Draymond on Boogie’s return: ‘like …one day you just got dropped in the ‘hood and was told to survive.’

2019 NBA Finals: How Warriors should use DeMarcus Cousins vs. Raptors

Monte Poole | NBC SPORTS 

TORONTO – It has become apparent that the Warriors have a crucial decision to make and that they’ll have to proceed with extreme skill throughout the process.

What to do with DeMarcus Cousins, who will be active for Game 1 of the NBA Finals?

Cousins was the starting center until he went down with a torn left quadriceps muscle on April 15 in the first round of the NBA playoffs. Six weeks later, with the NBA Finals on deck, he says he’s “healed for the most part” and clearly is anxious to play.

Coach Steve Kerr says Boogie is pain-free but also that many other factors must be weighed before reaching a decision on when and how to use the most skilled center on the roster.

“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 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 matchups are like. Some of that will be determined by what’s happening in the game, and the other stuff is just internal with our staff.”

It would be risky to put Cousins in the starting lineup immediately after such a long layoff. It might be risky, with so much on the line, to put Cousins on the floor at all.

But it would be a waste of his gifts to restrict him to the bench and lean solely on the centers utilized in his absence. Kerr has manned the position with five different players, from Andrew Bogut and Kevon Looney, to Jordan Bell and Damian Jones, with Draymond Green also sliding over from power forward.

Nobody on the team is closer to Cousins than is Green, who acknowledged that Boogie would have a lot to overcome.

“A huuuuuge challenge,” he said. “When you talk about DeMarcus, he’s someone who’s been great in this league for years now. He’s probably not played basketball what, 16 out of the last 19 months, so that right there alone is a challenge in itself. Then you start to talk playoff experience, where you and I both know the intensity level is completely different than a regular-season game, and he doesn’t have much playoff experience. And then you get dropped in 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.”

An important part of the equation is Cousins’ desire to play. He’s rehabbing regularly in an effort to participate in a Finals for the first time in his eight-year career. If it were up to him, he’d be on the court for the opening tip Thursday night.

“That’s the thing, it’s never really up to me,” he said. “We’ll put our heads together and come up with the best plan moving forward.”

Asked about his readiness, Cousins was honest as usual.

”That’s hard to determine with most athletes,” he said. “We’re stubborn. We’re bullheaded. We feel like we can fight through anything. And that’s not always the best case for the individual. So obviously we’ll come together and figure out the best plan for me.”

The best plan, at least at the start, would seem to be playing Cousins off the bench. Evaluate his rhythm and fitness level in game conditions. If he is effective, stay with that plan. If he is not, have a chat with the big man.

Which brings us back to Green’s “suburban kid in the ‘hood” analogy.

“You just revert to what you know. You do whatever it is that you know,” Green said. “You just try to do that to survive. Well, one thing we do know is DeMarcus is a great basketball player. So, at that point then you just go out there and you do what you’re great at. And everything else will fall in line.

“But I think it’s also on us,” Green added. “You know that kid has a much better chance of surviving if he gets with the right group of friends in that neighborhood. It’s on us as his teammates to help pull him through, to get whatever we can out of him to help make us a better team and do whatever we can to put him in the best position to be successful.”

The Raptors are going to start Marc Gasol at center. He’s 7-foot-1, 260 pounds. Cousins is a reasonable physical matchup. So, too, is Bogut.

Yet no Warriors center has been more effective this postseason than Looney, who is four inches shorter and 40 pounds lighter than Gasol.

Now that Cousins is physically cleared, he has to play. He should play. He must play.

But his every move should be studied. If he’s productive, exhale and enjoy. If he’s not, well, there are five other options.

Source

NBA FINALS • GAME 1 • WARRIORS vs. RAPTORS • GAMEDAY • May 30th 2019

SportsLine

Raptors take NBA Finals opener, beat Warriors 118-109

Associated Press

TORONTO — The first NBA Finals game outside the U.S. was a party 24 years in the making.

Then Pascal Siakam and the Raptors really gave Toronto something to celebrate.

Siakam scored a playoff career-high 32 points and the Raptors made a smashing NBA Finals debut, beating the Golden State Warriors118-109 on Thursday night.

The Raptors hardly looked like newcomers to the NBA’s biggest stage, controlling the action most of the way against a Golden State team beginning its fifth straight NBA Finals appearance.

“I think we did pretty good job at home,” Siakam said. “The fans are amazing, man. I just want to say that. From coming out for warmup to the end of the game, it was just the support and then going crazy. I’ve never seen anything like that.”

Kawhi Leonard added 23 points and Marc Gasol had 20 for the Raptors, who weren’t in awe of the setting or their opponents who had played 22 NBA Finals games in the last four years.

“We know that they’re human. They’re a great basketball team, talented players, high basketball-IQ players,” Leonard said. “You just got to go out there and compete, take the challenge.”

Stephen Curry scored 34 points and Klay Thompson had 21 for the Warriors, who had won all four Game 1s in the last four years. All those had come at home, but this time Golden State doesn’t have home-court — or home country — advantage.

“Our goal was to get one and it’s still on the table for us,” Thompson said. “So I know we’ll respond like the champions we are.”

Game 2 is Sunday night in Toronto, which is hosting an NBA Finals game for the first time after the Raptors entered the league as an expansion team in 1995.

The Raptors were perhaps a little jittery at the start, with Kyle Lowryfiring a pass well out of bounds on their first possession.

But they quickly settled in afterward, building a 10-point lead by halftime.

Siakam then went 6 for 6 in the third quarter to keep Golden State from gaining much ground, and the Raptors kept their lead around double digits for much of the final quarter, countering every attempt the Warriors made to catch up.

“We didn’t play very well tonight at all and we still had a chance the entire game,” Draymond Green said. “And it was a great atmosphere. This is a team or a city, a country, that hasn’t seen a finals ever here, so we expected it to be a great atmosphere and it was. But we can still play better and I know we will.”

All four of the Warriors’ previous finals were against LeBron Jamesand the Cleveland Cavaliers, and they struggled to figure out a new opponent. Toronto shot 50.6 percent from the field and the Warriors never found an answer for Siakam, the finalist for Most Improved Player who has a nice start for an NBA Finals MVP resume.

The native of Cameroon and nicknamed Spicy P was red hot, shooting 14 for 17 from the field — and he tipped in his own shot on the last of those misses with 54 seconds to play.

Fans began arriving at Jurassic Park outside the arena in the morning. There were lengthy lines at the arena entrances hours before the game, with some of the few fans who weren’t wearing Raptors red sticking to their original purple uniform with the dinosaur logo.

Rapper and Raptors global ambassador Drake sat in his courtside seat wearing a Curry No. 30 jersey. That’s Dell Curry, Stephen’s father who finished his career with the Raptors.

The Raptors introduced Dell Curry and some of their other former players after the first quarter, a group that included perennial All-Stars such as Tracy McGrady and Chris Bosh.

But it wasn’t until they got Leonard in a trade with San Antonio that Toronto was finally good enough to get to the NBA Finals.

He wasn’t the dominant force he was in the first three rounds, when he averaged 31.2 points. But he had eight rebounds and five assists in his first NBA Finals game since winning MVP of the 2014 championship with the Spurs.

DeMarcus Cousins made it back from a torn left quadriceps to come off the bench in his first NBA Finals game, but the Warriors remained without Kevin Durant, the MVP of the last two NBA Finals. He traveled to Toronto but it’s unclear if he’ll play before the series returns to the Bay Area, with Warriors coach Steve Kerr saying he would have to go through a practice first.

The Warriors had won every game since he got hurt in the second round but sure missed him against the Raptors, who are on a roll after falling behind 2-0 to Milwaukee in the Eastern Conference finals.

TIP-INS

Warriors: Cousins finished with three points in eight minutes. … Green had his fifth triple-double of the postseason with 10 points, 10 rebounds and assists, but shot just 2 for 9. … Golden State had a 12-game winning streak in Game 1s snapped. … Curry’s four 3-pointers gave him a record 102 in the NBA Finals and he was also 14 for 14 from the free throw line.

Raptors: Danny Green went 3 for 7 from 2-point range after he was just 4 for 23 in the conference finals. … The Raptors improved to just 4-15 in Game 1s.

DRAKE AND DRAYMOND

Green and Drake exchanged words at the end of the game, but the Warriors shot down a suggestion it was more than that.

“It wasn’t really a scuffle because I didn’t hit him and he didn’t hit me, and I didn’t push him and he didn’t push me,” Green said. “We talked. We barked a little bit, but I wouldn’t necessarily consider that a scuffle, not really what I personally would consider a scuffle.”

UP NEXT

Game 2 is Sunday night.

2019 NBA Finals Eve Miscellany Buffet (Keep Checking Back In – Fresh Servings Added All Day!)

2019 NBA Finals Eve Miscellany Buffet • Odds & Ends From Around The League Leading Up To Tip-Off On Thursday

(Come back or refresh this page every so often as it will have new items added throughout the day — and please feel free to make any suggestions below if you’d like to…)

“OKAY — WHO YA GOT ???

THE MATCHUP:

MUCH DESPISED “SUPERTEAM” CHAMPIONS VS. … NEARLY TWO WHOLE COUNTRIES?

Defending a dynasty. Will KD return and they be at full strength? How does Boogie fit in this situation? Does it really matter for the champs to three-peat?

Kawhi Leonard was just what Toronto needed to finally get to compete at the highest level… he brings championship experience and has galvanized not just his team, but an entire nation…

Is this his — and Canada’s — shining hour?

Or will the champions, led by the NBA’s only unanimous MVP – remind everyone why the word “dynasty” isn’t to be taken lightly – and secure their position even more deeply into NBA history than it is already?

Time to find out…

May 29, 2019 NBA Finals Media Availability | Full Pregame Interviews (as listed) – Game 1 | Warriors vs Raptors ….

We didn’t talk about Kawhi Leonard: Steve Kerr explains Gregg Popovich dinner | The Jump…

Steve Kerr joins Rachel Nichols and Tracy McGrady ahead of the Golden State Warriors vs. Toronto Raptors matchup in the 2019 NBA Finals, talking about playing the series in Toronto after four straight years facing LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, what was said at the Gregg Popovich dinner and whether Kawhi Leonard came up, how he’s planning for DeMarcus “Boogie” Cousins’ return, how he’s planning for Kevin Durant’s return, and more.

‘I just wanted to make that team so badly’ – Klay Thompson describes All-NBA snub | The Jump…

Klay Thompson joins Rachel Nichols and Tracy McGrady ahead of the Golden State Warriors vs. Toronto Raptors matchup in the 2019 NBA Finals, discussing his feelings when Kevin Durant went down due to injury; how he and Stephen Curry, among others, replaced the production of KD; not making the 2019 All-NBA team; defending Kawhi Leonard; finally making the All-Defensive team; and more.

Tracy McGrady tells Kyle Lowry what he likes so much about his game | The Jump…

Kyle Lowry joins Rachel Nichols and Tracy McGrady ahead of the Golden State Warriors vs. Toronto Raptors matchup in the 2019 NBA Finals, talking about his role in the playoffs, playing with Kawhi Leonard, his relationship with Masai Ujiri and DeMar DeRozan since the trade to the San Antonio Spurs, and more. He also hears T-Mac’s thoughts on Lowry’s development since they played together in Toronto years earlier.

Ranking the players in Warriors vs. Raptors: Is Kawhi No. 1? Where is the next Raptor? | The Jump…

Rachel Nichols, Ramona Shelburne and Richard Jefferson preview the Golden State Warriors vs. Toronto Raptors 2019 NBA Finals matchup, and discuss whether the Warriors are a good bet at -300 to win the series. They also discuss the player rankings in the series, with Kawhi Leonard coming out on top, but Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and possibly even Andre Iguodala appearing ahead of the next Raptor.

Can Draymond Green keep his cool vs. the Raptors, Drake in the NBA Finals? | Jalen & Jacoby…

Jalen Rose lists his keys to Game 1 of the 2019 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and the Toronto Raptors, and wonders if Draymond Green can avoid a crucial ejection with the courtside antics of Drake or the physicality of players like Serge Ibaka.

Draymond, Warriors won’t stand for Drake’s shenanigans, Kevin Durant out for Game 1 | SC with SVP…

Nick Friedell joins Scott Van Pelt to share how the Golden State Warriors plan to deal with Drake during the NBA Finals and gives the latest on Kevin Durant’s injury.

The White Jacket • NBA FINALS REFEREES… better live up to it and do their jobs right!

It’s the ultimate symbol of achievement for an NBA referee: The white jacket bestowed upon the select group of officials chosen to work the NBA Finals. Hear what referees past and present have to say about the honor.

Rockets GM says he’s open to trading entire roster to chase championship

Report: GM Daryl Morey making ‘aggresive’ moves to improve roster

Kelly Cohen | RocketsWire

Are the Houston Rockets about to blow up their roster?

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, general manager Daryl Morey is showing an “aggressive desire” to improve the team’s roster — and “all players and picks [are] available in talks.”

It is pretty unlikely that superstar James Harden going to go if something big happens with the Roser, but it is obvious that all other players under contract, which includes Chris Paul, are available to be moved.

(Photo by Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

NBA watchers knew this was going to happen after the Rockets were bounced from the playoffs for the fourth time in five seasons by the Golden State Warriors. This was supposed to be Houston’s season to finally beat the Warriors, and they appeared to have the series in their grasp when Kevin Durant went down in Game 5 with a calf injury.

But then the Rockets lost in Game 6 at home due to classic Stephen Curry heroics. Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta vowed to win a championship with Harden.

Following Fertitta’s rant, it was then reported that Morey has been given the “green light” to pay the luxury tax, as the team has no cap space. The Rockets also have no picks in the 2019 NBA draft.

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, the team has begun gauging interest in big man Clint Capela.

As RocketsWire previously reported, the Rockets have a complex payroll heading into the 2019-20 season.

The Rockets are expected to have seven players guaranteed for $117.7 million, assuming Nene opts into his $3.8 million player option. They have $4.2 million in non-guaranteed salaries toward Chris Chiozza, Michael Frazier and Isaiah Hartenstein, who is only guaranteed for $708,426. Altogether they have $122.2 million in total salaries, putting them just $7.5 million below the luxury tax. They will certainly be a luxury tax team this season once they fill out the rest of their roster.

GUARANTEED CONTRACTS FOR 2019-20

Chris Paul: $38,506,482

James Harden: $38,150,000

Clint Capela: $16,896,552

Eric Gordon: $14,057,730

P.J. Tucker: $8,349,039

Nene: $4,825,360

Are big changes about to come?

Source

New Report on Lakers: “It’s f-ing crazy over there.” – Magic responds to allegations & Vegas now even gives Dubs better chance of landing Kawhi

According to a new report, the Lakers are an even bigger mess than we thought

Nate Scott | USA TODAY SPORTS

After the Lakers’ failure to make the NBA Playoffs,team exec Magic Johnson’s surprising resignationearlier this year, and the team’s subsequent mess of a coaching search, it’s safe to assume that most NBA fans understood that the franchise was a bit of a mess.

We may not have realized the extent of it, however.

In a new story on ESPN from Baxter Holmes, the team is shown to be in complete disarray. The front office is reportedly unsure of the team’s strategy, LeBron James’ agent is sowing seeds of discontent, and players are actively confused about who is running the team.

“It’s f—-ng crazy over there,” said a former player according to the report, and all of it appears to fall at the hands of the two people who were running the team: Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka.

Johnson has since departed, publicly bashing Pelinka on his way out. But the story from Holmes paints a more full picture of everything that went wrong with the team.

It all started with the team signing LeBron James, an undoubtedly great move, followed by some very bad ones. According to the report, the coaching staff was bewildered at the talent that was put around him by Johnson and Pelinka.

From the article:

“We all had the same reaction that the basketball world did, like what the f— are we doing?” one Lakers coaching staff member told ESPN. “Not only are we not getting shooting, but we’re also getting every basket case left on the market.”

“We were all confused,” a front office staffer said. “All of it made no sense.”

Another major revelation: According to the report, LeBron James’ agent Rich Paul was actively trying to sabotage Luke Walton as the head coach of the Lakers, letting anyone who would listen to him — including NBA Commissioner Adam Silver — know that he thought Walton was ill-equipped to lead the team.

That’s not totally unusual, as agents will often petition for their players to get coaches in they want to play with. What was unusual, according to the report, was that Paul was granted unusually close access to the team, including flying on the team’s charter plane for away games.

All that led to a complete mess for the culture of the squad and the coaches.

From the article:

Given those perceptions, one former Lakers player described Paul’s presence on the team charter as a “culture killer.”

“Coaches know Rich is trying to get them fired, and players know Rich is trying to get them traded,” said one agent with ties to the Lakers, who called Paul’s presence on the plane “destructive.”

Given Klutch’s access, rival agents — even those representing players on the roster — said they were wary of allowing young clients to join the Lakers, fearing they’d be recruited or poached.

The reason that Paul was allowed on the team charter? Sources at the Lakers put that on Johnson and Pelinka, who were too inexperienced to handle someone like Paul, and perhaps too checked out to understand what his presence was doing to the team’s chemistry.

There’s a lot more from the article. Go read it over at ESPN.

Source

Magic Johnson denies that he abused Lakers employees: ‘That’s not what I’m all about’

Jason Owens | Yahoo Sports

The season of tumult surrounding the Los Angeles Lakers hit yet another new height Tuesday with the bombshell exposé from ESPN’s Baxter Holmes further shedding light on the dysfunction of the Magic Johnson-Rob Pelinka era.

In addition to stories about Pelinka being labeled as a pathological liar and Linda Rambis acting as a “shadow owner” to influence the decisions of controlling owner and friend Jeanie Buss, the piece cited multiple sources describing Johnson as a “fear monger” who allegedly fostered a working environment that led to two employees having panic attacks that required medication and therapy for one of them.

Magic Johnson defends himself

Johnson appeared on ESPN Tuesday afternoon for a previously scheduled appearance on an NBA Finals preview special with network personalities Stephen A. Smith and Michael Wilbon.

Before getting on with the business of talking Warriors and Raptors, Johnson was compelled to defend himself. Sitting alongside two of the biggest Magic Johnson cheerleaders in sports media, he did so against a report that came from the very same network’s internet arm.

Magic: ‘I’ve never abused an employee’

“I’ve never sat in an HR person’s office in 35 years,” Johnson said. “Two years with the Lakers, no HR appearance. Do you think Jeannie Buss would allow me to abuse the employees?

“It never happened. I’m a person who brings everybody together, uplifts the employees. I’ve never abused an employee. I never will. That’s not what I’m all about.”

Johnson talks Rich Paul

Johnson also addressed the report that LeBron James’ agent Rich Paul had significant influence on the running of the team and that his appearance on team flights created discord among coaches and players who believed he was maneuvering to have them removed.

Johnson explained that Paul had access to the team because he represents two Lakers players — James and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope — and that he green-lit Paul to fly back with the team from Brooklyn, but just on one occasion.

Magic: Don’t call me lazy

He also addressed reports that he was not active in his role a president of basketball operations and insinuations that he was lazy.

“I have built a $600 million business,” Johnson said. “You cannot be lazy going from playing basketball and winning five championships. So I wasn’t lazy as a player, and I’m not lazy as a CEO and a business owner.”

Hiatus from Lakers talk

Citing a desire to get the Lakers out of the news cycle, Johnson promised that Tuesday was the last time he would talk about the Lakers until a scheduled July appearance to discuss offseason moves on Smith’s morning show “First Take,” the same platform he used to rip Pelinka with his own Lakers exposé last week.

But before embarking on his Lakers-talk hiatus, he once again focused on the accusations that he mistreated employees, an assertion that defies his image as affable, gregarious and a genuinely nice guy. He acknowledged that there were tensions at times among employees, but that it was part of his doing his job.

‘OK if you wanna try and lie about Magic’

“I’m a guy that will tell you the truth,” Johnson said. “A lot of Lakers employees didn’t like that I held them accountable. That’s what my job was. Did I have to fire some people? Yes. Because we had to bring about change to get better.

“Nobody has every called me and said ‘Magic mistreated an employee.’ Ever. And that will never happen. … It’s OK if you wanna try and lie on Magic. Go ahead. But I know the truth. Jeannie knows the truth. If I had disrespected somebody, she would have called me in the office.”

Source

NBA odds: Warriors now have better chance signing Kawhi Leonard than Lakers

Dalton Johnson | NBC SPORTS 

As the Warriors attempt to become the first team to three-peat since the Lakers of the early 2000s, there’s been one big question hanging over the team — what will Kevin Durant do this summer in free agency? 

The same can’t be said to same extent with the Raptors, but Toronto has their own superstar in the NBA Finals who very well could be out there door. Like Durant, many people expect Kawhi Leonard to find a new team this summer. 

Caesars Palace Sports Book currently has the Clippers as the favorites to sign Leonard with -200 odds. The Raptors are right behind them, but there’s quite the surprising team with the fourth-best odds, well ahead of the Lakers.

Could the Warriors really go from Durant to Leonard as their next superstar? Well, it wouldn’t exactly be that easy. 

Contractually, the Warriors couldn’t just hand the money they’d save to Leonard if Durant leaves. A move like this would require quite the roster shakeup, most likely to core players like Klay Thompson — who is a free agent this summer — or Draymond Green. 

Would the Warriors consider it, though? With this franchise and the opening of the Chase Center next season, never say never.

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The 2019 Finals: An Inevitable Rematch That Will Steer Tsunami Of Change Coming To The NBA This Summer

The Warriors’ last playoff battle with Kawhi Leonard set the stage for the 2019 NBA Finals

Josh Schrock | NBC SPORTS 

“I am inevitable.”

These are the words the supervillain Thanos imparts on Tony Stark in Marvel’s latest blockbuster “: Endgame.”

But they very well could have been Kawhi Leonard’s parting phrase to the Warriors the last time the dynastic force saw the two-way star in the playoffs.

It was Game 1 of the 2017 Western Conference finals.

The Warriors’ first playoff run with Kevin Durant in the fold had been flawless through the first two rounds, as Golden State swept the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round and handed the Utah Jazz the same fate in Round 2. 

Waiting for the Dubs in the conference finals was Leonard and the 61-win San Antonio Spurs, a team that believed they were better than the superteam Warriors and was thirsting to prove it.

Through the first two-and-a-half quarters of Game 1, the Warriors were in a world of trouble.

Leonard attacked Durant, Andre Iguodala, Matt Barnes and anyone the Warriors put on him, as the Spurs roared out to a 25-point lead behind Leonard’s 26 points. 

But midway through the third quarter, Leonard drilled a corner 3-pointer and stepped on teammate David Lee’s foot along the sideline, rolling his already sprained left ankle. Shortly thereafter, Leonard took another jumper and landed on the foot of Warriors center Zaza Pachulia.

He went down clutching his ankle and had to be removed from the game. The Warriors mounted the largest comeback in the conference finals in 15 years to steal Game 1 from the Spurs.

Leonard never returned to the series and the Spurs were easily brushed aside.

San Antonio Spurs’ Kawhi Leonard (2) is assisted off the court after suffering an injury while playing against the Golden State Warriors during the third quarter of Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference Finals at Oracle Arena in Oakland, Calif. on Sunday, May 14, 2017. The Golden State Warriors defeated the San Antonio Spurs 113-111. (Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group)

In some ways, Leonard’s Spurs tenure ended that day at Oracle Arena.

The 2014 NBA Finals MVP would play just nine more games for the Spurs, choosing to sit out most of the 2017-18 NBA season due to a disagreement with the team’s medical staff on how to treat a quad issue that also had bothered him the previous season.

Leonard demanded a trade out of San Antonio and the Toronto Raptors were the beneficiary of the Spurs’ misfortune, landing the All-Star forward and Danny Green for DeMar DeRozan, Jakob Poetl and a 2019 first-round draft pick last July.

Almost eleven months after the Raptors traded for Leonard, they find themselves in their first NBA Finals in franchise history, with the Warriors waiting.

The last time Leonard was in the NBA Finals, he was palming a wrecking ball and throwing it through LeBron James and the Miami Heat’s dynasty, earning Finals MVP honors during a five-game bludgeoning of the Heat that jettisoned James back to Cleveland. 

When he took the floor at Oracle Arena in 2017, he was prepared to try and do the same thing to the Warriors.

Leonard is calm under pressure, unfazed by big moments and was seemingly built in a lab to combat NBA superteams. 

Now, two years after suffering a season-ending ankle injury that partially set in motion the chain of events that landed him in the North, Leonard will get his chance at ending another dynasty the same way he broke up The Heatles.

Durant, like James in 2014, has the option to become a free agent this summer and most expect him to opt out of his contract and leave the Bay just as James left South Beach. The two-time NBA Finals MVP also is nursing a strained calf and will not play in Game 1, and it’s unclear when he’ll see the floor in The Finals.

(Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Leonard vs. the Warriors was inevitable, just as Thanos claimed to be while wreaking havoc on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He already ended this decade’s first dynasty and now he’ll look to obliterate possibly the greatest collection of talent in NBA history.

The greatness of the Milwaukee Bucks and the peskiness of the Houston Rockets aside, this is where we were always heading.

A superteam perhaps on its final run (with this iteration, at least), facing a dominant two-way player who can add another dynasty pelt to his collection.

In a decade defined by the superteams and the great players attempting to restore balance to the NBA, Leonard gets his first real crack at these Warriors starting Thursday at Scotiabank Arena.

There was no other way for this NBA decade to end.

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Analysis: NBA Finals will decide a champion, and much more

Tim Reynolds | Associated Press

It all comes down to this.

No, really.

It ALL comes down to this.

The next four, five, six or seven games of the NBA Finals between Golden State and Toronto will not only decide the 2019 championship, but how this series plays out is inevitably going to affect how free agency unfolds starting in a month or so.

It’ll affect Warriors star Kevin Durant and his annual stay-or-go decision. It’ll affect Raptors star Kawhi Leonard as he ponders his next move, or if he’ll be moving at all. Klay Thompson will be a free agent this summer. DeMarcus Cousins will be free this summer. Their thinking will inevitably be moved one way or another by this series; the decisions they’ll all make in the coming weeks will have a ripple effect on the rest of the NBA.

Durant made clear over the weekend that he’s tired of the incessant talk about his future.

“I know what I bring to the team,” Durant said, “but I also know that a lot of people on the outside don’t like to see us together.”

New York will be paying intense attention to everything that gets said, tweeted, Instagrammed and intimated. Brooklyn will be in the same boat. So will the Los Angeles Clippers, who think they’re on the cusp of building something really good, and the Los Angeles Lakers, who made the biggest signing of last summer by getting LeBron James and have done very little right since.

They will all be waiting to hear what Durant, Thompson, Leonard and Cousins decide.

And those are just the biggest fish — the whales, to use a term Miami President Pat Riley likes.

After that, there’s an additional 60 or so players who could be free agents this summer — some have opt-ins and might not be relocating — and who are coming off seasons when they averaged at least 10 points per game. Their teams next season will be affected on some level by who gets whom in the draft. How some teams pick in the draft will be influenced by what they’re hearing about free agency. And that hinges on this series.

So it’s not just a ripple effect.

The finals may create a tsunami.

“The latest I’ve heard from our basketball operations group is that, I believe, 40% of our players are going to be free agents this summer,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said at All-Star weekend in February. “So it’s two sides of the coin. Some people could say, `Oh my God, look at all that player movement.’ On the other hand, that player movement could be very positive for a lot of teams.”

(Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)

Maybe, maybe not.

If the Warriors win this series, as the oddsmakers in Las Vegas expect, it’ll be a third consecutive championship for Golden State — and some history. The Celtics, Lakers and Bulls are the only franchises to win three or more in a row. And out of that group, only the Celtics have won four in a row (eight, actually). Michael Jordan never did. Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant never did.

That would be the obvious recruiting pitch the Warriors would make to Durant and Thompson: “Come back and try to win No. 4. Come back and try to do something that very few players have done and something no one has done in a half-century.” That lure would undoubtedly be strong.

But if they lose this series, it would seem much easier for either player to say it’s been a great run and it’s time to go play somewhere else.

If Durant stays, then the Knicks, Nets and Clippers would have to move on to Plan B for free agency.

Therefore, they probably should be rooting for the Raptors.

Durant is difficult to read because he uses social media to give cryptic hints that usually aren’t hints at all.

Leonard is impossible to read.

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

For all anyone knows, he already has decided to stay in Toronto or sign elsewhere. Or maybe he hasn’t even thought about the summer. Maybe he is as robotic as he tries to convey.

But the same theory applies: If Toronto wins this series, it’ll be harder for Leonard to leave. So for the teams that want him, they might want to root for the Warriors.

Let’s use the Knicks solely for example purposes. If they don’t get Durant or Leonard, then maybe Kyrie Irving crosses them off his list.

(Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images)

Maybe that would mean Kemba Walker climbs up their charts. Maybe that means Jordan decides to offer Walker the super-max of $221 million or so to stay in Charlotte.

And the ripples go on and on.

They won’t be little waves gently rolling onto the shores, either.

This will be a summer of change and a summer of major spending in the NBA. This series is going to decide much more than who gets rings. This series will likely decide who plays where for many years to come.

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2019 NBA Finals schedule: Warriors vs Raptors dates, times, TV channel

NBC SPORTS 

Hurry up and wait.

That’s what the Warriors did, after completing a four-game Western Conference finals sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday, and now they’ll visit the Toronto Raptors to start the NBA Finals after a nine-day layoff.

The Raptors finally punched their ticket Saturday with a 100-94 Game 6 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals. It will be the first NBA Finals appearance for the Raptors, and the first time the championship round will be played outside the United States.

It’s the Warriors’ fifth consecutive NBA Finals trip, but they won’t have home-court advantage in the series because the Raptors finished with one more regular-season win. So, Games 1, 2, 5 and 7 are set for Toronto, and Games 3, 4, 6 will be in Oakland, as a fitting send-off for Oracle Arena.

Here’s the schedule for the 2019 NBA Finals, with all games televised on ABC. 

Game 1: Thursday, May 30, at Toronto, 6 p.m. PT
Game 2: Sunday, June 2, at Toronto, 5 p.m. PT
Game 3: Wednesday, June 5, at Golden State, 6 p.m. PT
Game 4: Friday, June 7, at at Golden State, 6 p.m. PT
Game 5*: Monday, June 10, at Toronto, 6 p.m. PT
Game 6*: Thursday, June 13, at at Golden State, 6 p.m. PT
Game 7*: Sunday, June 16, at Toronto, 5 p.m. PT
*If necessary

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HOOP HANGOUT • NBA PLAYOFFS • GAMEDAY POST • May 25th 2019

Leonard scores 27, Raptors advance to first NBA Finals

Associated Press

TORONTO — Kyle Lowry stole the ball and pushed it ahead, then waited for Kawhi Leonard to arrive before feeding his All-Star teammate for a thunderous one-handed slam over Giannis Antetokounmpo .

“The building exploded after that dunk,” Leonard said.

It sure did. Now imagine how it will sound when the NBA Finals come to Toronto for the first time next week.

Leonard had 27 points and 17 rebounds to lead the Raptors into the finals for the first time with a 100-94 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks on Saturday night. His big dunk with 6:46 to go in the fourth quarter was the final basket in a game-changing 26-3 run that began late in the third.

“It was kind of a momentum capper,” Lowry said. “We were on a run, and why not feed the big dog? Let the big dog eat.”

The Raptors overcame a 15-point deficit to win the series in six games and will host the Golden State Warriors in Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday night.

It will be the two-time defending champions against a Raptors team that will finally bring the NBA Finals outside the U.S. after entering the league in 1995.

“They’re one of the greatest teams in history,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said of the Warriors. “It will be a tall task, but we’ll try to figure it out.”

Pascal Siakam scored 18 points, Lowry had 17 and Fred VanVleet 14 for the Raptors.

Lowry held the game ball and picked up his children after the game, finally getting to the championship round after the Raptors kept falling short against Cleveland.

“It’s taken a long time to get here in my career,” Lowry said. “I’ve run into one guy for a while.”

Toronto was eliminated by LeBron James and the Cavaliers in three straight postseasons before shaking things up last summer with the acquisition of Leonard, the 2014 NBA Finals MVP who was acquired from San Antonio and has carried the Raptors in this postseason.

“He’s the best player in the league and we’re happy he’s in Toronto,” Raptors President Masai Ujiri said.

Asked about Ujiri’s compliment, Leonard said he’s focused on different goals.

“I just want to win,” he said. “I don’t care about being the best player. I want to be the best team.”

Antetokounmpo had 21 points and 11 rebounds for the Bucks, but the NBA’s top team in the regular season saw its bid for a first finals berth in 45 years come to a disappointing end with a fourth consecutive defeat.

“Man, obviously when you’re up 2-0, that doesn’t mean nothing,” Antetokounmpo said. “You’ve got to learn how to come out and close out games, especially after Game 3. We’ve got to get better as a team, and we’ve got to get better individually.”

Even Nurse found his team’s turnaround hard to believe.

“Beating this team four times in a row is almost mind boggling,” Nurse said.

Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer said it hurt to see a great season end.

“The roster that was put together for this season, as the season started going, you started feeling like it was special and could do special things, including advancing past tonight, but it didn’t happen,” Budenholzer said.

Down 76-71 to start the fourth, the Raptors tied it with an 8-2 run while Leonard and Antetokounmpo were both on the bench. Serge Ibaka‘s dunk with 10:32 to go tied it at 78.

Antetokounmpo returned after a timeout, but Leonard kept sitting. That didn’t matter to Toronto, with Siakam’s basket giving the Raptors an 80-78 lead, their first lead since it was 6-3.

Toronto made 12 of 27 3-point attempts, including four of eight in the fourth quarter.

Siakam, who missed a pair of free throws late in the fourth quarter of Toronto’s double-overtime win in Game 3, hit one to make it 98-94. Leonard grabbed the rebound on the second and was fouled. He made both, putting the Raptors up 100-94 with 3.9 seconds to go.

Malcolm Brogdon and Khris Middleton each made a pair from long range as the Bucks shot 6 for 9 from 3-point range in the first and closed the quarter with 10 unanswered points to lead 31-18. Toronto shot 6 for 19 in the opening quarter, missing six straight twice in the first 12 minutes.

The Bucks extended their lead to 38-23 on a 3 by Ersan Ilyasova with 7:46 left until half. Toronto cut the gap to 46-43 on a 3 by VanVleet with 1:07 left in the second, but Eric Bledsoe answered with a 3 and Antetokounmpo split a pair at the line, giving the Bucks a 50-43 advantage at the intermission.

The lead went back to 15 in the third before Leonard finished the period with a flourish. He had eight points in the final 2:01 and Toronto closed with a 10-0 run, cutting a 15-point deficit to 76-71.

TIP-INS

Bucks: Milwaukee shot 4 for 16 in the second but three of its made baskets were 3-pointers. … The Bucks had six points in the paint in the first half. They finished with 28. … Budenholzer was called for a technical foul on Milwaukee’s first possession of the second half. Leonard missed the free throw. … Antetokounmpo shot 5 for 10 at the free throw line.

Raptors: Danny Green, who missed all three of his field goal attempts in 16 minutes in Game 5, had another rough night. Green shot 0 for 4 in 14 minutes. … Leonard’s 17 rebounds were his most in any game this postseason. … Lowry had eight assists.

DRAKE WATCH

Raptors fan and `global ambassador’ Drake sat in his regular seat adjacent to the Toronto bench. The rapper wore a black hoodie with `KAWHI ME A RIVER’ printed on the back.

STREET PARTY

Outside the downtown arena, fans flooded streets, bringing traffic to a standstill. One video posted on social media showed a group of fans partying on the roof of a Toronto city bus. Fans surrounded Marc Gasol‘s car as he was driven out of the arena , and the center rolled down his window to trade high fives with the crowd.

BIRTHDAY BOY

Toronto’ reserve Norman Powell scored nine points on his 26th birthday. Standing at the back of the room, Powell’s mother wished him a happy birthday at the end of her son’s press conference.

FAMILIAR POSITION

The last team to overcome an 0-2 deficit and win a conference finals was Oklahoma City, which beat San Antonio in six games in 2012 after losing the first two on the road. Ibaka played for that Thunder team, while Leonard was a Spurs rookie.

UP NEXT

The NBA Finals comes to Canada for the first time when the Raptors host the Warriors on Thursday night. Toronto swept Golden State in the regular season.

KD ‘unlikely to play’ at beginning of Finals, but Boogie might be back just in time

Steve Kerr On Injured Stars Kevin Durant, DeMarcus Cousins…

Warriors’ Kevin Durant ‘unlikely to play’ at beginning of NBA Finals

Josh Schrock | NBC SPORTS 

After sweeping the Portland Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals, the Warriors have more than a week to rest up and hopefully get healthy for their fifth straight NBA Finals appearance.

The Warriors updated the progress of Kevin Durant (right calf strain) and DeMarcus Cousins (torn left quad) ahead of Thursday’s media availability, and it doesn’t look like either star will be able to go when the Finals begin May 30.

Durant has not yet resumed basketball activities, but the Warriors are hopeful he can return at some point. Golden State is hopeful that Cousins will be able to return for the Finals.

Durant initially injured his right calf during the third quarter of Game 5 in the Warriors’ second-round NBA playoff series against the Houston Rockets. The two-time NBA Finals MVP had been on a tear leading up to the injury, averaging 34.2 points per game during the postseason, and was unstoppable ever since his “I’m Kevin Durant” moment following the Dubs’ Game 2 loss to the LA Clippers in the first round. 

After waiting his entire career to see playoff action, Cousins injured his quadriceps muscle in the opening minutes of Game 2 of the Warriors’ series with the Clippers.

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Warriors GM Bob Myers explains tricky part about Kevin Durant’s injury

Drew Shiller | NBC SPORTS 

Warriors forward Kevin Durant sustained a strained right calf on May 8.

The injury is more serious than initially thought, as Golden State made the following announcement on Thursday morning:

“Durant, who has not yet been cleared to begin on-court activities, continues to make good progress with his rehabilitation. At this point, it is unlikely that he will play at the beginning of the 2019 NBA Finals, but it’s hopeful that he could return at some point during the series.”

Game 1 of the NBA Finals is on Thursday, May 30 in either Milwaukee or Toronto, and the Warriors will provide another update on KD next Wednesday.

“The tricky thing with Kevin is you cannot have a setback because we’re so up against it,” Dubs GM Bob Myers said on 95.7 The Game on Thursday afternoon. “This is not something you can push hard because if you have a setback, it kind of takes you out of the equation.

“So you have to be very diligent and smart. And [Director of Sports Medicine and Performance] Rick Celebrini is great and Kevin has been unbelievable in showing up twice a day and putting all the work in that he can. You don’t need to motivate Kevin Durant to want to get back.”

The reigning two-time NBA Finals MVP did not travel to Portland for Games 3 and 4 of the Western Conference finals. Is it possible that he stays back in the Bay Area next week as well?

“I haven’t gotten to that place yet,” Myers said. “I’m speculating that at this point we’re assuming he will travel … that hasn’t even really been kicked around. I think all indications are that he would go and play or continue to rehab there.

“But we haven’t finalized that.”

Game 2 is on Sunday, June 2 with Games 3 and 4 at Oracle Arena on June 5 and 7 respectively.

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Warriors’ DeMarcus Cousins could return in time for start of NBA Finals

Logan Murdock | NBC SPORTS 

OAKLAND — In a surprising twist, injured Warriors center DeMarcus Cousins practiced Thursday afternoon for the first time since tearing his left quad. 

With Cousins one step closer to game action, Golden State could be getting reinforcements at just the right time. 

“I feel good. A lot better than I was,” Cousins said Thursday afternoon. “I’m able to get up and down the court more. I’m able to play a little competition basketball.”

Minutes before Cousins spoke to the media for the first time in more than a month, the Warriors announced he, along with Kevin Durant, will miss the onset of the NBA Finals next week, but expressed hope both could play sometime during the series

Following Thursday’s practice, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said Cousins’ availability for Game 1 of the Finals on May 30 will depend on his conditioning level. Additionally, Kerr wouldn’t commit to starting the big man when ready, saying the decision will depend on matchups. 

Cousins, who tore his quad diving for a loose ball in Game 2 of a first-round series with the Clippers, signed a one-year, $5.2 million deal with the Warriors in July in an effort to boost his value after the perennial All-Star tore his Achilles last season. After averaging 16.3 points, 8.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 30 regular-season games this year, Cousins seemed primed for a summer payday before the quad injury occurred. Shortly after suffering the injury, Cousins vowed to return in the playoffs. 

“Initially, I thought it was worse than what it was,” Cousins said. “There was obviously a panic, but once the doctors came out and I realized what it was, I gathered myself from a couple of days of frustration, anger, sadness and all of the above. I told myself to get back to work and do it all over again. That’s what I did, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”

“I feel like that’s what adversity does: It always builds you up and makes you stronger for the next bump,” he added. “That was one of my darkest moments, dealing with the Achilles. I feel like I was in a stronger mental capacity when it came to dealing with this one. Not to say that it’s been easy, but it’s a more comfortable situation.”

Over the last month, Cousins has been seen working on his lateral movement and taking light jump shots after practice. As for his pending return, Cousins believes that he can be a vital piece for a team in need of reinforcements. 

“I think people know what I can do,” he said. “It’s just about me being healthy. Of course, I want to be out there to help my team and to play the game that I love to play. I also just want to be healthy. This is an opportunity to do that.”

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Klay Thompson Remains Remarkably Calm Upon Learning He Lost A Chance At Another $30 Million

Lauren Theisen | DEADSPIN

The All-NBA teams came out today, and Golden State Warriors guard Klay Thompson isn’t on any of them. While teammates Steph Curry and Kevin Durant made the first and second teams, respectively, Thompson couldn’t even sneak onto the third team. Those honors went to Russell Westbrook and Kemba Walker.

There’s a strong case to be made that this was the right call by the voters, since most advanced metrics really do not like Thompson, and the sharpshooter’s efficiency is significantly behind Curry’s or Durant’s. Still, getting left off the list is tough for Thompson’s future, because it means he won’t be eligible for a supermax deal when he becomes a free agent this summer.

That difference, of potentially $30 million, is completely beyond Thompson’s control, but you wouldn’t know it from his reaction. Upon hearing of the snub, he somehow maintains his chill, reacting the way someone would if you stole their seat when they went to the bathroom. The closest he ever comes to showing his anger comes with a mere squint into the distance, when a reporter erroneously says Bradley Beal made the team over him.

Chin up, Klay. You can still get a spot on the Calm-NBA first team.

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And while he did remain “remarkably calm” upon hearing about the $30 million loss, he certainly didn’t appear very happy about it either…

Warriors’ Klay Thompson not happy after being snubbed from All-NBA team

Josh Schrock | NBC SPORTS 

Klay Thompson received some bad news Thursday when the All-NBA teams were released and he was left off the list.

Warriors star Steph Curry and Houston Rockets star James Harden were voted to the first team, and Damian Lillard and Kyrie Irving made the second team. Kemba Walker and Russell Westbrook were chosen as the third-team guards.

The Warriors guard was in the “others receiving votes” category, right behind Washington Wizards star Bradley Beal.

When informed of the snub at Thursday’s media availability, Thompson was visibly disgusted at the voting and explained why he believes he deserved to be selected.

“Oh, I didn’t? It already came out?” Thompson said after being told he didn’t make an All-NBA team.

When told Walker made the third team, Thompson gave a heavy eye roll.

“I mean that’s cool and all, but like, when you go to five straight Finals — I respect those guys, but when you go to five straight, it takes more than just a couple All-NBA guys,” Thompson said. “It takes an All-Time team. But whatever. I’d rather win a championship than be All-NBA.”

The snub also costs Thompson $30 million, as he’s now not eligible to receive a super-max extension from the Warriors.

“It is what it is, you know I can’t control it,” Thompson said. “Do I think there’s that many guards better than me in the league? No. That’s the reason why we are still playing, so I don’t even want to get into it.”

Thompson certainly has a point on all counts.

The five-time NBA All-Star is one of the best shooters of all time, and he put his defensive prowess on display in the Warriors’ Western Conference finals sweep of the Trail Blazers by locking up Damian Lillard. 

Thompson has every reason to be upset, especially with Walker, whose Charlotte Hornets went 39-43 and missed the playoffs, making it over him. But a fourth NBA title would make it sting a little less.

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