LeBron, Wade talk about passing off the game-winning shot


One week ago against the Jazz, LeBron James drove for a potential game-winning shot and when two defenders came to him he passed off to Udonis Haslem, who missed the shot. NBA fans screamed, “Why didn’t he take that shot? Why is he afraid of the big moment?”

On Wednesday night in the final minute of a tight game, Dwyane Wade passed the ball three times – twice to Haslem, once to Chris Bosh — and got the assist on all three when the guys drained their open looks. Nobody accuses Wade of fearing the moment.

Is it just the result that matters, or does making the pass to the open man count for something? Fans want “hero ball” shots, but statics will tell you that is not usually the most efficient way to score at the end of games.

Both Wade and LeBron spoke with Tom Haberstroh of ESPN’s Heat Index about taking those hero shots at the end. LeBron pointed to Michael Jordan as a guy who did both.

“At times you need hero-ball,” James said. A lot of big shots have come from big games from hero-ball. Michael Jordan has made shots that you’d call hero-ball, and you don’t take those from him.”…

“But he’s also made the play where he passed to John Paxson or passed to Steve Kerr for the game-winner,” James said. “You just play the game the right way and do whatever it takes in that point in time.”

Wade said it’s about feel.

“We all grew up in an era watching Michael Jordan and obviously Kobe Bryant,” Wade said. “A lot of those guys make unbelievable shots to win games. A lot of fans want to see their favorite players take those shots. Hit or miss, they want to see them take those shots….

“For those of us who play the game of basketball, sometimes that shot is there and you feel it and you take it,” Wade said. “And sometimes it’s not and you understand that someone might have a better shot than you.”

Ultimately, fans will forgive players who pass if the shot falls, but if it doesn’t he takes heat.

Except for LeBron. He’s painted into a corner. He passed at the end of the All-Star Game and last weekend against the Jazz and it didn’t work out either time. If he had taken the shots and missed he would have heard about that. If he had taken those shots and made them both his critics would say it doesn’t matter in an exhibition and then regular season game. Until LeBron wins a ring and plays well in the finals he cannot shake his rep.

Even if passing is the right basketball play to make.

Cavaliers get Nance Jr., Thompson, Hood back from injuries

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CLEVELAND (AP) — The Cavaliers are closer to being at full strength.

Forwards Larry Nance Jr., Tristan Thompson, and Rodney Hood all returned from injuries on Friday night as Cleveland, which has been riddled with injuries all season, hosted the Phoenix Suns. Acting coach Larry Drew said none of the players will start and all will be on minutes’ restrictions.

Drew, who is filling in while coach Tyronn Lue is on leave to address his own health, plans to keep his starting lineup intact and ease the returning players into the rotation.

LeBron James, Jose Calderon, George Hill, Jeff Green and Kevin Love were scheduled to started against Phoenix, which has lost nine in a row. Drew said he and Lue will talk again Saturday about lineup changes for the upcoming trip to Brooklyn, Miami and Charlotte.

“I really didn’t want to disrupt the starting five that we have out there right now and those guys will be playing limited minutes, so I wanted to get them slowly back and acclimated to what we’re doing,” Drew said. “There’s a chance that there could be some early substitutions to get the guys in there. I’m not ruling that out, but right now I just kind of want to stay with the flow, stay with what we’ve done the last couple of ballgames and then we’ll probably after tonight we’ll see as far as where we stand as far as starters are concerned.”

Thompson missed nine games with a sprained right ankle, Nance Jr. was out four with a hamstring issue and Hood was out the past three games with a bad back.

Drew said he did not know if Lue will accompany the team on its trip.

But while the Cavs are healthier than they’ve been in weeks, the team is still missing Kyle Korver, who is with his family in Iowa following the death of his brother, and rookie Cedi Osman, who is sidelined with a left hip flexor strain.

Giannis Antetokounmpo out for Bucks-Bulls with ankle injury

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — All-Star forward Giannis Antetokounmpo will miss the Milwaukee Bucks’ home game Friday night against the Chicago Bulls with a sprained right ankle.

The Bucks ruled out Antetokounmpo earlier Friday.

Antetokounmpo got hurt in the second quarter of a 127-120 loss on Wednesday to the Los Angeles Clippers when he appeared to trip over teammate Shabazz Muhammad under the Bucks’ basket.

Antetokounmpo is fourth in the league in scoring at 27.3 points a game.


PBT Extra: What is going on in San Antonio?

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For the last two decades, there was less drama around the San Antonio Spurs than the recent Russian election. The Lakers were the soap opera, the Spurs and Tim Duncan just kept winning titles.

Not this season. Kawhi Leonard has missed all but nine games, his teammates are asking when he’s going to returnTony Parker — who is playing — says his quad tendon injury was far worse, and the Spurs organization is springing leaks like the Titanic.

What does all that mean? I get into it in this latest PBT Extra.

Short term, Leonard’s return or non-return will have a serious impact on the Western Conference playoffs.

Long term, after the Spurs offer Leonard the designated player max extension this summer (as is expected), everything will get back to normal.

The time Chauncey Billups tried to trick teams into believing he’d be a bad teammate

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In 2011, the Knicks amnestied Chauncey Billups. Unlike traditional waivers, amnesty waivers didn’t require claiming teams to pay Billups’ full salary. They could bid a partial amount – New York on the hook for the rest – and the highest bid would get Billups.

So, it was practically a forgone conclusion someone would claim Billups. The only questions were which team and for how much?

But Billups didn’t want to go to the highest bidder. He wanted to become a free agent and choose his destination – even though his contract and the Collective Bargaining Agreement put him on a different course.

So, Billups – a consummate professional throughout his career – threatened to become a problem. Adrian Wojnarowski at the time:

Wojnarowski now:

I remember talking to Chauncey on a Saturday morning one day. He was very determined that no team would put a waiver claim in on him, because he was headed to Miami. He was going to go play with the Heat. He had his bags packed. But he needed a team not to claim him. And he and I were just talking about this. I read this quote back to him recently, and we were laughing.

He went on this two-, three-minute rant about that basically, “I’m just going to be a complete asshole wherever I go if you claim me.” And so, he went on this rant. And he read that, and he kept going. And finally he stopped. I don’t even remember if I asked him a question. He just started when I called him. And at the end, there was like this pause. And he goes, “Do you think anyone is going to buy it?”

The Clippers submitted the highest bid for Billups, and he quickly got on board. Even though they traded for Chris Paul at point guard shortly after, Billups of course was a model teammate and veteran leader. Late in his career, he couldn’t stay healthy enough to contribute much on the court. But the Clippers still valued his presence. He even re-signed with them the following summer.

This was such a readable bluff – which says plenty about Billups’ character.