When LeBron James recently said that he believes the league’s talent level has become “watered down,” and illustrated his point by asking people to imagine what the league would look like if the best players from the Timberwolves and Nets were distributed among the rest of the teams in the NBA. Although LeBron did say that he wasn’t advocating for the Timberwolves and Nets to be disbanded in his original comments, some people took his comments to mean that he supported contraction and was undermining the player’s union before the coming CBA negociations.
Today, LeBron clarified his comments to ESPN’s Michael Wallace, and says he was never advocating for contraction:
“[It’s] crazy, because I had no idea what the word ‘contraction’ meant before I saw it on the Internet,” James said after the Miami Heat’s practice Monday. “I never even mentioned that. That word never even came out of my mouth. I was just saying how the league was back in the ’80s and how it could be good again. I never said, ‘Let’s take some of the teams out.’ “…
…”I’m with the players, and the players know that,” James said Monday. “I’ve been with the players. It’s not about getting guys out of the league or knocking teams out. I didn’t mean to upset nobody. I didn’t tell Avery Johnson to leave either. I didn’t say let’s abandon the Nets, and not let them move to Brooklyn or let’s tear down the Target Center in Minnesota. I never said that.”
LeBron has gotten himself into trouble a few times this season by making comments he later needed to clarify. None of his comments have been unforgivable on their own, but LeBron doesn’t seem to realize that his popularity is at an all-time low after “The Decision,” and people are going to be looking for another reason to hate him every time he opens his mouth. Until the Heat have some significant playoff success, which always seems to change people’s mind about a player, LeBron may be best served by letting his superb play do most of his talking for him.
A key question after the 76ers traded for Jimmy Butler: How would the demanding star affect Markelle Fultz‘s confidence?
Butler isn’t even playing for Philadelphia yet, but this isn’t an encouraging sign.
Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice:
Maybe the ball just slipped out of Fultz’s hands on the way up, and he had to continue pushing it toward the rim to avoid a violation. That could happen to anybody.
But given everything we know about Fultz’s shooting woes, it’s impossible to take this as anything other than a ghastly low point in an ongoing problem.
LeBron James has played in eight straight NBA Finals.
How’s he handling reduced expectations with the Lakers, who started 2-5 before rising to 7-6?
LeBron, via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:
“I haven’t changed anything outwardly, but you know me. You know how I am. I almost cracked [last week]. I had to sit back and remind myself, ‘[Expletive], you knew what you were getting yourself into,’” James told Yahoo Sports while laughing after Saturday’s win in Sacramento. “This process has been good for me. I just have to continue being patient.”
LeBron warned everyone to stay clear when he loses his patience, but he has never sounded close to losing it this season. He signed a four-year deal with the Lakers, said he doesn’t feel urgency to win quickly before his prime ends and seems content to wait for a co-star.
If anything, it seemed LeBron might be too relaxed, enjoying the Los Angeles lifestyle and focusing on showbusiness.
So, this is a welcome sign of his competitiveness.
Also kudos to LeBron for harnessing it unlike others in the organization. These Lakers need time to determine how these oddly shaped pieces fit together – unless a star becomes available. Then, all bets are off.
LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul – the banana-boat buddies – comprise the NBA’s most famous friendship group.
With Anthony nearing his end with the Rockets, that puts Houston teammate Paul in an awkward place. But Wade and LeBron are speaking up. So are the Trail Blazers’ Evan Turner and Damian Lillard.
It’s unclear whether Wade is scolding the Rockets or fans/media. That comment is far more loaded if he’s referring directly to the organization. I wonder what he sees at the “real problem” in Houston.
A struggling team waiving a minimum-salary player is rarely viewed as making that player the scapegoat. But Anthony has an outsized reputation due to his long, star-level career. With that in mind, Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tried to defend Anthony.
But Anthony is a part of Houston’s problems. He’s awful defensively and shooting poorly. There is mounting evidence he’s washed up. Downgrading his role, whether or not that includes waiving him, is a step in the right direction for the Rockets.
It won’t solve everything, and Anthony – after all that he has done in the NBA – should be treated with respect. But there’s no way around his substandard current level of play.
According to one narrative, the Timberwolves decided after Friday’s loss to the Kings to trade Jimmy Butler.
But he might have forced their hand, resulting in his trade to the 76ers.
Jon Krawczynski and Shams Charania of The Athletic:
Butler decided he would play on Friday night, but he viewed it as the fork in the road. If the Timberwolves didn’t find a deal to fulfill his long-simmering trade request after that, he would begin to sit indefinitely, league sources told The Athletic.
The Kings defeated Minnesota 121-110 to push the Timberwolves to 4-9 and a winless road trip; Butler had 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists in 41 minutes. He had played almost 124 minutes in the last three games, all losses, and at halftime of the final one, the Wolves were informed that this was it for Butler, sources said.
Butler reportedly held out for a game a couple weeks ago, though he and Minnesota both denied it. It’s quite believable he would’ve held out again if not traded. Still, informing the team during a game he’s playing would have been quite bold.
I’m not sure who actually blinked first. This could be an I-quit, no-you’re-fired (or vice versa) scenario. Both Butler and Timberwolves president-coach Tom Thibodeau are stubborn.
But the most important thing is Butler is gone and both sides can move on – whatever ugliness preceded the trade.