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

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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.

Celtics’ Kyrie Irving: “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

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The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.

However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.

Which is what Kyrie Irving was getting at in this post-loss quote from Friday night, via Israel Gutierrez of ESPN.

“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”

This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.

Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.

Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich: I’ve never seen injury like Kawhi Leonard’s

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Gregg Popovich is a basketball lifer.

He’s the NBA’s most experienced active head coach. Before that, he was the Spurs’ general manager. Before that, he was an NBA assistant. Before that, he was a college head coach and assistant. Before that, he was a college player. Before that, he was a youth player.

The San Antonio coach has seen everything.

Except the right quadriceps tendinopathy suffered by Kawhi Leonard, whom Popovich said more than a week would return “sooner rather than later.” Yet, Leonard still hasn’t played this season.

Popovich, via Michael C. Wright of ESPN:

“Never, never,” Popovich said when asked whether he has seen such a condition hampering one of his players. “What’s really strange is that [point guard] Tony [Parker] has the same injury, but even worse. They had to go operate on his quad tendon and put it back together or whatever they did to it. So to have two guys, that’s pretty incredible. I had never seen it before those guys.”

“I keep saying sooner rather than later,” Popovich said jokingly. “It’s kind of like being a politician. It’s all baloney, doesn’t mean anything.”

The 26-year-old Leonard is one of the NBA’s biggest on-court stars. He might be the league’s best defender, and he has built himself into an offensive force. The Spurs (11-7) have fared fine without him so far, but they’ll need him to accomplish their main goals – this year and beyond.

Hopefully, Leonard’s health is better than it sounds here, because Popovich’s answer sure isn’t encouraging.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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