Count LeBron among those impressed with Anthony Davis

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We all knew Anthony Davis was potentially a very special player — some scouts graded him out as the best player in years, better than Blake Griffin or a host of other recent No. 1 overall picks. But he was supposed to be a bit of a project on offense, a guy with potential that would take a little while to find how to put up points at the NBA level.

No, he can do that now. All preseason long he has put up big numbers.

That includes 24 points (and 11 rebounds) against the Heat. Yes, it’s the preseason, but 24 and 11 is still 24 and 11. Do that as a rookie and you turn heads.

He’s turned LeBron James’ head. LeBron bonded with him as part of Team USA at the London Olympics and after the Hornets played the Heat this preseason LeBron was filled with praise. Via ESPN.com:

“He’s going to be a heck of a player,” James said, who finished with 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists in Miami’s final preseason game. “He showed it tonight.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra compared Davis to Tim Duncan (something a number of scouts did as well, because of the all-around game both possess). Spoelstra also told a story that summed up why Davis is special.

During the 2010 lockout, Spoelstra had more time on his hands than he knew what to do with, so he set out to visit (Kentucky coach John) Calipari and attend one of his practices in Lexington. Spoelstra had heard the hype about a 6-10 phenom freshman named Anthony Davis so he kept his eye out for a bruiser underneath the rim.

Spoelstra couldn’t find him so a scout who sat behind Spoelstra had to point Davis out. It was the guy who was bringing the ball up and down the court.

“That’s him?” a stunned Spoelstra asked. “Obviously, I was really impressed,” Spoelstra recalled before Friday’s game. “He’s very, very, very skilled. You noticed that right away.”

Davis is going to have a very good rookie season. Maybe a Rookie of the Year season. But in three or four years he will be a force of nature and one that will lift the Hornets up high in the West.

Rockets bench hams it up over Andre Roberson missed free throw (video)

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Russell Westbrook might not want to talk about his supporting cast distinctively, but it’s a real issue for the Thunder, who trail the Rockets 3-1 in their first-round series.

Even Andre Roberson, who has impressively defended James Harden, brings a glaring weakness: free throws. Roberson is 2-for-17 from the line in the playoffs, including 2-for-12 in Game 4 yesterday. Houston even repeatedly intentionally fouled him late.

It was agonizing for all but the most partisan Rockets supporters – though even Houston’s bench, while at least implicitly mocking Roberson, appeared put off that he missed yet again.

Isaiah Thomas: ‘Mentally and emotionally, I’m not here’

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Isaiah Thomas previously explained his emotions in a statement, but the Celtics guard spoke publicly yesterday for the first time since the death of his sister in a car crash just before the playoffs.

Thomas, via A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast:

“Mentally and emotionally I’m not here,” Thomas said after Game 4, the first time he has spoken publicly since his sister’s death. “So I just feed off of what the guys give me. They give me a lot of confidence. I can’t do it without those guys. They believe in me. Being here is what makes me sane and makes me feel somewhat normal through these tough times.”

Thomas has played well for Boston, which won twice in Chicago to even its series with the Bulls, 2-2. It’s remarkable considering the heavy emotional burden and extra travel, going to Seattle for his sister’s funeral then joining the Celtics in Chicago.

His teammates have clearly rallied around him, and that surely helps. But I can’t even imagine how he’s simultaneously handling such a tragic family situation and the biggest games of his career.

Kyrie Irving knocks flamingo from Pacers fan’s hands (video)

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Pacers super fan Matt Asen brings his lucky flamingo to each game.

He also annoyed the heck out of Kyrie Irving by trying to hand it, rather than the ball, to the Cavaliers guard.

James Harden reveals he’s playing through ankle injury

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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James Harden didn’t lead the Rockets in scoring in their Game 4 win over the Thunder yesterday.

He didn’t even rank second – or third.

Nene, Eric Gordon and Lou Williams each outscored Harden, who scored 16 points on 5-for-16 shooting, including 0-for-7 on 3-pointers.

What happened to the Houston star?

Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

Houston Rockets star guard James Harden said he has been hobbled by an ankle injury that occurred in Game 3 of this first-round series against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Harden made the revelation to ESPN’s Lisa Salters after the Rockets’ 113-109 Game 4 victory on Sunday afternoon.

“It was pretty tough; we don’t make excuses,” Harden said in a news conference when asked about his health. “We just try to go out there and get the job done. You build trust, and trust in your teammates all year long. When there’s moments like this, guys step up and they did tonight. We have another opportunity in a few days to go out there and win on our home court, and we’re going to have to get off to a really good start.”

Many players are grinding through injuries this time of year. Is Harden’s exceptionally bad? There’s no way of telling from the outside.

But he didn’t look quite right in Game 4, and if he’s hobbled, that opens the door slightly wider for Oklahoma City to come back from its 3-1 deficit.