USA Basketball president lauds LeBron James’ maturity

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There was a time in 2006 when it was possible LeBron James was not going to make the 2008 Beijing Olympic team.

Not because of his talent, that was undeniable. He was already one of the game’s elite players. But it was his attitude of entitlement that didn’t sit well with USA Basketball president Jerry Colangelo and coach Mike Krzyzewski, or his teammates. Adrian Wojnarowski explains at Yahoo Sports.

Before they ever finalized a roster to chase a gold medal in Beijing, USA Basketball officials delivered an unmistakable ultimatum to LeBron James: Unless you grow up, treat people with respect, and commit to taking this seriously, we’ll leave you home for the 2008 Olympic Games. Jerry Colangelo and Mike Krzyzewski wanted a culture of commitment and had come to believe that James’ momentous talent couldn’t overcome his impulses to instigate and infuriate everyone.

Oh what a difference six years can make.

The maturity that LeBron has shown on the court — both in the finals and helping Team USA win gold by playing an all-around game — is very evident now, Colangelo said.

“LeBron James is a different player and a different person than he was in ’06,” Colangelo said in a private moment after the 107-100 gold medal victory. “And I say that with exclamation marks. He’s matured incredibly as a person, player and leader….

“He’s matured incredibly … ,” Colangelo told Yahoo! Sports. “He never had someone to emulate in his life, and Coach K fit into a great role. He did the rest himself. He’s grown so much. So much.”

Coach K probably helped him mature and taught him lessons. Certainly so have Dwyane Wade and Pat Riley have as well.

But the biggest difference is that in 2006 LeBron was 21, he is now 27. I can say that the person I was at 27 was far more mature and responsible (relatively) to the person I was at 21. We all have things in our past we regret, we all grew up a lot in those years. LeBron just had to do it in a fishbowl.

But it’s clear to everyone he has grown up some.

Watch the top 60 clutch shots from last NBA season

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It’s that time of the year when there is no basketball, so we fill the time with idle Kyrie Irving speculation and video highlights of last season.

Along those lines, above you can out the top 60 clutch shots from last season, as determined by the folks at NBA.com.

The great thing about the clutch shot list is the ball is in the hands of stars at the ends of games, so there is plenty of Russell Westbrook, John Wall, LeBron James, Devin Booker, Kevin Durant and more. Personally, I would have switch No. 1 and No. 2 on the list, but it’s all fun to relive.

Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert: Pacers ‘could have done better’ on Paul George trade

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Kyrie Irving has requested a trade. LeBron James could leave next summer. The Cavaliers keep churning through general managers, the newest – Koby Altman – the reason for today’s press conference.

But Cavs owner Dan Gilbert looked past his own team’s turmoil and potential turmoil to take a shot at the Pacers, who traded Paul George to the Thunder for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.

“I will say Indiana could have done better than they did,” Gilbert said after Altman refused to directly address a question about George trade talks and shifted the discussion elsewhere.

This didn’t strike me as Gilbert trying to distract from Cleveland’s troubles. He just seemed to want to take a shot at a foe, something he’s no stranger to doing. The Cavaliers are particularly salty about their trade offer for George, which included Kevin Love, not being accepted.

For what it’s worth, Gilbert is right. The Pacers should have done better. Oladipo is now on a lucrative contract extension, and Sabonis spent his rookie season showcasing the reasons people doubted him the draft. That’s a piddling return for a star, even one on an expiring contract with dreams of joining the Lakers.

Report: Kings meet with former Magic GM Otis Smith about front-office job

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The Kings lost Scott Perry to the Knicks, so Sacramento is seeking someone else to aid Vlade Divac in the front office.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Former Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith has met with Sacramento Kings officials about the franchise’s vacant vice president of basketball operations job, league sources told ESPN.

Smith has plenty of experience, which Divac lacks. But it’s not all good experience.

Running the Magic, Smith made numerous errors – including drafting Fran Vazquez (who has never played in the NBA) No. 11, overpaying Rashard Lewis and then trading Lewis for Gilbert Arenas’ even worse contract. If Smith’s Orlando tenure is predictive, he’ll indulge the Kings’ worst tendencies to mortgage the future for the present.

That said, Smith might have learned from his time with the Magic (though working under Stan Van Gundy with the Pistons the few couple years isn’t exactly the best place to hone long-term-planning skills). What amounts to an assistant general-manager role might be a better fit for him, too.

Usually, this opening wouldn’t garner so much attention. But Perry was lavished with praise for Sacramento’s offseason, raising the profile of this job – which already carried relative prominence. The No. 2 in the Kings’ front office is now perceived, somewhat fairly, as more important than the typical assistant general manager.

Lakers sign Tyler Ennis to minimum contract

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Jut before the trade deadline, the Lakers took a flier on Tyler Ennis, who had struggled in two-plus seasons with the Suns, Bucks and Rockets.

The former No. 18 pick finally looked like an NBA player in Los Angeles, so he’s returning.

Lakers release:

The Los Angeles Lakers have signed guard Tyler Ennis, it was announced today by General Manager Rob Pelinka.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

This is fantastic value for the Lakers. Ennis is probably worth a minimum salary, and if he is, they have him for two years at that price. If not, they can drop him for no cost next summer, when their cap room will be at a premium. This is the type of bet smart teams make, which bodes well for the Magic Johnson regime.

Ennis’ productivity in Los Angeles might not be sustainable. He shot well above his career marks on 3-pointers and free throws in a small sample. But he looked more comfortable on the court, showing some of the savvy he was expected to bring from Syracuse. He’s also just 22, and point guards tend to develop later than other positions.

The Lakers still have their room exception, which they could use on another point guard. So, it’s uncertain whether Ennis will back up Lonzo Ball or fall to third string. I’m not sure any remaining free-agent point guards – Ty Lawson, Deron Williams, Brandon Jennings, Ramon Sessions – will command more than the minimum or playing time over Ennis, though.