LeBron James

Atlanta Hawks Media Day

NBA names Hawks’ starting lineup January Eastern Conference Player of Month

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The Hawks went 17-0 in January, an incredible feat.

Atlanta is a deep and balanced team. Jeff Teague, Paul Millsap and Al Horford are All-Stars but not superstars. Kyle Korver isn’t far behind. DeMarre Carroll is an excellent role player.

The NBA, in its infinite wisdom, decided those five players were better than any individual Eastern Conference player in January. Or something like that.

NBA release:

The Atlanta Hawks’ starting five and the Houston Rockets’ James Harden were today named the Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month, respectively, for games played in January.

 

The Hawks finished the best calendar month in NBA history with a 17-0 record, outscoring opponents by an average of 11.9 points and showing the offensive balance that has defined their surge to the top of the East. All five Atlanta starters averaged double figures in scoring, ranging from 12.3 points to 18.3 points.  This marks the first time in league history that a team has gone undefeated in a month with at least 10 victories and had all five starters average double digits but none at 20-plus points.  Paul Millsap (18.3 ppg in January), Al Horford (17.1 ppg), Jeff Teague (16.6 ppg) and Kyle Korver (13.4 ppg) all started each of the 16 games they appeared in for the month, and DeMarre Carroll (12.3 ppg) started all 14 of his games. Millsap paced the Hawks in rebounding (8.0 rpg), Teague led them in assists (8.5 apg) and steals (1.81 spg), Horford ranked first in blocks (1.38 bpg) and Korver was the team leader in three-point percentage (56.7).

Other nominees for Kia NBA Eastern and Western Conference Players of the Month were Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving, Detroit’s Greg Monroe

I hate this. That’s not what the award is, and it’s a cheap way to avoid making a decision. Someone – some ONE – had the Eastern Conference’s best month and deserved the honor.

Irving or Monroe (or LeBron James, who did more in just 10 games than many players do when fully healthy) were robbed. For that matter, maybe Horford or Millsap were.

It’s relatively insignificant basketball-wise to pick the best player for each month, but it’s an easy way for the NBA to generate publicity and sell a sponsorship. So, in that sense, it’s hard to get too outraged over a pointless award.

But if the NBA is going to have the award, have it. Pick a player.

The Hawks’ team-wide success is rewarded in the standings. That’s enough.

This an affront to the integrity of the Eastern Conference Players of the Month, which is just a ludicrous thing for me to type. But the fact that I’m even covering this award – one we typically ignore at PBT – shows the NBA got it right.

LeBron James: “If it helped our team win, I’d come off the bench”

LeBron James
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From the “things I can say with impunity because it will never, ever happen” file we bring you….

LeBron James came back to Cleveland to win and bring a title to Ohio (and play with a better team, and have more power in the organization, but that’s not the narrative we’re spinning here). And they are finally winning after LeBron took some time off and the Cavaliers traded for a solid rim protector, they have rattled off 11 victories in a row.

LeBron would do just about anything to keep that going, include coming off the bench. From my man Chris Haynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

“For me being the leader of the team, it doesn’t matter. Whatever this team needs in order for this team to win, I’ll come off the bench and I’m serious,” James said. “I’ll come off the bench. If it helps our team, that’s what it’s about, man.”

“No. No. He’s doing fine where he is,” Blatt said. “He’s doing quite fine.”

Two quick thoughts.

I believe LeBron. He is fully in legacy mode right now — he already is a lock Hall of Famer who will go down as the most gifted and one of the great players the game has ever seen. The only questions left is where he will stand on the all-time ladder when it is all over (and you cannot answer that question right now, despite how hard some people want to try). If LeBron thought he could get more rings as a sixth man, he’d honestly do it without complaint.

Second, his statement is moot. It’s like Pete Carroll saying he’s going to be the next president of the United States — he can say it all he wants, it will not become a reality. (After the end of the Super Bowl you want to trust him with decisions on ISIS?)
Lovely sentiment by LeBron, however. We’ll see how he feels about it near the end of his career, not at its peak.

Nike unveils NYC All-Star shoes for LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant (PHOTOS)

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In what’s become an annual tradition, Nike Basketball has unveiled special colorways of the brand’s signature sneakers in celebration of the NBA’s All-Star weekend, which will be held this year in New York City.

Each model takes inspiration from a particular iconic element, all of which are well-detailed in the video clip below, narrated by Michael Rapaport.

Now that you know what influenced the design of each colorway, here’s a closer look at all four of them, which will begin to release as All-Star weekend gets going on Feb. 13.

LEBRON JAMES – LEBRON 12

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KEVIN DURANT – KD VII

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KYRIE IRVING – KYRIE 1

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KOBE BRYANT – KOBE X

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LeBron James questions Kevin Love’s confidence, Love says he’s fine

Memphis Grizzlies v Cleveland Cavaliers
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The Cavaliers have won 11 straight, but not everything is rosy in Cleveland.

Kevin Love is shooting just 37 percent overall and 29 percent on 3-pointers during the streak.

In the Cavaliers’ 97-84 win over the 76ers yesterday, Love shot 1-of-7 and didn’t attempt a shot after the first quarter. He still grabbed 15 rebounds and was a team-best +26, but he’s a capable scorer.

What’s wrong? LeBron James has a theory.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

LeBron James suggested there were more shots available for Love that he turned down and questioned whether his teammate’s confidence might be shaken.

“I think Kev had some shots that he passed up on,” James said. “Maybe he felt that he just wasn’t in a good rhythm, but I know I hit him with a few [potential] shots after the first quarter where he had some good looks when he decided to swing-swing [with a pass], which is OK, it kept the ball moving. So, I think for Kev, I think his confidence maybe shooting the ball is a little down, but for me as a player, I get him good looks. I want him to shoot the ball and he needs to shoot it with confidence.”

Love didn’t totally agree with James’ assessment.

“Maybe one look, but it was more so on a swing-swing to [Matthew Dellavedova],” Love said. “I think a guy was closing out on me and I hit Delly and Delly didn’t end up shooting it. But, no, I think I had some good looks in the first quarter — a couple tip-ins that I missed; [Timofey Mozgov] and I both went for the lob, I thought I had my hand on it, and missed that one. But, you know, getting good looks there. Not for lack of confidence, no.”

Just another person telling Love how he feels.

This is where Cleveland’s win streak really helps. If the Cavaliers were slumping, there’d be more concern about LeBron’s relationship with Love, whether publicly questioning Love’s confidence offended Love. But because they’re winning, everyone is in a good mood, and I doubt this becomes an issue.

That frees LeBron and Love to focus on other things – like how to get Love going offensively.

Brandon Jennings on LeBron James: ‘he run too much when s— gets tough’

Miami Heat v Milwaukee Bucks - Game Three
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Brandon Jennings is not on the same page with LeBron James.

When LeBron signed with the Heat, Jennings criticized the move and said, “I guess in three years, me, Tyreke Evans, and Stephen Curry should team up, too.” Jennings has mocked LeBron’s hairline. He tried to tweak LeBron’s Heat by predicting a playoff upset (“Bucks in 6”). Jennings called out LeBron for leaving Game 1 of last year’s Finals with cramps.

Jennings – out for the season – has plenty of time to criticize LeBron even more. To be fair, the Pistons guard also made a point of praising LeBron.

Did LeBron run when s— got tough? Yeah, he did. He left Cleveland for a better situation in Miami and then Miami for a better situation in Cleveland. I don’t believe LeBron jumped only because he was joining better-positioned teams, but I believe it factored both times.

So what, though?

That’s what free agency does. It gives players the right to choose their workplace, and LeBron is at the level where could choose any team. I don’t consider that a bad thing.

Jennings is right: LeBron is one of the greatest of all time. Just like the other players Jennings mentioned – Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Kobe Bryant. How many times LeBron changed teams doesn’t mean much to me when ranking this group, and it’s an unfair standard. Who’s to say LeBron wouldn’t have stayed with one team in the others’ positions or they wouldn’t have left if they were in LeBron’s?

It’s easier to be loyal to Bulls, Lakers and Celtics franchises that built contending supporting casts through each of those players’ primes. The only exception was a blip in Kobe’s career – and he threatened to leave in free agency.

The Cavaliers never got the right pieces around LeBron the first time, and the Heat were aging fast. So, having earned the opportunity to do so, LeBron left for greener pastures.

Jennings and I don’t disagree on what happened, just how to interpret it.