LeBron James, Dwyane Wade

Pacers can’t be soft in Game 6 or Heat will eliminate them

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Miami does not have Udonis Haslem Thursday night, suspended for his hard foul on Tyler Hansbrough last game.

Danny Granger will be out on the court for Indiana but playing with an ankle he described as swollen like a small softball.

These are serious setbacks for both teams and how they deal with it — whichever team has its guys step up — will win Game 6.

That may be harder for the Pacers, which is bad news because down 3-2 this is an elimination game for them. Larry Bird described the Pacers as soft after last game and if they play anything like that again on Thursday they will be golfing Friday.

Granger is key at both ends of the court — the Pacers were -21 last game after Granger landed on LeBron James’ foot and rolled his ankle, taking him out of that game.

We still find out early how well Granger is moving — look for the Heat to try and isolate him on LeBron James (Granger’s primary defensive assignment this series). LeBron will (or at least should) go right at him. Not pull up for the jumper if Granger lays off, drive and see how he moves. If it’s not well expect the Heat to go at him all night.

That will put more pressure on Roy Hibbert, who has to protect the rim and paint but without picking up fouls.

Miami needs to do this to get James going — without the threat of Haslem to spread the floor and add scoring it’s going to be harder for the Heat to get points, particularly in the half court. James, Dwyane Wade and other guys — Shane Battier, Mike Miller — need to knock down jumpers in the half court because the Pacers will pack the paint.

Miami will want to run and if they can use pressure defense to create opportunities to get Wade and James in the open court they can run away with this game. Like they have the last two. Indiana has to slow the pace again.

Indiana needs someone to step up with a huge game on the perimeter — Darren Collison, George Hill and Paul George need to have good nights. David West needs a monster night inside. The Heat have nobody who can stop Hibbert, feed the man the rock.

There are no secrets left in this series, just a lot of bad blood. It feels like a playoff series. It feels like a war of attrition.

The Pacers need to play their best game or it will be their last this season. But right now the Heat are vulnerable, win this and in a Game 7 anything can happen.

Charles Barkley hung out with King Cake Baby to celebrate his birthday (VIDEO)

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One of the New Orleans Pelicans mascots is a Pelican. His name is Pierre, and after a makeover he’s looking pretty normal these days. But the Pelicans also have a second mascot of sorts. His name is King Cake Baby — named after the Mardi Gras pastry — and he’s horrifying.

So when you have an NBA All-Star Game in town, what do you do? Trot out a giant baby mascot to mix in with the league’s elite, of course.

Or at least have him bother Charles Barkley on his birthday:

Ok it’s actually weirder that Kenny Smith wanted to see what was under King Cake Baby’s bib. I can never unsee that.

Vlade Divac on DeMarcus Cousins trade: “I had a better deal two days ago”

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The DeMarcus Cousins trade to the New Orleans Pelicans just gets weirder and weirder.

Speaking to reporters on Monday, Sacramento Kings GM Vlade Divac said that he had a more appetizing deal on the table for the All-Star center. Why didn’t they take it?

Divac would not say:

Perhaps even more confusing is that Divac said that owner Vivek Ranadive did not have input on the trade process. That seems highly unlikely, given how hands-on Ranadive has been in the past regarding keeping Cousins.

“[Ranadive] didn’t have any idea,” Divac said of the trade. “I just told him what I was going to do.”

Let’s cut right to the chase here: this makes no sense.

First, because ownership in the NBA always has some kind of contact on trades, if only as a heads up. When it comes to franchise players, I’m hard-pressed to believe Ranadive wasn’t involved.

Meanwhile, what explanation could possibly be given for not pulling the trigger on a deal Divac admits was better than the one he got from New Orleans? That would appear to imply outside pressure not to take the better of the two trades, which again would point to Ranadive.

The offer from the Pelicans was one that Ranadive has reportedly been a big fan of, particularly because he feels that Buddy Hield is has the potential to be in the range of Stephen Curry.

That’s a lot to unpack.

Then we have to get to the Kings and their press release, which takes an unsubtle potshot at Cousins with regard to his character:

“It was time for a change and I decided this was the best direction for the organization, said Divac. “Winning begins with culture and character matters. With the upcoming draft class set to be one of the strongest in a decade, this trade will allow us to build the depth needed for a talented and developing roster moving forward.”

Ah, ok. Couple that with Kings play-by-play announcer Grant Napear going nuclear on Cousins moments after he was traded and you’ve got an extremely confusing, bad looking coming out of Northern California.

The Kings are a mess.

Rumor: Kings owner sees Buddy Hield having Stephen Curry potential

World guard Buddy Hield (24) of the New Orleans Pelicans (24) goes to the basket against U.S. guard Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns during the Rising Stars Challenge, part of the NBA All-Star events in New Orleans, Friday, Feb. 17, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
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The Sacramento Kings made one of the more disastrous trades we’ve seen in recent years involving a superstar player. They traded DeMarcus Cousins — franchise center who sometimes torpedoes his own team with his temper — for a sharp-shooting rookie, a first round pick that sits outside the top 3, and a player they already traded away and are apparently unlikely to keep long term. Gross.

This is not going over well with Kings fans, but it is said to be sitting well with Sacramento owner Vivek Ranadive.

Via Twitter:

Ah, what?

Hield was an excellent scorer in college, and has the kind of range that makes him a prime candidate for the type of offenses being developed in the modern NBA. But that’s where the reasonable comparisons end for him and Curry. Come on.

For one, Hield is a true shooting guard. No part of his game is crafted to be the primary ball handler at an NBA level. He’s not the passer Stephen Curry is, nor was he even as good at that as Klay Thompson was in college.

It’s OK that the Kings like Hield in a vacuum. Within context it appears they’ve sold themselves on something patently ridiculous. We’ve never seen a player in Curry’s mold before. Hoping an incomparable player somehow matches up with his talent and skill set — and trading away Cousins because of it — is wild.

Sacramento is going to be bad. Call a Kings fan today, tell them you love them. They need you now more than ever.

Stephen Curry tries to pass off backboard to himself (VIDEO)

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NEW ORLEANS — LeBron James can do it.

Stephen Curry? Not so much.

The Golden State Warriors PG tried to pull the Trady McGrady in Sunday’s All-Star Game but found himself coming up just a little short.