LeBron James

Why you can play basketball in 90-degree temperatures and LeBron James couldn’t

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LeBron James’ cramping in Game 1 of the NBA Finals is a medical issue that has been thoroughly analyzed by players, coaches, sports media and sports fans.

Maybe a medical professional can add a little more valuable insight to the discussion.

So, I reached out to Ben Wedro of MD direct. Wedro, who wrote more in depth about heat cramps here, was kind enough answer my questions. Here’s what he said:

Q: Eighteen players appeared in Game 1. LeBron was the only one to leave with cramps. Why was that, and what does that say about him?

A: It doesn’t say anything about him. It’s just the way it happened.

That’s not a medical question. That’s a philosophic question. Why do some people get sick and other people don’t? It just happened to him this time. So, if you’re ever on a plane and someone is sick and sneezes, a couple passengers are going to get sick in a couple days and a couple aren’t. Why those two instead of someone else?

Maybe that means he was working harder than someone else on the field. Maybe he was stressing his body more because he was more energetic and expended more energy and worked his muscles harder.

Q: Why couldn’t LeBron adjust to the temperature like so many non-elite athletes do?

A: He’s playing in great conditions all the time. He’s practicing in whatever they keep the arena at – 68 or 72. They tend to keep arenas a little cooler before the game because fans come in, and their body heat raises it a little bit. But he’s not playing on the playground.

“It’s 55 and then it’s 70 and then it’s 90, and you do that over the course of a month. Your body gets used to it. He went from playing in 70-degree weather then to 90. That’s tough. And his body’s not ready for that. He’s not acclimated. He can’t cool as well, and so he’s trying to cool his body, and he can’t, and he’s sweating. He’s not sweating as efficiently as he could and cooling as efficiently as he could.

Q: One LeBron left the game, could he or the Heat have done something differently to get him back on the court?

A: There’s really not enough time in that last four or five minutes of the game to get him better. It’s the equivalent of having an NFL player going in at halftime and getting IV fluids and getting back out there the second half.

What happens is the muscles become inflamed, and they go into spasm. It’s usually the large muscles that go into spasm, so a runner or basketball player, though they use their upper body, it’s going to be their legs and their quads and their hamstrings that get tight – their major jumping muscles.

So, you not only have to get the muscles stretched out and decrease the inflammation, but you also have to replace the fluids. If he’s not vomiting, he can take the fluids in by mouth, but a lot of times, if you want an elite athlete back quickly, you probably have to do IV fluids.

Is LeBron more susceptible to cramps because he’s so muscular?

A: No. He went into cramps, because he got dehydrated.

Q: LeBron has dealt with cramps before during games. Could there be something about his body that makes him more susceptible?

A: Not really.

Just the way it is, and that’s not a very satisfying answer.

Q: Is it possible he wasn’t hydrated enough entering the game?

A: I don’t know. He’s an elite athlete, and he knows his body well.

What we tell athletes who are both elite and non-elite is you have to let urine be your guide. When you’re body’s well hydrated, you’re kidneys make urine because there’s a lot of water in your body, so your urine comes out clear. When you become a little dehydrated, it becomes more concentrated, so it will come out a little bit more yellow.

Q: So any accusation LeBron didn’t properly hydrate before the game is baseless unless the accuser inspected LeBron’s urine first?

A: That’s right.

The big key is he’s an elite athlete. He knows his body. He was put in an unfair situation.

Let’s look at elite athletes who are in heat all the time – marathon runners. You get race days that go from 65 to 90 or 80, and all of a sudden, people are dropping on the course and pulling out in Olympic marathons. You wouldn’t say, “Well, they’re not prepared or they’re not elite.”

When you’re put into environments where you don’t know how to function and your body is not acclimated to it, you may not do well. And that’s not fair to blame the athlete for the environment.

Q: What does LeBron need to do before Game 2 Sunday, and is that enough time for him to fully recover?

A: It should be behind him by Sunday. And what should he do? Not play in an arena that’s 90 degrees.

Q: That’s it? He can go back to his normal training routine, and it will take care of itself?

A: That’s right. His muscles might be a little sorer than they would be, but no sorer than playing extra basketball. He should be ready to go and play well, but he may be more fatigued for a day or two. So, today and tomorrow, he may be a little bit more tired. He may have to work a harder at rest than he normally would.

76ers coach Brett Brown: Joel Embiid’s minute limit likely to remain 28 this season

BOSTON, MA - JANUARY 6: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on during the second half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on January 6, 2017 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeat the 76ers 110-106. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that , by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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Joel Embiid‘s per-36 minute numbers – 28.0 points, 11.0 rebounds and 3.5 blocks – are unprecedented by any rotation regular.

In fact, the only players to come close are Hall of Famers: David Robinson, Patrick Ewing and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.

Player Year Team Points Rebounds Blocks
Joel Embiid 20117 PHI 28.0 11.0 3.5
David Robinson 1995 SAS 26.2 10.3 3.1
Patrick Ewing 1990 NYK 26.7 10.2 3.7
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar 1977 LAL 25.7 13.0 3.1

Robinson, Ewing and Abdul-Jabbar each averaged more than 36 minutes per game. Embiid is at just 25 due to a minute limit.

How would the 76ers rookie handle a larger load?

According to Philadelphia coach Brett Brown, we probably won’t find out this season.

Jessica Camerato of CSN Philly

This is probably the right approach considering Embiid missed his first two professional seasons due to injury, but it’ll cost the 76ers on the court. They outscore opponents by 2.6 points per 100 possessions when Embiid plays and get outscored by 11.3 points per 100 possessions when he sits.

Embiid will still run away with Rookie of the Year, though I doubt he takes much solace in that. He wants to play.

On the bright side, this will improve Philadelphia’s draft position.

Report: Timberwolves “actively shopping” Ricky Rubio, packaging with with Shabazz Muhammad

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - NOVEMBER 15: Ricky Rubio #9 of the Minnesota Timberwolves looks on during the game against the Charlotte Hornets on November 15, 2016 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
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At 14-27, the Minnesota Timberwolves have been one of the bigger disappointments of the NBA season. Maybe we were all a year out in front of what this team will become with all this talent. Especially defensively (Tom Thibodeau can’t work instant miracles, it turns out).

Offensively, they lack shooting. The Timberwolves have two slashers in Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine, they have Karl-Anthony Towns in the paint, but you can pack the paint on this team — they get 23.3 percent of their points from three, the third-lowest percentage in the league, and they take the fifth fewest threes per game in the league. Fixing that is going to fall more on Thibodeau the GM — this team needs shooters. Ideally at the point guard spot.

Which means the Timberwolves are shopping Ricky Rubio, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Minnesota Timberwolves are actively shopping point guard Ricky Rubio in trade proposals, league sources told The Vertical.

The Timberwolves have attached Rubio to multiple offers with Shabazz Muhammad to several teams around the NBA, league sources said. Minnesota has been seeking something of a “bridge” guard in return, a player capable of starting in the short term, but who’ll ultimately settle into a backup role and give way to rookie Kris Dunn to become the long-term starter, league sources said.

The Sacramento Kings have had a strong interest in acquiring Rubio, but there’s no traction on a deal between those two teams, league sources said. So far, the Timberwolves are trying to exhaust the market elsewhere for a better return of assets than the Kings can offer.

This is confirmation of something talked about on this site and whispered around the league for a while — the pieces don’t fit well in Minnesota and Rubio was always likely to get moved. That said, the Timberwolves are not giving him away, there needs to be a quality return of Rubio stays put. And the question is, what team is in a position to bring in a point guard who is a brilliant passer but can’t shoot? That’s a very short list.

The Kings start Darren Collison at the point and bring Ty Lawson off the bench behind him — one of those guys plus some other pieces could come to Minnesota (Omri Casspi?). The Kings desperately want to make the playoffs for the first time in a decade, and they are just half-a-game back of eight-seed Portland, but does Rubio get them there? Rubio is a better passer but not near the shooter (Collison hits 40 percent from three). Collison for Rubio seems a lateral move.

I can see why the Timberwolves are looking for a better offer, and leaking this so teams know they are serious may help bring a few more suitors to the table.

One other thing to watch in Minnesota: Is Dunn the future at the point guard spot? He’s the first pick of the Tom Thibodeau era so they are committed to making it work, but is he a future starter? Or, should the Timberwolves spend money on a quality free agent point guard this summer (Patty Mills, Jeff Teague) and make him the glue that brings all the talent together? That buzz is out there around the league, it’s something to watch.

Report: Carmelo Anthony tells Phil Jackson he wants to stay with Knicks

NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 12:  Carmelo Anthony #7 of the New York Knicks during a stop in play against the Chicago Bulls at Madison Square Garden on January 12, 2017 in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Phil Jackson asked Carmelo Anthony whether the star forward wanted to remain with the Knicks.

Apparently, what Anthony said publicly over and over and over and over and over was true.

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

This further proves Anthony’s loyalty to New York.

A trade could’ve sent him to a better team with a more-desirable boss and netted him a $10 million trade bonus. But Anthony enjoys living and playing in New York, even with the tumult – including Jackson – that follows.

Now, it’s on Jackson to improve the roster around Anthony, repair player-coach relations and create a culture where the starting point guard doesn’t go AWOL.

Report: In ‘far more contentious’ meeting, Phil Jackson asked Carmelo Anthony whether he wanted to stay with Knicks

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Carmelo Anthony finally got his desired meeting with Knicks president Phil Jackson.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

At turn after turn after turn after turn after turn, Anthony has stated his loyalty to the Knicks. What has he done since to indicate he wants to leave New York?

Jackson, not Anthony, has fostered all this recent controversy.

Jackson built a crummy roster that faced a difficult path to the playoffs. Jackson used the code word “posse.”  Jackson publicly critiqued Anthony for being a ball hog. Jackson mouthpiece Charley Rosen wrote “Anthony has outlived his usefulness in New York.”

Anthony just wants to play basketball for a good team in the world’s biggest market – not work under a black cloud. Jackson is making it impossible for Anthony to get all his wishes, though.

So, the question falls to Anthony: Would he rather keep playing for the Knicks – and all that comes with it – or waive his no-trade clause to join another team?

For years, he has unequivocally answered that question publicly with devotion to New York. But the act of Jackson asking might invite a different response.