What happens in Vegas… ESPN pulls unflattering LeBron James story

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Thumbnail image for d-wade-king-james.jpgUPDATE: 3:48 pm: CNBC’s Darren Rovell got this comment from ESPN:

ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz tells us why the LeBron Vegas story was
pulled: “The story should have never been published. The draft was
inadvertently put on the server before going through the usual editorial
process. We are in the midst of looking into the matter.”

Sounds a lot like spin. Not that we expected anything else.

3:00 pm: We woke up this morning to a fleshed out picture of the life an influences on LeBron James — ESPNLosAngeles’ Arash Markazi was a part of LeBron’s entourage and followed him around for a night in Vegas, living life on the inside, then filed the report.

We’d link to it, but ESPN pulled it. What happens in Vegas did not stay in Vegas, and somebody didn’t like it. The story was taken down. However, there are stored versions all over the Web, such as at Deadspin or Black Sports Online.

LeBron sought out a brighter spotlight to stand in, but he may be finding the realty is not as much fun as the dream.

Read the article, it is a fantastic bit or lifestyle writing. And you do not live LeBron’s lifestyle. The groupies around, the pretending to dribble and shoot jumpers as you walk through a Vegas casino as people stare, the five bodyguards to keep people at a distance, the bottles popping, the life of a true VIP in Vegas. That and LeBron getting six figures for having his name attached to the weekend party in Vegas.

He comes off as immature, rich with a huge ego and acting like the world revolves around him. Not sure that any of this is a surprise, or really all that out of the ordinary for what passes for ordinary in Vegas. Still, the details paint an unflattering picture. Especially when you think of Kobe busting it in a gym somewhere to get better and Kevin Durant resting up for another day of Team USA practices at the same time.

What is interesting is that ESPN pulled the story not long after it first went up. We don’t know what was considered on or off the record, or why the story was pulled, but I don’t see what was so offensive as to lead to the story needing to be yanked. I know Markazi and he is a good reporter and writer, the kind of guy who gets things right.

One’s mind jumps to what seems the most likely possibility — LeBron and his people freaked out after reading it and then demanded it be pulled. They probably threatened libel. And ESPN obliged, not wanting the fight. Sort of like Nike freaking out about video of LeBron getting dunked on at his camp.

Don’t want to leap to that conclusion, but if you’re a fan of Occam’s razor, where the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, then LeBron freaking out makes the most sense. ESPN backing down shows where the calls are made — money gets to ride in the limo, journalistic integrity can wait at the curb. But we will see what the spin is when it comes.

Either way, go read the story.

Report: Heat complained to ‘highest levels of the league office’ about favorable calls for Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker

Charlotte Hornets' Kemba Walker (15) is congratulated by Jeremy Lin (7) after making a basket against the Sacramento Kings in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Nov. 23, 2015. The Hornets won 127-122 in overtime. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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The Heat and Hornets are clearly tiring of each other, six games of testiness culminating with Game 7 today.

One particular battle line being drawn is over Jeremy Lin (6.3) and Kemba Walker (5.5), who lead players in this series in free-throw attempts per game.

Marc Stein:

ESPN sources say that one of the factors that ramped up the tension between the teams stems from Miami complaints to the highest levels of the league office after Game 4 about what the Heat deemed to be favorable officiating for Jeremy Lin and Kemba Walker.

Lin and Walker relentlessly driven to the basket. That’s why they’ve attempted so many free throws. If Miami wants to keep them off the line, trap them harder on the perimeter.

That said, this is part of playoff gamesmanship. If the Heat plant a seed with referees – through the league office or otherwise – that Lin and Walker are drawing too many fouls, maybe that affects a call today. With the margins so narrow, every little bit helps.

Watch LaMarcus Aldridge drop 38 on Thunder

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Oklahoma City has more than a few adjustments to make after a brutal defensive effort in Game 1 of their series against San Antonio, but at the top of the list is sticking with LaMarcus Aldridge on defense.

He was killing them from the midrange, and more than half of his looks were uncontested — the Thunder know he can knock down that shot, right?

It was a fantastic performance from Aldridge; we’ll see if he faces tougher defense in Game 2.

NBA: Trail Blazers scored after uncalled illegal screen by Trail Blazers in final minutes

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Should we be preparing for Game 7 of the Trail Blazers-Clippers series today?

If the officials had called the final minutes of the last game correctly, maybe.

Portland won Game 6 to take the series 4-2, but a missed call a key missed call helped clinch.

With 1:45 left, Mason Plumlee got away with offensively fouling Jamal Crawford, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Plumlee (POR) sets the screen on Crawford (LAC) without giving him room to avoid the contact.

A correct call would’ve meant a Trail Blazers turnover. Instead, Damian Lillard ended the possession with two made free throws.

Portland’s advantage when the Clippers began intentionally fouling: two.

Would the Clippers have won if the refs called Plumlee’s offensive foul? Impossible to say. The final 1:45 could’ve played out much differently.

But this missed call, the only error in the Last Two Minute Report, certainly boosted the Trail Blazers’ odds.

Four Things to Watch in two Game 7s Sunday

during game six of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Time Warner Cable Arena on April 29, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.
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It’s what the playoffs are all about — win or go home Game 7s. Pressure, drama, unlikely stars Sunday is going to have it all. Here are a few things to watch:

1) Can Miami’s jump shooters have another hot game? Dwyane Wade got the headlines (and he earned them) for his Game 6 performance (everyone except purple shirt guy was impressed), but the real key for the Heat to force a Game 7 was they were hitting their jumpers — or at least enough of them. In their three losses, Miami shot 33.7 percent from 3 feet out to the arc, but in Game 6 the Heat shot 43.5 percent in that range, plus knocked down eight threes. The Hornets have packed the paint all series, when the Heat hit their jumpers they win. It’s that simple.

2) Does Kemba Walker have one more big game in him? Walker was fantastic in Game 6 (37 points), and he’s been very good in the Hornets’ victories. He’s going to penetrate and get some shots inside eight feet, but will he be able to finish? And, more importantly, will he hit his threes when they pack the paint on him? If Walker has a huge game, Charlotte very likely moves on.

3) Is Toronto too far into their own head? No team has more pressure on them to advance out of the first round than Toronto after two previous years of getting bounced in the first round, and they will feel that weight at home in Game 7 against Indiana. Will Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan step up with big games in the biggest moments of their careers, or will they succumb to the moment and the Pacers defense? For all the Xs and Os that do matter in this game, how the Raptors handle the pressure will be key.

4) Can the Pacers again get a few quality minutes when Paul George sits? In the Pacers comfortable Game 6 win, George got a rest in the second quarter and the Pacers were +5 while he sat. That was a huge step up from Game 5, where the Pacers were -18 when he was out for less than 7 minutes. If Indiana — by playing some starters such as Myles Turner — doesn’t have a huge bench drop off when George rests a few minutes their odds of winning go way up. We know Paul George can handle the moment.