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LaVar Ball wants to launch paid league for players between high school, NBA

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Lonzo Ball Went No. 2 in the draft in large part because of the skills and potential he showed in his season at UCLA. He handled the pressure there well.

However, what if he had played in a second-tier, low-paying professional league of other 18-19-year-olds, would he still have gone No. 2? No. His stock would have fallen.

The pressure to pay players — above board, elite players and those around them make money under the table, there’s a whole FBI investigation about that — creates an opening and has prompted Mr. Self Promotor LaVar Ball to step in with his own idea for a league. A league sponsored by the Big Baller Brand, not so coincidentally. Darren Rovell of ESPN broke this “news.”

LaVar Ball said Wednesday that he’s launching a basketball league for nationally ranked players who have graduated from high school but don’t want to go to college.

Ball said his Junior Basketball Association — which he said is fully funded by his Big Baller Brand — plans to pay the lowest-ranked player a salary of $3,000 a month and the best player $10,000 a month. Ball is looking for 80 players to fill 10 teams that will seek to play at NBA arenas in Los Angeles, Dallas, Brooklyn and Atlanta.

“Getting these players is going to be easy,” Ball told ESPN. “This is giving guys a chance to get a jump start on their career, to be seen by pro scouts, and we’re going to pay them because someone has to pay these kids.”

I’m beyond skeptical, count me as dismissive. There are more holes in this plan than a whiffle ball. I get what he is trying to do, fill in the gap where the NCAA falls short, and I even applaud the ambition. But much like sending his younger sons to play in Lithuania, I don’t see how this works out well.

To start with, the NBA is moving toward changing its draft eligibility requirements, and just about everybody expects part of that is that players will be able to jump from high school to the NBA again. Which will all but eliminate the need for the league.

Also, I doubt he can get 80 quality players a year. First off, there are far fewer than 80 future NBA players in every high school class. What’s more, a lot of those elite players likely still will head to major colleges — is playing in this league really going to be better for the draft stock of the guys headed to the NBA? No. How NBA-bound players handle college life (and its schoolwork and distractions, plus the pressure of the NCAA tournament) matters to teams in their evaluations, the Big Baller Brand league would lack that. Also, life is good if you’re a basketball player at Duke or Kentucky or UCLA or Michigan State, not to mention a lot of smaller schools with great basketball cultures. These guys get to feel recruited, then or BMOCs. If a player just wants to go to a developmental league rather than college, why not go straight to the D-League (which is allowed)?

Ball is not the first guy to have this idea, but all of them have fallen flat. A couple of years ago, a con-man (literally) tried to launch the “AmeriLeague” with the same idea, but it never got off the ground. Neither did the  Las Vegas Dealers, which was going to pay an 18-19 year old team to scrimmage against European clubs in Las Vegas and do a tour of Europe. If you’ve never heard of those, there’s a reason.

You’re hearing of the Big Baller Brand League because some in the media love talking to LaVar, he gives you quotes and fantastical stories. Fluff, but stories. He’s a draw, in the Kardashian sense, but a draw.

There is certainly room to challenge the NCAA structure. It’s very flawed, and it doesn’t put the interests of players first. Not even close. I just don’t believe LaVar Ball running this plan is what will work.

Fast start, LeBron James enough for Cavaliers to hold on to win, even series

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For the first time in 11 days, we had an NBA playoff game that finished with a single-digit margin. Barely.

It didn’t look like it would be early — Boston missed lay-ups and dunks all through the first quarter, LeBron James was being LeBron James, and the Cavaliers had a 16 point first quarter lead. It was 15 at the half.

But these Celtics would not go quietly.

Boston started to find it’s offensive groove — hunting Kevin Love incessantly — but in the end couldn’t get enough stops because, well, LeBron James. He finished with 44 points on 17-of-28 shooting, his sixth 40-point game of these playoffs. He got wherever he wanted on the floor all night, carving up the top-ranked regular season defense of the Celtics like a surgeon. No other Cavalier had more than 14 points (Kyle Korver), but the supporting cast played enough defensive and made hustle plays to hang on.

@realtristan13 with the swat and @kingjames with the finish!

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Cleveland got the win, 111-102, and evened the series at 2-2. Game 5 is Wednesday night back in Boston.

What Celtics fans can feel good about is their team’s resilience and grit. Down big for the second-straight game on the road in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Celtics fought back from as much as 19 down earlier in the game to get it to single digits and make the fans in Quicken Loan Arena nervous in the fourth quarter. That is something the team can carry over to Game 5, as they can some defensive tweaks that shut down opportunities for Korver and the rest of the supporing cast.

What should bother Celtics fans was another night where they struggled to generate offense in the face of more intense defensive pressure.

That came from the opening tip, with the Celtics missing a few layups and a couple of Jaylen Brown dunk attempts — all of which allowed the Cavs to get early offenses and mismatches going the other way. Those missed shots fueled a 10-0 Cavaliers run that had Cleveland up 19-10 early. The Celtics shot 3-of-10 at the rim in the first quarter, shot 26 percent overall, and trailed 34-18 after one.

The second quarter saw the Celtics start to find their offense — they scored 35 points on 50 percent shooting — but they only gained one point on the Cavaliers lead because Boston couldn’t get stops. LeBron had 22 points on 8-of-11 shooting in the first half to pace a Cleveland team that shot 61.5 percent overall and hit 6-of-11 threes. That’s why the Cavs were up 68-53 at the half.

The Celtics energy was better than Game 2, but in the first half they looked like a young team, one that made a lot of mistakes.

In the second half, the Celtics started to figure things out — they started making the extra pass, they got stops for stretches, they looked more like a young team figuring things out. They finished the night with 25 from Jaylen Brown, 17 from Jayson Tatum, and Terry Rozier had 16 points and 11 assists.

They just couldn’t completely close the gap because they couldn’t get consistent stops — the Cavaliers shot 60 percent as a team for the game, and a ridiculous true shooting percentage of 59.6. Cleveland mercilessly hunted Rozier on switches — forcing him on to LeBron or Kevin Love then attacking — and the Cavs got enough from their role players. Tristan Thompson did what he needed to bringing energy in the paint and some defense, plus he had 13 points. Korver was diving on the floor for loose balls. Larry Nance Jr. had his second good game in a row. George Hill had 13 points.

And whenever the Cavaliers needed a play, they had LeBron to turn to. He set another NBA record on Monday night, most playoff field goals made for a career.

LeBron is what needs to worry Boston most of all. The Celtics will be better at home in Game 5 — they have not lost in TD Garden all postseason — but if this thing goes seven, it’s a dangerous thing when the other team has the best player on the planet.

LeBron James passes Kareem to become all-time leader in playoff made field goals

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LeBron James is already the NBA’s all-time leading playoff scorer, having passed Michael Jordan last postseason.

However, LeBron racked up his buckets in the era of the three-point shot (as did Jordan, to a lesser extent), so Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was the all-time leader in field goals made in the postseason. A lot of them beautiful skyhooks that still give Celtics fans nightmares.

Monday night, LeBron made history passing Abdul-Jabar for the top spot in NBA playoff made field goals.

Just add that to the already insane resume.

Kevin Love with insane touchdown outlet to LeBron James for bucket

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Not sure what part of this was better.

Was it Kevin Love‘s length-of-the-court outlet touchdown pass that was right on the money, where only the receiver could get it?

Or was it LeBron James, with a catch in a crowd that would make Julio Jones’ draw drop?

Either way, this first quarter bucket from the Cavaliers may well be the play of the game.

Spurs disbanding all-female dance team in favor of co-ed hype team

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Is this the wave of the future?

Since then newly-minted owner Jerry Buss started the Laker Girls’ in 1979, all-female dance teams have become standard around the NBA. However, with how things are now viewed through the prism of the #metoo movement, and reports on how NFL cheerleaders were treated in places such as Washington and Miami, a lot of professional sports teams are re-thinking the concept of female dance teams.

The Spurs are apparently doing away with theirs, to be replaced by a 35-person co-ed “hype team.”

The Spurs have not said officially that this is the end of the Silver Dancers. “Lack of interest” is an odd reason to give — is there suddenly less interest now than there was five years ago? A number of teams have both female dance teams and co-ed “spirit” or “hype” teams.

Far more likely, this is about perception in what is a conservative state and marketplace.

The question is will this become a trend, both around the NBA and professional sports. As the teams try to evolve and make more dynamic their in-arena experiences, are the dance teams going to fade from view?

Just something to keep and eye on going forward.