Chris Bosh says Heat ‘big three’ sparked Kevin Durant’s move to Warriors

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Chris Bosh could have continued what he was doing, being the face of the Toronto Raptors. He had made the All-Star team five years in a row, was the focal point of the Toronto offense on the court and the team’s marketing off it, and he was getting his touches, averaging 24 points a game his last season north of the border.

Yet he chose to leave, to head all the way down to Miami to team up with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

It’s a “big three” that changed the game. On the court somewhat, they won two titles and went to four straight Finals. However, Bosh told our own NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh that the bigger impact was off the court, where other players — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Kawhi Leonard, and most recently Anthony Davis — have started to take charge of their own careers and destiny.

“It’s huge,” Bosh says of the trio’s pioneering role. “A lot of people don’t like it, that’s the funniest part.”

Don’t like what?

“An athlete with brains.”

Bosh said the Heat’s big three specifically helped lead to one of the most controversial moves in the NBA in recent years — Durant to the Warriors.

I ask him, does Durant leave OKC if Bosh and the Big Three don’t choose to team up in 2010?

“No,” Bosh says now. “That put pressure on him.”

LeBron gets most of the credit for players taking a more aggressive role in charting their own course and not just going where the tide takes them with their career. Deservedly so, he was the best player in the game when he went to Miami and changed the game.

But Bosh did his part, too.

Next Tuesday in Miami Bosh will get a little recognition when his jersey is retired. As it should be. Those banners aren’t hanging in Miami if Bosh didn’t only come to the team but willingly sacrificed and changed his game to fit around what LeBron and the team needed. He was a No. 1 option who completely changed how he played to win.

That’s a lesson more players could use to pick up on.

Three Things to Know: Joel Embiid in middle of everything leading Sixers past Celtics

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Joel Embiid in middle of everything leading Sixers past Celtics. Bench play? Philadelphia don’t need no stinkin’ bench play.

When GM Elton Brand made the mid-season trades to bring in Jimmy Butler and Tobias Harris, he sacrificed depth to create the best starting five in the East: Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, Butler, Harris, and Joel Embiid. For one night at least, it worked the way Brand envisioned it — the Sixers starters scored 110 of the teams’ 118 points, were +11 on the night, and propelled the Philadelphia to a confidence-boosting win over Boston, 118-115.

Joel Embiid was the instigator in the middle of it all. Before and after the game.

It’s not just the 37 points and 22 rebounds, although the Sixers don’t win without that performance. Embiid also was the guy who elbowed Marcus Smart on a screen — then Smart lost his cool, wildly overreacted in shoving Embiid to the floor, which earned Smart an ejection (and a fine in the next 48 hours).

Boston was never the same after that.

Embiid scored the next eight points after the ejection, and the fired-up big man was a force the rest of the way. Embiid bullied his way inside — determined to show he can score on Al Horford — and in doing so led an attacking style that got Philly to the free throw line 46 times in the game. Also late in the game, Boston ran plays to get Kyrie Irving switched onto Embiid and both times Embiid got the stop, including one impressive recovery and block.

Then in the final minutes, the Sixers turned the keys over the Jimmy Butler — he had two critical threes, then a dagger jumper along the baseline followed by a meme-worthy celebration.

After the game, Embiid stayed the center of attention with this interview where he said he was the most unstoppable player in the NBA (somewhere James Harden’s eyebrows raised).

If you’re a Sixers fan, there were certainly things to like out of this win, particularly down the stretch. They now have a matchup that works against Boston — they went right at Kyrie Irving’s defense and bullied him inside, then shot over him. Having Smart on the court would help Boston, but it doesn’t completely solve that problem. With this Sixers starting five, there is no place to hide Irving.

(Not that a meeting of these teams in the playoffs is any kind of lock, the Sixers are looking like the three seed, Boston will be four or five, meaning if they meet it will be the Eastern Conference Finals. And if that happens both teams will have evolved since this game.)

That said, there are Sixers questions still, specifically can they lean on the starters like this in the playoffs (Simmons played 42 minutes, Embiid 41)? There are no back-to-backs and more rest is built in, but it’s still asking a lot and at points Philly is going to need something from its bench. With staggered minutes for the starters the weaknesses can be hidden better in the postseason, but the bench still needs to step up. It’s a puzzle for Brett Brown to put together.

What we know now is this: These starters make the 76ers a threat and can take them a long way in the playoffs.

2) James Harden drops 57, Rockets still lose in overtime to the Grizzlies. Interesting stat of the night: James Harden has seven 50+ point games this season, but the Rockets are 4-3 in those games.

The one-man Harden show was back and it carried the Rockets again — he scored 28 of his 57 points on the night in the fourth quarter and overtime, and had 15 during a 17-2 Rockets late run. That included three free throws to tie the game and force OT after a ridiculously bad foul by Justin Holiday. The kind of foul that will give J.B. Bickerstaff an ulcer.

However, the Grizzlies are scrappy, and as an organization they are trying to win — they have to give a pick to Boston one of the next three years, they would rather do it this season. The pick is top 8 protected this draft, and currently Memphis has the seventh worst record in the league. If the standings do not change Memphis has a 14.2 percent chance of giving up the pick, but make up the 1.5 games it is behind Washington and that jumps to nearly 40 percent. Memphis wants to win games.

Jonas Valanciunas got the memo and helped them do that. He grabbed the offensive rebound and was fouled with 0.1 left in overtime, sinking the game-winning free throw (he finished with a career-high 33 points).

Houston remains the three seed, but they are just half-a-game up on four seed Portland. Houston needs some more wins to make sure they don’t slide down the standings (and into the Warriors side of the bracket).

3) Toronto beats slumping Oklahoma City in overtime. It was the night Oklahoma City celebrated Nick Collison, retiring the jersey the ultimate glue guy who put the franchise first.

The Thunder could use a guy like that right now.

Since the All-Star break, the Thunder are now 5-10 with the worst offense in the NBA over that stretch (104.6 offensive net rating). That was on display Wednesday in a loss to Toronto, where the Thunder had a 100.9 offensive rating.

Toronto led most of the way and was in control, complete with Kawhi Leonard seeming annoyed by Paul George‘s defense.

At home in OKC you knew it was coming — Thunder made a run and ultimately tied the game with 4.8 seconds to go on a driving Russell Westbrook layup.

It forced overtime, but there Paul George fouled out, the Raptors scored nine in a row, and that was the ballgame.

With the loss, the Thunder fell into a three-way tie with the Spurs and Clippers for the 6/7/8 seeds in the West, with OKC technically being the eight seed based on tiebreakers. That would mean Golden State in the first round, the worst possible outcome for Oklahoma City. There are 10 games left in the Thunder season and they need to find wins fast or it could be a quick postseason for a team that just a couple of months ago was talked about as potentially the second best team out West.

Report: Doc Rivers agrees to extension with Clippers

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Doc Rivers will be staying with the Los Angeles Clippers.

According to multiple reports, Rivers and owner Steve Ballmer have agreed to an extension that will keep Rivers with the Clippers organization “long term”.  Some earlier rumors had Rivers potentially being a candidate for the Los Angeles Lakers, who are presumed to have an opening this summer. But Rivers told reporters on Tuesday that he isn’t going to be heading across the hall, and that he’s happy where he is.

Via Twitter:

Rivers has led the Clippers to a surprising season, one that should result in a postseason bid despite a sort of ramshackle roster.

I think Rivers’ legacy was called into question following the departure of both Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, but his ability to create a winning atmosphere in L.A. in a post-star era for the Clippers is a testament to his ability.

Of course, Rivers might not have to go without a star for too long. Rumor has it Kawhi Leonard still favors the Clippers as a top destination this summer should he choose to leave the Toronto Raptors.

After Raptors-Lakers game, LeBron James apparently told Kawhi Leonard they’d be ‘in touch’ (video)

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Kawhi Leonard reportedly doesn’t want to join LeBron James on the Lakers.

But LeBron can still recruit Leonard, anyway.

After the Raptors’ win over the Lakers last night, the stars talked on the court.

Dime:

I can’t tell whether LeBron said, “We’ll be in touch,” “Keep in touch,” “I’ll be in touch” or something else entirely. It’s a noisy arena, and the microphone isn’t directly on the conversation.

Even if LeBron were talking about being in touch, it’s not necessarily about Leonard joining the Lakers. LeBron and Leonard have worked out together in the offseason before. It could be about doing that again or even something unrelated to basketball.

But the Lakers need to acquire more talent this summer, and Leonard will be a free agent. 👀

NBA asks teams to create, run PSA on “importance of respect and civility in NBA arenas”

Associated Press
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The NBA wants fans talking about the push for the playoffs. It is fine with talk about where Kevin Durant/Kyrie Irving/Kawhi Leonard/Jimmy Butler but the league office wishes there was less of it (as do most players).

What the league office doesn’t want is talk of rude fan behavior and how players respond to it.

Yet that’s the topic that exploded after Russell Westbrook yelled profanity at a Jazz fan and his wife after said fan made rude comments that completely crossed the line of decency. The Utah Jazz organization investigated the matter and permanently banned the fan from the arena.

The league office sent a memo to all teams asking them to take steps to reduce the likelihood of more incidents like this happen in the future. Via Shams Charania of The Athletic.

It’s a good gesture.

What will help more than a PSA on the big screen fans will ignore is stricter enforcement by arena security. There has been a reluctance to confront paying customers yelling at the opposing teams (in many, but not all venues), that needs to change. Heckle a player for what is happening on the court and it’s all good, but there is a clear, bright line between that and getting personal or dragging family into the picture. We all know where that line is. Security just has to be on its game.

I expect after the Westbrook security will be tighter. At least for a while.