The 2014 Eastern Conference Finals have started. Care to join us, LeBron?

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LeBron James didn’t even touch the ball until the Heat’s fifth possession – and he had to grab a rebound to get his hands on it.

After hitting the glass, he dribbled the length of the floor, exploded into the paint and made a layup over a backtracking Paul George.

LeBron certainly didn’t play poorly in the Heat’s Game 1 loss to the the Pacers on Sunday. He finished with 25 points, 10 rebounds, five assists and three steals.

He just didn’t assert himself, at least by his standards. To get those impressive numbers, he really made the most of limited opportunities.

Including regular season and playoffs, LeBron averages a touch every 30 seconds. Sunday, he touched the ball just once per 44 seconds – by far a season high time between touches.

Here are LeBron’s game-by game seconds per touch this season (regular season in red, first round against Bobcats in blue, second round against Nets in black, Game 1 against Pacers in gold).

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In all, LeBron had just 56 touches in 41 minutes Sunday. He had fewer touches just thrice this season – a pair of wins over the last-place Bucks and a victory over the Spurs in which he played a season-low 28 minutes.

Usually, LeBron better picks his spots to defer. In the 20 previous games this season he had the fewest touches, the Heat went 19-1.

But Miami needed LeBron more involved Sunday.

Paul George deserves credit for blanketing LeBron. That doesn’t explain why LeBron passively waited beyond the arc so often.

It certainly wasn’t to conserve energy for defense.

LeBron didn’t defend well, and he didn’t make the mark he can offensively. His numbers were good, and so was his play. Merely good just isn’t the standard for LeBron.

Often, unfairly, we’ve demanded more and more from LeBron. But had he even  been as involved Sunday as often as he usually is, that would have made a significant difference. Not only would he have been in position to score more, having the ball would have forced the Pacers defense to collapse more often created open shots for his teammates.

For the Heat to overcome their 1-0 series deficit, they need LeBron to assert himself. Teammates ignoring him is not an excuse for a player of his caliber. He has the cache to demand the ball.

He needs to do it.

Danny Ainge says Celtics will apply for Disabled Player Exception

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It’s not likely Gordon Hayward returns this season. His agent said as much, although a return in March is not out of the question. (It’s better PR wise for the Celtics to say he is out for the season, then if he returns early great, it’s better than setting a deadline he doesn’t meet.)

With that, the Celtics are going to apply for the Disabled Player Exception, which could help them land a replacement player, Danny Ainge told Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe.

President of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Globe on Friday the club is applying for the Disabled Player Exception, which would provide the Celtics $8.4 million to pursue a player to fill Hayward’s roster spot.

“We’re in the process of doing that,’’ Ainge said. “We have a while to do that. There’s no urgency, but we will apply for that.”

There are limits to what that money can get the Celtics. The money is the same as the mid-level exception, the Celtics can go over the cap to use it, and the player can be obtained via free agency or trade. However, the player must be in the last year of his contract.

It gives the Celtics options. It also does not mean Hayward cannot return, it only means NBA-approved doctors determined he is not likely to return before a mid-June deadline.

Kings hire former WNBA Seattle coach Jenny Boucek as assistant

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The NBA now has a third female assistant coach.

The first was Becky Hammon, who has been part of Gregg Popovich’s Spurs staff for several years (and has coached their Summer League team). The second was Nancy Leiberman, who has been on the staff in Sacramento for a couple of seasons now.

Now the Kings have hired former Seattle Storm coach Jenny Boucek as an assistant coach on Dave Joerger’s staff. She will work as an assistant player development coach.

A former WNBA player in the league’s inaugural season, the past three years she has coached the WNBA’s Seattle Storm (she was fired midway through the last season), and prior to that had been the head coach of the Sacramento Monarchs from 2007-09.

 

 

Video of Kawhi Leonard struggling to board team plane concerning

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The San Antonio Spurs have been very tight lipped about how serious Kawhi Leonard‘s ongoing quadriceps issue is. He hasn’t played in the preseason or now the start of the regular season, with no timetable for his return. Part of that is the nature of the Spurs organization, but it leads to the feeling there is something more there.

Now surfaces this video of Leonard gingerly, slowly making his way up some stairs to the team plane, and it’s concerning.

To be fair, there is a real lack of context here, but according to the San Antonio Express-News, he had just come out of a rehab session. That means he might have been especially sore (and could have been iced up for the flight).

Still, this video makes one think it could be a while longer before we see Leonard back on the floor for San Antonio. (By the way over the past three seasons, including this one, the Spurs are 15-4 when Leonard sits. They will be fine short term.)

Nike “very concerned” after LeBron James’ jersey rips on opening night

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In the team’s first preseason game, the jersey of the Lakers’ Tyler Ennis was torn in the back with a tug from an opponent. Everyone made tearaway jersey jokes and moved on, thinking it was a one-off situation.

Then LeBron James‘ jersey ripped down the back on opening night, on national television.

Now Nike is looking into the issue, reports Darren Rovell of ESPN.

Nearly three days after one of its jerseys tore in the first regular-season game of its new deal with the NBA, Nike released a statement Friday expressing worry about the issue, without offering insight as to what happened or what will be done.

“The quality and performance of all our products are of utmost importance,” the company said in a statement. “We are obviously very concerned to see any game day jersey tear and are working with the NBA and teams to avoid this happening in the future.”

This is the first year Nike has the NBA apparel contract, having just taken it over from Adidas. They made the jerseys similar to what had been done for the 2016 Rio Olympics, where there were no issues, but these jerseys are lighter than the former Adidas ones. It’s unclear what, if any, changes could be coming.

Like many of the jerseys from opening night, LeBron’s ripped one is being auctioned by the NBA to raise money for hurricane relief.