Posts Tagged ‘LeBron James’

Blogtable: LeBron teams, then and now

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Miami 2010 vs. Cleveland 2014 | POR, TOR or WAS? | Tick, tick, tick in OKC


LeBron James (left) has played in 158 playoff games. Kevin Love, zero. (David Liam Kyle/NBAE)

LeBron James (left) has played in 158 playoff games. Kevin Love, zero. (David Liam Kyle/NBAE)

> Think back … what’s the difference, talent-wise, between LeBron’s first team in Miami and this Cleveland team? Can this Cleveland team be as good as that Miami one? As constituted, can it be better?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Looking back at the 2010-11 Heat, there was a lot of ordinariness on that roster with LeBron James. But – and this is a Rick Mahorn-sized “but” – Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were more advanced as teammates, having played in 72 postseason games to Kyrie Irving‘s and Kevin Love‘s none. Erik Spoelstra already had coached 160 NBA games with two playoff appearances. And Mike Miller and James Jones, same as James, Wade and Bosh, were four years younger. Also, Udonis Haslem brought toughness that these Cavaliers could use. My sense is that Dion Waiters is a more talented but more headstrong “little brother” than Mario Chalmers was. And a final thought: The rest of the league might be past the shock and awe with which it regarded that earlier Super Friends edition – it was an unnerving assemblage of talent, shown to be fallible and beatable over time.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Talent, schmalent.  If it were just about raw talent, Tracy McGrady would be walking about with more rings than a Beatles drummer with tinnitus.  LeBron arrived literally on stage in Miami with two other guys who had talent plus the veteran game smarts and battle scars to be championship contenders.  I’ll drop another Sixties reference and ask the Jimi Hendrix question: Are you experienced?  Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love do not have a single playoff game on their resumes and have never before had to get in sync with another All-Star caliber teammate. When you ask if these Cavs in their first year together can be better than that Heat team, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh have every right to say, hey, you, get off my cloud.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: LeBron’s first team in Miami had Dwyane Wade, a great advantage in experience: Wade had already won a title. He knew exactly what it took. But the core of this roster in Cleveland can get there. It can be as good as Miami. While this is a wobbly start amid great scrutiny, it’s no more unsteady or under brighter lights than the Heat of James’ previous lifetime. “Spoelstra should be fired that first season because the Heat will never win with him,” … remember? In fact, the pressure was greater then as LeBron was being condemned almost everywhere outside South Florida. The Cavaliers can absolutely find their way. Maybe it will be a repeat of Miami and it will take a season. But, yes, it can be as good.

Kyrie Irving (David Liam Kyle/NBAE)

Kyrie Irving (David Liam Kyle/NBAE)

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: That Miami team had Dwyane Wade, already a certified NBA champion. If anything, Wade had to teach LeBron how to win, and now here is LeBron trying to distribute wisdom in Cleveland. Also, keep in mind Erik Spoelstra had taken the Heat to the playoffs without LeBron, while David Blatt is new to this NBA thing. All of that was/is in Miami’s favor in any comparison talk. That said … there’s plenty of time for the Cavs to prove themselves, in the end, as good as the 2011 Heat, although nobody seems to be saying that too loudly right now.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The biggest difference is that the Heat’s three stars were all two-way players. Dwyane Wade isn’t the most disciplined defender, but he’s an impact player on that end of the floor and much better than Kyrie Irving. And Chris Bosh is a much, much, much, much, much better defender than Kevin Love. His importance to the Heat’s pick-and-roll defense can’t be understated. At the point that the 2010-11 Heat were 9-8, they ranked sixth in defensive efficiency. The Cavs will get better defensively (they rank 19th through Tuesday), but given their current personnel, they won’t be as good as the Heat were on that end of the floor.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: The difference between the two is simple. The Miami Big 3 all had playoff experience and, in Dwyane Wade’s case, championship experience. The Cleveland Big 3 has no playoff or even winning regular-season experience outside of LeBron. And the fact that people overlooked that when they put the Cleveland crew together mystifies me. I don’t think this Cleveland group can be better. I think Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving, at this stage of their careers, are as talented individually for their positions as you could want. But I don’t think they are better players than Wade and Bosh were in 2010.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: That Miami team operated as an established program committed to the values of defense and teamwork as set forth by Pat Riley. This Cleveland team has none of that. The Cavaliers spent the last four years without LeBron flailing for the kinds of answers that were taken for granted in Miami. Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving know nothing about what it takes to win in the playoffs. I don’t see how LeBron can do better now than his first team did in Miami, because this organization in Cleveland has so much more to learn from top to bottom.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: To me the most glaring difference is that the 2010-11 Heat played Mike Bibby at the point some. Mostly stationary by that point and not a great defender (who was eventually benched during the Finals), Bibby could still run a team and had loads of veteran savvy. Kyrie Irving is all guts and speed and quickness, but he lacks a certain steadiness this Cleveland team could use at the top. Not saying he can’t uncover that by the time the postseason rolls around, but for now he has work to do.

Aldo Avinante, NBA.com/Philippines: The main difference between LeBron’s first team in Miami compared to Cleveland is their overall NBA experience. Dwyane Wade was already a Finals MVP, Chris Bosh has led the Raptors to the playoffs in several seasons and they signed veteran players to complement the team. While in Cleveland LeBron will have to do the heavy lifting in terms of leadership chores. They have the personnel and talent to be as good as that team but it’s up to LeBron to nurture this young group into a mature squad.

Davide Chinellato, NBA.com/Italy: The 2010-11 Heat were way more deep than these Cavs. LeBron, Wade and Bosh were obviously the most talented players on that roster, but coach Spoelstra had a lot of options for the supporting cast. These Cavs have three phenomenal players in LeBron, Irving and Love, a good center in Varejao, a veteran in Marion, an interesting youngster in Thompson and … that’s pretty much it, at least for now with Miller, Jones and Dellavedova dealing with injuries. Once they’re back, coach Blatt will still need a rim protector and a wing defender. These Cavs need way more depth to be as good as the 2010-11 Heat.

XiBin Yang, NBA.com/China: On the paper, this Cleveland team could be great, and I do think LeBron and Kevin Love were a natural fit.The only difference is Kyrie, who just stepped into his fourth year in the league. Maybe he’s not explosive as Wade in 2010, but he can also go to the basket at will, not to mention he’s a much better 3-point shooter than Wade. As LeBron said, guys need some time to figure out how to play winning basketball. But the only question is, can Kyrie figure out how to sacrifice his ego before LBJ is past his prime? Per NBA.com/Stats, in the seven losing game of the Cavs, Kyrie’s got a higher USG (24.7%), and the team played a slower pace (93.22). Kyrie’s isolation is a good show down the stretch, but that’s not the type of winning basketball. They definitely could be better, only after Kyrie, who doesn’t have that kind of blood connection with the city of Cleveland, realizes that truth of the game.

Akshay Manwani, NBA.com/India: The difference is not so much talent-wise as much as it is about experience. The biggest advantage LeBron’s Miami had was that the stars and the coach, Erik Spoelstra, had significant postseason experience. Dwyane Wade had won a ring in 2006 and LeBron had made his way to the NBA Finals in 2007. That helped them navigate the turbulent waters of the rough start and turn into winners. Here, at Cleveland, besides LeBron, neither Kyrie Irving nor Kevin Love has ever been to the postseason. David Blatt is still learning the NBA’s ropes. So they have to come to terms with a winning mentality on the fly. Can they be better?   Sure, they can. For that to happen, Love must play the five spot a la Kevin Garnett in Boston and Brooklyn or Bosh with Miami. That would allow Cleveland to outrun their opponents, spread the floor and free up the paint for James. Also, instead of Love sacrificing his scoring averages and field-goal attempts, Irving has to sacrifice his scoring average and become more of a facilitator. Right now, Irving’s assists average (4.8) is at an all-time career low.

Stefanos Triantafyllos, NBA.com/Greece: The big difference is experience. In Cleveland there is no Flash, no Bosh and no Allen. Love and Irving have all the potential in the world, but none of them have proven themselves in postseason basketball. Moreover they have a rookie coach who is trying the adjust in the NBA playing style. I am sure that the Cavs will get better, because they have the most important thing: talent. Don’t forget that back in 2010 when LeBron took his talents in Florida, the Heat had a 9-8 start.

Marc-Oliver Robbers, NBA.com/Germany: The main difference is the experience. LeBron had Dwyane Wade on his side. A superstar, Finals MVP and NBA Champion. In addition Chris Bosh, who came to South Beach as the All-Time Leading Scorer of the Toronto Raptors. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love might be as talented as Bosh and Wade, but they haven’t the experience yet. Both haven’t played any postseason game. This is the first time in his career Irving has teammates who are better than he is. He has to adjust his game and that needs time. The same with Love. He’s now only the third option. That’s quite new for him. Give them the time they need and you will receive a big outcome.

Morning shootaround — Nov. 24


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov.  23

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Wallace: Marc Gasol isn’t going anywhere | Hornets struggling to fix internal issues  | Celtics’ Green dismisses trade chatter | Clippers testy after latest road loss

No. 1: Wallace: Marc Gasol isn’t going anywhere — Count Memphis Grizzlies general manager among the folks in the mid-south tired of discussing the departure of All-NBA center Marc Gasol via free agency. According to Chris Wallace, it’s not going to happen. Gasol won’t see free agency if Wallace has his way.It’s a non-issue in the Grizzlies’ front office, per Edward Santiago of ChrisRadio.com:

The Memphis Grizzlies have been a perennial playoff team, and contender the last four years. This week on Celtics Beat Larry H. Russell gets a chance to talk to Memphis Grizzlies General Manager Chris Wallace about his days in Boston and how he built the Memphis Grizzlies.

Is there any specific way to build a team? “Well, I think you take what’s given as sort of a sports cliche … we’d love to have a star too that’s a top 3 player in the league. But we can’t stop operations waiting for that Messiah to arrive.” Memphis certainly isn’t a historical franchise like the Lakers or Celtics, and isn’t a free agent destination like Los Angeles or Miami, but they’ve done things right through free agency. the draft, and trades.

The famous trade during the tenure of Chris Wallace in Memphis is the one that swapped the Gasol brothers, and brought Marc over to Memphis for brother Pau. “We had to do what was right for this franchise and it worked out.”

“Sometimes when you move a major player, it’s not the old Mickey Mantle for Hank Aaron type things where we flip baseball cards. Sometimes you have to get a variety of assets and that’s what we did. Draft picks, the rights to Marc Gasol, and cap room.” That was a rare trade that worked for both teams. The Lakers won two championships, and the Grizzlies have been an elite team.

Building a team the way they have the Grizzlies have been one of the most competitive teams in the league the last few years. “Other than the Spurs series two years ago where we were unfortunately swept the other times when we’ve been knocked out of the playoffs it was in the seventh game … Despite the fact that you may not see us frequently on National television, we like to think we have a pretty good team here and a team that will be a challenger in the Western Conference.”


VIDEO: Marc Gasol goes to work for the Grizzlies (more…)

Morning shootaround — Nov. 23


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 22

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Cavs have glass jaw | Even grudges are big in Texas | Different gold-bricked roads for Kobe, Dirk

No. 1: Cavs have glass jaw — We’re not sure what rock-bottom is yet for a team projected to be a solid NBA championship contender if not the favorite, but judging from the somber words of LeBron James, the Cavs are pretty close. He used the word “fragile” to describe the 5-7, underachieving team after a 17-point thumping at home Saturday to the — look out, now — East-leading Raptors. The Cavs were up 18 points and then blew it, which pretty much fits the description of fragile. LeBron was careful not to reveal any signs of cracking himself, because as he correctly suspects, his team will then follow his lead. But all in all, it’s been a disastrous start for the Cavs. They’ve dealt with a bit of everything: surprisingly docile play from James, accusations of ball-hogging from Kyrie Irving, complaining from Kevin Love about his role in the offense and a murmur of discontent in Cleveland about new coach David Blatt and whether the Cavs could waste a season while trying to sort it out. Here’s Chris Fedor of the Northeast Ohio Media Group training a critical eye toward LeBron:

King without a crown – One week after being named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, LeBron James has played the biggest role in his team losing four straight.

He’s the best player in the NBA and he hasn’t played like it. If James plays like he is capable of the Cavs don’t have as many questions.

He’s the leader of the team and his actions and discouraging body language are not setting a good example. He has said the right things before and after games, but the words are hollow when James doesn’t follow through when the game starts.

It’s his team. Everything starts and ends with him. In the four-game losing skid, James is averaging 18.5 points, shooting 41 percent (28-68) from the field and 66 percent (12-18) from the free throw line. He also is averaging 5.0 rebounds, 7.0 assists and 4.5 turnovers. Those numbers aren’t bad…until you remember we are talking about the game’s most talented player and a four-time MVP.

The Cavs, in spurts, can play well without James. On Wednesday against San Antonio, the team outscored the Spurs 31-30 while James was resting. But few teams can play to that level consistently when the best player is not himself.

The Cavs need more from James and will continue to struggle if he doesn’t pick up his play. When James plays well the Cavs tend to win. When he doesn’t they struggle.

***

No. 2: Even grudges are big in TexasChandler Parsons returned to Houston on Saturday and booed every time he touched the ball. That’s a big switch from a year ago this time when he was a very popular player for the Rockets. As you know, things happened: He took Mark Cuban’s $15 million a season, went to a rival, and when asked about the difference between Dallas and his former city, Parsons described Houston as “dirty.” As they say, don’t mess with Texas. Anyway, it got a bit rough for Parsons, who was whistled for a few key fourth-quarter fouls and was late with a potential game-tying jumper at the buzzer. Parsons hasn’t had a terrific start for the Mavs; he’s a third option (as he was in Houston) and still trying to mesh. Jenny Creech of the Houston Chronicle caught up with Parsons after the loss:

Last week, Mavs owner Mark Cuban joked Parsons would be cheered by the women and booed by the men.

“I told him I knew a few girls who would boo, too,” Parsons said.

But he took it all in stride. Parsons’ focus has nothing to do with fan reaction these days. He is trying to earn his large paycheck on a team with championship aspirations.

Entering Saturday, when he scored only eight points, Parsons was averaging 14.5 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He had a rough start but has grown into his role and is happy.

“I didn’t fit in too quickly,” he said. “I struggled a little bit early, and you are going to have off nights, trying to get used to everybody.

“It’s a different city, different team, different coaching staff, different terminology. It’s all pretty foreign. It’s going to take a little bit, but these guys make it easy and coach (Rick) Carlisle’s system is perfect, I think, for the way I play, and I am happy.”

***

No. 3: Different gold-bricked roads for Kobe, Dirk — This might have gotten lost in the last few days but there was an interesting exchange of financial philosophies shared by Kobe Bryant and Dirk Nowitzki, two of the league’s most important players of the last decade. Both have been free agents recently — twice for Dirk — and neither left the only team they’ve ever known. The difference is Kobe has remained among the game’s highest-paid players, to which he has made no apologies for, while Dirk was willing to take a pay cut. This season Kobe is the game’s highest-paid player at $23 million while Dirk is fourth-highest on his team at $7.8 million. Kobe thought it was silly for Dirk to play for such a pittance and took another swipe at the owners and the salary cap system. Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com tried to sort it out:

“Did I take a discount? Yeah,” Bryant said after a morning shootaround here, when he discussed his contract more than at any point since signing it.

“Did I take as big a discount as some of you fans would want me to? No.

“Is it a big enough discount to help us be a contender? Yeah.

“So what we try to do is be in a situation where they take care of the player and the player takes care of the organization enough to put us in a championship predicament eventually.”

Bryant almost certainly didn’t mean to use the phrase “championship predicament.” But if it was a Freudian slip, well, it sure was fitting.

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban stated the obvious about his squad: Nowitzki’s deal made a huge impact in helping shape the roster, giving them the financial flexibility to add the high-profile and, more important, promising young free agent in Chandler Parsons that they had been chasing for so long.

“To me, it’s not about money, it’s about winning,” Cuban said. “Different players have different attitudes.”

Could a player make $24 million in the NBA’s current punitive financial climate (as Bryant does this season) and legitimately say they’re interested in winning?

“Yeah, of course, as long as you can convince everybody else that you need to come play for the minimum,” Cuban said with a laugh.

Cuban has long been poking fun at the Lakers on this topic, once calling them Shaq, Kobe and the “band of merry minimum [-salaried players]” in 2000 during Cuban’s first season as an owner.

Nowitzki echoed Cuban’s point that his deal was about winning, not money.

“I wanted to be on a good team,” Nowitzki said. “I wanted to compete my last couple of years at the highest level. Ever since after the championship, we had a couple of rough years. We missed the playoffs one year, were the eighth seed twice I think, so that was really the main decision. I wanted to play at a high level my last couple years, and it kind of worked out with getting Parsons, with getting Tyson [Chandler] back here. We feel like we’ve got a good group, and hopefully we can make it work.”

Bryant argued that Nowitzki’s deal meant the German forward “wasn’t playing in Los Angeles,” and that difference matters.

After all, the Lakers have a 20-year, $3 billion deal with Time Warner Cable that hinges on ratings. They need Bryant, not only for that, but to justify ticket prices, to keep interest high during lost seasons. His value goes far beyond the court.

Yet the high cost of paying their cash cow what he legitimately might be worth ultimately hurts the Lakers’ efforts to build around him, to be a contender.

***

Morning shootaround — Nov. 22


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 21

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Wall aces crash course | Crisis time in Cleveland? | Report: Jeff Taylor won’t appeal | Scene of the ouch! for Bulls

No. 1: Wall aces crash course — Two nights earlier, Washington point guard John Wall had been in the middle of a crash-and-burn against the Dallas Mavericks. Coach Randy Wittman directed some criticism directly at his point guard while imploring the Wizards to prove they truly had grown up.
That crash-and-burn turned out to be a crash course for them, Wall in particular, as Washington righted itself in a key third-quarter stretch to beat the highly touted (if currently sideways) Cleveland Cavaliers in the first sellout of the season at Verizon Center. Here’s how Michael Wallace of ESPN.com saw the performance as more than just a one-off for the hungry Washington team:

Two days after Wall was called out and took responsibility for the Dallas loss, he shouted back with one of his most complete games of the season. It was a transformation from third-quarter scapegoat on Wednesday to third-quarter catalyst Friday, having scored 17 of his game-high 28 in that period.

Wall relished the opportunity for redemption on several levels. In addition to his stretch of turnover problems Wednesday, Wall also missed 12 of his 17 shots against the Mavericks. That kept him in the practice facility for an extended shooting workout that lasted nearly an hour after Thursday’s practice.

Another motivating factor, although Wall repeatedly downplayed it publicly, was his matchup with point guard Kyrie Irving, who was selected No. 1 overall a year after Wall was taken with the top pick in 2010. Wall has felt overlooked and underappreciated nationally when compared with Irving.

And it was also an opportunity for Wall to shine in a nationally televised game and return some of the same lessons on patience and process to the star-studded but struggling Cavaliers that [LeBron] James, then with the Miami Heat, used to routinely offer to Wall during tough stretches for the Wizards. The Wizards (8-3) are off to their best start in 40 years, but they lacked a signature victory over a quality opponent after losing to Miami in the season opener and recently to Toronto and Dallas.

***

No. 2: Crisis time in Cleveland? — At the other end of the floor in Washington on Friday night, the Cleveland Cavaliers were in such disarray that even those inclined to cut them slack – Hey, this is what Miami went through with its initial Big Three team in 2010 – were backing off that rationale. These Cavaliers have issues specific to them, because their roster is different from that Miami squad and so is their personality. Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love are not Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh, in terms of their games or their accomplishments when they teamed with LeBron James four years ago. And though he might over time establish himself as a peer, coach David Blatt is an NBA tenderfoot compared to Erik Spoelstra when he had “The Heatles” land in his lap. Spoelstra already had coached two full NBA seasons, which gave him 164 games and two playoff appearances in this league more than Blatt arrived with this summer. The Cavs’ senior traveling beat writer, Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal, offered his impressions after the disconcerting, double-digit loss Friday in his enumerated fashion. Here are some of his thoughts:

1. Eleven games into the season, the Cavs are in the dark, David Blatt is concerned about everything and LeBron James is quoting Martin Luther King, Jr. If there is a “Break Glass in Case of Emergency” fire alarm inside Cleveland Clinic Courts, you get the feeling Lou Amundson is looking for the hammer.
2. I’m not sure how we’ve advanced so quickly from James saying he was happy with the progress the Cavs made in Thursday’s loss to the Spurs to now James writing this King quote on Twitter: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” It all feels like a bit of an overreaction, even though admittedly this was a terrible loss to a quality opponent.
3. The most alarming part of this loss, at least for me, was the awful body language displayed by most everyone – beginning with James. He failed to get back defensively on multiple plays, hung his head and walked off the floor when he was clearly irritated with a Dion Waiters 3-point attempt and simply did not set the right example. He wasn’t alone, but as the leader of the team the rest of the players are going to follow his lead.
4. He got away with some pouting in Portland. I understood the message he was delivering about sharing the basketball and selfish behavior. But he can’t keep doing it. James admitted Friday he saw the bad body language displayed by just about everyone.

7. In their recent four-game winning streak, which included victories against the Nuggets, Pelicans, Celtics and Hawks, the Cavs averaged 119.3 points, 28 assists, 11 turnovers and shot 51 percent. In the three losses since they’re averaging 88.3 points, 18 assists, 17 turnovers and are shooting 41 percent.
8. There is no excuse, ever, for a team with this much offensive firepower to score 78 points in a game. It was easily a season low, as was the 36 percent shooting night.

***

No. 3: Report: Jeff Taylor won’t appeal — Given the length of the suspension (24 games) imposed by NBA commissioner Adam Silver on Charlotte’s Jeff Taylor for his domestic assault case, it was expected that the NBA players’ union would step up to challenge the penalty. It was, after all, far longer and more harsh than had been imposed in the past for similar and even worse transgressions, as pro sports and the culture at large look anew at such incidents. What wasn’t expected was that Taylor might opt not to appeal, accept Silver’s determination rather than seek arbitration, get his name and reputation out of the media and serve out the final 13 games (on top of 11 already missed) before resuming his NBA career. But that’s what Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported:

Despite the pronounced public backing of his union, Charlotte Hornets forward Jeff Taylor will not file an appeal to the NBA for a 24-game suspension centered on a domestic abuse incident, league sources told Yahoo Sports on Friday.

National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts ripped NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s punishment as “excessive and without precedent” in a statement on Thursday. The union was eager to challenge the NBA on the severity of the suspension based on the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

Nevertheless, Taylor, 25, and his agent chose to accept the suspension and sit the remaining 13 games until he can return to the lineup. Taylor has already missed 11 games stemming from the incident, which occurred prior to the start of the Hornets’ training camp in late September.

Taylor could’ve appealed the decision to an independent arbiter, but Silver and the NBA believed strongly that the commissioner has wide authority to consider domestic violence cases on a per-incident basis.

Taylor pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor domestic violence charge in Michigan. Taylor had a physical encounter with a woman with whom he was having a relationship at an East Lansing, Mich., hotel.

***

No. 4: Scene of the ouch! for Bulls — Maybe no one ever promised the Chicago Bulls a Rose Garden on their visits to Portland, but this Moda Center trend is getting ridiculous. Playing in the arena where they lost Derrick Rose last November to a second season-scuttling knee injury, the Bulls knew a day earlier they’d be without Rose again (left hamstring), as well as Pau Gasol (left calf) and Kirk Hinrich (chest contusion) when they faced the Trail Blazers on Friday night. So the outcome, a lopsided 105-87 loss, wasn’t a surprise. But adding another injury — Taj Gibson (left ankle) to their already lengthy list of sidelined vital pieces was. And it won’t service Chicago well as it continues its lengthy “circus trip” that won’t end until December. Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com had details:

Every time the Bulls come to Portland lately it seems as if something bad happens. Friday night’s game was just the latest example of that. Damian Lillard dominated a depleted Bulls’ squad … The Bulls came into the game having lost eight of their last 10 games in Portland, giving up an average of 101.5 points in each contest according to ESPN Stats & Information. After the Trail Blazers’ latest triumph, the Bulls have now lost seven straight games here.

Aside from the loss, the bigger issue on this night for the Bulls was the fact they lost [Gibson] to a sprained left ankle that could keep him out a little while. Gibson had to be helped off the court by his teammates in a scene similar to the one Rose endured last season. While Gibson’s ankle injury isn’t nearly as serious as Rose’s knee injury was, it had to feel like déjà vu for Bulls’ personnel to see Gibson head to the locker room on crutches and in a walking boot after the game.

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t want to hear about the parallel storylines after the game, believing the injuries Rose and Gibson sustained could have happened anywhere.

“I don’t get caught up in that stuff,” he said. “Injuries are part of the game. If a guy gets hurt, he gets hurt. But it’s not the building, it’s not any of that stuff. Injuries are part of the game so you just deal with them.”

His players understand that, but they didn’t feel the same way about the bad mojo that seems to come their way every time they play in Portland.

“F— this place,” one player muttered in the locker room as he peeled off his jersey.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Breaking: Indiana’s Paul George is still out – and likely to stay that way, no matter how good he looks in civilian life. … Ever wonder what Dallas owner Mark Cuban has to say during games (other than to referees, that is)? HBO’s Real Sports provides answers. … Phoenix guard Eric Bledsoewalks back” some of that bravado about the University of Kentucky being able to whomp the Philadelphia 76ers. … That might have changed anyway if a report about Andrei Kirilenko landing in Philly proves to be accurate. … The Minnesota Timberwolves walked in the Indiana Pacers’ shoes, having to face the NBA champions without four-fifths of the Wolves’ starting lineup. And no, wise guys, it wasn’t a good thing.

 

Relax? Easier said than done for LeBron


VIDEO: LeBron James says being patient this season has been a challenge for him

Maybe if Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers weren’t otherwise indisposed, LeBron James could have called on him to offer words of advice to Cleveland fans worried about, and NBA experts critical of, the Cavaliers’ unimpressive 5-5 start.

But it’s not clear that James’ message is as simple as “Relax.”

James’ needle was pointed in that direction when he announced his return to Cleveland in July, though that part of his message might have gotten swamped in the exuberance of The Decision II. He has said at various times in the preseason and early season that it would take time for the re-tooled Cavs to find their groove and identity. Heck, James said it in several ways as recently as Wednesday night, after a 92-90 home loss to San Antonio had them sifting through the disappointment for bright spots like some wannabe lottery team.

But his tone had shifted significantly by Friday morning, after Cleveland’s shootaround in Washington for its game with the Wizards (8 p.m. ET, ESPN). Had Rodgers shown up to drop a “R-E-L-A-X” on James at the Verizon Center, the four-time MVP might have sacked him. As reported by Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group:

“That’s my biggest test,” [James] said. “My patience, I have a low tolerance for things of this nature, so it’s something I’m working on as well, which I knew from the beginning, that it was going to be my biggest test to see how much patience I have with the process.

“What helps me out is that I’ve been through it before, but at the same time, I’m a winner and I want to win and I want to win now. It’s not tomorrow. It’s not down the line. I want to win now. So, it’s a fine line for me, but I understand what we’re enduring right now.”

That differs from the essay James penned with SI.com’s Lee Jenkins when he chose to return to Cleveland over extending his stay with the Miami Heat. Remember?

I’m not promising a championship. I know how hard that is to deliver. We’re not ready right now. No way. Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested.

For the record, the Heat started 9-8 in James’ first year in south Florida, teaming with stars (Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh) who were more advanced in their own careers than Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. But they figured things out in time to reach The Finals.

Also for the record, the Cavs faced a tough back-to-back this weekend against the Wizards on the road and then home against Toronto Saturday. Oh, and the Packers were 1-2 when Rodgers urge calm on the cheeseheads of Packers nation. They’ve gone 6-1 since.

Morning shootaround — Nov. 21


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 20

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Pierce: Rivalry with LeBron ‘misunderstood’ | Cavs’ Love still searching for his role | Van Gundy fires back at Markieef Morris | Rivers standing by Redick

No. 1: Pierce: Rivalry with LeBron ‘misunderstood’ — The Cleveland Cavaliers from LeBron James‘ first tour of duty there took on Paul Pierce‘s Boston Celtics crew in two separate East semifinals series (2008 and ’10), losing both times. Those matchups — plus others between James’ Miami Heat teams and Pierce’s Celtics, and later, Brooklyn Nets — spurred a notion that Pierce and James don’t like each other personally. In an interview with J. Michael of CSNWashington.com, though, Pierce says that’s hardly the truth:

For Friday’s showdown between the Wizards and Cleveland Cavaliers, there are so many subplots in play: The preseason war of words between the backcourts; the rivalry between the teams during LeBron James’ first stint with his hometown team; and Eastern Conference playoff position. But the main plot will focus on Paul Pierce and James.

“I think a lot of it is misunderstood. If I see LeBron walking down the street, it’s not going to be no fistfight. I got a lot of respect for him,” said Pierce, who had triumphs and failures against him as a member of the Boston Celtics and last season with the Brooklyn Nets. “The competitive nature of both of us, being at the same position, being on top teams, gunning for the same trophy year in and year out, that’s where that comes in to play. It’s like fighting for the same girl. Why do I want to be cool with that guy?

“I’ve got total respect for him as a person. It’s just the things that we go through are all on the court and that’s where we leave it.”

“It’s something about great players when they play in certain arenas, when they play against other great players they elevate their play,” Pierce said about the stakes being raised Friday. “LeBron is one of those guys. He feels the moment. He understands the moment. This could be a moment tomorrow. We’ve got to be prepared for it.’

More wisdom from Pierce:

  • On the Cavs now: “Their record doesn’t show how good they’re going to be. … We’re going to have a lot of games like this throughout the course of the year. We got to be ready for this. We got to start expecting playoff-type atmospheres, playoff-type level of play. It’s time for us to start raising our level of play when these type of teams come in, Dallas, Cleveland, whoever.”
  • On James’ return home: “I was definitely surprised. With the run that they had in Miami, them going to four straight Finals that that wouldn’t deter him, losing in the Finals. I thought they built something special there. Obviously, Cleveland has a special place in his heart and he felt like he left something behind but it’s good for him. It’s good for the game of basketball. Shifts the balance of power. We know how tough it is to  put together a team and try to win a championship in that first year which makes the Eastern Conference that much wide open.”

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Fixing defensive downfalls remains job No. 1 for Cavaliers


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses what the Cavs must do to shore up their defense

CLEVELAND – It sounded like the old Steve Martin joke, advising people how to be a millionaire and never pay taxes (“First, get a million dollars. Then…”). Someone asked Gregg Popovich how he and his San Antonio coaching staff get players not known for their defense to “buy in” to the Spurs’ system so they uphold that team’s stingy reputation.

“I don’t bring anybody in like that,” Popovich said after the Spurs’ shootaround session Wednesday at Quicken Loans Arena. “Except maybe [Marco] Belinelli. He’s trying.”

Even the trigger-happy Belinelli got vetted through Tom Thibodeau‘s five-guys-on-a-string tactics in Chicago for a year before Popovich and general manager R.C. Buford signed him in July 2013.

The Cavaliers imposed no such prohibitions when they came together this offseason, parts being bolted around LeBron James in a flurry of trades and free-agent acquisitions. The incumbent backcourt of Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters had no particular defensive chops. Power forward Kevin Love racks up formidable rebounding numbers but otherwise hadn’t shown much defensive proclivities. Center Anderson Varejao is energetic and aggressive in the paint, but Love and Tristan Thompson aren’t bonafide rim protectors. Shooters Mike Miller and James Jones are, well, shooters. And even James’ defense seemed to slip a notch in his last season with Miami.

Through nine games, Cleveland’s defensive rating of 108.3 was tied for fifth-worst in the league. That’s not just worse than his Heat team’s performance last season (102.9), it’s worse than the 2013-14 Cavaliers managed (104.8) on their way to a 33-49 record.

The Cavs have given up 100 points or more seven times, and their defensive effective field-goal percentage of .536, which adjusts for the premium on 3-pointers, is third-worst in the NBA, better only than the Lakers (.551) and Minnesota (.559). The breakdowns in Cleveland’s schemes are clear, from zone coverage to pick-and-roll misdirections to some poor or lazy individual habits.

So while everyone has focused on the blending of offensive styles and responsibilities of James, Love, Irving and the rest, Cleveland opponents have found it awfully easy to score – a flaw the Cavaliers can’t afford to ignore.

“I don’t think it’s something you learn on the fly,” James said Wednesday. “I think it’s something you work on every single day. You teach it, you preach it, you demand it. I didn’t come [into the NBA] as being a big defensive guy. I played defense and my high school coaches did preach it, and we knew in order to win, we had to defend. This is a different level.

“When [former Cavs coach] Mike Brown came to this team, that was just his whole mindset, saying, ‘If we don’t defend, we can’t win.’ And he preached it every day. It was just instilled in us as players. You’ve got to teach it, you’ve got to preach it, you’ve got to demand it every single day.”

Sounds like current Cavs coach David Blatt is there now, too.

“You have to raise the level of expectation,” Blatt said the other day, “and the level of accountability, and you have to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Sometimes if you’re not blessed with great individual defenders, your principles have to be that much stronger, and your helps and your court recognition have to be that much better. And that’s why it’s taken us longer in that area of the game than on the offensive end.”

San Antonio, by contrast, ranks third in the NBA in defensive rating (96.0) after finishing fourth (100.1) last season and tied for third (99.2) two years ago. A team whose main pieces have been together for multiple seasons might be expected to have an edge, though effort and priorities matter as much or more.

The Cavs’ familiarity will grow, but it’s on them to drag the defense along. Bumping up Shawn Marion‘s minutes has helped some, and there has been chatter about pursuing Timberwolves wing Corey Brewer in trade. Still, a roster overhaul is unlikely and any defensive makeover will require lipstick (and more) on what so far has been a pig.

“Defensively we just need more than anything to just trust each other,” Love said. “We’re all capable, especially as a team. We’ve got to take the individual battle. But at the end of the day, we need to trust each other that we need to help each other out.”


VIDEO: LeBron James is driven to get the Cavs back to winning consistently

 

Morning shootaround — Nov. 19


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Nov. 17

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Anthony dealing with knee ‘soreness’ | James wants less minutes for ‘Big Three’ | KG hoping Kidd gets warm Brooklyn reception | Cuban takes shot at Lakers

No. 1: Anthony dealing with knee ‘soreness’Carmelo Anthony has played fantastic of late, averaging 30.4 ppg over his last five games. Unfortunately, his New York Knicks are 1-4 in that span, a stretch that includes last night’s failed comeback attempt against the Milwaukee Bucks. After dropping 26 points on the Bucks, though, Anthony revealed to the media that his left knee has been giving him some trouble since opening night. Peter Botte of the New York Daily News has more:

Carmelo Anthony laid on a training table in the visiting locker room for several minutes, his left knee being iced down following the Knicks’ failed comeback bid in a 117-113 loss Tuesday to the Bucks.

Anthony left the court briefly in the second quarter to have his left knee retaped before returning to play 20 of 24 minutes in the second half – and finish with a team-high 26 points in 37:45 overall.

But the $124 million All-Star revealed he’s been playing with some “soreness” in his left knee “since the Cleveland game” on Oct. 30, and acknowledged that he recently “had some (medical) tests” on that leg, although he wouldn’t reveal any specifics.

“I don’t think it’s serious. I’m out there playing. I don’t think it’s that serious,” Anthony said after the game. “My knee was bothering me a little bit. The tape job I had on it, it kind of got wet a little bit. I started feeling it a little bit after that. I cut the tape off on the bench and I started to feel a little bit more pain. I had to come back and get it retaped. It felt better once I got it retaped. I banged my knee when I had to dive on the ball with Giannis (Antetokounmpo), I banged my knee on the floor. It was sore from that point on.

“I’ve just been trying to go through it and play through it and not kind of think about it. Some days are better than others. Today once the tape came off of it, I felt it. When I banged it on the floor, it made it worse.”


VIDEO: The Bucks hold off the Knicks in Milwaukee

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Report: Bosh didn’t want ‘pressure’ of title chase with Rockets

You know the old saying: If you can’t stand the heat, stay with the Heat.

That’s pretty much the admission that Chris Bosh made about his decision last summer to turn down the free-agent offer to chase another championship or two with the Rockets.

When LeBron James chose to leave Miami and return to the Cavaliers in July, it was generally believed that Bosh would make a perfect fit with fellow All-Stars Dwight Howard and James Harden in Houston.

The Rockets made Bosh a max offer of four years, $88 million. The Heat eventually got him to stay for their own max of five years, $118 million. And it’s hard to anyone to tell someone else to simply give up $30 million.

But it wasn’t solely about the money. Bosh told Ken Berger of CBSSports.com that after four years of living under the microscope of intense scrutiny in Miami, he was ready to, well, not put so much effort into intensity-filled title chase:

“I could see where people would think that’s an attractive site,” Bosh told CBSSports.com, speaking of Houston, where half the NBA expected him to land back in July. “They were trying to win right away. And I was really happy to be touted that I possibly could’ve been out there. But you know, that doesn’t guarantee anything, and I know that. All that guarantees is a bunch of pressure.”

Before you jump on Bosh for taking the easy way out, consider what the past four years were like for him. He was never the most important corner of the James-Wade-Bosh triangle, except when he missed an open jumper or flubbed a defensive assignment. He had to sacrifice and unlearn key parts of his game to adapt to the more dominant talents and personalities around him. For four years, every day in the life of the Miami Heat was like being on tour with the No. 1 artist in the land.

The perpetual chase, the championship-or-bust environment, the celebrity status afforded basketball’s three-headed monster — all of it wore on James, who spoke often last season of the mental fatigue of pursuing a fourth straight trip to the Finals. Everyone was so busy chronicling James’ every word that they forgot to ask Bosh what he thought.

It wore on him, too.

“It’s incredibly difficult to win a championship,” Bosh told CBSSports.com. “I know that, and I know it’s a whole process.”

The Rockets had pushed all their chips to the center of the table in pursuit of Carmelo Anthony (who chose to stay in New York) and then Bosh, a perfect complement to Howard and Harden. With James gone and with Rockets GM Daryl Morey clearing the runway for Bosh to chase a third ring as the third wheel in his home state of Texas, it all seemed to be a fait accomplit. The Rockets sure seemed to think so.

“Did they?” Bosh told CBSSports.com. “… I think they’re still in contention for it even without me. It’s free agency. It’s a crazy time. It just kind of got crazy real fast and then it settled down completely.”

It did so when Bosh chose to settle down in Miami, a place that he and his family have adopted as “pretty much our second home,” he said.

“I’m familiar with people,” Bosh said. “I know how to get to work. And if there’s traffic, I know the shortcuts. It’s those small things that I really love about the city and I love about being comfortable that guided me back. And you know, if you can make a couple of dollars on the side, then it works out.”

Dwyane Wade’s veteran perspective


VIDEO: Derrick Rose takes another spill and tweaks both of his already tender ankles

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Dwyane Wade remembers those days when he was crashing to the floor on almost every other possession and he could bounce up like nothing happened, when his body allowed him to do things only the best of the NBA’s best could do.

It seems like a lifetime ago for the Miami Heat’s veteran superstar, whose stellar career has been marked by injury issues in recent years. Wade is still one of the league’s elite players, of course.

But his body hasn’t allowed him to be that player every night. So if anyone understands the plight fellow Chicago native Derrick Rose is living through now — trying to get back to MVP-level after two tumultuous years dealing with severe injuries, it’s Wade.

When Rose talks about taking things easy now because he’s thinking about the future, it produced chaotic reactions around the basketball world, including a parade of former players and pundits eager to indict him for not being true to the game.

But when Wade said it wouldn’t be wise to push it on a sore hamstring before sitting out a recent game against the Atlanta Hawks, no one blinked.

The Heat star talked about Rose, life after LeBron James, reinventing yourself in the second half of your career (like Kobe Bryant)  and the veteran perspective he has acquired over the years during a recent interview with NBA.com …

 NBA.com: I remember when you were a young player and throwing your body all over the place and other people were saying you needed to be careful. How cognizant are you as a young player, thinking about the future and worrying about your body?

Dwyane Wade: I don’t think it’s something that is on your mind until something serious happens. For me, when I had my shoulder surgery, that’s when I started thinking differently. A serious injury, a surgery shows you that none of this is promised to you. And that’s when it really sets in for you as a player.

NBA.com: A lot has been made of Derrick Rose and his comments recently about how he’s going to approach things. Some people took it as him saying he wasn’t going to go as hard. What did you make of his comments and the fallout?

DWade: When you have serious injuries the way he has, your mindset is going to be a little different. There’s no way around that. It doesn’t mean you don’t love the game and you are not going to give it your all. It just means that you know, if this happened to me once it could happen to me again. And you start thinking about things in that context all the time. It’s inevitable, at least in the way you think about things.

NBA.com: One day you’re 20 or 21 and invincible and the next day you wake up and realize you’re not Superman anymore. How hard does that hit you as an elite-level athlete?

DWade: At some point you have to put all of that in perspective. But I don’t ever think it’s going to be at 19, 20, 21 or when you are in your physical prime without any issues. We shouldn’t expect that. But at some point, you would hope that each individual comes through this game has a moment when they realize things have to be done differently. You don’t ever like to see guys you play with go through the struggles, on or off the court, there has to be a point when you slow down, recognize where you are in your career and make the necessary changes to do things in a way that allow you to be effective for whatever stage of your career you are in. You have to learn through the process of growing and maturing and learning how to handle yourself from being young to being a veteran.


VIDEO: Dwyane Wade and LeBron James formed one of the most dynamic duos in NBA history

NBA.com: There’s that word, process. Speaking of that, how has this process worked for you guys, trying to reinvent yourselves from the Big 3 with LeBron to the team you are now?

DWade: It has been interesting, this process, and there is that word that has been used and overused around here the past few years. But that’s the best word to describe it, really. It’s been a journey and for us it’s been a good change. But it’s still early. The frustrations haven’t set in yet. I don’t care who you are, when you go through a NBA season there are bound to be some frustrations and some adversity. And you don’t know what you have until you go through those things, deal with them and come out on the other side. It’s early still. Everything is still fresh. It’s good to have wins like we had in Dallas. But then it’s good to come back and have a tough home loss to Indiana. It is a bad loss. But that is the ebb and flow of a season. It’s different, though, especially for myself and Chris [Bosh], taking on a new challenge that we haven’t really had the last four years, and making it work.

NBA.com: One of the biggest differences has to be the glare of the spotlight you had compared to the one you’re dealing with now. Every practice and every shootaround doesn’t seem like a made-for-TV event anymore, does it?

DWade: [Laughing] It’s actually cool for me. Listen, we didn’t run from the spotlight or anything when we had it. We took everything that came with it and owned it. Now that it’s off of us, it’s fine. We understand that it’s been shifted, the spotlight has been shifted and let them [Cleveland] enjoy that right now. Besides, you never know how things might change in this league. One minute you can’t get out of the spotlight and the next it’s gone anyway.

NBA.com: It’s funny you mention how quickly things change. I was telling someone the other day about covering the Heat in the playoffs your rookie year when you played point guard. And they argued me down that you never played point guard …

DWade: I might not have been a “point guard”, per say, but that’s what I played then. It was fun to come into the league and find my way.

NBA.com: Does it seem strange to you know, at 32, being on the other side, so to speak, and looking back at where your career has taken you from experimental point guard back then to where you are now?

DWade: I came in as a point guard and now I’m a post-up player [still laughing] … I mean, I do pick and rolls now, but I came in as a point guard and we run most of our post-ups now for me. So you have to understand that the the game evolves, the world evolves, the world around you evolves.

NBA.com: That’s spoken like an old(er) and wise man. You’re only 32, right?
DWade: It’s just the reality of the world we live in, as professional athletes and people in general. You look at technology and how much it has changed from my rookie year until now. And it’s the same thing with sports. You have to look at all the different changes and how you can change and stay relevant. And I think of all of the players you don’t see around now, guys that you say, “man, they should still be playing,” and they’re not here. Then you look at a guy like Kobe Bryant, and he’s found a way after all these years to still be Kobe Bryant and evolve with the game and figure it out, through all of the injuries and ups and downs. You figure it out. And that’s how you have longevity.


VIDEO: Dwayne Wade’s still got it 12 seasons into his future Hall of Fame career