|After thrilling finish, Heat, Spurs start up again|
|Wednesday, June 04, 2014 6:46 PM|
SAN ANTONIO — LeBron James and Dwyane Wade can point to statistics showing just how close the 2013 NBA Finals were.
Tim Duncan doesn't need them.
He can't forget the way his San Antonio Spurs lost, especially since every replay brings another painful reminder. The Spurs were on the verge of celebrating a fifth title in Game 6 and just two nights later were congratulating the Miami Heat on their second straight crown.
The Spurs wanted a rematch and so did basketball fans. It begins today in San Antonio.
"I think it's great that these two franchises have this opportunity in back-to-back years to compete for a championship," Wade said Wednesday. "Last year was an unbelievable series and ... it went down to the very end. We won the series by a total of five points, you know? That's how close it was. But it was a very even series. I think this year it could be another great series."
From Tony Parker's circus shot that stole Game 1 for the Spurs, to Ray Allen's 3-pointer that saved Game 6 for the Heat, to James' jumper that put away Game 7, almost every contest provided a new highlight. It deserved an encore, just like when the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers seemed to pick up right where they left off in the 1980s.
The NBA hasn't had a finals rematch since 1998, when Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls beat Utah for the second straight season. San Antonio is considered a slight favorite this time, perhaps a little deeper, healthier and better than it was last year and owning the home-court advantage this time.
The Spurs don't need to change much to change the result. They outscored the Heat 684-679 over seven games and there were 47 ties and 42 lead changes, according to STATS.
"If you look at the numbers, the lead changes, the ties and the points in that series, it's almost even," James said. "So we did our part, they did their part.
"Both teams put themselves in a position to win an NBA championship and we just happened to make one or two more plays to win it."
Duncan, a 3-time NBA Finals MVP who had been 4-for-4 at this stage, wasn't on the floor when the Spurs couldn't come up with a rebound just before Allen's shot. He then missed a shot and follow attempt from right in front of the basket in the final minute of Game 7 with San Antonio trailing by two. Not even getting back to the finals again with the league's best record can make him forget.
"It lasts. I have a very good memory, especially for my misses and losses. You keep those, you learn from them and you hope to change them next time," Duncan said. "That stuck with me and obviously it's always in the back of my mind and every time I see anything to do with that, it pops right back in."
James had similar regrets in his first finals with Miami in 2011 but it's been all smiles since. The Heat are the first team to play in four straight finals since Boston from 1984-87 and can become the first 3-time champion since the Lakers more than a decade ago.
But their focus is only on winning the next title, not reminiscing about the last couple.
"Last year is last year and we're excited about it but this trophy this year belongs to nobody," James said. "It's up for grabs."
Both teams have reason to think they will win it. Wade is much healthier than last year, when he needed extensive treatment before Game 7, and the Heat have been able to get him extra rest by losing just three games in the first three rounds.
The Spurs' Manu Ginobili is also in much better shape this year and Patty Mills has emerged as an effective point guard off the bench, giving San Antonio options if Parker is slowed by the sore left ankle that knocked him out of Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.
It's the sixth finals for the Spurs since 1999 and Miami's fifth in nine years but both face uncertain futures. Duncan, Parker, Ginobili and coach Gregg Popovich could be near the end of their run together. James, Wade and Bosh can all become free agents this summer.
That's for July. For now, maybe the teams can duplicate last June.
"You hope it's going to be a great series for both teams' sake, for the fans that love our game," James added. "You hope it can be one of the great finals appearances."
Just like last year.
Attorney: Donald Sterling agrees to sell Clippers
LOS ANGELES — Los Angeles Clippers' owner Donald Sterling agreed Wednesday to sign off on selling the team he's owned for 33 years to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer for $2 billion, bringing the possibility of a resolution to weeks of rumors, uncertainty and looming possibilities for legal action.
Though the agreement had not been officially inked Wednesday afternoon, according to an individual with knowledge of the negotiations who was not authorized to discuss them publicly, Donald Sterling's attorney, Maxwell Blecher, said he "has made an agreement with the NBA to resolve all their differences" and adding Sterling gave his consent to a deal that was negotiated by his wife, Shelly Sterling, to sell the team.
Representatives for Shelly Sterling and the NBA declined to comment.
The agreement was an about-face for Donald Sterling, who just last week filed a $1 billion suit against the NBA in federal court alleging the league violated his constitutional rights by relying on information from an "illegal" recording that publicized racist remarks he made to a girlfriend. It added the league committed a breach of contract by fining Sterling $2.5 million and that it violated antitrust laws by trying to force a sale. Blecher said that as a result of the agreement, the federal suit will now be dismissed.
Sterling's comments to V. Stiviano included telling her to not bring black people to Clippers games, specifically mentioning Hall-of-Famer Magic Johnson. They resulted in a storm of outrage from the public and players and even prompted President Barack Obama to comment on what he called Sterling's "incredibly offensive racist statements."
NBA Commissioner Adam Silver ultimately decided to ban Donald Sterling for life and began efforts to force Sterling to sell the team.
For weeks, Donald Sterling said through his attorneys that he would fight the NBA's decisions to try to force his ouster as a team owner. But last week Shelly Sterling utilized her authority as sole trustee of The Sterling Family Trust, which owns the Clippers, to take bids for the team and ultimately negotiate a deal with Ballmer.
Ballmer beat out bids by Guggenheim Partners and a group including former NBA All-Star Grant Hill. Ballmer made more than an hour-long personal visit to Shelly Sterling's Malibu home last week and laid out his plan.
If the NBA owners approve the sale, it will be a record-high sum for a team that cost Donald Sterling about $12 million in 1981. Blecher's co-counsel, Bobby Samini, said the vote by league owners is expected to take place in mid-July.
This is not Ballmer's first foray into potential NBA ownership. Ballmer and investor Chris Hansen headed a group that agreed to a deal to buy the Kings from the Maloof family in January 2013 with the intention of moving the team to Seattle, where the SuperSonics played until 2008.
But Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson lobbied the NBA for time to put together a bid to keep the team in California; though the Ballmer-Hansen group later increased its offer, owners voted to deny the bid for relocation and the Kings were sold to Vivek Ranadive.
|Last Updated on Wednesday, June 04, 2014 8:03 PM|