Wednesday And-1 Links: “The Justice League Goes Inside the NBA: All Star Edition” comic book exists

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Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points.

• I LOVE that this exists. DC Comics has teamed with TNT’s “Inside the NBA” crew for the release of “The Justice League Goes Inside the NBA: All Star Edition” — a comic book that pairs TNT’s Inside the NBA studio team and The Justice League from DC Comics. The 12-page, limited-edition comic book will be distributed free to fans at NBA All-Star Jam Session in New Orleans during NBA All-Star weekend. I am soooo picking one of those up. If you’re not going, the comic will be available on nba.com Feb. 12.

Magic Johnson has become one of the guys to step forward with an investment and save the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA, keeping the team in Los Angeles after its previous owner decided she was losing too much money on the deal. Great move by him, that is an original WNBA franchise worth saving, there is a great fan base in Los Angeles.

• If you’re saying all Blake Griffin can do is dunk, you’re not watching him play.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report with an insightful look at Steve Nash’s return to the Lakers, for however long his body holds up.

The Miami Heat walk into a nail salon

• If you want a Derrick Rose rehab update, he’s apparently ahead of schedule. Everyone in Chicago just rolled their eyes.

• DeAndre Jordan’s new video game chair is better than yours. Via 5gum, it comes with a stash of gum in the base and top-of-the-line speakers in the chair.

A great look at how the Cavaliers can fix their horrid offense. It’s easier said than done with this lineup.

• A Q&A with the Warriors GM at Basketball Insiders — that is all the guys formerly of Hoopsworld in their new home. You should start checking that site out. A lot.

• During the Super Bowl, the Fox broadcast said that the only professional sports championship in Seattle prior to Sunday was the 1979 Sonics. The WNBA’s Seattle Storm would like you to know that’s not true. And they don’t like being overlooked.

Boston Celtics players say they can still make the playoffs. That’s cute.

• Mike Malone is still trying to get the Kings to play consistent defense.

Great bit of writing by Zach Lowe of Grantland (on a topic he and I discussed before briefly): How being an NBA writer changes your fandom. He hits the nail on the head.

• The Minnesota Timberwolves, along with the WNBA’s Lynx, announced plans to open a new, state-of-the-art practice facility across the street from the Target Center. The new facility is part of a new partnership with Mayo Clinic. It looks good in the renderings, and it is right in the heart of the city.

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• While you’re at it, check out the Trail Blazers upgraded practice facility:

LeBron James admits Warriors pose one of biggest challenges he’s faced in Finals

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LeBron James is used to being the underdog in the NBA Finals. It started with the first time he got a team there, the 2007 team where after LeBron the two leading scorers were Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden — that team was not really Finals worthy and the Spurs showed that with a sweep.

Entering his seventh straight NBA Finals in 2017, the Cavaliers are again heavy underdogs. When asked about the challenge these Warriors — now with Kevin Durant — pose LeBron was nothing but complimentary, speaking to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“It’s probably up there,” James said after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice. “I mean, it’s up there. Obviously, I’ve played against four Hall of Famers as well too, with Manu [Ginobili], Kawhi [Leonard], Tony [Parker] and Timmy D [Tim Duncan] on the same team. And if you add Pop [Gregg Popovich] in there, that’s five Hall of Famers.

“So it’s going to be very challenging. Those guys are going to challenge me. They’re going to challenge our ballclub. This is a high-powered team, and I’ve played against some other [stiff competition]. I’ve played against Ray [Allen], KG [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce], [Rajon] Rondo and Doc [Rivers]. So it’s going to be very challenging not only on me mentally, but on our ballclub and on our franchise.”

The Warriors bring four of the top 15-20 guys in the NBA (depending on where you want to rank Klay Thompson), with two of then in the top five with Durant and Stephen Curry. However, what makes the Warriors more dangerous is the way they buy into the offensive system, move the ball and set screens/move off it, all of which makes them greater than just the sum of their parts. Well, that and the fact they had the second best defense in the NBA this year.

Cleveland, however, is probably the team best suited to beat them. Nobody has a good answer for guarding the 1/3 LeBron/Kyrie Irving pick-and-roll, Kevin Love is one of the best power forwards in the game, they are strong on the glass and can be impressive on defense (the challenge will be doing it consistently this series, they haven’t had to up to this point). Ultimately, LeBron is the great equalizer, he is the best player in the game.

All that said, Las Vegas oddsmakers have Golden State the heavy favorites (those odds are a reflection of what the betting public thinks). If LeBron and the Cavaliers pull this off, it will be one of the biggest upsets in NBA Finals history.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.