Christmas Day is a showcase day for the NBA. No NFL. No college bowl games. Just hoops. And as you can imagine any league run by David Stern doing, it put its biggest stars on display on the biggest early season stage. The second opening day, if you will.
The stars on Christmas were the three guys at the front of the MVP race. With apologies to Kobe Bryant, who came in fourth in the stars voting by our committee (of one).
Third Star: LeBron James(29 points, 8 rebounds, 9 assists)
He won the MVP last year and voters seem a little weary of voting for him, but you simply cannot have an MVP conversation without the single best player on the planet in the discussion. He almost put up a triple-double, which he seems to almost do a lot of nights. He showed off the full range of skills, from a couple monster dunks to a no-look pass late. If you think the MVP has to be the single best player in the league, you have to vote for him.
Second Star: Carmelo Anthony(34 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists)
He is doing more than just scoring this year, but when he does score the Knicks take leads. Like when Anthony put up 17 points in the third quarter when the Knicks seemed to take control of the game. He had seven in the fourth but the Lakers focused their defense more on him and his teammates could not make Los Angeles pay for that. Anthony deserves to be in the early MVP conversation, but now it falls on him to stay in the talks.
First star: Kevin Durant(33 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assist)
He didn’t have a huge first-half impact because he was mired in foul trouble, but he had 14 in the fourth quarter when you expect your stars to make plays (although he missed a tough three to tie it with LeBron in his face. He did. He has been the most consistent of the big stars this year and I get the feeling voters are going to give it to him because “it’s his turn.” But it’s more than that, he came back to the NBA off the Olympics a better player and he has led the Thunder to the top spot out West.
Jimmy Butler: I didn’t move Derrick Rose or Joakim Noah from Bulls
“That has nothing to do with me, I don’t move guys,” Butler said. “People are gonna think what they’re gonna think. I don’t let it bother me. I know where I stand, I know who I am. It’s one more thing for people to talk about. I don’t pay too much attention to it.”
I can believe Butler didn’t directly urge Chicago to trade Rose, but Butler’s presence matters.
Rose and Butler clearly didn’t ideally mesh on the court, and there might have been off-court issues, too. If it weren’t for Butler, the Bulls might have kept Rose.
Noah is a little different, because it seems he, more than the team, was ready for a breakup. Still, that might have also had to do with Butler.
Butler is trying to grow into a leader, a natural progression for someone who became his team’s best player. But that was awkward with the Bulls’ previous leaders — Rose and Noah — still in the locker room. There’s no simple solution, though moving on without Rose and Noah will clear that cloud.
So — without other information — it’s too much to “blame” Butler for Rose’s and Noah’s departures. But Rose and Noah moving from Chicago to New York can still be ascribed to Butler.
It might not have been something asked for directly. It’s just the reality of the situation.
Wade met with the media for the first time and talked about the pairing of himself and Rajon Rondo with the Bulls’ existing star in Jimmy Butler — Wade used the term “three alphas” more than once. But he also was clear about whose team this was going to be on the court.
“We’re not going to go through this all year. It’s Jimmy Butler’s team. Myself and Rondo are here to bring what we bring as athletes.”
Wade added that he would not be a Bull if Jimmy Butler had not personally called him and asked him to come.
Wade took that cue from Shaquille O’Neal when he joined Wade’s Heat team — which eventually led to the Heat’s first title in 2006. The Bulls would love for that kind of result here, although it’s much tougher to see this Chicago roster having anywhere near that kind of impact.
LeBron James talked Justin Bieber out of performing at Donald Trump’s nominating convention
Justin Bieber got a $5 million offer to perform at a Republican event during the GOP Convention, but turned it down after his manager considered quitting and LeBron James urged him to reject it … sources tell TMZ.
That’s a lot of money for a single gig. This either speaks to the power of LeBron’s words — or the embellishment of Bieber’s value.
Watch Bulls’ Dwyane Wade press conference live (video)