LeBron, Granger talk smack; but Game 4 pressure squarely on James, Heat

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Make no mistake, if Miami doesn’t win Game 4 they aren’t coming back to win this series. Even if Chris Bosh had a miracle recovery. Even if Pat Riley replaced Erik Spoelstra and brought in Phil Jackson as an assistant. The Pacers are good and they are not losing three in a row.

The Pacers are not backing down. Danny Granger is not backing down from LeBron James — the last two games the two star wing players for their teams have had to be separated by teammates (not that they were actually going to fight, this is the NBA).

But they are jawing. From ESPN:

“I’m not no monster. This ain’t no horror movie,” James said in response after Miami’s practice. “I’m not trying to scare nobody. I’m trying to play basketball. He’s got to hype himself up to say he’s not scared of me. Have I ever been intimidated by anybody in this league? I don’t think so. I go out and play my game and let my game do the talking.”

Granger was more reasonable.

“That’s part of basketball. That’s part of two men battling,” Granger said after the Pacers’ practice Saturday. “I’m not going to back down from anybody and he’s not going to back down from anybody. And when you get that, you’ll get some altercations.”

But that’s the sideshow.

If the Heat are going to win Game 4 they will need a vintage Cleveland “LeBron against the world” playoff performance from him. Because the team thing the Heat did at points in this season (think before the All-Star break) has been blown up.

Specifically, the Pacers are destroying the Heat’s pick-and-roll. For one, Chris Bosh is out injured and that has hurt the pop option for the Heat big. If you don’t have to respect the guy setting the pick you can do a lot more defensively.

What this has allowed the Pacers to do is not trap off the pick-and-roll, rather they have laid back. As Dwyane Wade or LeBron James turn the corner off the pick, they have space, as Jared Wade points out in a great post at eightpointsnineseconds.com.

LeBron has attacked still, put up a floater in the lane had been relatively effective. Wade has struggled all series, he is not knocking down the jumper he is given and has not figured out how to effectively attack with Hibbert in the paint.

Which is why it all comes back to LeBron and his need to step up and have a monster game. He needs to attack, he needs to hit the jumper he is give, he needs to create for others. It is on LeBron. Wade has given him the reins to this team and now is the time for him to just grab them and go.

Can he? Will he? The Heat’s playoff chances depend on it.

Edmond Sumner declares for NBA draft despite torn ACL

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Edmond Sumner has grown about five inches since high school.

That has helped turn the 6-foot-5 Xavier point guard into an intriguing NBA prospect — but also seemingly contributed to physical complications. Sumner missed nearly all of his freshman year with knee tendinitis. Then, after a promising second season and start to his third, he tore his ACL in January.

Still, he’s entering the NBA draft.

Sumner:

Rick Broering of Musketeer Report:

Like with Duke’s Harry Giles, medical testing will be huge with Sumner. But at least Giles ended the season on the court. Sumner might not be healthy at all during the pre-draft process.

Sumner looked like a borderline first-round pick before the injury. This probably pushes him into the second round.

His long strides provide impressive speed and quickness, and he’s still shifty. Add quality court vision, and his ability to drive by defenders is even more valuable.

A 6-foot-8 wingspan and good lateral mobility also help make him a quality defender.

But it’s also concerning that so much of his positives could be undermined by his knee issues, especially considering his unreliable jumper. If Sumner can’t move like he did before getting hurt, I don’t see how he sticks in the NBA.

If Sumner’s knees check out, it’s worth rolling the dice on him and hoping his jumper develops. He might even be OK without shooting range, though that’d lower his ceiling considerably.

Again, though, the first thing is examining his knees.

PBT Extra: Can Boston hang on to the No. 1 seed in East?

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In an unexpected twist as the season winds down, the Cavaliers have stumbled — 8-11 since the All-Star break — while the Celtics have just kept on winning. Suddenly the Boston Celtics are on top of the East with the best record.

Can they stay on top through the rest of the season?

Does it matter to the Cavaliers?

I cover all this ground in the latest PBT Extra.

Draymond Green on Raiders move to Las Vegas: I won’t attend another game

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The Raiders are moving from Oakland to Las Vegas, and Draymond Green — whose Warriors also play in Oakland is not pleased.

Green, via Monte Poole of CSN Bay Area:

I wouldn’t attend a game. I won’t attend a game.

“And I’m not a diehard Raiders fan, but I support the city of Oakland. It ain’t for me and I feel like all fans should feel that way. You just don’t do that. Come on man, that’s ridiculous.”

“If I were the fans, I wouldn’t attend a game for the next two years. But that’s just me. That’s ridiculous. No way I’d pay my money to attend a game.”

 

Um, does Green realize the Warriors are also moving from Oakland (to a new arena in San Francisco)?

Green:

“It’s one thing if you’re moving them from Oakland to Fremont or something,” Green said of the Raiders. “To Las Vegas?

OK, that’s Fair. I am just being pedantic. I don’t actually see moving across the bay as similar to the Raiders moving hundreds of miles away.

Green:

“That’s like moving the Dallas Cowboys or moving the Packers,” he said. “Moving the Raiders? You can move a lot of teams. Ain’t many fan bases like the Raiders fan base. That’s like moving the Boston Celtics from Boston or the Lakers from LA.

“You just don’t move certain franchises with the fan base they have.”

But seriously this time: Someone tell Green that the Raiders have already moved from Oakland to Los Angeles and back to Oakland — hundreds of miles each way and a ridiculous drive in traffic.

I get that Green — who grew up in Detroit Lions territory, roots for the Pittsburgh Steelers and is pictured above in a San Francisco 49ers jersey — just wants to connect with Oakland fans, but this argument is just intellectually dishonest.

Lonzo Ball: I’m better than Markelle Fultz

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Who should go No. 1 in the 2017 NBA draft?

A pair of Pac-12 freshmen point guards, Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball, lead the discussion.

Fultz looks like the leading contender, but Ball doesn’t buy into the conventional wisdom.

Ball, via ESPN:

“Markelle’s a great player, but I feel I’m better than him,” said Ball, who led the Bruins to a pair of blowout victories over Fultz’s Huskies this season.

“I think I can lead a team better than him,” Ball added. “Obviously he’s a great scorer — he’s a great player, so I’m not taking that away from him.”

This will get spun into a discussion of Lonzo’s father, LaVar Ball. But, without digging deeply, D'Angelo Russell, Shabazz Muhammad and Enes Kanter each claimed to be the best player in their respective drafts. Look further, and there are many more examples.

Reaching Lonzo Ball’s level usually comes with supreme confidence. This is normal — not a cause for concern about the influence of his boastful dad.

And for what’s it’s worth, I’d favor Ball over Fultz right now, though there’s still more information to gather in the draft process.