Ron Artest’s top two in the NBA: Kobe, Durant… and no LeBron

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There are guys whose names consistently come up in the “best in the game” discussion — Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and now Kevin Durant.

So, if you ask somebody — anybody — to list them, one of them has to come in third.

If you ask Ron Artest (like ESPNLosAngeles.com did), he says Kobe is tops and Durant is second.

“Kobe’s got five rings, six game winners [last season], 23-straight points in [Game 5 of the Finals] off mostly jump shots,” Artest elaborated. “[He’s] the biggest shot maker, big shot maker. So, that said, Durant’s the second best player in the NBA.”

“He’s the second best player in the NBA,” Artest said of Durant, ranking the youngest scoring champion in league history behind only teammate Kobe Bryant.

So what about LeBron?

“I only count to two,” Artest said. “I’ve been out of school 15 years, so I only count to two.”

Let the Lakers/Heat smack talk begin. Only 70 days until Christmas.

Certainly you can make the case that James belongs in the top of any list of the three, that he is better than Kobe now and has accomplished more than Durant in the league.I could make a solid argument for virtually any order of the three (maybe not Durant on top of the list, that one would have holes). Is LeBron getting as much out of his physical gifts as Kobe and Durant?

But really, is this some dramatic insult? I know, we need to start hyping Lakers/Heat now so sure it is. Only 70 days of hype left…

Khris Middleton dunks, Jimmy Butler can’t stop him (VIDEO)

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Khris Middleton has more expectations and more pressure on him after a breakout season in Milwaukee, followed by him getting him PAID this summer.

Well, he looked pretty good on this play against the Bulls, making the steal then throwing down despite Jimmy Butler‘s efforts to stop him.

Middleton finished with 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting for the Bucks. However, Butler had the last laugh as he went off for 23 points on 12 shots and led the Bulls to the (meaningless) preseason win.

Somebody looks comfortable: Paul George drops 20 in first quarter

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Paul George‘s first experience starting as a power forward was going up against Anthony Davis — not just one of the best power forwards in the game, one of the handful of best players in the game period. That didn’t go well for George, and he wasn’t happy about it.

His second experience was in another preseason game Tuesday, going up against the Pistons and their four, Ersan İlyasova. He’s not quite as intimidating.

George scored 20 points on 7-of-8 shooting, 4-of-5 on threes — and that was just the first quarter (you can see it all in the video above).

As we have said before, George at the four is not a bad call by the Pacers, but some of that depends on the matchup. On the nights the Pacers face Davis or Blake Griffin or LaMarcus Aldridge or Zach Randolph (or a handful of others) the Pacers’ coaching staff is going to have to adjust. But there are a lot of nights where George at the four is going to force the other team to adjust, and that will play into the Pacers’ hands.