Westbrook, Warriors, and Cavaliers: 3 things to watch on Christmas (VIDEO)

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Christmas Day is upon us and that means it’s time to hope there’s as much loot as possible in your stocking and that you’re left alone to do what everyone wants to do on a day like this: watch basketball.

In fact, there’s a full slate of games on Christmas in the NBA, including the one everyone is anticipating in a rematch of the 2016 NBA Finals between the Golden State Warriors and Cleveland Cavaliers.

I have three things I want to see in particular on Christmas as I try to avoid my one uncle who always seems to drink too much eggnog and talk my ear off saying look, Dane, I know it’s your job and everything but the NBA was absolutely better in the ’90s because of hand-checking, OK?

I’m just hoping underneath the tree this year is a pair of much-needed ear muffs.

Russell Westbrook vs. the Minnesota Timberwolves Defense

Russell Westbrook is an absolute monster. I think we all know that by now as the Oklahoma City Thunder guard is averaging at triple-double. No, the Thunder offense isn’t remarkable outside of Westbrook — ranked just 15th of 30 — but the Timberwolves defense is bottom 5 and that should be fun to watch no matter what.

What else do you want to see on Sunday other than a man trying to ruin someone else’s Christmas by dunking every single one of his 44 points?

Plus, Karl-Anthony Towns!

Christmas Carmelo Anthony vs. the Boston Celtics

Here isCarmelo Anthony’s point totals from his last four Christmas Day games: 34, 34, 37, 32.

It’s easy to say that I want to watch this game because of the offensive firepower between the Celtics and Carmelo, so I will. The New York Knicks in each of those four games have a record of 1-3, but Boston has the 14th-ranked defense in the NBA. The Celtics are also bringing a Top 10 offense headed by Isiah Thomas.

The only thing about this one is that it might be too much scoring too early in the morning for me to enjoy this one. I’m going to be in a robe on my parents’ couch while Carmelo and Thomas might combine for 70 before I’ve had a bagel.

Golden State Warriors vs. Cleveland Cavaliers II: Electric Boogaloo

This is what we all came to see. It’s what I’ll be watching at 11:30 AM PST here on the West Coast through bites of whatever syrupy, waffle-and-whipped cream dessert thing we have Christmas morning I’ll unconvincingly tell my girlfriend is actually just a light brunch.

Kevin Durant — as you may remember — was on the Thunder last season and now (gasp!) has joined forces with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green to try and slay the dragon that is LeBron James and his band of merry men (read: J.R. Smith).

Narratives aside, this is likely to be the best actual basketball game of the day from an execution and competition standpoint, and very well could be a 2017 NBA Finals preview.

So we’ll see you on Sunday, phone in hand and checking scores as you try to seem grateful for the third Slap Chop you’ve unwrapped in as many years while sneaking peeks at the TV.

And hey, the best thing about that 11:30 AM Warriors – Cavaliers game?

It’s still too early for eggnog.

Full schedule:

Knicks vs. Celtics | 9:00 AM PST on ESPN
Warriors vs. Cavaliers | 11:30 AM PST on ABC
Bulls vs. Spurs | 2:00 PM PST on ABC
Timberwolves vs. Thunder | 5:00 PM PST on ESPN
Clippers vs. Lakers | 7:30 PM PST on ESPN

LeBron James: ‘I still got Pandora with commercials’

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Dwyane Wade revealed last year that LeBron James refuses to use his phone internationally unless he’s on Wi-Fi.

LeBron’s friend and new Cavaliers teammate again brought up that claim, and LeBron confirmed – then went even further about his own cheapness.

LeBron in a joint interview with Wade on ESPN:

No. I’m not doing that. I’m not turning on data roaming. I’m not buying no apps. I still got Pandora with commercials.

LeBron – he’s just like us!

As funny as that line is, keep watching to see LeBron hilariously explain how his hairline affects his interviews.

PBT Extra: LeBron as MVP and other NBA postseason award predictions

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Last year, Russell Westbrook had a historic season on his way to the MVP award, with James Harden and Kawhi Leonard right on his heels. But heading into this season, the dynamic for MVP — and many of the NBA awards — feels very different and wide open.

In this latest PBT Extra, I lay out my preseason predictions for every award — LeBron James for MVP, Ben Simmons for Rookie of the Year, and on down the list. There are a few leaps and surprises in there (predicting Most Improved or Sixth Man before the season is a crap shoot, so why not gamble).

Now the predictions season is over, let’s get on to the games.

Jazz: Dante Exum undergoing surgery after shoulder injury

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Jazz point guard Dante Exum hurt his shoulder in a preseason game – an injury that immediately looked like it could be season-ending.

Though Utah doesn’t outright say Exum is done for the year, this doesn’t engender much hope.

Jazz release:

The following is a medical update on Utah Jazz guard Danté Exum who suffered a separated left shoulder on October 6 vs. Phoenix.

After further evaluation, Exum (6-6, 190, Australia) has elected to undergo surgery to stabilize the AC joint of his left shoulder. The surgery is scheduled to take place Tuesday, October 24 in Los Angeles. Further updates will be provided when appropriate.

Exum (obviously) didn’t receive a contract extension before today’s deadline, so he’ll become a free agent next summer. After one full missed season already and two years of limited effectiveness, it’s not even clear Utah will extend Exum a qualifying offer to make him a restricted free agent. The former No. 5 pick almost certainly won’t meet the starter criteria, which means his qualifying offer would be worth $4,333,931 (down from $6,619,903 based on his draft slot).

The Jazz will start Ricky Rubio, and Raul Neto will be the primary point guard behind him. Wings Rodney Hood, Alec Burks, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles can all share facilitating duties.

Utah will probably be just fine without Exum this season, which speaks to his marginal place long-term.

Sprained ankle has LeBron James questionable for opener vs. Celtics

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James‘ playing status for Tuesday’s season opener against Boston remains unclear.

James has been slowed by a sprained left ankle for more than two weeks and it’s still not known whether he’ll be on the floor when the Cavaliers take on the Celtics and Kyrie Irving, who asked to be traded by Cleveland this summer.

Following Monday’s practice, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said “I really don’t know” when asked if James will play.

James took part in some post-practice shooting drills with teammates. He did not speak with the media as the Cavaliers prepared for their opener, a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals.

James has never missed an opener in his NBA career, and teammate J.R. Smith doesn’t expect him to miss this one.

“Oh, he’s going to go,” Smith said. “He’s going to go, trust me that. I don’t care what he’s got to do, he’s going to play.”