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)

Watch Russell Westbrook drop 36 on Golden State in Oklahoma City win

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Once again, Russell Westbrook was the force of nature the Warriors could not solve.

The athletic point guard forced turnovers, threw it down in transition, and drove right past Stephen Curry or  was guarding him. The result was 36 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists — Westbrook’s first triple double of these playoffs.

“He’s got such great force and great will,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said after the Thunder’s Game 4 win. “And he’s really a high IQ basketball player, he sees a lot of things going on out there… As a coach, you have great respect and admiration for a guy who plays the game that hard and gives to our team what he gives.”

He helped give them a win that has the Thunder on the verge of a return to the NBA Finals.

Russell Westbrook, Thunder defense again overwhelm Warriors 118-94, take commanding 3-1 lead

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 24:  Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder reacts in the first half against the Golden State Warriors in game four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 24, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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One year ago, it was the Warriors’ adjustments, the Warriors’ defense that was propelling the franchise to its first title in 40 years.

This season, the Thunder turned the tables on the champs.

The length and switching of the Thunder defense resulted in 16 steals Tuesday night — and that means easy transition buckets for OKC. That swarming defense had an off Stephen Curry open the game 1-of-10 shooting, turning the ball over six times on the night, and finishing 6-of-20 shooting, 2-of-10 from three. The Thunder defense has made the Warriors shooters tentative; they are hesitating before making a play rather than just shooting in the flow, something that has seemed impossible to do to Golden State for a couple of seasons now. As a team, the Warriors shot just 30 percent from three and 41.3 percent overall, with Klay Thompson in the second half being the only guy who could knock down shots.

Curry was also asked to guard Russell Westbrook for long stretches of the game and that didn’t go well. Westbrook was the Thunder engine again and finished with a triple-double of 36 points, 11 assists, and 11 rebounds.

Once again the Thunder played fast, aggressive and beat the Warriors at their own game — a 118-94 Thunder win. Oklahoma City now leads the series 3-1 and can close it out Thursday night in Golden State. If not, it feels like Saturday night will be the end of the Warriors 73-win season.

And maybe just the beginning for a talented Thunder team that is just now coming together.

Right now, everything the Thunder try works.

For example, on offense, Billy Donovan made another smart adjustment — if the Warriors were going to ignore Andre Roberson (allowing bigs like Draymond Green or Andrew Bogut to patrol around the rim), the Thunder would start using Roberson like a power forward who set picks, rolled to the rim, and surrounded by shooters he and his teammates could make plays. Roberson finished with career high 17 points on 12 shots.

“He’s a pretty active player so he got some offensive boards and he snuck behind our defense a couple times and we did not guard him correctly,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said.

It all worked in the first half again, when the Thunder were attacking the rim — leading to 28 first half free throws from the Thunder — and after a tight first quarter OKC stretched the lead out to 20 points behind a 16-point quarter from Westbrook. This is when the Thunder took charge of the game.

“He’s got such great force and great will,” Thunder coach Billy Donovan said of Westbrook. “And he’s really a high IQ basketball player, he sees a lot of things going on out there… As a coach, you have great respect and admiration for a guy who plays the game that hard and gives to our team what he gives.”

Golden State made a comeback in the third that was all Klay Thompson — he had 19 consecutive points for the Warriors, and the lead got cut down to 6 at one point. Thompson finished the night with 26 points on 17 shots and was clear and away the best Warrior (with Harrison Barnes second).

But then Westbrook led a push back that again stretched the lead out, and he got help from Dion Waiters with a three (Waiters played well again and had 10 points on the night). The Thunder never looked back.

Kevin Durant added 26 points (but on 8-of-24 shooting, not his best night), while Serge Ibaka added 17. The Thunder may be the only team in the NBA with the depth of athletes to run with Golden State, and they are doing it and making it work.

The Warriors defense has no answer for the Thunder attack, and Golden State is getting away from some of their identity. They have always switched nearly every pick with their small lineup, but because of rebounding concerns this series they have gotten away from that. The Thunder have figured out how to exploit that.

The Warriors have just not adjusted to the length of the Thunder defense — Golden State turned the ball over 21 times, 19.9 percent of their possessions. If you give it away one every five times down the court to a good team, you lose.

“I thought we competed again tonight, I just thought we didn’t play very intelligently,” Kerr said postgame. “Too many turnovers, careless passes. This is probably the longest team in the league we are facing and we continue to try and throw passes over the top of their outstretched arms. Probably not a great idea.”

In addition to Curry, Draymond Green had his second poor game in a row — 1-of-7 shooting with six turnovers, and again he was out of position on defense too often. He has played like a guy flustered by the opponent.

A lot of the Warriors have, while the Thunder just gain confidence. The kind of confidence that will carry them back to the NBA Finals.

 

Thunder’s Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant put on first-half show at Warriors’ expense

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I’d say Warriors fans are stunned, but more than that Warriors players look stunned — they are getting steamrolled by Oklahoma City again, giving up 72 first half points and being down by 19.

I guess we tell Warriors’ fans what we have told the fans of teams they have steamrolled the past couple years — enjoy the show, you don’t get to see many like this.

Above was a Kevin Durant to Russell Westbrook fastbreak assist and bucket. Now check out the fantastic Steven Adams pass, and a highlight package of Westbrook dropping 16 in the second quarter on the Warriors (21 in the first half).

 

Charles Barkley: “I’ve never seen the NBA as bad as it is”

HOUSTON, TEXAS - APRIL 04:  Former NBA player and commentator Charles Barkley looks on prior to the 2016 NCAA Men's Final Four National Championship game between the Villanova Wildcats and the North Carolina Tar Heels at NRG Stadium on April 4, 2016 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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Charles Barkley is walking entertainment and the brilliant Inside the NBA would not be the same without him and his off-the-cuff opinions (which is a great thing in sports talk, not so much with national policy).

But he remains the leader of the annoying #getoffmylawn crew of older players who don’t like today’s game.

Barkley was on the Bickley and Marotta on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM last week and went off again on the state of the game, (hat tip For The Win).

“People think us old guys hate when we talk about it. It has nothing to do with the Warriors’ greatness, LeBron’s greatness. But I’ve never seen the NBA as bad as it is, and I’ve been saying it the last three or four years. We’ve got too many young players coming out of college that don’t know how to play. It’s frustrating for me because I want to see competitive basketball.

“We took a survey on our crew … How many actual NBA teams would you buy season tickets for?” he added. “Four in the west and Cleveland obviously in the east. That’s not good for our league.”

To be fair, Barkley speaks for a lot of people here.

I think they are all wrong, but he speaks for them. And I think they are a plurality. Based on television ratings going up even as streaming of live games spikes (as someone who works for Comcast/NBC, I can say the in-market streaming of CSN teams such as the Warriors, Celtics, Wizards, etc. did well this year and grew faster than projections), as I look at the crossover appeal of Stephen Curry, the sendoff Kobe Bryant got, the popularity of LeBron James and Kevin Durant etc, the league is doing well by any measure.

But more than that, the game now is more entertaining than it’s been in years. Tell me how grabbing some guy on the perimeter, the clutching and clawing to slow the game down in the 1990s leading to 86-82 slogs, was more fun than the skill being shown today. Jordan was must watch, frankly Barkley was fun, but Mike Fratello’s Cavaliers teams? The Mavericks and Clippers of that era? I think Barkley and others look at the past through some Mr. Magoo glasses, but that is their prerogative. I loved 80s basketball. I liked 90s basketball. But to constantly dismiss the game today just sounds like someone clinging to the past.