LeBron James post title party

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.

NBA: Kenneth Faried got away with foul on decisive basket in Nuggets’ win over Bulls

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The Bulls’ biggest loss Friday was Jimmy Butler to injury. His absence certainly contributed to a loss to the Timberwolves the following night.

But Chicago also lost to the Nuggets on Friday, and perhaps that wouldn’t have happened if the game were called correctly down the stretch.

With Denver up two points and 21.1 seconds remaining, Kenneth Faried offensively rebounded a free throw and scored. The Bulls then intentionally fouled down the stretch, and Faried and Danilo Gallinari added a few free throws in the Nuggets’ 115-110 win.

One problem: Faried should’ve been called for offensively fouling Taj Gibson on the key putback, according to the NBA’s Last Two Minute Report:

Faried (DEN) extends his arm into Gibson (CHI) and dislodges him, affecting his ability to retrieve the rebound.

This was a huge swing. Instead of Taj Gibson – a 69% career free-throw shooter – going to the line for two attempts with Chicago down two points, Faried put the Nuggets up four. Even if Gibson split at the line, the Bulls would have been in significantly better shape.

As usual, we can’t know what would’ve happened if this call were made correctly. But it significantly set back Chicago.

NBA considering if jump-on-back foul should be flagrant foul

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The video above is an intentional foul — Chris Paul jumped on the back of Dwight Howard. The same thing has happened to Andre Drummond.

Is it a flagrant foul?

The Boston Celtics tweeted this out on Sunday.

The NBA was quick to let people know that this is just something under consideration — there has been no change in the rules. This may well be where the league is headed, but it’s not there yet.

The NBA defines a flagrant foul as “unnecessary contact committed by a player against an opponent.” To me, leaping on a player’s back like that qualifies. (A flagrant two foul is “unnecessary and excessive contact” and leads to an ejection; this is not that.)

Jared Dudley — one of the more vocal players on union issues — added a good point.

Consider this part of the coming changes on the intentional fouling rules period. But this one tweak could come much faster.

NBA: Foul on Cavaliers that sparked Celtics’ comeback called in error

Cleveland Cavaliers' J.R. Smith makes a move on Boston Celtics' Evan Turner (11) during the third quarter of a NBA basketball game in Boston Tuesday, Dec. 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Winslow Townson)
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The Cavaliers were in great shape against the Celtics on Friday, leading by four points with seven seconds left.

Then, it all went so wrong for Cleveland.

J.R. Smith was called for fouling Evan Turner on a made layup, cutting the margin to two points. Turner missed the free throw, but the ball went out of bounds off the Cavs. Then, Avery Bradley made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Boston the win.

Rewind, though, and an incorrect call drove the sequence, according to the NBA.

Smith shouldn’t have been called for fouling Turner, per the Last Two Minute Report:

Smith (CLE) makes incidental contact with Turner’s (BOS) body as he attempts the layup.

If this were officiated correctly, the Cavs would’ve had the ball and a two-point lead with 5.9 seconds left. That’s not a lock to win – they’d still have to inbound the ball and make their free throws – but it’s close.

Cleveland is definitely entitled to feel the refs wronged them out of a victory.

Report: Kevin Durant has “done his due diligence on the Bay Area”

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Kevin Durant has not made up his mind about what he will do as a free agent this summer. Until his playoff run ends, whenever that may be for the Thunder, his focus will be on bringing a title to Oklahoma City.

But even he admits he can’t help but think about free agency a little.

The buzz around the league is Golden State is at the front of the line if Durant decides to leave OKC, and he has done some research, reports Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

The Warriors play in front of an intimidating Oracle Arena crowd and are expected to debut a new San Francisco arena in 2019. Durant has quietly done his due diligence on the Bay Area, too, sources told Yahoo Sports.

His people — specifically agent Rich Kleiman and personal manager Charlie Bell — would be stupid not to have done some research on not only Golden State but on every other team he might consider: Houston, Miami, Washington, both teams in Los Angeles, the Knicks, and on down the line. Golden State, playing with Stephen Curry, certainly would have its attractions.

I’m still in the camp that Durant signs a 1+1 deal to stay in Oklahoma City (meaning he can opt out after one more season, in 2017), and it’s all about the cash. While he could get 30 percent of a $90 million cap this summer (about $27 million a season to start), with one more year of service in 2017 Durant could get 35 percent of $108 million ($37.8 million to start). That’s a lot of cash. Plus he gets one more chance at a ring with Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka, who both are 2017 free agents.

But you can be sure whatever Durant decides, it will be well researched and thought out. And he’s not going to announce it in a live special on ESPN.