No one captures the narrative arc of LeBron James' career like Brian Windhorst, who reflects on some of James' most memorable Game 5 moments, good and bad.
Doc Rivers says the Celtics' early struggles weren't because they're old, but because they were just plain out of shape.
John Hollinger (Insider) on the big decisions facing newly minted Portland GM Neil Olshey: "He has a chance to put his imprint on the Blazers immediately. Portland has two lottery picks, a trove of cap space and an All-Star power forward in his prime. The Blazers have to hire a coach, re-sign Nicolas Batum and decide whether to pursue European stash picks Victor Claver and Joel Freeland. And those aren't even the biggest decisions. The enduring debate in Portland remains whether this team is coming or going. Do the Blazers trade the draft picks, use the cap space and try to build a winner around LaMarcus Aldridge? Or is a more cautious approach the prudent one, even if it upsets Aldridge and maybe wastes some of his best years? Perhaps there's a third route. Olshey was able to pull off the Paul deal by building up assets; while that's more difficult in Portland, which isn't exactly the magnet that L.A is (recruiting pitch: 'You'll hardly notice the rain. It's dark most of the time!' -- full disclosure: I live there part-time. The part when it's not raining), it does offer a plausible scenario to a franchise teeming with young assets."
A clip from last night's TNT broadcast: "The Best of Gregg Popovich".
Hayes Davenport of Celtics Hub goes after the assumption that Paul Pierce is Boston's best scorer: "Rondo’s shyness late in games is not a sustainable trend for this team. He, not Paul Pierce, needs to be the primary offensive option for the Celtics for every minute he’s on the floor. There’s a myth out there, perpetuated by Doc Rivers, KG, and Rondo himself, that Pierce is 'their scorer.' False. It’s Rondo. The 'Paul is our scorer' cliche may be hurting the Celtics as much as anything else in these games. Pierce has come off a dicey Philadelphia series to post the lowest eFG% against Miami of any of the Big Four … on the most shots taken." Worth noting: in the last two rounds Pierce has been guarded by LeBron James and Andre Iguodala, probably the two best wing defenders in the NBA.
On Grantland, Jonathan Abrams profiles Stephen Jackson, who had this to say about surly ol' Gregg Popovich: "I need a coach that I can respect, that's proven in this league and doesn't mind taking advice from his players. When you have a great coach like Gregg Popovich, who asks about our opinion and cares about how we feel and what we think and what goes on off the court and at home, it's easy to play for those guys because you know they genuinely care. "
I don't know how highly GMs and coaches will rate UNC's Kendall Marshall, who has Rubio-like passing skills. But if I were an NBA player I'd certainly hope he ended up on my team.
Andrew Bynum's extension puts a fine point on the Lakers unenviable financial situation.
SI's Zach Lowe on Russell Westbrook's improved distribution techniques: "Monday night alone, he tossed four or five I’m not sure he could have made last season -- two cross-court skip passes to Daequan Cook out of the pick-and-roll, a nearly blind pitch-back to Durant for an open three-pointer and a gorgeous drop pass to Nick Collison out of a pick-and-roll, a play on which Westbrook froze the lurking help defender (Stephen Jackson) by yo-yo-ing his dribble in the lane and looking briefly at Jackson’s man (Harden, on the wing) before the dish. On one of those Cook passes, Westbrook saw Parker deciding whether he should leave Cook to help on Westbrook in the lane, and he took one extra hesitation dribble into the paint, forcing Parker to commit."
Well, they didn't get Anthony Davis. So what should Charlotte do with that No. 2 pick?
Jesse Blanchard narrates one of the biggest shots of the season on 48 Minutes of Hell: "His team reeling, James Harden found himself, ball in hands, against both the shot clock and formidable reach of Spurs rookie Kawhi Leonard. With a quick series of dance steps from left-to-right-and-back, Harden created just enough separation from Leonard to unsheathe a dagger of a three-pointer. 'The play was for Kevin [Durant] and the shot clock was going down, that is why I had to make a play,' Harden said. 'I think Kawhi Leonard was playing very good defense on me and I just had to make a shot. I just went back to my mechanics and the ball with confidence and it went in.' Harden’s three-pointer to extend the Thunder’s lead to five with less than 30 seconds left was the stuff of legends. It was Derek Fisher and 0.4. It was Manu Ginobili fouling Dirk Nowitzki as he barreled towards the lane down three. It was Robert Horry doing any number of things that Robert Horry used to do. In short, it was the kind of improbable shot that comes to define championship runs. 'Bottom line, every season we won the championship we’ve had situations like that,' Ginobili said of Harden’s shot. 'And every season we lost, we had those too.'"
As always, Daily Thunder's Royce Young has some indispensable notes following Game 5.