ESPN’s pundit Jalen Rose and NBA TV’s Kenny Smith and Chris Webber talk NBA Conference Finals

Are the Warriors being considered “villains” while the Cavs have not faced that same backlash despite both potentially going to their third straight NBA Finals?

SMITH: When you go to the team that beat you, people aren’t going to like it. Ray Allen wasn’t liked by the Boston Celtics [when he went to Miami] and Kevin Durant was a better player at that stage than Ray Allen was when he went to Golden State. It left them open to [have the villain label]… LeBron, in his case, he came home, so the story is more compassionate. He had the same backlash when he went to Miami, but no one’s ever going to question someone coming home… [The Warriors] put that on themselves and Kevin

Durant knew the expectation that would happen… It is different than what great players in the past have done.

Does Cleveland’s need to play high-level defence if they are to win the NBA Championship?

WEBBER: I don’t think people give J.R. Smith and Iman Shum pert enough credit on defence. They beat Golden State last year, when from my recollection many people in the media didn’t give them a chance. It was because of the defence of those two guys, you can’t stop [Stephen] Curry, you can’t stop [Klay] Thompson and you can’t stop Isaiah Thomas, but you have guys that are willing to be on that island – be vulnerable, be crossed over and those guys, the fact that they’re willing to run through a wall, that’s what I’m looking at… I believe they have flashes of defensive brilliance on their side… I want to see if they match the defensive intensity of Boston.

The last champion outside of the top 10 in defensive rating, the Lakers back in ’01 at 21st. The Cavs are 21st in defensive rating this season. Do you think that that’s the biggest concern? I don’t want to anoint them and put them past Boston or Washington, but would that be your biggest concern as you move through the Playoffs preparing for San Antonio or Golden State, No. 1 and No. 2 in defensive rating this season?

ROSE: I appreciate your professionalism in not wanting to put them past the Boston Celtics or the Washington Wizards, so I’ll do it for you. (Indiscernible) injury, that’s going to happen.

With that being said, I was saying they’re the NBA’s version of Noah’s Ark, like they have two of everything. So when you’re able to craft a roster like that around LeBron James, who is still the elite, dominant player in the league, they went from being a team that wanted to string together three to five stops at a time to a team that wants to end the game by scoring three to five baskets at a time. And a lot of times from three-point range or in isolation situations, what you normally don’t see.

I’m pretty sure, just like you have the defensive rating stat that’s pretty low, I’m pretty sure they’re probably one of the teams in the league that isolate more than anybody. Usually that’s a no-no for who is doing it. And it’s Kawhi, I mean, it’s Kyrie and LeBron.

So, while they’ve been undefeated in the Playoffs, I always look down at the stat sheet and was like Indiana’s scoring over 100. Toronto’s still scoring over 100.

When can that be a problem? Well, it could be a problem if they’re facing a Golden State Warriors team that is healthy, and in particular with all of their core group of players. That probably could be an issue at that point. But when I see Andre Iguodala dealing with a knee injury, and how the first half in particular of yesterday’s game went, if I had to shift to who I felt like I had to put all the chips in the middle of the table to win it all if The Finals were to happen tomorrow, it’s hard not to say that the Cavaliers wouldn’t be my pick.

WEBBER: We have to give LeBron credit for going to six straight NBA Finals… I think by them coming back from 3-1 last year, Cleveland has always said, ‘We know what we have to do.’ Now they haven’t done it [on defence in the regular season], but they have a little more leeway because LeBron has been to six straight Championships. I think once the Playoffs started…knowing what they must do to win, I think they’ve made a concerted effort to get back to the kind of ball that Coach Lee wants them playing. That’s why [Coach Lee] was frustrated; not that they didn’t have the acumen or IQ, they were blaming it on something else not to execute. We’ve seen that effort and intensity go up and I think with that, when

they play great defensively, they are really hard to stop. They’ve made a recommitment back on that defensive end, at least in the first two rounds… If you’re a Cleveland fan, you have to be happy with how they’ve been playing defensively.”


The idea of the game changing in these past years… what’s changed as far as what’s acceptable for trash talking on the court, and how much does a player like Draymond — what sort of value does he add or sometimes subtract with his mental battles that he gets in?

ROSE: I think over the years the boundaries as physical intimidation was taken out of the game, and we have social media and there are cameras everywhere and there are microphones on the floor, I think we pretty much understand that there is nothing out of bounds. So it’s really what you allow and it’s what you allow to distract you, more importantly.

So Draymond is a player that likes to get fired up not only by how he plays but by what he says. As an opponent you know how you can shut the guy in front of you up. Play better than him, beat him. That’s really what you can do.

So I think while Draymond is really the anchor of the interior of the Golden State Warriors, he has to be a player that finds ways to keep himself emotionally invested, keep the technical down, and not be putting himself in a position to get ejected from a big game.

The NBA Playoffs are available on League Pass at 

Photo: NBAE/Getty

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