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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Stories by Darryn Albert:

Tyronn Lue implies Cavs have better defensive sets but aren’t using them

The Cleveland Cavaliers have looked like a bunch of traffic cones on the defensive end as of late, but head coach Tyronn Lue appears to have an explanation for their struggles on that side of the ball.

After the Cavs’ 127-115 loss at home to Washington on Saturday, Lue implied they had better defensive sets under their sleeves but were simply choosing not to reveal them before the playoffs, per the team’s official Twitter account.

Lue can rationalize all he wants, but things aren’t looking pretty for the Cavs right now. Saturday’s game marked the 12th time in 14 March contests that they’ve given up 100 points or more, a stretch that has seen them slip to 23rd in the NBA in defensive rating on the season as a whole (which would easily be their worst mark since LeBron James returned in 2014, per NBA.com).

Some of Lue’s players have been brushing off the team’s recent woes as well, so the pressure will be on for the Cavs’ defense to deliver come the postseason.

Mark Cuban has funny response to JJ Barea’s ejection for pushing Blake Griffin

Mark Cuban

Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is on a roll with his humor lately.

Mavs guard J.J. Barea was assessed a flagrant 2 foul and ejected in the third quarter of the team’s win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday after pushing Clippers big man Blake Griffin on a screen.

While there was some shoving action on the part of the 6-foot-0 Barea, it was also a fairly egregious flop by the 6-foot-10 Griffin. So when asked about the play on Saturday, Cuban replied with this funny tongue-in-cheek response, according to Isaac Harris of FanSided.

Cuban also joked that Griffin might duck Barea the next time the Clippers and the Mavs meet on April 5, per Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

The 58-year-old billionaire has been the gift that keeps on giving when it comes to entertaining quotes these last few days, so perhaps there’s some incentive for the rest of us to root for the Mavs, who are currently 3.5 games behind the eighth-seeded Denver Nuggets, to make the playoffs this year.

Video via NBA Reddit

Walt Frazier: Old-school NBA players don’t like stars resting

Hall of Fame point guard-turned-color commentator Walt “Clyde” Frazier sees a generational divide when it comes to the issue of star players resting.

In an interview with Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune that ran on Friday, the New York Knicks legend offered his two cents on the NBA’s recent trend of maintenance days.

“Us old-school guys, we don’t like it,” said the 71-year-old Frazier. “We didn’t have that luxury when I played. We had to play through commercials, back-to-backs, whatever they told us to do. We paved the way for these guys and they are biting the hand that feeds them. The reason the league is so big today is because of the TV money, and now they are sitting out?”

For his part, Frazier played in the league for 13 seasons and appeared in 77 or more games for seven of those seasons in a row. Furthermore, he subsisted in an era in the 1970s that didn’t have the benefit of modern travel accommodations or medical advances, as he hinted at.

Frazier’s comments are also consistent with (albeit a bit more self-aware than) the remarks made recently by fellow point guard great John Stockton, who is 17 years Frazier’s junior. As such, it’s become fairly clear that two competing schools of thought have emerged between the old guard and the new guard when it comes to the league’s rest problematic.

Image via FOX 5 New York on YouTube

LeBron James sports goggles on Saturday to protect eye

LeBron James channeled his inner Kareem Abdul-Jabbar against the Washington Wizards on Saturday.

The four-time MVP took the court for the intraconference showdown between the Wizards and his Cleveland Cavaliers sporting a pair of bright-colored goggles to protect his eye.

As alluded to above, James suffered a scratched cornea on Friday night after getting poked in the eye in the third quarter of a victory over the Charlotte Hornets. He apparently chose to go with the goggles despite making some public proclamations that suggested otherwise.

Unfortunately however, the goggles look was short-lived as James reportedly discarded them less than nine minutes into the first quarter after getting some less than favorable results.

Now the only question is which brief phase of James’ career do we prefer better: LeGoggles or LeMask?

Rudy Gobert has harsh words for Jazz after loss to Clippers

Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert was in quite the sour mood after a loss on Saturday to the Western Conference rival Los Angeles Clippers.

After the Jazz’s 108-95 defeat at Staples Center, Gobert called out some of his teammates for a lack of competitiveness.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete,” said the French big man, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. “Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is.

“Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete,” Gobert continued. “We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Gobert did his part on Saturday, finishing with a team-high 26 points and 14 rebounds. But the loss was Utah’s fourth in their last five games, and doubly frustrating was that it came at the hands of a bitter adversary in the Clippers, who are now just half a game behind the Jazz for the fourth seed in the West.

The 24-year-old Gobert has already begun to develop a reputation for outspokenness on the court, and now it looks like that’s true off of it as well.

Report: Joakim Noah suspended 20 games for violation of NBA’s anti-drug policy

A bad season just got worse for New York Knicks big man Joakim Noah.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports on Friday that Noah has been suspended for 20 games due to a violation of the NBA’s anti-drug policy. The former Defensive Player of the Year is said to have tested positive for a banned over-the-counter supplement.

Noah, 32, was averaging 5.0 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 2.2 assists per game this season, the first of a four-year, $72.5 million deal he signed with the Knicks over the summer. He hasn’t played since February 4 due to various injuries and an arthroscopic left knee surgery he underwent on February 27 was expected to end his season.

But Wojnarowski adds that Noah recently began running and conditioning again and is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out this season (the Knicks have exactly 10 remaining) and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season. That’s news that won’t bode well for Noah’s chances of keeping his starting spot next year, something he already seemed to be losing his grip on.

Steve Alford: ‘I am absolutely 100 percent not going to Indiana’

Steve Alford UCLA

UCLA’s Sweet 16 loss to Kentucky on Friday exponentially increased the speculation that head coach Steve Alford would be heading home to Indiana to coach his alma mater, but it looks like that won’t be the case.

Shortly after the defeat, Alford told ESPN’s Jeff Goodman by what appeared to be text message that he isn’t taking the Indiana job and is staying at UCLA.

“I am Absolutely 100 percent not going to Indiana,” said Alford. “Staying at UCLA. I am happy. Love it here. Have a great class coming in, and brand-new practice facility. Obviously, I love my alma mater. Committed to UCLA. I am not going to talk to Indiana. I am staying a Bruin.”

Alex Bozich of Inside the Hall also shared the comments Alford made when asked about the Indiana vacancy in his postgame press conference.

Alford brushed off rumors of his interest in the job in the days after Tom Crean was fired despite whispers that he had already received an offer from the Hoosiers. While it wouldn’t have been surprising if his sentiment changed after his third Sweet 16 loss in four seasons as head coach of the Bruins, Alford seems content with staying in Westwood and will look to run it back next season with the second-ranked recruiting class in the country coming in.

Did Markelle Fultz shade Lonzo Ball after UCLA’s Sweet 16 loss?

Is that some top-of-the-lottery drama that I smell?

The UCLA Bruins fell in their Sweet 16 game against the Kentucky Wildcats on Friday night by the final of 86-75, a game that saw star freshman point guard Lonzo Ball thoroughly outplayed by Kentucky counterpart De’Aaron Fox in one of his worst games of the season.

Shortly after the game went final, Washington Huskies guard Markelle Fultz, Ball’s primary competition for No. 1 overall pick consideration in next June’s NBA draft, sent the following tweet:

Of course, this might just be a false emoji alarm in the vein of fellow Washington product Isaiah Thomas. But at the very least, the timing of Fultz’s tweet seems rather curious.

Either way, Fultz probably shouldn’t be talking as his Huskies failed to even qualify for the NCAA Tournament and finished the season 11th in the Pac-12 with a dismal record of 9-22. UCLA also won both matchups against Washington this year by a combined 73 (!!!) points. But it’s at least a juicy development in the Ball v. Fultz storyline (or dare we say, budding rivalry?) that’s sure to keep dominating basketball circles for the next few months.

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