LeBron James talking a good game, still playing a great one

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Older, wiser and more aware of the world, LeBron James is unafraid to let his views known on politics or social issues or even the business of basketball.

It wasn’t always that way.

But in his 14th season, with more NBA playing years in his rear-view mirror than left in front of him, James doesn’t see much reason to stay silent these days. His voice is louder than ever when he deems it appropriate while his numbers remain as good as ever. It’s one of the reasons why he’ll again be the star attraction on Sunday night when he plays in the All-Star Game for the 13th time.

“I’ve been vocal about a lot,” James said Saturday. “That’s who I am. I’m a vocal guy. I’ve been vocal about a lot of things this year.”

Whether it was his stance on the presidential election where he supported Hillary Clinton, expressing his displeasure about Phil Jackson’s characterization of the people closest to him , speaking directly to fans through video messages or even saying his Cleveland Cavaliers need another playmaker to help with their NBA title defense, James has been taking full advantage of his massive platform .

This weekend, though, he is trying to take a break from any negativity and enjoy the moment.

“Truly blessed,” James said. “This is a special time for me.”

He’s not alone in that sort of thinking. For all the subplots – the Kevin DurantRussell Westbrook drama, Kyrie Irving‘s claim that the Earth is flat and Carmelo Anthony‘s All-Star nod after some trying times in New York – none of the 24 players who’ll be on the floor Sunday night will likely be thinking about anything besides putting on a show.

James’ two sons are hoping for a show, too. Not from their dad, so much – but rather from their favorites like Westbrook and Stephen Curry.

“LeBron Jr. wore 0 for the longest time because he loves Russ,” James said. “Bryce wore 30 because he likes Steph and likes to shoot the ball from deep. I think that’s pretty cool.”

James’ arrival was the big news of All-Star Saturday, largely because he missed Friday’s events because of family obligations. Durant and Westbrook shared the floor for practice but had minimal interaction – not even looking at each other when they were maybe a foot apart in the back of the Superdome while trying to find their assigned spots for a media session.’

“This game, it’s for the fans,” said Westbrook, the two-time reigning All-Star MVP.

It always is, though this All-Star weekend has a younger feel.

Sunday’s will be the first All-Star Game since 2005 – James’ first All-Star – where no player in the game will be older than 32. Kobe Bryant was 37 when he made his All-Star farewell in Toronto last season, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was two months shy of turning 42 when he played in the game for the last time in 1989.

Anthony is the oldest All-Star, seven months older than James and eight months older than Marc Gasol. They’re all 32.

“It’s pretty weird to be the veterans now when we were the young guys a few years ago, but that’s just the way the league is going, man,” Durant said. “Teams are drafting two or three 18-year-olds a year. … The league is getting younger and at some point we’re going to be the old guys passing the torch to the young guys.”

James is one of those old guys now.

But he’s not ready to pass any torch.

He’s shooting better this season, 54 percent, than he did in his first three MVP years. His 8.8 assists per game have him on pace for a career-best, his rebounding average is essentially the same as it was in all four MVP seasons and his scoring – 25.9 per game – is just a tick below what he did in those years where he was tabbed as the game’s best.

“I take pride in going out every night, and you knowing what you’re going to get from me every night,” James said. “I work on my game. I work on my craft. And to know that my numbers are right up there with my MVP seasons, it just lets me know I’m consistent. You can always book me for whatever my numbers say. Sometimes they’re more. Not going to be less, not that many times.”

Russell Westbrook dogs Warriors, Damian Lillard after Paul George misses All-Star roster

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Ah yes, let the mud-slinging begin.

Russell Westbrook is on a team with three huge stars in the Oklahoma City Thunder. It was always going to be difficult for all of them to make the 2018 NBA All-Star team out west.

But that doesn’t matter to Russ.

After Tuesday night’s win over the Brooklyn Nets (where Westbrook hit the game-winning shot, no less) the reigning NBA MVP had some thoughts about teammate Paul George missing out on the All-Star Game, calling it “outrageous”.

Westbrook wasn’t too happy with teams getting “four people” onto the team (a dig at the Golden State Warriors) and that players are, “Talking about getting snubbed until they get in.”

That last part seems to have taken aim at Portland Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard, one of the most talked about snubs in recent years who finally got another All-Star bid.

Via Twitter:

Westbrook also said that George was “Top 2 at his position” which really colors the underlying issue at hand: Russ likes PG and wants him to stay in OKC.

Nobody reasonable would say that George is a Top 2 player on the wing. Not while LeBron James and Kevin Durant are alive, at least. And Westbrook’s comments about folks being stars vs. not stars, even if the voting goes one way says a lot.

The Warriors are the best team of all time. A bunch of guys getting on All-Star teams in their heyday makes sense, even if one of those guys is Klay Thompson (sometimes). We all have Warriors fatigue, I guess.

Meanwhile, Lillard is one of adidas’ biggest athletes when it comes to basketball, the face of a franchise, and has put up numbers deserving of making the team in years past. He’s also a big personality and a rapper. Lillard’s name is in lights each and every night. The issue with him sees to be that nobody watches him consistently east of the Cascades.

But all this arguing gives legitimacy to Westbrook’s point, which is mostly personal. George’s numbers have taken a dip in some areas, particularly when it comes to things like VORP, assist percentage, and true shooting. They’ve gone up in others, like 3-point shooting. He’s still a very good player and very valuable to the Thunder.

Each year, guys get left off the All-Star team for various reasons. Sometimes it’s just their turn to be on it or be off it. Nice of Westbrook to stop by with some takes.

Here’s hoping for him that George stays in OKC.

Russell Westbrook hits game-winning shot to beat Nets (VIDEO)

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Spencer Dinwiddie hit the game-winning shot for the Brooklyn Nets on Tuesday night. At least, many thought he did.

But that honor actually went to Oklahoma City Thunder star Russell Westbrook, who had hit the real game winner with a little more than three seconds to go.

Westbrook’s bucket came on after a sideline inbounds play led to a hard drive to the right side of the bucket for the reigning MVP.

Then, Dinwiddie got the ball and had appeared to make a 3-pointer to win the game for the Nets. However, it clanged off the side of the rim, moving the net in a way that many watching on TV and in the arena thought had gone in.

Via Twitter:

OKC beat Brooklyn, 109-108.

Here’s LeBron James scoring the 30,000th point of his career (VIDEO)

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LeBron James is officially the youngest player to ever reach 30,000 points in an NBA career.

The Cleveland Cavaliers great, who preemptively congratulated himself in a weird Instagram post earlier in the day, got points 30,000 and 30,001 at the age of 33 years and 24 days, edging Kobe Bryant by a year and 80 days.

The play came with just a second to go in the first quarter while the Cavaliers played on the road against the San Antonio Spurs.

Dribbling on the left arc against Danny Green — a formidable defender — LeBron gave a hesitation dribble before stepping just inside the 3-point line for a pull-up jumper.

Via Twitter:

LeBron still has Dirk Nowitzki, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, Karl Malone, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar ahead of him on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Where he ends up might just depend on how long Nowitzki plays.

Top five 2018 All-Star Game snubs

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We fans love to talk about who gets snubbed. There are 68 teams in the NCAA tournament and we argue about who was 69th and deserved to be there.

With the NBA All-Star game, there are always legitimate snubs — and with the Western Conference so ridiculously deep this season good players were going to get left out. Just picking my reserve choices for a podcast felt brutal.

We now know the All-Star Game starters and reserves, so who got snubbed. Here are the top five.

1) Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers. Los Angeles has been devastated by injuries this season (not to mention losing Chris Paul in the off-season) yet they are still in the playoff hunt in the West and the main reason is Lou Williams. The leading Sixth Man of the Year candidate is averaging 23.3 points per game, 5,3 assists a night, and is shooting better than 40 percent from three. He had a red-hot January so far, averaging 29.2 points per game. This may be a case where Damian Lillard got the nod from the coaches for his multi-year body of work (he’s been good a long time), but Williams is having his best season ever and has a great case.

2) Chris Paul, Houston Rockets. He likely didn’t get selected because he has missed 17 games this season — but Stephen Curry missed 15 and is a captain. When CP3 has played he’s been brilliant, averaging 19.1 points and 8.9 assists per game, he’s been crucial to improving the Rockets defense this season, and when he is on the court the Rockets outscore opponents by 10.9 points per 100 possessions. The Rockets are 23-5 when he plays. Houston is the second best team in the NBA, they should have more than one representative tonight.

3) Andre Drummond, Detroit Pistons. The coaches went with four guards for the East reserves, and that left just three frontcourt spots and four deserving players. Drummond is the odd-man out. Which sucks — he is averaging 14.3 points per game on 54 percent shooting, and he remains the best rebounder in the game today pulling down 15 a night. He has improved his defensive play as well, but what everyone notices is he hitting his free throws (62.9 percent) and that means Stan Van Gundy can play him at the end of games and not sub him out.

Drummond was more than a little frustrated he didn’t make the cut.

4) Paul George, Oklahoma City Thunder. George has played well on both ends this season next to Russell Westbrook. He is averaging 20.8 points per game and shooting 42.9 percent from three on one end of the floor, and defensively he is averaging 4.4 deflections per game and has 93 steals — both tops in the league. George is a four-time All-Star and it feels weird to see him left out, but he came to the ridiculously deep Western Conference and good players were not going to make it. He’s the odd man out in the frontcourt.

5) Kemba Walker, Charlotte Hornets. Could have got a lot of directions here – Ben Simmons and Goran Dragic can make their cases on appeal — but people have been sleeping on just how well Walker has been playing this season. Walker is averaging an efficient 21.8 points per game, dishing out 5.9 assists per night, and when he is on the court the Hornets outscore teams by 5.1 points per 100 possessions (that’s better than the Celtics or Timberwolves net ratings for the season). The problem is when he sits they fall apart, and Walker pays the price for his team struggling this season. His name has popped up in trade rumors, and he is the best guy available right now (not that he gets moved in a tight market). Walker was an All-Star last season and had a very strong case to be one again.