TIME Basketball

LeBron James Asks Cleveland Protesters to Rally Behind Cavaliers

"For the city of Cleveland, let's use our excitement or whatever passion that we have for our sport"

Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James on Saturday addressed a string of peaceful protests against the acquittal of a white cop in the shooting deaths of two unarmed black people.

“For the city of Cleveland, let’s use our excitement or whatever passion that we have for our sport tomorrow for the game tomorrow night, bring [the passion] to the game [Sunday] night,” James said, according to Sports Illustrated. “And as our team, we’ll try to do our best to give it back to them.”

James declined to comment on the specifics of the case, which earlier on Saturday ended in the acquittal officer Michael Brelo of criminal charges for the deaths of Timothy Russell and Malissa Williams in 2012.

“Violence is not the answer, and it’s all about trying to find a solution for good or for bad,” James said. “For me, in any case, anything that goes on in our world or in our America, the only people that we should be worried about [are] the families that’s lost loved ones. You can’t get them back. You can never get them back. We should worry about the families and how they’re doing and things of that nature.”

[Sports Illustrated]

TIME Basketball

Warriors Rally Past Rockets 110-106 in Game 1 of West Finals

Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson, right, fouls Houston Rockets' James Harden (13) during the first quarter of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, May 19, 2015, in Oakland, Calif. At left is Warriors' Andrew Bogut.
Ben Margot—AP Golden State Warriors' Klay Thompson, right, fouls Houston Rockets' James Harden during the first quarter of Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals in Oakland on May 19, 2015

The Golden State Warriors beat the Houston Rockets 110-106

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Down big at home, the Golden State Warriors went small.

It turned out to make a huge difference.

Stephen Curry hit two free throws in the final seconds to finish with 34 points, and the Warriors rallied from a 16-point deficit in the second quarter to beat the Houston Rockets 110-106 on Tuesday night in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals.

With the Rockets seemingly ready to rout the home team, the Warriors used a smaller lineup featuring 6-foot-7 Draymond Green at center and closed the first half on a 21-4 run. Shaun Livingston scored 14 of his 18 points in the quarter, helping Golden State go ahead 58-55 at halftime.

The Warriors held off James Harden and Houston in the fourth quarter again behind their undersized lineup, which worked especially well after Rockets center Dwight Howard departed with a left knee injury.

“It really stretches people out,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said of his lineup full of shooters. “Houston does the same thing. It was an interesting chess match, because they like to go small and we like to go small.”

Harden, the runner-up to Curry in the MVP voting, nearly brought the Rockets back without Howard in the fourth. Harden finished with 28 points, 11 rebounds, nine assists and four steals, but his late push fell short.

“You can’t give a really good shooting team easy layups and confidence,” said Harden, who shot 11 of 20 from the field. “That’s what we did in the second quarter.”

Game 2 is Thursday night in Oakland, and it’s unclear if Howard can play. Howard doesn’t think the injury will sideline him for the series.

“Hopefully Dwight is healthy and we can play big,” Rockets coach Kevin McHale said. “We didn’t have that option with Dwight out.”

Harden, serenaded with chants of “Over-rated!” from Warriors fans, mixed in a series of step-back jumpers and driving layups to help Houston even the score at 95-all midway through the fourth.

But the Warriors shut down Houston for long stretches, and Curry kept hitting shots to match Harden’s brilliance. Curry connected on a 3-pointer and converted a layup to put Golden State up 108-97 with 2:01 remaining.

“It’s entertaining basketball. We’re both supposed to help our team win and do what we can to impact the game,” said Curry, whose 2-year-old daughter Riley, playfully interrupted him during his postgame news conference.

The Rockets never relented, though, with Trevor Ariza making a 3-pointer that trimmed the Warriors’ lead to 108-106 with 14.6 seconds to play.

Curry twice caught the inbounds pass, and the Rockets were forced to foul him both times. He hit both free throws to seal Golden State’s win.

“When we go small, it’s not necessarily small. We have guys out there that can guard multiple positions,” Livingston said. “From there, it’s just feeding off our crowd.”

Curry added six rebounds and five assists, and Green had 13 points, 12 rebounds and eight assists to boost the Warriors when they needed it most.

Ariza scored 20 points and Josh Smith had 17 points and seven rebounds for the Rockets.

In the conference finals for the first time since 1976, the Warriors hardly looked like the league’s top-seeded team at the outset. Instead, the Rockets rode the momentum from a stunning 3-1 series comeback against the Los Angeles Clippers that ended with a Game 7 win in Houston on Sunday.

The only setback to Houston’s hot start came when Howard briefly left in the first quarter after colliding with Smith. Howard returned after a few minutes, and the Rockets raced out to a 49-33 lead midway through the second quarter that left the home fans stunned and silent.

That didn’t last long.

With Andrew Bogut in foul trouble and the Rockets rolling on both ends, the Warriors put Green — the runner-up for NBA Defensive Player of the Year — at center and spread the court with shooters.

Green helped get stops, Livingston scored 14 points in the quarter and Curry capped the spurt with a step-back 20-footer that sent the crowd roaring even louder. Fans later broke out in chants of “M-V-P!” as the Warriors sprinted to the locker room with a 58-55 lead.

They never trailed again.

“When you try to keep your big in against our small lineup,” Green said. “It’s rough.”

TIP-INS

Rockets: Houston is 0-5 against the Warriors this season. … The Rockets haven’t won at Golden State since Dec. 13, 2013.

Warriors: Golden State is 44-3 at home this season, including 5-1 in the playoffs. … The Warriors are 17-14 this season when trailing by at least 10 points.

CAPTAIN’S HANDSHAKE

The Rockets sent out seldom-used reserve Nick Johnson for the captain’s handshake with Curry, who was caught by cameras walking away and shaking his head, which created a stir on social media. Rockets captain Patrick Beverley is out with a left wrist injury and hasn’t been handling the ritual handshake in the playoffs.

DUELING BOXERS

Undefeated boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr., who was booed by fans during Game 5 of the Grizzlies-Warriors series in Oakland, watched from a courtside seat. Also sitting among the crowd was boxer and Bay Area native Andre Ward, who was cheered loudly when shown on the videoboards.

TIME Basketball

Timberwolves Win Draft Lottery, Lakers Move to No. 2

NBA Deputy Commissioner Mark Tatum, left, congratulates Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor after the Timberwolves won the first pick in the draft, during the NBA basketball draft lottery, Tuesday, May 19, 2015, in New York.
Julie Jacobson—AP NBA deputy commissioner Mark Tatum, left, congratulates Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor after the Timberwolves won the first pick in the draft, during the NBA basketball draft lottery in New York City on May 19, 2015

Kobe Bryant was tweeting his support, sort of

(NEW YORK) — The Minnesota Timberwolves won the NBA draft lottery Tuesday night, the first time since 2004 the team with the worst record won the No. 1 pick.

After years of bad luck in the lottery, things finally worked out for the Wolves, who can perhaps choose between big men Karl-Anthony Towns of Kentucky and Jahlil Okafor of national champion Duke to put next to Rookie of the Year Andrew Wiggins.

“We’re in this for big stakes,” said Flip Saunders, the Wolves’ president and coach. “The big thing about this is getting good talent that can blend together. This is another big step.”

The Los Angeles Lakers moved from the fourth spot to second, keeping a pick they would have sent to Philadelphia if it fell outside the top five. The 76ers are third followed by the New York Knicks, who had the second-best odds of winning but instead fell to fourth 30 years after winning the first draft lottery and drafting Hall of Famer Patrick Ewing.

Not since Orlando won the right to pick Dwight Howard in 2004 had the NBA’s ultimate game of chance came out in favor of the team with the best odds. The Timberwolves had a 25 percent chance of landing the top pick after finishing 16-66.

But their fans knew not to get their hopes up after the Wolves had fallen backward eight times previously, including both times they were in the pole position, 1992 and 2011.

Several hundred fans gathered to watch on the big screen at Target Center in Minneapolis and erupted when the Lakers card came out of the envelope for No. 2, meaning Minnesota had finally earned the top pick for the first time.

“Hope is nice to have,” said Jason Vincent, a fan of the team since 2001.

The Lakers were the other big winners even without moving all the way to the top. Their pick was only protected in the top five as a condition of their trade with Phoenix for Steve Nash in 2012. That was dealt this season to the 76ers, who could have ended up with two top-six picks if the Lakers had fallen backward two spots.

Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant ended his tweet after seeing the results with #lakerluck and #goodday.

The lottery sets the top three picks. The remainder of the 14 non-playoff teams follow in inverse order of their won-loss record.

Things went according to form until the Knicks slid back two spots. General manager Steve Mills hoped history could repeat by wearing Dave DeBusschere’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame ring, which DeBusschere was wearing as the Knicks’ GM when they won the 1985 lottery.

The lottery began that year as a way to prevent teams from losing on purpose as a way to secure the top pick. Tanking may still exist — the 76ers have appeared to be angling for the draft with no regard for their record the last couple of seasons — but the Wolves appeared to lose honestly while battling numerous injuries with a young roster.

Their victory, with owner Glen Taylor on stage, was only the fifth time the team that finished with the worst, or tied for the worst record, won the lottery.

The Cleveland Cavaliers had won the last two and three of the previous four lotteries since LeBron James left them for Miami in 2010. But with James back home, the Cavaliers are in the Eastern Conference finals and Miami was in the lottery, and the Heat held in the No. 10 spot where they entered.

The Heat’s pick would have gone to Philadelphia if they fell out of the top 10.

TIME Basketball

Watch High School Dunk Sensation Derrick Jones in Action

Like dunks? Here you go

Pennsylvania High School senior Derrick Jones is making the case that the NBA dunk contest should not be restricted to, well, NBA players.

In a video making the rounds on social media, the 6-ft. 6-in. UNLV commit not only pulls off Michael Jordan’s iconic free-throw-line jam but he one-ups the legend by adding a smooth windmill move to the mix.

Jones is considered by many to be the best dunker in high school basketball and his victory in an absolutely mind-boggling high school dunk contest in April may have cemented that status. But if out-jamming His Airness isn’t convincing enough, here some other examples the kid’s capabilities.

He’s looking down into the rim on this one.

Normal players can’t dunk over four other people, can they?

Blake Griffin and Zach LaVine better watch out; there is a new cat in town.

TIME Basketball

Video Shown at Cleveland Cavaliers Game Sparks Outrage

Critics say the video promotes domestic violence

A video shown during a Cleveland Cavaliers game on Wednesday, which was also posted online, quickly drew criticism for seeming to make light of domestic violence.

The video skit, which aired on the Jumbotron as the Cavaliers played the Chicago Bulls, ends with a man throwing his girlfriend to the ground while they dance to “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” when he sees her wearing a Bulls T-shirt. The skit is apparently a spoof of a similar UnitedHealthcare ad, in which a couple crashes into table while dancing to the song. See a copy of the video above.

After TIME asked the Cavaliers to comment on the controversy, the organization responded with a statement that said that while the video was meant to be a “humorous spoof,” “Domestic violence is a very serious matter and has no place in a parody video that plays in an entertainment venue. We sincerely apologize to those who have been affected by domestic violence for the obvious negative feelings caused by being exposed to this insensitive video.”

Twitter, naturally, has been doing a lot of its own commenting:

TIME Basketball

Warriors’ Stephen Curry Voted NBA’s Most Valuable Player

Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors shoots the ball during their game against the Memphis Grizzlies during Game One of the Western Conference Semifinals during the NBA Playoffs on May 3, 2015 at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.
Ezra Shaw—Getty Images Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors shoots the ball during their game against the Memphis Grizzlies during the NBA Playoffs at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California on May 3, 2015.

It wasn't a close race

(OAKLAND, Calif.) — Some called him too small. Others too fragile.

Now, Stephen Curry has a new label: NBA MVP.

The Golden State Warriors’ point guard won the league’s top individual award Monday, beating out Houston’s James Harden in a race that turned out not to be that close.

Curry received 100 of 130 first-place votes for a total of 1,198 points from a panel of 129 writers and broadcasters, along with the fan vote on the NBA’s website. Harden had 25 first-place votes and 936 points. Cleveland’s LeBron James, a four-time MVP, got five first-place votes and 552 points.

Oklahoma City Thunder’s Russell Westbrook (352 points) finished fourth and New Orleans Pelicans big man Anthony Davis (203 points) was fifth.

With the revitalized Warriors winning at a historic pace, Curry’s case for MVP resonated around the league as loud as the nightly chants at rowdy Oracle Arena.

Curry carried the top-seeded Warriors to a franchise-record 67 wins, surpassed his own record for most 3-pointers in a season and added to his growing reputation as one of the most entertaining spectacles in sports. He’s the franchise’s first MVP since Wilt Chamberlain in 1960, when the Warriors played in Philadelphia.

Curry was set to receive the award during an afternoon news conference Monday in Oakland. He will be presented with the hardware again during an on-court ceremony when Golden State hosts Memphis in Game 2 of the Western Conference semifinals Tuesday night.

Congratulations rolled in from players around the league at practices and on social media. None echoed louder than those from James, who called Curry the main reason for the Warriors’ rapid rise to championship contender.

“He’s the catalyst of that whole ship,” James said at the Cavaliers’ morning shootaround. “And I think he’s had an unbelievable season. And I think it’s very well deserved, and I think it’s great that another kid born in Akron, Ohio, can win an MVP, so, I liked it.”

Curry was born in Akron but grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he started in the shadows of his father, former NBA player Dell Curry.

Despite his famous name, most major colleges didn’t offer Curry a scholarship coming out of high school because they thought he was too small. Curry proved them all wrong, going from a shooting guard who dazzled at Davidson during the NCAA Tournament to a polished professional point guard who can shoot, dribble and distribute with the best of them.

In a game dominated by big men and played by some of the world’s greatest athletes, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Curry controls the flow without physically overpowering defenders.

But there were times when it seemed Curry’s potential might not be reached. Two operations on his right ankle in his first three seasons with Golden State fueled questions about his durability. He even had to prove his worth to the team that drafted him seventh overall in 2009.

Curry signed a $44 million, four-year contract extension with the Warriors before the 2012-13 season. Back then, the deal looked like a major risk for the Warriors considering Curry’s injury history.

Now? Well, Curry is clearly one of basketball’s best bargains.

He eclipsed his own record of 272 3-pointers set two years ago, hitting 286 from beyond the arc this season. He already owns three of the five most prolific 3-point shooting seasons in NBA history.

Curry averaged 23.8 points, 7.7 assists, 4.3 rebounds and two steals this season. He shot 48.7 percent from the floor and 44.3 percent from 3-point range.

Off the floor, his popularity is also soaring.

Curry received more All-Star votes than any player and joined James and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver at the league’s biggest marketing events during All-Star weekend in New York, where his face plastered posters in subway stations and televisions in taxi cabs. He also delivered by winning his first 3-point contest.

___

AP sports writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.

TIME Basketball

Florida’s Billy Donovan Hired to Coach Oklahoma City Thunder

Florida head coach Billy Donovan walks the sideline area during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game
Steve Helber—AP Florida head coach Billy Donovan walks the sideline area during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game on March 12, 2015, in Nashville.

He led Florida to two national championships

(OKLAHOMA CITY) — The Oklahoma City Thunder have hired Florida’s Billy Donovan as their new coach.

The Thunder made the announcement Thursday.

The 49-year-old Donovan led Florida to two national championships, four Final Fours, seven Elite Eights and 14 NCAA Tournament berths in 19 years. He signed a one-year contract extension with the Gators in December that would have paid him an average salary of $4 million through 2020.

But, eight years after leaving Florida to coach the Orlando Magic and then changing his mind the following day, Donovan is back in the NBA.

Donovan inherits a team with 2013-14 MVP Kevin Durant and 2014-15 scoring champion Russell Westbrook.

He replaces Scott Brooks, who was fired last week.

MONEY Sports

How the NFL Draft Is Un-American

NFL: 2014 NFL Draft
Adam Hunger—USA Today Sports/Reuters

In a society with a free and open labor market, shouldn't employees be able to choose where they work rather than be forced to work for the company that drafted them?

Football fans seem to like the idea of the NFL draft. (This year’s starts on Thursday evening at Chicago’s Auditorium Theatre and will continue into the weekend.)

It gives them hope. Each year, the teams with the worst records get to draft young new players with (theoretically) the most talent, meaning that a bad team (theoretically) won’t forever be bad. What’s more, because the draft is supposed to promote parity and good competition, in which any team can pull out a victory on Any Given Sunday, it helps generate sustained fan interest with each coming year—and every game day during the season and playoffs.

Yet many researchers have pointed out that drafts do not achieve competitive balance, especially not in a sport like football that requires so many players on the field. (Losing teams are “rewarded” with only one legitimately great prospect in each draft.) Think about it: If high draft picks are all that is needed to turn a bad team around, how does one explain the Jacksonville Jaguars?

In any event, there is another argument to be made concerning pro sports drafts. There’s a line of thinking that says drafts are simply not fair—to the players, first and foremost—that they violate that the concept of a free labor market, and that they are therefore essentially un-American.

On the eve of the NFL draft two years ago, not one but two well-researched, well-thought-out stories published within days of each other were entitled “Abolish the NFL Draft.” The Reason.com post noted, “The sports draft is an anomaly of the American labor market.” After all, “In most industries new hires are free to seek employment wherever there’s an opening.” Yet an aspiring employee who wants to play in the NFL is able to negotiate a contract with only the team that has drafted him.

As the far more irreverent “Abolish the NFL Draft” post published at Sports on Earth put it, “If the human resources department of your company came up with the idea of a draft, they’d be fired on the spot.” Without the draft—described as an “industry-wide system that prevents potential employers and employees from freely selecting each other”—”pro football will start to look like the real world,” in which firms and potential employees would court each other and all parties would have the freedom to make choices.

As things currently stand, draftees have no such freedom to decide where they want to work. They also face tons of other restrictions, including how old they must be before they’re eligible to be drafted (i.e., be hired for what they do and earn money), and how much money they can earn due to NFL collective bargaining agreements severely limiting the salaries of young players. College football is routinely described as a “free farm system” and an “unpaid farm system” for the NFL, in that young players who aspire to professional football careers have no choice but to work (yes, it’s work) without compensation until they’re deemed old enough to be drafted.

Basketball players seeking employment in the NBA face essentially the same set of restrictions—restrictions that are, again, unheard of in virtually every other line of work. A story in the new issue of The Atlantic about Michele A. Roberts, the new head of the NBA players union, noted that the league utilizes “a litany of anticompetitive measures—the draft and the salary cap, as well as a de facto prohibition on new franchises and an age minimum, which essentially allows owners to postpone signing players while they develop in the unpaid minor league that is Division I college basketball.”

“Talented people and prestigious institutions generally get the pick of the litter,” an ESPN post about the NBA draft explained. “This is how the labor market works… But it’s not how it works in the NBA, where the most gifted young players are assigned through the draft to teams, regardless of personal preferences or market value.” Think about how the draft scenario differs compared to how companies normally woo and hire prized prospective employees:

Would we tell the a once-in-a-lifetime engineering grad who wants to negotiate a position and salary at the top tech firm in the Silicon Valley, “No, actually, you’re required to work for the sector’s laughingstock, a company managed by incompetents with no clear vision of the future — at a fixed salary that’s set by a third party.” Yet this is the governing philosophy every spring when the NBA distributes members of the incoming draft class to the league’s 30 teams.

Age restrictions in the NFL and NBA are partly intended to stop young, and presumably naïve, athletes from making bad decisions and ruining their chances to get college degrees. One law journal makes the counterargument this way: “Eighteen-year-old high school graduates who wish to pursue a professional career in these leagues are barred from doing so, even though they can vote, as well as fight and die for their country.”

In The Atlantic story, Roberts, the NBA union executive director, says that the idea that a worker should accept wages below market value is just plain “un-American.”

A more “American” sports league would have a free and unfettered labor market, with no draft, no team or player salary caps, and no age restrictions. The irony is that just such a league exists, only it’s in Europe, and the sport is one that is often criticized as low-scoring and not American enough: soccer. It’s the English Premier League, which like most European soccer leagues has no draft or salary. And for better or worse, the EPL has been known to welcome players as young as 16 years old.

TIME Basketball

WNBA’s Griner to Attend Domestic-Violence Counseling

WNBA Players Arrested Basketball
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office/AP WNBA players Brittney Griner, left, and her fiancée Glory Johnson

Phoenix Mercury's Brittney Griner must attend 26 weeks of domestic-violence counseling as part of a diversion agreement

(GOODYEAR, Ariz.) — Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner has entered into a diversion agreement after being arrested on suspicion of assault following a fight last week with her fiancee, fellow WNBA player Glory Johnson.

As part of the agreement reached Tuesday in Goodyear Municipal Court, Griner will plead guilty to disorderly conduct and must attend 26 weeks of domestic violence counseling. All charges will be dismissed if she completes her counseling.

”It is never OK for an argument to turn physical. This will never happen again, and I take my relationship and my responsibility as a role model seriously,” Griner said in a statement. ”I am committed to making positive changes and I plan to use what I have learned to set a good example and help make a difference in the world around me.”

Griner voluntarily began counseling the day after being arrested for the April 22 incident at the home she shares with Johnson, according to her attorney, David Michael Cantor.

Griner and Johnson, who plays for the Tulsa Shock, were both charged with assault by recklessly causing physical injuries and disorderly conduct after an argument at the home that the couple bought two days earlier turned physical.

The two 24-year-old players suffered minor injuries, including a bite mark on Griner’s finger, but neither required medical attention.

Griner told police the fight was caused be weeks of stress, including buying a house, planning a wedding and their relationship. The pair announced their engagement late last summer and expected to get married next month.

TIME Basketball

WNBA Player Brittney Griner Arrested for Assault and Disorderly Conduct

Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury speaks with the media in Phoenix on Sep. 7, 2014.
Barry Gossage—Getty Images Brittney Griner of the Phoenix Mercury speaks with the media in Phoenix on Sep. 7, 2014.

Griner's fiancée Glory Johnson was also arrested on same charges

Phoenix Mercury center Brittney Griner was arrested on Wednesday on charges of assault and disorderly conduct, according to records from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office.

Griner, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2013 WNBA draft, was taken into custody and booked into Maricopa County Jail.

Tulsa Shock forward Glory Johnson, who is Griner’s fiancee, was also arrested on charges of assault and disorderly conduct.

Griner averaged 15.6 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.8 blocks per game last season for Phoenix en route to a second straight All-Star selection. She helped the Mercury win the WNBA title in 2014, when the team swept the Chicago Sky.

The former Baylor star averaged 15.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 6.0 blocks in two WNBA finals games last season.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

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