Associated Press

LeBron James: ‘If I’m hurt, I don’t play. If not, I’m playing.’

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LOS ANGELES — LeBron James is not playing like a guy who spent the summer filming “Space Jam 2.”

He’s playing like he spent the summer filming a new “Hot Tub Time Machine” movie — and his 2012 MVP self came back for this season.

After the longest summer rest he has had since 2005, LeBron has come back with a vengeance and new energy, playing his best basketball in years — which considering his standards is incredible. It’s been a renaissance season for the 7-1 Lakers and for LeBron personally as he continues to win the battle against Father Time in a way we have not seen in a modern NBA player.

Does that mean he’s going to take some load management days to keep fresh and at this level?

“If I’m hurt, I don’t play. If not, I’m playing,” LeBron said after the Lakers picked up a 95-80 win against the Miami Heat. He went on to talk about the battles he used to get into with Tyronn Lue in Cleveland about rest and nights off.

That’s the public image. However, eventually the Lakers will be looking to get LeBron some load management nights — even if they don’t call it that, much like the Clippers and NBA said Kawhi Leonard was not healthy enough to play. Lue and the Cavaliers did force some rest and they won a title.

When asked pregame what makes LeBron so durable one month before he turns 35, Heat coach (and former LeBron coach) Eric Spoelstra raved about his dedication to his craft and to conditioning his body. It’s the work ethic.

After the game, LeBron had a slightly different answer for his longevity.

“Wine… It ages well,” he said

He also gave a more serious answer.

“I shot Space Jam for three months all summer and my call times were at 6:30 in the morning,” LeBron said. “I was in the gym at 3:30, 4:00 in the morning before shooting 12, 13, 14 hours.

“I know how much I put into my craft.”

Or, just ask Meyers Leonard if LeBron put in the time in the gym this summer to get stronger.

LeBron did see some decline in his game last season with the injury to his groin that forced him to miss 17 games — the worst injury of his career — causing much of it. It’s all relative, LeBron still averaged 26.1 points, 11.1 assists, and 8.3 rebounds a game and made third-team All-NBA. However, the missed time and some defensive decline mean he did not make first-team All-NBA for the first time since 2007. How LeBron handled aging was going to be one of the big questions for the Lakers this season.

In our age of oversimplification and overreaction, that somehow got turned into “is LeBron washed?” So, LeBron, are you?

Well played.

Just like everything LeBron is doing this season.

 

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

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PARIS (AP) — 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.