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  1. Will the Big Offseason Moves Pay Off in NBA 2017-2018?

    It has certainly been a very active offseason for a number of NBA teams. Some players have changed addresses, none more hyped so than Kyrie Irving's move to the Boston Celtics.

    Irving will have newly-minted superstar Gordon Haywood keeping him company in Boston.

    He isn't the only one of course. Isaiah Thomas, supposedly Boston's Next Legend, traded addresses with Irving and is now with LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    Dwayne Wade has reunited with James in Cleveland in what is shaping up to be a super team of sorts. They also signed former MVP Derrick Rose out of New York.

    Paul George and Carmelo Anthony - who have 14 All Star appearances and a few Olympic gold medals between them - are now teammates. With reigning MVP Russell Westbrook, over in Oklahoma City.

    Chris Paul and James Harden are also teammates now, over with the Houston Rockets.

    Rudy Gay was signed - almost without fanfare - by the ever efficient San Antonio Spurs.

    Jimmy Butler rejoins his old coach Tom Thibodeau in Minnesota, where he will team up with rising stars Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns.

    Golden State gave Steph Curry the biggest contract extension in NBA history with $201 million, only to have Oklahoma City top that by giving Westbrook his own extension for $205 million.

    And the season hasn't even started yet.

    So how do all these big moves translate into the actual season? Well, we'll have to wait and see when the actual season rolls around won't we?

    But still, as an academic discussion, let us see where this leads us, Praxedes...

    Undoubtedly the biggest development was the Irving-Thomas trade. It was basically an All Star trade, but as we have commented in this space, it seems the normally astute Danny Ainge gave up too much to secure the services of the 25-year old Irving.

    Aside from the 28-year old Thomas (who was coming off a career year) the Celtics also gave away backup big man Ante Zizic, two-way forward Jae Crowder, and most importantly, an unprotected first round pick in the 2018 Draft from the normally woebegone Brooklyn Nets. So yes, that is going to be a sure Top 5 pick come 2018.

    Granted Thomas probably won't be playing until January due to a hip injury, still, quite a package Ainge sent to Cleveland.

    Westbrook for his part not only got 200 million clams richer but he now has two other legitimate All Stars beside him. The usual takl is that there won't be enough touches and shots to go around for three of the best scorers in the league. It should be intersting to see what GM Sam Presti and head coach Billy Donovan have in mind other than running opponents into the ground.

    "The NBA landscape has changed and we need to change with it," Presti said in one interview. So from building through the draft he suddenly built a new super team.

    The same might be said for the Timberwolves, with the three young stars getting a chance to try and build a stronger team. "We want to be in a better position to win," said Thibodeau in one interview.

    Harden transformed into an elite point guard last season with career highs in assists and became a much better creator, especially on the drive and draw. Paul is also a top-tier point guard, which means Harden might be reverting back to his shooting guard position, and taking away his ability to create for his teammates, a job that will now fall to Paul.

    Gay will be playing alongside emergent superstar Kawhi Leonard, and both play similar games, mostly creating and scoring from the perimeter, although Gay should be able to slide easily into a super sidekick role for Greg Poppovich.

    All of this of course still boils down to whether or not anybody, including the reloaded Cavaliers, can knock Curry, Kevin Durant and the Warriors off their throne.

    Curry and Durant might have surprised a lot of observers and analysts when they actually played well together, but that means taking on the Warriors only became that much more difficult.

    As much as Oklahoma and Minnesota have improved, it doesn't look like they've improved enough to be a meaningful challenger to Golden State. It remains to be seen if the addition of Gay to San Antonio has given the Spurs the extra weapon they need against Golden State.

    All told it will make for a very interesting and exciting NBA season, one that hopefully will prove to be more entertaining than last season.

    It still looks like a Warriors-Cavaliers Finals, but hopefully the road to the NBA Title will prove to be a little more bumpy.
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  2. The Trade

    The Cleveland Cavaliers are becoming the NBA franchise for milestone events in the Internet Age.

    First there was "The Decision". Then came "The Return". Now we have "The Trade".

    The first two events centered around LeBron James, without a doubt the biggest damn star in all of Cleveland sports history, no disrespect meant to Mr James Brown.

    That third event though, that is something that has gotten quite the buzz.

    Allow me to explain, Praxedes:

    Kyrie Irving, the top pick of the 2011 NBA Rookie Draft, an All Star and USA Basketball stalwart, asked Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert to trade him a couple months back, reportedly because he "wanted to be more of the focal point" according to media articles and features.

    Fair enough, a man can certainly make his own decisions regarding his career.

    Fast forward to less than a few hours ago (as of this writing) and that trade has been consummated.

    Who did Cleveland get for Irving?

    Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic, and an unprotected 2018 draft pick.

    Thomas, picked 60th and last in the same draft where Irving went first overall, became a bona fide superstar last season, at one point averaging 30 points per game and eventually settling down to a little over 28 ppg.

    Had this been a one-for-one trade nobody would be talking about it much. After all, it was basically score-first superstar point guards swapping places.

    But the Celtics threw in Crowder, a lottery draftee, who is one of the best two-way players in the league and a top defender at both forward spots. They also threw in Zizic, still a work in progress as another 7-foot project but one with pretty good upside according to scouts.

    But the ultimate throw-in is that 2018 unprotected draft pick.

    Praxedes, do you know how Boston got that pick?

    They got that pick during their massive housecleaning that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to the Brooklyn Nets. Yes, those Brooklyn Nets, a team so bad that draft pick could easily be a Top 5 player in a draft year projected to be top heavy with the likes of Marvin Bagley III and Mohamed Bamba among those the Cavaliers could take.

    For one Kyrie Irving.

    Celtics General Manager Danny Ainge seems to think Irving is worth it. "You want a high quality player you have to pay a high price," he said in one interview.

    But is this a price that is too high?

    Ainge has built a reputation as an executive who has generally managed talent very well in Boston and everywhere else he's been. How did Cleveland get him to give up so much for Irving?

    Truth be told Irving and Thomas are certainly one of a type: score-first, clutch-shooting point guards who need the ball in their hands a lot, and both aren't exactly known for their defense. Irving in particular put up career numbers last season with over 25 ppg while shooting a little over 40% from three-range. He hit the title-clinching three in Game 7 of their historic resurrection from 1-3 down to Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors in the 2016 NBA Finals.

    Yet his defensive metrics can charitably be described as "mediocre".

    Thomas for his part went on a tear last season and might have made even more noise is the playoffs were it not for a hip injury.

    For all his greatness, Thomas is still just 5-foot-9, and players that small tend not to last very long, playing at that level, in the league.

    So it was the throw-ins that really made this a fleecing for Cleveland, fleecing the fleecer as it were.

    And as fate would have it, or maybe it really was part of the plan, Cleveland and Boston take on each other on opening night this October 17.

    I guess, Praxedes, we will find out right away who really fleeced who then, eh?
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  3. KD Was the NBA Brightest Star in Season 71

    What a 71st National Basketball Association renewal it was! ?This is why we play? was the season?s slogan and it resulted in several league records broken, including one that had stood for more than half a century.

    Hard-hat star Russell Westbrook, the meal ticket of the Oklahoma City Thunder, took the American pro league by storm during the 2016-17 regular season, shattering a pair of 55-year-old league records of ?The Big O? Oscar Robertson in chalking up 42 triple-double games and also registering a T-D average of an NBA-high 31.6 points (a nine-year career high), 10.7 rebounds and a league third-best 10.4 assists in 81 appearances. Westbrook captured his second NBA scoring crown but unlike the first that came in 2014-15, the Thunder made the playoffs this time.

    In 1961-62, Robertson of the Cincinnati Royals (the forerunners of the Sacramento Kings) garnered 41 triple-double games and averaged 30.8 points, 12.5 rebounds and 11.4 assists in 79 games as a sophomore pro out of the University of Cincinnati.

    Westbrook?s co-finalist in the 2017 NBA Most Valuable player derby, silky-smooth operator James Harden of Houston, propelled his Rockets to a 14-game turnaround ? from 41-41 to 55-27. ?The Beard? ranked first in the majors in assists (11.2 apg) and second in point production (29.1 ppg) and averaged 8.1 rebounds in 81 outings ? for an eight-year career high in all three categories.

    Harden topped the NBA in double-double games at 64 (to the second-place 62s of Westbrook and Minnesota?s Karl-Anthony Towns) and trailed only Westbrook in triple-double performances at 22. The Rockets beat the Thunder, 4-1, in the first-round playoffs before dropping a 4-2 decision to the Texas rival San Antonio Spurs in the West semifinals.

    Meanwhile, LeBron James of the 2016 titlist Cleveland Cavaliers was not among the top three finalists for this year?s Maurice Podoloff (MVP) hardware to be contested by Westbrook, Harden and San Antonio?s Kawhi Leonard during the NBA?s first-ever Awards Night on June 26 (June 27, Manila time).

    The snub served as a motivation for The King, a four-time league MVP (2009 and 2010 in his first tour of duty with Cleveland and 2012 and 2013 when he powered Miami to a pair of championships).

    During the 2017 NBA playoffs, James, who reached the NBA Finals for an eighth consecutive season (including the last three with the Cavs), elevated his numbers in minutes played, scoring, rebounding (career-high 8.6 rpg during the regulars), steals, shot blocks, field goal percentage, three-point field goal percentage and free throw percentage from the regular campaign.

    A 14-year pro out of high school, the 6-8, 32-year-old native of Akron, Ohio averaged 41.3 minutes, 32.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, 7.8 assists, 1.9 steals and 1.3 blocks in 18 games (13-5) with shooting clips of .565 (playoff career-tying) from the field, including .411 (an all-time postseason best) from three-ball country, and .698 from the free-throw line.

    James was even better in the NBA Finals, posting the first-ever triple-double average in NBA championship-round history with 33.6 points, 12.0 rebounds and 10 assists with a .564 (66-of-117) field goal percentage.

    However, James fell to his fifth defeat in eight Finals trips as the Cavs were beaten by the Golden State Warriors in five games.

    And that?s because of Kevin Durant, a big fella who left Oklahoma City last summer following nine title-less seasons, including a 4-1 loss to James? Heat in the 2012 Finals despite the Thunder owning the home-court advantage and a 1-0 series lead, to go west with Warriors in search for a championship ring.

    Success finally found the 6-9, 28-year forward this year but it was not easy. Durant overcame injuries in the second half of the regular season ? he missed 19 consecutive regular games (March 2-April 5) due to a strained MCL and a bone bruise in his left leg and even into the early part of the playoffs ? he sat out Games 2 and 3 of the first-round, 4-0 sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers due to a strained left calf) - to turn in a memorable Finals effort.

    In the Finals, Durant averaged 35.2 points ? going 38, 33, 31, 35 and 39 in the five-game series ? 8.4 boards and 5.0 handouts and became the first player in NBA history to shoot at least 50 percent from the field (.556), 40 percent from beyond the arc (.474) and 90 percent from the charity stripes (.927) with that high a scoring average in the Finals.

    For the entire 2017 postseason, he posted averages of 28.5 points (on .556 FG, .442 3-FG, .893 FT shooting), 8.0 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.33 blocks in 15 games.

    In the end, it was the star of Durant that shone brightest in helping the Warriors secure the Larry O?Brien hardware for the second time in three years and in his ...
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  4. NBA Finals: Warriors in 5

    A historic playoff perfection was not theirs to claim but the Golden State Warriors were rewarded with the ring that matters most to their gallant troops and the hardware that 29 other member teams in the National Basketball Association had coveted all season long ? the Larry O?Brien trophy that goes to the league champions.

    Deservedly so, the Warriors claimed their second NBA title in three years with a 4-1 decision over the Cleveland Cavaliers ? their 2016 Finals tormentors ? in the best-of-seven titular showdown that came to a close yesterday with a 129-120 victory in Game 5 before their home folks at the Oracle Arena.

    Cleveland, which pinned Golden State with its first defeat in 16 games in the just-concluded playoffs with a 137-116 rout in Game 4 at the Quicken Loans Arena, came out strong off the gates to lead by as many eight points (20-12) in the first quarter that ended in its favor, 37-33.
    The Cavs were still ahead by four, 43-39, when the Warriors pulled off a torrid run in the second quarter that gave them a lead of as much as 16 points (69-53) before settling for a 71-60 advantage at intermission.

    Cleveland, which a year ago became the first team in NBA Finals history to rally from a 3-1 series deficit and steal the NBA diadem from Golden State on its home floor with a Game 7 win, was still within striking distance as it trailed by just five, 98-93, after three points. Then came the customary offensive avalanche that the Dubs have made against the opposition throughout the regular season (67-15) and playoffs (16-1), pulled away from the Cavs halfway through the payoff canto behind Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry and the X-Man Andre Iguodala, the 2015 Finals MVP when the Bay Area squad corralled its first NBA title following a 40-year famine.

    Durant, who last summer left the Oklahoma City Thunder following nine ring-less seasons to join Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green at Golden State, received a unanimous vote from an 11-member media panel as this year?s Finals MVP, validating his controversial decision to move West with the Warriors.

    The 6-9, 28-year-old Durant went 5-of-8 from beyond the arc and shot 14-of-20 (.700) overall from the field ? the best percentage ever in a title-clinching victory in Finals history (with a minimum of 20 attempts) ? grabbed seven rebounds and dished out five assists in 40:15 minutes.
    In the five-game series, the Washington D.C. native, whose love for his mom is eternal (?she?s the real MVP? for singlehandedly raising his son), posted averages of 35.2 points, 8.4 rebounds and 5.4 assists with shooting clips of .556 (60-of-10 from the field, including .474 (18-of-3 from rainbow territory, and .927 (38-of-41) from the charity stripes.

    Durant?s 35.2-point average is the highest in NBA Finals history for a player who shot 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from the three-point area and 90 percent from the free-throw line ? far better that Orlando?s Anfernee (Penny) Hardaway?s 25.5 ppg in a 1995 loss to Houston by a 4-0 sweep and Detroit?s Chauncey Billups? 21.0 ppg in 2004 in a 4-1 Pistons win over the Los Angeles Lakers.

    KD also is the first player since the Lakers? Shaquille O?Neal in 2000 to register five straight 30-point games in a Finals series. (O?Neal?s team beat Indiana, 4-2, in that year?s Finals.)

    In the series-clincher, Curry collected 34 markers (10-20 FGA), six boards, 10 assists and three steals to finish with averages of 26.8 ppg, 8.0 rpg and 9.7 apg while his Splash Brothers mate Thompson struggled with 11 points on 4-of-13 floor shooting and wound up with a series norm of 16.4 ppg. Green, who had been off offensively throughout the Finals (19-of-55, .345), shot a frigid 3-10 from the field for 10 scores but he made up for this deficiency with a team-high 12 boards and five assists.

    But what turned out to be a pleasant surprise for the Warriors was the performance of Iguodala on both ends of the floor, netting 20 points (9-14 FGA), three rebounds and three assists off the pines while making life a bit harder for LeBron James on defense.

    Be that as it may, James still managed to chalk up 41 points (around 10 of them in the final minutes when the game was already practically decided) on 19-of-30 FG shooting, 13 rebounds and eight handoffs in 46:13 of playing time for the dethroned Cavs.

    Kyrie Irving shot 9-of-22 to get his 26 points in Game 4 and normed 29.4 ppg overall in the Finals for the wine and Gold. His backcourt partner J.R. Smith, drilled in a series-high 25 markers on 9-of-11 floor clip, including 7-of-8 from trifecta. Smith averaged 18.7 ppg in his final three appearances by going 19-of-31 from the field, including 17-of-27 (.630) from three-ball country, after tallying just a triple in the series opener and being held scoreless in Game 2. ...
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  5. The End of the Road for the Cavs?

    The rampaging Golden State Warriors go for the jugular on Saturday June 10 (Manila time, 9:00 a.m.) when they take on the about-to-be-deposed National Basketball Association titlist Cleveland Cavaliers in Game Four of the best-of-seven 2007 Finals at the Quicken Loans Arena seeking a 4-0 series sweep and attain playoff perfection for the first time ever in the 71-year existence of the league at 16-0.

    If ever, the Bay Area squad will take the NBA crown for the second time in three years and turn in the trick on the Wine City outfit?s home floor. In 2015, Golden State whipped Cleveland, 4-2, in the Finals for its first Larry O?Brien championship hardware in 40 years. The Warriors grabbed the title in Game 6 also at the Quicken Loans Arena.

    This year's NBA Finals marks only the third time since 1996 that one team has gained a 3-0 lead in a championship series.

    During the stretch, Chicago (led by Michael Jordan) also went 3-0 against Seattle (led by Shawn Kemp) in the 1996 Finals and San Antonio was up, 3-0, versus Cleveland in the 2007 Finals.

    The Spurs eventually swept the Cavs in four games.

    However, the Bulls, who had posted the all-time best record in NBA regular-season history at the time at 72-10 (before Golden State shattered the mark in 2015-16 with a 73-9 mark), allowed the SuperSonics (now the Oklahoma City Thunder) to steal Games 4 and 5 under the old 2-3-2 (home-road) Finals format before the Bulls finished them off in Game 6 on their home floor.

    The most recent time that a 4-0 sweep was registered in an NBA Finals occurred exactly a decade ago.

    In 2007, Tim Duncan and Finals MVP Tony Parker powered the San Antonio Spurs to a 4-0 Finals sweep of LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    At the time, James was in his first tour duty with the Cavs and was a fourth-year pro out of high school.
    Who was the Cavs' head coach at the time?

    Mike Brown, now an assistant coach with Golden State who held the reins in lieu of a sick Steve Kerr in 11 straight playoff victories (11-0), including the Finals series -opening win over reigning champion Cleveland.

    +++

    How the hell did 6-3 Stephen Curry grab a team-high 13 rebounds (eight of them on the defensive end) for Golden State in NBA Finals Game 3 to tie Cleveland's 6-10 Kevin Love (13) for game-high honors?

    Who says small men don't jump?
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