Tuesday Bullets

"The Dark Knight," how the Warriors improve, and don't, when Durant sits

  • ESPN’s Baxter Holmes on the state of the Lakers is a must-read for all kinds of reasons. While it includes far weightier issues, here’s one that stands out: Lakers executive Rob Pelinka once stood next to Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and said Kobe Bryant saw “The Dark Knight” and then wanted to talk to actor Heath Ledger about how he “locks in for a role.” Pelinka says Kobe and Ledger then had dinner, and Kobe “used some of that in his game against the Knicks.” It’s on video. But, as Holmes writes: “‘The Dark Knight’ was released in July 2008, six months after Ledger died. A source with direct knowledge said no such arrangement was made and no dinner ever took place.”

  • Of course, Laker salvation hinges on attracting free agents and I don’t pretend to know how they all feel about Pelinka. But I do know that Kevin Durant was repped by Rob Pelinka for a time, and then fired him.

  • Kevin Pelton goes deep into the Warriors with and without Durant and it’s not what you think at all. The numbers say the Warriors offense is better with Durant on the court, their assist rate is identical either way, and Stephen Curry shoots a little worse without Durant. The improvement is on defense, where defensive stud Andre Iguodala mops up a lot of Durant’s minutes and assignments. Interestingly, there’s evidence that the Warriors with Durant are more variable: More prone to bouts of complacency but, at their peak, better.

  • “They fired the coach of the year. They traded the face of the franchise. They rested their best player. And it worked.” Ben Cohen of the Wall Street Journal on the Raptors.

  • Much has been made of Kawhi Leonard’s uncle, Dennis Robertson, who seldom speaks in public but did play some kind of role in Kawhi’s departure from the Spurs. Robertson just talked to Yahoo’s Chris Haynes. In addition to saying Kawhi is suffering from an unspecified injury, he adds that making the Finals is especially nice after Kawhi’s fallout with the Spurs: “Most people would say it’s vindication, but I’m not sure about that. But it was nice that we kept our mouths shut and just let everything play out. And for Kawhi, to take all the negative press he received and to focus on taking the East and to taking each series game by game, it’s a big deal. Making it to the Finals is a big deal. This is a team that has never been to the Finals and we’re happy about that. It feels good with what we went through last year. We have to be happy. He said it best with all the work he's put into his craft: He’s ready for this moment. What he accomplished was amazing. That’s what stars do. How he’s handled everything on and off the court is well deserved. It was nice to see him fight through all the adversity and he’s earned every minute of this.”

  • Kawhi Leonard is the most stone-faced man in the Finals, the NBA, possibly on planet. His advice about the Finals? “You’ve just got to have fun with it and enjoy it.”

  • Is Kawhi the best Raptor ever?

  • Skip Bayless goes after Kawhi, predictably. Raptors Republic calls it “the Infowars of the NBA.”

  • Last year, when LeBron eliminated the Raptors with a crazy Game 3 game-winner, he was going head-to-head with promising OG Anunoby, who has been out injured. But, reportedly, could return later in the Finals.

  • Not too long ago Adam Silver discussed NBA players who seldom leave their hotel rooms. Andre Iguodala, talking about his new book (with Carvell Wallace, called Sixth Man) tells Forbes: “I shut myself in the room. We all talk about as athletes on this team it’s tough to go out and get fresh air. You’re not able to go out and get vitamin D naturally from the sun because you have to be careful of interactions. You know you kind of put yourself in a cell sort of state.”

  • Steve Kerr’s Twitter account has crazy range. Lots of Onion, a fair amount of human rights.

  • DeMarcus Cousins is said to be healed enough to play in Game 1, with questions, Kerr says, only about his conditioning. Of course he will play! Otherwise Kerr just touched off a flood of humiliating reporter questions for Cousins about fitness, which is not Kerr’s style.

  • A week ago, the Cavaliers held a press conference to introduce new head coach John Beilein and, a lot of the coverage was about mental gaffes by Cavs owner Dan Gilbert. According to a statement from the family on Sunday, Gilbert was hospitalized and is now in the ICU recovering from a stroke. The Detroit News interviewed a business professor about how his businesses might run in his absence, and he said the Cavs and others would be OK for a while because Gilbert was “less maniacal” than Elon Musk.

  • Ethan Strauss does 45 minutes in Radio Ethan voice. This might be the most difficult thing I’ve ever tried to summarize. On some deep level this is revenge of the nerds, or a joke on Concord, California. I feel bad for Marcus Thompson who had to attempt life as a normal guest.

  • Bingo. Here is the definitive New Yorker story on flat earth conspiracy theories and Kyrie Irving earns a mention.

  • Sachin Gupta, a kind and brilliant man, is reportedly moving from the Pistons to a key role running the Timberwolves.

  • On the to-do list in Canada now that the Raptors are in the Finals: explain basketball.

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Coming later this week: much more on the Finals.