ESPN reports that Cleveland Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith received his one-game suspension earlier this week because of an altercation with assistant coach Damon Jones, but the most important piece of information regarding the incident comes from what Jones was allegedly attacked with. Multiple sources with insider information claim Smith threw a bowl of soup at Jones.
Before the Cavaliers' 108-97 loss to the 76ers on Thursday night, the team announced that Smith would be sitting the game out. Assistant coach Damon Jones and Smith have both declined to comment on the situation, but head coach Tyronn Lue explained he had “a little discussion” with Smith over the incident. Smith is already playing again today, but understandably, people on Twitter have had a field day with the news.
Hopefully the soup wasn't hot, but considering that Smith is already playing again, it probably wasn't all that dangerous. Don't throw soup, kids.
Contrary to popular opinion, LeBron James is human after all, and though his run of seven consecutive trips to the NBA Finals might make him seem otherworldly, it doesn't make him invincible. This season more than ever, it feels like Cleveland is surviving rather than thriving. At some point, someone in the East is going to beat them. And after Cleveland's 118-108 home loss to the defending champion Golden State Warriors last night, we might've officially reached that point.
According to ESPN's Dave McMenamin, there is growing discontent and a strong sense of concern within the Cleveland locker room. The Cavs are 26-17 with only three wins in their last 12 games. They got blown out by a combined 62 points against Toronto and Minnesota last week. They might have the worst defense in the entire NBA, and they've slid so far that many of the team's veterans now doubt whether they can fix their problems this season.
Age. One-dimensional role players. Defensive-issues that go far beyond fundamentals. Several prominent players told ESPN, Cleveland.com, and The Athletic that the team's problems won't go away simply by getting healthy.
This is not the first time we've heard grumblings coming out of Cleveland this season. Just last week, Yahoo! Sports reported there were complaints in the locker room about “personal agendas” getting in the way of success. Some Cavs players thought LeBron was chasing assists in an effort to win one final MVP award. Others didn't like coach Tyronn Lue's rotations. The bickering reeks of familiarity, like a family that's been living together far too long.
In past years during their inevitable regular season lapses, the team could lean on Kyrie Irving. But Irving is gone, and his replacement is a 28-year-old, 5'9″ defensive problem who may or may not ever be the same after returning from a major hip injury.
LeBron has to know all of this. He also knows Cleveland holds the rights to Brooklyn's first-round pick next summer—and that there are several names potentially available on the market. That pick and this year's trade deadline might be Cleveland's final chance to position themselves for one last run at a title. Among the NBA's contenders, they have the least to lose and the most to gain by making a deal.
Can they get DeAndre Jordan? Do they have a better deal looming that no one sees yet? Whatever it is Cleveland HAS to swing big to give itself every chance to convince LeBron to stay …
Let's say Lebron leaves. Cavs could have all the draft picks in the world. No free agents are gonna come play in Cleveland. No free agents are gonna take less to come play in Cle. So exactly what future are you planning for?? 🤷🏽♂️
No one ever expects a run to end before it does. Miami's Big Three era faded with a whimper, getting blitzed by 14 points per game against San Antonio in the 2014 Finals. Kobe's Lakers collapsed in a surprising sweep in 2011, burnt out and exhausted. Before that, it was Shaq and the Lakers getting old before our eyes and even before that, it was Houston and Hakeem Olajuwon getting run into the ground by Seattle and the Detroit Bad Boys wilting under the athleticism of Jordan's Bulls.
Is this Cleveland's moment of reckoning? If it is, it shouldn't surprise anyone.
The Cavaliers made a really surprising move on Monday night, and unfortunately for Cleveland fans, it didn’t have anything to do with the Jimmy Butler trade rumors that were swirling around earlier in the day.
The Cavaliers, per league sources, have been working today on assembling multi-team trade scenarios to try to acquire Chicago's Jimmy Butler
Just hours after those Butler rumors started gaining some traction online, the Cavaliers and their general manager David Griffin announced that they had decided to part ways. Griffin—who had been with the team for three years and helped put together the roster that won a title just one year ago—had been seeking a contract extension from the Cavaliers for the last few months. But according to an ESPN.com report, Griffin and Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension in recent weeks. And with Griffin’s current contract set to expire at the end of June, the two sides broke off negotiations recently and decided it would be best to go their separate ways rather than continue to work together moving forward.
Shortly after reports about the split started to circulate, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin released a statement that Griffin put out about the situation. In it, Griffin thanked the Cavaliers organization and briefly touched on why he and Gilbert weren’t able to agree on a new contract:
“I am extremely excited for my next challenge in the NBA,” Griffin said, “however Dan and I know now that [the Cavaliers] are a team built largely on the concept of fit and are now at the point where the fit is not right for us to continue with one another.”
Gilbert also released a statement and thanked Griffin for everything he did during his time in Cleveland:
“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Griff for his leadership and many contributions during his time here, including most recently, his role in the franchise’s first NBA Championship,” Gilbert said.
In his statement, Gilbert added that there would be “no announcement at this time related to new leadership of the Cavaliers basketball operations group.” But ESPN’s Brian Windhorst is reporting that the Cavaliers might be interested in hiring former NBA star Chauncey Billups to play an important role in their front office. They are reportedly going to meet with him on Tuesday:
Dan Gilbert has scheduled an in-person meeting with Chauncey Billups tomorrow, sources said
Billups is very close with Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue, so he could end up being a great addition to the team. But it sounds like there are some people within the Cavaliers organization who were not happy with the way the team handled Griffin’s departure.
LeBron James in particular seemed like he was displeased with the idea of the Cavaliers cutting ties with Griffin. Back in April, he told ESPN that he wanted to see Cleveland give Griffin a new deal, and shortly after the Cavaliers announced that he wouldn’t be back on Monday night, LeBron appeared to subtweet Gilbert in a thank-you tweet he sent out to Griffin:
If no one appreciated you Griff I did, and hopefully all the people of Cleveland! Thanks for what u did for the team for 3 yrs! We got us 1🏆
Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck also reported that LeBron was “disappointed” and “concerned” over the situation. Beck pointed out that LeBron and Griffin had a great working relationship over the course of the last three years:
Source: LeBron is “disappointed” at Griffin's departure, as well as the timing, & “concerned” abt what this portends for Cavs going forward.
But Cavaliers fans are worried about what it could mean for LeBron’s future with the team. There are already rumors out there about how he could leave the team next year to play for one of the two teams located in Los Angeles. And after he sent out his subtweet, there were even more fans speculating about how Griffin leaving could impact LeBron’s decision to stay in Cleveland next summer:
CLEVELAND — It started off with a crazy 49-point first quarter from the Cavs, who finished with an even crazier 86 points at halftime. That was topped by the craziest third quarter the NBA Finals has ever seen when a series worth of soap opera like drama was squeezed into 12 minutes.
Game 4 of the NBA Finals was wild, ridiculous, and absurd. We saw Cleveland go bonkers on offense in the first half, the refs call 51 fouls, the seemingly random rescinding of a technical on Draymond Green, and some extracurricular activities from superstars and role players alike that will be dissected for the next two days. When it was all said and done, the Cavs were 137-116 winners and extended the series at least one more game with a physical effort we hadn’t seen through the series' first three contests.
“We took it to them first and that was very telling for the rest of the game,” Kevin Love said.
So here we are again. The Warriors are up 3-1 and headed back to the West Coast. And while we can draw as many parallels as we want to last year’s historic NBA Finals, the Cavs extending the series only feels like we’re delaying the inevitable this time around.
But before we get to that, Cleveland should be commended for preventing the Warriors from becoming the only team in NBA history to go 16-0 in the postseason. Their chance to do that was pretty much over early Friday as the Cavs blitzed Golden State for an NBA Finals record 49 points in the first quarter and an NBA Playoffs record 86 points after two. And they kept shooting lights out the rest of the way. Cleveland finished shooting 52.9 percent from the field and made an NBA Finals record 24 3-pointers. Through the first three games of the series, Cleveland had only made 31 threes.
Quicken Loans Arena was rocking as the Cavs treated their fans to a rollicking performance led by Kyrie Irving’s 40 points. LeBron James recorded his 9th NBA Finals triple-double, surpassing Magic Johnson for the all-time mark, going for 31, 11, and 10 while Love added 23 and J.R, Smith contributed 15.
“We played a desperate team at home and they came out and handed it to us. Simple as that.”
It was a feel good night for the Cavs and their fans, for sure. The crowd was hyped from the start and the Cavs, who were ripe to be blown out following Game 3’s devastating loss, fed off their energy. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said there was no special pregame speech. He liked his squad’s attitude during the morning’s shootaround. “Guys were upbeat. No hanging heads,” he said. Maybe the Warriors were too caught up in chasing history?
“I don’t think there was any thoughts or concerns about history,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. “We played a desperate team at home and they came out and handed it to us. Simple as that.”
This one will be remembered for the truly bizarre third quarter. We had LeBron’s self-pass off the backboard for a dunk that will go down as one of the Finals’ most memorable plays. Later on, the King and Kevin Durant were jawing at each other and drew duel techs. “We weren't coming to blows, we were just talking,” Durant said. A little over a minute after that, Green was tossed for earning a second technical before he wasn’t. The refs ended up giving it to Steve Kerr instead. Finally, we saw Groingate v. 2017 when it looked like Zaza Pachulia took a swipe at Iman Shumpert’s sensitive area during a scrum for a loose ball.
NBA conspiracy theory junkies will have a field day dissecting that and all the fouls called by the refs in Cleveland's favor, especially in the first quarter. With the Finals enjoying some of their highest ratings in years, we all know the league really wants it to extend as long as possible and early on the zebras seemingly did their part. The Cavs went to the free throw line 22 times in the first 12 minutes. Somewhere in the bowels of Quicken Loans Arena, or back in New York—wherever he was—it was like commissioner Adam Silver was pulling all the right strings to at least extend the Finals to five games.
But does this really change anything? Has momentum swung back in the Cavs favor? The Cavs deserve credit for not rolling over and letting the Warriors celebrate a title on their floor. They were gritty, gutty, and grimy, playing physical for the first time all series and roughing up the Warriors. But let’s be real here: the Warriors were their own worst enemy in Game 4. Featuring a ton of isolation and practically none of their signature run and gun offense or precision ball movement, the second half saw the Warriors brick a ton threes and settle for low percentage long twos. Golden State finished shooting 28.2 percent from beyond the arc, well below their 39.6 percent average this postseason. Yes, the Cavs are the second best team in the league and getting one of the Warriors shouldn’t come as a surprise. But the Dubs were due for a dud.
“It was one of those nights where we didn’t have anything clicking,” Steph Curry said
The “Cavs in 7’ chant that broke near the end of the game was cute, an ode to the tweet JR Smith claims he didn’t send out following Game 3. But the chances the Cavs faithful see their team play again in person are slim to none. The Warriors were garbage in Game 4, a hot mess on offense, and now they’re headed home where they have lost just once in their last 16 games. They’ve been the superior team three out of four games. They were the superior team during the regular season and during their run to the Finals. They have a potential championship clinching Game 5 Monday in Oracle Arena where they trounced Cleveland in the first two games of the series and once back in January. Draymond won't be suspended for Game 5 like last year. And most importantly they still have more firepower and more superstars than the Cavs, starting with the biggest difference maker, KD.
Believe it or not, it’s been 20 years since AI got the better of MJ. Monday was actually the 20th anniversary of the legendary crossover. And to celebrate it, ESPN's Jemele Hill and Michael Smith invited AI to be a guest on SC6 to talk about the move he put on Mike.
They started things off by asking AI whether he considers that crossover or the step he took over Tyronn Lue to be his most memorable move. And after AI picked the crossover, he took things a step further by explaining that MJ is still pretty salty about taking an L to AI during his rookie season. AI said he spoke with him recently, and apparently, MJ brought up the move during their discussion.
“I live in Charlotte, so I went to a Charlotte [Hornets] game,” AI explained. “[Jordan] was in the back, so we was talking and I was telling him how much I loved him and admired him and telling him how much he was my hero. And he was like, 'Well, I couldn’t have been a hero to you if you crossed me like that.'”
You can hear AI talk about the crossover on SC6 here:
J.R. Smith is currently rehabbing from a broken right thumb, and he has missed the Cavaliers’ past 34 games, but that hasn’t kept him from being actively involved in his team—and it won’t stop him from standing up for his teammates when he feels they’ve been disrespected.
On Saturday night, Smith was held back by security and escorted off the court by Cleveland head coach Tyronn Lue after he engaged in a shouting match with several Miami Heat players. Miami took the game 120-92, and Smith was peeved by the actions of Miami’s Rodney McGruder.
With 1:14 remaining in the fourth quarter and the Heat firmly in command, McGruder slammed home a putback dunk over the Cavaliers’ Channing Frye and then celebrated the dunk with a fist pump that may have been an attempt to shove Frye in the lower back.
Was it actually an attempted push? Hard to tell. Check the video out below.
On the ensuing Miami possession, Smith, seated on the bench, began a verbal battle with McGruder, who was standing near Cleveland’s sidelines. Then, after the game, former Cleveland guard Dion Waiters approached Cleveland’s bench and started yelling and pointing at Smith.
Heat security and Cavs center Tristan Thompson tried to reason with Waiters. Meanwhile, team officials quickly escorted Smith to the Cavs’ locker room.
“We got J.R. off the floor,” Lue said after the game, according to ESPN. “He's fiery. He's feisty. He's ready to get back on the floor. It happens throughout the course of a game. It's nothing, though.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra defended McGruder’s putback dunk and said there was no malice behind it.
“If anybody knows Rodney, he's just out there competing,” Spoelstra said. “He's going to compete every possession. He's not trying to show up anybody.”