Bill Walton: LeBron James should play for free

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I’ve missed Bill Walton.

He was a larger-than-life person and personality, a great player and a broadcaster who made the game fun with hyperbole. He rubbed some people the wrong way — I’ll admit he annoyed me at times — but he always a reminder that this is a game and supposed to be fun.

Back pain knocked him down. Hard. But now he is back up, getting back into the game of life and playing evangelist for the doctor and back procedure that has him up and back in the game of life.

Oh, and he has basketball opinions, as he told the New York Times’ Howard Beck:

What I would really like to see is LeBron play for
free. There are rules that you cannot do that. You have to get a minimum
salary. Say, ‘I’ll play for the minimum, I’ll make my money in the
endorsement market — just spend the rest of the money and buy me some
real players. Pay them. And lets make a real super team. And lets change
the history of basketball…

(The Celtics have the) Best point guard in the Eastern Conference, best coach in the Eastern
Conference, best home-court advantage in the East Conference. Best
depth. Tremendous size across the front line. Fantastic individual
offense in Paul
Pierce
, a phenomenal big-game finisher in Ray
Allen
and Kevin
Garnett
, a historical-level figure who’s playing as well as he can,
based on his physical limitations. I see the Celtics winning the East….

But (Pau Gasol’s) game is unique, because it’s 100 percent based on skill. There’s
never any pushing, shoving. You win the championship when you have the
best player, and the Lakers have that in Kobe — Kobe and LeBron are
the two best players — and you have the best coach, Phil Jackson; and
you dominate the paint. And that’s what Pau Gasol does. And
he does it with his mind, his heart, his soul, his spirit and his
incredible skill.”

I’m fairly sure that among LeBron James’ free agent options, playing for free will not be one of them.

But the idea is fun…. I’ve missed Bill Walton.

Russell Westbrook on Rockets laughing at Andre Roberson missing free throws: ‘Probably the guys that don’t play’

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The Rockets bench made a big production when an intentionally fouled Andre Roberson kept missing free throws in the Thunder’s Game 4 loss to the Rockets yesterday.

Russell Westbrook stuck up for his teammate.

Royce Young of ESPN:

Westbrook:

I didn’t see it. I didn’t see it at all. Probably the guys that don’t play, probably over there the ones laughing, if I had to guess.

Good guess. It appears Montrezl Harrell and Bobby Brown – whose only playing time this series came late in Houston’s blowout Game 1 win – led the jeers.

But the most important thing for the Thunder is Roberson making his free throws. They need him on the court to defend James Harden, which exposes him to hacking. If Westbrook deflecting attention onto the Rockets’ benchwarmers helps Roberson at the line, great. But if not, the Rockets will keep having reasons to laugh.

Magic Johnson winks at bringing Paul George to Lakers

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Paul George-to-the-Lakers rumors have swirled for a while.

New Lakers president Magic Johnson will only fuel them.

Asked how he’d interact with the Pacers star to avoid tampering if they ran into each other, Johnson said on Jimmy Kimmel Live:

We’re going to say hi, because we know each other. You just can’t say, “Hey, I want you to come to the Lakers,” even though I’m going to be wink-winking like [blinks repeatedly]. You know what that means, right?

In explaining how he’d avoid tampering, Johnson probably tampered. Accidental tampering appears to be his specialty.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement says team employees can’t permissibly “induce, persuade, or attempt to entice, induce or persuade, any Player who is under contract to, or whose exclusive negotiating rights are held by, any other Member of the Association to enter into negotiations for or relating to his services or negotiate or contract for such services.” But the league arbitrarily enforces tampering, so who knows whether he’ll be punished?

Johnson almost certainly could have gotten away with the hypothetical conversation he laid out. But going on television and describing it — even as fantasy, even not directly to George — could constitute tampering in itself,

If Johnson helps attract George to Los Angeles, it’d well be worth it. At least he’s trying something.

Report: Austin Rivers returning for Clippers-Jazz Game 5

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images
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There have been bigger injuries in the Clippers-Jazz first-round series: Blake Griffin‘s toe, Rudy Gobert‘s knee and Gordon Hayward‘s stomach.

But Clippers guard Austin Rivers has yet to play due to a strained hamstring.

It sounds as if that will change tomorrow.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

This is neither as big a deal as the Clippers will make it out to be nor as meaningless as Rivers’ many detractors will claim.

The 6-foot-4 Rivers will provide an important defensive upgrade on the perimeter. The Clippers haven’t successfully hidden Jamal Crawford and Raymond Felton, allowing Utah too many quality looks. Here how the Jazz have shot when defended by each, per NBA.com:

  • Crawford: 18-of-36 (50%), including 7-of-17 on 3-pointers (41%)
  • Felton: 13-of-24 (54%), including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers (63%)

Rivers needn’t be great to help behind Chris Paul and J.J. Redick.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.