steal a win on the road against the Toronto Raptors. A combined 48 fouls between the two teams extended the normal run time an NBA game by about 20 minutes.
- The big headline pregame was the insertion of Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins into the starting lineup despite playing only eight minutes in Game 1 and missing the previous 14 playoff games. As it was announced shortly before tipoff, I wondered why head coach Steve Kerr would decide to go this route considering Kevon Looney had provided valuable minutes in Cousins absence. As the first quarter rolled on and Cousins picked up ticky-tack fouls, turned the ball over, and struggled to play any semblance of defense, his presence in the rotation looked at risk. As a matter of fact, the entire Warriors team outside of a red-hot Klay Thompson (18 first-half points) couldn’t find the bucket. Steph Curry began the game 0-6 and the team shot under 30 percent for the majority of the half. Thompson kept the team alive in the first quarter and then Cousins came alive in the second. The former Kentucky big dropped in a triple and made all four of his shots at the free throw line. He made himself feel like a part of the game for the first time all series. Cousins finished with 11 points, 10 rebounds, six assists, and two blocks. Just in time, too. Curry (flu?), Andre Iguodala (leg), and Kevon Looney (chest contusion) were all dealing with injuries suffered throughout the first half.
- But then Curry got going. With about four minutes left in the first half, the two-time MVP caught fire. Curry poured in 12 points on four straight made buckets to end the half and trimmed a double-digit Raptors lead to only five. Those last few minutes would foreshadow the rest of the evening.
- Looney would end up missing the second half due to his injury, giving Cousins all the minutes he could handle. And he made every single one of them count. He was inhaling rebounds, running the break, dishing out beautiful passes. He was the ideal version of Cousins that the Warriors dreamt of when they signed in the offseason. Once trailing 54-59 at halftime, the Warriors rattled off an 18-0 run in just under six minutes. Per Elias, it was the longest run to start a half in NBA Finals history. A five-point lead for Toronto evaporated into a 13-point hole before the quarter could even reach the halfway mark. The thing that impressed me the most about Game 1 was how the Raptors didn’t crumble whenever the Warriors threatened to go on one of its patented third-quarter spirit-breaking runs. However, they snapped right in half during Game 2 with half the Warriors injured and Kevin Durant still on the mend.
- Toronto controlled a 23-0 (you read that correctly) advantage in second-chance points, but the Warriors made it a point to lock down Pascal Siakam, holding him to only 12 points on 5-18 shooting after his 32-point exhibition in Game 1. Kawhi Leonard still dominated, posting 34 points and 14 rebounds (and he also might be the strongest man alive), but the Warriors maintained at least a five-point lead for practically the entire second-half. Even with Thompson leaving for the locker room with eight minutes left after pulling his hamstring (he led the Warriors in scoring with 25 points), Curry, Cousins, and Draymond Green led the way. A massive three-pointer by Iguodala put Golden State up five with 5.9 seconds left and put the game away for good. Before that made three, the Warriors went over five minutes without a field goal. As for Thompson’s status for Game 3, he says he’s going to play. His coach had a different – yet similar – thought.
- “Klay said he’ll be fine, but Klay can be half-dead and he’d say he’s [fine]. We’ll see,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “He pulled his hamstring. He thinks it’s minor — I don’t know what that means going forward.” The Warriors later clarified that he did not pull it and that it was simply excessive tightness.
Klay Thompson: “See you in the Bay, Aubrey. You weren’t talking tonight. Bum ass.”
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) June 3, 2019
- I’d expect Thompson to be ready for Game 3. Which isn’t encouraging to Raptors fans in any way. Without Thompson, a flu-ridden Curry, minor injuries to Iguodala and Looney, no Durant, a rusty Cousins, and a pitiful bench (shoutout to Quinn Cook’s three made second-half triples, though), Golden State still won this game. The Warriors missed 20 of its first 28 shot attempts. But they limited Toronto to under 38 percent shooting from the field, locked down Siakam, and let Leonard do all the work with double-teams constantly collapsing on him. Fred VanVleet did add 17 points for Toronto, but no other Raptor outside of VanVleet and Leonard scored more than 13 points.
- This is also a perfect time to remind everyone that Kevin Durant could be back by Game 4, if not Game 3. If Toronto couldn’t win Game 2 where nearly everything went in its favor, I don’t know how the Raptors can win in Oakland with a healthy Durant and a revitalized Cousins.
- Lastly, we need to apologize to Drake as he was not the celebrity center of attention. That title belonged to President Barack Obama, who watched the game from the stands next to NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. At one point, the jumbotron focused in on Obama with chants of “MVP” erupting from the Canadian crowd along with a standing ovation. You LOVE to see it.
- Game 3 is Wednesday in Oakland.
|DeMarcus Cousins (GSW)||109-104 W @ TOR||11||3-8 (1-3)||10||6||0||2||3||+12||27|
|Jodie Meeks (TOR)||104-109 L vs. GSW||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
Wednesday, June 5: ABC – 9:00 P.M. EST (Oracle Arena)
By Drew Franklin on ©June 03rd, 2019 @ 10:00am
De’Aaron Fox made a guest appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! last night for a friendly game of “Sink It Or Swim.” The former Kentucky Wildcat made quick work of Kimmel in the game that dunks the opponent in a water tank after a made basket. Fox didn’t need long.
The Los Angeles Lakers offered up a would-be blockbuster deal in exchange for the service of superstar center Anthony Davis earlier in the year. A proposed deal could have reportedly sent Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, Michael Beasley, AND two future first-round picks to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Davis and Solomon Hill.
But we all know how that ended – a public embarrassment of the Lakers that hasn’t stopped unraveling and only escalated once Magic Johnson stepped down as the President of Basketball Operations. Since then – what feels like years ago – the Pelicans have tripped into some good fortune. New Orleans snagged the first overall selection in the 2019 NBA Draft with only a six percent chance to do so and they fully intend on selecting Duke forward Zion Williamson.
With or without Davis, Williamson is a player the Pellies will plan the next 10 years around. When the franchise hired David Griffin to run the team (the same guy that the Lakers should have offered any amount of money to run its team) they brought in a brilliant basketball mind that knows the inner workings of the business side of the NBA better than most. If there was ever to be a figure with enough knowledge, determination, and reputation to pull off something like getting Davis to rescind his public trade demand, it would absolutely be Griffin.
So with that said, what is the actual possibility of Griffin convincing Davis to stay? And how much influence does the potential of teaming up with Williamson add into that?
Let’s first briefly outline what we know about Davis and his contractual situation with the Pelicans.
Davis won’t be an unrestricted free agent until the summer of 2020 at the earliest, so no matter who he plays for in the 2019-20 NBA season, he’ll be under contract for that team for just the one season. After that, he can go as he pleases for as much money as the league permits.
He does have a player option for the 2020-21 season, but he is expected to opt-out of that in order to sign a Supermax deal. This summer, Davis is eligible to sign the Supermax Extension that only the Pelicans can offer. It includes designating 35 percent of the entire team’s salary directly to Davis over a five-year span. At the moment, Davis is not expected to sign that deal and the consensus is he would only sign the Supermax Extension if he is traded.
The real conundrum here is that Davis is under contract for at least one more season. So no matter what he does, the Pelicans have him under its control for the foreseeable future. He can’t necessarily sit out games willingly and I don’t think Davis would do that if he doesn’t get traded right away. We saw last season that he wanted to play despite the fact that it was an intensely awkward situation and the Pelicans were clearly headed for the lottery. But if it comes down to it and his agent Rich Paul is in his ear telling him to sit out until he gets his way, it could potentially come to that. Although, I don’t think that’s a tactic that would play out in anyone’s favor.
But let’s say Griffin doesn’t trade Davis to start the season in the fall, or maybe he doesn’t even trade him all year. The team drafts Williamson and begins working with a trio of him, Davis, and point guard Jrue Holiday. The surrounding pieces aren’t anything to get excited about, although that’s an enticing core on its own.
Keeping Davis and drafting Williamson probably means that Julius Randle, one of the most improved players last season, will probably look to upgrade from his $9 million player option set for next year. The team would be a bit handicapped as far as salary goes since Holiday and Davis are both locked into their current max deals. Also, Hill and E’Twaun Moore are set to make over a combined $20 million next season. That ends up costing roughly $73 million for just four guys, two of whom are low-level starters. The idea of adding enough pieces around those four plus Williamson and making a playoff run in the Western Conference is a pipe dream. But once again, if there is anyone who can manipulate the salary cap and find a way to improve this team, it would be Griffin. He was the one who kept the Cleveland Cavaliers as championship contenders despite the endless internal drama and a stressful team financial situation. He’s dealt with Rich Paul and Klutch Sports when he and LeBron James both worked in Cleveland.
Here’s another weird possibility: what if the Pelicans trade the pick but keep Davis?
Trading the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft is the same as trading away Williamson. Which means the return value on that pick will be monstrous. It won’t be anything like what the Lakers offered for Davis back in February, but future first-round picks and high-level prospects will absolutely be included. What if the Pelicans trade the pick and bring back another first round pick (or even two), a starting-level veteran, and a budding prospect? Can they shed some of the bad contracts (like Hill and Moore) in that deal, too?
For the first time in what feels like a long time, the Pelicans have significant leverage on the league. This is a completely different version of the Pelicans from when Davis first requested to be traded. The franchise is improving in several areas, starting with the basketball minds in charge and finally bringing in a trusted and basketball-specific medical staff. Davis has reportedly not moved from his stance of being traded, but there is a lot of time left before that deadline draws near.
Because there is always this potential situation, where the Pelicans either keep Williamson or trade him for players/picks, Griffin improves the team’s shooting and overall roster, and the team starts the season something like 15-5. Davis has stood incredibly firm on his decision and I wouldn’t anticipate anything such as that to keep him from leaving, but I can guarantee it will make him stop and think. And that goes double if the Lakers get off to a poor start.
But here’s the thing about Griffin, he isn’t going to be petty with how he goes about this trade. The Pelicans all but refused to do business with the Lakers after Magic Johnson complained to the media that he wasn’t getting his way. And honestly, I don’t blame the team for not wanting to do business with Johnson. However, the reality is that the Lakers offered the best possible deal back in February and they’ll likely have the best pool of assets to complete a deal once free agency hits this summer. Especially when you consider that Kyrie Irving might be heading for the door in Boston and the Celtics might be wary about trading away half its treasure chest for a one-year (or even less) rental of Davis. Griffin isn’t going to scoff at the Lakers offer. He doesn’t care that the public might perceive a potential Davis-to-LA trade as helping out LeBron. Griffin knows that doing so is probably within the best interest of the organization that he is now tasked with running. And if he doesn’t get anything worthy of the value he’s putting out there, he won’t trade him. Simple as that.
The New Orleans Pelicans are finally a competent organization, just about seven years too late. Even still, there might be hope that Griffin and the front office can keep Davis. But if not, trading him for the best possible deal and drafting Zion Williamson isn’t a terrible way to start a rebuild.
By Eli Mitchell on ©June 02nd, 2019 @ 5:00pm
The 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup is now less than 3 months away, and the 12-man roster is beginning to take shape.
Marc Stein of the New York Times reported yesterday that former Kentucky star Anthony Davis has given strong indications that he would like to be a part of the team.
USA Basketball has begun assembling its roster for this summer’s @FIBAWC in China and has a commitment from Charlotte’s Kemba Walker as well as strong indications from New Orleans’ Anthony Davis that he would like to play, according to league sources
— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) June 2, 2019
Team USA will be coached by San Antonio Spurs Head Coach Gregg Popovich with training camp beginning in early August.
James Harden, Donovan Mitchell, and Zion Williamson are also rumored to have interest in playing on the team.
If both Davis, and Williamson decide to play it will be quite the spectacle as they may both be members of the New Orleans Pelicans this season. There’s also a real chance that Davis is traded before we ever get the chance to see them play together.
The World Cup begins on August 31st, and concludes on September 15th.
By Eli Mitchell on ©June 02nd, 2019 @ 4:00pm
In Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals DeMarcus Cousins logged 3 points, 2 assists, and 2 steals in 8 minutes of playing time.
The former Kentucky star is trying to regain confidence following a partially torn quad that left him sidelined for six-weeks. The fact that Cousins is healthy enough to play at all is a surprise in itself, at 6-foot-11, 280-pounds, recovering from an injury like that in six-weeks is quite impressive.
A free agent at the end of the season, Cousins easily could have shut it down and focused on getting healthy for next year. “Once I started feeling better and I could actually walk a little bit, I got back to work,” Cousins said. “There wasn’t a guarantee, but I just told myself I would work and give myself a chance and things worked out for me.”
Cousins never considered shutting it down as he came to Golden State with the goal of contributing to a championship.
He is fully aware that he may be putting his long-term future at risk, but insists that, “I’m not really concerned with that, if I get an opportunity to play, I’m going to put it all out there.”
The role that Cousins may play in this series is unclear as it will take a few games to truly feel comfortable following the injury. With Marc Gasol making a big impact in Game 1, Cousins could be in line for extended playing time in Game 2.
At 28 years old, Cousins will not allow adversity to deter him, no matter the circumstance.
By Zack Geoghegan on ©June 02nd, 2019 @ 2:00pm
Still looking for that special NBA team you can attach yourself to right before they turn the corner and make several playoff runs so no one can call you a bandwagon fan? Well, look no further, folks. Julius Randle apparently has interest in joining former Kentucky star Devin Booker on the Phoenix Suns, according to John Gambadoro.
Have heard that Free Agent Power Forward Julius Randle has interest in the Phoenix Suns. And I fully expect the Suns to consider him as well.
— John Gambadoro (@Gambo987) May 31, 2019
Now obviously this is far from set in stone, but it is a pairing that makes sense, especially if the Suns do have a mutual interest. Randle could get a long term deal from Phoenix in the price range that matches his value (I’d guess anywhere from $18-22 million per season) and he would be a key piece to the future of the franchise.
With Booker tied along for another five seasons, Deandre Ayton entering the second year of his rookie-scale contract, and the No. 6 overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, Phoenix could build a core around those three pieces plus Randle. Ideally, they’ll use this pick on a point guard to slot next to Booker.
The Randle and Ayton pairing could be a brute force in the paint and if Ayton can come along on the defensive end, the two could build a deadly frontcourt duo.
Since the New Orleans Pelicans future is dependent on an inevitable Anthony Davis trade, and even more inevitably, the drafting of Zion Williamson, Randle might not even be a piece that the Pelicans wish to continue with. A full rebuild might be in order for New Orleans. Randle is only 24 and coming off the best season of his career. He’s going to be looking for a team that can prioritize him in both the offense and on the salary sheet. Phoenix fits that description quite well.
The forward averaged 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game in 73 appearances as a member of the Pelicans last season while shooting over 52 percent from the field.
John Wall is inching his way back to the hardwood.
The former Wildcat and five-time NBA All-Star slipped and ruptured his Achilles in February. Four months after the surgical repair, Wall is in Miami to train with David Alexander, the first step in his road to recovery.
Less than four months after surgery to repair his ruptured Achiles, John Wall is back training (via flaveforreal/IG) pic.twitter.com/3eSrfwxIL8
— Hoop District (@HoopDistrictDC) May 25, 2019
After pushing the Boston Celtics to a game seven in the second round of the 2017 NBA Playoffs, Wall has played in only 73 games over the last two seasons. Wall’s string of recent injuries has put the Wizards behind the eight-ball, but the ownership is not pushing for him to return anytime soon. He could miss the entire 2019-20 season.
“John looks fantastic. He just looks ready to play. My concern is the other way,” said owner Ted Leonosis. “If it takes the whole season, we don’t care. We are not putting any pressure on you.”
By Nick Roush on ©June 01st, 2019 @ 11:00am
If the NBA Playoffs don’t produce fireworks, the players will do just that on Jimmy Kimmel Live.
A tradition unlike any other, Kimmel brings on a dozen NBA players to read Tweets from their harshest critics. This year Karl Towns got in on the action. You’ll see a different side of of the former Cat, but I must admit, his response was not nearly as funny as the Lopez twins.
By Nick Roush on ©May 31st, 2019 @ 11:20am
Now that the dust has settled from the NBA Draft deadline and the draft order is set, the mock drafters are hard at work to provide updated information. The good news for the Cats — not much has changed.
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie updated his Top 100 rankings following Wednesday’s decisions. All three draft-eligible Kentucky Wildcats are hovering near the end of the lottery.
17. P.J. Washington
20. Tyler Herro
22. Keldon Johnson
Only 20 days away from the NBA Draft, Cal’s Cats have less than three weeks to move up or down draft boards. After a few pro days, they’ll soon begin individual workouts with teams, their last chance to make a draftable impression.
Good morning, folks. DeMarcus Cousins is officially the first Calipari-coached Kentucky player to play in the Finals. Let’s talk NBA Playoffs.
(1) Warriors – 109 @ (2) Raptors – 118 (TOR leads 1-0)
- Game 1 is in the books and this series is already 100 times better than anyone expected it to be. The Raptors employed a near-perfect defensive strategy against the Warriors and managed to prevent Golden State from going on one of its infamous third-quarter runs (or any run, for that matter). You know the ones. Where Steph Curry and Klay Thompson make five triples in a matter of two minutes. Those type of demoralizing runs that have you contemplating if you chose the right sport or not. But every time it looked like the Warriors might spurt off a 10-0 run, Toronto had an answer. But, mainly, it had Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Siakam.
- Leonard posted 23 points, eight rebounds, and five assists after a slow start to open the game. The Warriors did a devastating job on trapping Leonard with quick-hitting blitzes out of the pick-and-roll, forcing the ball out of the Raptors best player’s hands. Leonard shot only 5-14 from the field and was constantly hounded whenever he had the ball. Golden State came out with a clear gameplan; make anyone other than Leonard win this game. The only problem? Siakam rose to the occasion in spectacular fashion. The likely winner of the Most Improved Player award finished with 32 points on 14-17 shooting (at one point in the game he made 10 straight field goals) to go along with eight rebounds and five assists. With Leonard as the primary, secondary, and tertiary focus of the Warriors, that opened up highway like lanes for Siakam, who drove right down every single one. The heart and pride of Wichita State, Fred VanVleet, drilled four made triples and finished with 15 points, as well.
- Marc Gasol also played an amazing game for Toronto, contributing 20 points and seven rebounds while playing some of the best defense on the pick-and-roll against Curry that I’ve seen in some time. Gasol was channeling his inner 2013 Defensive Player of the Year Gasol and the Raptors suffocated the Warriors two best shooters all night long. With Curry and Thompson on the floor surrounded by Andre Iguodala, Draymond Green, and Kevon Looney (which was the closing Warriors lineup in Game 1), there was little spacing. The two best shooters in the history of the game had little room to operate. This is where the return of Kevin Durant becomes a bigger talking point. Because after Thursday night, it was more than clear that Durant could have won this game. Leonard was even noticeably limping throughout the game but with no one to attack him on the defensive end that advantage was gone. Curry still ended up with 34 points and Thompson added another 21, but those Warriors bench units did not look great together. The latest update on Durant is that he’s expected to return during the midway point of the series.
- Now let’s talk about Cousins, who played eight minutes and registered three points, two assists, and two steals. Good news first: Cousins’ playmaking was not rusty at all. He dished out three impressive passes – two of which were converted for assists – when working in the post and he hasn’t lost much of his touch in that area. The bad news is basically everything else. He was getting sauced up in the pick-and-roll. Missed an open three. Was gassed after about three minutes. It wasn’t a perfect debut for Cousins by any means, and if Gasol is going to be playing this well all series, Cousins may be more of a necessity than previously thought. That’s if he can find a groove. But if Kevon Looney plays as well as he did in Game 1 (nine points and three rebounds in 28 minutes), head coach Steve Kerr could continue to roll with whats working.
- Lastly, we’ve got Drake beef! After the game was over and I pinched myself a few hundred times to make sure the final score was real, the ESPN cameras caught Drake and Draymond Green exchanging words, talking about lord knows what. Then Curry got involved, too. Notice that Drake is wearing a Dell Curry (father of Steph) Raptors jersey from when he played in Toronto years ago.
Drake with the smirk and trash talk for Draymond Green pic.twitter.com/QKDEIYUXsH
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) May 31, 2019
- Put on your lip-reading glasses, folks, because it sure does look like Drake calls Green “trash” and MANNNNN I sure hope he did. You know Draymond isn’t going to let this slide. I’ll take one order of Game 2, on the fly, please.
- Then Drake went and posted a picture of a piece of Curry’s hair on Instagram because why the hell not? Nothing else about this NBA has made sense so let’s get absolutely ignorant with it.
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|DeMarcus Cousins (GSW)||109-118 L @ TOR||3||0-2 (0-1)||0||2||2||0||1||-1||8|
|Jodie Meeks (TOR)||118-109 W vs. GSW||DNP-CD||--||--||--||--||--||--||--||--|
Sunday, June 2nd – 8:00 P.M. EST (ABC)
The BBNBA might not be well-represented during the upcoming 2019 NBA Finals, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t going to be an insane series with plenty of in-game storylines.
While we wait on the status of DeMarcus Cousins and his availability, fans of former Kentucky Wildcats will have to satisfy their basketball craving with the elite level talents of Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, and Kawhi Leonard (and maybe Kevin Durant?). It’s tragic how spoiled we are. Hopefully Jodie Meeks can steal some minutes here and there, too (Meeks has appeared in 13 of the Raptors 18 playoffs games averaging only five minutes per game. He did not play in Game 5 or 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals in which Toronto won both).
So this BBNBA Finals preview is going to be a lot of non-BBNBA related topics. Let’s get right into it starting with some injury updates.
DeMarcus Cousins’ torn quad
As of Thursday morning, the latest on Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins is that he is “pain-free”, according to head coach Steve Kerr, and he is listed as active for Game 1.
Warriors’ DeMarcus Cousins will be active to play for Game 1 of the NBA Finals after suffering a torn quad in the first round.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 30, 2019
“He’s done an incredible job of rebounding, rehabbing,” Kerr said. “Now here he is, he’s scrimmaged a couple times this week. He’s pain-free. So it’s really more a matter of rhythm and timing and conditioning, all those things.”
Cousins hasn’t played since tearing his quadriceps during Game 3 of the Western Conference first round against the Los Angeles Clippers. The injury was thought to have ended any hopes of him playing in the postseason, but Cousins looks to be on the verge of a return.
But the real issue here will be if Cousins does play. Golden State has waltzed to the NBA Finals without him – and five games without Durant – by playing through Curry. They don’t necessarily desire a big man who needs the ball in his hands, especially one coming off yet another devastating injury. The risk of trying too hard to reincorporate Cousins could derail everything the Warriors have built over the last month. Obviously bringing Cousins back would be a massive bonus on paper, but matching up against Marc Gasol won’t be ideal, either. Even at 34 years old, Gasol is still a viable defender on the block and an excellent playmaker. He’ll feast on the opportunity to work Cousins in pick-and-rolls, testing that quad every trip down the floor. Playing Cousins when the Raptors go small doesn’t sound like fun at all. He’ll be gassed after two minutes of chasing Pascal Siakam around the baseline.
Cousins was incredibly turnover prone during the 30 games he played this season following a torn Achilles. I don’t think the Warriors can afford to run a bunch of test trials to see just how good that leg feels. If Cousins doesn’t contribute immediately, he might not find much time after that.
Kevin Durant’s calf strain
Durant – unlike Cousins – hasn’t returned to practice ever since straining his calf in Game 5 against the Houston Rockets in the Western Conference Semifinals. Durant has already been ruled out for Game 1 and his return is still up in the air. But unlike Cousins, Durant being out is a much bigger deal.
The former MVP was the best player in the playoffs up until his injury. He made averaging 34 points per game look like he was playing against Junior Varsity squads. He morphs Golden State from simply the favorites to world beaters. The Warriors don’t need Kevin Durant to win the Finals, but they’ll absolutely take him. Despite all of the negative media attention and KD-to-NY rumors, his return would shift the entire trajectory of this series in Golden State’s favor. He’s traveling to Toronto with the team, so he could theoretically still play in Game 2, but as of right now I’m going to work under the assumption that he’ll be out a good chunk of this series. The longer he’s out, the longer I think this series goes.
The Raptors will be playing in the franchise’s first-ever NBA Finals after taking down the Milwaukee Bucks in six games during the Eastern Conference Finals. Led by Kawhi Leonard, who was the NBA Finals MVP back in 2014 when he was coming into his own with the Spurs, Toronto has a bonafide superstar. One that can match up just as well – if not better – with anyone on the Warriors roster. During his playoff run this season, Leonard has averaged 31.2 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists through 18 games on shooting splits of 50.7/38.8/87.5 (FG%/3PT/FT%). He’s the one player that the Raptors can rely on every single night to play to the best of his ability.
Leonard has been unstoppable. With Durant out and LeBron James at home eating tacos, Leonard is the best basketball player in the world right now. He struck a dagger into the heart of Philadelphia and sent the supposed MVP packing in his home arena. If there is one thing I will all but guarantee, it’s that Leonard will win at least one for the Raptors game by himself. The longer Durant is out, the more flexibility Leonard will have on offense. He should average upwards of 30 points per game.
But outside of Leonard is a loaded bench that all made major contributions when their team needed them the most. Players such as Pascal Siakam, Marc Gasol, Fred VanVleet, Norman Powell, and Serge Ibaka have all had bursts of productivity that have saved this team time and time again. VanVleet’s seven triples in Game 5. Powell scoring 19 points in Game 3 then another 18 in Game 4. Gasol posted 16 points, 12 rebounds, and seven assists in Game 3. It’s been a collective effort that starts with Leonard and goes all the way down to the eighth-man.
The only player for Toronto who has struggled is Danny Green. The former Spur has played poorly on both ends of the court throughout the playoffs and the Raptors are going to need his versatility to defend Steph Curry/Klay Thompson. Green shot worse than 19 percent from the field against the Bucks and made only four of his 23 attempts from the beyond the arc. But let’s also not forget that Green is the best three-point shooter in NBA Finals history dating back to his days in San Antonio alongside Leonard. He’s a career 52 percent three-point shooter in the Finals and made a then NBA Finals record of 27 three-pointers back in 2014 against the LeBron James-led Miami Heat. He’s 31 years old now, but he has history and familiarity on his side. If Green were to pick a time to channel his inner 26-year old, Thursday night is the perfect opportunity.
The key for Toronto is going to be its ability to score enough points to keep up with the bucket getting Warriors. Golden State leads all teams in the postseason averaging over 117 points per game. Even without Durant, the Warriors have been lighting teams up – averaging over 115 points in the five playoff games they’ve played without him. The Raptors, on the other hand, have topped out at slightly under 105 points per game this postseason. It’s the stout defense holding teams to fewer than 100 points per playoff game that allowed Toronto to suffocate the NBA’s highest-scoring regular season offense (Toronto held Milwaukee to 106 points per game, compared to the 118 they averaged during the regular season).
But against the Warriors, don’t plan on consistently holding them to under 100, no matter how well the defense is playing. There is no sound gameplan to defend Golden State other than mixing it up as often as possible and keeping them on their toes. Becoming fixated on one scheme – even if it’s effective – will ultimately blow up in the face of the Raptors. Draymond Green has read defenses in these playoffs better than nearly anyone. Figuring out who among Kyle Lowry and Danny Green (or even worse, VanVleet) is the best matchup to guard Curry/Thompson is going to be a constant battle.
With Durant out, Leonard can guard more of Thompson and Curry throughout the game. Toronto – outside of Gasol – has switchable players across the board. Siakam, and to a lesser extent, Ibaka, have the capability to guard positions 3 through 5. When Golden State goes small and plays Draymond Green at center, Toronto’s bigs will have switch every single time. How they react to those switches could be a deciding factor of the series.
Golden State Warriors
There isn’t much to be said about the Warriors that hasn’t already been said. They come into the Finals with two straight championships and three in the past four years. They are a borderline dynasty with supreme confidence entering a familiar atmosphere. Only Leonard, Green, and Ibaka for Toronto have tasted the NBA Finals. The entire Warriors roster plans their future summers around playing June basketball.
Steph Curry has absolutely scorched the opponent with Durant out in the playoffs. In four games against the Trail Blazers and one against the Rockets, Curry poured in nearly 36 points per game while shooting 41.7 percent from deep (and that’s taking nearly 15 threes per game). No Durant means more Curry and I’m not sure Toronto would prefer it that way. Thompson is also averaging 22.6 points in those same five games while shooting 40 percent on nine threes per game. And when teams trap those two, it opens up drop off passes to Green who then has access to easy driving lanes, which he has executed perfectly all postseason.
The “resurrection” of Green during this playoff run has been a welcome sight for the Warriors. The 28-year old ramped up his effort once the postseason kicked off and his playmaking has launched this team back into the position of favorites. He’s damn near averaging a triple-double. When teams blitz Curry or Thompson, it opens up 4-on-3 or 3-on-2 opportunities for Green to drive downhill against a gapping (and still recovering) defense.
Andre Iguodala and Thompson will likely guard Leonard throughout the series while Curry is hidden on whoever is deemed the most ineffective at the time – likely one of VanVleet, Powell, Danny Green. Defending Gasol will be the biggest challenge. Milwaukee’s gameplan was to just let him shoot instead of allowing him to make plays with his passing, although Gasol ended up shooting 41.4 percent from deep. Odds are Golden State will try to bait him into the same thing, especially when Cousins isn’t on the floor. The Warriors will need to keep Gasol from penetrating and working in the pick-and-rolls where he’s been most effective in the playoffs. Slotting an active Draymond Green on Gasol could be the simple way to prevent that. 6-foot-9 Kevon Looney has provided some great minutes for Golden State as of late, too.
The potential long-term absences of Cousins and especially Durant are massive losses for Golden State. Durant has been the team’s “break in case of emergency” guy all season long. He was the best player in the playoffs before the calf injury. Losing him gives Toronto a much bigger chance than if he were in. But even without Durant, the Warriors still swept the Portland Trail Blazers last round. Curry’s shooting is otherworldly right now and Draymond Green has masked any and every hole the Warriors might expose.
My gut says this series goes six games with Golden State taking home its third straight championship. I’m almost tempted to pick the Warriors in five if I knew more about Durant’s return. As I said earlier, I expect Leonard to find a way to win a game by himself. Toronto has homecourt advantage. The likelihood of a sweep is minimal even with a healthy Durant.
This is a Finals with plenty of storylines. Durant and Leonard’s upcoming free agency. The potential end of the Warriors era. Toronto’s first-ever Finals appearance. Drake, I’m sure. This isn’t going to be another four-game sweep of a broken Cleveland Cavaliers squad. The Raptors do have a chance to win this thing – although low, in my estimation – and it’s going to be up to Kawhi Leonard to lead them.
Warriors in 6
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 30th, 2019 @ 2:00pm
Game One of the NBA Finals between the Warriors and the Raptors is tonight and DeMarcus Cousins is ACTIVE. Oh yes, after suffering a torn quad in Game Two of the Warriors’ opening round series vs. the Clippers almost seven weeks ago, Boogie has been cleared to return to the court just in time to help Golden State get another ring.
Here’s a crazy stat from ESPN: if Boogie does go, he’ll be the first Kentucky player coached by John Calipari to play in the NBA Finals. He returned to practice this week and according to Steve Kerr, has been pain-free, but how will his body react to being thrown into the fire of the NBA Finals? Draymond Green had a great quote about it yesterday:
Draymond Green on DeMarcus Cousins getting dropped into the Finals after a lengthy injury rehab: "It's kind of like some kid who grew up in the suburbs going to private school and then one day you just got dropped in the hood and told to survive." Full soundbite. pic.twitter.com/Jnvcs7Bzms
— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) May 29, 2019
You got this, Boogie. Game One tips off at 9 p.m. on ABC.
By Maggie Davis on ©May 29th, 2019 @ 10:15pm
It’s been a physically and emotionally-draining couple of weeks for Demarcus Cousins. A partially-torn quad against the Los Angeles Clippers, once thought to be a season-ending injury, caused the big man to miss all but two playoff games. Now, could he finally be ready to hit the court again?
“I am healthy enough to play,” Cousins says. “It’s just a matter of when.”
In a new feature for ESPN, Cousins discusses the injury and his tough road to recovery. The former Cat has been very forthcoming about the challenges he’s faced, mentally and physically, at one point acknowledging his “frustration, anger, sadness and all of the above” for not being able to compete with his teammates.
“It was tough. It took me a few days to get over trying to figure out ‘why’ and say alright, let’s fight through this and get to the next point,” Cousins told ESPN’s Marc J. Spears. “Once I got through those dog days, I just got back to work. It’s all I could do.”
The full interview will air on ESPN this Sunday at 9 a.m., but you can get a sneak peak by watching the video below, which shows Cousins getting back to work on the basketball court.
“I’m healthy enough to play, it’s just a matter of when” – @boogiecousins
— E:60 (@E60) May 28, 2019
As for the NBA finals, things are still a bit cloudy. Golden State’s head coach Steve Kerr said Cousins has been practicing, but he’s not sure if the timing will be right to use him in the finals.
“If this were the regular season, I would throw him out there and he would play whatever minutes he could tolerate and we would build him up from there,” Kerr said during a press conference Wednesday. “This is not the regular season. This is the Finals. So we have to figure out what’s the best way to utilize him, how many minutes can he play, what the game feels like, what the match-ups are like.”
Draymond Green was more forward in his comparison between the regular season and the NBA Finals.
“It’s kind of like some kid who grew up in the suburbs going to private school, and then one day you just got dropped in the ‘hood and was told to survive. You got to figure that out. It’s very similar to that.”
Cousins seems a bit more optimistic, who says he’s “healed for the most part.” But does he expect to play in game one against the Toronto Raptors this Thursday?
By Maggie Davis on ©May 29th, 2019 @ 9:00pm
Adrian Wojnarowski has had quite the afternoon. One minute, he’s breaking the news about EJ Montgomery’s plans to return to Kentucky for a sophomore season, and the next, he’s weighing in on Anthony Davis’ next move. According to the NBA insider, Davis, along with his agent Rich Paul, met with the Pelicans’ executive vice president, David Griffin in Los Angeles Wednesday morning.
Davis requested a trade away from New Orleans back in January, and Griffin was hired in April. Woj’s sources say the duo is expected to continue a dialogue in the near future.
New Orleans star Anthony Davis and Pels EVP David Griffin met this morning in Los Angeles and are expected to continue a dialogue moving forward, league sources tell ESPN. Griffin is making his case to AD on a future with the Pelicans. Davis can be a free agent next summer.
— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) May 29, 2019
However, this dialogue may not be positive for the Pelicans.
Shams Charania, the senior NBA analyst for The Athletic, says his sources believe “it’s highly unlikely Davis’ stance changes on trade.”
While New Orleans Pelicans executive Vice President David Griffin and All-Star Anthony Davis‘ agent Rich Paul will continue discussions, it’s highly unlikely Davis‘ stance changes on trade, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 29, 2019
New Orleans could have eager trade suitors – including the Los Angeles Lakers and Clippers, the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks, for example – should Griffin engage in trade talks, but so far that hasn’t happened, Wojnarowski’s sources say. Instead, the Pelicans are trying to convince Anthony Davis to stay in New Orleans and pair up with another No. 1 pick – Zion Williamson.
Davis is eligible to sign a five-year, $235.5 million supermax contract extension on July 1.
Today is a big day for Anthony Davis’ future in New Orleans.
According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, the former Kentucky superstar is set to meet with Pelicans executive Vice President David Griffin this afternoon to discuss his future with the organization.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 29, 2019
According to Pelicans beat writer Will Guillory, the meeting will take place today in Los Angeles, where a “small group of people” representing New Orleans plan on selling Davis on Griffin’s most recent moves as the team’s VP, pairing up with former Duke star Zion Williamson, and what the organization can do to put other pieces around the former Wildcat if he decides to stay.
“I can confirm [Shams Charania’s] report that the meeting between AD/David Griffin will be happening today in LA,” Guillory said on Twitter. “Will be a small group of people on the Pelicans’ side. The plan is to sell him on everything Griff has done since his arrival, a future with Zion and other moves that can be made if they get a commitment from AD.”
Davis originally demanded a trade from New Orleans back in January with his eyes set on landing with an organization where he can compete for championships on a consistent basis.
“Anthony wants to be traded to a team that allows him the chance to win consistently and compete for a championship,” Davis’ agent, Rich Paul, told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The 6-foot-11 forward decided to play out the rest of the year with the team, but even after New Orleans won the right to draft Zion Williamson during the NBA Draft Lottery, Davis has made it clear that his thoughts on a trade have not changed.
The New Orleans Pelicans are now set up to be Zion Williamson’s franchise to lift, and No. 1 pick could ease potential trade of Anthony Davis. His stance on a trade has not changed, league sources tell @TheAthleticNBA @Stadium.
— Shams Charania (@ShamsCharania) May 15, 2019
After his meeting with the organization today, we’ll find out if those bridges can be built back or if Davis is hellbent on leaving.
From there, trade discussions will almost certainly ramp up, but will they be to send the former Wildcat out or bring in more help to give him the contender he’s been begging for in New Orleans.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 29th, 2019 @ 12:15pm
NBA speedster and renowned sneakerhead De’Aaron Fox has a new shoe coming out this weekend, and to hype the release, Nike made a movie trailer. Check out “Lightspeed,” a Stranger Things-esque promo for Fox’s Air Max 1 Swipa:
Here’s a closer look at the limited edition shoes, which feature Fox’s nickname “Swipa” on the heels, his jersey number on each tongue tag, and math equations on the insole, a nod to his interest in astronomy.
Want a pair? According to Complex, the shoe drops tomorrow at 10 a.m. at House of Hoops, FootLocker.com, and other select Foot Locker locations.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 29th, 2019 @ 11:30am
The Miami Heat have the No. 13 pick in next month’s NBA Draft, and according to a new report, they’re looking hard at Kentucky’s three draft prospects.
The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson is reporting that the Heat have scheduled a private workout with PJ Washington and plan to bring in Tyler Herro and Keldon Johnson as well.
“The Heat’s interest in Kentucky prospects is not surprising,” Jackson writes. “Heat president Pat Riley attended school there and keeps a close eye on the Wildcats program. Coach John Calipari often produces NBA-ready prospects. And the Heat’s most recent first-round pick, Bam Adebayo, played at Kentucky.”
Back in 2017, Riley made it his mission to draft Adebayo with Miami’s No. 14 pick, in part because Bam’s a beast, but also because he admires what Calipari’s doing at Kentucky.
“I’m a big fan of what John [Calipari] does from a coaching standpoint at Kentucky. He comes from a great system,” Riley said. “What [Calipari] said to me was, [Bam] was a great teammate, a wonderful teammate to have. When we talked to him, he had a level of maturity about him, a quietness about him that we really liked.”
Calipari brings up his conversations with Riley a lot as proof Kentucky best prepares players for the league.
“Pat Riley gave me one of the greatest compliments about what we do,” Cal said at a coaching clinic earlier this month. “He said, ‘Your players are some of the best teammates in the NBA.'”
"Pat Riley gave me one of the greatest compliments about what we do. He said, 'Your players are some of the best teammates in the NBA.'"Coach Cal's vision for UK's culture starts in recruiting. You can watch his full discussion on building and sustaining a culture of excellence at www.CoachCal.com.
Posted by CoachCal.com on Monday, May 13, 2019
Will another former Cat join Bam in Miami? If Riley has his way, it sounds like it.
By Mrs. Tyler Thompson on ©May 29th, 2019 @ 10:00am
Yesterday, The Academy at Shawnee middle school in Louisville celebrated the opening of its new library with an assist from an NBA All-Star. Louisville native and Los Angeles Lakers guard Rajon Rondo donated books and $20,000 through his foundation to help redesign the newly named Book Bungalow at Shawnee in hopes of creating a safe place for students to relax and be inspired.
“I’m a big believer in giving back to the community, especially being a Louisville native. I wouldn’t be where I am today if I didn’t have people to give back,” Rondo said at the ribbon cutting ceremony. “I think God put me here to be in a position to give back. Certain people make it for certain reasons, but I think my calling is to be able to touch as many kids as possible, starting right here in Louisville, in my hometown.”
"I'm a big believer in giving back to the Louisville community." @NBA star @RajonRondo helped ?? the ribbon on the "Book Bungalow" at @ShawneeMS1 Tuesday! Rondo and his foundation are helping support this new library space where students can read. #WeAreJCPS ? pic.twitter.com/yjDKzZt7q5
— JCPS (@JCPSKY) May 28, 2019
This is far from Rondo’s first charitable act in his hometown; last fall, he also paid for blazers and ties for all 157 students in the inaugural class at DuBois Academy and gave shoes to students with high achievements in the first semester.
Good on ya, Rondo. Hopefully there are some Connect Four boards should you ever come back to visit.
Former Kentucky walk-on and future NBA superstar?
At least one NBA Draft board thinks there is a very, very slim chance.
DraftSite.com released their latest 2019 NBA Mock Draft Big Board, and Jonny David made the cut.
You might have to scroll a little while to get there, but the 6-foot-2 point guard showed up near the bottom of the list at No. 259 overall.
After David was informed of his impeccable draft stock on Twitter, he unleashed his inner Lloyd Christmas:
Sooooo you’re telling me there’s a chance!!! https://t.co/wXYPsXWzJJ
— Jonny David (@JonnyDavid) May 28, 2019
Looking elsewhere on the mock draft, it’s definitely… something.
Kentucky’s Keldon Johnson came in at No. 13 overall, followed by PJ Washington at No. 15, and Tyler Herro at No. 23. Probably need to switch Johnson and Herro, but overall, not horrible.
From there, though, the entire thing is a mess.
Going down the list a little bit, Ashton Hagans, who is returning for a sophomore season at Kentucky, is listed at No. 52, with Reid Travis coming in at No. 58, Immanuel Quickley (also returning) at No. 86, EJ Montgomery at No. 94, and Nick Richards at No. 95.
In other interesting names on the list, former Wildcats Quade Green and Sacha Killeya-Jones came in at No. 70 and 146, respectively, while potential Virginia Tech grad transfer and UK target Kerry Blackshear Jr. is listed at No. 155 overall.
While there are plenty of head-scratchers on there, the only thing that matters is that Jonny David is a top-260 draft prospect. That’s all I need to know.
By Drew Franklin on ©May 27th, 2019 @ 4:00pm
DraftExpress.com released a new video of Tyler Herro during Herro’s time in Chicago for the combine. The popular NBA draft website sat down with the former Kentucky Wildcat during one of Herro’s pre-draft workouts on the University of Illinois at Chicago’s campus.
In the interview, Herro says he is determined to be one of the best to ever play the game.