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Kevin McHale responds to Harden: “Calling me names is not going to change my opinion”

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It started with Hall of Fame player and former Rockets’ coach Kevin McHale on NBA TV.

“James is not a leader. He tried being a leader last year and doing that stuff, I think Chris Paul is going to help him do that stuff and get back to just hoop and play. On every team you need to have a voice, you have to have somebody that when he says something, everybody listens. Look, if James tells you ‘Chuck, you’ve got to play better [defense]!’ Are you going to listen to him? You’re kidding me! I lived through it, everybody in the locker room [shook their head].”

That James is James Harden, and he fired back.

“He’s a clown, honestly. I did everything and anything he asked me to do, I tried to lead this team every single day here since I set foot in Houston. To go out there and downplay my name when, honestly, he never taught me anything to be a leader.”

McHale was on the set again Friday night and was asked about his words on Harden, and he wasn’t backing down, saying “calling me names is not going to change my opinion.”

There is bad blood between these two, Harden didn’t like McHale as a coach and helped push him out the door (with three years left McHale’s contract, the man still got paid), and McHale still seems to harbor a grudge.

Harden is a leader in the sense other players look up to him, and as McHale said he organizes off-season workouts and more. He has a role. Is he an in-your-face during the game (or at halftime or whenever) kind of leader in the Kobe or Draymond Green mold? No. Does he need to be? No. He just needs to be who he is. His teammates respect that.

McHale is right about this: Chris Paul will be in guys faces, he will push them. That rubbed other Clippers the wrong way at times, but it might be a boost the Rockets need.

Now, can we move on from this back-and-forth between McHale and Harden? Thanks.

Warriors pose for photos with Jahlil Okafor’s dad’s ‘FREE JAH’ shirt

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Jahlil Okafor‘s father has not been shy about speaking out on his son’s behalf. NBA players are advocating for the 76ers to grant Okafor, who’s out of the rotation and on an expiring contract, his desired trade or buyout.

When both join forces…

Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Stephen Curry appear to really enjoy Chukwudi Okafor’s shirt. That doesn’t mean they’re necessarily calling on Philadelphia to do anything. But they hadn’t to know how it’d be perceived.

It’s easy to predict free agents will avoid the 76ers as a result of the Okafor situation, but few anticipate getting stuck similarly. Players overwhelmingly value money, winning, role and location. If Golden State’s stars are applying any external pressure, it shouldn’t really move Philadelphia more than anything that has already been said and done.

A couple of Lonzo Ball’s triple-double assists look dubious (video)

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Lonzo Ball draws outsized attention because his father, LaVar Ball, lures onlookers and because the rookie plays for the high-profile Los Angeles Lakers.

So, when Lonzo gets a triple-double – like his 11-points, 16-rebound, 11-assists game against the Nuggets yesterday – it draws scrutiny.

Mo Dakhil of The Jump Ball:

The NBA defines an assist as a “pass that directly leads to a basket. … An assist can be awarded for a basket scored after the ball has been dribbled if the player’s pass led to the field goal being made.”

I wouldn’t describe either of those passing as leading directly to a basket. Ball’s teammates each hold the ball for a moment after receiving the pass then take two dribbles against set defenses.

But assists are subjective, and the Lakers aren’t alone in offering a home-court scorekeeping advantage.

Kyle Neubeck of Philly Voice

So, criticize/laugh at the Lakers. But your favorite team probably manipulates assists in its favor, too.

Robin Lopez and T.J. Warren exchange contact, heated words (video)

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Robin Lopez whacked T.J. Warren in the head while chasing an offensive rebound. Warren didn’t like that, so he ran to the opposite end of the court and shoved Lopez to the floor. A heated confrontation ensued, though it didn’t escalate beyond yelling.

Warren received a flagrant foul, and Lopez was hit with a technical in the Suns’ 113-105 win over the Bulls.

Lakers blow 5-on-1 fastbreak (video)

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Corey Brewer is better at finishing fastbreaks than leading them.

Nice defense by Emmanuel Mudiay, too.

But at least the Lakers won.