The Starting Five: LeBron vs. Warriors — how great is this?

LeBron James will be trying to even his NBA Finals record at 3-3.

Dale Zanine/Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Here are some  burning issues to ponder while anxiously awaiting tip-off of the NBA Finals.

Most of us are excited to see the truly entertaining Golden State Warriors in the NBA Finals.

But this is not a referendum on their wide-open style of play. Please note the Warriors continue to play stellar defense and have dialed back the pace, when needed, this postseason. And their reliance on spreading the floor, moving the ball and making 3-pointers isn’t anything new.

They’re just very good at it.

But while we’re enjoying their approach to basketball, many NBA historians will see this Finals as an opportunity to either push LeBron James up the ladder in those comparisons to Michael Jordan — or bemoan his 2-4 Finals record (that’s where he’ll be if the Cleveland Cavaliers lose) as evidence that MJ has no peer.

A better suggestion is to just sit back and enjoy James for the contemporary superstar he is, in all his full-catalog-of-basketball-skills glory. Why can’t we admire how he’s carried an obstacle-confronted Cavaliers team to this point instead of going player-by-player against Michael’s supporting cast in Chicago?

But sports being sports, making comparisons that can never be completely validated is what we do.

By the way, regardless of what occurs, we still like Mike.

Like current MVP Steph Curry of the Warriors, James can’t be stopped, but he will be the target of a Warriors defense obliged to try.

The defensive key for Golden State will be manipulating LeBron’s paint-chipping 3-point stroke (sitting at 15 percent this postseason) into a strategy that makes it difficult for his cronies to thrive.

For proof that Golden State mastermind Ron Adams will have a lane-clogging plan, note the Warriors’ strategy against ball-dominant Houston Rockets machine James Harden in the Western Conference finals.

Harden did torch ’em for 45 points in Game 4 but was miserable (including a playoff-record 13 turnovers) in Game 5.

True, there are screaming differences between LBJ and Harden, including LeBron’s ability to run over defenders while The Beard prefers the free-throw-inducing tactic of running into them. But the trick is for Golden State’s anticipated legion of LeBron-assigned defenders (the anti-James Gang) to hold their ground against his bulldozer, backing-down maneuvers late enough in the shot clock to require only one close-out if he’s forced to pass.

Easier said than done? Certainly.

And what if LeBron starts making 3s? Uh, we’ll save that for next week.

By the way, James did put 42 on Golden State in a rout on Feb. 26. He was 4 of 9 from 3 in that one.

In the most recent public oath regarding his future in Cleveland, Kevin Love said he expects to be playing for the Cavaliers next season.

NBA Finals Central

Love — who has a player option worth $16.7 million for 2015-2016 — could opt in and look for bigger loot when the salary cap jumps next year, or opt out and still re-sign with the Cavs.

But with Cleveland reaching the Finals without him amid much screeching (rightly so) about how much nastier the team has been on defense since his injury, some NBA watchdogs are wondering how much the Cavs want Kevin to return.

With starting-lineup replacement Tristan Thompson in need of rehiring and other financial requirements cropping up for the Cavaliers, Love certainly could be worth considerably more to some other teams than his value to the Cavaliers.

But let’s also point out that Cleveland’s playoff run is still incomplete. A team with the firepower and team-defensive commitment of the Warriors could make Love seem a lot more necessary to the Cavs than some now believe.

Once this Finals series is over, Alvin Gentry — finishing his first season as the Warriors’ associate head coach — will take over as head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans.

Gentry’s staff might include Darren Erman as assistant with an emphasis on defensive preparation.

Erman spent this past season in that capacity as Brad Stevens’ assistant with the Boston Celtics. Prior to that, he assisted then-head coach Mark Jackson at Golden State but was fired in 2014 for the old "violation of team policy."

According to various reports, Erman was canned for taping conversations between coaches, and informal chats featuring coaches and players without knowledge of the participants. Sources for these reports said what Erman did with the recordings was not known.

Before coaching at Golden State, Erman worked on Doc Rivers’ staff in Boston for four seasons.

Gentry’s coaching staff also could include former Los Angeles Clippers and Oklahoma City Thunder assistant Robert Pack.

With no shortage of compelling matchups in the 2015 Finals, one of the best may be at head coach.

We’ll begin with Golden State’s Steve Kerr, who — unless he was the bench boss for one of his kids’ teams — is in his first season as a coach at any level.

Of course, he’s no stranger to NBA success (five rings as a player) and had a tour of supervisory duty as general manager for the Phoenix Suns.

He also hired David Blatt (if but for a moment) to help him coach the Warriors before recommending he accept an offer to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Although this also is his first NBA season, Blatt has been a pro coach since 1993. He’s been named Coach of the Year six times across three leagues in Europe. He played at Princeton under legendary coach Pete Carril.

Kerr’s ledger of hoop knowledge includes playing for Lute Olson, Phil Jackson and Gregg Popovich.

Sure, having offensive designs carried out by superstars certainly doesn’t hurt.

But button-pushing isn’t limited to Xs and Os.

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