Report: LeBron James didn’t buy into Erik Spoelstra until well into second season with Heat

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It’s no secret LeBron James and Erik Spoelstra were not on the same page their first season with the Heat.

Miami started 9-8, and reports swirled about friction between Spoelstra and the players. LeBron bumped Spoelstra while returning to the bench during a timeout, and speculation reached fever pitch.

It seemed Spoelstra might not make it through his first season coaching LeBron.

Sound familiar?

Cavaliers coach David Blatt is dealing with those same type of reports. He’s even getting near-identical quotes from LeBron about the star’s support.

LeBron on Spoelstra in 2010: “This is who we have.”

LeBron on Blatt in 2014: “What other coach do we have?

But LeBron and Spoelstra made it through a rough start and won two championships together. By the time they reached the 2011 NBA Finals, they were all good, right?

Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report:

It took awhile—Heat insiders will say that it took well into the 2011-12 season—but eventually James gained enough confidence in Spoelstra not only to allow Spoelstra to completely coach him, but to start parroting some of Spoelstra’s principles, from a leadership position, to the rest of the team.

If it took well more than a season – with Pat Riley standing up to LeBron in Spoelstra’s defense and Spoelstra proving himself a good coach – for LeBron to come around to Spoelstra, what chance does Blatt have?

There’s no Riley in Cleveland to defend the coach. LeBron wields more power with the Cavaliers than he did in Miami. Could you really see Dan Gilbert standing up to LeBron about supporting Blatt?

And, more importantly, Blatt has not proven himself a good coach. Maybe that’s an unfair expectation for an NBA rookie who’s suddenly coaching a team in the spotlight, one that has a unique collection of stars though not enough fitting role players to produce even a starting shooting guard. But his grace period to learn the ropes won’t last much longer.

LeBron is more mature now, and I’d bet Riley’s insistence on sticking with Spoelstra four years ago taught LeBron something about patience. That lesson likely gets Blatt a longer leash.

But if this provides any perspective on how difficult it is for a coach to gain LeBron’s support, Blatt has a tougher task ahead than we realized.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.