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Drawing lines: Ambition vs. delusion (feat. Jordan Crawford!)

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In the slim chance that you hadn’t heard, Jordan Crawford, per Michael Lee of the Washington Post, said one of those things NBA players just aren’t supposed to say:

“I don’t tell nobody, but I feel like I can be better than Michael Jordan,” Crawford said, without the slightest hint of sarcasm. “When I’m done playing, I don’t want people to say, Michael Jordan is the best player. I want that to be me. That’s how I am. That’s how I was built.”

Um, what? You realize people will look at you sideways and think you’re crazy for saying that, right?

“Yeah, I know that, I definitely know that. But I’m not settling for anything less,” Crawford said. “I feel like I’m better than him, anyway. My mom is going to say I’m better than him.”

Heresy against His Airness isn’t very well tolerated in the NBA realm, as evidenced by the fact that even hinting that the greatest player in the game today had a chance at surpassing Jordan earned Scottie Pippen a public roasting. Jordan the owner, Jordan the executive, and even Jordan the person are fair game, but to invoke his name in basketball discussions as anything but the player absolute is perceived as the highest offense against the game. Even treating his level as attainable is blasphemous; Jordan is up on his pedestal, and the basketball faithful work tirelessly to ensure his comfort and stability.

Crawford crossed that line, and given his rookie performance, that was a pretty silly decision to make. Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo Sports contextualized Crawford’s comment with comparison (and contrast) to musicians invoking The Beatles; self-analogizing with either great is met with much guffawing, and rightfully so. But what really drives Dwyer’s point home is the distinction between the ridiculousness of Crawford’s claim and the motivation for the claim itself:

Crawford? He probably doesn’t share as humble a perspective, but what do you want the kid to say? Do you prefer he doesn’t gun for the top, on record? Do we not want his mother to think of him as the greatest thing to hit the hardwood since, well, Him?

Anyone who takes pot shots at Crawford today is just having fun with the guy, and that’s more than fine. Actually, that’s necessary. I mean, better than Jordan?

Beyond that, though? Dream big, Jordan Crawford. And let the history fall where it may.

That’s what struck me about Crawford’s quote: after being given a chance to explain, he clarifies feeling like he can better than Jordan as a want to be better than Jordan. When he’s done playing, he doesn’t want people to say that Michael Jordan is the best player. He wants that to be him. That’s how he is. That’s how he was built.

That quote is particularly engrossing because of the name invoked, but really, was Crawford’s claim all that different from John Wall saying he wants to be the best point guard ever? Wall’s goal is more sensible, sure, but would we react differently if his ambition was manifest in him saying he wanted to be better than Magic Johnson,John Stockton, or any number of historically great point guards? Talented players have taken aim for “the best to ever play the game,” (or the best to ever play their given position) publicly before, but only when such lofty goals include specific players does the internet kerfuffle begin. What is it that we think those words — “best to ever play the game,” — mean, and why do they seem to mean less when Jordan isn’t denoted specifically?

There’s obviously a difference between Crawford targeting greatness and Wall doing the same, but is that the source of the (deserved) response snark aimed at Crawford, or are we picking nits over rhetoric?

Report: Patrick Beverley to drop from All-Star Saturday Skills Challenge title

Patrick Beverley
Associated Press
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Last season, the Rockets’ Patrick Beverley won the NBA All-Star Saturday skills challenge because of his jump shot. In head-to-head battles with the Hawks’ Jeff Teague and the Bucks (now a Sun) Brandon Knight, Beverley fell behind on the passing part of the competition but made up the ground by knocking down his jump shot at the end.

He was set to come to Toronto to defend his skills title but has been forced to back out due to injury, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

After tweaking his ankle Wednesday night in a loss to Portland, Houston Rockets guard Patrick Beverley will not travel to Toronto to defend his skills competition title at All-Star Weekend, league sources told The Vertical.

Beverley wants to rest the ankle over the All-Star break for the Rockets’ final push to make the Western Conference playoffs.

This has yet to be confirmed by the NBA, nor has a replacement been named, but no doubt Woj is accurate on this. No player would risk further injury for a skills competition.

The Rockets have lost six-of-eight, and with the loss to the Blazers Wednesday night have fallen out of the playoffs in the Western Conference. They will need all their players healthy, including Beverley, but they will also need a lot more than that to climb back in the race — they need to start playing defense, they need to stop becoming disinterested for large stretches of the game, and they need someone in that locker room to step up and be a serious leader of men.

Report: LeBron James might not play for Team USA in 2016 Olympics because Kobe Bryant won’t

Kobe Bryant (L) and team mate Lebron James of the U.S. sit on the bench during the game against France during their men's Group A basketball match at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Basketball arena July 29, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar
REUTERS/Mike Segar
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LeBron James admires Kobe Bryant.

How much?

Kobe pulling his name from 2016 Olympic consideration (perhaps an informed preemptive gesture just before the roster finalists were announced) might keep LeBron off Team USA.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Bryant not pursuing a spot on the U.S. Olympic basketball team this summer is a very real reason James might also not join the team, according to NBA sources.

James is that disappointed the Rio Olympics will not serve as the final, ultimate celebration of Bryant’s career—and more so that James won’t have the priceless honor of being Bryant’s co-star teammate when it ends.

I don’t buy this.

Kobe said during the 2012 Olympics those would be his final Olympics. Two weeks later, LeBron said he wanted to play in 2016.

Did playing with Kobe on Team USA become more important to LeBron over the last few years?

I suppose it’s possible. Many got behind sending Kobe to Rio as a sendoff into retirement. Perhaps, LeBron got attached to the idea and became bitter once it fell through.

I just have a hard time believing LeBron would tie his decision so strongly to another player. Remember, he left one of his best friends, Dwyane Wade, in Miami to sign with the Cavaliers. Would Kobe’s presence really dictate LeBron’s outlook?

LeBron has been mum on his plans for Team USA. I’m sure the length of Cleveland’s playoff run and the toll it takes on his body will factor. He might not yet know what he’ll do.

The ball is in his court, which can be challenging. There has been backlash from media and fans against players who turn down Team USA, and LeBron could be trying to avoid that.

I trust Ding was told LeBron felt this way, but nobody – including me, including Ding – can know what’s in LeBron’s head. But this report strikes me as LeBron setting up the ability to attribute his absence to Kobe’s rather than facing the full brunt of reaction that comes to turning down Team USA.

Did the Clippers reenact Paul Pierce being stabbed during pregame introductions? (video)

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The Clippers got hyped for Paul Pierce‘s potential last game in Boston by… reenacting the time Pierce got stabbed there? If not, it sure looks like it.

Mock fighting is the norm for the Clippers’ pregame, but I haven’t seen a single player targeted like this. Whatever gets you pumped, I guess.

Markieff Morris flips off Suns fan (video)

Phoenix Suns' Markieff Morris reacts to a call during the second half of the team's NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors, Wednesday, Feb. 10, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)
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Markieff Morris‘ frustrations last night didn’t end with his scuffle with teammate Archie Goodwin. They didn’t end with the Suns’ loss to the Warriors, either.

As Morris was leaving the court, a fan heckled him: “Markieff, you f—ing suck. I can’t wait until you’re traded.” Though Morris probably agrees with the second sentence, he flipped off the fan:

Though it’s difficult to confirm that video was from last night, it jibes with a previous report of the incident.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7

Morris will likely at least be fined. Considering his previous behavioral problems this season – he threw a towel at Jeff Hornacek – I wouldn’t completely rule out a suspension. But a fine seems most likely.