EuroLeague champion Maccabi Tel Aviv one of three international teams coming to USA for NBA preseason games

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Last season coach David Blatt led Maccabi Tel Aviv to a surprise EuroLeague title — one he admitted they won because the EuroLeague final four are single-elimination, he didn’t think they would have done it over Real Madrid in an NBA best-of-seven format. Doesn’t matter, the rules are the rules and Maccabi Tel Aviv got the win.

Now Maccabi Tel Aviv and a couple other big international teams are coming to the United States to take on NBA teams in the preseason.

We talk a lot about NBA teams heading to China and Brazil and London for preseason games, but this season Maccabi Tel Aviv, Maccabi Haifa and Flamengo of Brazil are coming to the states.

The one to watch is Maccabi Tel Aviv taking on their former coach Blatt and his Cleveland Cavaliers on Oct. 5 at Quicken Loans Arena. Maccabi will then travel to face the Brooklyn Nets on Oct. 7 at Barclays Center.

Maccabi Haifa, which beat out Tel Aviv for the Israeli league title last year, will face the Washington Wizards on Oct. 15 at Verizon Center, the Portland Trail Blazers on Oct. 17 at Moda Center, the Sacramento Kings on Oct. 18 at Sleep Train Arena, then finally Oct. 22 against the Toronto Raptors at Air Canada Centre.

Flamengo, the biggest team in future Olympics home Rio, will play the Phoenix Suns Oct. 8 at US Airways Center, then the Orlando Magic on Oct. 15 at Amway Center, then finally the Memphis Grizzlies on Oct. 17 at FedExForum.

It’s all part of growing the game. Frankly, anything to make preseason games more interesting I’m all for. This does that.

Check out the Chris Paul tribute video from the Clippers

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Chris Paul returned to Staples Center Monday night wearing the red of the Houston Rockets.

There was a mix of cheers and boos when CP3 was introduced against the Clippers, the team he helped make relevant and string together the best run in franchise history (even if it didn’t attain the lofty goals we had expected). He pushed his way out of town last summer, but Paul still goes down as one of the two greatest Clippers ever (he was a better player than Blake Griffin, but Griffin helped turn that franchise culture around before CP3 arrived, and Griffin is still doing work there).

The Clippers put together this tribute video.

Well done Clippers.

LeBron James does it all, still not enough for Cavaliers to beat Warriors

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Last season, the Cleveland Cavaliers got to the Finals thanks to LeBron James leading an elite Cavaliers offense that covered up a defense which was second worst in the NBA after the All-Star break and improved to middle of the pack during the playoffs when they dialed in. That was not near good enough against the Warriors in the Finals.

New season, but we are watching the same movie.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Cleveland LeBron was nothing short of brilliant — 32 points on 18 shots, eight rebounds, six assists and four blocks. Through three quarters the Cavaliers got into the paint, hit their floaters and midrange shots, and knocked down 52.1 percent of their shots total — but they were down two because their defense was a disaster.

Isaiah Thomas tied the game 93-93 early in the fourth, but then Cleveland started a streak of missing eight shots in a row and hitting 1-of-14 (credit the Warriors playing better defense for some of that), and the Warriors just kept on scoring. And scoring.

The result was a 118-108 Warriors win to sweep the season series from the Cavaliers.

Kevin Durant had 32 points, Stephen Curry 23 and hit 4-of-8 from three.

With the trade deadline weeks away, this loss left the Cavaliers with big questions to answer:

Do they make a bold move to try to give themselves a better shot against the Warriors in the Finals? (And give themselves a cushion against Boston and Toronto.)

Is there an available player that can actually close that gap?

If they find the player, do the Cavaliers have the players and picks to get a deal done? Would they throw in the Brooklyn Nets first-round pick?

Cleveland must consider it all because this game made it clear again there is now a gap between the two teams that met in the NBA Finals the past three years.

The Cavaliers again started out hot, hitting eight of their first 10 shots. Cleveland shot 58.3 percent in the first quarter and LeBron was 6-of-8 — but they led just 37-35 because the Cavaliers could not get stops. Cleveland’s transition defense was a mess all night, and in the first quarter one-third of the Warriors points came in transition opportunities, where they were very efficient.

There were positives for Cleveland. Dwyane Wade provided a boost off the bench with eight first-half points on 4-of-7 shooting, making energy plays like the steal and alley-oop to Jeff Green just before the half.

The Cavaliers were up 64-57 at the break as they shot 61.1 percent from the midrange. But it always felt like it was not sustainable.

Cleveland had shooting issues with guys not named LeBron. IT and Wade combined to shoot 12-of-33, and as a team the Cavs shot 6-of-26 from three. You can say those number should improve, and you’d be right, but we’re back to a great offense trying to cover up a weak defense.

That’s not going to cut it in the Finals. It may not be enough to cut it before the Finals, but the Warriors are showing they are in another class right now.

Kevin Durant with angry dunk, LeBron James steps out of way

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There are times when challenging a dunk is the thing to do.

For LeBron James, this was one of those times.

Kevin Durant and Draymond Green were on a 2-1 break with LeBron back, but KD was not looking to pass, he wanted to finish.

He did. With authority.

 

LeBron James reflects on MLK’s legacy, criticizes President Donald Trump on holiday (video)

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) LeBron James says honoring the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. is more important than ever because “we’re trying to be divided right now by somebody.”

James was referring to President Trump, whom the Cavaliers star has openly criticized in the past. James spoke Monday as he and his teammates prepared to host Golden State in one 11 NBA games played on the national holiday for the civil rights leader who was assassinated 50 years ago.

James credited the league for playing games as a tribute “for a man who stood for more than himself. He actually gave up his life for the betterment of all of us to be able to live in a free world and for us to be able to have a voice, for us to go out and be free no matter your skin color, no matter who you are. … He took a bullet for all of us.”