LeBron James only steals the show if you let him

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James_solo.jpgThere’s little doubt that July will belong to LeBron James. Regardless of whether he stays or goes, the endless speculation concerning his future, his decision-making, and his rationale will be put under the world’s largest internet-powered microscope, and every other sports-related topic will be put on the back-burner. That’s just what happens when the biggest name in basketball becomes an unrestricted free agent after promoting the event years in advance.

If James manages to upstage the finals, though, there’s no one to blame but ourselves. Lakers-Celtics seems set to be a truly special series, and while there’s obviously enough online real estate to cover this, that, and all other stories, emphasis is dictated by media members and media consumers. If the idea of LeBron stepping in front of the spotlight is really all that irking, why not exercise the right to just ignore it? Or at least circumvent it?

It’s not as if James holds some magical power over the nation’s attention span. His name in glittering lights piques the interest of the adoring masses, but there’s always a choice. Every time there’s a half-time show on LeBron’s future, the remote is in your hands. Every time there’s a headline about LeBron the free agent, there’s a decision on whether or not to click it. Maybe James is trying to stay on the tip of everyone’s tongue or maybe he’s not, but it doesn’t happen without our consent. It’s me, you, and everyone we know allowing LeBron into our homes, our cable boxes, and our browsers.

For basketball fans, the actual basketball will prevail. The two best teams in the league (and they are just that) with the two best playoff performers are about to slug it out over seven games, and if LeBron is really living in the limelight, it represents our own laziness as much as it does his self-obsession. How is Kevin Garnett going to defend Pau Gasol? Should Kobe Bryant guard Rajon Rondo? Will the Boston bench be able to withstand their toughest competition yet? There are countless stories and angles in this single series, and innumerable items of interest to grab our attention should we allow them to.

I’m not saying that other stories won’t pop up over the course of this series, or that they shouldn’t be given their due. Just that as free-thinking consumers, the point in complaining over what we have the right to choose is useless. Yes, LeBron wants attention; that much has been clear ever since his promotion of 2010 free agency began. I’m sure a lot of NBA players want the same, whether they’re playing in the finals or not.

We control whether he gets that attention, and we control our own response to it. If you don’t care about LeBron’s tell-nothing interviews, then don’t care. If you don’t want to hear about him during the finals, then don’t talk or write about him. And if you’re tired of him craving attention, then stop feeding it to him. LeBron may have the ability to create headlines, but it’s the consumers that determine their prominence and placement. James may be the star, but NBA fans have all the power.  

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).

 

 

Devin Booker drops 70 points for Suns in loss to Celtics (VIDEO)

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Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker is just 20 years old. He’s a League Pass favorite, and indeed he should be a favorite in Phoenix for years to come. On Friday, Booker dropped 70 points — yes, 70 — in a loss to the Boston Celtics.

Booker’s 70 points is the best outing of the season. It also made him the youngest player to ever reach 70 points.

His final stat line, as you might imagine, was ridiculous. Booker shot 21-of-40 from the field, going 4-of-11 on 3-pointers and a whopping 24-of-26 from the free-throw line. The Suns phenom also grabbed eight rebounds to go with six assists.

Despite the loss to Boston, 130-120, it’s still an incredible milestone for Phoenix and for Booker. There’s a bright spot out there for the Suns.