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.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s first points as a Laker (VIDEO)

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LOS ANGELES — Lonzo Ball‘s welcome to the NBA was a bit rough. Patrick Beverleyas he said would happen before the game — was in Ball’s space and physical with him from the start. Clippers defenders got back and cut off those push the ball ahead passes Ball loves. In his first quarter as a Laker Ball 0-of-3 from the floor, missed two free throws, and didn’t pick up an assist.

But in the second quarter, Ball got his first bucket as a Laker. After Beverley and Blake Griffin miscommunicated on a screen, Ball got a clean look at a three and knocked it down. The Staples Center crowd erupted.

It was a rough first night for Ball in the NBA, with the defense focused on him. He’s got game, he can adapt, but there are going to be some rough learning experiences this season.

Fake Klay Thompson, James Harden, and Kobe Bryant emerge (PHOTO)

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Tuesday night was the start of the new NBA season and with the games came more of what we love from the NBA sphere: weird stuff you only see from the best fans on earth.

During the Golden State Warriors’ home opener against the Houston Rockets, a fan behind the bench came dressed as Klay Thompson complete with uniform, beard, and haircut.

This did not go unnoticed on social media, and Steve Kerr was even asked about the doppelgänger after the game. For the record Kerr said, “I thought it was a perfect metaphor for our conditioning level.”

Yikes, sweet coach burn.

In case you missed it, this is what that fan looked like:

Warriors would have won if coach put me in the game.

A post shared by Daws (@bigdawstv) on

That is YouTuber Big Daws, who of course was given free tickets to the game by SeatGeek. That video now has more than two million views and comes complete with a SeatGeek discount code. As is everything in 2017, even something you think is just a fun Halloween costume is actually an ad.

Culture begets culture and soon followed a new doppelgänger in Sacramento. Again, the Rockets were involved in this one as as a fan came dressed up as Houston guard James Harden. No word yet on whether this guy has a popular YouTube channel or what his offer code is, but here’s what he looked like:

This cultural phenomenon had folks looking for other NBA lookalikes around them this week, and someone came up with this Kobe Bryant twin:

This really is the best league. I can’t wait for that Big Daws guy to shave his goatee and cosplay as Ryan Anderson at a Rockets game.

Anyway, please stop by in the comment section below to get 15% off your next visit to NBCSports.com/NBA by using the code DOPPELGÄNGER at checkout.

LeBron James: “I’m out of shape” (VIDEO)

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LeBron James looked good in the opening night ceremony against the Boston Celtics. The Cleveland Cavaliers star put up a stat line of 29 points, 16 rebounds, and nine assists in the win over the Eastern Conference rival.

That doesn’t mean that James is done dealing with a nagging ankle injury that kept him out of all five of Cleveland’s preseason games. Speaking to reporters after practice on Thursday, The King said that he will indeed play on Friday against the Milwaukee Bucks, but he won’t do it under the circumstances he prefers.

Specifically, LeBron said that because of his injury, he’s been unable to get into the kind of shape he’d like to be in heading into the season.

Via ESPN:

“I just want to get to where I should be,” James said after participating in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice Thursday. “The ankle and the foot injury just kind of kept me out and set me back further than I would like, but I got some time now along the course of these games that we got. We got two back-to-backs coming up, so that’s going to help and we have some opportunity to get some practice time in as well.”

“I’m out of shape, very out of shape for my expectations,” James told TNT’s Kristen Ledlow during his on-court postgame interview Tuesday.

No doubt it will be tough to keep one of the most durable stars in NBA history out of of the regular season games they need to start this season off right. However, this is the kind of thing that slows down the careers of aging stars, and if I can play devil’s advocate here for a minute, this is what we’ve been looking for from James for some time.

I’m not saying this is the beginning of the end for LeBron, but it is an important enough thing to note and to keep a pin in for future reference.

Meanwhile, James is still doing great stuff off the court like this:

Aww.

Lakers without Kentavious Caldwell-Pope for opener due to DUI suspension

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LOS ANGELES — This isn’t new news, but a lot of NBA fans forgot it.

Last June the NBA suspended then Pistons now Lakers guard two games for “pleading guilty to operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, in violation of the law of the State of Michigan.” Those were to be the first two games of next season — the Clippers game Thursday followed by the Suns Friday.

Lakers coach Luke Walton played it close to the vest, not revealing who would start at the two in KCP’s place. The most logical answer may be Jordan Clarkson, but Walton likes him creating shots with the second unit. Other options are limited, Luol Deng is possible, they could go small with backup point guard Tyler Ennis or bigger with Corey Brewer. (Josh Hart might have been the best call, but the rookie is out with a sore Achilles.)

Whoever starts it will be a blow to the defense-starved Lakers to be without their best perimeter defender.

This summer, after landing Avery Bradley, the Pistons chose to renounce the rights to Caldwell-Pope, setting him free into what was a difficult market. Even for a good wing defender who hit 35 percent from three last season, when the market dried up so did the chance for a decent multi-year deal. The Lakers grabbed him for one-year at $18 million.

Caldwell-Pope’s agent is Rich Paul, who happens to be LeBron James‘ agent (and he’s a free agent next summer), but whatever the ulterior motives this was a good signing by the Lakers. If KCP works out this season for them they would be in the driver’s seat to re-sign him next summer (although the Lakers would not have his Bird rights).