Kurt Helin

Associated Press

The President is okay, but Cavaliers players lined up to get pics with Michele Obama

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The Cleveland Cavaliers made the traditional “champions visit the White House” stop on Thursday: President Barack Obama cracked jokes, J.R. Smith wore a shirt, and quietly people discussed if next year’s champion will come meet with then-president Donald Trump.

But what the players really wanted was a picture with First Lady Michele Obama.

At least if you trust what players posted on social media that’s true. Photos with the First Lady were all over the Cavs’ Instagram pages.

White House Visit. First photo with the First Lady @michelleobama!!

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What a day!

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.class.

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What a honor to be alongside the First Lady!!!!

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Honor to be here

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Allen Iverson addresses Sixers team, tells them city demands effort

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Allen Iverson was an inspiration and hero to a generation of NBA players.

Just not the players on the Sixers’ roster right now, they are a little young — Joel Embiid was 7 when Iverson won his MVP and took Philadelphia to the NBA Finals. Still, game recognizes game, and the Hall of Fame point guard with his number retired up in the rafters spoke to the young team after practice Thursday, reports Jessica Camerato of CSNPhilly.com.

Iverson’s message was to keep working hard.

Iverson also is high on the young Philly core.

The Sixers are winless on the young season, and they aren’t going to rack up a ton of wins over the course of the season, but Philly fans have to see the potential of this roster and how hard they are playing. The wins will come. Just stick with the process.

PBT Podcast: Five biggest surprises of young NBA season

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Dwyane Wade is knocking down threes? The Lakers are fun to watch?

A couple of weeks into the NBA season it’s difficult to say much of anything is certain, this is all still very small sample size. But we do know when we are surprised — there have been teams and players who have caught us off guard.

Dan Feldman and myself from NBC Sports take the time to discuss what has surprised us through the first couple weeks of the NBA season. There’s Lakers talk, the Bulls, and some discussions of pace and space, among much more. It’s certainly been an interesting first few weeks.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunes (check there to see all the NBC Sports podcasts), subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out our new PBT podcast homepage and archive at Audioboom.com.

One night only: Guard Dwyane Wade returns to Miami

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MIAMI (AP) — Dwyane Wade‘s former locker in the Miami Heat dressing room is empty. Dozens of photos of him still adorn walls all over the arena, including a giant one that every Heat player passes on their way to the court. And every championship banner that hangs from the rafters is there largely because of his work.

For 13 years, AmericanAirlines Arena was his house.

For a moment or two on Thursday night, it will be again.

Wade is returning to Miami as an opponent for the first time, as the Chicago Bulls – his new team – visit Thursday for the only time this season. The building will be jammed, the game will air on national television and the Heat will pay tribute with a highlight video that’s certain to elicit some long, loud cheering from fans who never wanted to see him leave.

“He’s going to get a great reception here,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said Wednesday. “That’s going to be fun. That will be special. It’s deserving. It’ll probably be emotional for me. And then we’ll get to competition and that’s ultimately what it’s all about.”

It’s a short visit for Wade, an All-Star in 12 of his 13 Miami seasons. Chicago was playing in Atlanta on Wednesday, scheduled to arrive in Miami in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Spoelstra was planning to watch the Bulls-Hawks game to help finalize the scouting report for Thursday night, since Wade’s role in Chicago is a bit different than the one he had in Miami for 13 years.

“He ain’t fooling me,” Spoelstra said. “He’s a playmaker. He’s an attacker. Whatever the game calls for, that’s what he’s going to do.”

Wade’s entire NBA history before July was with Miami. Drafted No. 5 overall in 2003, Wade wound up pairing with Shaquille O’Neal to help deliver Miami’s first title in 2006 and then lured LeBron James and Chris Bosh to the Heat for what became four trips to the NBA Finals – and two more titles – in four seasons.

James left in 2014 shortly before Bosh got a $114 million contract from Miami that was negotiated by Henry Thomas, the agent Wade and Bosh shared. The enormity of that deal left the Heat somewhat handcuffed with what they could offer Wade, and almost lost him in 2015 before they agreed on a one-year deal for $20 million.

No such agreement could be struck last summer, and Wade was gone.

“I’m not wishing nothing bad on that organization,” Wade said after a game Monday in Chicago, his comments reported by ESPN. “I have nothing but love for everybody in that organization. And I want them to be successful, just as we all say, just not when they play the Bulls. But besides that I want them to be successful.”

Thursday’s game will be Wade’s 525th in Miami. He’s the Heat all-time leader in virtually every major statistical category, and is so far ahead of everyone else on many of those lists that he’s assured of being all over the team record book for probably decades to come. But he’s still a draw; on the secondary resale market, a seat in the highest row of the arena was going for $41 – the same seat for a Heat game last week was resold for $6.

“Everybody going to be fired up,” Heat center Hassan Whiteside said.

Wade has stayed in touch with many around the Heat. He’s extremely close friends with Udonis Haslem, been in regular contact with Spoelstra, and continues checking in on some of his former teammates as well.

“There’s no bad blood between him and this organization,” Haslem said. “He’s had a great, great career here. He’s had so much success – we’ve had so much success. For whatever reason, the time came where we separated.”

Wade has said many times since deciding to go play for his hometown Bulls that he will forever be appreciative of his time with the Heat and playing before the Miami fans. He’ll want to win Thursday very badly, and for the first time in 14 years, the 20,000 people expected in the seats in Miami will want to see him lose.

“He’ll handle it fine,” Spoelstra said. “He’s as good as anybody I’ve ever been around at compartmentalizing and knowing when to keep emotions where they need to be.”

Three things we learned Wednesday: Boston’s defense cost it another game

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As the nation tried to get through its election hangover Wednesday, the NBA had a full slate of games. If you were trying to sleep it off, here are three things we learned.

1) Boston now has the worst defense in the NBA, it cost it another game Wednesday. The Celtic defense is not just bad — it is measurably the worst defense in the NBA this season, allowing 112.3 points per 100 possessions (according to NBA.com). Worse than the Knicks. Worse than the Rockets. Worse than the Magic, Blazers and everyone else coasting on that end. That defense is costing the Celtics games.

The latest example: the Washington Wizards. They had scored just 97.7 points per 100 possessions (24th in the NBA) coming into Wednesday night’s game against Boston. John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter and the rest had been struggling — then against Boston they put up 118 points, a 125.8 per 100 offensive rating, and Porter drops a career-high 34, making plays all over the court.

It was ugly early for Boston — 34-8 Wizards at the end of the first quarter — and the Celtics were not digging out of that hole. The Celtics have now trailed by at least 20 points during each of their last three games (that happened just eight times all last season).

The Celtics were top five in defense last season and brought back the same core in the same system — so what has happened? Injuries play a part, with Al Horford (a good defender) and Jae Crowder out, plus Marcus Smart missed the first few games of the season. But this is more than that. Boston is struggling to defend the pick-and-roll, particularly defending the roll man (who is scoring 1.11 points per possession on that play against the Celtics) — their rotations are not sharp. Beyond that, it just seems to be an effort thing. One scout pointed to how poorly they are closing out on jump shooters — that’s not skill or size, that’s just effort.

I expect Boston will turn this around defensively, but until they do there will be ugly losses like the one Wednesday against Washington.

2) Atlanta makes a statement with back-to-back wins over Cavaliers and Bulls. The Atlanta Hawks would like you to know they are for real this year. Or at least as real as we’re going to declare any team eight games into the season. Do you want evidence?

• Atlanta just dropped both the NBA champ Cavaliers then the surprisingly hot Bulls on a back-to-back.

• Atlanta is outscoring opponents by 10.2 points per 100 possessions (second only to the Clippers this season).

• They have the third-best defense in the NBA and a Top 10 offense so far.

• Each night a different guy seems to step up, against the Bulls Wednesday it was Thabo Sefolosha.

We could go on, but you get the idea — the Hawks are 6-2 with the Sixers next up. Dennis Schroder is growing more comfortable and is attacking as the starting point guard, Paul Millsap is still playing like an All-Star. Dwight Howard has fit in well — he’s been a beast on the boards, defended well, and Mike Budenholzer is using him brilliantly, putting him in situations where he’s asked to do more than just score (and Howard is fully buying in). The bottom line is we knew Cleveland would be elite in the East this season, we knew Toronto would be good, but after that we had questions about which other teams would step up. Atlanta is stepping up.

3) DeMar DeRozan continues to tear up NBA (as do Raptors), he and Russell Westbrook put on a show. DeMar DeRozan leads the NBA, averaging 34.1 points per game. Russell Westbrook is second at 31.1.

So when those two get together, you know there will be a show — DeRozan had 37 points, Westbrook 36 in the Raptors 112-102 win in Oklahoma City Wednesday.

DeRozan has scored at lest 30 points in six of the Raptors first seven games. The last two players to do that (according to ESPN): Bernard King and Michael Jordan. When you’re scoring at their rate, good things happen.

The Raptors are 5-2 on the young season and look like a team that can match last year’s historic run, at least so far.