LeBron says he will be ready to go Sunday, has tuned out criticism on social media

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SAN ANTONIO — LeBron James was trying to joke about it.

“If I had to say today I would probably be out on Sunday, I probably won’t play…”

Then LeBron laughed and said what everyone already knew.

“No, I’ll be all right. I’ll be in uniform on Sunday. I should be 100% on Sunday.”

After missing almost all of the final seven minutes of the Heat’s Game 1 loss to the Spurs due to severe cramps, LeBron spent Friday night and Saturday hydrating — he got two-and-a-half IV bags of fluid after Game 1 — and taking the other steps to be back on the court for Game 2 Sunday night. The extra day off between games is coming in handy for him here.

“I’m pretty sore right now just from the muscles spasming up and they’re starting to release, but I’m pretty sore in my legs,” LeBron said.

LeBron’s cramping has become a national conversation on a couple of fronts. One is the misguided discussion about toughness, one fueled by the Gatorade tweets, as if cramping was a personal failing. This conversation is taking place mostly on social media and sports talk radio, where guys eating a bag of chips on their couch call out LeBron’s mental makeup.

LeBron shrugged that off.

“What everybody has to say, you guys should know me by now; I don’t care, I really don’t,” LeBron said. “I really don’t care what people say about me, I don’t care about that sports group, the drink group that  I’m not even going to say their name. I’m not going to give them a light in The Finals. This is about the Spurs and the Heat, and it’s not about everybody else, man, I don’t care.”

Dwyane Wade shrugged it off, too.

“LeBron gets criticism all over the place from everybody,” Wade said. “Us as athletes, we all do. It’s the nature of the beast. It has nothing to do with basketball.”

Even Spurs coach Gregg Popovich came to LeBron’s defense on this one.

“What may be more amazing to me is the way he’s conducted himself over the years with all the scrutiny,” Popovich said. “None of us really understand what that is. He’s done it pretty damn well.”

The other thrust of discussion on LeBron’s cramping is was a why this is a pattern with him on a big stage — remember he cramped up in Game 4 of the 2014 NBA Finals against the Thunder.

Both LeBron and Heat coach Eric Spoestra played down the pattern idea, saying Thursday night was not a normal situation.

“It was some extreme conditions, I have never played in an NBA game in those conditions.” LeBron said.

“Let’s separate the past to last night,” Spoelstra said. “Last night was such an extreme situation and you have to be able to differentiate the two. Now, Game 4 in Oklahoma City that everybody knows about, since then we think that our staff and LeBron’s diligence has really taken care of that matter, just in terms of his preparation before games, what he’s doing during games in terms of always filling himself up with electrolytes, fluids, cramping pills when necessary. All of those things, we have been much more on top of it since Game 4 of Oklahoma City. We have had minimal issues with it, and he’s been able to handle it much better than before. Last night was so extreme….

“You know, the biggest issue that I think is lost out there is how competitive LeBron James is when you get to this level. Most athletes pace themselves, it’s not a coincidence and a secret and why we have had the success we have had with the best player in the world, when he pushes his body past the point of regular limits for a competitive advantage. I think it’s an extremely admirable trait….

“Most athletes pace themselves, that’s not in his DNA.”

LeBron and the Heat took it easy on Friday, Spoelstra saying that day was scheduled to be a film session with no physical work in practice anyway. Spoelstra added he would play Saturday by ear on how much work the players would go through.

Whatever the next day and a half hold, come Sunday night LeBron will be ready to go.

“Obviously I’m going to take it light today,” James said, “Training staff said I should take it light today. Give the body another day to recover, tomorrow I should be back on my feet full go, and I got all day Sunday to get ready for Sunday night.

“Don’t worry, you guys can talk about me as much as you want. I’ll be there on Sunday as well. I’m not hiding.”

Irving’s 47 lead Celtics past Mavericks to maintain streak

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DALLAS (AP) — Kyrie Irving scored 10 of his season-high 47 points in overtime as the Boston Celtics rallied once again from a double-digit deficit to beat the Dallas Mavericks 110-102 on Monday night and extend their winning streak to 16 games.

The Mavericks led by as many as 13 points in the fourth quarter, but as they have several times during their winning streak, the Celtics stormed back.

The winning streak ties the fourth-longest in Celtics history.

Boston tied the game at 96 when Irving stole the ball from Dirk Nowitzki and fed Jayson Tatum for an alley-oop lay-up that hung on the rim for a full second before dropping through.

Irving scored his team’s first six points of overtime. Then after Jaylen Brown gave Boston a 104-102 lead with a jumper with 1:39 to play, Irving went to work on Yogi Ferrell, backing him down and drawing contact on a lay-up with 48.5 seconds to play. Though Irving missed the free throw to keep the score 106-102, Dallas never got closer.

Harrison Barnes scored 31 points and Wesley Matthews had 18 for Dallas, which came back from an early double-digit deficit as the Celtics went cold for much of the second and third quarters.

Irving and Barnes had chances in the final 30 seconds but both missed shots that would have given their teams the lead.

The Mavericks fell behind by as many as 15 points in the first half, outscoring the Celtics 55-35 over the second and third quarters.

Dallas took its biggest lead of the game when Yogi Ferrell fed a cutting Dwight Powell for a lay-up to make it 87-74 with 7:47 to play before the Celtics rallied.

Boston shot just 10-for-34 over the two middle quarters after building the early lead.

 

DeMarcus Cousins ejected after elbowing Russell Westbrook in head

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DeMarcus Cousins‘ history of flagrant fouls certainly didn’t help him here, but if anyone elbows a guy in the head, he’s going to get tossed.

And that’s what Cousins did here.

Midway through the third quarter in New Orleans, Cousins blocked a putback attempt by Russell Westbrook, then grabbed the rebound. Westbrook tried to reach in across Cousins’ body for the steal, and Cousins cleared out space with his elbow — right to Westbrook’s head. Cousins walked around saying “no, no, no” afterward, and he likely thinks the officials had it out for him here because he was just getting a guy off him, but we go back to the original point — elbow a guy in the head, get tossed. The league is cracking down on blows above the neck. Westbrook did not leave the game.

The Pelicans went on to come from 19 down to win the game 114-107, behind 36 points and 15 boards from Anthony Davis.

Damn, Paul George with the in-game bounce pass alley-oop to Jerami Grant

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The game has been close (as of midway through the third quarter), but that didn’t stop Oklahoma City from putting on a show in New Orleans.

Paul George had the ball on a 2-on-0 fast break and decided to throw the playground bounce-pass alley-oop, which Jerami Grant got up and finished with authority. This could be one of the dunks of the year.

We’re going to see that highlight for a while.

Jusuf Nurkic’s agent says big man wants to stay in Portland this summer

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Last season, after his trade from frustrated backup big in Denver to new starter in Portland, there was a honeymoon — the Blazers went 14-6, their defense was better, and Nurkic was a big man setting big picks for quick guards in Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum.

This season the honeymoon is over, things have been up and down, but far from time to say the marriage should end, as he is a free agent next summer. Nurkic is the only real starting center on the roster (even if coach Terry Stotts left him on the bench in the fourth quarter in favor of Ed Davis a few games back). Nurkic is averaging 14.6 points and 7.2 rebounds a game, and the Blazers’ defense is 1.5 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court. However, his effort level has been up and down, and his shot is off, with a true shooting percentage of just 49.4, and he is shooting just 56.6 percent in the restricted area.

Nurkic wants to stay in Portland, his agent told Ben Golliver in a story at Sports Illustrated (that story is worth the read for the Nurkic origin story, which is amazing).

“I feel like the Blazers are very happy with Jusuf and Jusuf is very happy there,” Tesch, the agent, told The Crossover by telephone this week. “We had some [extension] talks but we decided to play it out this year and engage in talks again in July. He has already proven that he can help the team. There is a fit for Jusuf in Portland and he’s looking to stay there long-term.”

The two sides talked extension before the season, but Portland understandably wanted to make sure there was more to this relationship than just a honeymoon. It gave Nurkic a chance to drive up his asking price.

Portland and Nurkic likely will find a long-term deal next summer because it just makes sense for both sides. There are not a lot of teams with max free agent money next summer (4-6, I was told by an insider), or a lot of money to spend in general, and both DeAndre Jordan and DeMarcus would be centers on the market who rank ahead of Nurkic. Portland will offer more than other free agent destinations, if not as much as Nurkic dreamed of, and they will find common ground.

But there is a lot of season to play out before then. The Blazers feel like a team that should be better than its record so far, and Nurkic is part of that untapped potential. If things change, that’s good for Nurkic — and the Blazers.