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LeBron, do you have to step up with Kevin Love out? “I’ve never stepped down”

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For the next six weeks, the Cleveland Cavaliers are going to be without Kevin Love and his corner threes, his 20 points and 11 boards a night, his improved ability to find spaces in the offense to operate because of knee surgery. The Cavaliers have been 11.5 points per 100 possessions better when Love is on the court this season, and while there is a lot of noise it that stat it shows his value to the team and ability to play with LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.

With him gone (and J.R. Smith out at least a few more weeks), Channing Frye will get the starts coach Tyronn Lue told the Cleveland Plain Dealer’s Chris Fedor: everyone needs to pick up their game.

“Everyone has to step up and fill that void,” Lue said. “LeBron, D-Will (Derrick Williams), Champ (James Jones), Channing. Everyone has to step up and be ready to play.”

LeBron, you agree you need to step up?

“I’ve never stepped down,” he said. “Why does it change now? Ain’t nothing changed. I have my guys ready to play every single night.”

LeBron also put it this way.

“As long as I’m in the lineup, we’ve got a chance,” James said Tuesday morning. “We good. Kev is out for an extended period of time. J.R. (Smith) has been out, but I’m in the lineup. I’ll be suiting up. We’ve got a chance against anybody. I ain’t worried.”

He’s not wrong. So long as the Cavs suit LeBron and Kyrie Irving up they are going to win plenty of regular season games, and likely keep that top seed in the East.

However, it’s fair to wonder about LeBron’s minutes. He is tied for the league lead in minutes per game at 37.6 a night, and he’s 11th in total minutes on the season. Lue had said previously he planned to start lowering LeBron’s minutes starting in February to make sure he was fully rested and sharp for the playoffs. That plan looks like it will be put on hold. LeBron, of course, says he wants none of that and will play as many minutes as the team needs and more. He’ll take on whatever load the team needs.

The only questions is, does this catch up with him in the postseason?

Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge nails three from one knee during warmups (VIDEO)

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Take that Stephen Curry.

Gregg Popovich would pull him so fast he’d look like a fidget spinner if he tried this in a game, but during warmups before Game 4 Monday night LaMarcus Aldridge knocked down a deep three from one knee.

If Aldridge is taking a lot of threes that’s not a good sign for the Spurs, but we’ll see if he can have a big night and keep the Spurs alive in this series.

Stephen Curry drains shots from near half court during warmups like they’re layups

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Stephen Curry‘s pregame warmups draw people into the arena early, it’s a show in and of itself.

Before Game 4 Monday night, Curry was taking a couple shots from the center-court logo. And draining them. Like layups. Because he can.

We’ll see if he can put on that kind of show when the game tips off.

Gregg Popovich makes it official: No Kawhi Leonard for Game 4

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This was expected. It still sucks to hear.

Kawhi Leonard is out for Game 4 vs. the Warriors Monday night.

Leonard has sprained his left ankle in Game 5 against the Rockets and sat out Game 6 of that series (a San Antonio win), then returned for Game 1 against the Warriors. He re-injured his ankle twice in that game — once stepping on David Lee‘s foot, once when Zaza Pachulia slid under him on a jumper and took away his landing space. Leonard left that game with his team up 23 points, but the Warriors rallied back to win Game 1 and have controlled the series ever since. Leonard has not returned to the series.

San Antonio will play with pride on Monday night, but it may not be enough. You can bet the Warriors were reminded all day about taking their foot off the gas after what happened with Cleveland Sunday.

Report: Orlando hires Toronto GM Jeff Weltman to be president of basketball operations

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In Toronto, Masai Ujiri is the head of basketball operations and the guy with the hammer on deals. Jeff Weltman was his right-hand man and team GM.

Make that was his right-hand man, Weltman has been hired by the Orlando Magic to run its basketball operations, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Orlando Magic have hired Toronto Raptors general manager Jeff Weltman as the franchise’s president of basketball operations, league sources told The Vertical.

Weltman met with Orlando CEO Alex Martins and ownership on Monday, finalizing a five-year deal, league sources said.

Orlando officials had been intrigued with Cleveland GM David Griffin, but moved steadily toward Weltman as they became further engaged with his candidacy in recent weeks, league sources said. Weltman has been deeply involved in every aspect of the Raptors’ front office under president Masai Ujiri as Toronto became a perennial Eastern Conference contender.

Making a move now is smart in this sense: The Magic have the No. 5 pick in this draft and would want the guy making the big picture decisions about this roster on board to make this selection.

That roster already has some quality pieces — Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, maybe Elfrid Payton — but has underachieved. There were questions about the culture and a lack of accountability, and that blame ultimately fell on GM Rob Hennigan and he was let go. Frank Vogel is locked in as

Frank Vogel is locked in as coach, so how well Weltman and Vogel work together — and share a vision — will be key.

Weltman is well-respected around the league. He spent five seasons as an assistant GM in Milwaukee, and has been with the Raptors since 2013 as that team has risen up the Eastern Conference standings and had its best run in franchise history. He also has worked with the Clippers and in Denver. He’s been one of those guys expected to get a chance in the big chair for a few years now.

He’s got it, and it’s an interesting challenge in Orlando.