Indiana Pacers v Miami Heat - Game One

Chris Andersen complements Heat’s Big Three so well

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For the 145th time since they joined forces in Miami, LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh finished as the Heat’s top three scorers.

For the first time in the 2013 calendar year, the fourth-leading scorer – Chris Andersen – scored more than 15 points.

It’s been much less of a concern that many expected when the Big Three era began in Miami, but the Heat sometimes have a tendency to watch LeBron, Wade and Bosh work. Some of that is smart basketball. When three superstars are playing well, it’s often best for role players to stay out of the way. It’s also natural for teammates to marvel at the greatness of those three.

But occasionally,a fourth player steps up in those situations and makes the Heat even better.

Usually, the same type of player scores well when LeBron, Wade and Bosh are leading the way – outside shooters. They use the attention the superstars attract to find space and get clean looks. Prior to tonight, a Heat player scored more than 15 points in just nine of the 144 games LeBron, Wade and Bosh led the team in scoring.

Ray Allen accounted for four of those games, shooting 2-of-3, 3-of-5, 3-of-5, and 3-of-4 on 3-pointers. Mario Chalmers had two of them, shooting 2-of-7 and and 4-of-4 on 3-pointers. Carlos Arroyo (3-of-4 on 3-pointers) and Mike Bibby (5-of-5 on 3-pointers) also added one. Udonis Haslem added another without making a 3-pointer, but he was clearly the exception.

Andersen – who scored 16 points on 7-of-7 shooting in the Heat’s 103-102 win over the Pacers in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference – certainly bucked the trend tonight. Yet, like the 3-point shooters, his points were clearly the result of the  Big Three clicking.

Six of Andersen’s shots were assisted, three by LeBron and two by Wade, and Anderson’s other basket came on a Kobe assist from LeBron in the purest sense. LeBron drove and attracted help defense near the basket, leaving a clear tip-in for Andersen.

The Heat already had the 3-point shooters – players like Allen, Shane Battier, Chalmers, Mike Miller and Rashard Lewis – to fit around the Big Three. But Andersen, an active player who finds space and elevates quickly near the rim, provides another element.

Not only did Andersen’s 16 points in 18 minutes rate as Miami’s best scoring rate tonight, he broke the franchise record for shots without a miss in a playoff game (previously held by Alonzo Mourning, who went 6-for-6).

Add plus defense – Andersen had three blocks and a steal, though David West (26 points) had a couple nice moments against him – and Andersen is making a real difference for the Heat.

Nobody will forget who Miami’s Big Three are. But Andersen is becoming a very nice fourth piece.

Report: With new building set to open, Sacramento pushes to host 2020 All-Star Game

The Sacramento Kings released the NBA basketball team's new logo, Tuesday, April 26, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. The new logo has a reshaped crown and new typeface meant to convey a modern look. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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In just a few weeks, the new arena that kept the Kings in Sacramento is set to open. It’s a well-designed basketball-first facility that both the fans and players should love.

Now the Kings want to show that building off to everybody and host a future All-Star Game, reports James Ham of CSNCalifornia.com.

It’s not uncommon for a team with a new building to get to host the All-Star Game. The 2017 game is in New Orleans, 2018 is in Los Angeles, 2019 will go to Charlotte if the “bathroom bill” is repealed (or strongly modified). That makes 2020 the next one up.

The Kings new building is in downtown Sacramento, in a growing area close to the California state capital. The only question is whether that area has enough hotel rooms and nearby convention space to handle the massive influx of people that come to an All-Star Game. The league office has this mapped out, it knows how many hotel rooms it needs in close proximity to the arena, for example. If Sacramento can meet all those qualifications, it could well land the February showdown.

Sixers players have dinner with Will Smith

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 24:  Actor Will Smith attends the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' "Focus" at TCL Chinese Theatre on February 24, 2015 in Hollywood, California.  (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)
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Ali. Men in Black. I am Legend. Fresh Prince. Suicide Squad. Independence Day. Plus more than a few movies he’d like us to forget (hello Hancock).

Will Smith is all that — and part owner of the Philadephia 76ers.

As training camp opened, Smith took his team out to dinner, according to the Sixers official site.

Jahlil Okafor and his teammates weren’t told that the Oscar-nominated and Grammy-winning entertainer from West Philadelphia would be dining with them.

“It was great, it was a lot of fun,” said Okafor, who participated in Tuesday’s practice, despite sustaining a minor ankle sprain a few weeks ago. “Will Smith is my favorite celebrity, my favorite actor. It was great to hear him speak.”

Smith shared stories and passed along advice to a crowd consisting mostly of early to mid 20-year olds who grew up on his movies and albums.

“I think the main thing he said is the company you have around you,” Joel Embiid said. “He was trying to explain the people you have around you affect the type of person you are. He was just trying to tell us to have good people around. That’s the main thing I got from that.”

It’s a good lesson for the Sixers in what could be a season of lessons coming for the Philadephia. This team is going to be better than it was a year ago, but don’t confuse that with good. They may get there someday, but there are a lot of hard lessons to learn between now and then.

But it’s a lot more fun to get some of those lessons from Will Smith.

Report: Other teams offered Denver first round picks for Will Barton, answer was no

PHOENIX, AZ - DECEMBER 23:  Will Barton #5 of the Denver Nuggets reacts after scoring against the Phoenix Suns during the second half of the NBA game at Talking Stick Resort Arena on December 23, 2015 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Nuggets defeated the Suns 104-96. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Picking up Will Barton as part of the Arron Afflalo trade a couple of seasons back was one of the smartest moves of the Nuggets front office. Before last season they signed him to a three-year, $10 million deal and he blossomed as his jumper became a real weapon — this season he’s a guy to watch in the Sixth Man of the Year race.

A good player on a good contract? You can be sure other teams will try to poach him.

Which is exactly what happened, reports Christopher Dempsy at the Denver Post.

Now he’s being praised after a breakout season that landed him in the thick of the conversation for postseason awards, that had other teams offering first-round picks to nab him, and that had opponents highlighting him on scouting reports as a player to stop.

At age 25 Barton is part of a young core in Denver that includes Emanuel Mudiay, Gary Harris, Nikola Jokic and others. Why would Denver let Barton go?

At some point maybe Denver will move him to get a player at a position they need more. But that time is not today, Barton is still part of the plan in Denver. And it’s going to take him a lot to pry him away (that first round pick is going to have to be high up the board).

LeBron James on surpassing Michael Jordan: “It’s a personal goal”

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 26: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers during media day at Cleveland Clinic Courts on September 26, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory copyright notice. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Since he was a teenager, LeBron James has been compared to Michael Jordan. That comparison has usually been used as a way to cut him down or explain why he’s not in the same class, but that’s changed since he won his third championship, and first in Cleveland, in June. Now, LeBron has started to be a lot more open about his desire to eventually surpass Jordan. He said so in an interview with the AP’s Tom Withers after practice on Tuesday:

Now that LeBron James has won a championship for the ages, he’s set a loftier goal:

Catching Michael Jordan.

Long flattered to be mentioned in the same company with Jordan and other NBA legends, James has been hesitant to publicly acknowledge that he wants to be remembered as the greatest in league history.

It’s time now.

“It’s a personal goal,” James told The Associated Press on Monday. “I just never brought it up. It’s my own personal goal to be able to be greater than great. I think that should be everybody’s personal goal.”

Now that James has indisputably cemented his legacy as one of the handful of greatest players ever to play the game, he has a lot less to lose by openly talking about these things. Five years ago, he would have gotten killed for bringing it up. Now? It just seems plausible more than anything else.