Did LeBron promises Liverpool players wild Vegas weekend?

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I so want this story to be true, because I want to believe in a secret Vegas only guys like LeBron James and Kanye West can buy their way into… but I also know the British tabloids make the TMZ look like the Washington Post. My head and heart are torn.

Our story starts here — remember that LeBron James is a part owner of the Liverpool Football Club, one of the powerhouse clubs of English soccer (something LeBron got as part of a marketing deal with the owners of Liverpool and the Boston Red Sox).

That would be the Liverpool side off to a dreadful 0-2-1 start. Liverpool fans are handling this about as well as Lakers fans would handle an 0-8 start.

So LeBron decided to motivate the troops with the promise of a decadent Las Vegas weekend if they win some hardware this year, reports the British tabloid The Sun, which seems to have taken the story down but The Daily Mail picked it up (hat tip to Andrew Sharp at SBN):

‘Everybody in sport needs incentive and if the guys at Liverpool win something this year I will give them the best weekend of their life in Vegas.

‘Kanye is in and trust me, nobody does Vegas like LeBron and Kanye.’

LeBron added: ‘We will take them to places in Vegas 99 percent of people don’t even know exist. There is Vegas and then there is Vegas.’

Again, I so want those quotes to be accurate…

But the head media relations person for Liverpool said LeBron never spoke to The Sun and the story was false.

What’s more, LeBron is just more media savvy than this. While I want to believe he would make this promise to the Liverpool players, LeBron has learned his media lessons well and would not just blurt those kind of comments out to a member of the press. Remember the uproar when a couple summers ago an ESPN reporter covered part of a LeBron and entourage night in Vegas? You think after that and working to rebuild his image he would blurt this out to one of the most sensational of the British tabloids?

But I so want to believe in LeBron’s secret Vegas — the kind of place Prince Henry would challenge Ryan Lochte to a swim race in a hotel pool — that I’m willing to forgive a lot.

But this quote doesn’t pass my smell test. And if the Sun has taken the story down… sorry Liverpool. You may just have to settle for Michael Owen.

Report: Clippers’ management remains committed to re-signing Blake Griffin

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Maybe Friday night in Utah, maybe not for a few weeks, but the Clippers season is going to end before they reach the conference finals, and with Blake Griffin sidelined by injury. It’s an all-too-familiar scene. It will be six seasons of the Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Griffin experience in Los Angeles, and they will not have gotten out of the second round (unless you think they can come back on the Jazz from down 3-2, then beat the Warriors).

That has come with a lot of talk about the Clippers breaking up the core. Jordan remains under contract, Paul would be too hard to replace, and that leads to a lot of speculation — inside and outside the league — that Griffin could be on the move this summer, when he becomes a free agent.

That’s not what the Clippers want, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in a video essay.

Management remains committed to signing him to a long-term deal this summer, league sources tell me.

Doc Rivers has said he wants to bring back this core. Multiple times. His argument is that this is a 50+ win team that is one of the better teams in the NBA, why would you take a big step back rather than look for the tweaks that get the team to a title?

Steve Ballmer has the checkbook deep enough to pay both Paul and Griffin max money (although keeping fellow free agent J.J. Redick as well would be difficult). The Clippers will have one of the highest payrolls in the NBA, and is this team worth that? Especially in a conference where the Mount Everest of Golden State is not going anywhere for a few years, not to mention the Spurs and Rockets will remain good, Utah is on the rise, and so are teams like the Wolves. The Clippers will be a good team that needs a lot of breaks to go their way to really contend — how much would Ballmer pay for that?

The Clippers need to do some soul searching this offseason.

Just don’t be shocked if the result of that is them running this team back again.

Playing through sore knee, Jimmy Butler says “I’m good,” will go in Game 6

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At this point in the season, everyone is banged up. It’s just a matter of degree.

But with Rajon Rondo listed as out for Game 6, the Bulls’ need a big game from Jimmy Butler if they are going to extend this series to a Game 7. And he is not near 100 percent.

In Game 4, Butler banged knees with a Celtic and it impacted him during Game 5, as Vincent Goodwill detailed at CSNChicago.com.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn’t even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn’t elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

“I’m good. Everyone’s a little nicked up; I’ll be all right,” Butler said in the locker room.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune added this detail.

Boston has done a good job of limiting the number of times Isaiah Thomas is exposed on defense, having to cover Wade or Butler. Essentially, the Celtics switch in sort of a matchup zone to keep IT covering a shooter on the wing, even if his man goes up and sets the pick. Zone’s can be exposed (there’s a reason they’re more a change-of-pace rather than a basic set defense in the NBA), but it involves getting into the middle, getting into the paint. Which comes back to driving the ball and pushing off, things that Butler is struggling to do at his usual level.

There are a lot of other factors favoring Boston in Game 6, but if Chicago is going to force a Game 7 Sunday they need Butler to be an All-NBA level player.

Knicks’ Joakim Noah has expected shoulder surgery to repair rotator cuff

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NEW YORK (AP) — Knicks center Joakim Noah has had right shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff, a procedure that could sideline him until training camp.

The Knicks say Noah had the surgery Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed by Dr. David Altchek.

The team didn’t give a timetable for Noah’s recovery, but coach Jeff Hornacek said late in the season that if Noah had the operation, the recovery time could be five months.

Noah had an injury-plagued season that ended early when he was suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. There are still 12 games remaining on the penalty that he will have to serve next season when healthy.

Noah had surgery on his other shoulder last season, limiting him to 29 games in his final season in Chicago before signing a four-year, $72 million deal with New York.

PBT Extra: Pacers offseason moves start with Paul George

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Larry Bird, when not delivering All-Star Game bids, should be spending his time lighting candles and praying in churches all over Indianapolis that Paul George makes an All-NBA team.

If PG13 makes the cut, Bird’s job this summer becomes more clear: Offer George the designated player max extension, get him to sign the deal, then get back to building a contender around him.

If George doesn’t make the cut, things get much tougher for Bird. I discuss all of it in this new PBT Extra.