LeBron James and a story of humanity you should probably read

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There are going to be comments below and tweets about this story that are going to make you question whether we shouldn’t just abandon society and live as separate lives as we can, because we’re truly vile. As an incredibly funny man once said, “We’re a virus with shoes.” But the story needs to be shared and discussed.

The Daily Oklahoman has a story today about LeBron James. It has nothing to do with basketball. It doesn’t talk about “The Decision.” It’s not about his MVP candidacy or his global brand, Maverick Carter, his hairline or his athleticism. It’s just a story about what happened during a stopover for the Heat’s lane at Will Rogers airport in Oklahoma City. During the Heat’s stop, a group of military helicopters were also stopped at the airport for a refuel. The servicemen approached the Heat’s security personnel to ask for a photo, and were rebuffed. (Let’s pause here for a moment. Security guys, I don’t give a good damn if you’re guarding Michael Jordan, Donald Trump, or noted R&B artist Keith Sweat. If a group of military helicopter pilots come up asking for autographs and photos, you at least go ask the client. Thanks for playing “How to not be a Jackass 101.”)

LeBron noticed, and the Oklahoman has the details:

Some of them wanted pictures with the players, but when the crew members approached the teams security detail, they were told no.Maybe LeBron could overhear the conversation, or perhaps he could just tell by their body language what was going on. Either way, he piped up.

“Hey, hey,” he said, “any of these military guys can take a picture with us.”

He turned to his teammates

.“You guys get up,” he told them.He turned to the servicemen.

“Get your camera up,” he said.

He started to wave the servicemen over but noticed that some of the players werent yet on their feet.

“Hey, everybody get up,” he said. “Get in a circle here. Anybody that wants their picture taken with us, well do it.”

via LeBron James the nice guy? Run-in with servicemen makes Miami Heat star harder to dislike | NewsOK.com.

OK, that’s just cool.

Look, I know absolutely nothing about LeBron James. I have stood in a pack with two dozen reporters or in a press conference for James about 15 times in my life. So I have no insight into who he is, I wind up guessing and interpreting based on public events and body language like the rest of you. I can tell you that he comes off as arrogant in these instances before and after games, but then, given that most players hate the press and think we’re, specifically, the virus with shoes, that doesn’t tell you a whole lot. This story doesn’t remove “The Decision,” or what he did to Cleveland. It doesn’t take back the “People will wake up tomorrow” comment after last year’s Finals. It doesn’t mean that he went above and beyond. You should let servicement get a photo with you if they want. That’s a pretty low bar.

But James could have opted out. This is a non-story if he says nothing. Just another group of athletes passing through. There’s no huge obligation on James’ part. He has a PR person who manages his time for the team, a publicist who does so privately. And yet he stood up and not only took photos with the guys, he got his teammates off their asses to do the same. That’s a good thing to do for someone, an important thing to do for people who actually do something important in our society instead of play basketball or blog about people playing basketball.

It’s just one story. But maybe if nothing else it shows you that these people we try and transform into two-dimensional figures are not such cardboard caricatures. James can be the egomaniac you despise and still be someone who did something good for a group of troops on a layover. He can be the hero he is to a lot of kids and still be a complex figure who has stumbled with public perception. None of us are simple, all of us are complex. And if you needed a reason to give James the same consideration you give people in your day-to-day life, maybe this story gives you that.

So, yeah, LeBron, thanks for doing that, from all of us.

(Little tip, though, man, don’t read the comments.)

(HT: HoopsHype)

Report: 76ers trade No. 39 pick to Lakers

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The 76ers have too many 2018 draft picks – Nos. 10, 26, 38, 39, 56 and 60.

Philadelphia already has 11 players under contract for next season. Plus, the 76ers have the space to add premier players. There just isn’t room for everyone on the roster.

So, Philadelphia unloaded one of those selections.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This is good return for the 76ers, who everyone knew had to trade a draft pick. The rebuilding Bulls could easily land a higher second-round pick than No. 39 next year.

Why do the Lakers want an extra second-rounder this year? Second-round picks don’t count against the cap until signed, and they can always slightly sweeten a trade offer. They’re helpful for a team with big plans and little wiggle room.

Kyle O’Quinn opts out of Knicks contract

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The Knicks have the No. 8 pick, and tomorrow’s draft will be the most important part of their offseason.

Will they also have cap space to add talent in free agency? That hinges on Enes Kanter‘s player option.

If Kanter opts out, New York will have even more room to operate thanks to Kyle O'Quinn declining his $4,256,250 player option.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Knicks expected this for a while, and they’re probably not disappointed. Steve Mills and Scott Perry want to put their stamp on the franchise. O’Quinn is a leftover from the Phil Jackson era and a reminder of the recent tumult in New York.

O’Quinn’s combination of block percentage (6.1) and defensive-rebounding percentage (27.8) was unmatched last season. He just really struck a nice balance between contesting shots and remaining in position on the glass. He’s also a smooth mid-range shooter with an improved ability to distribute.

How much is that player worth?

It’ll be a tight market, especially for bigs. For his sake, I hope the 28-year-old O’Quinn already has assurances from other teams. He might get a similar salary or, more likely, a larger overall guarantee on a multi-year deal. But it’s also possible he comes out behind by testing free agency.

Pistons present themselves as Eastern Conference heavyweights with Dwane Casey

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DETROIT – Pistons spokesman Mark Barnhill, introducing new coach Dwane Casey, said he tucked his notes for today’s press conference into his jacket pocket. Then, as he pulled them out, he discovered an old Pistons playoff ticket in the same pocket.

“It’s a bit of an omen and a bit of a challenge,” Barnhill said.

The ticket was for the Pistons’ best playoff performance in a decade.

“No pressure,” Casey said.

Actually, really, no pressure.

Detroit lost by only two points in Game 4 of the 2016 first round, getting swept by the Cavaliers in the game Barnhill referred to. The Pistons haven’t won a playoff game in the last 10 years and reached the postseason only twice in that span. A two-point loss was their best result.

They’re starving for only moderate success. The 59 wins and second-round loss that got Casey fired by the Raptors? That’d be a dream season in Detroit. Even just making the playoffs next year would be welcomed.

“Our time is now,” Casey said. “…The talent level on the roster is there.”

It better be.

The Pistons are too close to the luxury-tax line to use most of the mid-level exception. They surrendered their first-round pick in the Blake Griffin trade. They’re left with only the No. 42 pick in the second round.

“Whatever player we get, that would be great. But we don’t need another one,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said. “Like, we’re good. That’s why Dwane is here.”

That and $35 million.

The Pistons presented Casey with a favorable contract, a front-office head he knows (more on that later) and a solid roster. Detroit is probably better off trying to win now, because the alternative would be even trickier to pull off. With so many highly paid players stained by losing, the Pistons can’t easily switch paths and rebuild. Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson are close enough to their primes that the present should be the priority, even if this team maxes at pretty good.

Yet, Detroit’s brass couldn’t help but raise expectations even further.

“We have three very – we have a great roster – but very special players,” Gores said of Griffin, Drummond and Jackson.

That’s an overstatement. Besides, how much noise can Detroit make with the Celtics and 76ers rising the Raptors still hanging around?

“I feel very comfortable that we’ll have a product that will compete with the teams that you just said,” Gores’ advisor, Ed Stefanski, said. “We have to win games, as Tom said. But you don’t usually get to an organization and have three core guys like we have.”

Again, they’re talking about Blake Griffin, Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson.

Griffin hasn’t made an All-Star team in three years, a drought players rarely escape. Drummond is a borderline All-Star in the East (and a tough fit with Griffin). Jackson has only once even sniffed the All-Star discussion.

Casey also praised those three – and Detroit’s last three first-round picks: Stanley Johnson, Henry Ellenson and Luke Kennard. Johnson particularly drew attention from Casey, whose Raptors got swept by LeBron James‘ Cavaliers the last two years and lost the most lopsided six-game series in NBA history to Cleveland the previous year.

“Somebody said, ‘Well, what happened to Toronto in the playoffs? ‘Well, I said, ‘It’s about matchups,'” Casey said. “And Stanley Johnson is the best match up for 23 in Cleveland that there is, physically.”

Maybe Casey, with his strong record of player development, will help Johnson eventually compete at those high levels.

“We’re not developing,” Casey said. “We’re not two or three years away. We want to win right now.”

The Pistons are so confident in their current roster, they haven’t even hired a general manager or equivalent. For now, Stefanski – advisor to the owner with the title of “senior executive” – is running the show. It sounds as if that could continue for a while.

“We could make Ed GM tomorrow,” Gores said. “That’s easy. If you guys want a title, that’s kind of easy.

“That’s not the point. The point is we’re building an organization, not around one person, but around what our vision is.”

Stefanski said, no matter how the front office is assembled, Casey will report to him. And Stefanski will report to Gores.

After giving Stan Van Gundy massive control, the Pistons are dispersing power.

Casey is a good coach, and he’ll help. Stefanski has plenty to prove as a front-office head. Gores is still learning as an owner, a failed experiment (keeping Joe Dumars) and unfulfilling tenure (Van Gundy’s) behind him. The roster is solid, though unexciting, when healthy.

They’re now all in it together, awaiting a chance to deliver. Considering how modest external expectations are, maybe they will.

But as the Pistons overstate their standing, it gets harder to take them seriously.

PBT Extra: Dwight Howard traded to Brooklyn, does anybody win?

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Dwight Howard is on the move. Again. Leaving a wake of unhappy teammates behind him. Again.

The trade can’t be consummated until the NBA free agent moratorium ends on July 6, but a deal has been struck where Charlotte sends Howard to Brooklyn for Timofey Mozgov, two second-round picks, and cash.

I don’t love this trade for the Nets — it’s going to get awkward with Howard being asked to come off the bench behind Jarrett Allen (and he should come off the bench). But it frees up an extra $17 million for the Nets in the summer of 2019 as they start to reshape their roster.

The Hornets get away from the luxury tax with this move but tie up their cap space next year with Mozgov still getting paid off the contract former-Laker-now-Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak gave him years ago. It was a short-term move that isn’t great for the long term. Unless Kemba Walker wanted Howard gone and the Hornets want to re-sign their point guard. A lot of unanswered questions still about this team.