Earlier this week, the NBA named Russell Westbrook as the Western Conference Player of the week and LeBron James as the Eastern Conference player of the week. The award is no surprise as both Westbrook and James have been putting up some crazy stats this season.
Russell Westbrook: Russell Westbrook is showing the league that he doesn’t need Kevin Durant to win games. For years Westbrook lived in the shadow of Durant but this season he has proven he can lead the team on his own. Westbrook has only played three games and has already had two games with a triple-double. Westbrook could’ve recorded three games with a triple-double but he was shy of an assist.
In his season debut against the Philadelphia 76ers, Westbrook scored 32 points, dished out nine assists and pulled down 12 rebounds. Despite Westbrook’s impressive performance, the Thunder were barely able to defeat the 76ers 103-97. During the next two games, Westbrook earned a triple-double in each game. During the game against the Suns, Westbrook broke out for 51 points, 10 assists and 13 rebounds. Before the first week of the season was over, the Thunder earned their third win against the Lakers. During Sundays game, Westbrook dropped 33 points, dished out 16 assists and grabbed 12 rebounds.
He leads the league by averaging a triple-double with 38.7 points, 11.7 assists and 12.3 rebounds per game. With these stats, he became the first player to produce two triple-doubles in the first three games since the early 1980s. The man has no signs of slowing down. Lets see if Westbrook can can continue his triple-double average tonight against the Los Angeles Clippers.
LeBron James: LeBron James and the Cavaliers are playing like the NBA Finals Champions that they are. The Cavs started the season 4-0, making it the first time they started this way since the 2000-01 season. It’s clear that James is one of the key reasons for their success.
As many of us know, the former first pick was selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2003. After his seven seasons with the Cavs, James felt like he had to elsewhere to win the Championship. As a result, he ended up leaving Cleveland and joined the Miami Heat.
In Miami, James was successful and won back to back NBA Finals. In the two Finals runs, James was also awarded the Finals MVP. The very next season the Heat returned to the Finals but this time the San Antonio Spurs walked away with the Championship title. After all the success in Miami, James felt he could return back home to Cleveland to win a ring. His first year back in a Cavs uniform, James and his teammates reached the Finals but the Warriors walked away with the ring. The following season, history repeated it self and the Finals were between the Cavs and the Warriors but this time the Cavs walked away with the ring.
The Cavs are looking to repeat their success from last season and they are off to a good start. James is averaging 20.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 9.5 assists per game. He is almost on the same page as Westbrook with averaging a triple-double per game.
In his season debut against the New York Knicks, James scored 19 points, grabbed 11 rebounds and dished out 14 assist. During the game against Toronto, he had 21 points, seven assists and eight rebounds. Against Orlando, James scored 23 points, grabbed six rebounds and had nine assists. In his most recent game, James scored 19 points, had 13 rebounds and eight assists against the Houston Rockets. James has always been a dominate player and age does not seem to slow him down.
Up next, James and the Cavs will take on the Boston Celtics.
Steph Curry Talks LeBron James Trash Talking During Game 1 of NBA Finals
Golden State Warriors superstar Steph Curry is gearing up, along with his team, to defend their 2018 NBA Championship, their 2nd in a row and 3rd in 4 years, when the 2018-2019 regular season kicks off this fall, but he is still discussing the 2018 NBA Finals.
Curry specifically is discussing his shock as the trash talk from then Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, which threw Curry off.
Curry and James’ relationship is seemingly in an odd place. James was “like a mentor” to Curry when curry was in college playing at Davidson, but things seem a bit icy now as Curry’s Warriors and James’ Cavaliers (James is now on the Los Angeles Lakers) met in some heated battles in the NBA Finals over the past couple of years.
Despite the shift in their relationship, Curry was still caught of guard by James’ approach, particularly in Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals.
“It was never going to spill over to that” Curry said, during an appearance on The Bill Simmons Podcast (h/t NBC Sports Bay Area’s Drew Shiller).
“But it was an interesting moment …I was hot because I was trying to finish out a possession, I think it was less than a minute left, I didn’t see him coming over from the weak side so I tried to do a little soft scoop layup and he pinned it. Then he stared me down and he said something to me.
“And I was like, ‘That’s what we’re really on right now? We’re about to win and you’re worried about mean-blocking my shot and talking trash?’ And then the whole Tristan and Draymond thing happened and I went back up to him and I was like, ‘Yo, what’s up? Is this really what we’re about right now?’
“And he was like, ‘I gotta do that to make sure my teammates know I’m a mentor’ and it’s a part of his leadership and that type of deal. And I was like, ‘I don’t want to be the sacrificial lamb for your leadership.’ (laughter). Come on man, that’s messed up.”
The rift goes a bit deeper than that, and a book from The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson, entitled ‘Golden: The Miraculous Rise of Steph Curry’, it is elaborated, highlighting a 2016 Halloween Party thrown by James that featured a dummy of Steph Curry that was on the floor, forcing guests to step over it.
Now that the two are in the same division, thanks to James’ signing with the Lakers, betting websites will have a field day this season when the two teams take the court, and James continues his mission to topple the juggernaut Warriors.
Cavs’ Tristan Thompson Allegedly Punched Warriors’ Draymond Green at Night Club
Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and Golden State Warriors’ forward Draymond Green apparently took their on-court beef off the court as the two allegedly had an altercation at a Los Angeles night club.
According to online gossip site Bossip, Green had approached Thompson to apologize for what happened after Game 4 of the NBA Finals, but Thompson wasn’t interested.
When Green persisted, Thompson punched Green.
Green and Thompson got into it numerous times throughout the Finals, with Green even insulting Thompson as Thompson attempted to shake his hand following the infamous Game 4.
Here is more from The Big Lead’s Jason McIntyre:
Draymond Green was not the aggressor, he was trying to make peace. Tristan felt embarrassed by the end of the Finals diss moment and just unloaded. Couple players i spoke here in LA/on social media went with, “about time”
— Jason McIntyre (@jasonrmcintyre) July 31, 2018
Kevin Love Signs Extension With the Cavs
Kevin Love surprised the Twitter GMs and signed a 4 year, $120 million extension to stay in Cleveland. The full value of the deal will wash out to 5 years and about $145 million, around $10 million below his max for an extension. This clearly signals that Dan Gilbert and the Cavaliers want to remain competitive in the wake of LeBron James’ exodus.
The initial reaction across the NBA landscape was that Cleveland would look to tear the roster down to the studs and start over. The Cavs owe their 2019 first round pick to Atlanta if it falls outside of the top 10, so trading Kevin Love would’ve not only helped clear their books, but also almost guaranteed that they keep their pick. Bringing him back into the fold makes that much more precarious. The roster now contains a mixed bag of inconsistent youth and holdovers from the most recent LeBron era that won’t take kindly to a middling team not in the championship conversation. The Cavs seem to be split between two paths.
But that’s not forever. According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, “Cleveland is still projecting to have close to $70M in cap space during the summer of 2020 to reshape the roster.” The Cavs can get off of George Hill, JR Smith and Kyle Korver for less than $10 million after this season. That leaves only Tristan Thompson and Jordan Clarkson as expiring contracts in the following season to free the Cavs of all their (current) bad money. Cleveland is never going to be a free agent destination without LeBron, but keeping Kevin Love makes them a much more attractive option for free agents, and they’ll have plenty of money to play with.
If that doesn’t pan out, Cleveland can still trade Love in the future. This extension makes him a cost-controlled asset, giving other teams more certainty. Yes, it’s more years and more money but Kevin Love is still an All-Star. Making him the focal point of the offense should allow him to put up big numbers and recoup some of the market value he’s lost while playing a diminished role alongside LeBron. In the coming years, all the ghastly cap-spike deals will be coming off teams’ books, opening lots of cap space around the league. There are only so many stars available and some teams will inevitably strike out. Combine that with some pressure from ownership to win now and Kevin Love can be a very desirable option.
Even with the extension the Cavs are far from a playoff lock. Their second best player may very well be a rookie. So perhaps an injury or a few strategically placed DNPs could allow them to keep their pick. Either way, Love wanted to stay in Cleveland. That’s a nice change for a city that doesn’t have a lot of experience with that. The goalposts for success have changed, but after years of watching this team trudge through the doldrums of the regular season, this young, talented team could be a lot of fun for fans to watch night in and night out.
Follow David on Twitter @dmcgowan24
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