Morning Shootaround — Feb. 12


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played Feb. 11

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Motivated LeBron backs up Rushmore talk | Latest loss strikes a nerve with Lakers | Bennett’s big night lifts Cavs | No comeback for Rose, Noah problem for Bulls

No. 1: Fired up LeBron fuels Mount Rushmore talk himself – Agree or disagree all you want with LeBron James and his assertion that he’ll be on the NBA’s Mount Rushmore when his career ends, you have to like what all of the chatter is doing for his game and the Heat’s season. The Heat might not be on their way to another 27-game win streak, but James has found the motivation needed to overcome the rough patches of this season. LeBron is feeling his words right about now, Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com writes, he’s walking the walk and backing up all of his own talk:

James’ seasonal slogan might just as well be what he said Tuesday, “I’m feeling good right now.”

He has the occasional frustration with a wayward loss, such as over the past weekend in Utah when he played a dud game. He’ll get a little irked when it’s mentioned that Kevin Durant may have closed the gap on him for best player on the planet status. But, generally, James has been skipping on air since he stood on top of the podium after Game 7 in Miami last June holding both gold trophies with that “what can you say now” grin across his face.

The mindset will eventually be challenged but not for awhile. Until then, James will be feeling quite good about himself.

That was at the root of why he was willing to declare in a recent interview with NBA TV that, “I’m going to be one of the top four that’s ever played this game, for sure. And if they don’t want me to have one of those top four spots, they’d better find another spot on that mountain. Somebody’s gotta get bumped.”

When James listed what he felt was the current NBA Mount Rushmore, he named Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Larry Bird and Oscar Robertson. It is hard to decide which would create more conversation, James’ statement or his choices of the peer group.

Feeling so good about himself and put at ease by interviewer Steve Smith, James continued by claiming that he’d been cheated in the NBA Defensive Player of the Year voting the past two years.

“To be honest, I feel I’ve been snubbed two years in a row [on the award], and I’m serious,” James said. “And that’s one selfish thing about me … I feel like I should have won it.”

Yes, that is James insisting that he’s not getting enough credit for something. He’s just letting it all go. In the golden era of his career, he clearly figures, why shouldn’t he? He fears no reprisal and, at least now, isn’t too worried about any opponent.

“We’ll play anybody, it doesn’t matter,” James said as he was basking in the win. “It doesn’t matter who it is. We’re not running from anyone.”



VIDEO: LeBron James talks Mount Rushmore with Steve Smith

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No. 2: Latest loss strikes a nerve with Lakers – Steve Nash exiting a second straight game with a nerve issue is problem enough for the Los Angeles Lakers. But dropping yet another game on their home floor is perhaps even more troubling for the Lakers, a team quickly falling down the rabbit hole of this season. Tuesday night’s loss to the Utah Jazz marks the Lakers’ sixth straight home loss at Staples Center, once a fortress of solitude for the team … but no more. Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times explains just how severely off track things are for Kobe Bryant‘s crew:

Home bitter home.

The Lakers used to consider Staples Center a haven of victories, a bedrock of five championship runs since the building opened in 1999.

Now they might as well play at a local park.

They lost to the lowly Utah Jazz on Tuesday, 96-79, falling to 8-15 at home and losing six consecutive games at home for the first time since 1992-93.

It’s the cherry on top of several scoops of problems.

Steve Nash left the game for good at halftime, felled again by the same nerve irritation in his back that sidelined him almost three months.

The nerve damage starts in the back and presents itself in his hamstring, making it feel as if it’s strained or pulled.

Whatever euphoria he felt last Friday — 19 points and five assists against Philadelphia on his 40th birthday — was almost absent after Tuesday’s game, though he tried to be upbeat.

“I think I need a little more time to get over the hump,” he told The Times.

He considered sitting out before tipoff but knew the Lakers were short-handed without six injured players.

Nash didn’t look quite right while he played, totaling two points and two assists in 17 minutes. He made one of four shots in his 10th game this season.

The Lakers are shrugging. They don’t know exactly what to do.

“I imagine it’s day to day. I don’t know anything else,” Lakers Coach Mike D’Antoni said of Nash’s status. “I haven’t really talked to him.”

Nash’s injury dented some mild excitement the Lakers felt before the game. They were expecting five of their six injured players back shortly after this weekend’s All-Star break.

The lone lingering one, though, was Kobe Bryant, who might be the last Lakers player to return, according to a person familiar with the situation.

He continues to have swelling and pain in his fractured left knee and figures to trail Pau GasolJordan FarmarJodie Meeks and maybe even Xavier Henry in getting back to the court.

***

No. 3: A breakout night for rookie Bennett lifts Cavaliers – It’s taken a while, months basically, but Cleveland Cavaliers rookie Anthony Bennett has finally decided to join the party. Bennett, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2013 Draft had his breakout game in a win over the Sacramento Kings Tuesday night in Cleveland. It was a much-needed breakthrough for Bennett, whose season has been anything but spectacular up to this point. While Michael Carter-Williams, Trey Burke and Victor Oladipo have all moved past him in the Rookie of the Year race, Bennett is doing well to just ease his way into the public consciousness right now. Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Plain Dealer explains:

Rookie Anthony Bennett drilled a 3-pointer and threw his arms up into the air to celebrate late in the Cavaliers 109-99 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Tuesday night at The Q.

“I was just having fun,” said Bennett, who registered his first double-double with career highs of 19 points and 10 rebounds in 29:45 as the Cavs avenged a 124-80 loss in Sacramento on Jan. 12 and improved to 19-33, winning three in a row for the first time since Dec. 7-13.

When was the last time he had fun on the basketball court?

“I don’t remember,” Bennett said. “Today?”

The timing was bittersweet as Bennett, whose selection as the No. 1 pick in the 2013 NBA Draft has been widely criticized, and his slow start undoubtedly contributed to the firing of general manager Chris Grant last week.

“I’m sure Chris Grant is smiling at home, and deservedly so,” said Sacramento coach — and former Cavs assistant under Mike BrownMike Malone, whose team dropped to 17-35.

Bennett, who had shoulder surgery before the draft last summer and was unable to participate in summer league, has been coming early to practice and staying late, working to regain the form that made him a star last season at UNLV.

His teammates celebrated with him after Tuesday’s breakout game.

“He played a heck of a game tonight,” Kyrie Irving said. “It was awesome. I was a fan.”

Added Luol Deng, who led the Cavs with 22 points, “He’s going to get it. These kind of games are going to come more often.”

***

No. 4: No return for Rose this season, Noah problem for the Bulls? – Hoops fans in Chicago have played this game before and lost, so there is no reason to dive in again this time. Derrick Rose, no matter how many times he hits the floor to shoot before the Bulls play, is not coming back this season. It is NOT happening … right? But if All-Star center Joakim Noah has his way, the dream of a Rose return is still alive. That said, if Noah keeps up his current ways (a triple-double Tuesday night in a win over the visiting Atlanta Hawks), it’ll be much easier for Bulls fans to stomach another season without Rose in uniform. Joe Cowley of the Sun Times delivers the details:

The door was closed — slammed shut months ago by Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau when he said Derrick Rose was lost for the season after tearing his right meniscus Nov. 22 and undergoing surgery.

On Tuesday, center Joakim Noah wedged his size 18 foot into that door, keeping the dream alive for a small minority that believes in unicorns, dragons and quick Rose recoveries.

Asked if he thought Rose could play this postseason, Noah said, ‘‘That’s not my decision. That’s nobody’s decision. It’s all about how he feels. Regardless of what happens, we’re going to be supportive.’’

It went by many different names last year: ‘‘The Return,’’ the Rose watch, the story that wouldn’t die. But in the end, the Bulls never ruled Rose out for the season in his recovery from a torn left anterior cruciate ligament, so hope stayed alive until the final minutes of a Game 5 loss to the Miami Heat in the second round of the playoffs.

The consensus on ‘‘The Return II’’ has been that there wouldn’t be one. But Noah’s comments came on the same day Rose was going through shooting drills with reporters watching, and the story gained legs again — little ones.

‘‘He’s working really hard,’’ Noah said. ‘‘He’s always around the team, being a great leader, showing support to his teammates. Just watching him work every day, I think, is extra motivation for us to go out there and go harder.

‘‘He’s doing a lot more than shooting around. He’s in the gym nonstop, just working on his body getting better. That’s what it’s all about. He’s a big part of this team. He has that mentality of having no regrets. Just give it everything you got. If you can go, you can go. If you can’t, you did everything you could to make it.’’

Thibodeau said Rose was running on the treadmill, but when asked if that was a new development, he quickly said no.

‘‘Still nowhere close to practicing or anything like that,’’ he said, ‘‘but he’s doing well overall.’’


VIDEO: The Fan Night Top 10 delivers a dazzling array of highlights for your viewing pleasure

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Charlotte Bobcats, following the lead of the Phoenix Suns, are simply playing too well to tank … Portland forward Nic Batum can’t fight it anymore, gives up the kudos to Kevin Durant as the best (one-on-one player in the league) … The streak continues for Kyle Korver, thanks to his work in his old stomping grounds … The Miami Heat’s core group is doing the heavy lifting right now and might have to the rest of this season

ICYMI of the Night: NBA TV’s Steve Smith dives deep with LeBron James in this exclusive interview, and yes, there’s more to the interview than the Mount Rushmore talk …


VIDEO: LeBron James talks about what motivates him with NBA TV’s Steve Smith

53 Comments

  1. edrik says:

    search gary paytons comments for the state of nba today.. he say’s an offensive player runs through you visciously but the defense cant even do hand checks to rough em up. nba today is softer than when the era of payton, jordan etc…

  2. Shwankerino van Shwankenburg says:

    Please dont just say things like lbj will never be able to be one of the greatest man. Which one of jordan or lebron is the better player completely depends on what you define as the best player.

    If you say the best player is the one that makes the most difference for a team and who can take his team and bring it to a title then it’s out of discussion that jordan is the best player.

    BUT if you look at who is the better individual player it’s not so clear anymore. because one thing about lebron is that he is just the best allrounder the league has seen until now. You can put lebron on any position, is it pointgard small forward or center he can play every way. And every time some weakness came up about lebron like, he can’t shoot 3 pointers or whatever else, lebron just proved everyone wrong by just doing what people said he couldn’t do.

    And that ability of lebron, being able to play in every way and position and being really good at it is what makes him able to compete with jordan, magic, bird etc

    Yes Jordan was a better scorer than lebron is but would he have been a better pg or a better center? No because lebron has no specific position or style he is good at everything, but therefore he isnt one of the greatest in one paticular thing

    • k says:

      dude, put him at the 4 or the center position to guard the likes of tim dirk howard garnett and co presently and lets see how he holds up

  3. dustydreamnz says:

    I don’t think the Heat have got better at all lately, the Suns were shocking yesterday allowing 1000 layups and still only just losing.
    Steve Nash. No, no, no, no, no.
    So happy for Anthony Bennett, I was one who gave him a lot of stick but he was great yesterday, actually looked dominant. Hope there is more to come. How many teams improve suddenly when GM or coach gets fired?
    Noah has always been great but he’s flying under the radar a bit because Bulls aren’t playing as well.

  4. Brandon says:

    Kobe Is probably laughing so hard at this right now. Lebron had to go to a super team created with major paycuts to win 2 out of 3 and has 4 mvp’s. Kobe got robbed of like 7mvps. . Wilt Kareem Kobe Tim Duncan..etc. I could keep going are way better than Lebron James. He would have to win 3-4 more rings without buying them to be considered.

    • kobrick says:

      are u braindead? kobe has 1 mvp that he rightfully deserved

      in his prime he never led his team to the #1 seed or even remotely close it

      gtfo with 7 mvps the dudes lucky he won one

      chris paul couldve EASILY won mvp in 2008

      btw kobe lover ur boys shot under 42% in the finals 5 times and THE KING already has the same # of finals mvps

  5. Ruben says:

    Honestly the Lakers problem is mike dantoni, i mean the Lakers have mad these players that haven’t really had a chance in the NBA into really good players. Now if they could get a coach to show them the way it would be great. Look at the suns there team is not filled with stars but there coaching is so good there putting the league on notice. I mean Kobe wouldn’t have gotten injured last year if he wasn’t playing like 46 minutes a game. A coach has got to take charge and say no to a player for his benefit and the teams.

  6. lebron will NEVER be as good as jordan says:

    sorry king baby. rushmore is only for people who worked hard for a title. not for people who run away from the challenges and have to create a big 3 to make it easier

  7. Dave says:

    The Lakers are done period as long as Jim Buss is running things and bringing in the worst coaches he can possibly find… They have become the Cowboys of the NBA.

  8. Eddie says:

    By the end of LeBrons career he will probably be on the Mt. Rushmore of Basketball legends, his skill at the game and making his teammates better will prove that. Kobe will be back because hes Kobe and youll have to take him out on a stretcher for him to be healthy and not play. And as a die hard Bulls fan, I can hope that Derrick would return this season, but I dont believe it. Honestly, Dj does a lot better job at running the offense as a point guard than D Rose.

  9. Jazz beat the Heat says:

    did people forget? btw lakers on the other hand are tanking and i was hoping kobe didn’t play this season..not even those 6 games…

  10. Bataar says:

    Mike D’Antoni should leave LA. that’s it. nothing to say anymore.

  11. M1978 says:

    The Lakers season is lost. It’s just a prolonged agony. An agony which started two years ago with signing Howard, Nash and D’Antoni. Howard is a real looser who can’t grow up to the expectations of a star team. He is no go to guy, who gets the ball and scores, when it’s time to decide a playoff match. And there is the old Nash, like a leper messiah, his limbs fall of his body as he walks away…almost. He gets injured almost weekly. This is no suprise, he is 40, and his body can’t bear the burden of the NBA play. Of course there is D’Antoni who really didn’t show anything as a coach. His players get injured like no other team in the league. Two years ago, everyone said: go and get back Phil Jackson. Instead they’ve got D’Antoni.

    I hope this mess ends quickly, because I like Gasols and Kobe’s play, they are still talented and have a big heart. Now the best solution to them would be leaving the Lakers team ASAP.

  12. Rob says:

    As a resident of Utah, I feel the need to defend the Jazz. Why would the author call the Jazz “lowly” when they actually currently have a BETTER record than the Lakers. It seems to me the “lowly” team in this situation would be the Lakers themselves.

  13. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Today’s NBA is just as physical as it’s ever been.

    Recall that Spur game recently. I believe it was Matt Bonner that got his nose busted and had to get treatment for blood. However, he still came back later in the game to play. Didn’t another Spur also get his nose bloodied in that game?

    Didn’t Bonner have to wear a face mask because he recently had his nose broken?

    Or something like that?

    Go tell the Spurs the NBA is NOT physical. Today’s NBA is very physical. Ha!

  14. RAPS says:

    LBJ does not flop anymore than other players in the league, in fact, its likely he flops a lot less. He plays every game with a target on his back, facing the best the opposing team has to offer. When they couldnt stop Crosby in the NHL they went after him physically. Well, LeBron plays one of the most physical games in the NBA so obviously he is going to get fouled.

    Secondly, LBJ does have the right at this stage to compare himself to the legends. Lets avoid comparing two different times and leagues, but from a statistical standpoint, from a straight dominating standpoint, James is the best today and also one of the best all time.

    • jer-Boo says:

      You are as honest as LBJ in modest. He’s obviously one of if not you favorite player but you either need to start watching the games or simply call a spade a spade. He’s talented but he’s a flopper. If he wihes to be considered one of the greatest like those he mentioned, he’ll need to play hard nose basket ball. The flop the took against Tyson Chandler when they met the Knicks in the playoffs a couple years ago said it all. He may consider himself one of the greatest, his fans may consider him one of the greatest, but as can be seen by the comments from these blogs, he’ll never win widespread respect from the basketball world. I would have loved to see him play the Knicks in the 90′s or the Detriot Bad Boys. Too bad we can’t.

      • KDfan says:

        Kudos to LBJ’s humility or lack there off. Glory, greatness and a place in the history book is endowed or showered on players, not demanded.

      • Han says:

        And I’d love to see MJ goes against Lakers Shaq & Kobe, Wilt Chamberlain or Spurs these decades, but too bad, we can’t. Sorry, but dumb comment to compare era. Rod Laver won grandslam in tennis that no modern player including Federer can do, doesn’t make him more or less, compare to Fed. Both are dominat in their era, that’s it.
        Oh, he already won widespread respect from all over the world, bar hater like u. More people knows about him, even not basketball fan. Not many even know about ur Bad Boys, even old people (unless they’re NBA fan).

      • @ Han

        Maybe you should stop typing dumb stuff and check your facts.

        MJ played at least 5 seasons against Kobe & Shaq. And you grew up watching Magic play ball?? Well where were you when the Kobe-Shaq duo was playing against the Bulls?? Even someone like Gary Payton is recognizing todays changes in the game which lots of people do not like. Those are facts & we are free to give our opinion. Past or present doesn’t matter.

    • ncsportsman says:

      You can tell lebron practices the flop, its become a part of his game and is disgraceful. Dude is a train and will bulldoze players then you get some 5 10″ point guard that can bulldoze him….come on, he needs to go to the wwe and become a wrestler. The only people who think lebron is so good are you people who hang from his jock, he is a one trick pony who can only dunk or layup the ball, when he dunks he looks so stiff, there is no grace to it at all.

  15. Guest says:

    You’ve really got to feel bad for drose, he was mvp and now this, its really unfortunate. As for kobe, he should just hang it up. He already had his fun, and he’s got a whole hand of rings to show for it, and more importantly, his contract doesn’t allow the lakers to get young, quality players

  16. P-dub says:

    What’s up with all the knee injuries? Is there a stat for this league wide malaise of sideline star players…I don’t recall this many knee injuries during the 80′s. Will the NBA ever consider shortening the season, or maybe just less games played?

  17. dre says:

    what Lakers does that team still exist Kobe sorry to say man you have game still one of my favorite player but you will never get that six ring being a Lakers player jump ship and try clippers next year at least you will still be in staples an la

  18. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Some mark(s) mentioned Portland will “come back to Earth” or whatever.

    WRONG!

    Some people (it’s as if someone is paying them to say ridiculous things on national TV) predict there could be playoff upsets in the Western Conference.

    WRONG!

    The top 2 seeds will not get upset. Not this season. Sorry.

    • Maybe you should watch how the results are being achieved by Portland. They are playing solid bball and do have very good results. But it’s the only team that never changed their starting line up & get the least points from their bench.

      Those are big risks. Saw what happenend last Friday? Pacers closed the gap slowly when Lillard & Aldrigde were not on the floor & won it. Blazers can beat any team but are very vunerable.

  19. Celtics Fan says:

    Lebron could be in the Mount Rushmore of the NBA IF HE STOP FLOPPING LIKE S***. those players he mentioned didn’t need to flop every single game to win championships, they accepted the challenge their defenders gave them like a man not by whining and flopping all the time.

    • Pakyaw says:

      You know sometimes flopping is one of a strategy to win a game. How many times you think rodman flops on those bulls 3peat run?..it’s about how bad you want to win.. It’s ugly, but win is a win..

      • ncsportsman says:

        so you are comparing lebron to rodman? Jordan, bird, magic, kareem they never flopped. lebron has practiced it to the point its disgusting.

  20. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Good thing the All Star break is coming because LaMarcus Aldridge looks like he needs a little rest to prepare for the final stretch run before the playoffs. He missed a lot of shots that he normally makes in that Thunder/Blazer game.

  21. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Good thing the All Star break is coming because LaMarcus Aldridge looks like he needs a little rest to prepare for the final stretch run before the playoffs.

    He missed a lot of shots that he normally makes in that Thunder/Blazer game.

  22. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    I’ve been hearing talk of the Clippers’ potential and all that is well and good. But face facts: the Thunder and the Blazers are the top 2 teams in the West. Period.

    As long as Portland can stay healthy (Aldridge needs to be 100%), it will be OKC Thunder vs. Portland Trailblazers in the Western Conference Finals.

    • 36yrfan says:

      Hey JG…..check out the standings in the west before you spout off toooooo much………it is as if you have something to say……. but no…… nothing of substance ……lmao

  23. Anthony Bennett finally is showing some improvement. Good job buddy!!

    Mount Rush…what??

    King Flop….always whining on the floor and now whining off the floor. Big O, MJ & Magic were stars in a tough NBA era. Right now Lebron is the best player, but son…..don’t try to match yourself with legends that played the game in a time when hard defending was normal. League is softer nowadays! So your are the best at the moment but not even top 5 all time!!! Dream on!

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      A little too much whining about how it was more rugged in the older NBA days.

      Really? I’m pretty sure there was never a huge brawl that spilled out into the fans like that Ron Artest brawl (which happened rather recently).

      Need to stop trying to make that excuse. Refs may be stricter on some calls they make, but today’s NBA is just as physical as it has ever been in NBA history.

      It’s like that old “old timer” sort of story: “oh in my day, we had to walk 20 minutes through five feet of snow in the morning to school.”

      OH OKAY, whatever! Like there weren’t school buses or automotive transportation in the 70s or 60s or 50s or WHATEVER!

      • ncsportsman says:

        The NBA is soft now so you dont know what you are talking about. If they allowed hand checks like they did back then and lebron played against mason, barkley and malone he would be just a average player. He won’t even be in the top 10 best of all time. You didn’t see Jordan calling up bird or magic and asking them to team up like lebron did, you also didn’t see him flopping, it is a shame a player has to practice and perfect the flop to get ahead in this game today.

    • Joshua Greenfarb says:

      You gonna tell Ron Artest that he is “soft”? Yeah, right.

      Like players were so much “harder” in older NBA days. Yeah, right.

      Keep being delusional, son. Cause it’s simply not true and is your opinion.

      • Well someone seems to be unrealistic & partly blind here

        Read my reaction better next time pls
        I said he is the best at the moment but LBJ is the one comparing himself to players from the 70s 80s 90s

        And I don’t know which league u have been watching for the last 20-25 years but even a blind man can see rthat it’s less physical. Do you see any things like the Jordan rules or plays like Pat Riley’s Knicks?? I don’t think so.

        Next time pls read it better & be realistic. Thx in advance

      • ncsportsman says:

        Ron is tough, but he gets suspended for games today for calls that would just be a hard foul in those days. dont forget you cant hand check now either.

    • Han says:

      It maybe more physical back then, but because of different rules. Your comment is irrelevant as there’s nobody can tell if LBJ can’t play physical if he were put in that era, or other way around if MJ would score 100 in today’s era, because of what u said softer world. Great player will adapt with the rules and still dominate. Move on mate, don’t keep living in the past (and yes, I grew up watching Magic, but still appreciate both talent as they found a way to get ahead of the competition, regardless of era).

  24. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Thunder and Blazers had an important game, considering they’re the top 2 teams in the West. Need more coverage of THAT.

  25. Joshua Greenfarb says:

    Are you kidding me? Who cares that the Lakers got blown out by the Jazz?

  26. okc2014 says:

    Both Derrick Rose and Kobe Bryant, no matter how much they mentally want to return this season, will not, because they will not be medically cleared to do so. And from any standpoint, this is not a bad thing. These players, although fantastic in their primes, will make 0% difference if they return to their perspective teams AT THIS POINT in the season. Too bad, sooooo sad. Now Russell Westbrook…….