LeBron James going home, to sign with Cleveland Cavaliers

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Thomas Wolfe was wrong, at least about LeBron James. You can go home again.

LeBron James is heading back to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and he announced the decision on his own terms.

LeBron, via Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:

I always believed that I’d return to Cleveland and finish my career there. I just didn’t know when. After the season, free agency wasn’t even a thought. But I have two boys and my wife, Savannah, is pregnant with a girl. I started thinking about what it would be like to raise my family in my hometown. I looked at other teams, but I wasn’t going to leave Miami for anywhere except Cleveland. The more time passed, the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.

Wow. Wow. Wow.

For a long time, many didn’t believe the Cavs had a serious chance to lure LeBron back, but they did it.

In Cleveland he will be welcomed home like the prodigal son. 

[ RELATED: Why LeBron is going home, in his own words ]

And with Kyrie Irving in the fold and a number of decent to good young players (Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters, Andrew Wiggins) this is now a team that is a contender to win the East. Their youth and playoff inexperience is going to leave them short of the top teams in the West, but the Cavaliers certainly could make the Finals, LeBron James’ fifth in a row. This is a team with a lot of potential.

The Cavs also have the draft picks and assets to make some moves and go after some veterans and bigger names, including Kevin Love.

LeBron is also the first domino to fall in what should be a rush of free agent signings such as Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Pau Gasol, Luol Deng, Lance Stephenson and others. 

LeBron played his first seven years in Cleveland, but after some terrible management moves they we’re unable to put a quality team around him. The Cavaliers with LeBron made the Finals once and he grew frustrated with the organization and talent.

So he teamed up with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh and formed a super team in Miami — and it worked on the court, the Heat went to four straight NBA Finals and won two titles. However, off the court how LeBron handled the announcement was a public relations disaster — “The Decision” is mocked to this day and it pummeled LeBron James image.

[ MORE: LeBron implies Dan Gilbert’s letter was a mistake, but absolves owner ]

In the last four years the rules of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement — in which the owners slashed the players share of revenue by seven percent and put in rules to make it very hard to form or maintain a super team — have eroded the Heat. Pat Riley, for years, has mostly been limited to adding minimum-salary players or a couple who made slightly more. Some worked, such as Ray Allen, and others didn’t, such as Michael Beasley.

But Riley couldn’t easily add the kind of young, athletic players the Spurs had and beat the Heat with in the 2014 Finals, guys such as Kawhi Leonard.

One of the hard-line owners who pushed for those super team restrictions? Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

Now he wants one of his own — the Cavaliers just signed Kyrie Irving to a max extension and have LeBron, now they are trying to swing a trade for Kevin Love. That would likely take the inclusion of No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins in a deal, and even that may not be enough.

Heat owner Micky Arison responded this way:

Cavaliers’ owner Dan Gilbert’s reaction:

And finally, from LeBron’s Instagram page.

Teammate spoke to Lonzo Ball about walking away from “fight”

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We see these posturing/shoving matches all the time in the NBA, and they’re pointless. Late in Friday night’s Phoenix win in Los Angeles the Suns called a timeout, then Tyler Ulis and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope got in one a shoving match. As happens, players from both teams raced into the fray to protect their teammate/break it up… except for Lonzo Ball, who looked at it and kept moving along.

I have defended Ball’s actions as mature (he’s right, nothing was going to happen), while others (fans and media) have questioned his leadership for not rushing to stand by teammates, pull guys out of the pile, and having a “band of brothers” attitude.

None of that matters, the only opinions that carry any weight are the ones in the Lakers’ locker room. What did his teammates think? Lakers coach Luke Walton said a teammate did talk to Ball, quote via Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Someone on our team talked with him,” Walton said after the Lakers’ practice Saturday, without disclosing who it was. “It’s all part of the learning process.”

If his teammates were bothered, then there’s an issue. It’s more about perception than anything, again nothing was happening in that “fight,” but perception matters. It’s a small issue, but an issue. With young players this gets discussed, and everyone moves on.

Ball’s passing and energy on the court are things teammates love. As his game matures — and he eventually finishes better around the rim and, hopefully for him, finds his jumper — and he grows as a bigger threat on the court, his teammates will forget this ever happened. As will fans. But when you play for the rabid (and not always rational) fan base of the Lakers, and when your father invites publicity and with it scrutiny, things get blown out of proportion. Welcome to Lonzo’s world.

Marc Gasol kicks away Clint Capela’s shoe, earns technical

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Midway through the first quarter, Clint Capela literally came out of his shoe trying to move up to set a pick for James Harden. Just stepped right out of it. J.R. Smith wasn’t there to untie the laces or anything.

Capela turned around to go get his shoe, and Memphis’ Marc Gasol showed his soccer skills kicking the shoe away. That earned him a technical foul. Gasol could argue he just wanted to get something he could trip over off the court, but Capela was clearly coming back for it at that point. Gasol earned this one.

Capela retied his shoes and went on to have 17 points and 13 boards in Houston’s 105-83 win over shorthanded Memphis.

Stephen Curry scores 35, Warriors rally to beat 76ers 124-116

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Stephen Curry scored 35 points, Kevin Durant had 27 and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors overcame a 22-point halftime deficit in a 124-116 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

Joel Embiid scored 21 points and Ben Simmons had 23 points and 12 assists for Philadelphia, which led 47-28 after one quarter and 74-52 at the half.

But the Warriors erased that large deficit with a furious rally in the third quarter. Curry’s 3-pointer got them within one point. He then made a pair of free throws to give Golden State a 90-89 lead.

The two-time NBA MVP hit another 3 and Draymond Green blew past a defender for a dunk to make it 99-89 going into the fourth.

A raucous, sellout crowd that chanted “Trust the Process” most of the night went silent while the Warriors put on a shooting clinic in the second half.

Even veteran David West came off the bench and made big shots in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors distance. He finished with 14 points. Klay Thompson had 16.

Embiid was coming off a career-best performance – 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks, seven assists – in a 115-109 win at the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

He seemed on his way to another monster game in the first quarter. Embiid embraced the frenzied fans and slapped hands with a guy sitting courtside after a dunk.

But the Warriors showed why they’re the best by stifling Philadelphia in the second half to improve to 12-4.

The Sixers, who lost 135-114 at Golden State one week ago, fell to 8-7.

Playing his first game since receiving a lucrative contract extension, Robert Covington had 20 points for Philly.

Back home for the first time following a five-game road trip to the West Coast, the Sixers showed no jet lag in the first half.

They jumped ahead 15-4 following a 3-pointer by Embiid. Covington stripped Durant and hit a 3 to make it 37-18, electrifying the crowd.

Durant’s dunk off Green’s alley-oop pass got the Warriors within 70-51 late in the second. But Embiid finished off the half with a dunk that sent the Sixers into the locker room up 74-52.

 

Top-10 college recruit Anfernee Simmons may go straight to NBA

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A couple of years back, Thon Maker decided to play a post-graduate fifth year of prep school ball, not go to a major college, then jump to the NBA. He could because he had graduated a year before and was 19, the Bucks took him in the lottery, and so far it has worked out for everyone.

Now another recruit, Anfernee Simmons, may follow that path. Simmons is spending this year at the IMG Academy, and the combo guard is considered a top-10 recruit in this class.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN broke the story after speaking to Simmons.

“Some people have brought it to my attention,” Simons told ESPN during an interview in Connecticut, where his team was participating in the National Prep Showcase. “As long as the opportunity is there, I will do it.

“I can see myself going to the NBA combine, if I have enough teams to actually invite me or recommend me for the combine and enough teams want to bring me for workouts. I really need to hit the weight room hard and get a little stronger.”

This is a sensible approach — find out where you roughly fall in the draft, then make a decision. Listen to the teams, not friends/family/agents. If you have a first-round guarantee, then go pro.

Givony and others describe the 6’3″ Simmons as talented but still a project for the NBA level, starting with the fact he needs to get stronger (something true of most rookies). Not that it really scares off teams any longer, many are willing to develop and wait on a player with potential (he could spend a chunk of his first season in the G-League). Simmons is fast when he drives, and has a smooth release on his jumper. If he gets stronger and his game matures, a team may take a risk on him.