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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
NBA Finals between Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers Profiled; Kevin Durant Discusses Bond with Teammates; NBA Players Visit San Quentin to Play Basketball with Inmates. Aired 2:30- 3p ET
Aired June 2, 2018 - 14:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[14:30:21] ALLIE LAFORCE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Welcome to Oakland, California, right in the middle of the stunning Bay Area overlooking Oracle Arena, home of the Golden State Warriors, and this weekend home to a historic NBA Finals. What a drama-filled epic start to the fourth consecutive meeting of the Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers. In the next half hour, you will get a behind the scenes look at these finals, featuring the biggest basketball stars in the world. This is "All Access at the NBA Finals, A CNN Bleacher Report Special."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the fourth consecutive year, the Warriors and the Cavs will play for the NBA title.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been a battle every time we've played.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: James Drives, double clutches, and puts it in.
STEPHEN CURRY, NBA PLAYER: The level of competition and intensity in the finals is unbelievable.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's over. The championship is back in the Bay.
CURRY: This is the fourth time in a row we've played Cleveland in the finals. Obviously, LeBron is still there and he's Mr. Everything for them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's over. The Cavaliers are NBA champions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No one person has ever shouldered more and gotten his team to the finals.
LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: Cleveland, this is for you!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Curry sets, fires, puts it up, bang! Steph Curry from way downtown.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's an amazing feeling to beat them.
JAMES: It's been roses, it's been thorns in roses, it's been everything you can ask for. STEVE KERR, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS HEAD COACH: The pressure is on us.
And it's kind of on them, too.
JAMES: I feel confident because I'm the best player in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAFORCE: Hey, everyone, this isn't too bad, is it? I'm Allie LaForce alongside Steve Smith, an NBA champion himself. And Smithy, the Warriors came into this a heavy favorite. In fact it was the biggest point spread in a finals since 2001, but Cleveland hung in there. Did it surprise you? What was your reaction to the way this all played out?
STEVE SMITH, FORMER NBA PLAYER: They hung in there, Allie, because of LeBron James -- 51 points in the finals, the fifth most. And you start off that first half, he had 24 points on just 11 shots, and obviously he was epic. It was historical. We had a lot of drama.
But first of all, the play was great. We had 15 lead changes, 17 ties in a single game, versus last year an entire five-game series, there was just 36 lead changes and 23 ties. So we had an epic game for four quarters, and then you add overtime. This was phenomenal, and unfortunately for the Cleveland Cavaliers fans, they came up a little bit short.
LAFORCE: When you have the greatest player in the world, you can never count his team out. There was a moment against the Celtics I remember where he got injured and he was basically limping on one leg and Ty Lue went to make a substitution and LeBron looked over and just went like this, and said stop, cleared the whole floor out, and on one leg took Boston to the hole. I think that really showed everything that he's about, that he's leaving every ounce of his soul and his body and his mind on the court every single game for this Cleveland team.
SMITH: We talk about his individual greatness, but it really comes down to, my opinion, LeBron James, it's about the team and it's just about winning. He would do whatever it takes to win.
LAFORCE: No matter what he's been up against, he's never lost confidence. So here's LeBron over the years when his back is up against the wall.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LEBRON JAMES, NBA PLAYER: I feel confident because I'm the best player in the world. Simple. I'm down zero-one in the first round, I was down three-one in the finals, so I'm the last guy to ask about how you're going to feel the next few days. I've been down zero-one, I've been down zero-two, I've been down before in the postseason. But for me there's no level of concern.
Take this one, you know, we understand how difficult and how challenging this task is. And you wake up tomorrow with a fresh mind and move forward. (END VIDEO CLIP)
LAFORCE: You can tell he feeds off of being the underdog, but in his 15th season, he's talked publicly a lot about, hey, I spend over $1 million a year keeping my body right because it's what it takes to be the greatest, but how is he doing it, because it's been unprecedented this season?
SMITH: Even before he started to spend $1.5 million into his body, he's just a specimen. You're talking about six-eight, 260. But when you start talking physically, this is six-eight, 260 after 15 seasons. And he's doing an unbelievable job. And mentally, all he's had to endure, the entire roster change this year, 30 different starting lineups. And obviously he doesn't have a lot of guys being able to pick up the pace for him or pick up the pieces sometimes. So he's showed a lot whether it's on the court, off the court, but I still come down to he wants to win and that's what separates him from a lot of the great players.
LAFORCE: Everything is about perspective, and so I think it's hard when we're saying who's the greatest of all time and people in my generation or younger are saying it's definitely LeBron James. They never saw Michael Jordan play, right, but you have to factor in this season and the little he has to work with into the discussion of being the greatest of all time, don't you?
[14:35:00] SMITH: Yes, you do. And I think for him is individually start off, in the regular season he played all 82 games. I think that's when you start seeing a guy in his 15th season shouldering that much load. And then the playoffs, he has carried the Cleveland Cavaliers two-game winners in the playoff series, and then that epic game one we talk about. I think LeBron James has always been in the conversation of the greatest players of all. Now it's a debate. And now he's starting to even go to that next level where he can almost make it a fact. He's not there yet in my opinion, but he's getting close.
LAFORCE: He's a machine. The ending up game one, LeBron's anger, it's all representative of the Cavs season. Fans on an emotional rollercoaster with so much focus on where LeBron will play next. Many people believing that win or lose, this is the last time that we're going to see the king in a Cavs jersey. Well, we sent CNN sports contributor and Cleveland native Vince Cellini back to his hometown.
VINCE CELLINI, CNN SPORTS CONTRIBUTOR: At long last summer has arrived in Cleveland, but so, too, has seasonal angst. Lebron James called this six different seasons in one given everything the team has been through. And now the most difficult task of all. It's the city's annual dilemma -- beat them, keep him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It sort of feels like 2016. This year again, no one is picking the Cavs to win in the finals. No one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's the matchup I want. Nothing would be better than watching LeBron beat those guys after the last couple years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Golden State this year, they're bored. They are just beating everybody.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They have the greatest team and they had to get Kevin Durant to beat LeBron. Let's not forget that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I like being the underdog, because then it's more exciting. More of a reason to celebrate.
CELLINI: Are you nervous at all?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think so.
CELLINI: Why not?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I do this almost every day, so got it down.
CELLINI: No, I mean the Cavs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cavs, oh, I think they'll be all right.
CELLINI: Nothing seems to have been easy for this team this year, right?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The last championship we were down three-one and we made it work. So hopefully, I'm praying, I'm hoping this is the year.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Here we are once again pondering whether or not he's going to stay or he's going to go. This is not the unique thing to 2018.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of Cavs fans feel like we are held hostage under LeBron. No other city has to deal with that, but I understand no other city has the best player in the world.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's kind of a price Clevelanders believe they have to pay for having something so incredible here, having a Michelangelo painting right in front of them each and every night.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He brought us a championship in 2016, and we have that memory forever.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a hard thing to try and imagine in your head. You know you're going to get crushed by the rest of the country if he goes, Cleveland gets dogged again.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think he's going to stay.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a lot of fun, but it's a lot of anguish at the same time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where is he going to land next?
(END VIDEO CLIP) LAFORCE: OK, Smithy, so will he stay or will he go?
SMITH: You know, I think he goes. I would say if he goes, first of all, my first pick, I think would be back to the Miami Heat. People say, wow, back to Miami. Second, the San Antonio Spurs. And last I would say retire. What I mean by that, a sabbatical, take some time before he makes a decision. So those are my three scenarios.
LAFORCE: That's so interesting when you think about leaving and seeing the emotional rollercoaster and the toll it took on his life the first time, but knowing he fulfilled a promise to Cleveland in that scene from the Vince Cellini piece that they are willing to forgive him if he does leave again, where the first time they weren't so forgiving.
SMITH: They have a championship. That's why, Allie.
LAFORCE: Yes, they have a championship. Hey, we have LeBron, so now that we have a championship we can stop suffering so much as sports fans.
All right, well Cleveland has LeBron. The Warriors find their strength in numbers. With so many all stars on one team, how do they really get along? Last year's Finals MPV Kevin Durant takes us on the road.
Plus, the Golden State Warriors go behind bars, but it's not what you think. You're watching "All Access at the NBA Finals, A CNN Bleacher Report Special."
[14:42:37] LAFORCE: Welcome back to Oakland, home of the Golden State Warriors. And once again an incredible start to the NBA Finals. Strength in numbers is what they say, that's the Warriors, a super team with a star-studded roster, but big stars, as you know, Smithy, doesn't always equal championships. It lies in the team chemistry which was on full display in game one.
SMITH: Let's take a look how these guys really get along during a long NBA season, Allie. David Aldridge caught up with Kevin Durant.
DAVID ALDRIDGE, SPORTS REPORTER: Is this group as tight as it seems from the outside?
KEVIN DURANT, NBA PLAYER: It's not like we're all going to the movies every road trip.
ALDRIDGE: Right, there's a different kind of tightness.
DURANT: It's different, because that's what a lot of the young basketball players think that teamwork is coming into the league. And you evolve from that. We got guys -- everybody on our team has kids besides me and Klay. Zaza got his kids on the road and his wife, they're not going to hang out today. I respect who he is and what he brings to the team and how hard he's worked to get to this point, and it's cool to talk to him on the bus and in the breakfast room, and shoot around and on the training table. That's when you really get to know guys and figure out who they are. The off the court stuff will figure itself out.
ALDRIDGE: It's four years since your MVP speech. How different are you now than you were then?
DURANT: Oh, very different. I was a young kid that wanted everything individually, you know what I'm saying? I wanted it all. I wanted the MVP, I wanted to be a scoring champ. I wanted to be respected on the basketball court by my peers and coaches alike and the fans. I wanted all of that, you know what I'm saying? That was important to me. I wouldn't have achieved all that stuff because I felt I deserved it or was entitled to it. It was because I actually put in the work. And I think I was overlooking that part of it. So now I can appreciate every chance I get to step on the court to get better as a player and take advantage of those opportunities, because they probably won't come around again once I'm done playing.
ALDRIDGE: So the grind is actually as important if not more important than the result?
DURANT: Most definitely. The grind in between the start and the finish, that makes you who you are, that builds memories and the relationships, and ultimately makes this game the best game in the world.
SMITH: Allie, if they can win the championship this year, just listening to Kevin Durant, the chemistry is there. Obviously the talent is there, and then they are young enough to have a three or four year run. That'll be three out of the four in the last four years and possibly a couple more.
[14:45:07] Now you start the conversation, this could be one of the greatest runs. Also, is this or could be possibly the greatest team ever? They are in the conversation. Will be.
LAFORCE: We need to take a deep breath as sports fans or even casual fans and just realize that we're witnessing history here, and what's incredible about it is you hear people complaining, oh, it's the same teams over and over again. You're getting to watch the greatest players in the world go up against each other and compete at the highest level. And I think major props to Kevin Durant for coming in and being the superstar he was and taking the unselfish team mentality that Golden State has so much pride in.
SMITH: You're totally right, Allie. Here is a guy individually, one of the best ever, and you're talking about winning MVPs and joining a team that had a two-time MVP, and it was smooth. The reason why, like you said, because they wanted to win and he was selfless.
LAFORCE: And when you look at Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, they were all drafted starting back in 2009, so they put in the work to make this Golden State team great. So he came in with all the respect in the world and did it the right way.
Up next, giving hope where there is none. Watch these superstar athletes behind bars in one of America's toughest prisons.
And later, Steph Curry known for shooting those beautiful threes talks about the one person who can shoot it with him straight. This is "All Access at the NBA Finals, A CNN Bleacher Report Special."
LAFORCE: Welcome back to the Bay Area and the always stunning San Francisco skyline.
[14:50:01] Well, San Quentin state prison, which we mentioned before the break, 25 miles from where we're sitting here outside of Oracle Arena. The prison has their own basketball team, and members of the Golden State Warriors visit every year. Worlds apart, but the NBA players and the prisoners share one thing in common, and that's a love for basketball.
BOB MYERS, GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS GENERAL MANAGER: You say San Quentin and the folks, there's a visceral feeling when you say those words. As you walk into San Quentin, you go through a series of gates. You look to your left, there's a building that says, the first time I walked in there it said adjustment center. I asked the guard, I said what's that building. And he said that's death row. However that process is in your mind, people are sitting up there waiting to die.
And then you walk down the yard into what the court is and you see the inmates, and you're walking down the first time and going what am I -- why did I decide to do this? Why did I do this? I have kids. Basketball is basketball, and if you just play basketball, you're not thinking about it. Last time I was there we went and saw a cell. I hadn't done that, and I've been five or six times, and I went and I walked into a cell, and they are so much smaller than you think.
And you sit there and envision a life in a cell. I couldn't sit in there two minutes. It's not claustrophobic, it's just imagining a life in a cell. Why you go in there, I think, is your own reasons, but what I've taken from it is when we go in, I think Mark Jackson has been there, Steve has been in there, Draymond, Kevin, all these guys, it shows them that they matter and that there's people that care.
The people that are in there, I didn't grow up like they did, so how can I sit there and say why did you make that bad choice? If I'd grown up like some people grew up that are in San Quentin, I could have been in San Quentin. If they grew up like I did, they probably wouldn't be in San Quentin. It marks you. It marks you when you go in there. It's not an experience that you forget.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAFORCE: Kevin Durant said, too, his first visit was unforgettable. It gives you great perspectives, and he actually announced that he has plans to produce a documentary about the basketball players at San Quentin.
SMITH: What I loved about this piece, Allie, is that it shows the great connection that NBA players have to their communities. Also it just sums up that they care, and you can see in that piece they wanted to be out there, they wanted to give their time. And I just loved it. They got a chance to spread their knowledge and also get a chance to learn about everything that's going on in San Quentin prison.
LAFORCE: I think any time you can just bring perspective into your life it's important. And as an NBA player, as you know, after playing for so many years, it's easy to get caught up in the game, isn't it?
SMITH: Yes, it is. But I think sometimes there's just something to understand, you have to give back, and you also have to be part of the community, and that's what I love about this Warriors team. And a lot of NBA players and teams, they understand they are a fabric of their communities and they are out in the communities just like the Warriors.
LAFORCE: Smithy, coming up next on "All Access at the NBA Finals," Steph Curry on why he believes he'll always make the shot. And it could have something to do with the man they call Q. You'll meet Steph's shooting coach.
Plus, all eyes on LeBron James, who just delivered an all-time heroic performance in game one. What should we expect from the king tomorrow night?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
[14:57:09] BRUCE FRASER, NBA COACH: Name, Bruce Fraser. Title, no title. I started with Steph when I first got to the Warriors. It was a working relationship to start. Grew into an incredible friendship, and I think amazing person to work with, amazing player.
Some of the methods we use are irreverent -- balance, activation, core, stuff that ultimately apply to the game. I think with Steph it gives him a little bit better balance. Just a way to get him more into the game and in rhythm. He makes it look so good. He makes so many shots, he's fun to watch. So that part never gets old. Most visiting arenas that we go to, we get an early crowd to watch that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMITH: Allie, that pregame routine, it's worldwide on the visiting teams, they come out and watch, as we got a chance to see. Bruce does a phenomenal job. He's trying to downplay his role with the Golden State Warriors and also Stephen Curry. He does a fantastic job getting these guys ready. LAFORCE: You don't just get great overnight. And I'll tell you,
you've been inside Oracle Arena. Nothing gets the crowd going like a Steph Curry three-pointer. This one right before the buzzer at the half in game one, he's just awesome. Curry's reaction, so classic. One, two, three of his 29 points for the night. He's a global superstar. He transcends sport, and we got to catch up with him. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
STEPH CURRY, NBA PLAYER: I have plenty of people that shoot it with me straight. My wife for sure. I don't ever want to disappoint her. No, but she's supportive whether I play well or not. I don't get too big of a head, I don't get too down on myself either.
My wife and probably my parents the most, because they are the ones at my house.
CURRY: But there's nothing that anybody can ask me or tell me that I'm not already thinking about myself when it comes to how I'm playing and what I need to do better. I have high expectations for myself and I know I set lofty goals when it comes to shooting the basketball. If I don't meet that standard every night, there's going to be questions of why this, why that. But it's part of the game. The consistent thing is I'll never lose confidence with myself when I'm out on the floor. That's why I play the way that I play, that's why I shoot the shots that I do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LAFORCE: It's easy to say, hey, the series is over now, especially because Cleveland couldn't steal the first game. But for those watching the special, why do they need to watch game two?
SMITH: The reason why, Allie, there's one player and person on this planet that can make this a series and beat the Warriors, and his name is LeBron James. So you have to tune in. You never know what he's going to do.
LAFORCE: I think Steve Kerr, who played with Michael Jordan, he said just recently that we're watching a player play at a level that we've never seen before. So when you have one of Jordan's teammates saying everyone needs to tune in and witness this man, I think you should probably listen.
SMITH: I'm tuning in, for sure.
LAFORCE: That's it from the Bay Area, everybody. Enjoy game two. For Steve Smith, I'm Allie LaForce. It's been fun. We'll catch you later.