Was LeBron James justified to complain about Miami Heat’s Christmas road game?

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The Miami Heat beat the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday, extending Miami’s win streak to six games, an active NBA best.

The Heat should feel good.

The Heat do feel good.

But there was still a little griping before Miami’s Christmas title with the Lakers, played in Los Angeles.

Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report:

Truth be told, LeBron James didn’t really want to be here. None of them did. It never made much sense, a viewpoint that Dwyane Wade—among others—made clear to Adam Silver last month, when the commissioner-in-waiting visited the Miami Heat. Silver promised the players that, if they won another championship, they would be home for the next Christmas.

“Great incentive, huh?” James quipped prior to Miami’s mostly uneven but occasionally electric 101-95 win against the Los Angeles Lakers. “Growing up, I thought that was a rule. I don’t know if it was a rule, but I just thought that was like given. I don’t remember ever, besides, I guess, I don’t know if I’ve ever seen M.J. play on the road on Christmas. Maybe in the Garden, maybe.”

“I always thought if you win a championship, you kind of get some perks,” James said. “But we’ve been on the road, we’ve definitely been on the road. But it’s alright. Whatever.”

I’d never heard of the defending NBA champion being entitled to a home game on Christmas before reading this, but recent history supports LeBron’s claim.

The previous four defending champions – including LeBron’s Heat in 2012 – played at home on Christmas.

But before that, there was hardly a definitive Christmas schedule for the defending champion.

Since the league began scheduling Christmas games in 1947, defending champions have been more likely to not play at all on Christmas than play at home. Here are the splits:

  • Home: 23
  • Road: 20
  • None: 24

The defending champion usually playing on Christmas is just a recent phenomenon. Between 1978 and 1987, no defending champion played on Christmas. Since then, the splits favor more home games, but hardly definitively:

  • Home: 13
  • Road: 8
  • None: 5

Here’s the Christmas location for every defending champion in league history (click to enlarge):

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Trying to find a way to give LeBron the benefit of the doubt proves difficult. Not even back-to-back defending champs, like the Heat, get a guaranteed home Christmas game.

The 1998 Chicago Bulls – featuring Michael Jordan, whom LeBron cited – had just won back-to-back-to-back titles, and they didn’t even get a Dec. 25 game. In 1995, the Houston Rockets were defending champions, and they had to play on the road, as did the Detroit Pistons in 1990 and Lakers in 1988.

LeBron is correct that defending champions get perks. This just isn’t one of them.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).