LeBron James says when he’s done he’ll belong on NBA’s Mount Rushmore

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It’s one of those bar stool sports debates — name the Mount Rushmore for your team. Who are the four players/coaches/owners/whoever that had the biggest impact on this franchise? ProFootballTalk did it with every NFL team. You can certainly do it with the NBA as well.

LeBron James sat down with NBA TV  for an interview that airs Feb. 17. In it LeBron talks about Dwyane Wade and that first season in Miami, how Kevin Durant pushes him plus much more. The NBA sent out a little preview of the discussion.

Then Steve Smith asks LeBron to name the NBA’s Mount Rushmore, which is not easy.

“I would say obviously, the easy three, that we all talk about in our league is Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and you got Magic Johnson. And I would say my fourth… this is so tough, the greatest players of all time that I would like to see on Mount Rushmore… this is not fair. You know how many great players there is?

“Oscar Robertson.”

Then comes the question that will ignite hours of sports talk radio: When his career is over, will LeBron be up there?

“Yes.”

Why?

“Because I’m going to be one of the top four to ever play this game, for sure. And if they don’t want me to have one of those top four spots they better find another spot on that (mountain).”

LeBron refused to be drawn into the “who are you bumping off?” discussion.

First off, what do you expect LeBron to say? You don’t get to be a player of LeBron’s status without some ego and drive; he should say he wants to go down as one of the all time greats. If you asked Kobe about this mid-career, what do you think he would have said? What about Jordan? Bird?

I will say once again what I have said since LeBron first signed in Miami: We can’t accurately judge LeBron’s legacy right now. Right now he’s basically playing for that legacy (and a whole lot of cash, to be fair) — how many championships, MVPs and all of it factors in. Mostly the titles but there is more than that. For example, if LeBron goes to Rio with Team USA for the 2016 Olympics and wins gold, he will be the only basketball player ever with three golds, how would that factor in?

LeBron will go down as one of the most physically gifted players ever, without a doubt. He’s a guy that’s worked hard to improve his weaknesses (remember his jump shot the first few years?) and has accomplished a lot. But his overall legacy? Ask me when he’s been out of the game for a few years, that’s when we’ll have perspective on all of it.

Tim Hardaway Jr. calls fallen ref safe rather than defend shot (video)

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The Knicks went on a 28-0 run.

They earned the right to showboat late in their win over the Raptors last night.

Tim Hardaway Jr. called a ref, who slipped on the baseline, safe rather than contest Serge Ibaka‘s 3-pointer. Perfection!

Luc Mbah a Moute sets modern record at +57 in Rockets’ win over Nuggets

AP Foto/Eric Christian Smith
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Luc Mbah a Moute is a quietly good player.

He’s an effective and versatile defender. Offensively, he shoots 3-pointers well enough to score efficiently and spread the floor. Most of all, the 31-year-old just understands how to play and plays within himself. His teams tend to perform better when he’s on the floor.

That’s an understatement for Wednesday night.

In a 125-95 win, the Rockets outscored the Nuggets by a whopping 57 points in Mbah a Moute’s 26 minutes. That’s the best single-game plus-minus in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to the 2000-01 season. It tops Joe Smith’s +52 in a 2001 Timberwolves win over the Bulls, a 53-point game that also produced a +50 for Wally Szczerbiak and +48 for Terrell Brandon.

Mbah a Moute’s traditional stat line was impressive, though not overly so: 13 points on 5-of-5 shooting with four rebounds, four steals and an assist. He played well, contributing to winning in all the small ways he often does, and the Rockets happened to play excellently around him.

Now, Mbah a Moute tops the leaderboard in single-game plus-minus since 2000-01:

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Did Russell Westbrook get mad at Steven Adams for not taking potential triple-double-clinching shot? (video)

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Russell Westbrook chases triple-doubles.

That hardly makes him unique. He’s just close enough to the feat more often than other players, so he chases them more often.

But he still chases them.

Late in the Thunder’s 108-91 win over the Warriors last night, Westbrook was heading toward his final line of 34 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists. His teammates shot off his passes on three of Oklahoma City’s final four possessions before he took a seat (including one assist). The exception came when he passed to Steven Adams, who passed rather than shoot – clearly upsetting Westbrook.

Was Westbrook mad because he missed his chance at a triple-double? Maybe.

Was Westbrook mad because Adams passed as the shot clock neared expiration? Maybe.

It could be both!

Watch Kevin Durant and Stephen Curry on Golden State’s bench. They clearly found something funny.

Report: Teams are calling Clippers about DeAndre Jordan trades

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Injuries have ravaged the Clippers. They started the season 4-0 have been without three starters from opening night: Milos Teodosic (plantar fascia injury, he is still in a walking boot), Danilo Gallinari (strained left glute), and now point guard Patrick Beverley is out for the season after microfracture surgery on his knee.

All this has led to the Clippers losing nine in a row before beating the Hawks Friday night. All the weight of the offense has fallen on Blake Griffin‘s shoulders, and while he’s been good most of the game in the fourth quarter his numbers have plummeted, and the Clippers have stumbled.

It’s left the Clippers with a couple of hard questions.

Do they need a coaching change? There was a sense from sources around the league that Rivers is already on his way out — he was stripped of GM/president powers over the summer — and what kept him around was the couple of seasons at $10 million a year on his contract. That’s a lot of money for an owner to eat, even Steve Ballmer, but the time may be coming as a way to shake up the team.

The other, what to do with DeAndre Jordan? They could not work out a contract extension with him (Jordan was acting as his own agent), and one of the league’s top traditional centers is a free agent next summer, but new head basketball guy Lawrence Frank said they want Jordan to be a “Clipper for life.” Does Jordan want to be a Clipper for life? Do the Clippers really want him back, and if so at what price? Does a Clipper franchise trying to get approvals for a new arena in Inglewood want to rebuild now, because it does not help that process? If it’s time to move on and rebuild, do they need to trade him now?

Teams are calling about Jordan, reports Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post.

DeAndre Jordan, who can become a free agent after the season, has been coming up in trade conversations, with multiple teams talking potential trades. Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said last month that Jordan will be a “Clipper for life,” muddled matters, as does the limited number of teams who need a center and the size of Jordan’s contract ($22.6 million).

Jordan is an All-NBA center, a defensive force in the paint who sets a strong pick, rolls hard to the rim, can finish with the best of them, and is averaging 10.4 points (scoring and attempts are down without Chris Paul feeding him) and 13.4 rebounds a game. Jordan knows who he is and plays within himself.

It’s not hard to imagine how he could help teams such as Cleveland, Washington, Milwaukee, and a host of others. The question is what would teams be willing to give up to get him — they have to send back salary to match, but will not want to give up assets that help them win now. The Clippers will be looking for good young players and picks back in the package, which makes it hard for a team such as Cleveland to put together a package.

But before they discuss trade scenarios, the Clippers need to figure out what they want to do. Life has come at them fast this season and led to a lot of big-picture questions that Frank and Ballmer need to answer.