LeBron James

Winderman: Charity games show fans’ passion, market to see NBA elite

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How intense is the demand from the NBA market for product?

Tickets to the Saturday lockout exhibition at Florida International University that LeBron James is helping promote sold out within two hours Monday.

Even though there were no on-line or phone sales, and even though some windows at the school’s box office only took cash for the tickets priced at $50 and $100.

How intense is the demand from the NBA secondary market for product?

Even before the tickets went on sale, they already were being offered for resale by some outlets, with prices posted as high as $500 while ticket sales still were under way. Now Stubhub has them listed for $1,700 a pop.

Granted, selling tickets in a 5,000-seat arena for a game featuring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony is different than trying to sell 17,000 seats in Sacramento to see the Kings play. And, granted, these exhibitions hardly have gone off smoothly, with a reported counterfeiting issue at Chris Paul’s game in Winston-Salem, N.C., this past weekend the latest snafu.

But what games such as these show is the players, at least in limited quantity, can market their own game, can push their own product.

In this case, proceeds will go to the charity organized by Florida International coach Isiah Thomas in honor of his late mother.

If anything, it should send another signal to those negotiating in New York of just how passionate the following is for their games and their stars. And how it is the stars who truly drive the product.

For years, offseason charity exhibitions had annually been staged at the Heat’s arena, with interest not quite as robust as what was witnessed Monday at the school on the west side of Miami.

Yet Monday, those negotiating a new collective-bargaining agreement in New York were dealing with proposals on how to trim the league’s highest salaries.

Tuesday, many earning those highest salaries will be back at the side of union boss Billy Hunter, facing down the owners who have taken the attitude that this is their game, their product, their show.

In a perfect world, Saturday’s exhibition will serve as a climax to the lockout exhibition season, before players return to training camps.

Otherwise, it will stand as a reminder of how deep the passion for the game, and particularly the game’s elite, runs among fans, as those $50 and $100 tickets are scalped for prices that exceed those of even the real games.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

PBT Extra: Who do you want to see most in first All-Star Game?

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Tonight the NBA All-Star Game starters will be announced. Then the coaches have a week to vote and the rest of the roster will be put together by them.

This year should see a few first-time All-Stars, guys bursting on the scene and grabbing fans attention — so we asked people on Twitter who they most wanted to see in his first All-Star Game and I break it down in this PBT Extra.

The winner? Giannis Antetokounmpo with 45 percent of the vote. Which shouldn’t be a surprise, he’s second in the fan voting for the frontcourt in the East (behind only LeBron James). Good news for those fans, the Greek Freak is almost guaranteed to be a starter, he’s getting plenty of media votes and likely a lot from the players as well.

Second place in the poll? Joel Embiid of the Sixers. I’d love to see him, but will players and media members vote in a guy on a minutes restriction? Will the coaches pick him for that same reason? He is on the bubble.

Russell Westbrook: ‘Don’t say what’s up to that b— a—’ (video)

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Did Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant talk during the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night? Westbrook said no, though video and first-hand accounts indicate otherwise.

Even more clearly: Westbrook – who walked near teammates Enes Kanter, Anthony Morrow and Jerami Grant – didn’t want someone talking to someone as they left the floor after the game. ESPN caught Westbrook saying, “Don’t say what’s up to that b— a—.”

You will never convince anyone Westbrook is referring to anyone but Durant.

Russell Westbrook commits epic travel (video)

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Between getting laid out by Zaza Pachulia and apparently talking with Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook committed a travel for the ages.

The Thunder guard took an inbound pass against the Warriors and just started walking up court without dribbling. The violation was so blatant, NBA officials even called the travel.

And it’s not as if they’re inclined to blow a whistle in that situation. Before Westbrook, Kemba Walker set a high bar last season, but he got away with this walk:

Are Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant on speaking terms after apparent conversation? Westbrook: ‘Nah’ (video)

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Russell Westbrook deleted Kevin Durant‘s goodbye text and, months later, told the whole world they still hadn’t talked.

That apparently changed during the Warriors’ win over the Thunder yesterday – though not if you ask Westbrook.

Westbrook dunked in the third quarter, and according to ESPN commentator Mark Jackson, Westbrook told Durant, “Don’t jump.” Anthony Slater of The Mercury News also wrote of the same quote.

ESPN’s telecast caught Durant clearly speaking to Westbrook shortly after. It appears Westbrook is talking back, but his back is to the camera.

After the game, Westbrook denied the exchange:

 

  • Reporter: “Are you and KD on speaking terms?”
  • Westbrook: “Nah.”
  • Reporter: “You guys had a little exchange in the third quarter.”
  • Westbrook: “What exchange?”
  • Reporter: “You and KD said something to each other.”
  • Westbrook: “Oh. You gotta maybe sit closer to the game. You maybe didn’t see clearly.”

This is so Westbrook – stubborn to the point of denying reality.

That approach worked for him when everyone rightly told him he was a significantly lesser player than Durant. Westbrook ignored that fact until it became false.

I suspect he wants to forget this exchange so he can maintain a cold animosity toward someone he prefers to resent.