LeBron James, Kevin Love lead Cavaliers to 111-104 win over Knicks

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NEW YORK (AP) — LeBron James had 32 points and 10 assists, Kevin Love added 23 points and 16 rebounds in his return from back spasms, and the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the New York Knicks 111-104 on Saturday night.

The Cavaliers won for the ninth straight time against the Knicks and didn’t even need Kyrie Irving, who didn’t play because of right quadriceps soreness.

Love was back after missing two games and showed why the NBA champions may have no reason to entertain the trade rumors involving him and Carmelo Anthony that surround the teams.

The Cavs, who won the first two meetings by an average of 30.5 points, led this one by 27 in the opener to a four-game road trip.

Brandon Jennings had 23 points and 10 assists in place of point guard Derrick Rose, who missed his fourth straight game with a sprained left ankle. Anthony and Courtney Lee each added 17 points.

The Knicks have contacted the Cavs about trading him for Love, according to reports, but Love looked the better player Saturday and seemed healthy while playing 35 minutes.

James became the youngest player to surpass 28,000 points in leading the Cavs to their seventh straight win at Madison Square Garden, one of his favorite arenas. And he led the defensive effort against Anthony, who shot just 6 for 20 from the field.

One of those makes was when he stole the ball from James and dunked to cut it to 106-101 with 59 seconds left. But James came down on the next possession and found Love in the corner for an open 3-pointer, then drove around and through the Knicks defense for a dunk that pushed the lead back to double digits.

TIP-INS

Cavaliers: Cleveland improved to 13-0 against the Atlantic Division. … Former Knicks forward Channing Frye scored 14 points.

Knicks: Starting center Joakim Noah played just six minutes because of a sore left hamstring. … Saturday was the fifth anniversary of the kickoff of “Linsanity,” when Jeremy Lin, then a little-known reserve, came off the bench to spark the Knicks a comeback victory and begin his dizzying couple of weeks when he was briefly an NBA star.

SUPER SELECTION

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said he was picking the Patriots to win Sunday’s Super Bowl because of his respect for Bill Belichick. Lue said he became a fan when he was a Celtics assistant under Doc Rivers, when the coaching staffs visited each other.

“I like what he does, I like what he brings, I like who he is as a coach,” Lue said.

James declined to make a prediction.

TRIPLE, MAKE THAT, DOUBLE-DOUBLE

Saturday was the eighth anniversary of James’ triple-double that wasn’t. He was credited with 52 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds in the Cavs’ 107-102 victory here on Feb. 4, 2009, making him the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975 with 50 points in a triple-double. But the NBA removed the final rebound shortly after following a review of the video.

“We got a win. That’s the only thing that kind of mattered to me,” James said when asked to recall that. “If it happens to come in the flow of the game and I’m able to get a triple-double, cool. But I’ve always, obviously you guys know me, I only care about the win in that sense.”

BOMB SQUAD

The Knicks honored five members of their 1988-89 Atlantic Division championship team that set a then-NBA record with 386 3-pointers. Mark Jackson, Rod Strickland, Gerald Wilkins, Trent Tucker and Johnny Newman were the members of the “Bomb Squad” that made the 3-point shot a weapon under Rick Pitino long before it was utilized the way it is in today’s game.

 

Add Milos Teodosic to long list of stars missing EuroBasket

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The last Olympics in Rio saw a long list of NBA players sitting it out, either due to injuries, concerns about Zika virus, a serious dislike of açaí berries or just choosing to do something else with their time.

Now it looks like EuroBasket is suffering the same fate.

The latest name to come up is Milos Teodosic, who signed this summer with the Clippers, could never get healthy, and is out for Serbia. He joins a long list — Sportando put together a list of NBA players and stars who are out.

More than just one someone is missing, guys such as Ivica Zubac, Mario Hezonja, Paul Zipster, and others are out as well.

Spain, led by Pau Gasol, remain the heavy favorites to win EuroBasket 2017, with Serbia, France, and Lithuania potential contenders. There may be a lot of players missing, but there is still a lot of talent, and when guys are playing for national pride there is plenty of emotion and fire as well.

Lakers owner on Lonzo Ball: “He’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic”

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Lonzo Ball has yet to play a minute of professional basketball in the NBA, but fans in Los Angeles sure are happy to have him on board as they get ready for a new era in team history.

An exciting run through the Las Vegas Summer League in 2017 certainly showed us that Ball is ready to meet the challenges of a rookie in the NBA.

Ball won the LVSL MVP award while posting averages of 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, and 7.7 rebounds per-game. Ball and teammate Kyle Kuzma also helped the Lakers beat the Portland Trail Blazers in the championship game to close the tournament.

Lakers owner Jeanie Buss is just as excited about Ball as fans in California are. Speaking on the Petros and Money Show in LA it recently, Buss compared the buzz around Ball to that of Kobe Bryant, saying, “No other draft pick, except maybe Kobe Bryant, has had this kind of excitement about him.”

Buss also has high hopes for Ball’s style of play.

Via Lakers Nation:

“There’s something special about Lonzo […] I think because he just wants to play basketball, he’s selfless. He has a certain charisma and I think the fact that his teammates at UCLA loved playing with him and all the nice things that they have to say about him, I think he’s going to bring an element that’s very similar to Magic Johnson.”

Whatever criticism of his father you want to muster aside, Ball does seem relatively at ease in Los Angeles and in the spotlight. While he will no doubt struggle as a rookie, as even the best do, but it is starting to look up for LA in the post-Kobe era now that Ball is in town.

They seem to have the right coach in Luke Walton to help develop him, and no doubt fans in LA will be hoping that Ball is a superstar sooner rather than later.

Blake Griffin on LeBron James: “I don’t see him coming to L.A.”

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Is LeBron James on his way out of Cleveland? Rumors have it swirled around The King’s exit from his kingdom as of late, which his camp has vehemently denied.

However, LeBron suffered yet another loss in the NBA Finals to the Golden State Warriors in 2017 and his relationship with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert has appeared to sour. The history between the two is well-documented, and recently Gilbert failed to renew GM David Griffin’s contract, all without consulting James.

Meanwhile, the rumor has been that James prefers to land in Los Angeles, where he keeps a second home. James can play either with the LA Clippers or Los Angeles Lakers, which would allow him to perhaps add some of his favorite players — Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, or Dwyane Wade. The banana boat crew, as it were.

But one player already in Los Angeles doesn’t think that LeBron is on his way to California.

Speaking on a recent podcast with the Sklar Brothers, forward Blake Griffin said he did not think that James would come to L.A. Instead, he thought the best place for James to land would be in New York with the Knicks.

Via View from the Cheap Seats, h/t Complex. The LeBron conversation starts around the 50-minute mark:

“Honestly, I don’t see him coming to L.A. period. Listen, again, I have no idea. I think something is brewing with him and his group of guys. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I think something’s brewing and they’re going to try to make that work.”

“I could see him going to New York before L.A. I still think, when you go to the Garden, it’s a completely different feeling. The energy, there seems like there’s just a consistent buzz the entire game … even last year when you go play them, it’s still there.”

To give more context to this quote in case you aren’t able to actually listen to the podcast, Griffin is simply speculating based off of what he thinks could happen. He prefaces it by saying it is just a feeling, and my reading of his intonation makes me think Griffin believes there are too many roadblocks to get LeBron to Los Angeles. Couple that with an increasingly difficult Western Conference, and Griffin doesn’t think that The King will give up being able to get to the Finals every year just to come to L.A.

Given all that has happened with the Knicks over the last few decades, it also seems like a fair stretch to think the next best option would be to see LeBron in New York. Remember, with Steve Mills as president a lot of the people who torpedoed the Carmelo situation are still in place even with Phil Jackson gone. If LeBron does indeed want us to pair with Carmelo, or even if he is simply an influence on him as a friend, New York seems like an unlikely destination.

Still, it is interesting to hear the insight of other professionals in this context. It just goes to show you that even NBA players don’t know where LeBron is going to end up.

Report: Nerlens Noel switches agents in hopes of max deal with Mavericks

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Is Nerlens Noel worthy of a max contract? Not on your life.

But will he get it? That remains to be seen after reports that Noel recently fired his agent and will make the switch to Dan Fagen.

According to NBC 5 in Dallas, Noel has done just that and will be seeking a huge deal from Mark Cuban’s organization.

From NBC 5’s Newy Scruggs:

No other NBA clubs tried to sign the restricted 6-11 center. He has a one year qualifying offer of $5.8 million on the table but it’s not to his liking so he switched agents.

“We’re in a holding pattern,” is what Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle told me back in July on NBC Sports Radio when I brought up the contract talks between Dallas and Noel. The NBA salary cap didn’t go up has high as many previously projected, so the summer of 2017 was not a bonanza some players hoped for.

Even with the increase in the cap, and with big contracts flying around for young talent, Noel has done nothing to prove himself worthy of an offer like that for the Dallas Mavericks. Yes, his advanced numbers from his third season in the NBA looked much better, and that was great news as young big men often take time to develop.

Yet the body of work for Noel is simply not there. Fifty games of good play over a 200 game career does not, or should not, earn you a max contract.

Then again, this could simply be Noel preying on Cuban’s need to rebuild.

With Dennis Smith Jr. at the helm, an aging Dirk Nowitzki, and the team that could soon be irrelevant in a increasingly tough Western Conference, Noel stands as a future franchise piece if he does indeed fulfill his potential.

The question now is, especially after how this summer has gone, do you pay upfront for potential talent to an extent that seems unreasonable to a fault?

I would still doubt that Noel ends up with that max contract, but some positioning here could earn him a few extra bucks.