While NBA rumors fly in wild ride, LeBron James plays patient game

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It’s only been five days. We’re just starting Day 6.

That’s how long we have been in this NBA free agency period (it feels like three weeks, but it just started July 1). Six days is too fast to expect even Pat Riley to have pulled off a miracle, or to have rebuilt key parts of the Heat’s roster. We’re not at the point yet where most players will take a discount, they are still dreaming big.

Six days is far faster than LeBron James needed to make a decision. And he knows it. So he hasn’t.

In today’s constant news cycle/social media landscape opinions — and the emotions of fan bases — swing on droplets of news. Especially where it concerns LeBron because he swings the balance of power with him — whatever team he plays for is instantly a contender. Other players will come there. He brings that kind of power.

But clearly the man is in no rush to use it. He went on vacation right as free agency started and has another one planned within a week.

Why should he be in a rush?

The message he sent to Pat Riley about improving the roster got through and is still hangs over the Heat, forcing actions. LeBron can let his agent sort through potential Plan B options, to meet with other interested teams. LeBron can even sit down this week with a handful of those other suitors.

And then still not make an instant decision.

Would LeBron like to get this wrapped up before he heads to Brazil to watch the World Cup final? I’m sure he would. That’s different from real pressure to get a deal done — what real pressure is on him to make a fast decision? Other teams may get frustrated with the waiting, so what?

Right now the pressure is on Riley, but he is caught in a vicious cycle — quality free agents don’t want to commit to the Heat until they know LeBron is on board, LeBron doesn’t want to be on board until some more quality players are.

Then there is the money issue — Riley doesn’t know exactly what he can spend. That’s thanks to LeBron, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade not giving Riley firm numbers to go by. Our own Aaron Bruski reported that contenders speaking to Isaiah Thomas were giving him a $6 million to $7 million starting number. Other free agents were told the starting salary was $5.5 million, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, although the Heat talked of trying to make a sign-and-trade deal. Luol Deng and the Heat spoke but could only go so far because there are no solid numbers, reports David Aldridge of NBA.com.

Those are strikes against the Heat, but every potential landing spot has its own big strikes, especially for a guy such as LeBron who wants to win instantly. The Cavaliers roster is talented but very, very green and untested (plus there is some ugly history with the last exit). In Houston, can two ball dominant wing players — LeBron and James Harden — share the ball, plus get Dwight Howard enough touches? In addition the Rockets are in the West and any trip to the West is a much tougher road to the Finals. In Los Angeles it would still be seen as Kobe Bryant’s team, plus that roster is a long, long way from contending. The Bulls can’t offer a max contract like LeBron wants. The Suns have cap space and a nice core, but if LeBron wants to play for an owner really willing to spend does he trust Robert Sarver? The list goes on and on, there is no easy, clean answer for LeBron, especially since moving again to chase a ring likely leads to another public backlash (even if it is Cleveland).

So he can be patient. Let the suitors tweak their rosters and make their pitches. All the while Pat Riley keeps pulling things together to round out the Miami roster. LeBron can sit back and let it play out much longer.

And all the while, the NBA rumor mill will just keep on cranking. Droplets of information will produce wild swings, at least until LeBron reaches an actual answer.

‘Tired’ Jimmy Butler sits out All-Star Game at his own request

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LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler leads the NBA in minutes played per game at 37.3. He’s ninth in the league in total minutes played and played 77:35 minutes in the two games leading up to All-Star Weekend.

Butler was tired and asked Mike D’Antoni to give him some rest, according to both parties (despite speculation this was really a win for the Los Angeles nightlife). Butler did not play in Sunday’s All-Star Game.

“Rest,” Butler said when asked why he didn’t play. “I have to rest. I have to rest my body up. This Timberwolves season is very, very important to me. I’ve got to make sure I’m ready to roll when I get back there.”

“He was tired and he just felt like his legs weren’t there,” Team Stephen head coach Mike D’Antoni. “He didn’t practice yesterday or play today. You have to respect that. He plays hard. Sometimes your body just needs a rest.”

Butler is having the kind of season that has him in the discussion for a place on the MVP ballot. He’s averaging 22.4 points per game with a very efficient true shooting percentage of 59.3, plus he’s playing strong defense. He and Karl-Anthony Towns have led the Timberwolves to a 36-25 record that has them as the current four seed in the West, poised to break an 11-year playoff drought for the franchise.

Still thankful, LeBron James breaks Michael Jordan’s record for years between All-Star MVPs

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Los Angeles – When LeBron James became the youngest-ever NBA All-Star MVP in 2006, he said during the trophy presentation: “I’d like to thank the fans for voting me in as a starter.”

Twelve years later, he sounds similar, maybe just a little more thoughtful: “It’s always been my fans who voted me in. For 14 straight years, my fans have voted me in as an All-Star starter, and it’s been up to me to go out and let them know and show them, listen, I appreciate that, and here’s what I’m going to give to you every time you vote me in.”

He plays similarly, too.

LeBron again won All-Star MVP, leading his team to a 148-145 victory Sunday. He finished with 29 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

“Every night I step on the floor, I have to lead my guys or prove to myself that I’m still able to play at a high level,” said LeBron, 33. “I feel great.”

The 12-year gap between LeBron’s first and last All-Star MVP – he also won in 2008 – is the longest in NBA history. It tops the 10 years between Michael Jordan’s first (1988) and last (1998).

Here’s the difference between the first and last All-Star MVP for every multi-time winner:

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Players’ effort in this exhibition game comes and goes, but LeBron appeared invigorated .

When LeBron’s team trailed by 15 in the second quarter, he checked in and quickly led it back into the lead. When his team fell behind by 13 midway through the fourth quarter, he again led a spirited comeback. He hit the go-ahead bucket.

Despite playing a game-high 31 minutes, his intensity lasted all the way through the final buzzer.

His coach, the Raptors’ Dwane Casey, said he asked LeBron whether to foul or defend on the final possession while up three. LeBron said defend.

“If he says that, or any great players say that, you want to go with them because it was their idea, their belief, and he had it,” Casey said. “…He got the guys jacked up and juiced up as far as wanting to get a stop.”

LeBron and Kevin Durant swarmed Stephen Curry, who couldn’t shoot and could barely pass. Curry’s team didn’t even get a shot off:

“As you can hear in my voice, that tells how competitive it was,” LeBron said scratchily.

Again, his message echoed 2006: “We’re competitors, and our competitive nature kicked in and said let’s get some defensive stops.”

A lot will get made about the format change, and it might have mattered.

But maybe LeBron is just uniquely capable of dominating and embracing of this stage all these years later.

Defense? Dramatic finish? Team LeBron wins All-Star Game that’s worth watching

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LOS ANGELES — The NBA gambled its new format — with captains picking teams playground style — would produce an All-Star Game where the players showed some pride, played hard, and the showcase again would become something that resembled basketball (unlike last season).

It worked.

For proof guys were invested this time around, check out how Team LeBron responded to winning with a defensive stop, taking away Team Stephen’s attempt to get a clean look at a game-tying three in the closing seconds.

The THRILL of #NBAAllStar VICTORY!

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“It had a real game feel to it,” LeBron James said.

Team LeBron beat Team Stephen 148-145. LeBron was named MVP with 29 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. He also hit the game-tying and go-ahead shot that got the win.

“I played with (LeBron) a few times,” Kyrie Irving said of the play and pass that set up that LeBron game-winner. “I cut back door, (Russell Westbrook) was driving, I saw the opportunity. I saw, before even Russ even passed to me, LeBron was going to circle to the rim, and he’s one of the best finishers at the rim.”

Most importantly, this was an All-Star Game with some defense — it had 81 fewer points than the layup line game last year, and the fewest points in five years. It also proved to be the closest game in six years.

“We wanted to kind of change the narrative of the All-Star Game being a joke,” Kevin Durant said. “Today we wanted to make it a real basketball game.”

There was more defense than last year from the start of the game — for example, LeBron blocked an alley-oop pass in the first quarter. Of course, “better than last year” was not a high bar to clear, but there was some effort to not just have a layup line. Most of the time.

Also to start the game, Anthony Davis came out wearing the “0” jersey of injured teammate DeMarcus Cousins (he switched back to his own #23 before the first half was over).

On the night, Team LeBron got 19 points out of Kevin Durant, 16 from Paul George, and 14 from Andre Drummond. Team Stephen was led by 21 from both DeMar DeRozan and Damian Lillard, and 19 points and eight rebounds from Joel Embiid in his first All-Star Game.

The fantastic ending made up for what was a laughable opening skit/national anthem before tip-off that did something very rare — it unified NBA Twitter. It was awful.

Now all anybody is talking about is the game itself. And that’s what the NBA wanted.

LeBron James hits go-ahead shot in All-Star win (video)

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LOS ANGELES – LeBron James‘ team trailed by 13 midway through the fourth quarter of the All-Star game, but he led a competitive comeback.

This shot put his team up 146-145 over Stephen Curry‘s team, and Team LeBron held on for a 148-145 win:

Great penetration by Russell Westbrook, and he and Kyrie Irving moved the ball well. LeBron made it count.