Carlos Boozer, no stranger to deserting Cleveland, empathizes with LeBron

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Once upon a time, a LeBron James sidekick had delusions of grandeur. He saw a coin gleaming out of the corner of his eye, and turned his verbal commitment to re-sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers into mere words.

It’s been five years since Carlos Boozer walked out on the Cavs, but if anyone can even properly relate to LeBron on this day, it’s him. Verbal agreements are taken pretty seriously in sports, and the particular nature of Boozer’s betrayal — he convinced the Cavaliers to let him become a restricted free agent in order to sign a long-term deal, which he eventually did…with the Utah Jazz — made him a long-reviled figure in Cleveland sports. Nothing Boozer did or could ever do would match LeBron James’ decision to leave the Cavaliers, mind you, but the insidiousness of Boozer’s dealings make him and LeBron relatives, if only in their reputations within the city limits.

With that in mind, Carlos Boozer was asked to weigh in on LeBron’s situation going into tonight’s game. From Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago:

“It will be tough for him,” Boozer said after Thursday afternoon’s practice. “As a personal friend of his, I know it’s going to be a tough moment because he had a lot of great memories there. I just wish him the best of luck. I know it’s kind of a place he embraces because he built so much there. Coming from there, being from there, giving everything he had for those seven, eight years he was there, I know it will be emotional for him.”

Boozer was drafted by the Cavs in the second round of the 2002 draft. He rose to prominence in two years averaging 15.5 points and 11.4 rebounds in his second season. Controversy ensued after he became a free agent and backed out of an agreement he had with the Cavs to sign a more lucrative offer with the Utah Jazz, and Boozer was booed in his return to Cleveland. He knows what a difficult night it will be for James to get through, especially given the way the reigning MVP left the team earlier this summer.

“It was the same thing [James will be going through],” Boozer said. “Emotional and tough.”

As I mentioned above, the circumstances regarding the departures of Boozer and James aren’t quite the same, though Booz’s unique perspective on this matter is appreciated nonetheless. In truth, LeBron is on an island tonight. No one can properly relate to where he’ll stand when boos — and hopefully only boos — rain down on him in the Q. This is as unique of a case as we could hope to see in the world of sports, and though we know LeBron will continue to serve as our story’s villain, how exactly that story will proceed from this point is anyone’s guess. The Cleveland fans are a wild card. LeBron’s performance tonight could be anywhere in his spectrum. The Miami Heat could stumble or thrive. This isn’t artificial drama, just a naturally unpredictable event starring the game’s brightest talent and most infamous name.

After Thunder win, Russell Westbrook trolls Joel Embiid, waves goodbye, tells him to “go home”

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Joel Embiid was making friends all over the court on Friday night.

First, he got into a jawing match with Carmelo Anthony. Also during the first overtime, Embiid blocked Russell Westbrook‘s driving attempt at a game winner.

After the Thunder, Westbrook trolled Embiid by waving goodbye to the Sixers’ center, who was yelling back at him.

When asked about it, Westbrook said Embiid was talking a lot so he told the Sixers center to go home.

That can have some serious connotations — Embiid was born in Cameroon. Westbrook may have meant “go to the locker room” or “go to where you live,” but considering Embiid is an immigrant it comes off very poorly for Westbrook.

Embiid threw a little fire back at Westbrook.

The league office is going to be looking into this one.

DeMarcus Cousins doesn’t expect Pelicans to trade him at the deadline

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The New Orleans Pelicans have a decision to make as they approach the trade deadline: Do they think they can re-sign DeMarcus Cousins next summer to stay in the Big Easy with Anthony Davis?

If the answer is no, then they have to consider trading Cousins at the deadline to at least get something back. There is a lot of context, however, that makes this seeming binary trade/keep decision far more complicated.

Cousins himself doesn’t think he is going anywhere, as he told Marc Spears of ESPN’s The Undefeated.

While the Pelicans have a lot to consider with the unrestricted free agent, Cousins says he is confident that he will still be playing for New Orleans after the Feb. 8 trade deadline.

“I am confident in my team,” Cousins said. “I am starting to understand this business a lot more than I did before. You can kind of tell when things are about to come about. We’re a very competitive team. A talented team. I don’t think that will be the case at all….

“A.D. hits me with little jabs about free agency all the time, but he also understands,” Cousins said. “It was Jrue in that situation last [offseason], and we understood his situation. Of course, they throw their little jabs. They throw their little jokes. But they are serious at the same time. They are respectful about it at the same time.

The Pelicans are 15-14 and the seven seed in the West entering Friday night’s games, and if New Orleans has a shot at the playoffs come the deadline there is no way he gets moved. Ownership and management want a playoff appearance. They have greenlit adding one of the game’s top centers (Cousins) to go next to Davis, and last summer they paid big to keep Jrue Holiday at the point in New Orleans. If the Pelicans don’t make the playoffs (and possibly even if they do squeak in and get swept out in an ugly fashion), everyone in the organization expects a housecleaning. They have been on edge all season. With jobs on the line, they are not trading Cousins and getting worse short term even if you could argue it was the right basketball move long term.

Will Cousins re-sign with the Pelicans next summer? That will be about the money — what the Pelicans offer, and what other teams will offer in what is expected to be a tight free agent market, especially for centers.  DeAndre Jordan will be on the market as well, not to mention second-tier guys who will be more affordable for teams such as Brook Lopez. In that market, Cousins may want to stay where he likes his teammates and seems happy.

But first he has to get past the trade deadline.

Joel Embiid scores over Carmelo Anthony, then they exchange words (VIDEO)

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Joel Embiid gives zero… well, you know where I’m going with that.

Embiid trolls the world and backs down from no man, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Late in the fourth quarter of the barn burner between the Thunder and 76ers Friday night, Embiid backed ‘Melo down and scored over him, then did a little jawing — which Anthony didn’t appreciate.

I love that Embiid egged on the Sixers crowd after this. He knows his audience. After the game he said this.

Embiid talks a lot — A LOT — but he is backing it up.

For example, in the first overtime Russell Westbrook thought he made a drive that was going to win the game, and Embiid rejected him.

If you did not watch this game, go find a replay. This is the new best game of the season.

Rudy Gobert leaves game vs. Celtics with likely knee sprain. Again.

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Rudy Gobert missed 11 games this season due to a bone bruise in his knee. While the Jazz defense suffered as should have been expected with their anchor gone, their offense found a groove without him — and with more Donovan Mitchell and Derrick Favors — resulting in Utah going 7-4 with their star center out.

Now the Jazz will be without him again for a while — he seems to have sprained his left knee just minutes into Friday night’s game against the Celtics when Favors fell back into him. That is the same knee he injured before. Gobert was forced to leave and will not return to the game.

If that diagnosis holds, it will be weeks again the Jazz will be without Gobert.

The Jazz know how to play without Gobert. Favors moves to center and while he’s not near the same defender his offensive skills got them buckets and opened up the floor. The rookie Mitchell, as well as Ricky Rubio at points, took advantage of it to give the Jazz a top-10 offense with Gobert out. They need to find that groove again.

Still, Utah needs Gobert back and himself to really reach the heights they are capable of.