In the regular season, LeBron James actually played well in the fourth quarter — he had the second highest fourth quarter PER in the league. Part of the reason is that the Heat’s rotation let him sit the first four to five minutes of the quarter and rest, then come in with real energy.
In the playoffs — especially the Eastern Conference Finals and Game 1 against Oklahoma City — there has been almost no rest for LeBron.
The result? In Game 1 it was a quiet 7 points on 2-for-6 shooting, with him settling for a lot of jumpers. After the game in the interview room, he looked and sounded tired.
In Game 2 the Heat are going to ask more of LeBron — he likely logs minutes defending Kevin Durant plus he needs to take on more of the offense if Dwyane Wade can’t — and he may well have to do it without rest. Here is what Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, via Brian Windhorst at ESPN.
“We were able to manage his minutes pretty much at a career-low level for the majority of the regular season, and you get to this point, we have 12 days left, I know he has the mentality that he’ll do whatever it takes,” Spoelstra said. “I want him fresh so I’ll work to try to get him some rest, and ideally it won’t be 48, 53, whatever it is.”
Lack of rest isn’t going to fly as an excuse. Nor should it. But this is where the depth of the Thunder pays dividends — they can rest one or two of their “big three” at a time and not really suffer a huge drop off. When LeBron sits the Heat struggle right now. Do that for too long against the Thunder and the Heat will find themselves in a deep hole. The Thunder will be relentless.
It’s something to watch in Game 2 — can LeBron just get a few minutes of rest? How does that impact him when the game is on the line?
It’s just part of the huge mountain the Heat have to climb. And it is a steep one.
Spurs to give Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili Friday night off in Denver
That is the first night of a back-to-back, with former Spurs’ assistant coach Mike Budenholzer and his Atlanta Hawks coming to San Antonio on Saturday. Popovich is saving his two veterans for that game.
Duncan and Ginobili have looked like they found the fountain of youth this season. Duncan is taking on less of the offense but has been very efficient in those moments. Ginobili has the impact he did a few years back in his bench role.
What Gregg Popovich cares about is them playing like that come the postseason. So they will rest on Friday.
Rejecting the tender is a favor to the drafting team, which gets to keep the player’s exclusive rights for a year. If Thornton tries to join the NBA now, he’s stuck negotiating with only the Celtics.
By accepting the tender, the player typically gets one of two outcomes. He either plays on that contract and draws an NBA salary or he gets waived. But even getting waived is better than rejecting the tender, because at least the player becomes a free agent and can negotiate with any team.
Players who reject the tender go to another league and play for less money. In Thornton’s case, that mean Australia.
How’s that going?
(Almost) never reject the required tender as a second-round pick.
Byron Scott says they just have to get Kobe Bryant better looks
Kobe Bryant is averaging 15.2 points a game at age 37. It’s just taking him 16.4 shots per game to get there. After his 1-of-14 shooting performance against the Warriors the other night — with too much isolation and too many plays run just for him — there has been a lot of talk about his shot. With reason, this is his shot chart so far this season.
So what do the Lakers’ do? Get Kobe to shoot less and get the ball in the hands of the young stars they supposed to be developing more? Nah.
“I know his mentality is that he can still play in this league,” Scott said. “And we feel the same way….
“Obviously he’s struggling right now with his shot, and I think everybody can see that,” Scott said. “So it’s trying to get him in better position to be able to have an opportunity to knock those shots down on a consistent basis. That’s No. 1.
“I don’t know if it’s his legs. I don’t think so. Again, our conversations are pretty blunt. … He tells me when he is tired and he tells me when he’s not tired. And the last few days, he said he feels great. So, I don’t think it’s a matter of him being tired or his legs being tired. I think it’s a matter of his timing being a little off.”
Yes, how could it be his legs? It’s not like he’s a 37-year-old with more than 55,000 NBA minutes played, and coming off an Achilles rupture and major knee surgery.
Honestly, I hope the Lakers and Kobe find a balance soon, because they have become just hard to watch. And I don’t want Kobe to go out this way.