Hang tight, folks. There is just one more day left until the best games of the season arrive. Until then, see all the thoughts of the players heading into Game 1 of the NBA Finals, along with other news, including the tragic situation of veteran referee Greg Willard, Metta World Peace’s new role in a movie and much more.
- All the superstars going into the NBA Finals shared their thoughts today about the matchups. Here are some notable ones: LeBron James downplayed this being some sort of showdown with Kevin Durant for bragging rights. “I don’t really get involved in ‘best player of the game.’ It doesn’t really matter to me,” he said. But he said he wants to be the best player in each game he plays. — James, on his relationship with Durant: “Our relationship has been growing since he’s been in high school. . . . From Day One, I always laid my hand out to guide him if he needed it.” Durant, on those offseason workouts with James: “Just two guys who wanted to get better, and that’s what we did.” “ – Durant, on James: “He can score at will. He’s strong. He can shoot it. But it’s got to be a team effort.” – Durant, on envisioning a Finals matchup when he worked with James: “I never really thought about it. . . . It’s the Thunder vs. the Heat. It’s not going to be a one-on-one matchup to win the series.”Westbrook, on his team’s youth: “I think the youth thing is kind of out the window for us. We’ve got enough experience in the playoff atmosphere.” – Westbrook, on his statistical struggles against the Heat: “They’re a great defensive team. They attack the ball well.” Wade on Westbrook: “Personally, I think he’s the most athletic guy in the NBA.”
- Just three seasons ago, the Thunder were one of the worst teams in the league and in fact, started the 2008-2009 season 3-29. Here’s the story on why Scott Brooks never gave up and why they are in the position they are in today: “I put on a pretty good face,” Brooks said of going 2-17 in his first 19 games as an NBA head coach. “There’s no question it hurt. Every day you go to work you want to have success.” If not for the glimmer of hope he saw in how hard Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook worked, Brooks doesn’t know what would have become of his chance to run an NBA team. “That’s what kept me going at that time,” Brooks said. “Because if it wasn’t for that, I would have been looking at our record and going, ‘Oh, there (goes) my chance. I’m done. I’m moving on.’ But those guys really kept me going.”
- Shane Battier was asked about what needs to be done to guard Kevin Durant. Based on his answer, it’s safe to say that he may not be looking forward to the task: “You start out Sunday morning in church,” he said with a laugh. “Say three Hail Marys. I’ve got some Buddha beads. You pray to all the gods. He’s a tough cover. He’s a guy who I have the ultimate respect for. Outside of my own team, I think he’s the best player in this league. He’s hungry. He’s relentless.”
- After Chris Bosh’s clutch performance in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, it’s easy to assume that he would and should return to his role as a starter in the NBA Finals. Erik Spoelstra, however, didn’t assure anyone that Bosh would start: In fact, he was non-committal about whether Bosh will start, saying he has until Tuesday evening to decide. “I think he can handle more minutes. I’ll have to see. He had to come out a couple times because (he was winded)” Saturday night.
- Are you ready for the NBA Finals to begin on Tuesday night? It is not just a game, it is a shot at immortality, according to the new NBA commercial promoting the biggest games of the season.
- Do you want to learn one of LeBron James’ signature moves? Click here to find the instructional video from the King himself, produced by Nike.
- After seeing this picture, it is likely that Serge Ibaka will soon appear for a humorous interview with Guillermo on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
- News broke today that the Memphis Grizzlies will soon have a new owner in town. After two consecutive trips to the playoffs and a return to respectability in the Western Conference, Michael Heisley has found a buyer to purchase the Memphis Grizzlies, according to sources with knowledge of the owner’s plans. Sources told ESPN.com that Heisley has an agreement in principle to sell the team to communications technology magnate Robert Pera, who at 34 has a spot on Forbes’ list of the 10 youngest billionaries in the world.
- Our columnist Chris Bernucca explained what the referees will do in the NBA Finals for Greg Willard, who is suffering from a deadly disease: The 12 referees who work the NBA Finals will wear No. 57 on their jerseys as a show of recognition to colleague Greg Willard, who has pancreatic cancer. A 24-year veteran, Willard is one of the NBA’s top officials, having worked the last two NBA Finals, the pinnacle of officiating. He was still working in the early rounds of this postseason before pulling out with an undisclosed illness. The gesture was arranged by the National Basketball Referees Association with the NBA’s cooperation. “Greg’s professionalism and integrity have made him a role model within the NBA community,” said Lee Seham, general counsel for the NBRA. “We want him and his family to know that our thoughts and prayers are with them.”
- There’s another Willard story out there today, involving boxer Floyd Mayweather: A law firm representing the National Basketball Referees Association has demanded that Twitter user Incarcerated Bob disclose information and sources pertaining to game-fixing accusations made against long-time referee Greg Willard.
- If you have been following our blog, you’ve seen that Metta World Peace has been very active now that he has all the free time in the world from having his own show to acting as a weatherman in Vancouver. The latest on World Peace is a role for a new upcoming movie: Peace will set down his basketball to play Garlan Fincher, a Georgia detective who works very closely with Atlanta Assistant District Attorney Hailey Dean, played by Beverly Hills, 90210 vet Jennie Garth.
- With the Olympics coming in July of this summer, there has been some coverage of the Dream Team as of late, with NBA TV due to release a special documentary called “The Dream Team” at 9 p.m ET on June 13, which is a must watch if you are a basketball fan. GQ covered some quotes from those that were directly involved with the team back then: Magic Johnson (Team USA point guard): This was our final moment—the curtain was going to come down. Larry’s back was messed up. And I was already out, dealing with HIV, so we had to make sure that we went out the right way. For me, it was also about showing the world that I could still play, even living with HIV.”
- Remember when Joakim Noah said the Miami Heat were “Hollywood as hell” last season? Not sure if this is considered Hollywood, but we’ve certainly not seen a team celebrate like this in recent years.
- While other teams are already thinking about the possibility of signing one of the available Big Three from the Celtics, it’s no guarantee that the team will actually be broken up, according to Gary Washburn of Boston Globe: Ainge said he wanted to take a few days to reflect on the season, and on the future. He has several monumental decisions to make in the coming weeks, and while the likely end of the Big Three era made for a heart-wrenching story to end the series, it is not a cinch that Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, and Ray Allen are broken up.
- Kyle Lowry took some time to do an interview with Dime Magazine’s Sean Sweeney. Asked about his comments regarding Kevin McHale in a subtle manner, Lowry more or less dodged the topic: Honestly, I don’t know. To be honest, I can’t wait. With me not healthy at the end of the year, I want to get back and get back to playing basketball, get back to playing at a high level. I just want to go play. At the end of the day, I just want to go play. You know what I mean? That’s my job. I get paid to play basketball. I’ll worry about everything else when the time matters.
- You may or may not remember the story from Ball Don’t lie about a boy who was threatened to be suspended from school for having a drawing of Matt Bonner on the back of his head. Here is the follow-up story about the boy who is back to sporting the look with school out for the summer.
For Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett as a possible duo in San Antonio, click here.
James Park is a regular contributor and blogger for SheridanHoops.com. You can follow him on twitter @nbatupark.