LeBron James to be named 2013 MVP

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What has long been considered to be a foregone conclusion has now been confirmed by multiple outlets. LeBron James has been awarded the league’s Most Valuable Player award for the 2013 season, and will be presented the trophy in a press conference in Miami this Sunday.

The Heat open the second round of the playoffs against either the Bulls or the Nets at home on Monday, when David Stern is expected to be on hand to deliver the trophy to James in front of his home crowd.

James joins an elite group by winning the award for the fourth time. Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (6), Michael Jordan (5), Bill Russell (5) and Wilt Chamberlain (4) have done the same in NBA history.

There have been plenty of years in recent memory where both fans and pundits have had zesty debates over what the MVP award should signify, and who should take it home in any given season. This year was not one of them.

While the names of Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Durant, and Chris Paul were mentioned in the MVP conversation at various points throughout the season, you’d have been hard-pressed to find anyone who truly believed it should have gone to anyone but James.

There has never been a unanimous MVP in the history of the NBA, so there’s at least a little suspense to be had in advance of the official release from the league this weekend to see if James can become the first.

James averaged 26.8 points, 8.0 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 1.7 steals in 37.9 minutes per game this season. His field goal percentage (56.5) and three-point shooting percentage (40.6) were both career bests.

Should the Heat finish the year by winning their second straight title, James would join an even smaller group of greats. Only Jordan and Russell in league history have won MVP awards and championships in two consecutive seasons.

Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge nails three from one knee during warmups (VIDEO)

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Take that Stephen Curry.

Gregg Popovich would pull him so fast he’d look like a fidget spinner if he tried this in a game, but during warmups before Game 4 Monday night LaMarcus Aldridge knocked down a deep three from one knee.

If Aldridge is taking a lot of threes that’s not a good sign for the Spurs, but we’ll see if he can have a big night and keep the Spurs alive in this series.

Stephen Curry drains shots from near half court during warmups like they’re layups

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Stephen Curry‘s pregame warmups draw people into the arena early, it’s a show in and of itself.

Before Game 4 Monday night, Curry was taking a couple shots from the center-court logo. And draining them. Like layups. Because he can.

We’ll see if he can put on that kind of show when the game tips off.

Gregg Popovich makes it official: No Kawhi Leonard for Game 4

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This was expected. It still sucks to hear.

Kawhi Leonard is out for Game 4 vs. the Warriors Monday night.

Leonard has sprained his left ankle in Game 5 against the Rockets and sat out Game 6 of that series (a San Antonio win), then returned for Game 1 against the Warriors. He re-injured his ankle twice in that game — once stepping on David Lee‘s foot, once when Zaza Pachulia slid under him on a jumper and took away his landing space. Leonard left that game with his team up 23 points, but the Warriors rallied back to win Game 1 and have controlled the series ever since. Leonard has not returned to the series.

San Antonio will play with pride on Monday night, but it may not be enough. You can bet the Warriors were reminded all day about taking their foot off the gas after what happened with Cleveland Sunday.

Report: Orlando hires Toronto GM Jeff Weltman to be president of basketball operations

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In Toronto, Masai Ujiri is the head of basketball operations and the guy with the hammer on deals. Jeff Weltman was his right-hand man and team GM.

Make that was his right-hand man, Weltman has been hired by the Orlando Magic to run its basketball operations, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Orlando Magic have hired Toronto Raptors general manager Jeff Weltman as the franchise’s president of basketball operations, league sources told The Vertical.

Weltman met with Orlando CEO Alex Martins and ownership on Monday, finalizing a five-year deal, league sources said.

Orlando officials had been intrigued with Cleveland GM David Griffin, but moved steadily toward Weltman as they became further engaged with his candidacy in recent weeks, league sources said. Weltman has been deeply involved in every aspect of the Raptors’ front office under president Masai Ujiri as Toronto became a perennial Eastern Conference contender.

Making a move now is smart in this sense: The Magic have the No. 5 pick in this draft and would want the guy making the big picture decisions about this roster on board to make this selection.

That roster already has some quality pieces — Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, maybe Elfrid Payton — but has underachieved. There were questions about the culture and a lack of accountability, and that blame ultimately fell on GM Rob Hennigan and he was let go. Frank Vogel is locked in as

Frank Vogel is locked in as coach, so how well Weltman and Vogel work together — and share a vision — will be key.

Weltman is well-respected around the league. He spent five seasons as an assistant GM in Milwaukee, and has been with the Raptors since 2013 as that team has risen up the Eastern Conference standings and had its best run in franchise history. He also has worked with the Clippers and in Denver. He’s been one of those guys expected to get a chance in the big chair for a few years now.

He’s got it, and it’s an interesting challenge in Orlando.