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The 2017 NBA Finals Profiled; LeBron James' Basketball Career Assessed; Kevin Durant's Play for Golden State Warriors Profiled. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 3, 2017 - 14:30   ET


[14:30:00] DAVE BRIGGS, CNN HOST: -- behind the scenes look at these NBA Finals featuring the biggest basketball stars on the planet. This is "All Access at the NBA Finals," a CNN Bleacher Report special.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Never in the history of the NBA have we seen the same two teams meet for the third time in a row in the NBA Finals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's like Ali and Frazier. There's no better atmosphere.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of us have worked extremely hard to get here. We don't take it for granted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What a rivalry this has become, the Cavaliers and the Warriors.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The championship back in the Bay for the first time in 40 years.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Cavaliers are NBA champions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cleveland, this is for you!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I kind of realized that something special is happening.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Emotions in the NBA Finals that was is all year long. Then you kind of got the feeling this entire series is going to be a fight.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have all the motivation we need to win a championship.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the great trilogy.


BRIGGS: Hi, everybody. I've Dave Briggs at NBA TV headquarters, and outside Oracle Arena in Oakland, Steve Smith, the 2003 NBA Champion, a CNN sports contributor, and an NBA TV analyst. Good to see you, Smithy, out there out west in the sun. This was thought to be one of the great trilogies in American history, right there with "Star Wars" the original, right there with "Godfather," but part one was a stinker. Is this series over? Is there hope for more drama?

STEVE SMITH, CNN SPORTS CONTRIBUTOR: Dave, the anticipation to this trilogy, the buildup, the atmosphere before the game, when the game started, it was electrifying. And yes, round one between these heavy weights was won by the Golden State Warriors with a knockout in game one. When you look at LeBron James, he is one and seven in game ones in Finals. But let's remember just you last year, they were down three-one, they came back and won this series. So yes, to answer your question, the Cleveland Cavaliers, they are not out of it.

BRIGGS: Yes. The Warriors took games one and two last season by 48 combined points. This has never happen in NBA history that two teams have met in the Finals for three straight seasons. But for LeBron James, this is old hat, his seventh straight Finals appearance. Andy Scholes, CNN sports contributor, joining us. Now, we have literally watched LeBron grow up from the point that he was a kid. He's grown up as a person. He's grown up as a player indeed. How has the perception of him changed, though, in recent years?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CONTRIBUTOR: It's changed greatly, Dave. I'll tell you what, no one knows about playing the role of both hero and villain in the NBA more than LeBron James. Now in his 14th season, LeBron is the league's best player and leading voice, evolving from a team sensation to a cultural icon.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As a 16-year-old, what is your long term goal?


SCHOLES: Even from as young as 16-years-old, LeBron James was on a mission to be the best. Now playing in his seventh straight NBA Finals, but there have been some bumps along the way.

JAMES: I'm going to take my talents to South Beach and join the Miami Heat.


SCHOLES: In 2010, LeBron's infamous decision ripped the hearts out of his hometown Cleveland fans.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is terrible. This is the worst thing that could ever happen to Cleveland.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I hope he never wins anything in Miami.

SCHOLES: And LeBron instantly became a villain to many by creating a super team culture in the NBA.

JAMES: At the end of the day, all the people that was rooting on me to fail, they have to wake up tomorrow and have the same life that they had before they woke up today.

SCHOLES: LeBron has said his four years with the Miami Heat were like college for him. They helped shape him into the man he is today -- pitch man, family man. LeBron is by far the richest American athlete, and even finds time to be a part-time movie star.

JAMES: It's like when I decided to go back to Cleveland, they told they weren't going to welcome me back, man, but they did. They welcomed be back with open arms and an open heart.

SCHOLES: That they did.


SCHOLES: LeBron's homecoming was made even better after he fulfilled his promise, delivering the city its first championship in 52 years.

JAMES: Cleveland, this is for you!

SCHOLES: Whether he was playing the hero or villain, LeBron has always used his platform to speak out on social issues, wearing a hoodie for Trayvon Martin to an "I can't breathe" shirt for Eric Garner, to speaking out against violence at the ESPY's. Just this week he became a target of racism when someone spray painted the "n" word on his Los Angeles home.

JAMES: No matter how much money you've got, no matter how famous you are, no matter how many people admire you, at the end of the day, being a black man in America is very frightening and it lets us know that we have so much further, so much further to go to be equal in this country.


[14:35:06] SCHOLES: And in terms of the incident, LeBron said the most important thing was that he and his family were safe. And Dave, I'll tell you what, a lot of people were impressed with the maturity and the understanding that LeBron showed when dealing with this incident.

BRIGGS: It's a great look at the perception, how he's grown as a man. Smithy, let's bring you back in. And how do you through the eyes of a guy who once played against LeBron, how is he different now than the chosen one that came into the league?

SMITH: I think -- love the piece by Andy. He wasn't comfortable being the hero. He wasn't comfortable being the villain back then when he first started. Now you get a chance to watch him as he's evolved as a person. He is extremely comfortable being LeBron James. You talk about the player, he is getting better and better. And at age 32, he is doing something we haven't seen before because what he's doing right now is he's on a pace that you're saying when will this end, his greatness of his play. Then you talk about the person. In interviews, he's wasn't that comfortable. He's always been super intelligent, but now he controls the interviews.

And you talk about the social issues he's done, the platforms he's stood on, the voices he's given others. And then ultimately to have this social issue happen to him and his family before game one of the Finals, he handled that one tremendously. I take my hat off to the young man that has turned into a super, super star on and off the court.

BRIGGS: And Smithy, with the mere mention of LeBron comes the inevitable debate, Jordan or LeBron. Who is the greatest of all time? Is it as simple as viewing it through how many championship rings have they won?

SMITH: I look at it right now is the numbers as far as scoring, rebounds and assists, when it's all said and done there's going to be some in favor of LeBron, some in favor of Jordan. People are going to look at rings. Can he get six rings? The one thing I love about LeBron right now, he has acknowledged that he is chasing history. He is chasing the goal, and he wants to surpass him and he wants to get there. So that's what I love about LeBron James as of today.

BRIGGS: But Andy, if LeBron can win this series against this super team that is the Warriors, is it a draw?

SCHOLES: What I'd like to see from LeBron is another signature moment. We can go and look. Jordan had so many, especially the last shot, so many signature moments between game winning plays and whatnot. LeBron has got the block last year. If he were to somehow win this series and come up with another signature moment, he might pull this out over M.J.

BRIGGS: Andy Scholes, thank you, sir.

LeBron has certainly evolved and so, too, has this Golden State team. From the golden child of the NBA to villains? Are the Warriors ruining the NBA? We'll discuss that next.


[14:41:00] BRIGGS: Dub Nation, as they are called, out in full force at Oracle Arena in game one. What a scene it was in the Bay Area. Expect more of the same for game two.

Welcome back to "All Access at the NBA Finals," a CNN Bleacher Report special. I'm Dave Briggs at NBA TV joined by Sam Mitchell, former NBA player and coach of the year in 2007 with the Raptors. All right, let's talk about game one. It was Kevin Durant going off, 38 points. Steph Curry, 28. But we just talked about the evolution of LeBron. How to you is K.D. different now?

SAM MITCHELL, NBA TV ANALYST: When he was in OKC, he was primarily a scorer. Kevin Durant wasn't known for his defense and rebounding and taking charge, doing all the tough things. But since he's come to Golden State, he's become a new player, a better player. If you go back early in the season when he first joined Golden State, there was a game, about third or fourth game of the season, he was out there floating around like he normally does at OKC. And Draymond Green in there battling for rebounds, turns around and looks at Durant and starts yelling at him "You got get in here and rebound and do the dirty work." And since then, he's been unbelievable. And I think he's changed my perception and everyone else's perception of himself in the NBA.

BRIGGS: Let's bring back in Smithy from Oracle Arena. Smithy, did all the pressure in this series fall on the shoulders of Kevin Durant? Everyone has got a ring. Is this one on K.D.?

SMITH: Well, I look at, you start to pick out one player that had the most pressure entering the series and entering game one, how will he perform after leaving OKC and joining forces with a team that won 73 games, a team that they were up three to one. Yes, all the pressure was on Kevin Durant. He's the one superstar that does not have a ring.

But boy did he perform. He's a seven-footer that can handle the basketball, a seven-footer that can shoot it and score at all three levels. He is also a seven-footer, to Sam Mitchell's point, he has bought in defensively. So you're talking about an unsolved puzzle, and for Mike Brown and Steve Kerr, this is the one player that you can say go get me a basket, and he can go get, and he also can go take a basket.

BRIGGS: You talked about how he came to a team that won 73 regular season games last year. Some argue, Sam, that this made them the villains of the NBA. Even a "New York Times" feature showing them as the villain in the NBA. Have they ruined the NBA? Have they ruined the competitive balance in the game as we know it?

MITCHELL: No. They made it better. We all love these super teams. But when the Lakers and Celtics were playing in all those Finals, the ratings were hot. people loved basketball. When the Chicago Bulls were dominating, Michael Jordan, when they won their six championships, people loved it. People have got to have somebody to hate, OK? And if it's the Golden State Warriors, because think about it, what are you hating them for? They don't get in trouble. They play the game the right way. They play unselfish. They play both ends of the court. And we're mad at them because Kevin Durant as a free agent chose to go play for a team that won 73 games, the same like LeBron did when he and Chris Bosh joined Miami and Dwyane Wade.

BRIGGS: But, Smithy, we're mad because every game is a blowout, 17 points per game average margin of victory. They have sucked the drama out of the game we so dearly loved, have they not?

SMITH: Dave, you said they sucked all the drama. They won with all, like you say, these margins of victory. But have they won the championship yet? Let's not forget, this was a fantastic team and, yes, it looks fantastic right now for the Warriors. But this is not over. I know everybody, just like Sam Said, they want to have somebody to dislike. Well, guess what, you have got to get in the gym all 28 other teams and try to catch the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Warriors. Everybody has done it over the years. I enjoy watching, just like Sam said, they do it right on and off the court. They play the right way.

[14:45:07] BRIGGS: All right, Smithy, Sam, thank you both.

Up next, let's talk about the coaches here. Can you imagine New England Patriots in the Super Bowl without Bill Belichick? The Yankees in the late 90s without Joe Torre? Hard to believe either one. That is the situation that Golden State Warriors are facing. We'll tell you who is stepping in and stepping up for them next.


BRIGGS: The Bay Area has home court advantage for the third consecutive year at the NBA Finals. Welcome back to "All Access at the NBA Finals." And the chances are you've never been inside an NBA locker room, but our CNN cameras got rare access ahead of game one.


ERIC HOUSEN, DIRECTOR, TEAM SERVICES, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS: My name is Eric Housen. I'm director of team services for the Golden State Warriors.

My duties in the locker room consist of taking care of the uniforms, laundering the uniforms, just making sure guys are prepared to play. I just try to be super reliable. I want to take away a lot of the distractions so they can just concentrate on playing. Whatever that is, you want them just to have concentrate on the game plan and think about playing and nothing else. I want to be one of those guys that's helping them all the time.

[14:50:02] So it's a challenge to keep up with all the different shoes, sneaker launches, whatever. But it's fun. The people on the team make the locker room great. And we have great players obviously lead by Steph.

Thanks for stopping by, fellas. Go Warriors.


BRIGGS: The man who gives the speeches inside that locker room, 2016 coach of the year Steve Kerr is but a bystander thus far for the NBA Finals, still sufferings the effects of back surgery from two years ago. But the man stepping is doing quite a job. He's Mike Brown. Let's bring in Steve Smith from Oracle Arena. He's no ordinary assistant coach, is he, Smithy?

SMITH: You're totally right, Dave. This is a former coach of the year. He's coached some of the all-time greats. He is in a unique position, and I got a chance to sits down with Mike Brown to pick his brain with what he's going through in this journey.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mike Brown continues to lead Golden State here courtside while Steve Kerr continues what he hopes is to be on the road to recovery.

SMITH: Mike, it can't be easy. Adjustment for you as a coach, having Steve around, your input, not knowing when will Steve come back or come back. Just tell me about that adjustment. That couldn't be easy. MIKE BROWN, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS INTERIM HEAD COACH: At times it is

a little difficult, but I know Steve's intentions are great. Not only that, he's laid a fantastic foundation down. And I'll tell you what, if this happened at the beginning of the year where may have I had to take over, it might have been real tough on me because I didn't quite understand or have a great feel of what the culture is and what these players are about, how they operate, what makes them tick. Being able to be with them for the course of the year, it made it very seamless for me to kind of take over when needed. But when he wants to jump in, all I think that can do is just help us because his voice is terrific.

SMITH: You know LeBron, and seeing LeBron from a young age into what he's doing now, just talk about facing the Cavs and LeBron.

BROWN: The first thing is I wish we didn't have to face LeBron at all. Now on top of that I wish we could face a younger LeBron instead of where he is now because his game has improved so much. He's always had a great feel, but his ability to shoot the basketball the way he shoots it now makes him almost impossible to guard. They are playing at a high level. He has got his guys around him believing, which is the biggest thing at this stage of the game. It's going to be a fun series.


SMITH: Also interesting nugget, Mike Brown still makes Cleveland home and he's still getting paid by the Cleveland Cavaliers.

BRIGGS: That is a fascinating dynamic.

All right, Sam, if you're sitting at home and you saying the head coach is out, and they blew out Cleveland without him, is head coaching overrated?

MITCHELL: No, it's no overrated. You do your coaching in practice. What Steve Kerr has done, like all good coaches, and Tyronn Lue has done the same thing. You don't get to the NBA Finals without your team having an identity, knowing who they are and what they are. Steve Kerr has done his coaching in practice. His players have been together for a while. They only had to integrate Kevin Durant. How hard is that when he's unselfish? So he's done a great job getting this team ready. Mike Brown, been there long enough all season to understand how they play. And he just makes those simple little reminders to this team when they get out of whack.

BRIGGS: So basically I could coach the Golden State Warriors?


BRIGGS: Not right now. But if Cleveland wins this Tyronn Lue would be the second coach ever to win titles in his first two seasons. We'll get Sam and Smithy's prediction on this series next. Plus we'll take a ride with one of the most diehard and recognizable Warriors fans, M.C. Hammer checking in next to tell us what Oakland is all about. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)



M.C. HAMMER, AWARD WINNING RAPPER/ENTERTAINER: We're in downtown Oakland. This is the route where a million people came to the Warriors parade. Golden State Warriors represents both sides of the Bay, so they get love from all over.

I started going to Warriors gam in '71. When the Warriors turned around and won in 75 coming up 72, 73, 74, that cemented it. This small, hardworking city 15 miles from San Francisco is a championship city. Champions are not just made, but they are bred.

I believe that the reason why Oakland breeds champions is because the city teaches you perseverance.

The Warriors are a great representation of NBA basketball. And so I understand the implications of the Warriors winning a second championship. It proves with good leadership, we were able to and are able to not only compete, but to win. It says it all.

Go Warriors! Go Warriors! Dub Nation!


BRIGGS: Of course as you know it was Cleveland that was too legit to quit last year coming back from a three-one --

MITCHELL: Just don't bring out the hammer.

BRIGGS: -- to win the series. No dancing here my friend. But it was Kyrie who delivered the dagger last year. Most important player not named K.D., LeBron or Curry, and your prediction for the series?

MITCHELL: You just called it, Kyrie Irving. If Kyrie Irving don't play at an MVP level in this series -- LeBron James is going to do what LeBron James does. He is going to get his points, rebounds, and assists. But they need their other guy to play like a superstar. And Kyrie Irving has done it throughout the playoffs, and he's going to have to do it in these finals if they are going to keep the championship in Cleveland.

BRIGGS: Smithy?

SMITH: For me it's Draymond Green for the Golden State Warriors. He has to do whatever it takes for them to win the game, whether it's the rebounds, the loose ball, the emotional leader. And I am picking, my prediction, Warriors in six.

BRIGGS: That's if he doesn't get ejected. Prediction?

MITCHELL: Warriors in six. BRIGGS: Warriors in six, Warriors in six, Scholes has Warriors in

five. Smithy, Sam, thank you both. It should be an entertaining NBA Finals. Remember, too legit to quit, right?

MITCHELL: Let's see the hammer.

BRIGGS: Enjoy the NBA Finals, everybody. I'm Dave Briggs for Smithy and Sam. Enjoy the Finals. Thanks for being here.