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LeBron James, Stephen Curry lead All-Star fan voting

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LeBron James still leads All-Star fan voting.

Second place overall? Kyrie Irving, who held the mark behind his Cavaliers teammate in the first returns, has fallen behind Warriors Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant.

Here are the latest leaders:

Eastern Conference

Guards

1. Kyrie Irving (CLE) 971,362

2. Dwyane Wade (CHI) 514,866

3. DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 453,538

4. Isaiah Thomas (BOS) 401,671

5. Kyle Lowry (TOR) 256,668

6. Derrick Rose (NYK) 223,804

7. John Wall (WAS) 173,148

8. Jeremy Lin (BKN) 109,088

9. Kemba Walker (CHA) 105,637

10. Avery Bradley (BOS) 64,157

Frontcourt

1. LeBron James (CLE) 1,066,147

2. Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 963,110

3. Kevin Love (CLE) 473,328

4. Joel Embiid (PHI) 457,300

5. Jimmy Butler (CHI) 400,448

6. Carmelo Anthony (NYK) 327,716

7. Kristaps Porzingis (NYK) 324,106

8.  Paul George (IND) 249,484

9. Jabari Parker (MIL) 120,022

10. Tristan Thompson (CLE) 114,759

Western Conference

Guards

1. Stephen Curry (GSW) 990,390

2. James Harden (HOU) 961,685

3. Russell Westbrook (OKC) 899,024

4. Klay Thompson (GSW) 555,430

5. Chris Paul (LAC) 379,076

6. Damian Lillard (POR) 208,171

7. Eric Gordon (HOU) 191,407

8. Andre Iguodala (GSW) 130,224

9. Manu Ginobili (SAS) 122,333

10. Zach LaVine (MIN) 94,867

Frontcourt

1. Kevin Durant (GSW) 987,479

2. Zaza Pachulia (GSW) 823,376

3. Kawhi Leonard (SAS) 630,766

4. Anthony Davis (NOP) 567,201

5. Draymond Green (GSW) 464,319

6. DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) 379,225

7. Karl-Anthony Towns (MIN) 223,979

8. LaMarcus Aldridge (SAS) 192,784

9. Blake Griffin (LAC) 172,393

10. Marc Gasol (MEM) 172,146

Remember, the NBA changed how it selects All-Starters this year. Players and media will have a voice along with fans.

Will that iron out weird situations like Zaza Pachulia ranking second among Western Conference frontcourt players? Maybe when everything comes together. But players’ votes can be loony, too.

The media will likely provide the most sober choices of who “deserves” to start. On that note, here’s some sound analysis on which players should get the nod.

There’s still so much of the equation left to come, which has really taken the air out of the sales of these vote announcements. It’s nice to know where players rank among fans, but it means only so much now.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.

John Wall: Bench was Wizards’ ‘downfall’

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John Wall left the Wizards’ season-ending loss to the Celtics talking about how badly Washington’s bench got outscored.

Now that he has time to reflect and isn’t just speaking with raw emotion shortly after a devastating loss, how does he feel?

Wall, via CSN Mid-Atlantic

“We need to help our bench,” Wall told CSN’s Chris Miller. “Just to be honest, that was our downfall in each series that we had in the [Eastern Conference] semifinals, our bench got out played.”

It starts from upstairs – just building the right bench guys and building the chemistry. That’s all it is.

I think that’s where they won the game at. I heard Marcus Smart say after the game that I had no legs. He’s basically right. I don’t make excuses. I’m going to play. If I miss shots or make shots, I’ll live with it. I know people will say he finished oh for 11, but I play – I took everything I had in me to keep fighting.

It’s just that their bench guys came in and played well. I think Kelly Oubre could’ve played a little bit more. I wish he would’ve played a little more and Jason. But coach makes the decision, and we stick behind him 100 percent. I feel like those two guys could have really helped us.

Wall – eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension but reportedly unsure about signing one – is clearly telling the Wizards what he wants. Marcin Gortat similarly criticized Washington’s bench earlier in the season, and he apologized. Wall has the leverage not to stand by his assessment.

Both Wall and Gortat were right. The Wizards’ bench was the source of much of their problems.

Washington’s starting lineup outscored opponents by 4.7 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs. Its bench (all other lineups) got outscored 15.5 points per 100 possessions.

Only the Thunder had a similar split in net rating:

image

The Wizards knew their flaw and tried to hide it. Washington’s starters played 34.2 minutes per game together in the postseason – second only to the Pacers (34.5). Wall’s heavy workload contributed to him running out of gas late in Game 7 against Boston, which Marcus Smart noted.

What can the Wizards do to upgrade their bench? Spend.

They sound committed to keeping Otto Porter, a restricted free agent this summer. But that would push them near the luxury tax – so they could scrimp on the bench in a variety of ways:

  • Don’t re-sign Bojan Bogdanovic, another restricted free agent. He’s in line for a raise.
  • Trade Marcin Gortat, elevating Ian Mahinmi into the starting lineup and therefore weakening the bench.
  • Trade Jason Smith, who might be expendable at his salary but at least still provides depth.
  • Don’t use the mid-level exception. That’s Washington’s best mechanism for adding outside help, but it’d be costly.

Will the Wizards take any of those cost-saving measures? Wall is certainly watching.