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LeBron James says Cavaliers’ seed irrelevant: ‘If I come into your building for a Game 1, I can be very challenging’

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The Cavaliers (38-26) are third in the Eastern Conference – closer to eighth place than second. Barring a highly unlikely run, they’ll enter the playoffs with LeBron James‘ lowest seed in a decade. The only times he was below a No. 2 seed were 2006 and 2008, when the Cavs were No. 4 seeds, and his first two seasons, when he missed the postseason entirely.

LeBron, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“Listen, it doesn’t matter to me if I’m a six seed or a three seed or a two seed, eight seed,” James said. “If I come into your building for a Game 1, I can be very challenging.”

LeBron has played 13 series without home-court advantage. His teams are an impressive 7-6 in them. The full record:

  • Cavaliers lost to Warriors in 2017 NBA Finals
  • Cavaliers beat Celtics in 2017 conference finals
  • Cavaliers beat Warriors in 2016 NBA Finals
  • Cavaliers lost to Warriors in 2015 NBA Finals
  • Cavaliers beat Hawks in 2015 conference finals
  • Heat lost to Spurs in 2014 NBA Finals
  • Heat beat Pacers in 2014 conference finals
  • Heat beat Thunder in 2012 NBA Finals
  • Heat beat Bulls in 2011 conference finals
  • Cavaliers lost to Celtics in 2008 second round
  • Cavaliers lost to Spurs in 2007 NBA Finals
  • Cavaliers beat Pistons in 2007 conference finals
  • Cavaliers lost to Pistons in 2006 second round

LeBron emphasized that it matters far more how the Cavaliers are playing than where they’re seeded. That’s especially true given LeBron’s ability to dial it up in the playoffs and his experience winning without home-court advantage.

But a team’s record is a good indicator of how it’s playing. It’s far from a be-all, end-all. Teams can play well and lose (and vice versa). But if the Cavs don’t finish top four in the East, that’d be quite the negative indicator.

At times, LeBron looks – as he said – better than ever. But the 33-year-old has also gone through long stretches of defensive indifference. There are signs he’s wearing down.

LeBron is still confident, and he should be. It seems foolish to doubt him, especially in early rounds. LeBron has won the East seven straight years.

But if Cleveland enters the postseason without home-court advantage in the first round, that should raise even more questions. However, if the Cavaliers close the regular season playing how LeBron wants, they’ll probably be the No. 3 seed, anyway.

Nets once thought they were trading for No. 2 overall pick, would have gotten Bulls’ second first-rounder

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A Wizards-Suns-Grizzlies trade just fell apart because the teams confused which Brooks was involved. Phoenix thought it was getting Dillon Brooks. Memphis thought it was sending MarShon Brooks.

But this isn’t the first time wires got crossed in trade discussions.

Former Nets executive Bobby Marks of ESPN:

The closest it’s ever happened – and this is a funny story – is that in 2006, we thought we getting the second overall pick in the draft from Chicago. And we were going to pick LaMarcus Aldridge. And it wound up being that Chicago was offering us their second first-round pick in the draft, which was pick 16. It turned into Rodney Carney. So, that’s the closest that we’ve ever come to backing out or a deal was agreed upon and going from there.

The Bulls might as well have sent the No. 2 to pick to the Nets. On draft night, Chicago dealt No. 2 pick LaMarcus Aldridge to the Trail Blazers for No. 4 pick Tyrus Thomas and Viktor Khryapa. The Bulls got more value from No. 16 pick Rodney Carney, trading up with the 76ers for No. 13 pick Thabo Sefolosha, who was a helpful role player in Chicago then flipped for a pick that became Taj Gibson. In that 2006 draft, the Nets picked Marcus Williams No. 22 and Josh Boone No. 23.

The big difference between this non-deal and the Brooks mishap: It didn’t reach the point active players were informed and details were leaked to the media. That’s harder to walk back and maybe part of the reason the Suns and Wizards still swapped Trevor Ariza for Kelly Oubre and Austin Rivers after the Grizzlies pulled out.

Report: Trevor Ariza ‘checked out mentally’ with Suns

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Why did Trevor Ariza leave the Rockets, who came as close as anyone to beating the Kevin Durant-boosted Warriors in the playoffs, for the lowly Suns?

Money.

Ariza signed a one-year, $15 million contract with Phoenix last summer. That salary likely far surpasses what Ariza could have gotten elsewhere – especially Houston, where the Rockets are wary of the luxury tax.

Predictably, a veteran signing with bad team for a quick paycheck turned out poorly. The Suns traded Ariza to the Wizards essentially as soon as he became eligible to be dealt.

Duane Rankin of azcentral:

According to league sources, this was a “mutual” decision between Ariza and the Suns.

Ariza checked out mentally early in the season, according to sources. After practices would ended, he’d leave before everyone else, when that’s usually an opportunity to bond.

He’d break from the team huddle before his teammates and wasn’t engaged.

Signing Ariza to that contract was always part of a bad plan. He didn’t put the Suns over the top, and that money could have gone to a player with a future in Phoenix.

Sure, it would have been nice for Ariza to lead and mentor more. He could have served as a better example for the young Suns.

But it’s not easy to go from the peak of competition to a quickly lost season. Ariza’s misery was predictable and understandable.

It spread to the court, too. He’s having arguably the worst season of his career.

Washington hopes Ariza will play better there. He’s better cast as a glue guy on a good team.

However, it’s unclear whether Ariza will actually be rejuvenated by the Wizards, who’ve been stuck in their own turmoil. There’s also risk Ariza, 33, has declined due to age in ways that won’t simply reverse in a better environment.

At least he ends his depressing Phoenix chapter. This will be the lasting scene of his time there. Gina Mizell of The Athletic:

Devin Booker calls out Enes Kanter’s defense after Suns beat Knicks

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In a Knicks’ win over the Suns last January, Enes Kanter irritated Devin Booker into pushing him. The Phoenix guard got ejected then had to deal with Kanter’s online trash-talking afterward.

So, this retweet – following the Suns’ win over New York last night – was nearly a year in the making.

Booker:

There are two possible responses here. I’m not sure which is correct.

1. Booker shouldn’t criticize anyone else’s defense before looking in the mirror.

2. Kanter’s defense is so bad, even Booker is mocking it.

James Harden on double-stepback uncalled travel: ‘What do you want me to say? Tell on myself?’ (video)

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James Harden is difficult enough to defend when officiated correctly.

When he can get away with this? There’s nearly no stopping him. That was a big uncalled travel in the Rockets’ win over the Jazz last night.

Harden, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“What do you want me to say? Tell on myself?” Harden said.

Fair.

Unlike that call.