LeBron James says he tried to repay Cleveland on the court, is ready for change


Thumbnail image for LeBron_Heat.jpgDoes LeBron James owe Cleveland anything?

LeBron has been at the center of the NBA universe this summer, but has said very little personally to the media (we’re not really counting The Decision as hard-hitting questions).

There are a lot of questions to be asked, and Lang Whitaker of SLAM covered many of them a wide-ranging Q&A with LeBron James for an upcoming edition of the magazine. LeBron does not give any shocking answers, but he emphasizes that he realized that he cannot make everyone happy and had to do what is best for himself and his family.

LeBron also talked about what he enjoyed the most about his crazy summer — and how he repaid Cleveland.

They best part of the summer for me has been change. It’s a new beginning, a new start. I’m excited about that. The seven years I had in Cleveland, I loved, and I love those fans and will always love those fans for giving me seven great years. I tried to repay those fans the right way by doing what I did on the court. But it’s been exciting. The change, to know I’m going into a situation I haven’t had since my rookie year, and that’s a new beginning, a fresh start. That’s exciting for me. It’s been a great summer. You’re going to have forks in the road, bumps in the road, throughout life. But if you have your goal and you know which way you’re headed, you just go for it and you don’t stop until you get it….

Well, I don’t feel beat up, not at all. I knew there was going to be some negative point to it. But at the end of the day, I think I made the right decision, and I’m happy with my decision. Just like you said, you can’t make everyone happy at the end of the day, and I knew that, I knew that from the beginning. And I understand. It’s OK.

As for the questions about how this team will mesh on the court….

For me, you don’t even think about knowing it will work. You know it’s going to work. You don’t say, I’m going to make my decision and hopefully this works out. D-Wade is a playmaker. I’ve played with D-Wade and I’ve played with Bosh for four years in the summertime. It’s not as long as an NBA season, but you see the sacrifices we was able to make in the summertime, so it wasn’t a hard choice for myself because I know how hard they play the game and I know how much they want to win…

Sacrifice is a part of the game. Now, if you’re talking about sacrificing a few more shots or a few plays here, that’s not a problem. The goal is to an NBA championship, and however we do that, it has to get done. That’s ultimately what we want to do. That’s also why we all came here, to win an NBA championship. It wasn’t so all of us could try to get an MVP award the same year. That’s not what it’s about.

Then there are the questions about losing to Boston in the playoffs…

We had a good chance to win that series, and we played well in spurts, but we didn’t play as consistently as Boston did. And I think every Eastern Conference team saw that when they went against Boston, how consistent they were from game to game. Now, they may have lost one game or two games, but I think they were the most consistent team in the Playoffs in the Eastern Conference. That’s why they were able to get back to the Eastern Finals.

Check out the whole interview, there is a lot more there.

Justin Anderson cuts under basket, reaches back for putback dunk (video)

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One player dunking on another is always fantastic.

But some of the best jams come when the dunker artfully dodges defenders in the first place.

Mavericks forward Justin Anderson did that with this putback slam against the Pacers last night.

Wednesday featured a ridiculous number of players getting dunked on (videos)

PHOENIX, AZ - OCTOBER 26:  Willie Cauley-Stein #00 of the Sacramento Kings slam dunks the ball over Marquese Chriss #0 of the Phoenix Suns during the first half of the preseason NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on October 26, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  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.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Twenty NBA teams started their seasons last night, providing a glorious onslaught of basketball unlike anything we’ve seen in months.

One of the best parts? It seems players forgot they were supposed to duck out of the way, rather than defend, dunks.

That led to some fantastic slams

Gerald Henderson on Domantas Sabonis:

Lance Stephenson on Kenneth Faried:

Jonas Valanciunas on Boban Marjanovic:

Willie-Cauley Stein on Marquese Chriss:

‘Our 49 Pulse angels’: Orlando Magic honor those killed in nightclub

A banner printed with the names of the Pulse nightclub shooting victims and 49, the number of people who died in the shooting, is unveiled in the Amway Center during a tribute prior to an NBA basketball game between the Orlando Magic and the Miami Heat, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — There’s nothing that can give Mayra Alvear back what she lost, or ease her pain, or calm her anger.

With one gesture, she at least felt some joy again.

Underneath a softly swaying banner displaying the number 49 – commemorating the number of lives lost – and as first responders unfurled and held a massive American flag for the national anthem, the Orlando Magic paid tribute Wednesday night to the victims and survivors of the Pulse gay nightclub massacre with an emotional ceremony immediately before the team’s season-opener against the Miami Heat.

“We felt the recognition needed to be significant,” Magic president Alex Martins said. “We think part of the healing process for our community is making sure we don’t forget. And we felt it was most appropriate that we do it on opening night, so it receives the proper recognition and exposure – but also gave the greatest number of our fans the opportunity to recognize and remember.”

Some survivors were present, as were some relatives of those who were killed on June 12 in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history. The gunman, Omar Mateen, was killed after a three-hour standoff during an exchange of fire with SWAT team members.

“What the Orlando Magic are doing is amazing, is beautiful. I’m honored and grateful,” said Alvear, the mother of Pulse victim Amanda Alvear. “That they are lifting the number 49 out of respect, a symbol for our 49 Pulse angels, it has a deep meaning – demonstration of love and that they care, that all of them will be remembered.”

The nightclub remains fenced off, yet is still attracting a daily stream of mourners. Banners on the fence are dotted with thousands of handwritten messages from visitors, with some flowers and candles on the ground.

Martins was the chair of OneOrlando, a fund that collected $29.5 million in donations that’s being distributed to 299 claimants. At the time of the shooting, the Magic were just a few weeks removed from the hiring of Frank Vogel as their new coach, and less than three weeks away from a free-agent period where the roster would be greatly revamped.

But Martins quickly volunteered anyway, helping oversee the massive task.

“One of the ways that I felt I could help, that I could assist, was to help with the administration of the fund,” Martins said. “So I raised my hand immediately.”

The tribute coming before a Magic-Heat game was fitting, given how many of those affected by the events of that night were from South Florida.

It was particularly poignant to one survivor.

Heat employee Laura Vargas was shot twice that night. She can recall every detail – the strobe lights, the Heineken in her hand, how she was putting away her ID as she heard the first shots. She remembers watching Mateen reload a weapon, the blood pouring from her wounds, even the look on the police officer’s face when she was rescued.

Her best friend, Luis Vielma, who Vargas said was straight, was one of the victims.

“It’s not even just about me,” Vargas said. “It’s coping that he’s not there anymore. It’s a lot to carry around.”

Vargas isn’t able yet to resume work. She was at the arena the Heat call home last week for an event called “Loud And Proud” that celebrated the LGBTQ community, but couldn’t shake the feeling Mateen was there. Her flashbacks and nightmares are terrifying – she said she had “a total breakdown” recently at Disney when a fireworks show sounded like gunfire.

Nights like Wednesday, she said, make it all a bit easier.

“The love that’s come out of this is not fading,” Vargas said. “It brings me comfort to know that my best friend is one of the reasons why this world is a little bit less crappy, that his life isn’t just forgotten. No. He made a difference. And he would be happy to know that even with the chaos, the horror, he made a change.”

This was not a one-night commitment for the Magic, who have contributed both money and staff resources to the ongoing healing process and plan to continue. In addition to the banner, the team aired a video in tribute and invited singer Brandon Parsons – who composed a song called “Forty-Nine Times” – to perform pregame.

Parsons’ song included this phrase: “Takes more than just a gun, more than you to tear us down, so let your colors fly free.”

“It’s been so impactful since the day of that event,” said Otto Drozd, the Fire Chief for Orange County Fire Rescue. “This is part of the healing process. We continue to remember the 49 that lost their lives and those that were injured that night, and really, we do that because we don’t want to relive it.”

Joel Embiid hits shots, blocks Westbrook, looks good in debut


And somewhere, Sam Hinkie weeps.

After two seasons on the sidelines with foot injuries, Joel Embiid played his first NBA game Wednesday night — and he looked good — 20 points, seven rebounds, and a couple of blocked shots. The Philadelphia crowd loved him — when he opened the game with a nice move and free-throw line jumper, followed by a block of Russell Westbrook, the arena nearly exploded. He was later serenaded with “trust the process” chants as he shot free throws.

He’s still a work in progress — he tried to do too much rather than let the game come to him. That led to 7-of-17 shooting and him chasing blocks on defense and getting out of position. He played like an over-amped rookie. Which he was. (Apparently, some Philly fans were a little over-amped, too.)

But one with a world of talent. The Sixers have something here.