Cleveland finally has its championship.

Kyrie Irving’s 3-pointer with 53 seconds left broke an 89-89 tie and gave the Cavaliers the lead for good. The final result was a 93-89, Game 7 victory over Golden State, punctuating the Cavs comeback.

The Cavs not only become the first team in NBA history to comeback from a 3-1 deficit, but brings Cleveland its first professional sports championship in 52 years.

Leading the way for Cleveland was LeBron James, became the third player in NBA history to claim a triple-double in an NBA Finals Game 7, scoring 27 points while grabbing 11 points and dishing out 11 assists. Irving finished with 26 points.

The game was sealed after a missed 3-pointer by Steph Curry with two seconds remaining. Curry struggled all night, finishing the night going just 6-for-19 from the field, and 4-for-14 from beyond the 3-point stripe.

Draymond Green led the Warriors with 32 points and 15 rebounds.

Click for a complete recap.

Blog Author: 
Rob Bradford

As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2016 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of prospective picks. The Celtics have amassed eight picks: 3, 16, 23, 31, 45, 51, 58. The draft will be held June 23 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

MALACHI RICHARDSON

Position: Shooting guard/small forward

School: Syracuse

Age: 20

Height: 6-foot-6

Weight: 200 pounds

Wingspan: 7-foot-0

Key 2015-16 stats: 13.4 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.1 assists

Scouting report: Richardson only shot 36 percent from the field last season as a freshman, but he dramatically improved his stock after an impressive NCAA Tournament performance and a strong workout for NBA scouts that reportedly has him soaring up some draft boards. He could go as high as the late lottery.

Those who believe Richardson can become an elite scorer in the NBA point to his size, ability to get to the rim and the fact that he can easily get separation to create his own shot.

Detractors are quick to point out that Richardson displayed a selfish streak this past season, and he had as many turnovers a game as he did assists. On defense, Richardson was known to gamble, which often led to him getting called for a foul.

“He can really shoot the basketball,” an NBA GM told ESPN.com’s Chad Ford. “He just took a lot of bad shots. He’s wild. His decision-making still isn’t there, but the talent level and physical tools to get it don’t are there. I think he’s got some star potential.”

Notes: Richardson was named to the ACC All-Rookie Team. … In the NCAA Tournament, Richardson had 21 points against Dayton in the first round, and in the Elite Eight he had 23 points, 21 of which came in the second half, in a win over Virginia.

Related articles:

SB Nation: Malachi Richardson is the champion of the eye test at the 216 NBA draft

Democrat & Chronicle: Malachi Richardson exits; Boeheim slams agents, experts

Blog Author: 
John Hand

As part of WEEI.com’s 2016 NBA draft coverage, here is one in a series of profiles of prospective picks. The Celtics have amassed eight picks: 3, 16, 23, 31, 35, 45, 51, 58. The draft will be held June 23 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

DEJOUNTE MURRAY

Position: Point guard/shooting guard

School: Washington

Age: 19 (turns 20 on Sept. 19)

Height: 6-foot-5

Weight: 170 pounds

Wingspan: 6-foot-9

Key 2015-16 stats: 16.1 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists

Scouting report: Murray, who is turning pro after his freshman season, has shown that he has some raw athleticism that allows him to attack the rim and be a dangerous threat in transition. Murray tends to rely on his floater, but he did convert 45 percent of his floaters this year, according to Synergy Sports Technologies. Murray’s most significant flaw is the inconsistency of his jump shot, as he shot only 41 percent from the field and 29 percent from the 3-point line. Also working against Murray is the fact that he averaged 3.2 turnovers a game.

On defense, Murray has the necessary instincts and length to be a good defender, but he needs work on the fundamentals. The team that drafts him for his potential will want Murray to spend time improving his defense as well as getting stronger. Murray declined an invite to the combine, so scouts were unable to see if he has made any progress in his game. He is projected to go anywhere from the middle of the first round to early second round.

Notes: Murray was named second-team All-Pac 12. … Clippers guard Jamal Crawford went to the same high school (Rainer Beach, Wash.) as Murray and the two have become close friends. 

Related articles:

Seattle Times: NBA executive evaluates Dejounte Murray’s and Marquese Chriss’ pro potential

24/7 Sports: Jamal Crawford continuing to mentor UW’s Murray

Blog Author: 
John Hand

As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2016 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of prospective picks. The Celtics have amassed eight picks: 3, 16, 23, 31, 35, 45, 51, 58. The draft will be held June 23 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

DIAMOND STONE

Position: Center

School: Maryland

Age: 19

Height: 6-foot-10

Weight: 254 pounds

Wingspan: 7-foot-3

Key 2015-16 stats: 12.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, 1.6 blocks, 56.8 field goal percentage

Scouting report: Stone comes into the NBA draft equipped with a 9-foot-1 reach and a 7-foot-3 inch wingspan, suggesting that he can be an intimidating presence in the paint for years to come. He is a mobile big man who can run the floor to score in transition thanks to his agility and great hands, and the potential to become a top NBA rebounder is there.

Besides the physical attributes and rebounding ability, the Milwaukee native has been showcasing his jump shot for NBA scouts and coaches while working to reduce his body fat.

“That’s the big thing people don’t know. I can shoot the 3,” Stone said (via The Washington Post). “I couldn’t really show it at Maryland just due to the fact that I played my role. … My body has changed. I’m 260 [pounds] right now, but the muscle is starting to build, and I’m feeling great about myself.”

One of the big problems with Stone despite a successful freshman campaign was his conditioning, so it’s important that he continues to work on his body. His desire has also been called into question, often not shuffling his feet on defense or taking plays off. NBA teams may be hesitant to select a guy who may not give 100 percent all the time.

Notes: Stone won AP Big Ten Newcomer of the Year and was a third-team All-Big Ten selection. The center sits third in Maryland history in blocks by a freshman in a season with 56. A former McDonald’s All-American, Stone won Big Ten Player of the Week in January and led the Terrapins to a Sweet 16 berth.

Related articles:

The Baltimore Sun: Armed with jump shot and trim physique, Diamond Stone looks to wow NBA scouts

24/7 Sports: Diamond Stone ready to begin NBA workouts

Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel: Striving to be a draft Diamond, former Dominican star preps at IMG

Blog Author: 
Nicholas Frazier
Jun 16, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love (0) reacts after being called for a foul in the second quarter in game six of the NBA Finals at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love could be rejoicing after Game 7. Will it be his final game for Cleveland? (Bob Donnan/USA Today Sports)

Danny Ainge, son Austin and head coach Brad Stevens don’t have a horse in the race but they will be watching Game 7 of the NBA finals Sunday night with more than just a passing interest.

A pair of scoring forwards could be on the move after the game, and both have been rumored on the radar of the Celtics.  

Cleveland’s Kevin Love could be playing his final game in Cleveland if they decide to unload him this offseason. He has four years and approximately $93 million left on his $113 million deal, which includes a $25 million kiss in the final season (2019-20), when he will be 31. 

Golden State’s Harrison Barnes, 24, could be a much cheaper option. He is due a qualifying offer of about $5.2 million and is in the same contractual boat as Jared Sullinger. Both are set to become restricted free agents after next season but both could be cut loose after this season. Barnes has already rejected a four-year, $64 million deal, turning down the Warriors last September. 

Both players are represented by agent Jeff Schwartz, the same rep for projected No. 2 pick Brandon Ingram. Danny Ainge reportedly met recently with Schwartz and, while it certainly would not be uncommon for Ainge to talk with agents before next Thursday’s draft, it would be tampering for him to discuss players currently under contract with other teams. 

A quick glance at Love’s stats in the NBA finals and it’s easy to understand why Celtics fans are so very skeptical of bringing his $93 million anchor to Boston. He’s averaged just seven points and 21 minutes in five games (DNP Gm 3). He’s again been beset by injuries (concussion) but when he has played, he’s looked out of place. It’s up to the Celtics to determine if that mostly because he’s being misused and kept on the perimeter or if he’s not looking for his shot. He is shooting just 36.8 percent from the floor in the finals and 38 percent in the postseason. On the bright side, he is averaging 14.9 points and 8.5 rebounds in 19 playoff games heading into Game 7 in Oakland. 

By comparison, Barnes is coming off his worst game of the postseason, missing all eight shots in Thursday’s Game 6 loss in Cleveland. He was held scoreless in 16 minutes. In Games 1, 3 and 4, he was in double figures and a key part of Golden State wins in two of them. But he went 2-for-14 in Game 5 last Monday and 0-for-8 on Thursday, making him 2-for-22 in potential title-clinching games so far. He is averaging nine points and 4.8 rebounds in 31 minutes during the playoffs. He is someone to keep an eye on in Game 7 if the Warriors need some offense. The “Death Lineup” has been exactly that to Barnes’ hopes of promoting his value to potential suitors this summer. 

We haven’t even mentioned the fact that LeBron James is a free agent this summer as well. There always exists the possibility that James could leave Cleveland, especially if the Cavs come back and finish off the first 3-1 comeback in NBA finals history. Not likely, but then again, it is LeBron and worth mentioning, even if in passing. 

Confidence men: When he’s not punching his fist through clipboards, Steve Kerr has always projected a look of calm and confidence. It’s that air that the Warriors will need to lean on, heading into Game 7 at home against the Cavaliers. While the Cavaliers are representing a city one win away from ending a 52-year championship drought, the Warriors are trying not to join the 2007 Patriots as a team to post an unprecedented regular season achievement, only to see it go up in flames in a one-game, winner-take-all match.

The big difference is that the Warriors are entering their third chance to end things in the championship. The Patriots had just one chance to get it right. The 2007 Patriots fell short only because a miracle catch and a historic defensive line did them in. 

The Warriors have not looked themselves in the last two games. They have been overpowered by LeBron twice (41 points in both Games 5 and 6). Steph Curry has been outplayed by Kyrie Irving. They have lost their true rim-protecting center, Andrew Bogut, to a knee injury and won’t have him in Game 7.

The ’07 Patriots are the only 16-0 team in NFL history. The ’16 Warriors are the only 73-win team in NBA history. Kerr was asked two basic questions after Game 6 Thursday: Where does your confidence come from? Why do you think you’ll prevail?

“Our confidence comes from being the defending champions, from winning at an incredibly high rate the last two years,” Kerr said. “And let’s be frank, we were put in a pretty difficult position in Game 5 without one of our best players, and we didn’t respond well enough. We needed to play better in Game 5. But we’ll have Draymond for Game 7. We’ll have our home crowd. We’ll have everybody but [Andrew Bogut]. We missed Boges [in Game 6], but we still feel very confident that we can win without him. Like I said, you get one home game to win the NBA title, that’s not a bad deal.”

Other notable postseason fails after epic regular seasons include the 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings, who finished the season 62-13-7 (131 points) but fell to the eventual Stanley Cup champ Colorado Avalanche in six games. And lest we forget the 2001 Seattle Mariners who won a record 116 games but lost to the Yankees in the ALCS. 

Option play: The debate rages on as to whether the Celtics should stay put and make their pick at No. 3 or trade it away in a package for a star scorer like Jimmy Butler.

“It kinda just happens, right? It’s not something you plan or I know,” Austin Ainge said Saturday during the final pre-draft workout. “It depends how much the phone rings or how intense discussions get. We will prepare for the draft like we are going to take them but you don’t know how the other teams are going to respond in trade discussions. So it could get dominated by trade talks or it could be zero trades. It’s just hard to tell.”

The Celtics are certainly doing their due diligence and homework leading up to Thursday. 

On Saturday, they brought in some of the biggest names yet. They hosted Indiana’s Yogi Ferrell, North Carolina’s Brice Johnson and Oregon State’s Gary Payton II as part of a 12-player, two-session workout in Waltham. Before Saturday, the biggest name on the board that came to the Celtics was Jamal Murray of Kentucky. 

But the Celtics have made their efforts to see everyone on the board. As mentioned above, Ainge attended a workout in New York City of Excel clients managed by agent Jeff Schwartz. They’ve traveled overseas to see Ante Zizic in Croatia and Dragan Bender in Israel. 

Tavon Allen, like Zach Auguste before him, has clear roots in Boston, having played at Worcester Academy before heading onto star at Drexel. He’s a 6-foot-7 wing who’s listed as a guard. 

If they hold onto the pick, the finalists on the Celtics wish list would seem to be Kris Dunn, Bender, Buddy Hield or Jaylen Brown.


Fighting fatigue: So many of the potential draft picks have gone through a grueling process just to get to Thursday. Take Carolina star forward Brice Johnson. Saturday in Waltham marked his fifth workout in six days for six different potential suitors. 

“We take it into account. We understand. It’s tough, it’s tough,” Austin Ainge said after watching Johnson. “These guys have gone through a tough month, most of them. So yeah, guys are a little worn down at this period in time.

“I think that’s the art of it. It’s hard. Everybody probably weighs those things differently. We look at talent and off-court stuff, and the medical reports, and the statistics and analytics. And it’s really weighing all those things. We go back and watch film a lot, make sure we’re basing ourselves in that, not emphasizing a workout too much. So we go back and watch after, and before, and make sure we’re always keeping it in context.”

And how did Johnson look? 

“He played well, especially considering that he’s been through the ringer,” Ainge said. “I think it matters. A lot of guys would just tell their agent, ‘I don’t want to do it. I’m tired.’ And he came through and he pushed. He played well.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2016 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of prospective picks. The Celtics have amassed eight picks: 3, 16, 23, 31, 35, 45, 51, 58. The draft will be held June 23 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

BEN BENTIL

Position: Power forward

School: Providence

Age: 21

Height: 6-foot-8

Weight: 230 pounds

Wingspan: 7-foot-2

Key 2015-16 stats: 21.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1 block per game

Scouting report: Bentil proved to scouts in the 2015-16 season that the scoring potential is there, shooting 32.9 percent from deep and 51.7 percent from inside the 3-point line in 35 games with the Friars. The big man has a nice touch down low and uses his strength to bully opponents in the paint. Bentil was one of few to average over seven boards a game and shoot almost 80 percent from the free throw line, a clear indicator of impressive hands.

Bentil, who had two years of NCAA eligibility remaining, decided to stay in the NBA draft alongside teammate Kris Dunn.

“I think it’s the best decision for me and my family,” Bentil told ESPN. “I know I’m ready for the next chapter in my life.”

Bentil often played at the center position under Providence coach Ed Cooley, but at 6-foot-8 and with average athleticism, it is obvious that Bentil will be playing power forward in the NBA. A concern for NBA teams is whether Bentil will be able to cover some of the more athletic big men at the next level. Also, despite leading the Friars in rebounding, he only grabbed 12.4 percent of missed shots while he was on the floor, according to sports-reference.com. With the impressive hands that he has, Bentil will need to improve on the boards to succeed in the NBA.

Notes: Bentil won the Big East Most Improved Player of the Year award as a sophomore after averaging 6.4 points in his freshman campaign. This past season he led the Big East in points per game as well as free throws (194). He also finished fifth in the conference in total rebounds with 268.

Related articles:

SB Nation: A look at Ben Bentil’s sudden rise as an NBA prospect

Sports Illustrated: Stay or go? Providence sophomore Ben Bentil

Blog Author: 
Nicholas Frazier

As part of WEEI.com’s coverage of the 2016 NBA draft, here is one in a series of profiles of prospective picks. The Celtics have amassed eight picks: 3, 16, 23, 31, 35, 45, 51, 58. The draft will be held June 23 at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

BEN BENTIL

Position: Power forward

School: Providence

Age: 21

Height: 6-foot-8

Weight: 230 pounds

Wingspan: 7-foot-2

Key 2015-16 stats: 21.1 points, 7.7 rebounds, 1 block per game

Scouting report: Bentil proved to scouts in the 2015-16 season that the scoring potential is there, shooting 32.9 percent from deep and 51.7 percent from inside the 3-point line in 35 games with the Friars. The big man has a nice touch down low and uses his strength to bully opponents in the paint. Bentil was one of few to average over seven boards a game and shoot almost 80 percent from the free throw line, a clear indicator of impressive hands.

Bentil, who had two years of NCAA eligibility remaining, decided to stay in the NBA draft alongside teammate Kris Dunn.

“I think it’s the best decision for me and my family,” Bentil told ESPN. “I know I’m ready for the next chapter in my life.”

Bentil often played at the center position under Providence coach Ed Cooley, but at 6-foot-8 and with average athleticism, it is obvious that Bentil will be playing power forward in the NBA. A concern for NBA teams is whether Bentil will be able to cover some of the more athletic big men at the next level. Also, despite leading the Friars in rebounding, he only grabbed 12.4 percent of missed shots while he was on the floor, according to sports-reference.com. With the impressive hands that he has, Bentil will need to improve on the boards to succeed in the NBA.

Notes: Bentil won the Big East Most Improved Player of the Year award as a sophomore after averaging 6.4 points in his freshman campaign. This past season he led the Big East in points per game as well as free throws (194). He also finished fifth in the conference in total rebounds with 268.

Related articles:

SB Nation: A look at Ben Bentil’s sudden rise as an NBA prospect

Sports Illustrated: Stay or go? Providence sophomore Ben Bentil

Blog Author: 
Nicholas Frazier

WALTHAM – If the Celtics hold onto their first first-round pick, they have a pretty good idea of what they’re going to do. 

Austin Ainge, director of player personnel, acknowledged Saturday during pre-draft workouts that they have a good sense of the players they want to pick. He just wouldn’t identify them. 

Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge speaks to reporters in Waltham. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

Celtics director of player personnel Austin Ainge speaks to reporters in Waltham. (Mike Petraglia/WEEI.com)

WALTHAM – If the Celtics hold onto their first first-round pick, they have a pretty good idea of what they’re going to do. 

Austin Ainge, director of player personnel, acknowledged Saturday during pre-draft workouts that they have a good sense of the players they want to pick. He just wouldn’t identify them. 

The obvious candidates are Buddy Hield, Dragan Bender and Kris Dunn, with maybe a Jamal Murray getting some attention in discussions in the war room. 

“We’ve been narrowing at this point. We have them in groups more than specific (players). Maybe for our first pick we have it narrowed to these three or four guys, the second group a little bigger – eight or 10, because you don’t know whose going to be there. You do your best at guessing and debating the groups,” Ainge said. 

Ainge said Saturday that he hasn’t heard from Dunn’s camp as to when or if the Celtics will get a chance to see the two-time Big East defensive player of the year in person or what may come of Tuesday’s private (closed to media) get-together with Bender. 

Identifying what the Celtics are going to do with their picks at No. 16 and 23 is a lot trickier because, as Ainge pointed out Saturday, not even the Celtics are sure what they’re going to do.

“It’s hard to guess what other teams are going to do, especially after the first couple of picks,” Ainge said. “It gets harder. All the media reports and discussions we’ve had with other teams, we still don’t know how the draft is going to go. Other teams [don’t know]. For instance, we don’t know who we’re going to take at 16, so how can I anticipate what another team is going to do? So these things are hard. So, you’ve just got to take the player you like the most and not outsmart yourself.

“Historically, those assumptions get proven wrong all the time. So, I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I think last year was a case of that. There’s always surprises. We’re doing this all the time. How are you feeling? Let’s write it up. Let’s go to 20 names today, or 50 names, or 100 names, 10 names. We do those exercises all the time. It happens a lot.

“There are those types of discussions. Sometimes you do overall, sometimes you do by position. We’ll do guys that have certain skill sets – try to break ties. We were all in the office watching video late last night. Talking about it, trying to figure it out.”

The tie-breaker? Well, naturally it’s Danny Ainge, who has stockpiled three picks in the first round and five more in the second. 

“For every pick range there’s guys we’re fighting between and trying to figure it out. We have a lot of picks,” Austin Ainge said. 

 

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia

Marcus Smart

Marcus Smart

WALTHAM – The Celtics are dotting their ‘I’s’ and crossing their ‘T’s’ this week. 

Some of those last-minute preparations for Thursday’s draft include calling players back for a second look. 

Austin Ainge, director of player personnel, reminded everyone Saturday, during the final media availability of group workouts in Waltham, that there is a certain value to bringing a player back for a second look, also known as a callback. 

Perhaps, the most recent example of this on a significant scale is Marcus Smart, the guard out of Oklahoma State taken sixth overall by the Celtics in the 2014 draft. 

“Marcus it was more like he was the guy we kinda wanted to take. And we all liked him a lot. Then he was horrible in his workout,” Ainge said. “And so when we went back and we watched film, we were like, ‘We do like this guy. Let’s give him another chance.’ So, that was the instance with that. We’ve done callbacks in years past where we didn’t end up taking the guy.

There have been callbacks where the guy was banged up or tired and so we said, ‘Alright, let’s look at you again.’ Or sometimes it’s as much as we found some things out in their background check and we want to talk to them about it. Or our doctor wants to take another look. All of these are reasons to have a guy come back.”

How different did Smart look the second time around?

“Significantly. He made shots. He was the Marcus that — he had more fire, just was the Marcus we had seen all season,” Ainge added. “Both of Marcus’ workouts were competitive workouts.

“It’s just case by case. Some guys are just really scheduled all the way up and some guys have room to come back and it just depends on everybody.”

Blog Author: 
Mike Petraglia