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Pistons rout Cavaliers 106-90 while LeBron James rests

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) LeBron James took the night off, and that was exactly the break the Detroit Pistons needed.

Tobias Harris scored 21 points to help the Pistons snap a five-game losing streak by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-90 on Monday night while James sat out resting.

“Any time you go through a stretch like that, you’re just fighting for a win,” Harris said. “It could change a lot, so hopefully we take this one and move forward and continue to build some consistency.”

James missed his third game of the season, and Cleveland has lost all three. The Cavaliers had their five-game winning streak snapped on a night they never led.

Cleveland was playing its fifth game in seven days and coming off a thrilling win Sunday over Golden State. So James sat, and the Pistons took advantage.

“They haven’t played since Friday and they’ve been sitting here waiting for us. Give them credit, because that’s what they are supposed to do,” Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving said. “They knew we were flying in here after the Golden State game, and they were resting up and waiting for us. They jumped on us early, but it might have been different if they were coming off a back-to-back and we had two days of rest.”

The Cavs were also playing their fourth game without starting guard J.R. Smith, who is expected to miss three months because of a broken right thumb.

Detroit scored the first eight points, led 50-44 at halftime and took control near the end of the third quarter. Harris and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope made 3-pointers early in the fourth, and the Pistons led 82-65.

Kevin Love had 17 points and 14 rebounds for Cleveland.

There was some booing when James was announced as a scratch before the game. Although the crowd was certainly happy to see the Pistons play well, the atmosphere wasn’t quite as raucous as it surely would have been had Detroit routed the Cavs with Cleveland’s top player in the lineup.

“LeBron is obviously a great player who opens up the floor for his teammates, so other guys have to step up,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “I thought we tried to do that tonight, but it didn’t happen.”

The Pistons went 16 of 28 from 3-point range, and Andre Drummond had 11 points and 17 rebounds.

NEW LOOK

Detroit coach Stan Van Gundy changed his starting lineup Friday in an attempt to shake the Pistons out of their funk, starting Jon Leuer in place of Harris. Detroit played decently in that game but lost to Golden State before ending the skid Monday.

“It’s two games,” Van Gundy said. “I’m not going to go crazy, like, deciding that that’s the great move. We didn’t win both games. We’re 1-1. We’ll see how it goes, but I’ve been happy with the two games.”

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Tristan Thompson became the first player in franchise history to play in 400 consecutive regular-season games. … Irving had 18 points and eight assists.

Pistons: Detroit fell one 3-pointer short of the franchise record of 17. … The Pistons scored 29 points off 22 Cleveland turnovers. Detroit turned the ball over only 12 times.

FAMILIAR FACE

Cleveland G Kay Felder, a rookie who played collegiately just a few minutes away at Oakland University, scored 11 points in his return to Michigan.

“I thought we played hard. We just gave some young guys a chance to play and looked at a few different things,” Lue said. “The biggest factor in the game was them hitting 16 out of 28 3s. That’s just great shooting.”

Follow Noah Trister at http://www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

What’s Kyrie Irving’s problem with LeBron James?

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Kyrie Irving reportedly requested a trade from the Cavaliers because he no longer wants to play with LeBron James.

But what does that actually mean?

Ramona Shelburne, Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Much of Irving’s disenchantment with James was rooted in game play, sources said. James, as a once-in-a-lifetime talent, controlled the ball more than any other forward perhaps in league history.

But there were ancillary issues that bothered Irving, too, such as how James’ good friend Randy Mims had a position on the Cavs’ staff and traveled on the team plane while none of Irving’s close friends were afforded the same opportunity.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

In registering his preference for a trade, league sources said, Irving divulged to Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert that he’s become increasingly uneasy about a future that includes a roster constructed to complement LeBron James — a roster that could be devoid of James come free agency in 2018.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Irving wants to take his show away from James so he can grow his career (his on-court acclaim and notoriety, his brand, his voice) outside of James’ shadow.

Numerous people who’ve talked to Irving over the past month have said to cleveland.com that he told them he wanted to leave to grow his career, and it was the message Irving sent to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert when he asked to be traded last week.

These can all simultaneously be true. There needn’t be one singular reason Irving wants a trade.

It can also be true that former general manager David Griffin might have soothed Irving’s discontent. It can also be true that the Warriors’ dominance influenced Irving, as he might have been more willing to remain in a secondary role if it were more likely to result in a championship.

But so much of this comes back to LeBron, a massive presence around whom everything in Cleveland revolves.

Being the top player on a team means so many things – dictating on-court action, having the supporting cast built around you, influencing team staff, building a larger sponsorship presence. Irving can’t get any of that while playing with LeBron.

Irving led the Cavs in shots and usage percentage last season, but that happened only because LeBron allowed it. LeBron obviously retook control in the playoffs. There’s no question whose team this is.

There is also no indication Irving is fighting that. He’s not trying to usurp LeBron’s power, and Irving has molded his game the last few years to fit with LeBron.

But now Irving his exercising his own power so he can get even more the only place possible – somewhere away from LeBron.

Did Cavaliers dropping David Griffin lead to Kyrie Irving’s trade request?

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Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue said he had the NBA’s hardest coaching job. Following that thinking, former Cavaliers general manager David Griffin might have had the most difficult front-office job.

Not only did he face the same championship-or-bust pressure and oversee the same players (and their egos) as Lue, Griffin also reported directly to Dan Gilbert, the Cavs’ sometimes-difficult owner. The Gilbert aspect is often discussed, as is working with great/brilliant/passive-aggressive LeBron James. But it has probably been undersold how high-maintenance Kyrie Irving – who requested a trade – also was for Griffin before the general manager was ousted last month.

Ramona Shelburne, Dave McMenamin and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Over the previous few months, the Cavs had been worried about Irving’s mindset. They knew at times he’d grown unhappy with playing a secondary role on the team. Griffin had several conversations with Irving throughout the year, sources said, trying to find ways to work on the situation.

After the season, there was a desire to arrange a meeting to clear the air from all sides, sources said, but it didn’t take place. Unlike most teams, the Cavs did not have postseason exit meetings with their players.

What followed was a whirlwind, with the Cavs putting forth a series of trade packages looking to acquire either Butler or George. Some of these talks included Irving, which upset him even more when he found out about it, sources said. Previously, Griffin had worked to keep lines of communication with Irving open, but now Irving was in the dark.

Irving’s trade request had been building for years. The reported timing is vague, but Irving might have even requested a trade while Griffin was still in charge.

Either way, there’s no guarantee the Cavs keeping Griffin would have placated Irving. But it seems an experienced voice running the front office could have only helped.

Now, the task of trading Irving or mending fences falls to new general manager Koby Altman – who must solve this issue in a spotlight he never wanted.

If only Cleveland had Phil Jackson to insist on exit meetings. Maybe this would have been smoothed over a month ago.

LaVar Ball gets technical foul, pulls his AAU team off the court, forfeits game it was winning (video)

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Magic Johnson said he’s convinced LaVar Ball’s outlandishness is just marketing and that the father of Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball is truly committed to developing younger players.

This didn’t look like someone who put youth player development over his own image.

With LaVar Ball’s AAU team leading by nine, he got a technical foul then pulled his team off the court:

He (kind of) explained why after the game (warning: profanity):

He also touched on his reasons in a video that, of course, quickly turns to promoting his brand:

This doesn’t mean Johnson is completely wrong, but the Lakers president seemingly misdiagnosed Ball’s priorities. What if Johnson is also wrong about Ball staying clear of the Lakers? That could create problems – if it hasn’t already.

I was never convinced, as NBA commissioner Adam Silver predicted, LaVar would settle down after Lonzo was drafted. I still believe Lonzo’s talent justifies managing LaVar, but that appears increasingly likely to be a burden the Lakers must actually handle rather than just brush off.

James Dolan’s MSG threatens to sue Steve Ballmer’s Los Angeles Clippers

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This story requires a little background.

The Forum in Inglewood was best known for decades as being both fabulous and the home of the Los Angeles Lakers, back from the Jerry West era and through Magic’s “Showtime” teams. Then in 2001 the Lakers moved downtown to Staples Center, and after that the Forum went through some rough times. It was a number of things, including a mega church for a while, but mostly it was empty. Then several years ago the Madison Square Garden company (owned by Knicks owner James Dolan) bought the Forum, fixed it up, and started booking it again. Now the Forum is one of the hot major concert/event spaces in Los Angeles again, and it’s about to get a boost because it’s adjacent to where Stan Kroenke is building the new Los Angeles Rams stadium. Hello gentrification!

Now enter Steve Ballmer. The Clippers’ owner wants out of Staples Center and the Lakers’ shadow, so he has proposed to build his new arena in Inglewood in another space adjacent to the Rams stadium — land that MSG used to lease. As you might imagine, Dolan’s MSG is not thrilled — they are already battling with Staples to fill their space, now a state-of-the-art arena is moving in down the street.

In a proxy Knicks/Clippers battle, MSG may sue to Clippers and Inglewood in an attempt to block the new building. Here is what Dolan’s attorney in the case, Marvin Putnam, told the Daily Breeze in Los Angeles.

“The mayor made it extremely clear that he needed that piece of land back for a kind of ‘Silicon Beach,’ ” said Marvin Putnam, a partner with the law firm Latham & Watkins, which filed the damage claim that serves as a precursor to a lawsuit. “They’re attempting to flat-out trick people.”

(Inglewood Mayor James) Butts declined to comment, and there is no proof that he made those statements. But when Madison Square Garden Co. relinquished the parking lease to the city, its approved contract states that the land would not be used for anything that would hurt the Forum’s business, according to documents.

Right now the Clippers and Inglewood are in an exclusive negotiating agreement to come to terms on the sale and plans for the property. Putnam told the paper — and the Inglewood City Council — that if the deal goes forward they will sue to block it.

It’s impossible to say how this will turn out, although as a former government reporter I will say these cases tend to be decided in favor of the side about to spend a ton of money on a new building.