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Three Things to Know: LeBron’s first ejection, ever, doesn’t slow Love, Cavs

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Here’s what you missed around the Association while you were off yelling at a mall Santa.

1) LeBron James had a first — he got ejected. Kevin Love and Cavaliers keep winning anyway. We thought we had seen everything from LeBron James during a Hall of Fame career, but we hadn’t seen this. LeBron drove the lane late in the third quarter against Miami, drove into the body of James Johnson then used the space created for a little running jumper that missed — LeBron wanted the call and didn’t get it (I’ve seen that call go either way, but LeBron initiated the contact). LeBron went over to complain to referee Kane Fitzgerald and must have said the magic word (not “please”) because the ejection was swift.

LeBron haters loved it. For example, Enes Kanter.

It also didn’t matter. Look at the score in Kanter’s Tweet — Cleveland was up 23 late in the third when this happened, Miami wasn’t coming back. The game was all but over. For the first time this season the Cavs won on the second night of a back-to-back, and Kevin Love was the reason — 22 first-quarter points on his way to 38 for the game, plus nine boards.

The Cavaliers have won eight in a row, and what has mattered during this streak is they have allowed just 100.4 points per 100 possessions — fifth best in the NBA in that stretch. What got the Cavaliers off to a slow start was lackadaisical defense, but they are starting to focus on that end, and with it they again look like an elite team. And that is with Isaiah Thomas expected back next month.

2) Blake Griffin has sprained MCL, likely out 6-8 weeks. The Clippers have some hard questions coming. Considering how ugly the injury looked when it happened, the fact that Blake Griffin “only” has a sprained MCL and will not need surgery has to be seen as good news. The Clippers have won three straight (after losing nine in a row) and with Griffin out, Patrick Beverley gone for the season, Milos Teodosic out until after Christmas, and Danilo Gallinari still sidelined, the question becomes can the Clippers keep their head above water and in the playoff mix until Griffin’s return is 6-8 weeks? As of now, the Clippers are only a game out of the last playoff spot in the West, but can they stay within striking distance without their best player and primary shot creator?

The bigger question is if not, do they try to trade DeAndre Jordan? What about Gallinari and other players who could have value? Is it time for a rebuild? When Chris Paul pushed his way to Houston, Los Angeles didn’t turn toward a rebuild — they re-signed Griffin to a max deal, got Gallinari, and in that trade landed Beverley and some depth with Lou Williams and Sam Dekker. The Clippers were going to stay a potential playoff team and rebuild on the fly.

However, they did it with a lot of players who have injury histories, and health was always a big question mark. Now we have the answer. Other teams are already calling about Jordan — as a high-priced rental (he is making $22.6 million this season, with a player option for $24.1 million next season) the market is small, and teams are not going to offer a lot in return, but they are calling. The Cavaliers are rumored (a deal centered around Tristan Thompson and a pick), with teams such as Milwaukee and, in a long shot, Washington coming up in rumors. Others are testing the waters as well.

In this situation a lot of teams would typically reach out to Jordan’s people through back channels to see if they can get him to opt in, or if they have a good shot at re-signing him (teams don’t just want the All-NBA center as a rental), but there is a complicating factor, as Bobby Marks of ESPN points out.

Lawrence Frank, the guy with the hammer in the Clippers’ front office, has said he wants Jordan to be a “Clipper for life.” That’s nice. It’s what you say. But if Frank and the Clippers think it’s likely they lose Jordan as a free agent next summer, they need to make a trade. They need to get something back. And that could be the first domino in a Clippers’ rebuild… if Steve Ballmer is willing to go there. Remember he is trying to get approval for a new arena for the Clippers in Inglewood (right across the street from the Lakers’ old home at the Fabulous Forum) and that task gets a little harder with a rebuilding team that doesn’t feel like a huge draw. There are a lot of moving parts in Clippers trade talks.

3) Watch Devin Booker go off for 33 to lead Suns past Bulls. Maybe the biggest news out of Chicago Tuesday was that Nikola Mirotic attended the game, sat on the bench, and is back around the team after missing time with a broken face and concussion. He’s not speaking to Bobby Portis yet (the guy who gave him those injuries), but he is practicing with the Bulls again.

But that was not the most entertaining part Wednesday.

Devin Booker put up 33 points and drain five threes to lead the lowly Suns past the lowlier Bulls, and it just fun to watch this guy shoot and play.


Carmelo Anthony standing ovation in return to Madison Square Garden

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Knicks fans may have had their frustrations with Carmelo Anthony, but they know how much he has meant to the franchise over the years. He pushed to be a Knick and chose to stay, he carried the franchise for years.

Saturday night he returned to Madison Square Garden in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform after a trade this summer, and he was welcomed with a retrospective video followed by a standing ovation from the crowd (you can see all of it above).

Well done Knicks fans. Well done.

Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will not travel with team for 25 days due to legal issue

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The Lakers’Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed his new team’s first two games this season due to a suspension for a DUI case in Michigan.

But that was not all. Caldwell-Pope’s came with probation, and to get out of it early the Lakers’ forward has to go through an intensive rehab program — one that does not allow him to leave California with the team for 25 days. He did not play against the Cavaliers and that is just the first of multiple games he will miss, a story broken by Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Caldwell-Pope was originally cited for operating a vehicle while intoxicated but pleaded guilty in May to the lesser charge of allowing someone to operate his vehicle while under the influence, which carried a 12-month probation.

On Thursday, Caldwell-Pope had to return to California to begin an intensive program over the next 25 days that will result in some travel restrictions and could cause him to miss additional games but will end his probation early.

The Lakers are in a home heavy part of their schedule, and by my calculations KCP would only miss one or two games (for sure against Houston Dec. 20, then maybe against Golden State Dec. 22, but that is in California). The Lakers next road game after that is Dec. 31 in Houston again.

Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Lakers last offseason, and he has gone on to become one of the few reliable three-point shooters on the team, hitting 36.1 percent from beyond the arc, taking 6.1 shots from there a game. He’s been solid on defense and a player the Lakers’ need, although his overall efficiency is closer to average.

If the Lakers are successful with their big game hunting during free agency next summer, Caldwell-Pope will not return to the team. In a tight free agent market, he may once again not see offers near what he sees himself worth next summer. That said, his play in Los Angeles has been good. And now he will not have this legal issue hanging over his head during free agency.

LeBron James is good with televising All-Star team selections

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From the moment the NBA announced changes to the All-Star Game team selection format for this season, most NBA fans — as well as most media members I know — have wanted a live team selection show.

As a reminder, this year (as in past years) fans will vote for their favorite All-Stars, and those votes will be combined with media and player votes to name the five starters from each conference. Then the coaches will vote to select the teams.

What’s different is the top vote-getters from each conference — let’s be honest, it will be LeBron James in the East and Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant in the West — will be named captains and they will then pick their teams from the pool of other selected players. No East vs. West. If LeBron gets to choose first and he picks James Harden, then Harden is on that team. Curry can go second and select Giannis Antetokounmpo or whoever he wants from the starters pool, then the captains move into the reserves pool. Old-school playground style team picking.

Who wouldn’t tune it to watch that selection show?

The NBA officially has not decided yet if the selection process will be broadcast, but it probably won’t be. The reason is some player is not going to like being picked last (or next to last) and his agent will like it less. It gets political (would Curry have to choose Durant or Draymond Green first to keep his teammates happy?).

LeBron basically said Saturday why not televise it? From Nick Friedell of ESPN, when LeBron was asked if it would bother him to go against teammates in the All-Star Game:

“I hope not,” James said after Saturday’s shootaround. “We’re all grown men. It doesn’t stop their paycheck from coming. It won’t stop you from playing time once the season starts.”

And is he good with the pick order being made public or done live.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” James said. “It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, if I’m rewarded to be a part of the All-Star Game again, that’s cool for me. It doesn’t matter. All that other stuff is extracurricular.”

That’s the right attitude, and whoever got picked last would say that publicly. But privately… who knows? Depends on the guy.

That selection show would be must-watch television. The NBA needs to broadcast this. But it won’t. Politics will win out.

Carmelo Anthony returns to face improved Knicks (but without Porzingis)

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NEW YORK (AP) — Carmelo Anthony is coming to Kristaps Porzingis‘ house.

Three months after the Knicks traded Anthony to Oklahoma City, their former All-Star is gone and quickly forgotten. Porzingis is playing nearly as well as Anthony ever did in New York and seems to enjoy unyielding support from both fans and the front office that Anthony never had.

Porzingis has something else Anthony doesn’t: a winning record.

The Knicks welcome Anthony back on Saturday, trying to extend their surprising start though perhaps without the new main man in Madison Square Garden.

Anthony said after a triple-overtime victory in Philadelphia on Friday that he expected a fun night in New York.

“I think it’ll be an appreciation. It’s not like I was there for a year or a season or two seasons. I spent a lot of time there, almost seven years there,” he said. “There was great times, there was bad times. Regardless, I always stuck with it. I always remained professional. I always came and did my job whether people liked that or not. Hopefully people recognize that.”

Unlike team management, Porzingis didn’t want his friend to leave.

But it sure looks like it was the best thing for him and the Knicks.

“Well obviously, I would love to have had him here to continue to learn from him,” Porzingis said. “But without him this year I’ve had more of an opportunity. I am featured more, which is normal.”

Porzingis is listed as questionable to play after he left the Knicks’ game in Brooklyn on Thursday in the third quarter with a sore left knee. New York held on after he left, improving to 15-13 with its third straight victory.

If Porzingis plays, count on the usual raucous ovation when he’s the final starter announced, the spot that previously belonged to Anthony.

And what of the reception for Anthony, who led the Knicks to three straight playoff appearances after arriving in 2011, led the league in scoring when they won 54 games and a division championship in 2013, and always made it clear that he loved New York and didn’t want to go?

“I don’t think he deserves to be booed, but you never know,” Knicks forward Lance Thomas said. “Regardless, he is going to bring his `A’ game and we’re going to bring ours as well.”

Former team president Phil Jackson longed to unload Anthony last season, but the Knicks weren’t sure what to expect when they finally did make a deal on the eve of training camp. He was their leading scorer and team leader, and coach Jeff Hornacek had already said Anthony would be in the starting lineup if he remained on the team.

But new president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry found a trade the next day and it’s been a good one for the Knicks. Enes Kanter is giving them 13.4 points and 10.3 rebounds a game as the starting center while providing positivity that for years rarely existed in the home locker room. Doug McDermott is bringing another 8.5 points a night off the bench.

Anthony is struggling right along with the Thunder, a top-25 scorer in NBA history potentially on his way to the worst season of his career. He went into Friday’s game averaging just 17.7 points on 40 percent shooting before scoring 24 points.

And after placing him with MVP Russell Westbrook and fellow All-Star Paul George for the NBA’s latest Big Three, the Thunder were under .500 before Friday’s victory.

“I didn’t know that to be honest,” Thomas said. “But regardless, (they) will figure it out. I am not worried about them. I am worried about the Knicks.”

There’s less reason to worry than in Anthony’s final years in New York. Jackson alternated between trying to win and trying to rebuild seemingly every season, and his insistence on running the triangle offense appeared out of touch in an era when NBA teams are pushing the pace. And his stance toward Anthony last season angered teammates who appreciated the veteran’s efforts on and off the court.

Mills and Perry took aim at the culture and signaled a desire to build behind Porzingis, whose average of 25.5 points would be even higher if not for a sprained ankle that forced him to leave one game after 2 1/2 minutes. He looks happy after he was so disillusioned by the atmosphere under Jackson that he blew off his exit meeting last spring.

And while the Knicks appear on the rise, Anthony is trying to keep the Thunder from getting down.

“For the most part what I like about it, guys are trying to figure it out,” he said earlier this week. “Guys are trying to make it work. Guys are trying to be unselfish and figure this thing out and we’re sticking with it.”