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Book: LeBron James tweeted about doing other activities to cover for watching Warriors last season

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LeBron James has long downplayed a Cavaliers-Warriors rivalry, not wanting to compare the teams or acknowledge the glaring pettiness between them.

Yet, Golden State practically became appointment viewing last season. The Warriors marched toward 73 wins (breaking the Bulls’ 72-win record), and matchups the Spurs (who’d finish with an even better point difference per game than Golden State) were particularly anticipated.

Not that LeBron seemed to care.

While the Warriors were blowing out San Antonio in January, LeBron tweeted:

As Golden State toppled the Spurs in April, LeBron tweeted:

But LeBron apparently did care.

Return of the King” by Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin:

He didn’t like admitting he was keeping such a close eye on the Warriors, to do so would give them a bit of a mental edge. In fact, as the season unfolded, he sometimes posted on social media during Warriors games, commenting about shows or movies he was watching as if to imply he didn’t care about Golden State. It was all a cover; he cared deeply.

James knew Kobe Bryant was going to retire before Bryant made the official announcement in late November. When James came back after home games or on off nights after his kids went to bed or he was on the road in a hotel, he wanted to watch Bryant play in those West games that started at 10:30 p.m. He wanted to savor Bryant’s final days and even take some notes—someday that would be him on the swan song.

But he couldn’t help himself. His eyes would wander to the channel with the Warriors game. What were they doing? Often it was blasting another opponent, their drive both impressive and depressing to James. Whether it was their continuity, their talent, or their desire to shut people up about the “lucky” narrative, they were playing together like a philharmonic. Late in those nights James couldn’t help but compare, and he didn’t like how the Cavs were measuring up.

This context makes it even more interesting how LeBron occasionally blurted out concerns the Warriors – saying they looked hungrier than Cleveland and were the healthiest team he’d ever seen.

LeBron’s (attempted-to-be-quiet) obsession with the Warriors paid off with a legendary individual Finals and Cavs championship.

Will LeBron hit the right notes again this year?

Disclosure: I received a promotional copy of “Return of the King.”

Greek Freak makes himself at home in Paris, scores 30 points, Bucks beat Hornets

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PARIS — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 30 points and 12 rebounds and the NBA-leading Milwaukee Bucks beat the Charlotte Hornets 116-103 on Friday night in the first NBA regular-season game in France.

Milwaukee improved to 40-6 with its eighth straight victory. The Bucks have the best 46-game start in franchise history. They were 39-7 in 1970-71 when they went on to win the NBA championship.

Eric Bledsoe added 20 points and five assists for the Bucks.

Malik Monk led Charlotte with 31 points. The Hornets have lost eight in a row.

Milwaukee rallied to tie it at 78 going into the fourth quarter. Pat Connaughton put the Bucks in front with a dunk in the fourth. Then Antetokounmpo got going, drawing a foul as he slalomed through the defense.

Report: Needing depth at center, Dallas trades for Willie Cauley-Stein from Golden State

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Dallas took a big hit this week when center Dwight Powell went down with a torn Achilles. The Mavericks’ starting center was a critical pick-and-roll partner with Luka Doncic, a roll man and vertical threat that allowed Kristaps Porzingis to space the floor (along with other Dallas shooters), plus Powell was a solid team defender.

Willie Cauley-Stein is going to get a chance to fill that role.

Golden State is trading Cauley-Stein to Dallas for a second-round pick.

Dallas just made a trade for Justin Patton to waive him and clear out a roster spot for this trade.

Cauley-Stein is averaging an efficient 7.9 points and 6.2 rebounds a game for Golden State. More importantly for Dallas, he provides the athletic dive man, a threat on the roll they need to keep things open for Doncic.

Dallas could have waited out the market to try and land a better center, but this gives them a reliable fit for minimal cost (a late second-round pick, they kept Golden State’s own second rounder). Cauley-Stein will split time at the five with Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, and Boban Marjanovic.

For those of you crunching the numbers at home:

For Golden State, in the short term, this move creates a couple of open roster spots. One of those likely will be used to re-sign Marquese Chriss, who was waived last week. The other roster spot likely will go to Ky Bowman.

Golden State adds a pick and a trade exception for sending out a player that was not part of their long-term plans anyway.

In trade about money/roster space, Mavericks send Isaiah Roby to Thunder for Justin Patton, cash

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We have a trade…

That shifts things around on the end of the bench in Dallas so they could create a roster spot forWillie Cauley-Stein (a trade that was announced later). A trade that is mostly about saving some and rolling the dice on a project in OKC.

Dallas is sending Isaiah Roby to OKC for Justin Patton, a story broken by Shams Charania of The Athletic.

What is really going on here?

For Dallas, this is about clearing out a roster spot, it plans to waive Patton. That roster spot is going to Willie Cauley-Stein in a trade with Golden State, that was just reported. The Mavericks lost center Dwight Powell to a torn Achilles this week and needed to bring in a player or two — via trade or free agency — to help bolster the existing front line of Kristaps Porzingis, Maxi Kleber, and Boban Marjanovic. Here is Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News.

The move also clears out a little cash for Dallas.

In Oklahoma City, they get a young player to develop but also save some money.

Roby has not played in an NBA game yet. The rookie out of Nebraska — taken 45th overall last June — is a development project, but one who passes the eye test for an NBA power forward. He did a lot of things well in college — scoring, rebounding, works hard off the ball — but can he do that at an NBA level? He’s played in nine G-League games this season, averaging 9.2 points and 7 rebounds a game.

 

Bulls: Lauri Markkanen out 4-6 weeks

Lauri Markkanen
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Lauri Markkanen ranked No. 34 on our list of the 50 best players in 5 years entering the season.

Instead of building toward that promise, Markkanen has underwhelmed. His shot just isn’t falling as hoped.

Now, the news get even worse.

Bulls:

The Bulls (2.5 games and two games out) have been hanging in the playoff race. But there was already little reason to believe they’d make a postseason push. Now, there’s even less rationale to predict a longshot postseason run.

Markkanen will be eligible for a contract extension next offseason. The 22-year-old can still fulfill his potential as a 7-foot shooter with defensive versatility. But he’s running out of time to show consistent contributions. That’ll make it tougher for Chicago to offer a satisfactory extension.

Two of the very things that could happen for the Bulls are Markkanen shaking off his extended slump and landing a high draft pick.

This could help with both.