LeBron, Heat shrug at reaction to physical play complaints

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LeBron James’ timing was poor.

His complaint that teams are overly physical in their fouls on him is not wildly out of line — LeBron is incredibly strong and if you are trying to foul him across the arms to take away the easy bucket you better be strong too or LeBron will have an and-1. He takes a lot of hard fouls and some of those cross the line into risking potentially more serious injuries.

But a lot of the reaction to LeBron’s comments was basically “quit your belly aching.” The Bulls were physical with him and the Heat — and the Bulls won the game. The timing of his complaint had a sour grapes taste.

When asked about it Thursday, LeBron basically shrugged, as reported by Ira Winderman at the Sun Sentinel.

“As a kid,” he said, “I used to watch a lot of Lakers games and I used to see Shaq get hammered and he would get two free throws and then he would finally deliver a blow and it would be a technical foul, it would be a flagrant foul. I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it before. We’re not ones to complain, but I just brought it to light.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said nothing is changing with how the Heat play.

“We’re well aware of what everybody’s game plan is against us, and that’s to prevent layups and dunks and highlight plays at all costs,” Spoelstra said. “A lot of times those result in hard fouls. We’ll have our guys’ backs, but we don’t need anybody’s help and we’re not afraid of anybody’s game plan against us.

“We’re going to continue to play our aggressive game and we know how teams will play against us. We’ll have our teammates’ protection. But we won’t do anything out of the norm with basketball rules, and our guys will continue to attack.”

This is really an issue for the league to deal with — if they want less physical play they can get it by how the rules are enforced. They did that once to put an end to the 1990s clutch-and-grab era, they can move that needle again. The League has to act because the players will push the boundaries of what they can get away with to their advantage — that includes LeBron lowering his shoulder and bullying his way to the basket and the defender being more physical right back.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.

Magic Johnson on drafting Lonzo Ball: “what I needed was a leader”

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Nobody, not even his critics with the Lakers, question that D'Angelo Russell had talent. What they questioned from the start was his work ethic and maturity. I was told by sources with the team he often was the last one to team meetings, often one of the first out of the gym, and the whole Nick Young thing spoke to the maturity question. Byron Scott took a lot of heat as Lakers’ coach for benching him, and Scott’s communication skills were lacking, but he had reasons. Russell also just 21 and maybe he finds his way, but the Lakers weren’t willing to wait anymore.

Which is why the Lakers were willing to move him to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez trade, and why the Lakers went after Lonzo Ball in the draft, Magic Johnson said, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Is Lonzo Ball a leader? Only time will tell, he has the potential.

Will players want to play with him? Yes, if the passing skills he showed in college transfer to the NBA. If guys know they will get the rock if they run/cut, then they will do just that. It’s some simple B. F. Skinner stuff here — if players are rewarded they will keep doing it. Get them the rock in transition and they will get out there every time.

Ball has flaws in his game, there are certainly questions about his defense, and how that awkward shot translates remains to be seen (it goes in but his time to get it off will decrease at the NBA level)? Will he be a scoring threat in the half-court? He’s got work to do. But answer those questions and the Lakers may have the key piece to help anchor a franchise he’s been looking for.

Sacramento Kings waive guard Arron Afflalo

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento Kings have waived guard Arron Afflalo one year after signing him as a free agent.

The Kings cut ties with Afflalo on Friday before his entire $12.5 million contract for 2017-18 would become guaranteed. Afflalo will get $1.5 million instead.

Afflalo averaged 8.4 points and 2 rebounds in 61 games this past season for Sacramento. He has averaged 11.3 points per game in his 10-year career.