Archive for April 19th, 2014

Here’s the Miami Herald reporting on the LeBron James and the Heat, who tomorrow begin their first-round playoff series against the Charlotte Bobcats, who are owned by NBA legend Michael Jordan:

James has two NBA championships. Jordan won six. James has four NBA MVPs. Jordan earned five. James is a better athlete. Jordan is a tough competitor. James likes to ride bikes in his free time. Jordan is a golfer. And it goes on from there.

Everyone has an opinion. Even the President of the United States has weighed in on the topic.

Sure, Barack Obama once said James held the world in the palm of his hand, but, given a choice, he probably would pick Jordan to strip that sphere in the open court and glide in for a tongue-wagging breakaway dunk.

“I’m a Chicago guy, and Mike will always be the guy for me,” Obama said in an interview with Charles Barkley in 2012.

Of course, Obama then added to that show of loyalty a mighty large caveat.

“LeBron has the chance to be as good as anybody,” he said.

Here’s ESPN Miami reporting on the Heat, who begin their first round playoff series against the Charlotte Bobcats on Sunday:

Having finished 54-28, the Heat endured their lowest winning percentage of any season since James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh came together in 2010. They’ve survived a seven-month grind during which nagging injuries forced Wade out of the lineup for 28 games and coach Erik Spoelstra to sort through 21 different starting lineups to fill the voids.

Now, the two-time defending champions enter the playoffs older — six of their top nine players are in their 30s — and arguably more vulnerable than they’ve been at any point. In addition to those factors, Miami limped into the postseason having lost 14 of their final 25 regular-season games and failed to secure home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, which proved to be essential last season.

Yet as defiant as they’ve ever been, the Heat insist none of those potential warning signs matter.

“On the outside, there’s more doubt,” said forward Udonis Haslem, who along with Wade are the lone players who have been with the Heat since their first championship season in 2006. “Within here, we’re still confident in one another. We still know what we can do. We still understand what needs to be done and we know how to get it done. From the outside looking in, people might have a different opinion.”

Rockets and Blazers set to battle

Here’s the Oregonian reporting on the Rockets vs Trail Blazers first round playoff series, which begins Sunday:

Bench play figures to be a wild card entering the first-round playoff series between the Trail Blazers and Rockets, if for no other reason than neither team leans that heavily on its reserves.

In the regular season, the Blazers used their reserves the fewest amount of minutes, while the Rockets ranked 25th out of 30 teams.

So when asked whether either team has an advantage, Portland coach Terry Stotts didn’t have an answer.

“I don’t know. It depends on how much either team plays the second unit,’’ Stotts said. “Ultimately, I don’t think either team is going to have five reserves in the game at one point. So the players who play, need to play well.’’

Point guards and big men figure to be the central players in both teams’ bench production. The Blazers’ Mo Williams and Houston’s Jeremy Lin will play the most, while Rockets big man Omer Asik figures to play an intricate role in how Houston defends.

Here’s the Orlando Sentinel reporting on the Magic, who finished the season with a 23-59 record, the third worst in the NBA:

As crucial as the 2014 NBA Draft Lottery will be to the Orlando Magic’s rebuilding efforts — and, make no mistake, the lottery will be vital to the Magic — the team can’t do anything more to enhance its chances for the annual pingpong-ball drawing.

But there are several things the Magic can do to accelerate their rebuilding efforts.

One pertains to Maurice Harkless, Tobias Harris, Andrew Nicholson, Victor Oladipo, Kyle O’Quinn and Nik Vucevic. Simply put, those youngsters need to improve this offseason, and then those improvements need to translate onto the court in tangible ways during the 2014-15 season.

“I’m going to be working on a little bit of everything,” said Oladipo, a 6-foot-4 guard who just completed his rookie season.

Raptors GM sounds off against Brooklyn

Here’s the Toronto Sun with a fun update on the general manage of the Raptors:

The Raptors-Brooklyn Nets series was never going to be a quiet one.

Between the Maple Leafs missing the playoffs eight of nine seasons and the Raptors done by late April for five straight seasons, Toronto fans have been impatiently waiting years for another taste of post-season action.

The Air Canada Centre was bananas from the start Saturday, getting on the visiting Brooklyn Nets, the referees and even Nets coach Jason Kidd. And if that wasn’t enough, scores of people gathered outside at Maple Leaf Square were even more amped up after team president/general manager Masai Ujiri, throwing political correctness out the window, ended an address to the gathered fans in emphatic fashion.

“F— Brookyn,” yelled Ujiri, handing off the mic as he left the stage with Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president and CEO Tim Leiweke, who dropped his head, perhaps thinking, ‘It’s on now.’

Houston Rockets rookie Robert Covington, who has played on assignment with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, was today named the 2014 NBA Development League Rookie of the Year, as voted on by the league’s 17 head coaches. The award recognizes the first-year professional who most significantly contributed to his team’s success during the course of the season.

Covington (6-9, 215, Tennessee State) played in 42 of the Vipers 50 regular season games on assignment from the Rockets, 41 as a starter. He averaged a team-high 23.2 points, good for second-best in the NBA D-League, while shooting 44 percent from the field. He rounded out his stat line averaging a Vipers-best 9.2 rebounds and 2.4 steals, second-highest in the league. During the regular season, Covington led the team in scoring 21 times and was the Vipers leading rebounder in 13 contests. He scored in double figures in 41 of his 42 games in Rio Grande Valley, recording two 40-plus point games and four additional 30-plus point outings.

A 2014 NBA D-League All-Star, Covington scored an NBA D-League All-Star record 33 points, 22 of which came in the game’s final six minutes, en route to earning MVP honors in the game. He connected on 12 of his 23 shots, including four-of-eight three-pointers at NBA All-Star festivities in New Orleans.

“Robert has had an excellent rookie season on assignment with the Vipers,” said Chris Alpert, Vice President of Basketball Operations and Player Personnel for the NBA D-League. “He embraced the opportunity to develop all aspects of his game in the NBA D-League and proved that he is able to perform at a professional level. I congratulate him on such a successful start to his career and look forward to watching his progress with the Houston Rockets.”

Covington helped the Vipers secure the fifth seed in the 2014 NBA D-League Playoffs, averaging 18.3 points in Rio Grande Valley’s first-round match-up against the Iowa Energy, a series the Vipers won in three games. He will re-join the Vipers tonight in Texas for the team’s game second-round playoff game against the Santa Cruz Warriors. Rio Grande Valley currently trails the Warriors 1-0 in the best-of-three series.

Billions of dollars couldn’t completely console Philadelphia 76ers owner Joshua Harris this season.

Being the potential heirs of a franchise that matched an NBA-record losing streak comes with a few hardships as well not usually found in the luxury suites.

“When we lose, even in New York, kids come up to my family’s kids and say, “Hey, the Sixers lost 26 in a row. How do you like that?” Harris said. “We don’t like that. This is my doorman, he says to me, `Hey, can’t you get those players going?”

Get the Sixers going? That was never the point this season, not for a franchise that decided spinning its wheels in mediocrity for most of the last decade was never going to win them a championship. The Sixers needed to gut the roster, collect draft picks, build for the future and lose games.

And lose ‘em big.

So they did, including the whopping 26-game stretch that helped stick them at 19-63 and solidified a 19.9 percent chance at winning the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.

Mission accomplished.

– Associated Press

Here’s ESPN.com reporting on the Los Angeles Lakers, general manager Mitch Kupchak, and aging veteran star Kobe Bryant:

Kobe Bryant looks to be having an excellent anniversary trip in Paris, judging by the photos posted on his wife’s Instagram account, but on the off chance he happened to be watching Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak’s 45-minute news conference Friday to close the worst season since the franchise moved to Los Angeles, there was something Kupchak really wanted him to understand.

“I’ve already used the word patience I think once or twice, so if [Bryant] is in Europe watching this, I’m sure he’s saying, ‘Why is Mitch using the word patience?’” Kupchak said. “He’s not the most patient person in the world. And that’s never going to change.

“Because of that, we’ve been to the Finals a bunch of times and we’ve won five championships. So, it’s hard to criticize him.

“We want the same thing. We both want to win as much and as soon as possible. But it takes an organization a long time to get in the position that we’re in where we have options financially going forward for the next year or two or three and we just have to make wise decisions using that space. If you don’t make a wise decision, then you can set yourself back 6-7 years, and we don’t want to do that.”

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