This afternoon, ESPN NBA analysts Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson discussed the 2017 NBA Finals on a conference media call.
The 2017 NBA Finals between the defending NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers and LeBron James vs. the Golden State Warriors and Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant tips off exclusively on ABC starting Thursday, June 1 at 9 p.m. ET.
The longest-tenured NBA Finals broadcast team – Mike Breen, Van Gundy, Jackson and Doris Burke – entering their eighth NBA Finals together, will call the series. Additionally, Van Gundy will call his record 11th NBA Finals, the most ever for a Finals TV game analyst and Jackson has called more NBA Finals on television than any other African-American NBA analyst.
For more details on ABC & ESPN coverage for the 2017 NBA Finals, click here.
Q. There’s been a couple guys that maybe aren’t shooting the ball great, like maybe Klay and Iguodala. Are these teams just that good that they can overcome guys struggling, or maybe when it gets to this round they’ll be in trouble if this keeps up?
MARK JACKSON: I think they’re that good that the guys that are struggling shooting the basketball, the reason they’re elite teams is that they’re not one-trick ponies. So Klay Thompson, although you look at the numbers struggling shooting the basketball, is still guarding the other team’s best perimeter guy and getting the job done on the defensive end. So he’s finding ways to impact games even when his shooting is not up to par.
I think that’s what we’ve seen consistently throughout the course of the season and these three seasons in particular for both of these teams.
JEFF VAN GUNDY: For me, Golden State has more margin of error, so they can have guys maybe not shooting the ball particularly well. But Curry and Durant are on such a roll that it may not matter. I think Cleveland in this series, they’re going to have to have all their guys shooting the ball well, playing efficiently. I think Golden State will be pushed to do the same.
I think that’s what’s going to be fascinating is to see who Cleveland defensively is okay with shooting the ball. I know even though Klay has struggled, they’re not going to be okay with him getting open looks. They may be more inclined to get those same looks to Green and Iguodala, but we’ll have to wait and see.
Q. I feel like the Warriors have started to get more backlash more than they have in the past, especially in the playoffs. I feel like they’ve leaned into it some with Durant saying, “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it,” and Curry saying they’re going out to stop the Cavaliers from having fun. I feel like they’re almost playing up to being the villains of the series. Do you think this is a departure for them? And do you think it’s ultimately good for them to take on a bit stronger of an attitude?
VAN GUNDY: I took Durant’s advice. I did turn it off when the games were blowouts. I just thought it was — I had no problem with him saying that. I don’t think they’re villains. I think they’re nice guys. I think sometimes — and I don’t really know why — I think they think people are criticizing them. All I see is 99% overwhelming praise for them, and maybe 1% critique, particularly after Durant’s decision to join the Warriors.
But I guess I look at it just the opposite. I don’t see them at all as the villain. I see them as being the darling and have been for quite some time.
JACKSON: I’m in total agreement with that. I think it’s been a lovefest, and deservedly so. They’re great guys and they’ve been able to accomplish a whole heck of a lot since they turned this thing around. I think when you get to this level, you look for different ways of motivation and searching for it. But it’s been a lovefest as far as the Warriors are concerned in the coverage, and they deserve it.
Q. I’m wondering what did you guys expect from the Curry-Durant relationship on the court? What have you seen? Has it played out, and do you think it can get even better?
JACKSON: I think what we expected — I hope that was the question, what did we expect — I think we expected because of their body of work as individuals, two class, quality guys, as good a duo of guys as we have in this league. The way they’ve conducted themselves from day one until now has been inspiring and something that can be modelled through youth basketball and fans of the game.
So I think they’re unselfish superstars. They’re well-accomplished. Both guys will be in the Hall of Fame and will go down amongst the names of the greats that have played this game. And I think it only gets better as we’ve seen the season progress, their play, their timing, their trusting one another. It’s been a beautiful thing to watch.
VAN GUNDY: I expected it to go well for them. I didn’t understand the handwringing in the preseason about how they were going to fit together. I thought the harder adjustment was going to be for like Klay Thompson because he’s going from being the guy with the ball in his hands, second or third most, depending on how you view it with Draymond Green, to being, at times, an afterthought in their offense. I thought that was the hard one.
But Durant and Curry have played exceptionally well. Like Mark said, you wouldn’t expect any different. That’s who they are. They’re great, great talent who work hard and care about the right thing. So, you know, this is a home run for the Warriors to have those two guys in their prime.
Q. There was a lot of criticism during the season of a lot of teams. The Cavs were some of the more prominent for resting guys. They didn’t send any of their big three to Memphis on their only visit there. They stayed at home. They sat them against the Clippers when they were staying in L.A., not traveling anywhere, playing the Lakers who were struggling the next night. They kind of bagged the race for the No. 1 seed in the East when — in the idea of rest of LeBron and Kyrie and Love the last week of the season. Yet it seems like it’s worked. What does this say about the regular season and how distressed should people who pay a lot of money and TV partners be about this?
VAN GUNDY: I think we have to be very careful with cause and effect. LeBron James has been successful since he’s been in the NBA. Rested, not rested, it doesn’t really matter. So I think cause and effect, it’s tricky. I’ve read that both teams chose to rest, and it proved to be successful. There are other teams who have rested and who went out early, but very little said about that as being a failure.
So, again, I think we have to be careful with the whole idea of what it is that’s worked. LeBron James has worked. That’s what we know to be effective, is him on the floor.
As far as the regular season, even if I would say that it worked resting, which I’m not convinced it had anything to do with their success either way, I still think it’s wrong. We market our star players. We ask our fans to watch games, to buy tickets to games, to pay astronomical sums of money to come and watch, and then we bait and switch them without any notice, and we expect it to be okay. I’ve read that many, including the Commissioner, have said it’s not a big problem. I’ve always been of the thought, when you get ripped off or when somebody gets ripped off, if it’s not you, it’s not a big problem. But if it’s you, it’s a big problem.
So I think how the fans are treated since they drive this whole business, and they generate these vast sums of money that our players earn, that we should be more judicious in how we treat them. Because right now, I think we’re treating them very poorly when it comes to taking nights off that have nothing to do with injury.
Q. There’s been — Dwane Casey said the Cavs had flipped the switch. Was rest what allowed them to flip the switch in your opinion?
VAN GUNDY: Talent.
Q. From how they played at the end of the regular season?
VAN GUNDY: Talent is what allowed them to flip the switch. Listen, we’d all hope as coaches, and I think Mark would agree, that very few teams are capable of doing what Cleveland has done in that flipping of the switch. But you can’t deny if you’re — myself, even though I’d love to say it’s all about habits, what this shows me is some teams are so overtalented that they can shortchange themselves in the regular season, flip the switch, and still get back to where they wanted to be, which is The Finals.
Now, whether they have the habits that are good enough when matched up against an equally talented team in Golden State, that’s what The Finals are going to be about.
JACKSON: I’m in total agreement with everything that Jeff just finished saying. As a witness, I can testify that talent allows you to flip the switch. That took place as a player watching Michael Jordan on Magic Johnson teams or the Larry Bird Celtics where it would be a close ballgame, and it wasn’t rest that allowed them to flip the switch. They flipped the switch in the middle of the fourth quarter, those guys are sitting on the sideline, up 20, because they turned it on. I think that’s what great talent has the ability to do with superior basketball teams.
But to get back to the original question, I’m in agreement with Jeff. Something has got to be done. It is a concern, and we want to see the best players playing on the floor. It’s a disservice to the fans and to the game.
What are you guys looking forward to out of this series, what story lines and matchups and all that jazz?
JACKSON: I think there are so many fascinating story lines throughout the lineups of both of these teams. It didn’t stop on the floor. It also extends to the bench. Steve Kerr, obviously, we wish him nothing but the best. Hopefully he comes back healthy and whole, and that’s important with the job that Mike Brown has done. The job that Ty Lue has done leading his Cavalier’s team. I think we could shower the Warriors organization top to bottom with a lot of credit. Deservedly so. Whether it be front office, ownership, management, obviously, the bench, why don’t we talk about Mike Brown. We talked about Alvin Gentry, we’ve talked about Luke Walton. Well, Larry Drew is over there as a number two guy with Ty Lue, we don’t shower him. I think we do a disservice across the board. I think both of these organizations have done an incredible job for three years now of preparing themselves and conducting themselves. It’s story lines all throughout.
So I don’t stop on the floor. I think at the end of the day, looking at the Draymond Green-Kevin Love matchup, will really play a huge part in this series because I think both guys are going to get shots, makeable shots. Will Kevin Love continue to play at the level he’s played at thus far in these Playoffs is going to be very interesting to watch.
VAN GUNDY: I want to reiterate one point about what Mark said about Mike Brown. I’m absolutely fascinated to see how often Mike Brown praises Cleveland management and ownership for a great job that they did and how well they treated him, while behind the scenes wanting to bust their ass for firing him after one year. To me, the clichÃ© counting, I can’t wait to start clichÃ© counting, because having been fired I know that you’re not fans right away of the people who let you go. So that he gets a chance to coach against them in a Finals, I believe in my heart that he is absolutely ecstatic over having that opportunity.
On the floor, Kyrie Irving and Steph Curry, well, Steph Curry won’t guard Kyrie Irving, I wouldn’t think, that much. But both teams switch enough that you’re going to see different matchups all the time. I think the thing that I’m really looking forward to is watching Kevin Durant guard multiple positions. He’s been an outstanding defender this year. He’s got great length, and I’m going to absolutely cherish watching he and LeBron James, two of the best small forwards of all time, matching up in this series.
Q. When you hear numbers like what Ben started out with, 11 Finals for Jeff, nine for Mark, do those numbers kind of shock you relative to what maybe you were expecting when you got into this thing, that you’d still be doing this a decade later?
VAN GUNDY: I think that 11 Finals is a record. It shocked me. It just shows you how fickle the two professions Mark and I chose after he got done playing. Coaching is a fickle one; so, too, is broadcasting. So I think I would speak for Mark in that we don’t take it for granted. I don’t think we ever envisioned ourselves maybe broadcasting or broadcasting this long. But it’s been a blessing and something that I know I don’t take for granted. Because I’ve been treated very, very well.
JACKSON: It’s very humbling. It truly is a blessing when you think about, I’m not just a fan of basketball, I’m a fan of all sports. You think about we’ve done it for quite a long time in a sustained period for a company that we absolutely love and treat us first class. To me, I don’t take for granted also the blessing to be able to work with guys and girls that are absolutely incredible. We have the time of our lives supporting each other as truly a team. These are friendships that have come before my coaching career and early on in my playing career and I’ve been able to sustain them for so many years. It’s really a blast.
Q. Getting back to your shared longevity. How important does the fact that you’re working with each other contribute to the fact that you’ve been able to do this so long and so well? What does Mark contribute to Jeff, what does Jeff contribute to Mark? Has the layoff given you time to get your dessert rotation in shape for The Finals so we won’t have any squabbling over who gets the last brownie this time?
VAN GUNDY: Well, we’re going back to the scene of the crime. The scene of the crime of the brownie was in San Francisco. So hopefully they’ve cooked up another batch because Mark, obviously, took offense to me getting the last brownie.
But I think it’s something that Mark touched on previously. I don’t know how much — it’s hard to separate for me — how much I enjoy broadcasting from how much I enjoy broadcasting with great friends. So I’ve known Mike and Mark and Doris for well over half my life now, and I consider them exceptional friends, and I love working with them.
Behind the scenes I’ve known those people left, but like Tim Corrigan, to me, as far as a producer who is working with someone who is rough around the edges as far as broadcasting, because I never had the schooling or I don’t have the smoothness of Mark, he’s been great to work for. When you combine working for a good boss and working with great friends, it really makes it special.
JACKSON: I echo everything that Jeff just finished saying. Tim Corrigan is a special guy that really is the point guard behind the scenes and controls stuff. But I don’t take it for granted, the relationships. The reason why is because as a fan of sports in general, I have listened to two-man booths and three-man booths and you read the stories of how they couldn’t stand each other and the lights come on and they sound great and did a great job, but the lights go off and they go their separate ways. What you see with us during the telecast is the same thing you would see with us sitting at a dinner table or breakfast table. We really enjoy one another, and the feelings spread out the telecast. And there is nothing but true love throughout this group, and it’s something I don’t take for granted.
Q. You guys touched on it a little bit right there. Can you just discuss what makes Mike an effective play-by-play man?
VAN GUNDY: Who is saying he is (laughing)? No, listen, Mark and I have discussed this so many times. What Mike does, he makes look easy, but it’s very, very difficult. He, I think, has unbelievable NBA knowledge. He’s a student of the game. He understands the history. He knows how to make a big call, and he also encourages us to say what we think, within limits, you know.
Like Tim Corrigan’s the point guard behind the scenes, Mike is like the point guard of the game. The way he allows us to be ourselves and not go overboard is a really special trait. That’s why he’s going to go in the Hall of Fame. I forget what the name of that award is. I was asking Mark this the last game we had. I thought Mike was already in. I can’t believe he’s not in. I know he will be soon because he deserves it. He is the voice of the NBA.
JACKSON: Again, I agree. This is scary. We’re agreeing. This is not momentum building into The Finals for Jeff and I, but I’m in total agreement. Mike will be in the Hall of Fame. He should have already been there. I really believe that the two best point guards in the business is Ernie Johnson and Mike Breen. The way that they control and dictate the pace, the way that they get guys involved, the way that they don’t get upset and they have no egos, it’s unbelievable to watch from a distance with Ernie and in the field with Mike. He’s absolutely brilliant. It’s truly great to watch him control the game and control everything. Even when there are times I’m sure he’s frustrated with whether Jeff and I talk about a dessert or some other crazy thing that Jeff brings up.
Q. Should the Warriors be the favorite as Las Vegas has it now? Another question, if you had to name just one X-factor from each team, who would it be and why?
JACKSON: They should be the favorites because of what they’ve been able to accomplish throughout the course of the year and adding Kevin Durant. They’ve been the best team all season long statistically. I don’t know. I saw where the Cavs have a 7% chance of winning The Finals. I’m not in agreement with that. I think two great teams, best player in the world, obviously, in LeBron James is going to be an incredible series.
To me, the X-factor’s going to be Kevin Love. If he’s playing the way he’s played thus far, this is a Kevin Love that the Warriors have not seen outside of a Minnesota Timberwolves jersey. He’s playing similar to the way he played there. Rebounding the basketball, knocking shots down, being more involved offensively. It’s another threat to add to LeBron and Kyrie and makes them a tough team. But that’s the thing I would look for, how well he’s playing. But the Warriors to me are the favorite.
VAN GUNDY: I agree with Mark. I think they’re the prohibitive favorite. I think when you’re the prohibitive favorite against LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, that means you’re a heck of a team, and they sure are. Just the combination of offense and defense, the talent that they’ve been able to amass, it puts them in position where this is a dynasty to me. They have their youth, they have their health. I see nothing preventing them from going to eight to ten straight Finals. It will be a massive upset, I think, if they’re not there each and every year.
As far as X-factor, I agree with Mark. I think Kevin Love has to find that balance between spacing the floor at the three-point line and using what I think his best weapon is, which is offensive rebounding. In Game 7 last year he got a couple offensive rebounds. He got more involved in the game. I think he’s going to have to find that balance this year.
Then on the other end, I think Iguodala, his ability to play effectively offensively and be efficient, because if you’re Cleveland, you’re going to have to try to help off of he and Draymond Green. So they’re going to be presented with opportunities.
Then for them, it’s important that they make — because if you’re Cleveland and you’re game planning, you can’t allow Durant and Curry to shoot such a high percentage and get as many good looks as they’ve gotten in the previous series.
Q. My question is about the Cavaliers. They sat several players in the mid-season, and I wonder if you could talk about how they might have an effect on this NBA Finals series.
VAN GUNDY: I believe it was about they’ve added, who they’ve added? So I think Korver was a brilliant addition. Echoing what Mark talked about earlier about the Cleveland Cavaliers management, coaching staff, not getting as much credit as maybe they should, I wholeheartedly agree. Ty Lue has done a masterful job. And Mark’s right. Even I, as a pro-coach, I’ve never gone on a broadcast and talked nearly enough about Jim Boylan and Larry Drew, Michael Longabardi and that whole staff. And I think David Griffin goes within that. He’s done a great job of adding pieces.
The Kyle Korver piece to me, that three-point shooting component for them as an underdog is huge. Even when Korver doesn’t get shots, the space he helps to create because people stay at home on him is critical to the Kyrie Irving, LeBron James penetration game. So I think that Korver pick-up, in particular, was a huge one. David Griffin should be given a lot of praise for that pick-up.
JACKSON: I think they’ve done an outstanding job of adding depth to that basketball team without duplicating it. Adding Kyle Korver’s ability to stretch the floor. Needing a legitimate back-up point guard. Going to get a veteran, playoff-tested guy in Deron Williams who looks like he has more life in his legs lately, playing at a higher level. The guys that they’ve added throughout the lineup, they’re a deeper basketball team. They’re much more equipped to handle the challenges that face them in playoff basketball, which has been proven thus far.
Q. If you had to compare one of this groups, LeBron’s big three in Miami and Cleveland, is there a big difference, do you think one has the advantage over the other? One was the better team than the other?
JACKSON: I think in fairness to the big three in Cleveland, we’re talking about three future Hall of Famers right away in Miami. Chris Bosh, I don’t even know, 10-, 11-time All-Star, somewhere around there. We know Dwyane Wade, in my opinion, the third best shooting guard that’s ever played the game, and then LeBron James in his prime. So in fairness, this group in Cleveland has much more to accomplish, and that’s not to sell them short because all three guys, in my opinion, will be in the Hall of Fame. But they have much more to prove. Those guys were in their prime and accomplished from day one.
VAN GUNDY: I have nothing more to add. Well said.
Q. Here in New York people are curious about the Phil-Carmelo dynamic and how it’s all going to play out. I wanted to ask you guys as a former player in Mark and former coaches in both of you guys, how do you perceive how things played out between Carmelo and Phil this season, and in particular, how Phil handled things?
VAN GUNDY: I think Carmelo handled himself exceptionally well this year. I think it’s a difficult situation. I think he is — like all players who age, he’s lost a little athleticism, but he’s still a very effective player. I thought he stayed above the fray, and I applaud him for that.
As far as their strategy, I don’t know what their strategy is. I don’t know if it’s to try to make it uncomfortable for him so that he’s more willing to accept a trade. But certainly Phil Jackson has laid out his vision that it would be better for Carmelo and better for the Knicks that he is not there next year. Carmelo Anthony negotiated a no-trade clause in his contract, which Phil Jackson gave him, so I’m really interested to see. Does he want to be someplace that doesn’t want him, even though that may be his destination of choice? Or is he willing now to accept a different environment, a more welcoming environment for him to finish off his career with.
JACKSON: If I look at the numbers, look at the body of work and can say that six championships later Phil Jackson is one of the greatest coaches in the history of sports, not just basketball, but in sports. I can say that definitively. I can also look at the numbers and say as the guy running the New York Knicks, he’s done a poor job. When you look at the results, he’s been a failure thus far. Carmelo Anthony is an outstanding basketball player who has handled himself remarkably during these last couple years. Like Jeff said, at the end of the day, he negotiated a no-trade clause. I think you’re going about it the wrong way trying to force him out. He has all the power, and he’s taken full advantage of it.
Q. After the Conference Finals, Pop lamented that he doesn’t see any bigs that are really interested in playing down in the block anymore. He repeated his philosophically speaking he hates the three-point shot. With that said, does the Warriors three-year run in The Finals cement that the game has indeed changed irrevocably and teams like the Warriors and Rockets are the template for the future?
VAN GUNDY: Well, the Warriors, and this is Jeff, the Warriors are the template for any period of time when you want to be great on offense and great on defense and have a huge talent differential. So I think the way the game is being played at the lower levels, the three-point shot is a huge, obviously, weapon. I don’t think a lot of guys want to take the time nor do teams want to take the time to learn about how to effectively use a post player. I think what it’s given us is a lot of — there are not many differing styles of play. I used to love, back in the ’90’s, watching teams play differently. From the Phoenix Suns pushing it up, quick pick-and-rolls with all their great point guards, Kevin Johnson, et cetera, the Bulls were a mid-tempo team running the triangle. You had Utah with their 1-4 offense. There was just a lot of different — you had Hakeem Olajuwon, three-point-shooting Rockets. So there were varying styles. I found that more enjoyable to watch when there were different styles. But I agree with Greg in that either there’s not enough big men willing to learn to play with their back to basket, or teams are just not seeking those type of plays out. But I do think with all the switching that teams are doing in today’s NBA, the more guys you can have who can put their back to the basket and take advantage of a quick mismatch, you have a better chance. We saw that when teams switched small on to Kevin Durant and small on to LeBron James. They absolutely punished those guys.
JACKSON: I’m in agreement with him. One thing that you realize is the copycat league, and that’s an unfortunate thing. Because teams are trying to duplicate what the Warriors are doing without the same cast. I’m talking about three all-time great shooters in Curry, Durant, and Thompson in their starting lineup. I’m talking about on the defensive end, three great defenders in Durant, Green, and Thompson. Pachulia, very good defender. And Steph Curry, very good competitor that understands schemes defensively. So you’re trying to copy them when you don’t have the same cast, and it’s not going to bring the same result.
To me, I think ultimately one thing that Jeff talked about during the telecast, and I’m in agreement, is the way that the post-up play is being called. You’re allowed to be more physical with these post-up players, which is discouraging teams to run post-up plays. But I think it’s a recipe for disaster trying to duplicate what they have when you don’t have the same cast. So it’s an unfortunate thing. I think ultimately teams, due to their lack of success in trying to do that, will go back to what truly is their identity, instead of trying to play the Warriors identity.
Q. The topic of parity has come up in the last couple weeks. Do you think it’s better for basketball to have the same teams year after year playing for the tile, or do you think it would be better for the NBA if there was more of a diverse collection of teams that make The Finals?
JACKSON: I won’t sit here and tell you it would be better for the NBA right now if there are two other teams in The Finals. We have the two best teams left in The Finals playing for a championship. We have the best players in the world, including best player in the world in LeBron James, on the biggest platform. So to me, I think it’s a great result for the NBA.
I remember watching Roy Jones Jr. when he said he didn’t fight anybody, he said I just made him look like nobody, and that’s what happened with Cleveland and the Warriors. They’re superior. They’ve played against good teams, but because they’re so talented, so deep, and so disciplined, they were able to make those teams not look as legit as they were.
VAN GUNDY: I think greatness is always good for a league. So whether it’s great player or great teams, that’s always good for the NBA or any sports league.
I think what I would have liked is them to have been pushed more in this playoff run. Last year Cleveland got — it was 2-2 against Toronto, and they had to win a Game 5 at home. The Warriors, I think in both years, they got down in a series in the previous two runs to The Finals, and had to figure out a way out of that hole.
So I think it’s great to have greatness. It would have been even better if that greatness had been pushed a little bit harder so they had to dig down deep and find their way out of a hole.
Q. Yeah, the moment the last Finals ended, everyone expected these two teams back this year, and that’s what they got. I agree, I don’t think anybody wanted a different matchup. But, Jeff, just like you said, you wish they would have been pushed a little more. So the fact that these teams are so good and so much better than everyone else and they make it look so easy, is it almost like while it’s good to have this matchup in the NBA Finals, you’ve got the best player against a team that’s filled with All-Stars going at it for the third straight year, is it like a double-edged sword where it’s almost bad for the NBA that they make it look so easy getting there, and people are like, well, I’ll tune in in early June when the Finals start because I don’t need to see anything else? In some ways is it bad for the NBA that these two teams make it look so easy and they’re barely tested?
JACKSON: I think the dangerous thing as a former player and former coach is to come to the conclusion, even though the people were right saying it’s a foregone conclusion, that Cleveland and Golden State will play in The Finals. As a former player and former coach, that’s a dangerous place to be. It worked out that way, but teams are more than capable of beating these teams, especially last year. This year was a different story. But I think you get into a dangerous area when you begin to think, oh, this is an automatic win. It’s a credit to the discipline and mindset of both of these teams and organizations that they ultimately wound up facing each other in the championship round.
But it’s more of a credit to them as opposed to the rest of the league.
VAN GUNDY: I just think the Warriors are just head and shoulders talent-wise above anybody else in the NBA. Through a confluence of events, they were able to add Durant, and it’s great for the Warriors, great to have a great team. But some of the competition suffered because of it. Because Oklahoma City was a legitimate threat last year. Then Cleveland, you know, they took a step back in the regular season. I’m going to be interested to see going forward what their approach is. But someone’s going to have to step up in the East or in the West if we’re not to see this next year as well. It’s hard to imagine either team not being the heavy favorite next year going into their respective conferences.
Q. How valuable is Draymond Green to what the Warriors do? How valuable to you think he would be on a potential other team? Do you think it would be the same?
VAN GUNDY: I think the combination of his ability to guard multiple positions and his passing ability at a forward position make him extremely unique and valuable. And that he plays with other great, great scorers, all-time shooters, scorers, I think does help him. I think he has the right cone in Golden State for him. If he was placed in another environment where he was paid big money and he was having them find a way to get 18 to 20 a game, that would be a challenge. So I think he has unique skills and it’s well-placed on a Warrior team that has deep, deep scoring ability.
JACKSON: I agree with everything Coach just said.
Q. What are the second X-factors that you will see on both teams? And also, is there any letdown because the series has been so hyped and been so looked forward to that could there be some letdown?
JACKSON: I’m not concerned about any letdown. The reason why is because there are great players and great stories throughout these Finals. I’m anticipating it to be an incredible Final series.
As far as the second option, to me, I look at Draymond Green. The reason why, if I’m facing the Golden State Warriors, whether I’m the Cavs or anybody else in the league, it’s no secret that you have to be able to live with something. With all due respect to Draymond Green, he understands it. He was game planning against the Warriors, he would have himself get open shots and he’d live with the results. But you have to defend Curry, Durant and Thompson. So he’s going to have to step up and make and take big-time shots. As a result, if you’re the Cavs, there are certain things you live with. So that’s going to be a key factor for me. If he’s making shots, it’s impossible to guard them or beat them.
VAN GUNDY: I agree with Mark. If Draymond Green makes threes, really hard to beat him. Now, he had one of the all-time great Game 7s last year, and Cleveland found a way to win. But this is a different team with Durant. I think three-point shooting is the X-factor for Cleveland. Cleveland’s going to have to make more threes and get more shots by pounding the offensive boards because of the offensive firepower that Golden State has.
Q. Sorry to piggyback off the parity thing again, but just to talk about it a bit more. We’ve got two teams like this, the first time that two franchises have met three straight years in The Finals. You know, people complain about the parity to some degree. K.D. got roped into talking about it. But as you guys would know, the TV ratings are higher, and I think that probably speaks to what fans want to see. From your perspective, do you agree with that? Does this harken back to the Lakers versus Celtics where you have two superpowers? As fans of the game, not as guys who have been working in the game for years, but as fans, is this something — is this the way you want to see The Finals kind of play out?
VAN GUNDY: Again, I don’t really go into it as a fan hoping one way or the other, unless it’s guys that I’ve worked with or coached that it’s deeper than that. I’m happy for these teams. I just, again, to reiterate, I just wish that they had been pushed harder. I enjoy watching great teams find a way out of difficult challenges. None were really presented this year. But it will be in The Finals. I think Cleveland or Golden State will obviously be put into a difficult challenge, and we’ll see how they respond. I’m hopeful that it’s a good response.
JACKSON: You went back to the Lakers versus Celtics. I think the difference with those days as opposed to these times is they were truly great teams, and when I say “great teams,” I’m not just talking about the Lakers and Celtics. I believe that you can be a great team without winning a championship. I played against great teams, and I played on great teams. So I think that’s the difference.
I don’t know how many teams today truly had a legitimate chance of winning a championship with this Warrior team and this Cavaliers team in the NBA. That was a different story back then, and hopefully we’ll get back to that. But that’s not to say anything negative with these two teams. They’re the two best teams. They’re two great team, and we’re looking forward to an incredible Finals.
Media contact: Gianina Thompson at [email protected] (@Gianina_ESPN)