<span class="vcard">Kurt Helin</span>

LeBron James

Five Things We Learned in NBA Thursday: The Cavaliers we expected have arrived

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If you watch closely every night in the NBA you can learn a little something. We know you are busy and can’t keep up with every game, so we’re here to help with those lessons from another night in the Association. Here’s what you missed while watching Twitter explode because of llamas on the loose in Phoenix

1) The Cavaliers we expected may be late to the party but they have arrived. They have won 18 of 20. LeBron James is playing like the best player on the planet again. Their starting five are playing lock-down defense as a group (despite J.R. Smith and Kevin Love being in the group). There have been a lot of reasons for a while now to say that the Cavaliers we expected have finally arrived, but Thursday night they announced their presence with authority during a 110-99 win over the Golden State Warriors. A win where they ran away and hid from the team that has been considered the best in the game this season. Signs of what the Cavs were doing right? LeBron hit 8-of-11 contested shot attempts. The Cavs defense held the Warriors to 24-of-43 shooting in the paint. The lists can go on and on. Early in the season we wondered how long it would take Cleveland to morph into the Cavaliers, well it took a trade (particularly for Timofey Mozgov) and LeBron to get some rest, but that team has arrived.

2) Stephen Curry has serious handles. He’s got the purest shot in the game, but this man’s handles are ridiculous as well.

3) Phoenix will not go quietly into that good night. Recently the Suns had lost five in a row. The Thunder had won seven in a row. The Suns were 2.5 games back of the eight-seed Thunder and looked like, after trading Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas at the deadline, they would just pack it in for the season. Nope. Behind great nights from Eric Bledsoe (28 points and he was one assist shy of a triple-double) and Markeif Morris (29 points) the Suns beat the Thunder in overtime. That leaves them 1.5 games back of the Thunder. This team is not going to give up; they will push the Thunder all season long. They will not catch OKC, but they will not go quietly.

4) Eric Bledsoe and Russell Westbrook put on a show. You can decide for yourself which one is the white llama and which is the black, but like the llamas nobody could seem to catch up with Bledsoe (28 points, 13 rebounds, 9 assists) and Westbrook (39 points on 38 shots, 14 rebounds, 11 assists).

5) RIP Earl Lloyd. On Oct. 31, 1950, Earl Lloyd walked onto an NBA court as a member of the Washington Capitols and had six points and 10 rebounds in what was an eight-point loss to the Rochester Royals. In doing so, Lloyd broke the color barrier and became the first black player in the NBA. The Hall of Famer passed away Thursday at age 86.

Earl Lloyd, the man who broke the NBA’s color barrier, passes away

LLOYD
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On Oct. 31, 1950, Earl Lloyd walked onto an NBA court as a member of the Washington Capitols and had six points and 10 rebounds in what was an eight-point loss to the Rochester Royals. That’s not why the game will be remembered.

That was the night Lloyd broke the NBA’s color barrier, becoming the first black man to play in the league.

Lloyd passed away Thursday at the age of 86. This has been confirmed by his alma mater West Virginia State, as well as by the NBA.

“The NBA family has lost one of its patriarchs,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. ” Earl Lloyd, the first African-American to play in an NBA game, was as inspirational as he was understated.  He was known as a modest gentleman who played the game with skill, class, and pride.  His legacy survives in the league he helped integrate, and the entire NBA family will strive to always honor his memory.  Our deepest condolences to the Lloyd family.”

The 6’5″ forward spent nine seasons in the NBA, averaging 8.4 points and 6.4 rebounds. He won a title in 1955 with the Syracuse Nationals. In2003 he was elected to the Hall of Fame for his contributions to the sport. He also spent one season as an NBA coach in Detroit. He broke the color barrier that season along with  Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton and Chuck Cooper

Our thoughts are with his family and friends.

LeBron drops season-high 42 as Cavaliers comfortably handle Warriors (VIDEO)

LeBron James
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There were a number of reasons the Golden State Warriors struggled against the Cleveland Cavaliers Thursday. For one, the Warriors couldn’t finish inside (they were 19-of-29 at the rim) nor were their midrange shots falling (9-of-34 from three feet out to the arc).

But the biggest reason was LeBron James.

Golden State had no answer for the best player on the planet. LeBron looked at Stephen Curry across the way and decided to make his MVP statement in more than words. LeBron dropped 42 points on 25 points, and in a sign he was attacking the rim he was 8-of-10 within eight feet of the bucket.

Cleveland is finding its groove, it’s starting five is playing great defense, and if that is happening if anyone in the East can stop them. And maybe not the best in the West, either.

Rip Hamilton finally, formally announced retirement

Rip Hamilton
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The last time any of us saw Richard Hamilton — you know him better as Rip Hamilton, they guy in the mask — on an NBA basketball court, it was two seasons ago in Chicago. A three-time All-Star, a guy who picked up a ring with the 2004 Pistons, and one of the most feared midrange shooters in the game, his skills had left him a couple seasons before he was in Chicago in 2013.

On Thursday, Hamilton formally retired. He announced it on His and Hers. Then he put this on his Instagram account:

I want to give a major shout out to everyone who supported me through my NBA journey. To my coaches, teammates, and fans in Washington, Detroit, and Chicago: thank you for treating me with the utmost class and respect during my career. I couldn’t have been the player I am without you! Every stop taught me valuable lessons that I will remember for the rest of my life. Although this part of my path has come to a close, my basketball journey is far from over and I am looking forward to the road ahead.

Maybe the retirement is a little late in coming, but it’s worth remembering what a quality player he was.

Hamilton was of the best in the game in the half court, so quick and so good coming off screens that he created shots for himself and others. He was key to the Pistons offense in 2004 (and some other years). Just check out the highlights of him from Detroit.

Quote of the Day: Steve Kerr doesn’t miss Marv Albert, TNT that much

Steve Kerr
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Someday, when Steve Kerr gets weary of coaching someday, he will go back to calling games for TNT. And he will be very good at it.

But right now he doesn’t miss it. Plus he got to take a little jab at Marv Albert.