LeBron James was pretty clear about what he thought of his Game 3 performance — “I played like s—.”
He says Game 4 will be different. But does that mean we really know how he will respond and play in Game 4?
And that may be the most frustrating thing about LeBron. It’s not that he chooses to pass out of the double-team to an open teammate, that’s the smart basketball play and that kind of criticism (even before he had a ring) always missed the mark. No, it’s that the most gifted player the league might have ever seen doesn’t impose his will on every contest. He’s unpredictable.
NBCSports.com’s own brilliant Joe Posnanski said it better than I ever could.
He might dominate the game from start to finish. He might haltingly disappear into the empty spaces. He might grab 20 rebounds or four, might dish out 15 assists or commit seven turnovers, might score 50 or 18. He might get a triple-double without playing well, or he might entirely control the game without putting up interesting numbers. His games are as unpredictable as Indiana Jones movies. Only, sometimes, the boulder crushes him.
Michael Jordan wasn’t like this. Magic Johnson wasn’t like this. In his absolute prime, Kobe Bryant wasn’t like this. It isn’t that they were great every game. They weren’t. But they were predictable in some deeper way. They were inevitable. They played the same aggressive, forceful game every time. True, sometimes the shots didn’t fall. Sometimes the passes didn’t quite connect. Sometimes they even looked to be in a bit of a fog. But they were fundamentally the same. They were recognizable forces of nature.
LeBron James, though, is like a human mood ring. You just never know.
We need to credit Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs defense for how they have approached the Heat in general and LeBron in particular. They are the masters of baiting you into the shots they want you to take.
But rather than impose his will on the game, he has taken the Spurs bait. Hook, line and sinker.
Game 4 might be different, LeBron has sounded like he plans to bring it.
But do we really know? Do we ever really know?
With Rajon Rondo out 4-6 weeks with a sports hernia, the New Orleans Pelicans were looking for a solid backup point guard.
This week, to make room to sign Richard Jefferson, the Denver Nuggets waived veteran Jameer Nelson.
While other teams such as the Rockets were calling, the Pelicans and Nelson have reached a deal, reports both Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.
Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports added this.
Nelson, in his 14th NBA season, became the top free agent on the market and received interest from contenders such as the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder and several other franchises that hoped to add the respected and accomplished veteran. But for Nelson, the Pelicans represent an opportunity to play significant minutes and provide leadership.
The Pelicans had a full roster of 15 players, they could have waited until next Tuesday and gotten a disabled player exception to add a 16th player, but they decided to go with something more permanent.
Jrue Holiday starts at the point for the Pelicans but with Rondo out — he was supposed to start next to Holiday — there is no depth at the position. The Pelicans can have Nelson step in and get minutes from the first time he steps on the court.
Nelson is still a solid pick-and-roll point guard, but what he brings to the table the Pelicans need more is shooting — he shot 38.8 percent from three last season and is a good spot up player. He can penetrate and make plays off handoffs as well, but it’s his shooting on a team that needs it that will be most valued.
The Pelicans have started the season 0-2 with losses to Memphis and Golden State. They take on the Lakers in Los Angeles Sunday night.
Near the end of New Orleans’ season-opening loss in Memphis, DeMarcus Cousins started getting into a war of words with a female Grizzlies fan, an exchange where allegedly “F-bombs” were dropped in both directions.
That’s going to cost Cousins.
Saturday the league announced that the Pelicans’ center has been fined $25,000 for “directing inappropriate language towards a fan.”
Cousins got a technical foul during this exchange, and that has been rescinded.
Cousins has averaged 31 points and 10 rebounds a game through two games this season, but it hasn’t been enough as New Orleans has started the season 0-2.
Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.
Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.
Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.
Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.
He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.
Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said. “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”
I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.
His second frustration came from the loss to the Celtics on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”
He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.
Take a look at Embiid’s shot chart from Friday night.
Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.