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Archive for the tag “Kevin Love”

Love Is Alive In Cleveland

(photo courtesy of David Blair/Portland Tribune)

(photo courtesy of David Blair/Portland Tribune)

Kevin Love was suffering under head coach David Blatt. And although the team was doing well overall (1st in the Eastern Conference), they were not getting the most they could get out of Love. He was looking more like a spot-up three point shooter and terrible defender. And as a result of that, Love would disappear a lot in the offense and defensively would be taken advantage in pick-and–roll situations. With his role being an issue there in Blatt’s offense, there were rumors that the team would look to trade him. It just was not going to work out for him and it looked like he was being forced into the action instead of the action flowing through him and the rest of his teammates. But ever since Blatt got fired, it seems like Love has been the answer for the Cavaliers. He has scored 20+ points three of the last five games. He scored 20+ points at a pace like this earlier in the seaon. But this time around, it looks a little different and he looks like a part of the offense instead of a round peg in a square hole. Lue has definitely tapped into what he thinks he can make happen for Love. And because of that, it seems like he is slowly becoming comfortable in The Land.

The role of Love offensively has always been one to question. He was a excellent shooter, rebounder and scorer for the Minnesota Timberwolves and averaged 20+ points and 10 rebounds a game three of his six seasons as a member of the Timberwolves. When he was picked up by Cleveland, it was expected that he would be a big man that could space the floor and help create lanes for LeBron James and Kyrie Irving on the offensive end. Love has been shooting 37% this season from distance. But that is not all his game is. Love can be active in the post and he can also be active at the high post/elbow area. Under Blatt, it seemed like he never incorporated him in the high post/elbow area or the low post. LeBron would normally inhabit the post on one side and for some reason, they would not even bring Love to the high post. And as a result, he was almost a bystander in their offense. The first thing Lue said in regards to Love is that he would be getting him more involved in the offense. And Lue so far has been true to his word. Love has been getting the basketball more on the block and at the elbow since the coaching change. And as a result, he has been more active offensively and made more plays. And as time goes on, his presence offensively will help make things easier for LeBron and Kyrie Irving.

One thing that always used to happen to Love defensively was him being exposed in the pick-and-roll. Teams like the Golden State Warriors would spot who he was guarding and put whoever he was guarding in a pick-and-roll scenario. The results were usually a wide-open layup by the person getting the screen or the screener getting an open shot, whether it be a layup or a three-pointer. And because of that lackluster defense, Love would often find himself sitting the bench at crucial times. But Lue has not sat love in crucial moments since he has been there. And to his credit, Love has not harmed them as much defensively at critical times up to this point. Love, however, cannot take all the credit for the defensive adjustments. Tyronn Lue realized that Love’s limited foot quickness would be something he would have to compensate for. So with that in mind, he has used his defensive rotations just a touch quicker. The result is covering up for Love should he be out of position on defense. And what it also means is that Love has a seemingly predetermined decision on how to handle the pick-and-roll. There is no grey area and there are pieces around him that also understand that and are quick enough to cover him. The combination of recognition from the coach and knowing where you are supposed to be by Love has helped him actually make a few plays on defense. For example, the questionable charge he took against the Pacers Monday night probably would have never happened under the old regime. And along with that, Love would have never had that block in overtime would he had not been in the correct position. Those two instances show me that Love is capable of playing sold defense and can get the job done when positioned right by Lue.

The way the Cleveland Cavaliers are playing right now, they seem to be fitting more under Lue than they did Blatt. Tyronn seems to have their attention front and clear. And in having their full attention, Lue captured the attention of the Big Three there, especially Love. And because of that, the Cavs are starting to get comfortable with Love being out there with him than at any point in his tenure there. Chris Bosh tried to tell Love how the fit would work but Love reportedly has not responded. It has been a rough go for him there as the third wheel. As the season goes on, the Cavs will have more time to get comfortable with Love and the way he is being used. And for the Cavs, this coaching change may end up helping them.

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Tyronn Lue Takes Over For David Blatt In Cleveland

(photo courtesy of David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)

(photo courtesy of David Richard-USA TODAY Sports)

The Cleveland Cavaliers were cruising along up until their Martin Luther King Jr. game against the Warriors. At that point, they were, 28-10 and leading the NBA’s Eastern Conference. Many expected them to challenge if not beat the Warriors in this game to make a statement. But what we got was a beatdown of epic proportions. The Cavs were down by over 40 points at one time as the Warriors were getting any and everything they wanted. Cleveland looked totally overmatched and underprepared for the game. And their star, LeBron James, did not look like he was into the game as well. After the game, there was not the warmest feelings about the team’s performance. It seemed like the indictment was made on this team at that point that they could not beat the Warriors or Spurs as they currently were constructed and how they were playing at that time. The Cavs won two games after that embarrassing game on national television and it seemed like maybe there was some good feelings starting to return for that team. Well, the good feelings were good for the team, but not for head coach David Blatt. The veteran European head coach who came to coach the Cavs last season was fired today by the team. And immediately after his firing, lead assistant Tyronn Lue was named head coach of the team and given a three-year deal. The shock was not that it happened for many but when it happened. So what went wrong for Blatt?

When Blatt was brought in to be the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, he was thought to be inheriting a rebuilding team that was going to build around point guard Kyrie Irving. There was no thought that LeBron James would be coming back in the summer of 2015. So when LeBron James signed on to come back home, the fit immediately changed. Blatt was not prepared to be the coach of this team with a superstar with as much clout as James. Sports Center had former Cleveland Cavaliers center Brendan Haywood on today and he said something that was really telling. He said that Blatt was “highly hesitant in correcting people in team meetings”. To get a team to where they need to be, Blatt had to be able to take control and correct any and all players. It seemed to all that he was never strong enough to correct LeBron or scared of him, and that lost the respect of the vets on the team. Another thing that may have cost him is his demeanor on the sideline. It seemed like he was not as active in coaching his team on the sidelines. Of course there have been other coaches that are calm and don’t say much there (Phil Jackson comes to mind), but when your assistant is speaking up more than you are and players are differing to him, then that says a lot. It says that the players do not have your trust to make the right calls. And because of that, he is out of there. He more than likely will catch on again somewhere. He could go back overseas to where he came from (and where his family is) or he could go to another team and be an assistant coach. Blatt is a solid coach but he just landed in a situation that he was not prepared to handle. And he paid the price for it.

The new head coach, Tyronn Lue, is sliding over to the big seat after being the lead assistant for Blatt. But in doing so, his role really does not change as much. He was always the guy that players consulted with in regards to things going on within the game. Along with that, Lue was very much respected by the team. He pulled no punches when in the Cavs’ meeting rooms and that even meant with LeBron James. His ability to hold everyone accountable when going through things was loved by the players and also respected by LeBron James. He can always be seen discussing things on the bench with LeBron during timeouts. But Lue did not want to overstep his bounds, knowing that he was the assistant coach of this team and not the head coach. He played his role perfectly next to Blatt and did all he could not to get in the way of him coaching the team. With Lue now in charge of the whole show, he can now exert himself fully on the team. Gone are the days of a passive head coach that would let players slide. Lue will demand more out of the team. Lue will also more than likely use all the weapons. Mo Williams was great when used off the bench or starting when Kyrie Irving was out. Anderson Varejao brings an energy on the defensive and offensive end. But over the course of the season, both of these guys seemingly fell out of favor with Blatt. Look for both of them to be used more with Lue in charge of the team. Another thing that Lue can do is find a way to get Love more engaged on both ends. If the team is committed to how they are constructed, they have to get more out of Kevin Love on both ends. He is far too talented to be forgotten as much as he is on that team. Defensively, we know the issues he has. But there have been many that have struggled defensively and still won games. The best thing Lue can do there is find a way to cover for him defensively. Whether it be by design of a quicker rotation or not, there has to be some way to do so.

The changing of the guard has only increased the pressure and scrutiny on this team. Many keep believe it was LeBron who pulled the strings on this one while others believe it is not him. Whether it was him or not is beside the point at this time because the decision has been made and Lue is now running the show. It should be interesting to see how he takes to the job and how the players take to him. Does the team finally get on the same page this season or do they continue to play in spurts? Only time will tell.

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Tyson Chandler Was A Wasted Signing For The Phoenix Suns

Tyson Chandler lands in Phoenix. But does his signing really make a difference? (photo courtesy of www.bleacherreport.com)

Tyson Chandler lands in Phoenix. But does his signing really make a difference? (photo courtesy of http://www.bleacherreport.com)

The NBA free agency bonanza caught fire early and often today. The teams that were thought to potentially lose players actually retained them instead. Kevin Love shocked many by staying with the Cleveland Cavaliers to the tune of five years and $110 million. He stated in his article in The Player’s Tribune that he was re-signing with Cleveland, that “it’s time to get back to work” and that “we (the Cleveland Cavaliers) have unfinished business”. But as much as some were shocked by that deal, there were others that may have been shocked by what happened in the Valley of The Sun today. The Phoenix Suns re-signed their trade acquisition of last season, guard Brandon Knight to a five-year, $70 million deal. That was to be expected as they gave up some pieces for him. But along with that deal today, the Phoenix Suns also signed a veteran big man that no one expected them to sign. Tyson Chandler agreed to a four-year deal with Phoenix to the tune of $52 million. It can be guaranteed that no one saw this deal coming for the 32 year old center in the NBA. In fact, some Suns fans are probably still shocked by this signing. But unfortunately, the shock will probably turn into disgust very soon for them.

When watching the Suns last season, they seemed to be a young team willing to go with their youngsters and gain experience. And although they did not make the playoffs, they still had some of the most talented pieces in the NBA. The thing that they needed was some veteran leadership, but they did not need it at the center position. Honestly, they needed to get a little bigger in the backcourt but with the signing of Brandon Knight to pair along with Eric Bledsoe, they will once again trot out there a small backcourt for some teams to take advantage of them. The Suns had their center to build with in Alex Len. The former Maryland Terrapin was showing some progress last season even though he has had some injury issues along the way. He was a guy that could block some shots as well as finish around the rim. But apparently, the former 1st round pick was not enough for the Suns and they went out and signed Chandler to be the starter in front of him. By doing this, Phoenix could potentially stunt the growth of their potential center of the future. Some may say that he is going to be able to help Len, but that kid needs playing time to get better. To give an example how Phoenix could stunt Len’s growth, just take a look at the Golden State Warriors. Harrison Barnes was great this season for them in the starting lineup, but last season he was bad when he was relegated to the bench when they signed Andre Iguodala last season. Barnes was awful as a sub behind Iggy and that seemed to stunt his progress. They switched the roles and let Barnes start this season and just like magic he played well and had a good season. The same could happen for Len with Chandler coming in to take his starting role. For the Suns’ sake, they better hope it does not faze him and that he continues to improve and get better.

Tyson also was signed to a deal that guaranteed him $13 million a season. But what is interesting about Chandler is that he cannot score at all. He was apparently part of Phoenix’s presentation to star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge on Wednesday and that could help them land him, as they have moved neck and neck reportedly with the San Antonio Spurs for his services. But what if they don’t land Aldridge in free agency? That means the Suns have just signed a player that will not bring anything to them offensively and may not be the difference-maker he once was at his current age in the NBA. The Suns brought him in to be an impact player defensively, but for $13 million a year, he has to be able to give them more than just defense. If that is all they are giving him, then the Suns just threw some money out the door with this signing and it will not make a difference at all. And one other thing Chandler might want to pay attention to in Phoenix: the point guards that he is playing with. Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight are not guys that are known to be distributors. In fact, both can be dynamic offensive players in different ways but not in the way of distributing to teammates. That relegates Chandler to a defense and rebounding guy, which the Suns could have got for cheaper with a guy like Robin Lopez, who is still out there in free agency right now. But now they are tied to Chandler and they will move forward hoping he is able to bring them Aldridge.

The Suns are a team that is trying to make the playoffs and they needed to make a few moves to make sure it happens. But with what they have done so far, they have not helped their chances on making the playoffs at all. In fact, there is nothing that tells me this team is ready to make a run for the playoffs at all with Chandler being added to the mix. Chandler has been a good veteran player in the NBA, but this fit with him in Phoenix is just not the right one. Phoenix may not recognize it right now, but they will definitely recognize it soon enough.

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The NBA Is More Than Just Basketball. It’s A Business

Monta Ellis is rolling the dice and going for more money. (photo courtesy of www.star-telegram.com)

Monta Ellis is rolling the dice and going for more money. (photo courtesy of http://www.star-telegram.com)

LeBron James made it official recently when he opted out of his two-year deal he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He now joins teammates Kevin Love and JR Smith on the free agent market. But while some are wondering where Love and Smith will land, there has been not as much talked about when it comes to LeBron James. When the best player in the current NBA hits the open market, there are many teams that take notice. Of course, when he left Cleveland the first time, he made The Decision and that landed him in Miami. But in this instance, there is something different going on. When he left the first time, he was seeking to win a title, something he had never done. In this instance, he is a two-time NBA champion and is the most experienced playoff performer on his team. And his experience is what carried them to the NBA Finals despite losing key parts like Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. But the totally different dynamic in this instance is that it is a forgone conclusion that he will be staying in Cleveland but just under a new contract. And even though some Cleveland fans and other fans of the NBA are thinking he could bolt Cleveland again, they all must take a look at the landscape of the NBA and then realize the difference between playing basketball and the business of basketball.

Kevin Love, LeBron James and JR Smith are not the only ones that have opted out of their deals. Many across the NBA have opted out in search of new money. And in most instances, it would mean that they would be heading to new teams. For example, Dallas Mavericks guard Monta Ellis is expected to be on a different team after opting out of his deal. The relationship between Ellis and Dallas was reportedly strained as the season ended and it was evident that he would not be there. Monta is leaving $11 million on the table that he could have had next season in order to hit the open market. And it wasn’t like the Mavericks did not try to keep his services. At one point, they offered him a two-year, $24.8 million extension to stay in Dallas. More than likely Ellis will not get more than what he is being offered, but he is going to take a chance on what the market may hold for him. And Ellis, like many others, are taking this chance on gaining more money and more years from some team out there. It may not seem like a sound decision, but all it takes is one team to buy into what you and your agent are selling. And if that happens, the player wins the game of contract roulette. Ellis, along with guys like Thaddeus Young of the Brooklyn Nets, are banking on themselves and what they can get on the market. They may end up being wrong, but they at least went for what they wanted. And the thing that most fans fail to realize is their window is a short one and they have to make the money they have last over a lifetime.

In LeBron’s case, he has taken power over the Cleveland Cavaliers and that is a rare thing. In the NBA, players usually are the slaves to what the owners and the organizations want. And in most instances, the players get the short end of the stick, signing long-term deals that allows teams to throw any and everything out there with them while they are out on the court. When LeBron was first with the Cavaliers, he was playing with any and everyone on the court. The teams were successful during the regular season, but they just could not consistently get to the NBA Finals. He then left for Miami and a better situation for winning. But upon his return, it was evident that LeBron had the power over the organization. When he signed the two-year deal he did that had an opt-out after his first season back, he basically put pressure on the organization at that point. If all went bad, he could leave despite what the natives may have thought of him. But if it went well, he could still opt out to keep the pressure on the organization to make the improvements necessary to be competitive for a title. The opt out this offseason is also something that is the smart decision of a businessman. LeBron knows he is the best player in the NBA and he is also one of the most observant. He knows the cap is due to skyrocket in 2016 due to the huge television deal the NBA signed before last season. So instead of tying up his options like others have, he is patiently waiting until 2016 for his last big payday. At that point and time, he can make betwwen $30-40 million per season depending on the how much the salary cap rises. But until then, he opted out again to make sure and keep the pressure on the team and to also maximize the amount of money he can make. LeBron the businessman has figured out how to keep the organization accountable while making his money.

Many top players in the NBA may want to pay attention to the things that LeBron has done in Cleveland. Now there has been criticism due to his handling of his coach during the playoffs, but for the most part he has handled it like a smart businessman who knows he has the power. But there are others out there that are taking the calculated gamble to make more money. You may wonder what some of them are thinking, but who can blame them for making a run at more money that could potentially be out there for them. And even though the one year option some players opt out of may be better than the average per year a player signs for in this scenario, the player would end up with more years to make more guaranteed money. And that could end up being more valuable than the one year of big money. Gone are the days where basketball is just the game we see on the court. There is now a game going on off of it. We shall see this offseason who is playing checkers and who is playing chess.

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The Kevin Love Sweepstakes Is About To Get Started

Kevin Love is officially a free agent. But where does he land next season? (photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Kevin Love is officially a free agent. But where does he land next season? (photo courtesy of Getty Images)

Decision time has come about for many in the NBA. There are some players that are have options on their contracts whether they would like to accept the contract they have or opt out in search of a better deal for themselves. LeBron James is one of the names that is opting out, but he is expected to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers. But James isn’t the only star player that has this option in Cleveland. The Cleveland Cavaliers traded for Kevin Love last offseason and shipped the past two number one overall picks to Minnesota for him. The Cavs did this knowing that Love could potentially opt out of his deal after this season. But to many, they believed that Kevin Love and LeBron would be a good pairing based on their games. Well, it seems as if the pairing did not work as well as some thought, as Love had one of his worst scoring and rebounding seasons in the NBA. The pairing of Love with Kyrie Irving and LeBron James was not as good as some thought it would be. And as the season went on, it seemed the relationship between both James and Love was not the smoothest either. Of course Love is one of the hardest people to read in the NBA, so this talk about their relationship could be just rumors. But with all that talk and the play circulating in the media, Kevin Love made a decision to opt out of the last year of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He could still end up in Cleveland next season, but the great thing for the Cleveland Cavaliers in this decision is now it makes it a little easier on them as to what options they have this summer. If Love would have opted in, the Cavs would have been in a tough place when it came to Tristian Thompson, who is a restricted free agent this offseason. Now instead of wondering how Love and James would get along, the NBA and its fans will be waiting to see where Love turns up next.

Kevin Love is a stats guy. He has averaged double-figure points and rebounds for five of his seven seasons in the NBA. And for what it’s worth, he is one of the best outlet passers in the NBA. That could be great for a team that is starting the fast break. The perfect fit for Love would be a team that has some explosive wings but allows him to be a focal point of the offense. In that aspect, there are a few teams that may be able to comply with what he would like. The most obvious answer for a team craving Love is the Los Angeles Lakers. Many Lakers fans have thought that eventually Love would be coming home to the Lakers. And in this circumstance, he could make Los Angeles his home. The Lakers have at least $23 million in cap space this offseason. The Lakers recently selected D’Angelo Russell out of Ohio State with the 2nd pick in the draft, so the indication from Los Angeles is that Love will be one of two power forwards they look at this offseason (LaMarcus Aldridge is the other). But with the silence of Kevin Love, you don’t know whether or not he wants the extra year on his deal and that could potentially affect him coming to LA or not. The only way he gets that extra year on his deal to go to Los Angeles is if he is signed and traded to them. And in that case, the Lakers would have to give up something to get him. More than likely it would be future draft picks and also a player. If I was the Cavaliers, I would ask for Julius Randle in return for trading Love to the Lakers. That would allow for the Cavs to sign Tristian Thompson back and also get him a backup in Randle to solve their power forward position. But of course, the Lakers are not the only ones interested in Love this offseason and they may not even be interested in parting ways with Randle so soon.

The Boston Celtics are another team that is checking out the prospects of bringing Love in. Danny Ainge tried to work something out to get him to Boston before when Rajon Rondo was still their point guard to no avail. Well, the Celtics now have a stockpile of picks and interesting players available to make something happen this time. The Celtics, like the Lakers, could try and swing a free agent deal with Love and leave it at that. That would give them Love’s talents for four years and more than likely max money. But if the Celtics were to decide to do a sign and trade for Love, they have all the assets to make it happen. They have a gluttony of talent in their frontcourt that many would be interested in including forward Jared Sullinger and forward Kelly Olynyk (wouldn’t it be interesting if he was traded to the Cavs in this one). But in all honesty, Love would not make as big a difference as the main player on that team. The Celtics need one more piece to go along with Love should they sign him outright or trade for him. That piece is a frontline scorer. If Love is brought in on that team and asked to be the leading scorer for them, then that team would go nowhere fast. And with the picks the Celtics made in this most recent draft, you have to count on free agency for them to add some punch there. In the end, he is not a difference-maker for that team that takes them to the playoffs. Of course he would get more touches and make more things happen for that team. But it would be Minnesota all over again but on the East coast and Love wants to be the focus or secondary focus on a team and win basketball games.

A darkhorse candidate that may take a look at Love is the New York Knicks. They drafted big man Kristaps Porzingis 4th overall in the draft, who by all accounts will not be ready to make a big contribution anytime soon. The Knicks redeemed themselves a little bit with trading Tim Hardaway Jr to the Atlanta Hawks for talented point guard Jerian Grant, but there is still the matter of that hole in the frontcourt. As the Knicks stand right now, they have no big men that are going to be there. Carmelo would slide back to the power forward position again if no one is found, but that is not expected to happen. The Knicks are expected to make a run at big man Greg Monroe and there are rumors out there that David West could sign there after opting out of his player option in Indianapolis. But none of these guys is a given to sign at this point and time. And even if the Knicks were going to sign Monroe they would still be able to take Kevin Love. Of course the money dries up quick when you spend it, and the Knicks would overspend for Monroe and another piece as well as trying to get Love. If that is the case, he would be looking to play elsewhere as he is not the top priority there in New York. Plus there is also the issue of whether he and Carmelo could co-exist, which no one knows. Melo is different from LeBron in that he is more of a scorer than facilitator. And that mix may not be something that would fit Love’s game, let alone the bright lights of the city that he seems to not care for. We could speak of them trading something to Cleveland, but the Knicks have nothing to offer there due to trades in the past and their roster not being as talented.

Love is going to be sought after by a few teams this offseason and there may be some surprises out there that were not mentioned. But along with potentially re-signing in Cleveland (which is a longshot at best at this point), Love has some things to think about. After all, this contract could be the last big contract he signs in the NBA. In all honesty, all teams would need to take a look at what they are willing to sacrifice for a guy that is a defensive liability but can flatout fill it up on the offensive end along with battle on the offensive boards. The choice is not only his but the teams that are interested. And come July 1st, Love, like many others who opted out of deals, will be deciding whether the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.

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The Small Market Excuses In The NBA Need To End Right Now

Small market teams can compete and compete on a consistent basis. The fallacy that they cannot is something that needs to end. (photo courtesy of www.usatoday.com)

Small market teams can compete and compete on a consistent basis. The fallacy that they cannot is something that needs to end. (photo courtesy of http://www.usatoday.com)

The Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers met for a great clash in the NBA Finals. The best team in the NBA versus the best player in the NBA. In the end, the best team wore down the team with the best player and won the title in six games. Both teams played each other pretty tough for the first few games, but the last three games were lopsided in the favor of the Golden State Warriors. They just wore down the Cavs, who were playing short-handed due to the losses of All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. And even though LeBron James had a great series from a numbers standpoint, he could not guard all the weapons the Warriors had nor could he score efficiently on most of them. The Warriors erased 40 years of futility with the win. And the even more interesting thing is a guy that was a starter-turned-sub for the Warriors in Andre Iguodala played well off the bench and starting in games 4-6 to earn NBA Finals MVP. But the game was just the background to all that has been going on in the NBA the past few years. And amazingly, no one wants to say much about it.

The Golden State versus Cleveland series had the best viewership on television since the days of Michael Jordan when he won his sixth championship almost 20 years ago. Pretty unbelievable that the ratings have not been as good since then being that we have had teams like the Lakers win the championship five times since then. But what this also speaks to is the power of the players here. If you just look at the markets both NBA Finals participants are in, there is a stark differnce. The Oakland/San Francisco market is considered one of the biggest markets out there in the NBA. But when you take a look at Cleveland, that market is one that is not very big at all. In fact, it is smaller than the Miami, where LeBron James left to go to when he exited Cleveland for four years. The idea has always been that in basketball, the big teams are the ones that will continue to show up and be in the championship year after year after year. When, in fact, that is not the case at all. Sure, Oakland/San Francisco is a big market, but San Antonio is not a big market and neither is Cleveland. The fact of the matter is big markets are needed in terms of exposure perhaps, but are not something that is needed to make the NBA exciting and watchable.

In the NBA, it is more about the teams that are on the floor than the markets they are in. As the NBA has grown, the market teams and players are in has matter less and less. Just a few years ago, it was something that small-level owners were worried about as if they could not build a good team in fear of losing a great player to a big market. When in all actuality, that was the supposed small-level owners giving the fans of that team something to let them off the hook. Time and time again the small-level owners have been crying they have been losing money in regards to trying to keep up with the bigger cities. And in all instances, the numbers have not ever been shown to prove that. But in basketball terms, there have been small-market teams that have competed. Look at the teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Cleveland Cavaliers and others. They are there all the time because their owners actually spent money and put together a team that could make some things happen, not because they were big spenders in a big market. As the NBA has grown, the excuse gets more and more overdone by the minute. The fallacy of small-market teams not being able to compete only comes about when it comes to the Collective Bargaining Agreement. And in all reality, that is just a ploy for the owners to make more money while keeping the players and fans at bay. How else can it be explained that the Milwaukee Bucks being sold for $550 million despite being in one of the smallest NBA markets? That’s right folks. We have been blinded by some propaganda and a lot of us have fell victim to it without even knowing it. When a team is bad or has to make a tough decision, if it’s a small market team, they get the benefit of the doubt because of that. A perfect example of that is when James Harden was traded to the Houston Rockets because the team could not pay him what he wanted. Of course they could have paid him and it would have potentially locked up their cap space. But the main thing that many were saying was that a small market team could not afford paying him. And that is when the propaganda begins. The sympathy for a smaller market begins to roll in and owners began to trick you into thinking they are sympathetic figures. But the reality is the owner does not want to spend money to pay the luxury tax. They want to line their pockets with the monies in terms of profits and also want to fool you into thinking the teams are still as good as they were. They present all the information, but in the presentation they fool many.

The presentation by the NBA shows us year after year that small market teams are really not at a disadvantage at all. Players will play where they can get a chance to compete and win. But it is up to the owners and the teams to create that marketability to make that happen. Marketing is not something that just happens when you go to a big city. With the internet as big as it is these days, you don’t have to be in a big market to even succeed. The biggest examples of that are Kevin Durant and LeBron James. Both have been in small markets and have thrived when it comes to off the court endorsements and things of that nature. So, when a team is losing or has to lose an impact player because of they don’t want to pay them, quit letting the small market teams off the hook because they don’t want to pay. When a team is not competing year after year, stop letting them off the hook because of the small market they may play in. Take the finger-pointing and aim it at the owners and the front office for making poor decisions to make the team competitive and for not wanting to pay. The decision falls on them and them only. They did not want to pay or build a good team. They did not want to satisfy their fans and instead wanted to line their pockets. The excuse of being in a small market is just that: an excuse. Cleveland just proved that it is an excuse, San Antonio has been proving that it is an excuse for small market teams for years.

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The Kevin Love/ Tristian Thompson Dilemma Is Quickly Approaching For The Cleveland Cavaliers

Tristian Thompson and Kevin Love enjoying a light moment together. Love's decision could end up with one of these two leaving town. (photo courtesy of www.nbatitlechase.com)

Tristian Thompson and Kevin Love enjoying a light moment together. Love’s decision could end up with one of these two leaving town. (photo courtesy of http://www.nbatitlechase.com)

Thoughts of the Cleveland postseason going up in flames immediately came to mind when the injury to forward Kevin Love happened. It was announced heading into the Chicago series that Love would be out the rest of the playoffs when Boston Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk yanked on Love’s arm in the decisive Game 4 in Boston causing a shoulder separation and some other damage as well. Many wondered what adjustment would be made from Cleveland head coach David Blatt in this regard. Would he move LeBron James to the power forward position permanently and slide guard JR Smith back into the starting lineup? Or would Blatt make a move that many would not expect? Well, Blatt opted for the unexpected when he slid seldom-used Mike Miller into the starting lineup alongside James and Timofey Mozgov in the frontcourt. Miller was ineffective for the few minutes he saw on the court and then Blatt made the move that he should have made from the beginning. Blatt brought in bruising big man Tristian Thompson to give them some life like he always does. The Cleveland Cavaliers did not come back to win that game, but it did cement Thompson in the starting lineup for the rest of the postseason. And with him in the starting lineup this postseason, the Cavs are now headed back to the NBA Finals for the first time since 2007 when the Cavaliers faced the San Antonio Spurs. But with a decision looming in regards to Thompson and Love, the team now has some things to think about.

Love is the first part of this equation in Cleveland at the power forward spot. In Minnesota, Love was the answer as he stretched the floor with his shooting for the Timberwolves and ate the glass as well as a rebounder. So naturally when the thought was that he would fit in nicely with LeBron as a younger version of Chris Bosh with a better shooting stroke when the Cavaliers acquired him. But the acquisition of Love came at a price, as the Cavs gave up 2014 1st round pick (and #1 overall pick) and eventual 2014-2015 Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins. There were some that said the Cavaliers should have waited until next season to do this when Love could opt out of his deal. But the choice was made that the Cavs needed Love now and were willing to give up a future great NBA player to do so. Love was and still is a very good shooter for his size and that can give problems to a team that is not used to seeing that type of play from a power forward. But even though some believed he would be a seamless fit, he has actually had more problems adjusting there than some anticipated. Love was always the main focus in Minnesota, but in Cleveland he was just a third wheel. Being third in the pecking order behind LeBron James and Kyrie Irving seemed to cause problems in Love fitting in on this team. He did not get the shots that he thought he should get and it seemed like the team just ran inconsistently when he was on the court. And on the defensive end, the comparisons of Love to former LeBron teammate Chris Bosh immediately ended. Love was giving up any and everything on the defensive end and he was not rebounding on the defensive end either. That led the Cavs to being a middle of the road defensive team. The team began to find its rhythm when they traded for Timofey Mozgov and guards Iman Shumpert and JR Smith and Love began to fit in better, but all that momentum with the new starting five they had quickly halted with Love’s injury. Heading into the summer, Love has to examine the sample size of how he fit this Cleveland team and what he could make on the open market. Love has a $16.7 million player option available for him next season. That could keep him paid and in Cleveland to give it one more run as he tries to stay healthy and fit into the team. But if he feels he can make it somewhere else and wants to be the man a little bit more, he could take his chances on the open market as a free agent. If he does that, then he could get a deal that could potentially pay him somewhere close to what he would make in 2015, but he could also be sacrificing winning with the best player in the NBA for the ability to make a payday. All in all, it falls on what Kevin Love values most: the money and status or winning and playing his role.

Love’s decision to stay or go could not only have an effect on him and his career, but on the career of Tristian Thompson as well in Cleveland. The former 2011 4th overall pick out of Texas was slated to be the starting power forward this season. And after rejecting a four-year, $52 million extension with the Cavaliers, Thompson was betting on himself to be more valuable than the deal he was offered by Cleveland. That decision to reject the extension looked to be the wrong one at first glance because the Cavaliers would gain the services of Kevin Love via trade and that meant Thompson would be going to the bench. Some would have sulked at the situation and lamented not signing the deal that was offered. But Thompson took a different approach. Instead of becoming a malcontent, he became the hype man off their bench. Thompson came in with energy and passion everytime he stepped on the court. And the best thing he did when he stepped out there was rebound. Thompson, while coming in off the bench, was the best rebounder for the Cavs all season long and he even finished games this season ahead of Kevin Love because of his rebounding along with his defensive presence. And when Love went down for the season in the playoffs, Thompson got his chance to make some things happen as a starter. And as a result, Thompson has added some toughness and grit to the Cavaliers starting lineup and has also helped make them better defensively than they ever were with Love. With every passing game, it seems like Love is less and less mentioned and Thompson has become the guy that Cleveland fans are thinking more about wanting to stay. Thompson may not have the prettiest numbers, but he can definitely change the game with the things that he can do. And he has proved that he was worth more than what the Cavaliers though he is worth at first. But the thing is now, the Cavs are at the mercy of Kevin Love. If he signs to stay in Cleveland, the Cavaliers will either have to find someone to take on the new extension they gave big man Anderson Varejao during the season or they will be losing Thompson to free agency even though he is restricted. And that would be sad for Cleveland fans being that Thompson has come of age in Cleveland this season under the tutelage of LeBron James. It’s unfortunate because he will more than likely want to stay in Cleveland, but the reality is there are numbers that have to match up in regards to the salary cap and the numbers more than likely will not if Love stays.

Kevin Love was supposed to be an important piece on the run to the title for Cleveland. But heading into this offseason, it seems like he could be the biggest issue this offseason. If he stays, then the likelihood of Tristian Thompson leaving becomes reality. But if he decides to leave, then Thompson will be the starting power forward for Cleveland next season. All in all, the ball is in Kevin Love’s court and what he chooses to do will cause the dominoes to fall even quicker in Cleveland. But one thing is for sure in regards to all these decisions: Thompson and Love will not be donning a Cleveland Cavaliers jersey again after this season as teammates.

The Incidents In The Cavaliers/Celtics Series Game Shows A Need For Punishment Change In The NBA

The battle for a rebound ends ugly for Kevin Love(photo courtesy of www.thesudburystar.com)

The battle for a rebound ends ugly for Kevin Love(photo courtesy of http://www.thesudburystar.com)

The Cleveland Cavaliers have been in control of the series versus the Boston Celtics from the beginning. It seems as if they were just toying with the Celtics, letting them come back in games only to distance themselves again and win. Heading into Sunday, the Cavaliers looked to end the series versus the Celtics and get some rest for the next opponent, presumably the Chicago Bulls. The Cavs expected the Celtics to come out and fight, but they certainly did not expect that to happen literally. Game 4 in Boston was a messy game. There was some nasty things that happened, but there were two plays that happened that caught the eye of many that watched the game and others that did not see it at all. Celtics forward Kelly Olynyk and Cavaliers forward Kevin Love were fighting for a loose ball in the first quarter when Olynyk inexplicable yanked down on Love’s arm. In doing so, he dislocated Love’s arm and then caused him to exit the game. The other incident that cause a stir happened between Cavaliers guard JR Smith and Celtics forward Jae Crowder. Both players were battling for position for a rebound on the floor when JR Smith took a wild swing behind him and clocked Crowder in the head. Crowder would leave the game with what was deemed a sprained knee, but it looked like he could have injured himself much worse than that with how dazed he looked. Smith was ejected from the game for that and could be seen clapping towards fans and smiling as he left the court. Both incidents could lead to missed games for Olynyk and Smith. For Olynyk, it could mean a suspension for him to start the 2015-2016 season. But for Cleveland, it could be an even worse thing for their starting guard. Smith could be suspended for the Flagrant 2 foul he was assessed after the hit on Crowder. And not only could he be suspended for the first game of their second round series, but he could be suspended multiple games. That would be a huge blow for the Cavaliers if Smith is suspended along with Love missing any time with the dislocated shoulder. Many are saying that both Olynyk and Smith should get multiple-game suspensions, but there should actually be more done than this.

In the NHL, there is a physical nature that comes with the game. People get their teeth knocked out and their clocks cleaned when getting crushed up against the glass, but when an act happens that is deemed dirty, the NHL has the best policy in sports. When an act like someone hitting someone with a dirty hit that hurts a player seriously or other things dirty happen, the NHL takes the time to investigate the matter. Usually they dole out suspensions and they are done with it at that time. But in hockey, the criminal court system also takes a look at the issue at hand. They review the tape and they also can pin assault charges on players for their actions on the ice. One of the most popular examples of the court system getting involved in an on-ice incident is the Todd Bertuzzi/Steve Moore incident of 2004. Bertuzzi was playing for the Vancouver Canucks at the time and they were getting blown out by Moore’s Colorado Avalanche. In the 3rd period of the game, Bertuzzi was sent on the ice in a game that had been particularly ugly due to all the fights in the game. Moore had earlier got into a dustup with Matt Cooke of the Canucks and served a five-minute major penalty for fighting. Bertuzzi immediately came on the ice to instigate a fight with Moore and when he failed to do so in the 3rd period, he went after Moore. Bertuzzi grabbed Moore by the back of the jersey and hit him in the back of the head, knocking him unconscious. Bertuzzi would also land on top of Moore, driving his face into the ice. Some thought that was just payback for Moore, but it ended up being much more than that. Moore suffered three fractured neck vertebrae, facial cuts and a concussion as a result of the hit, fall and his face being drove into the ice. Moore’s career was unfortunately ended by that one hit. As a result of that incident, there were criminal assault charges issued against Bertuzzi and also a lawsuit against Bertuzzi and the Vancouver Canucks.

Although the incidents that happened in the Celtics/Cavaliers game were not career-ending like what happened to Moore, the same rules could potentially apply, especially in the case of JR Smith and Jae Crowder. In the future, the NBA may want to look into the rules the NHL has. The NHL has fighting and things in their game, but they all know when to not cross the line. The NBA does not know that line and it can be blurry at times. Setting up this type of legislation would further set the tempo when it comes to incidents like what happened Sunday. If these rules were in place, Olynyk and Smith would potentially both be facing assault charges. Of course Olynyk’s incident would probably get less attention, but both would be in hot water if the courts were involved. But along with setting a tough line, it would also discourage the vigilante justice that can happen sometimes on the court and can distract from the game.

Moving forward, the Cavaliers could be affected in both incidents of this equation. One of their top players this postseason could be limited for a while with a shoulder injury while another may be out for the rest a while after losing his temper and decking an opponent. The Cavs may have some issues when it comes to the second round because of these two incidents. And in the regard of the Celtics, they will probably be missing a player to start next season and Crowder could be injured worse than what was initially reported. Fighting and intentionally injuring players has no place on the court. Of course you can take up for your teammates, but get the other team back between the lines maybe with a hard screen or something like that, not something dirty and obvious to people. That isn’t smart at all.

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