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.

Russell Westbrook: ‘Oklahoma City is a place that I want to be’

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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The Thunder want to sign Russell Westbrook to a contract extension that projects to be worth about $207 million over five years.

But does he want to sign it?

Westbrook, via Royce Young of ESPN:

“That’s something, like I said, I haven’t thought about anything, obviously,” Westbrook said. “Everybody knows that I like Oklahoma City and I love being here and I love everybody here. But I haven’t even thought about that. Obviously, Oklahoma City is a place that I want to be.”

Westbrook noted that his wife is expecting their first child in May, and that’s where his focus is right now. Asked whether there’s a timetable on his decision about a potential extension, Westbrook lightheartedly jabbed back.

“No. What did I just say? Like you don’t care about my baby?” he said. “You must not. You didn’t hear that part, huh?”

Though it was painted as Westbrook showing his loyalty to the Thunder in stark contrast to the departed Kevin Durant, Westbrook’s renegotiation-and-extension last summer was also his way of receiving the highest-possible salary.

This is a different case.*

*So, it seems. It’s unclear whether the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will allow Oklahoma City to renegotiate Westbrook’s 2017-18 salary up to the designated-veteran-player rate, but I’m presuming not.

Westbrook will have 10 years of experience when an extension would kick in. A typical advantage of a designated-veteran-player contract is allowing a player with eight or nine years experience, who’s typically limited to a starting salary of 30% of the salary cap, to receive a starting salary of 35% of the salary cap. But Westbrook will be eligible for 35% of the salary by then simply due to his years of service.

In other words, an extension signed this summer would pay Westbrook the exact same amount he could receive as a free agent in 2018.

So, would Westbrook sign that extension? It’d guarantee him a huge salary and protect him in the event of injury or decline. But Westbrook is so good, he’s extremely likely to get the max in 2018-19 no matter what. With only minimal risk, maybe he’d rather maintain flexibility.

Westbrook appeared to embrace leading the team, and he truly seems happy in Oklahoma City in a way I didn’t expect when he signed last summer. His image is so tied to loyalty to the Thunder, it’d be tough to spin an exit.

But Oklahoma City is relatively locked into a roster that will have a hard time winning multiple playoff series. Westbrook wants to win.

I don’t know whether he’ll accept an extension this summer rather than delaying a year, but if he won’t ink a deal this year, that should be a concerning indicator to the Thunder about their chances of re-signing him in 2018.

Neil Olshey pushes back against columnist critiquing Trail Blazers’ culture

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John Canzano wrote a column for The Oregonian calling the Trail Blazers’ culture “busted.”

Jason Quick of CSN Northwest tweeted about the column:

And then Quick asked Neil Olshey about it in the general manager’s postseason press conference:

Olshey

I want to let you know I was completely oblivious to that until someone showed me your tweet, which I said, “I don’t understand what this means.” And I had to go back and read that.

I was glad that it was written by someone who came to two games all year, and clearly the motivation was to abuse his privileges as a media person with his pass so that he could get tickets for his relatives and pictures taken with the opposing point guard in the opposing point guard’s jersey. Because clearly, that’s an unbiased opinion, right? That’s an impartial observer talking about our roster when he has his nephew in a Steph Curry jersey taking pictures with Steph Curry. Sure.

You know, look. I’m very comfortable with where our culture is. I mean, look, you guys are around it. Hey, you’re in that locker room more than I am, right? I mean, quite honestly, you guys know. The day I stopped coaching, I haven’t walked into an NBA locker room. Not once. It’s not my place. When I talk to the guys, it’s out of the locker room. That’s their sanctuary. So, you guys know how close a group that is, how they feel about the coaching staff, the support that they get from the organization. They know we have their best interest at heart.

Last summer, when we had guys that their markets didn’t appear the way that I think maybe they anticipated they would. They were still taken care of. They wanted to keep here. When you look at guys like – look at Chris Kaman. Look at Steve, guys, how they were treated when they were here relative to maybe some other experiences they had had in the league. Everybody throws the word around, and like I said, I don’t hear a lot of complaints. And believe me, we have guys that – any of you that know Chris Kaman, if he had a complaint, he would voice it.

And again, like with Dame, hey, what does it tell you about an organization and an owner that, when you are in a starting lineup from the day you walked in and 80 percent of it is not gonna return, and on day one you sign on long-term? And then your backcourt mate, who is another star in this league never once said, “I wanna go somewhere to run my own team” and signed on.

And I think that’s where you have to look at it, is — and I’ve talked about this in free agency — look, I’ve got to do a better job selling our program, selling the organization, selling the city when we have the free agency flexibility. But I think what gets lost in that is the guys that wanted to stay and the guys that wanted to come back. I think you have to look at that also, that we don’t have guys – we lost one player.

Canzano addressed the gripe about his family member wearing a Stephen Curry jersey:

I bought a pair of tickets to Game 3 for my nephew and our church pastor. I had to work the game so I needed a chaperone to sit with the kid and the church youth pastor was all for it. I dropped them off in front of Moda Center and picked them back up after the game. The nephew, 11, likes Steph Curry and wore his Curry jersey to the game and the pastor snapped a photo of the kid with Curry warming up in the background. It was posted to social media. My nephew is in the foster-care system. My wife and I are his guardians. It felt like the right thing to do. Not sure why this is even a topic. Not sure fans care, either. But I suppose Olshey was trying to say that because my nephew wore a Curry jersey I couldn’t be impartial? I don’t know, and a waste of time to think about it.

That’s a more-than-fair defense. I wouldn’t get hung up on Canzano’s nephew’s Stephen Curry jersey.

But Canzano’s initial column left plenty to be desired. Most of it harps on how nice Kevin Durant and Curry were to Portland arena staff during the Warriors-Trail Blazers first-round series, as if that – not Curry’s and Durant’s generational talent and star production from Draymond Green and Klay Thompson – has made Golden State title favorite. Damian Lillard shaking a few more hands and C.J. McCollum issuing a few more than yous would not have gotten Portland out of the first round. Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant were notorious jerks, and their teams fared pretty well. Canzano’s juxtaposition also unfairly paints the Trail Blazers players as surly, which has not been the case in my experience.

The unfortunate part: Canzano actually makes a couple interesting critiques that are drowned out by the fawning over Durant and Curry shaking hands. Canzano contends that, because Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen has cycled through so many general managers, Olshey knows his time in Portland could be running out and therefore contributes to a culture of fear and paranoia that permeates in numerous ways. I wish Canzano would’ve explored that in greater depth.

Instead, Olshey never addressed those concerns. He talked about how most Trail Blazers, LaMarcus Aldridge the lone notable exception, have been happy in Portland and wanted to stay there – which is nice, but not really Canzano’s point. A team can both attract players and have a flawed culture.

Dwyane Wade says Bulls’ showers had no hot water in Boston

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The Bulls suffered a rough loss in Boston last night.

It didn’t get better afterward.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Celtics general manager Danny Ainge – who played for Boston in the 80s – pleaded ignorance to any nefarious plumbing:

I think the idea that teams plot to shut off the visitor’s hot water is often overstated. Arenas have complex infrastructure, and things can go wrong on their own. Sometimes, the home team loses hot water, but that never gets remembered.

But reasonable excuses don’t make a cold shower in the moment any more tolerable.

Robin Lopez pushes short floater over backboard (video)

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Robin Lopez had reason to be upset from the Bulls’ Game 5 loss to the Celtics last night.

This miss was all on him.