The accolades keep piling up for LeBron James.
The guy who is the reigning NBA MVP and has led the Miami Heat to the last two NBA titles has now been named the Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year for 2013.
Only two other NBA players have ever won the award — Michael Jordan and Larry Bird. Last year the award went to Michael Phelps off his performance at the London Olympics, other past winners include Aaron Rodgers, NASCAR’s Jimmy Johnson, Tom Brady, Tiger Woods and going back Joe Montana, Carl Lewis, Wayne Gretzky, Muhammad Ali and Jesse Owens.
“I’m chasing something and it’s bigger than me as a basketball player,” James told the AP. “I believe my calling is much higher than being a basketball player. I can inspire people. Youth is huge to me. If I can get kids to look at me as a role model, as a leader, a superhero … those things mean so much, and that’s what I think I was built for. I was put here for this lovely game of basketball, but I don’t think this is the biggest role that I’m going to have…
“I don’t think I’ve changed much this year,” James said. “I’ve just improved and continued to improve on being more than just as a basketball player. I’ve matured as a leader, as a father, as a husband, as a friend.”
LeBron is off to another MVP-like season — he is averaging 25.2 points per game but is doing it at amazing efficiency, his true shooting percentage so far this season is 67.4 percent, plus averaging 6.9 points and 6.2 assists a game. His minutes are down a little, he’s taking a couple fewer shots a game but LeBron is still impacting any game he is in on both ends of the floor more than any player on the planet right now.
Miami has the chance this year to make it to their fourth straight NBA Finals (the last team to do that was Bird’s Celtics in the mid 1980s) and win three straight NBA titles. If that happens (it will not be easy with the Indiana Pacers in their path) it will be because of James.
Out: Derek Fisher.
In: Kurt Rambis.
That’s only the first step of the Knicks’ coaching change.
Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
Of course, Luke Walton and Brian Shaw – like Fisher and the other top candidate in 2014, Steve Kerr – played for Phil Jackson. The Knicks president has a type, one that includes both good and bad candidates.
The good: Walton. He impressed with his handling of the Warriors in Steve Kerr’s absence. He’s one of the hottest coaches on the market. I have some doubts, given Kerr’s and Golden State’s players’ influence. But Walton has done plenty right to be in this position.
The bad: Shaw. Jackson reportedly preferred Shaw to Fisher two years ago, but Shaw was under contract with the Nuggets. Denver since fired him, because he did a stunningly awful job connecting with his players. Perhaps, he has grown in that area since, though.
It seems inevitable Tom Thibodeau’s name will come up. The former Bulls coach isn’t a Phil Jackson disciple, but he previously worked as a Knicks assistant. Maybe his New York connection will allow Thibodeau to overcome his lack of a Jackson tie.
A direct connection to Jackson clearly puts someone on the fast track for this job.
There were rumors about the Knicks firing Derek Fisher – and that was before New York lost 9-of-10.
Now, with the Knicks sinking out of the playoff picture, they’ve made a move.
Fisher was one of the NBA’s most improved coaches – which mostly speaks to how lousy of a job he did last year. But that was also his first season coaching in any capacity. If you’re going to hire someone so inexperienced, doesn’t it also make sense to give him time to learn on the job? And if progresses at a reasonable rate, doesn’t it make sense to allow him to continue to grow?
If the Knicks are firing Fisher now, he was probably doomed from the start.
There are plenty of reasons not to believe in Fisher, including his Xs and Os and refusal to see motivating his players as part of his job. But the Knicks did believe in him. They hired him. It’s difficult to see why they reversed course so quickly.
Especially to Kurt Rambis. Although he is just an interim, they will make another hire this summer.
Rambis went 15-67 and 17-65 in an ugly two-year stint coaching the Timberwolves. He probably won’t lift the 23-31 Knicks back into playoff contention this season.
Perhaps, that speaks to just how fed up the Knicks were with Fisher.
The NBA tweeted the Grizzlies beat the Mavericks on Saturday.
A mistake, yes. Dallas won the game, 114-110, in overtime.
But the tweet also could’ve reflected an alternate reality where the game were called correctly down the stretch.
The Mavericks had two cracks to win in regulation – a Dirk Nowitzki jumper and, after a Zach Randolph loose-ball foul going for the rebound, a lob to Justin Anderson. Neither connected, though neither should have even been attempted.
Nowitzki got away with travelling before his shot at the 5.2-second mark, according to the Last Two Minute Report:
Nowitzki (DAL) moves his pivot foot. The official is looking for any potential illegal contact and does not pick up the pivot foot.
The league also ruled Marc Gasol should’ve been called for fouling Nowitzki on the shot. But the travel came first, which would’ve made the foul irrelevant.
It’s obviously no guarantee the Grizzlies would’ve scored, but 5.2 seconds would’ve been plenty of time to get off a decent attempt. They deserved the opportunity.
At least the Mavericks earned the win in overtime. All three missed calls in the extra period worked against them. The NBA ruled two shooting fouls on Dallas – Nowitzki fouling Jeff Green with 2:07 left and Raymond Felton fouling Mike Conley with 6.5 seconds left – were errors. Those gave Memphis an extra two points on free throws. Gasol also got away with an offensive foul with 1:43 left, though the Grizzlies didn’t score on that possession anyway.
Avery Bradley hit a perfectly dramatic shot Friday – a 3-pointer down two with time expiring against the conference’s best team.
When it fell, the Celtics justifiably went wild.
Well, not all the Celtics: