Miami Heat v Washington Wizards

NBA Finals: Go ahead and hate Heat, but respect them

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LeBron James’ decision — and by extension LeBron himself — has become the most polarizing figure in the NBA.

That can be good for business. Heat game television ratings are through the roof — because half the people tune in to root against them. Not that ABC cares much, they just want you to tune in for the finals. But the Heat are celebrity basketball players now.

I’m not sure I get why all the LeBron hate. Because he dared go team up with other stars? As if Magic Johnson didn’t have Kareem and Worthy, or Larry Bird didn’t have Parish and McHale, as if Jordan didn’t have Pippen and a bevy of others.

Maybe it’s because LeBron, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade inverted the NBA power grid — they had the temerity to decide to team up of their own accord, rather than having some GM or rich owner do it for them? That doesn’t bother me, I like the players having more power, but maybe that’s it.

Maybe it’s that the way LeBron handled The Decision, because for some it was egotistical? It was. It left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. But if you’re going to pick your favorite sports stars based on them not having an ego you’re going to have about two to cheer. Across all sports.

Whatever the reason you hate them doesn’t really matter. Go ahead. Having heroes and villains and playing out the drama of sports through that lens is at the heart of being a fan. Arrange people in those categories however you wish. But you had better also do this:

Respect the Heat.

Because while it took most of a season they have figured it out. They have gone from playing next to each other to playing off each other. They are playing smart, good basketball. They are a team, and potentially a special one playing beautiful basketball.

Did you watch LeBron the distributor in Game 4 against the Bulls? He made smart decisions with the ball virtually ever time down. It felt like Magic at times. Did you watch him on defense shut down Derrick Rose at the end of games? Shutting down the opponents best was like Jordan. When the moment called for it, did you watch him drain three pointers? That felt like Bird.

Beyond LeBron, Bosh has figured out how to step up when the other two are defended well or have focused on other tasks, he has figured out how to mesh with them. Wade remains as good a penetrator as there is in the league, as good a leader as the league has now.

Now you see the Heat going to a LeBron and Wade pick and roll at key moments. You see Bosh working hard off the ball and slashing to the rim. You see them all trusting Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller (and even Mike Bibby). You see LeBron and Wade taking on rebounding when the Heat needed it after Game 1 against the Bulls.

You see a team. All three are versatile. All three can play at both ends of the floor. All three — and by extension the Heat — have evolved into a dangerous team. Not a collection of stars, but a team.

You don’t have to like that. But you have to respect it.

NBA: Hornets incorrectly denied game-tying FT attempts in final seconds of loss to Clippers

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Foul or defend?

That’s the eternal question for teams trying to protect a late three-point lead.

While many fans believe fouling is the astute strategy, most American coaches opt to defend.

Defending is a better strategy than meets the eye, because it’s relatively easy to defend the arc when you know your opponent needs a 3-pointer. Plus, as coaches commonly believe, fouling offers too many opportunities for something to go wrong.

The Clippers almost learned that the hard way in their win over the Hornets on Sunday.

But an officiating error helped L.A. preserve its late lead, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report.

With the Clippers up three, Chris Paul intentionally fouled Kemba Walker with 2.1 seconds left. Walker made the first free throw and intentionally missed the second.

In the battle for the rebound, Blake Griffin should have been called for committing a loose-ball foul on Marvin Williams with 2.0 seconds left, per the league:

Griffin (LAC) grab Williams’ (CHA) jersey and affect his ability to rebound.

The league also ruled Williams got away with a loose-ball foul on Griffin in the same tenth of a second, but Griffin’s foul should have been whistled first.

A correct call would’ve given Williams — who’s making 85% of his free throws this season and 80% for his career — two attempts from the line with a chance to tie the game.

Instead, Griffin grabbed the rebound and was intentionally fouled with half a second left. He hit one free throw, and the Clippers won, 124-121.

Draymond Green, Kevin Durant take turns playing while holding Durant’s shoe (video)

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The adventures of Kevin Durant‘s shoe:

  • Falls off as Durant shoots a jumper
  • Left on the far side of the court for an entire Warriors defensive possession
  • Lightly kicked by 76ers forward Robert Covington, who should have tossed it into the crowed
  • Picked up by Draymond Green, who sets a screen while holding it
  • Tossed by Green to Durant
  • Held by Durant as he defends and tips a rebound
  • Put back on by Durant just in time for him to assist Stephen Curry

Patrick Patterson falls on his back, still strips Derrick Rose (video)

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This is mostly good effort by Patrick Patterson. It’s also bad luck for Derrick Rose, who’s not accustomed to avoiding a player lying on his back.

But it’s hard to resist the jokes about Rose losing a step to the point he can no longer beat even a man who’d fallen on his back off the dribble.

 

Potential top-three NBA-draft prospect, Kansas’ Josh Jackson, charged with misdemeanor property damage

Kansas Jayhawks guard Josh Jackson (11) during a time-out against the Baylor Bears the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Lawrence, Kan., Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2017. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)
AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann
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Markelle Fultz is the consensus top prospect in the 2017 NBA draft, and Lonzo Ball is a strong second.

Leading the pack for third? Probably Kansas forward Josh Jackson.

But Jackson’s résumé is now tainted by a misdemeanor property-damage charge.

The incident, which allegedly involved Kansas teammate Lagerald Vick and Kansas women’s basketball playerMcKenzie Calvert, occurred just before 2 a.m. Dec. 9.

Laura Bauer and Mara Rose Williams of The Kansas City Star:

Calvert is the same female KU student who a university investigation found Vick likely committed domestic violence against more than a year ago.

Calvert reportedly threw a drink on a male patron while leaving the bar. The Star has learned that the patron was Vick.

Jackson followed Calvert to her car, according to the release, and they argued. Witnesses saw Jackson kick the driver’s door of Calvert’s car and kick a rear taillight.

The Star has learned that Calvert — a standout on the women’s team — was in the driver’s seat while Jackson kicked her car.

Investigators have interviewed several people who witnessed the reported crime. A police report categorized the $2,991 in total damage to the car as a felony. But Friday’s release listed the damage at a higher amount, $3,150.45.

“Felony criminal damage (damage in excess of $1,000) was not charged because the state cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that all the damage to the door and taillight were caused by Jackson,” the release said.

Jackson said in a statement he would pay for damage he “directly caused.” Kansas coach Bill Self, in his statement, called Jackson a “great ambassador for this university.”

NBA teams shouldn’t and probably won’t blindly accept Self’s self-interested assessment. Jackson’s conduct will likely be investigated during the pre-draft process, determining where it falls on the spectrum of a youthful transgression and the hot-button issue of domestic violence.

The better Jackson plays, the more forgiving teams will be. Right or wrong, that’s how it works. But this incident will be included in the overall assessment of Jackson.