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Eastern Conference

Raptors’ Kawhi Leonard Becomes First Player to Win Finals MVP in Both Conferences

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The Toronto Raptors took home their first NBA Championship on Thursday night when they beat the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena to win the NBA Finals 4-2.

With the win, Raptors star Kawhi Leonard was awarded the Bill Russell trophy, given to the Finals MVP, marking his second trophy and making him the first player in NBA history to win the award in both conferences.

“This is what I play basketball for,” Leonard said, according to ESPN. “This is what I work out for.”

“I think he’s the best two-way basketball player in the NBA,” Raptors guard Kyle Lowry said of Leonard. “He just goes. You know, I’ve seen some stuff from him this year that you just say, ‘Wow.’ You do. You say, ‘Wow.’ You appreciate the work that he’s put in. He works extremely hard at his game and works extremely hard on his body. And he loves this basketball thing. Loves it.”

Leonard averaged 28.5 points per game on 43 percent shooting in the NBA Finals, playing stellar defense as well.

Leonard took home NBA Finals honors back in 2014 when he was a member of the San Antonio Spurs team that knocked off the Miami Hear super-team led by LeBron James, who he played tough defense on throughout.

“Without a doubt, the best thing about this thing is that somehow I wound up on the sideline getting to watch this guy play up close,” said Raptors coach Nick Nurse, who won an NBA title in his first season as a head coach in the league. “It’s really cool.”

Leonard scored 732 points in the 2019 postseason, which ranks as third-most in NBA history behind Michael Jordan (who scored 759 in 1992) and LeBron James (who scored 748 in 2018).

“I just kept working hard, working hard, and had my mind set on this goal right here,” Leonard said. “I came to a team, a new coast — that mindset was the same as mine, trying to get that Larry [O’Brien championship] trophy there. And this is what I play basketball for; this is what I work out for all summer [and] during the season. And I’m happy that my hard work paid off.”

The Raptors now have to convince Leonard, who is set to enter free agency, to stay with the team for the long-term.

“I’m ’bout to enjoy this with my teammates and coaches, and I’ll think about that later,” Leonard said.

Detroit Pistons

Pistons’ Dwane Casey Says Andre Drummond In Best Shape He’s Seen Him In

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Detroit Pistons’ head coach Dwane Casey is expecting big things from big man Andre Drummond this upcoming season and is excited to see what he can do as he is impressed with the shape Drummond is in.

“One, his overall conditioning. He’s in the best shape since I’ve been around him, the year and a half that I’ve seen. His body is slim and trim, his body fat is down, he’s been in Vegas working with Coach Gerg (Tim Grgurich) and Sean Sweeney all summer religiously, two and three times a day. That in itself is going to pay great dividends,” Casey said, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com.

“Watching him in pickup games, he’s running like a deer. His decision making, I think the 3-point shooting experiment, we kind of put that on hold in the second part of the year last year but still, catching the ball on pick and roll, making decisions, he’s doing a great job of that – a much better job than he did last year. That’s something he’s worked on this summer, making the right read, the right decision” Casey added.

Drummond poured in 17.3 points and 15.6 rebounds per game for the Pistons last season, and has been working on his offensive game during the offseason.

“With him, teams try to go small with a guy 6-7, 6-8, he has the ability and agility and speed and quickness that he can get out there and guard those guys” Casey said.

“That gives him an advantage on the other end, where now I’m in a pick-and-roll situation, he’s got a 6-7 five man in front of him, he still can jump hook over him or kick out. That’s the part of his game, he’s doing a much better job with, his decision making. The third thing will be his finishing, finishing around the rim. He’s such a great offensive rebounder that he’s got to be able to finish once he gets it because he does a great job of crashing the boards and dominating the boards.”

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Detroit Pistons

Pistons’ Dwane Casey Planning Flexibility with Blake Griffin, Thon Maker

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Detroit Pistons’ head coach Dwane Casey has a creative approach in mind when he utilizes Blake Griffin and Thon Maker this upcoming season.

While the Pistons don’t have a true center outside of Andre Drummond, Casey sees opportunities to get creative with his lineups, depending on the situation at hand.

“I see it being very situational,” Casey said, according to Keith Langlois of Pistons.com.

“The other guy we haven’t mentioned, we have played Blake at the five. Not good numbers off of that, so I don’t anticipate that but there are scenarios in the game, last two minutes of the game, where Blake could play the five. Looking for really a bump out of Thon, playing him at four/five, whatever it is, but a lot of nights if you look at the league, the rosters have gotten smaller and the traditional five has kind of gone the way of the dinosaur. The flexibility we have with Thon, with Markieff having the possibility of playing there, is really important.”

With Drummond focusing on developing his offense this offseason, the Pistons may lack some defense at the rim, and in the paint.

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Eastern Conference

Heat’s Bam Adebayo Discusses Team Picking Up Option

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Bam Adebayo

The Miami Heat recently picked up the fourth-year option on the contract of center Bam Adebayo, who is thrilled to see further commitment from the team.

Adebayo, the Heat’s starter at center, will make $3.5 million this season, and is now guaranteed $5.1 million in the 2020-2021 season.

“It’s definitely a confidence builder,” Adebayo said, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “It’s one of those things that a lot of guys don’t get to see, but I’m glad it happened to me. So we’re going to keep this thing going and see if we can win some more games.”

Adebayo collected 8.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists last season for Miami.

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