Wade on LeBron: “He’s just a total different player”

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LeBron James was the best player on the floor in the fourth quarter of Game 3 — eight points on four shots, plus he got to the line for five free throws. He steadied his team down the stretch. He and the Heat looked like the experienced team, the veterans, while the young Thunder were missing free throws, and James Harden was turning the ball over and picking up a bad foul 35 feet from the hoop while his coach yelled “don’t foul.”

It’s been like this throughout the playoffs for LeBron. He seems comfortable. He always needed that to be his best and last season he seemed taken aback by being the villain and the pressure about his legacy. But this year he’s at peace with everything.

“He’s just a total different player,” Dwyane Wade said after Game 3. “I thought up until the finals last year he was having an amazing playoffs. He had a game where he struggled and he let that get into his mind a little bit and he was thinking too much. Now he’s playing, he’s on the attack, he’s been very aggressive.

“It’s kind of like when he puts his head down and goes to the rim you have to foul him or he’s going to finish. I love when he is attacking the basket because good things happen for us.”

LeBron is just trying to keep it simple.

“I’m just trying to make plays,” LeBron said after the game Sunday. “I told you guys last year I didn’t make enough game-changing plays. I can kind of pride myself on that, I didn’t do it last year in the finals. I’m just trying to make plays.”

He was attacking — he shot just 2-of-8 outside the paint but 9-of-15 in it, plus he got to the line 8 times for free throw attempts. You get those when you attack (which is why the Heat got to the line more all night, that and OKC fouling three-point jump shooters).

With a ring, LeBron’s legacy changes, at least for some fans. It’s not that he becomes beloved by all, he’ll still be the villain, he just becomes one you have to respect a little more.

LeBron, he seems comfortable with that.

How a single computer folder and dogged HR official exposed former Kings executive’s $13.4M embezzlement scheme

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Just how close did Jeff David come to getting away with embezzling $13.4 million from the Kings while working for them? He already secured a new job with the Heat and was in the process of moving from Sacramento to Miami.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

On this Monday, walking through the Davids’ new front door is a dizzying procession of cable guys, utility workers and movers. Amid all of this, Jeff receives a phone call from a former co-worker with the Kings. Her name is Stacy Wegzyn, and she works in HR. Jeff last remembers sitting in her office in Sacramento just months earlier, being told that the Kings were going to eliminate his position. After a few pleasantries, she gets down to business. She tells Jeff she’s been going through his old files, and in doing so she found one labeled “TurboTax” that references an entity called Sacramento Sports Partners.

“I was just curious what that is and if those are documents that should go to somebody else,” Wegzyn says.

It’s a seemingly innocuous inquiry from an HR lifer. But it’s one that will dictate the rest of Jeff David’s life. If he knows that — or senses it — he doesn’t let on.

“No, no, no,” Jeff responds. “That was a … man, this is taking me back. Maybe 2015?”

Wegzyn presses on. She asks Jeff whether the documents contain anything that anyone with the Kings needs to see. Jeff assures her they can trash them because the entity isn’t around anymore. A few minutes after he hangs up, his mother-in-law, Nancy, is standing at the front door when an FBI investigator appears, asking to speak to Jeff.

If you like the NBA or true crime – let alone both – I HIGHLY recommend reading Arnovitz’s full piece. It’s riveting!

Warriors Kevon Looney cleared for on-court basketball work, will return soon

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At least someone on the Warriors is getting healthy.

Big man Kevon Looney, who played opening night and has since been sidelined with a sore hamstring and neuropathy (what the team described as “nerve-related symptoms”), has been cleared to return to on-court basketball activities, the team announced Tuesday. From the official press release:

He will participate in select practice sessions with the Santa Cruz Warriors this week and will re-join the Golden State Warriors over the weekend. We will continue to monitor his progress and will provide another update on his status on Sunday.

Looney has already been officially assigned to Santa Cruz.

This is good news for the Warriors, who have been starting Willie Cauley-Stein but desperately need more shot blocking and depth up front.

Anyone getting healthy is good news for a Warriors team that is 2-12 and has the worst net rating in the NBA (-10.4).

Carmelo Anthony to start first game for Portland, apparently thinks he’s wearing number infinity

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Carmelo Anthony will wear No. 00 with the Trail Blazers.

Why?

Apparently because 00 kind of looks like ∞.

Anthony:

Somewhere, Kyrie Irving is nodding in support.

In terms of numbers that make sense…

Marc J. Spears of ESPN:

That’s a sizable role for a 35-year-old in his first game in more than a year. But Portland needs scoring with Damian Lillard sidelined, and – at last check (though, again, a while ago), Anthony was accustomed to big minutes.

Besides, we all want ample opportunity to see Anthony back on the court after his lengthy absence.

David Fizdale: Knicks owner Jim Dolan gives me ‘vote of confidence’ at every game

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Knicks coach David Fizdale is on thin ice.

New York is 4-10. Knicks president Steve Mills is reportedly laying the groundwork to fire Fizdale. Mills and general manager Scott Perry addressed the media after a recent game and sounded as if they were at least partially blaming Fizdale.

But does Fizdale have a key supporter at the very top of the organization?

Fizdale, via Ian Begley of SNY:

“Every game, every game. Jim Dolan comes in and gives me a vote of confidence, a pat on my back and really has just been incredibly encouraging over the last year and a half or whatever it’s been,” Fizdale said. “All we talk about is just sticking to the process of making these guys better and building for a future of sustainable winning.”

A common synonym for “vote of confidence:” “dreaded vote of confidence.” Just how bad are near-nightly votes of confidence?

This will convince nobody that Fizdale’s job is safe. Someone will likely take the fall if the Knicks’ struggles continue. It might be Fizdale. It might be Mills. But Mills – who preceded and succeeded Phil Jackson in running the front office – knows his way around Madison Square Garden. And even if Mills gets demoted or fired, a new lead executive would likely want his own coach.