Dan Feldman

LeBron James comes from beyond the arc for putback dunk on missed free throw (video)

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Remember when we thought LeBron James might coast through the regular season?

This isn’t coasting.

Rockets prospect Sergio Llull says he plans to finish Real Madrid contract, which expires in 2021

Real Madrid vs Barcelona - Liga Endesa
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There were conflicting reports whether Sergio Llull’s new contract with Real Madrid lowered or increased his buyout.

But that detail is moot if Llull – the No. 34 pick in the 2009 draft whose rights the Rockets hold – isn’t interested in jumping to the NBA anyway.

Llull on Cope, as translated by Jorge Sierra of HoopsHype:

“I have a contract with Real Madrid until 2021 and I plan on fulfilling it.”

The Rockets reportedly want to sign Llull next summer, but they won’t be desperate. They’re fine at point guard with James Harden and Patrick Beverley locked up.

Perhaps, this is just a negotiating ploy by Llull. But if we take him at his word, he’ll be 33 when his contract expires. That might be too late for an NBA jump.

Did George Karl treat Seth Curry unfairly due to North Carolina-Duke rivalry?

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 28:  Head coach George Karl of the Sacramento Kings stands on the side of the court during their game against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on December 28, 2015 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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George Karl played at North Carolina for Dean Smith. In other words, Karl deifies Carolina Basketball.

How did that square when coaching the Kings, who had former Duke player Seth Curry?

Curry and Adrian Wojnarowski discussed that on The Vertical Podcast with Woj:

  • Wojnarowski: “The Kings’ GM, Vlade Divac, you knew him from your days in Charlotte with your dad. He was a teammate of your dad’s, and he had some belief in you. People around the Kings told me that – and listen, we can go back and look at how it went with George Karl. You had opportunities. You played pretty well, and then you’d get buried again. People there told me that – and at first, I didn’t believe it because it sounds like an excuse somebody would make for somebody – but he’s a Carolina guy, and you’re a Duke guy. And some people there told me that he has some preconceived ideas of what Duke pros were like, that they didn’t make it or they ended up not being what people said they would be and that he would say it out loud and people there would hear it. Did you ever hear it?”
  • Curry: “Yeah, I did. It felt like every single day he would make a little Duke jab or say something about Duke-Carolina or something. I’m like, “Wow, this is happening every single day? This might be a little real.” But I don’t know if that’s the reason why he didn’t play me on a consistent basis or whatever it was. But I used to hear it, and Ii  used to hear people talk about how serious he was about it. And I mean, it was a tough time early on that year.”
  • Wojnarowski: “Because that’s normal, guys busting chops about you went to Carolina, I went to Duke. That’s normal, like Syracuse-Georgetown somewhere else or UCLA-USC, whatever. But it felt like something more over time, like, no, he really has an idea, that this is factoring into his thought process on whether I can be a player here or not.”
  • Curry: “I heard the same things you heard coming in, when they were talking about signing me and things like that. And it’d be like, “But I don’t know about Duke players. Seth can play. I saw him, what he can do. But I just don’t know how Duke players pan out in the league.” So, it’s funny to hear. But for me, I feel like it’s the NBA, and once you leave college, it’s a different path for every single player.”

Wojnarowski is right: This type of banter occurs all the time, and it’s almost always friendly. It’s hard to believe a coach would take a college rivalry so seriously.

Then again, Karl wouldn’t be the only high-ranking NBA employee to question the NBA impact of Duke players.

Plus, Karl had poor relationships with his players, especially DeMarcus Cousins, in Sacramento. In a different environment, I’d assume Curry was being overly sensitive if he used that as an excuse. In basketball hell, it’s far too possible Karl’s motives were inappropriate.

Curry eventually cracked the rotation late in the season and played well. But the Kings didn’t see enough to keep him and ushered his exit to the Mavericks.

Karl, of course, was fired after the season.

Big game James: LeBron attending Ohio State-Michigan game

COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 20:  Cornerback Leon Hall #29 of the Michigan Wolverines loses his helmet as he helps linebacker Pierre Woods #99 bring down quarterback Troy Smith #10 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the fourth quarter on November 20, 2004 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus, Ohio.  Ohio State upset Michigan 37-21.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James is jamming one of college football’s biggest games into his busy schedule.

James and several Cleveland teammates plan to attend Saturday’s Ohio State-Michigan game in Columbus before they play in Philadelphia that night. James has been on the sideline at Ohio Stadium in the past, but not for a game he said is on his “bucket list.” This year’s matchup between the No. 2 Buckeyes and No. 3 Wolverines has national championship implications.

The defending NBA champion Cavs host Dallas on Friday night before James and others will take in the OSU-Michigan rivalry.

James has provided Ohio State’s players with cleats inspired by his signature Nike sneakers. He said the idea to develop a cleat for one of his shoes began years ago.

He’s picked the right time to unveil them as Michigan is outfitted in Jordan Brand, gear designed by Michael Jordan.

More AP college football: http://www.collegefootball.ap.org

Draymond Green: No way Kevin Durant signs with Warriors if Thunder beat them

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 04:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Golden State Warriors congratulates Draymond Green #23 during their preseason game against the Los Angeles Clippers at ORACLE Arena on October 4, 2016 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Kevin Durant said he wouldn’t have signed with the Warriors if they won the championship last season.

It seems they ate the just-right porridge in the playoffs.

That’s because, before losing to the Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, Golden State beat Durant’s Thunder in the Western Conference finals.

Warriors forward Draymond Green, via The Vertical Podcast with Woj:

I think, if we lose that series, there’s no chance he comes here. So, that was some added incentive as well.

Green would have insight here. He recruited Durant throughout the season.

Though Green and Durant say they didn’t talk much during the playoffs, their relationship reportedly bothered other Thunder players. Durant excelled in their matchup, but it’s reasonable to wonder where his mind was during it. His closeness with the Warriors, especially considering he eventually chose them in free agency, opens the door to those questions.

But beyond scrutinizing Durant’s focus, credit Golden State for doing its part on the court. By winning three straight to close the series, the Warriors instilled doubt with Durant about his ability to win in Oklahoma City.

The optics of Durant joining the team that just eliminated him in the playoffs were inescapable. But that was always going to be an easier sell than luring Durant to a team he just beat.

So, Golden State ousting the Thunder was a huge piece in the puzzle of Durant’s free agency. But so was losing to the Cavaliers. If the Warriors did that to get Durant and contend for multiple titles in the coming years, that’d truly be light years ahead.