David Blatt talks about trying to win LeBron James over

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The rumors have circulated for a while — LeBron James would prefer a different coach than David Blatt for the Cavaliers. LeBron has denied that — not convincingly — but you don’t need rumors, just watch LeBron’s body language and level of interest during timeouts when David Blatt is holding court. LeBron is mentally elsewhere.

Blatt knows if he wants to be the Cavaliers coach beyond this season, he needs to win LeBron over. He needs the charismatic leader LeBron on and off the court the Cavaliers thought they were getting but hasn’t been a regular sight in Cleveland.

Blatt also knows that he can’t win a power struggle with LeBron, so he’s just trying to win him over. Blatt talked openly about that with Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Blatt has played it level and cool with James, it seems, letting the superstar dictate the terms of the relationship. Blatt hasn’t tried to overreach, nor battle him in public or private. It is a fight no one coach could win, nor survive. Blatt’s strategy seems simple: Over time, sell James – sell all these Cavaliers – on a vision for victory.

“It is a process,” Blatt told Yahoo Sports. “It really has to come first from the professional side. Man to man, we’re OK. We don’t go out drinking together, but we’re fine man to man. But professionally, LeBron wants to win. And he wants from me, from any coach, a vehicle to help him win.

“Sometimes, it’s tougher. Sometimes, it’s less so. He’s one of the great players of all time. He’s been in the Finals four straight years and five times overall. He’s got his own opinions and he expresses them. At times, he can be stubborn. But what I know from him, what he wants from me, is a vehicle to help him win. And beyond that, nothing else is really important.”

When you hear the whispers, it’s about how the players like lead assistant Tyronn Lue better, that they trust him. Lue played in the NBA. Blatt trusted Lue too, handing over the reins to the defense — and that is the end of the court where the Cavaliers are struggling. Part of that is personnel, they don’t have the roster to be a great defensive team. However part of it is effort, and while it’s coming on the side of the ball Lue overseas it is Blatt who takes the heat for it.

Blatt has assessed his situation correctly — if LeBron thinks Blatt can lead him to victory he will play nice. However, watching LeBron’s effort, particularly in defense, makes you question if he is even willing to give Blatt a shot. That’s not fair to Blatt, but it’s the reality — LeBron has the power in this relationship and this organization. Which means if he wants a new coach next season, the Cavs most likely have one.

Blatt is not accepting that as inevitable. He sees that what this team needs right now is a winning streak to ease the pressure and make the questions go away — something that will not be easy with the Clippers, Bulls, Thunder and Trail Blazers among the next seven games.

Things are not going to get easier for the Cavaliers. But they have time. They just need to give Blatt a real chance.

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.