Maybe LeBron’s agent switch turns out to be a smart move

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My initial reaction to LeBron James switching agents from Leon Rose and the powerful CAA — the agency that helped bring LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh together in Miami — was that it was vintage LeBron. That once again he was tightening his inner circle to lean on close friends, and new agent Rich Paul is a guy he has known since high school when they played basketball together.

But maybe this is a smart move.

I never thought it was a terrible idea — negotiating LeBron’s contracts is not rocket science since he is now and forever a max deal guy — but I didn’t know what it would mean next time LeBron was faced with a serious decision about his career. However, after reading a feature about Paul by Joe Kotoch at Sheridan Hoops I have a much more open mind.

Because if LeBron had listened to Paul in the past he might have avoided a lot of his missteps.

For his part, Paul has largely been above the fray during James’ trials and tribulations over the past two years….

It was Paul who urged James to not go through with “The Decision” out of concern for the damage James might do to his brand and reputation. When Maverick Carter staged a coup to consolidate power in James’ decision-making circle, Paul left to join CAA and make his own path…

On the night of “The Decision,” when most of James’ circle and handlers were busy with the production side and other image-related concerns, it was Paul who contacted the Cavaliers and owner Dan Gilbert to inform them that James would be leaving for the Heat.

Sources in Cleveland say that Paul always was and has been the most respected member of James’ circle, and that his conduct that night further endeared him to Gilbert and the Cavs. While Gilbert’s late night e-mail rant was vindictive, he never cut off Paul – and that was evidenced when the Cavs selected Tristan Thompson (represented by Paul) with the fourth pick in the 2011 draft over Jonas Valanciunas.

Maybe when it comes to his next big career decision — and I don’t think it will be in 2014 when he can opt out of his deal with the Heat, I don’t think he wants to leave that setting — he will have a more reasoned voice in his corner. One he will listen to now, one that will steer him around the traps of hubris that Carter (and Rose) drove him headlong into.

We’ll see. Proof is in the actions. But I’ll say I have a more open mind now.

Magic’s Aaron Gordon skies to finish amazing alley-oop (VIDEO)

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Aaron Gordon may not have had the best dunk contest this year — apparently drones and dunks don’t mix well — but the guy can still get up and finish with the best in the league.

As he did on this alley-oop against Detroit.

Elfrid Payton had to throw a lob that would get over Andre Drummond, but how many guys in the league can get that high, reach back and finish that? Damn.

Former Hawk Pero Antic’s celebration accidentally punches teammate in face in Eruoleague (VIDEO)

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Former Atlanta Hawk Pero Antic is now playing for Turkish powerhouse Fenerbahce, in case you were not aware.

Fenerbahce was facing Anadolu Efes in a EuroLeague game, it was tight late and former NBA player Ekpe Udoh was at the free throw line for Fenerbahce. He missed his second shot, but the rebound caromed out-of-bounds off an Anadolu Efes player. Antic was pumped.

Maybe a little too pumped.

Ouch.

That was Nikola Kalinic, by the way, the guy Antic now owes dinner to. Kalinic would like the dinner more than the hug and kiss he got from Antic right after the play.

Also, Anadolu Efes held on to win 80-77.

(Hat tip to Ball Don’t Lie.)

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.