Shabazz Muhammad is 20, not 19, which will hurt his NBA Draft stock

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UCLA forward Shabazz Muhammad is the subject of an article by Ken Bensinger of the Los Angeles Times that has the college-basketball world buzzing, and the piece also raises several questions that will affect Muhammad’s NBA Draft stock.

Let’s start with the most tangible issue:

According to the UCLA men’s basketball media guide, he was born in Los Angeles on Nov. 13, 1993.

But a copy of Shabazz Nagee Muhammad’s birth certificate on file with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health shows that he was born at Long Beach Memorial Hospital exactly one year earlier, making him 20 years old — not 19 as widely reported.

How and when he lost a year of his life are unclear.

Asked about the discrepancy, [Ron] Holmes insisted his son was 19 and born in Nevada. “It must be a mistake,” he said.

Several minutes later, he changed his account, saying that his son is, in fact, 20 and was born in Long Beach.

NBA teams obviously prefer younger players, which is a big reason 22-year-old Damian Lillard slipped to No. 6 in last year’s draft. Advancing a year in age  will be especially questioned for Muhammad, who excels at posting up less physically advanced players. Is he just taking advantage of playing younger competition, or will that skill translate to the NBA?

The questions don’t stop there.

Because his son suffered from a mild case of Tourette’s syndrome, which can cause tics and other problems, Holmes told him he had to work that much harder.

Professional sports teams are often wary of players who are different, and in light of the difficulties the Houston Rockets and Royce White have had with each other, NBA teams might be especially leery of drafting a player they perceive as having any similarities to White. White’s and Muhammad’s issues are not necessarily similar medically, but here, the perception matters more than the science.

And that leads to, perhaps, the biggest issue:

Holmes’ life mission, though, has been to raise his three children to be professional athletes.

“If you’re a doctor, your kid is going to med school. If you’re a lawyer, he’s going to law school,” Holmes said. “I was an athlete. That’s what I could do for my kids.”

Holmes has pinned most of his hopes on the middle child, Shabazz.

Does Shabazz love basketball?

NBA teams want players who work out at all hours, who push aside other aspects of their lives and devote themselves to the sport, who want to win more than they care about anything else. Most players who are drafted love basketball, because the only way to reach even that level of the sport is to already care deeply about it. Those who don’t typically fall behind much sooner in the weeding-out process.

But does Shabazz love basketball enough that he’ll continue to work hard at it, or is he just trying to please his father? If it’s the latter, there’s a much higher risk Shabazz loses his passion, and that could derail an NBA career.

Between now and the June 27 draft, NBA teams will have the opportunity to investigate Muhammad themselves, but Bensinger’s article reveals a lot about what they might find.

LeBron James, Cavaliers advance past Celtics to meet Warriors in 2017 NBA Finals

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Let’s line it up and run it again. The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors are going to meet in the 2017 NBA Finals after LeBron James and the Cavaliers beat the Boston Celtics in Game 5 on Thursday, 135-102.

It wasn’t much of a contest from the outset as Cleveland looked determined to put away their opponent. The Cavaliers played strong, shot well from 3-point range, and forced the Celtics into 18 turnovers over the course of the game.

The Cavaliers set a franchise playoff record in the first half, scoring 75 points in the first two periods. LeBron had 20 before the third quarter started, putting him just inches away from passing Michael Jordan to top the list for most points scored in NBA playoff history.

That moment came in the third quarter, with James dropping in a sweet 3-pointer from the left side of the arc to push him past Jordan. LeBron finished the game with 35 points, going 4-of-7 from 3-point range will adding eight assists, eight rebounds, and three steals.

Kyrie Irving was another bright spot for the Cavaliers, scoring 24 points to go along with seven assists. Kevin Love added 15 points, and Deron Williams had a rejuvenation off the bench with 14.

For Boston, yet another game without Isaiah Thomas forced their offense into stagnation. Avery Bradley — who had a considerable series in an effort that should not be overlooked — scored 20 points on 10-of-20 shooting. Gerald Green was Boston’s second-leading scorer in a bench role, adding 14 points.

Now we get to wait until June 1, when what seemed an inevitability way back in training camp has indeed come to pass. The Warriors get their shot at redemption after the worst breakdown in NBA playoff history, and the Cavaliers get a chance to solidify themselves over their peers and galvanize LeBron’s position as the best player of a generation.

The Finals don’t start for anther week. We’ll all be champing at the bit to see if Cleveland really does have what it takes to guard the Warriors offense. Likewise, a top defensive team in Golden State will need to prepare themselves for the LeBron that showed up against the Celtics in Game 1 and 2.

LeBron James passes Michael Jordan for most NBA career playoff points

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LeBron James is now above Michael Jordan in one very important, objective area. On Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, LeBron passed Michael Jordan for the most playoff points scored in NBA history.

James’ historic moment came in the third quarter of Game 5, with the Cavaliers up by double-digits.

LeBron passed Jordan with a 3-pointer that came from the left side of the arc.

Via Twitter:

The Cavaliers look poised to meet the Golden State Warriors yet again in the NBA Finals.

Cavaliers set franchise record, score 75 points in first half vs. Celtics (VIDEO)

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The Cleveland Cavaliers looked ready to put the Boston Celtics away in the first half of Game 5 on Thursday night. With LeBron James just inches away from becoming the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer, the No. 2 seed exploded on the Celtics in Boston.

The result of the first two periods was James scoring 20 points, Kyrie Irving adding 11, and Kevin Love dropping 12 points.

Oh, and the Cavaliers set a franchise record for points scored in the first half of playoff game.

Via Twitter:

The play may or may not have been a goaltend by Al Horford, but officials saw it that way and gave Cleveland the points just seconds before the half ended.

Rumor: After spurning Celtics, Lonzo Ball is considering working out for 76ers

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UCLA guard Lonzo Ball is expected to be a Top 2 pick in June’s 2017 NBA Draft, but he won’t be working out for the Boston Celtics. If Danny Ainge wants to select Ball No. 1 overall, he will have to do so without seeing him up close and 1-on-1.

But if the Philadelphia 76ers (owners of the No. 3 pick) want to see Ball … well that could be arranged. Maybe.

According to a report from ESPN, Ball’s camp is considering a workout with the Sixers if they can get more information about the team situation.

Via ESPN:

A final decision will be made once Ball’s agent, Harrison Gaines, and Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo have had an extensive conversation centered on the identity of the team, sources told ESPN.

That dialogue is expected within the coming weeks. Most expect Ball to be off the board after the first two selections.

Of course, the situation in Philadelphia for Ball is excellent. The thing they need is backcourt help, which is why a move up for Markelle Fultz might make sense for them. That or drafting one of the two if either fall to No. 3. The Sixers have also been linked to Kyle Lowry, who is a free agent this summer. The Sixers have talked for a year about using Ben Simmons as their point guard, so they’ll need some amalgam to get a working situation put together.

In short, Philadelphia’s plan is to:

  • Sign / draft a guard
  • Win a lot of games

Where Ball doesn’t fit into that is a mystery, even if the 76ers end up grabbing another guard.

If you can’t read between the lines — or read the giant sign LaVar Ball might as well be holding up behind his son everywhere he goes — this seems mostly like a hilariously transparent way to add pressure on the Los Angeles Lakers to select Ball at No. 2.

Will this strategy work? No. Is this necessary? Probably not! Magic Johnson already said he thinks Ball is the player that most resembles him in this draft, an equally transparent signal.

The Lakers are going to select Ball at No. 2. Or they won’t.

If they don’t it will be for reasons outside what Ball’s camp can influence, the potential for workouts with the team directly below them (but not the team above them) in the draft notwithstanding. He certainly won’t slide beyond No. 3. But the combination of both not working out for the Celtics and offering the idea that Ball might work out for the Sixers is extremely clumsy — and unnecessary — media work.

And to think we have a whole career of this to go. Strap in! I’m here for it if you are.