2012 NBA All-Star Game

LeBron James and a story of humanity you should probably read

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There are going to be comments below and tweets about this story that are going to make you question whether we shouldn’t just abandon society and live as separate lives as we can, because we’re truly vile. As an incredibly funny man once said, “We’re a virus with shoes.” But the story needs to be shared and discussed.

The Daily Oklahoman has a story today about LeBron James. It has nothing to do with basketball. It doesn’t talk about “The Decision.” It’s not about his MVP candidacy or his global brand, Maverick Carter, his hairline or his athleticism. It’s just a story about what happened during a stopover for the Heat’s lane at Will Rogers airport in Oklahoma City. During the Heat’s stop, a group of military helicopters were also stopped at the airport for a refuel. The servicemen approached the Heat’s security personnel to ask for a photo, and were rebuffed. (Let’s pause here for a moment. Security guys, I don’t give a good damn if you’re guarding Michael Jordan, Donald Trump, or noted R&B artist Keith Sweat. If a group of military helicopter pilots come up asking for autographs and photos, you at least go ask the client. Thanks for playing “How to not be a Jackass 101.”)

LeBron noticed, and the Oklahoman has the details:

Some of them wanted pictures with the players, but when the crew members approached the teams security detail, they were told no.Maybe LeBron could overhear the conversation, or perhaps he could just tell by their body language what was going on. Either way, he piped up.

“Hey, hey,” he said, “any of these military guys can take a picture with us.”

He turned to his teammates

.“You guys get up,” he told them.He turned to the servicemen.

“Get your camera up,” he said.

He started to wave the servicemen over but noticed that some of the players werent yet on their feet.

“Hey, everybody get up,” he said. “Get in a circle here. Anybody that wants their picture taken with us, well do it.”

via LeBron James the nice guy? Run-in with servicemen makes Miami Heat star harder to dislike | NewsOK.com.

OK, that’s just cool.

Look, I know absolutely nothing about LeBron James. I have stood in a pack with two dozen reporters or in a press conference for James about 15 times in my life. So I have no insight into who he is, I wind up guessing and interpreting based on public events and body language like the rest of you. I can tell you that he comes off as arrogant in these instances before and after games, but then, given that most players hate the press and think we’re, specifically, the virus with shoes, that doesn’t tell you a whole lot. This story doesn’t remove “The Decision,” or what he did to Cleveland. It doesn’t take back the “People will wake up tomorrow” comment after last year’s Finals. It doesn’t mean that he went above and beyond. You should let servicement get a photo with you if they want. That’s a pretty low bar.

But James could have opted out. This is a non-story if he says nothing. Just another group of athletes passing through. There’s no huge obligation on James’ part. He has a PR person who manages his time for the team, a publicist who does so privately. And yet he stood up and not only took photos with the guys, he got his teammates off their asses to do the same. That’s a good thing to do for someone, an important thing to do for people who actually do something important in our society instead of play basketball or blog about people playing basketball.

It’s just one story. But maybe if nothing else it shows you that these people we try and transform into two-dimensional figures are not such cardboard caricatures. James can be the egomaniac you despise and still be someone who did something good for a group of troops on a layover. He can be the hero he is to a lot of kids and still be a complex figure who has stumbled with public perception. None of us are simple, all of us are complex. And if you needed a reason to give James the same consideration you give people in your day-to-day life, maybe this story gives you that.

So, yeah, LeBron, thanks for doing that, from all of us.

(Little tip, though, man, don’t read the comments.)

(HT: HoopsHype)

Too much Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in Game 5 against Warriors

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 26:  Russell Westbrook #0 and Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder celebrate after a play against the Golden State Warriors during Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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In the last 33 years, as far back as Basketball-Reference.com records go back, teammates have each scored at least 30 points while shooting less than 40% in a game three times:

  • Kevin Durant (40 points on 12-of-31 shooting) and Russell Westbrook (31 points on 11-of-28 shooting) in a Western Conference finals loss to the Warriors last night
  • Durant (30 points on 10-of-27 shooting) and Westbrook (30 points on 9-of-26 shooting) in a first-round loss to the Grizzlies in 2014
  • Durant (37 points on 7-of-20 shooting) and Westbrook (36 points on 10-of-26 shooting) in a regular-season loss to the Nuggets in 2013

Yes, every time it has happened, it has been Durant and Westbrook. And each time, the Thunder have lost.

Oklahoma City reverted back to this losing formula against Golden State in Game 5. The Thunder’s offense turned stale, the ball sticking with Durant and Westbrook as it had so many times in years prior – years that all ended short of a championship and with questions swirling about offensive creativity.

Simply, Thunder looked like the same old Thunder.

Durant and Westbrook scored 64% of Oklahoma City’s points, a mark they hadn’t hit since the season’s second game – a double-overtime win over the Magic in which Durant and Westbrook scored 18 of the Thunder’s 22 overtime points and were the only Oklahoma City players to play all of both extra periods.

Here are the percentage of the Thunder’s points scored by Durant and Westbrook in each playoff game:

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The Thunder have shown this isn’t a winning game plan for them. They’re 2-4 when Durant and Westbrook score at least 59% of their points, 6-7 when it’s between 54% and 59% and and 58-21 otherwise.

This is not to blame Durant and Westbrook. Though they might have hunted their own shot a little too often in Game 5, their teammates didn’t do nearly enough.

Oklahoma City’s other players scored a series-low 40 points – and 10 of those came on 4-of-4 shooting from Anthony Morrow, who had been out of the rotation. Dion Waiters – who, I believe, had been the biggest key for the Thunder going from very good in the regular season to elite in the playoffs – scored no points on 0-of-4 shooting in 27 minutes after averaging 10 points per game in the series’ first four contest. Enes Kanter, who had been an offensive positive, was an effective no-show, scoring one point in just six minutes because his defense made him mostly unplayable.

Durant and Westbrook are playing better than ever, but their supporting cast’s rise had been huge in these playoffs. The crew had been amazing relative to previous postseasons. Serge Ibaka, Andre Roberson and the rest just didn’t sustain it in Game 5.

The second-lowest scoring output by the Thunder’s other players in this series came in Game 2, which Oklahoma City also lost. Here are the points by Durant’s and Westbrook’s teammates in each game of the Western Conference finals, Thunder wins in blue and losses in orange:

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Durant, via James Ham of CSN Bay Area:

“No,” Durant said emphatically when asked if he and Westbrook sometimes forget about the players around them. “That’s who we are, we’ve got to be aggressive. When they’re going in, you won’t say anything.”

“But we happened to miss some tonight,” Durant continued. “But we were aggressive. We were right there. We had an opportunity to win the basketball game. That’s what we we do. That’s how we play, like it or not.”

Durant and Westbrook should be aggressive, but it’s on their teammates to limit the stars’ attempts – to provide outlets when the defense hones in on Durant and Westbrook. The Thunder’s other players didn’t do that last night, so Durant and Westbrook forced shots.

This gives credence to the theory that role players don’t travel well. Perhaps, this will instantly change for Game 6 Saturday in Oklahoma City.

As great as Durant and Westbrook are, they need help. They’ll justifiably take the offensive burden when no other option presents itself, and it’s the lesser of two evils. But when games go that direction, there’s an inevitable conclusion: The Thunder usually lose.

Watch Stephen Curry’s late lockdown defense (video)

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Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant might not think much of Stephen Curry‘s defense – Durant gave a great and tremendously honest answer – but Curry was at his defensive best late in the Warriors’ Game 5 win over the Thunder last night.

Curry locked up Durant multiple times. Also included in that clip: Curry’s rebound in traffic, because rebounding is a key part of defense.

The Draymond Green kicking controversy continued through Game 5

OAKLAND, CA - MAY 26:  Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors reacts after scoring against the Oklahoma City Thunder during Game Five of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at ORACLE Arena on May 26, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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We’ve shown you the video evidence beforeDraymond Green tries to sell calls by kicking. Despite the Flagrant 2 he picked up for one of those kicks that connected with Steven Adams‘ groin, he said he was never going to start playing “careful.”

He certainly didn’t in Game 5 — he got his foot up high not once but twice.

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As we said back when it happened, the league needs to come down harder on this next season — Green is far from the only player who does it, and the league can’t only call it a foul when it connects. The habit needs to be broken with all the players doing it.

Those kicks were not even the play were Green got a technical foul, his fifth of the playoffs (get to seven and you get an automatic one-game suspension).

Did Kevin Durant throw shade at Stephen Curry’s defense? Does Curry care?

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In the fourth quarter Thursday night, Stephen Curry came up big — on defense. He had a strip of a Kevin Durant shot as KD tried to bring the ball up for a shot, plus he had another steal. Curry is no lock down defender, but he made some plays.

After the game, Durant was asked if Curry is an underrated defender (video above). First, notice that Russell Westbrook laughs at the question — he hates giving opposing players compliments. Remember he said before the series Curry wasn’t anything he hadn’t seen before. Durant stammered at first then tried to give a more diplomatic answer, but threw a little shade at Curry in the process.

“You know, he’s pretty good, but he doesn’t guard the best point guards. I think they do a good job of putting a couple guys on Russell, from Thompson to Iguodala, and Steph, they throw him in there sometimes. But he moves his feet pretty well, he’s good with his hands. But, you know, I like our matchup with him guarding Russ.”

As he should. I like the matchup of Westbrook vs. every other point guard in the league. Westbrook tore Curry up in Games 3 and 4.

Of course, Curry was asked about Durant’s comments when he came into the interview room, but he refused to take the bait.

“I got a great teammate that’s obviously a better defender on the perimeter. I like the challenge. I do my job the best I can”

He’s got a couple of teammates that are better defenders on the perimeter — Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. Those guys are just busy with other players this series because the Thunder are deep and present a plethora of challenges.

This is all a tempest in a Conference Finals teapot. It wasn’t as big a deal as some in the media will try to make it out to be.

Curry is going to have to play defense and score better in Game 6 than his improved Game 5 play if the Warriors are coming back for one more game at Oracle Arena.