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LeBron’s out of context quote of the day: “At the end of the day it’s still just basketball”

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HOT TAKE TIME: LeBron James just does not care the way Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant did. That’s why he’ll never be as great as them.

If that first paragraph sums up your feelings, you best just move along. We’re going to go for context here. And maybe a little nuance. Those things may frighten you, these shade of gray rather than a world of black and white. You’re better off sticking to most sports talk radio (or some nationally televised sports debate shows).

LeBron James is a well-rounded person with a family — he married his high school girlfriend — and children that are his priority. He’s built a brand and a business empire around himself , coming from the home of a single parent, and finding smart friends along the way he could trust to be his partners. He’s the first NBA superstar of the social media age, and with that has come plenty of criticism his predecessors in that spotlight never did.

All that leads to this question and answer from LeBron speaking to the media in Cleveland Tuesday.

Q. You’ve always said that throughout your career things never came easy, you always had to go the hard route, hard path. With this situation right here that you’re in, do you feel like this is not comfortable territory but territory that you’re accustomed to?

LEBRON JAMES: Yeah, it’s something I am accustomed to. It’s something that I feel like is — that it’s okay for me to kind of always go back and know that I can refocus. I can get my guys ready, get myself ready. But you hate to continue to put yourself in these positions, but at the end of the day it’s still just basketball, man, and that’s what gives me comfortable and I’m more comfortable about it because it’s just a game. I prepare myself, I’m going to go out and do my job and live with the results.

Of course, the line that will get pulled out of that and discussed until tip-off on Wednesday is “at the end of the day it’s still just basketball, man, and that’s what gives me comfortable and I’m more comfortable about it because it’s just a game.”

The hot take cannon will be firing shots all over the web and on radio waves about how LeBron just doesn’t love the game like Jordan.  That is just flat-out BS. On several counts.

First, this is LeBron’s seventh straight Finals — he has been here before. He knows what has to be done. Some people will blast a lack of “not in my house” defiance from him, but that’s just simplistic. LeBron was literally in this spot with almost this exact same team one year ago (and they won Game 3 by 30), he knows the task at hand and a bunch of bravado is not the answer. Also, he said this in answer to a previous question, but it doesn’t make the same hot take:

“We got to protect home. It starts with tomorrow. One game at a time, one possession at a time, and cleaning up on some of the miscues that we have had in the first couple games and not have as many.”

Second, Jordan loved the game so much he partied in casinos and smoked cigars the nights before games. Can you imagine the images of Jordan that would have come out in an era of camera phones? Jordan is the GOAT (or you can at least argue that case very well), but we have mythologized him and his competitive obsession in a way that is not healthy. Same with Kobe. The emotional attachment of people to defend Jordan as the GOAT even when it’s not required always amuses me.

Third, LeBron is right. It’s a game. It’s entertainment. He was being honest, not waiving a white flag. He has unquestionably given his all this series, he’s done what he can to lift his team up. He’s incredibly competitive and if (when) they lose this series, he will rededicate himself to getting another ring next year no matter who stands in the way. But this is not the most important thing in the world by a long shot, and it’s not the most important thing in his life (he’s got people painting racial epithets on the gates of his home). Nor should it be. If it’s the most important thing in yours, maybe it’s time for some real self-evaluation.

Curry scores 35, Warriors rally to beat 76ers 124-116

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PHILADELPHIA — Stephen Curry scored 35 points, Kevin Durant had 27 and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors overcame a 22-point halftime deficit in a 124-116 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Saturday night.

Joel Embiid scored 21 points and Ben Simmons had 23 points and 12 assists for Philadelphia, which led 47-28 after one quarter and 74-52 at the half.

But the Warriors erased that large deficit with a furious rally in the third quarter. Curry’s 3-pointer got them within one point. He then made a pair of free throws to give Golden State a 90-89 lead.

The two-time NBA MVP hit another 3 and Draymond Green blew past a defender for a dunk to make it 99-89 going into the fourth.

A raucous, sellout crowd that chanted “Trust the Process” most of the night went silent while the Warriors put on a shooting clinic in the second half.

Even veteran David West came off the bench and made big shots in the fourth quarter to give the Warriors distance. He finished with 14 points. Klay Thompson had 16.

Embiid was coming off a career-best performance – 46 points, 15 rebounds, seven blocks, seven assists – in a 115-109 win at the Los Angeles Lakers on Wednesday.

He seemed on his way to another monster game in the first quarter. Embiid embraced the frenzied fans and slapped hands with a guy sitting courtside after a dunk.

But the Warriors showed why they’re the best by stifling Philadelphia in the second half to improve to 12-4.

The Sixers, who lost 135-114 at Golden State one week ago, fell to 8-7.

Playing his first game since receiving a lucrative contract extension, Robert Covington had 20 points for Philly.

Back home for the first time following a five-game road trip to the West Coast, the Sixers showed no jet lag in the first half.

They jumped ahead 15-4 following a 3-pointer by Embiid. Covington stripped Durant and hit a 3 to make it 37-18, electrifying the crowd.

Durant’s dunk off Green’s alley-oop pass got the Warriors within 70-51 late in the second. But Embiid finished off the half with a dunk that sent the Sixers into the locker room up 74-52.

TIP-INS

Warriors: The 47 points allowed in the first quarter was their most given up in any quarter since Portland had 48 in the fourth quarter of a game on Nov. 14, 1992.

76ers: J.J. Redick scored 20 points, and Dario Saric had 13 points and 10 rebounds.

UP NEXT

Warriors: Continue their four-game road trip Sunday afternoon at Brooklyn.

76ers: Host Utah on Monday night.

 

Top-10 college recruit Anfernee Simmons may go straight to NBA

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A couple of years back, Thon Maker decided to play a post-graduate fifth year of prep school ball, not go to a major college, then jump to the NBA. He could because he had graduated a year before and was 19, the Bucks took him in the lottery, and so far it has worked out for everyone.

Now another recruit, Anfernee Simmons, may follow that path. Simmons is spending this year at the IMG Academy, and the combo guard is considered a top-10 recruit in this class.

Jonathan Givony of ESPN broke the story after speaking to Simmons.

“Some people have brought it to my attention,” Simons told ESPN during an interview in Connecticut, where his team was participating in the National Prep Showcase. “As long as the opportunity is there, I will do it.

“I can see myself going to the NBA combine, if I have enough teams to actually invite me or recommend me for the combine and enough teams want to bring me for workouts. I really need to hit the weight room hard and get a little stronger.”

This is a sensible approach — find out where you roughly fall in the draft, then make a decision. Listen to the teams, not friends/family/agents. If you have a first-round guarantee, then go pro.

Givony and others describe the 6’3″ Simmons as talented but still a project for the NBA level, starting with the fact he needs to get stronger (something true of most rookies). Not that it really scares off teams any longer, many are willing to develop and wait on a player with potential (he could spend a chunk of his first season in the G-League). Simmons is fast when he drives, and has a smooth release on his jumper. If he gets stronger and his game matures, a team may take a risk on him.

Shorthanded Cavaliers now without Iman Shumpert for 5-7 days

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Isaiah Thomas is still rehabbing his hip, he should return next month.

With him out, Tyronn Lue and the Cavaliers have had to lean more on Derrick Rose at the point, except he has a sprained ankle that is going to have him out a couple more weeks.

That has forced Iman Shumpert into the starting point guard role in Cleveland, although he mostly is there for defense/shooting as the playmaking duties fall to LeBron James.

Now the Cavaliers will have to get by without Shumpert for a while with water on the knee, Cleveland announced on Saturday. He left Friday night’s Cavs win against the Clippers with a sore knee and did not return

“Additional examination and imaging today at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health confirmed left knee effusion. He will be out 5-7 days while he undergoes treatment and rehabilitation,” the Cavaliers said in a statement.

This is going to force Lue to play Jose Calderon, who he has kept glued to the bench this season despite the injuries. J.R. Smith and Dwyane Wade will need to take on more run as well.

The Celtics have won four in a row — thanks to a more focused offense — and face the Pistons, Nets, and Hornets this week.

Joakim Noah on if he can play at former level: “Probably not. Probably not.”

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For three games, Joakim Noah has been clear of the 20-game PED suspension he started at the end of last season.

For three games, he has not even dressed for the Knicks.

This is the former Defensive Player of the Year who was already on the decline when Phil Jackson gave him a $72 million contract that is now the worst in the NBA. Noah is out of the rotation, where Enes Kanter starts at center (with Kristaps Porzingis at the four) and Kyle O’Quinn coming off the bench.

Noah told Marc Berman of the New York Post he is frustrated but gets the situation.

“I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right,’’ Noah said in his first comments since being reinstated. “I understand the situation. I’m going to make the best of it.”

When asked if he still feels he can be close to the player he was in his 2013-14 campaign, Noah said: “Probably not. Probably not. You know. I can help. I feel like I could help this team and that’s just my reality. But I just want to just be the best that I can be.

“It’s not about trying to be what I was three, four years ago, because it’s not the reality.”

Noah is a smart and mature player, he understands his reality, and he has the exact attitude you want a veteran off the bench. He can help in practices, he can help because he understands how to play defense and can teach it, and eventually, he will get a chance on the court. He is not part of the future of the Knicks, but he can guide these young players.

The Knicks new management will look for a way to unload Noah’s contract, but considering the sweeteners the Knicks would need to throw in to get a team to deal for Noah, it’s unlikely we see any action on that front for a long time.