The former Jazzmen who are part of the group known as The Other Cavaliers have something going for them in the NBA Finals: The standards are incredibly low.
George Hill, Kyle Korver and Rodney Hood either were not famous enough or failed to sufficiently resemble any “Saturday Night Live” performers for them to be portrayed in a sketch about the roles of LeBron James’ Cleveland teammates. Even so, the ex-Jazzmen are in the real-life cast of characters surrounding LeBron and will compete against Golden State in the Finals in varying roles, beginning Thursday.
As the camera cut from one actor to another in the sketch, they teamed up to say, “Everybody knows about LeBron, but don’t forget about us: The Other Cavaliers. And whatever LeBron needs, we’ll get it done. As long as what he needs isn’t basketball. Everything else, we’ve got covered.”
LeBron’s teammates included a woman in a No. 99 jersey — once worn by current Jazz forward Jae Crowder, who was traded from Cleveland in February.
The sketch was cut from SNL’s May 5 show, but was distributed online and was well timed. The production came the night when James’ buzzer-beating shot gave the Cavs a victory over Toronto in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
Cleveland then overcame Boston in Game 7 of the East finals, sending James into the NBA Finals for the eighth year in a row. His latest playoff performance is being judged as the best of his career, thanks to the degree of difficulty — in other words, his lack of help.
LeBron defends his teammates, but what else could he say? “So you get all the doubters and people who’ve never stepped into an arena, who’ve never played basketball … always wanna try to kill my teammates,” James said after Game 7 in Boston. “That’s why we’re going to another Finals, because of my teammates.”
That’s nice. And if The Other Cavaliers perform well in the Finals, Cleveland just might win one game.
Jeff Van Gundy, a longtime NBA coach who will analyze the series for ABC, said in a conference call this week that Golden State is the most overwhelming favorite he has ever seen. “I can’t think of a bigger gap, from a team perspective,” Van Gundy observed. “Any game [the Cavs] can get in this Finals would be a huge upset, to me.”
CBS Sports’ Twitter feed made fun of the repeat matchup on the rival network: “Season 4 of Cavs vs. Warriors was recorded in front of a live studio audience.”
So will you watch this series? A lot of NBA fans are saying otherwise, but don’t be surprised if the ratings are high. “LeBron James being in the Finals,” Van Gundy said, “is never bad for business.”
The Cavs did win one game in the 2017 Finals, with moderate help from former Jazz players Deron Williams, Richard Jefferson and Korver. Those three played poorly in the four losses, so it is fair to say that Hill and Korver (but not Hood, buried on the bench) could affect the upcoming series to some degree.
Hill has an opportunity for quite a distinction. Derek Fisher, with the Los Angeles Lakers in 2009 and ’10, remains the only ex-Jazzman to start for an NBA championship team. Hill is not warmly remembered in Utah after missing the last three games of the West semifinals vs. Golden State last May in a move that seemed designed to protect his free-agent interests.
He should be credited for helping the Jazz beat the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round, though. Hill played a key role in Cleveland’s elimination Game 6 vs. Boston, scoring 20 points, after joining the Cavs from Sacramento in February.
Korver, 37, played for the Jazz so long ago (2010) that James failed to appear in the Finals that season. Korver was valuable to the Cavs in Game 4 vs. Boston, posting 14 points, four rebounds and three blocked shots. He averaged 14.5 points in the Toronto series, while dealing with the recent death of his youngest brother, Kirk, after a brief illness.
So Hill and Korver have risen above the derision of being “The Other Cavaliers.” Hood is another story, having left the Jazz in the three-team trade that reunited him with Hill. Hood fell out of Cleveland’s rotation vs. Toronto and made things worse by declining to enter a Game 4 blowout. He didn’t appear in any of the Cavs’ four wins over Boston.
Will he play in a win vs. Golden State? That’s doubtful, for multiple reasons.
THEY’RE THE CHAMPS
Players who have won NBA titles after leaving the Jazz:
Bobby Hansen, 1992, Chicago.
Greg Foster, 2001, L.A. Lakers.
Tony Massenburg, 2005, San Antonio.
Shandon Anderson, 2006, Miami.
Jacque Vaughn, 2007, San Antonio.
Derek Fisher, 2009 and ’10, L.A. Lakers.
DeShawn Stevenson, 2011, Dallas.
Brandon Rush, 2015, Golden State.
Richard Jefferson, 2016, Cleveland.
Mo Williams, 2016, Cleveland.
Ian Clark, 2017, Golden State.