Kurt Helin

Aaron Gordon, LeBron James

LeBron James joins Oscar Robertson on elite NBA list


CLEVELAND (AP) — Make room, Big O.

LeBron James joined Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson as the only players in NBA history to rank in the Top 25 in points and assists.

With his fifth assist Monday night against Orlando, James pulled into the elite company of Robertson, the legendary “Big O,” who finished with 26,710 points and 9,887 assists. James entered the game needing 21 points to pass Reggie Miller (25,279) for 18th on the career scoring list. Robertson is 11th.

James reached the milestone with 5:00 left in the second quarter. The Cavaliers’ star drove the lane, jumped and made a quick pass into the corner to Kevin Love, who knocked down a 3-pointer. It moved James past Norm Nixon (6,386) for 25th on the assist list.

Before the game, Magic coach Scott Skiles, who holds the NBA record with 30 assists in a game, said James is more like Robertson and Magic Johnson than Michael Jordan, the player with whom he is most often compared.

“Every time there’s a young great player everybody talks about Michael, but to me he’s always been more like a Magic (Johnson) or an Oscar-type player because of his vision,” Skiles said. “That’s what makes it so difficult. If you think you’re going to give him a steady diet of running and double teaming him, he’s going to carve you up. He’s going to find everybody, find the open man.”

Skiles marvels at how James can take over any game.

“The really great players play at the pace they want to play at in the game,” Skiles said. “It could be fast for a while. It could be kind of slow for a while. It could be they’re in the post. It could be they run pick and rolls. It’s very, very difficult to get them out of their pace. There are a lot of talented guys that can’t go all the way into that upper echelon because they haven’t quite got that part mastered – but he does.

“He’s going to play the game the way he wants to play it, but his vision certainly sets him apart from a lot of the great players.”

J.R. Smith wants Warriors, Cavaliers Finals rematch

John Jenkins, J.R. Smith

I’m sure the executives at ABC feel the same way.

Right now everyone is talking about the Golden State Warriors — including the last team to beat them in a game, the Cleveland Cavaliers. That was last June, before the Warriors rattled off three straight wins to close out the NBA Finals, followed by 15 Golden State wins to start this season. LeBron James has said he wished his team was as hungry as the Warriors.

What J.R. Smith wants is a rematch with Golden State in the Finals. Here is what Smith said, speaking to Dave McMenamin of ESPN at a charity event helping homeless in Cleveland.

I hope they are the team. I wouldn’t want it no other way, because we get another chance at it for one and to beat the team that beat you, I think that’s a sweeter feeling. For me, personally, I don’t really look at it as not having the best series or whatever. I mean, I’ve had shots fall against Atlanta in the Eastern Conference finals and there was praise. And then you miss shots and there’s a downfall. So it’s a give-and-take. I wasn’t the only person out there missing. It wasn’t like I was out there playing one-on-five, but it’s cool. I’ll take that. I just got to get better every day.

In case you forgot, Smith shot 31.2 percent through the Finals (averaging 11 points a game), and never getting going for a full game against the Golden State defense (the was riding a phunkee duck around the arena after games). With Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love sidelined, Smith was counted on to step up and provide some offense and complement LeBron, but none of that happened. You can see why Smith would want redemption.

It seems a little early to be thinking Finals, but consider this Smith’s letter to Santa for what he wants this season. It seems possible Smith could eventually get his wish. However, we are not even five miles into the marathon yet, a lot can change between now and June (plus, the Spurs have looked impressive, too).

Report: Joel Embiid taking rehab seriously now

Joel Embiid

When word came down this summer that the Sixers’ Joel Embiid needed a second foot surgery and would miss another NBA season, there also came a report that Embiid was not wearing his walking boot enough, was putting on weight, had fought with Sixers training staff (he had been sent home from a road trip because of it), and generally was not taking his rehab seriously. The team officially denied this, and they picked up his contract option, but around the league people believe an immature Embiid was a part of the problem with his foot not healing properly after the first surgery.

With this second surgery, Embiid is far more on board with the rehab, reports David Aldridge at NBA.com.

There are no guarantees that this operation will work — everyone thought the first one would do the trick — but Embiid at least is staying on top of his conditioning, after numerous stories came out during the summer about his being out of shape.

“He just seems like (there’s) a new level of maturity, a new level of seriousness in him,” a source said. “The gravity of the situation is on him; it’s on everyone.”

What does this ultimately mean? Who knows. This is still a big man with foot issues and those have a long history of ending poorly. But Embiid is young, and if this was a successful surgery and he takes the rehab seriously, maybe he can get on the court next season.

Then Brett Brown can try to figure out how to fit Jahlil Okafor, Nerlens Noel, and Embiid into the rotation.

NBA referees union angry Budenholzer not suspended for bumping official


Atlanta Hawks’ coach Mike Budenholzer was furious about a no-call on the other end — Justin Holiday got hit in the face driving to the rim — and walked a little too far out onto the court and bumped into the referee Ben Taylor last Friday night. For that, he was instantly ejected from the game and on Monday the league dropped a $25,000 fine on him for what it determined is “incidental” contact.

That wasn’t enough for the National Basketball Referees Association, who released a statement, here is the critical section.

In a sharp departure from past practice, the NBA fined Budenholzer instead of imposing a suspension.

“Referees operate in an environment in which an influential NBA team owner has repeatedly mocked the efficacy of fines as means to change bad behavior,” commented NBRA General Counsel Lee Seham. “Recent League precedent dictated that a coach who aggressively charged onto the floor during live action and physically interfered with a Referee would be suspended. We are now operating at a lower level with less transparency, degraded safety, and diminished respect for the Game. Coaches should compete by creating better teams, not by physically intimidating officials.”

The idea that contacting an official is usually grounds for a suspension is correct, that said I find the statement a little over the top. There’s no referee in the league soft enough to be intimidated by what happened in this case.

Watch the video above and I would say “incidental” is a good way to describe the contact — Budenholzer wasn’t looking to intimidate the referee, he’s not some 6’9″ player running right at the official, he simply wanted to felt heard. He took it a step too far, and for that got ejected and a took hit to his pocketbook. This is not some blatant attack on referees and their integrity, and frankly only someone who doesn’t know Budenholzer would suggest that was his goal.

By the way, Budenholzer has created a much better team in Atlanta. That is how he’s winning games.


Byron Scott on why Kobe can isolate on offense: He’s earned the right

Kobe Bryant, Joe Johnson, Byron Scott

At some point during your Thanksgiving day festivities with family, your mom is going to come up to you when you’re tempted to call out your drunk uncle/annoying grandmother on one of his/her many hypocrisies, and she’ll say, “That’s just Uncle Joe, he does that, let it go.” And you will.

That’s essentially how Byron Scott is coaching Kobe Bryant this season.

The Lakers’ coach is counting on Kobe to lead the team’s ball movement efforts, something even Kobe found amusing. At practice Monday before the Lakers flew up to Golden State to be sacrificed on that altar, Scott was asked how Kobe’s penchant for isolation hoops was damaging the Lakers ball movement plans. Via Serena Winters of LakersNation.com.

That sums up the Lakers season in a nutshell. Do as I say, not as I do. D'Angelo Russell is going to develop in this environment.

This is another sign that Byron Scott is a placeholder coach to get the Lakers through the final couple years of the Kobe Bryant era before another coach is brought in to lead the Lakers into the next era. At least Laker fans should hope that is the case.