Tag Archives: Lebron James

NBA’s Bubble Bursting with Rash of Injuries to Superstars

The NBA’s decision to restart the 2019-20 season is coming back to haunt them as star players drop like flies with major injuries. Think back to last August when the talk of an NBA bubble was ruffling the feathers of some of the league’s biggest stars, including its biggest in LeBron James.

It was so much of an issue that players led by James and Kawhi Leonard nearly walked out, taking the hopes of a restart with them. We know that the bubble ultimately went smoothly, but that stance is back at the forefront.

NBA’s Quick Turnaround is Coming Back to Bite Them in Playoffs with Injuries to Stars

Bad News

Los Angeles Clippers superstar forward Kawhi Leonard suffered a knee injury in Game 4 of the Western Conference Semifinals. Reports are that it’s feared to be a torn ACL which would, obviously, knock him out of the postseason.

James took to social media to voice his displeasure retroactive to the quick turnaround after last season. In a four-part Twitter thread, the 17-time All-Star began by saying “They all didn’t wanna listen to me about the start of the season. I knew exactly what would happen” before sending prayers to Leonard on his recovery.

He (Leonard) just the latest in a long line of big-name players to be sidelined due to injury this season. It’s a season, by the way, in which studies have shown a major increase in soft-tissue injuries.

ESPN broke the story and mentioned the impact was magnified amongst the game’s stars.

Throughout the season we lost superstars like James, James Harden, James’ teammate, Anthony Davis, and so many more. It stands to reason as they are on the floor and have the ball the most. We know that. And, to James’s point, they put the most stress on their body. This is where the sympathy for the players ends, though.

If You Only Knew

Not to pick on James, but he is the vocal face of the league and spoke on this in real-time. His entire thread is flawed. Remember this story about the Lakers and Clippers, led by James and Leonard, nearly walking out of a meeting in the bubble after voting to cancel the playoffs?

How, then, are we supposed to rally behind the players when they apparently felt one way about starting the 2020-21 season but acted in another?

No, this isn’t slinging blame on the players for trying to protect their income. Anyone who works would likely have made the same decision. However, that person would not then get to stand on the other side and point a finger if things didn’t work out.

Would this be the stance if the Lakers were still alive in the postseason? Maybe, but chances are you wouldn’t hear it voiced in this fashion.

Maybe the frustration of it all played a part in lashing out. But players legitimately almost kept the bubble from happening. Why then couldn’t they combine the forces of what is viewed as one of the stronger player unions in pro sports and hold off the start of the season? If they truly “know about the body and how it works all year round”, then why not present that information?

Injuries Making NBA, Star Players Feel Effects of Quick Turnaround

The answer put simply is they made a business decision. When weighing the risks of playing after such little time off versus those of missing out on salary. Again, it’s an understandable position to take for anyone, not just in regards to the NBA’s injuries.

Just don’t be surprised when the calls for sympathy or the “I told you so” attitude falls flat. You already knew what would happen!

Triple Zeros: Phoenix’s Sun is Setting in Lakerland

Triple Zeros

Phoenix’s Sun is Setting in Lakerland

In this episode of Triple Zeros, Josh talks about Chris Paul and the Phoenix Suns being up against it versus LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers. He also goes into the state of the other series in the 2021 NBA Playoffs. Then things switch over to the NFL as the Julio Jones saga took another twist this week on national television. Also, do QBs like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson mean it when they say they want out? All that and so much more!

Anchor | Apple

Chicago Bears Players with the Most to Prove in 2021

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NBA Teams Getting Hot Just in Time for the Playoffs

The 2021 NBA playoffs are set to begin in just over two weeks and, if you’ve been keeping track of all the injuries, they can’t start soon enough. But a more direct question is which teams are getting their act together just in time for the second season. The ones that have weathered the storm and now have their collective sights set on a greater accomplishment than a top-seed.

Which NBA Teams are Getting Hot at the Right Time for the Playoffs?

The Grinders

Washington Wizards

We keep trying to write the Washington Wizards off and they just won’t go away. After an 0-3 start to April, the Wizards went 13-3 the rest of the month. They’ve split their two games so far this month, but are now in 10th and have a shot at the playoffs via the play-in. Say what you want, but this is a team that was supposed to be dead in the water. All of this is gravy for Russell Westbrook and puts Bradley Beal in an interesting position regarding his long-term future.

Denver Nuggets

Everyone (present company included) thought the Denver Nuggets ship was sunk when Jamal Murray went down. Well since then, Denver is 9-2, the second-best record in the NBA over that span. Nikola Jokic has averaged 27.1 PPG, 10.9 RPG, and 6.9 APG. Those numbers are down from his full-season averages, but part of that is due to the emergence of Michael Porter Jr. He’s been a top-20 scorer since Murray went down, averaging 25.0 PPG while shooting nearly 57 percent from the floor and over 49 percent from deep.

The Surprises

New York Knicks

A hot start by the upstart New York Knicks gave way to a lull that most probably saw coming. After all, this team is overachieving by most standards. It would make sense for a late-season swoon from a bunch of guys not used to winning. But the bounceback was strong with this one and the Knickerbockers, fresh off of a 6-9 stretch, have won 12 of 13, including nine in a row. There aren’t many teams that want to face this team in the postseason.

Phoenix Suns

We did an entire write-up on Chris Paul and how his impact on every team he’s been on has allowed him to be one of the few who escape the “rings or bust” narrative we often see around the game’s greats. Pairing him with Devin Booker has proven to be trouble for the rest of the West. Granted, injuries have run amuck in the NBA and Western Conference teams haven’t been immune. But, at a certain point, durability is just like any other skill.

The Disappointments

Lake (No) Show

Injuries have been a constant this season so barring any extenuating circumstances, it isn’t an excuse for our purposes. As such, the defending champion Los Angeles Lakers are limping their way to the finish line as Anthony Davis and LeBron James both knock off the rust from extended absences. It isn’t wholly unexpected, they and the Miami Heat (who have also been ravaged by injuries and COVID protocols) had just a little over two months between seasons. Basically, in this case, “disappointment” is less of a pejorative and more so just an acknowledgment.

Boston Baked Cs

Another focus of a Clocker Sports write-up, the Danny Ainge Boston Celtics have seen the sheen wear off of them. So much so that there were even questions of whether or not Brad Stevens was the right man for the job. They too have dealt with injuries and shook up their roster with mid-season trades. But for a group that has reached the Eastern Conference Finals in three of the last four years, anything less than an NBA Finals appearance will be viewed as a failure. They’re 2-4 over their last six but they do have one of the easier remaining schedules.

Risers and Fallers Ahead of NBA Playoffs

The NBA Playoffs are right around the corner and most of these teams are doing the right things to get themselves prepared. But things can change so they have to keep up the intensity down the stretch. For those on the skids, at least those in our examples, returning players and weaker opponents appear to be saviors on the horizon.

Triple Zeros: “That? That’s Desperation…”

Triple Zeros

“That? That’s Desperation…”

Josh talks about the Houston Rockets snapping their 20-game skid and reacts to HC Stephen Silas’s reaction. He also assesses the impact of injuries to LeBron James and LaMelo Ball on the NBA’s award races before talking about the Boston Celtics’ and other crazy trade ideas ahead of the trade deadline. Then, things switch over to the NFL where the topics include former Alabama receiver DeVonta Smith‘s response to weight concerns, Mel Kiper Jr having four straight QBs coming off the board in his latest mock, and frivolous free-agency spending. All of that and much more in this episode of Triple Zeros!

Chicago Bulls: 4 Trades That Won’t Break the Bank

2021 NFL Free Agency Winner and Losers

Anchor | Apple

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Triple Zeros: Super Bowl Sunday and the NBA MVP Race

Triple Zeros

Super Bowl Sunday and the NBA MVP Race

Josh starts by getting into the storylines of Super Bowl Sunday outside of Tom Brady and Patrick Mahomes. He then refutes Tedy Bruschi‘s assertion that Matthew Stafford “isn’t tough”. He also takes an early look at Kevin Durant, LeBron James, and the chances of others in the NBA MVP race and takes a quick victory stroll over his Tyrese Haliburton hype. All that and much more in this episode of Triple Zeros!

Anchor

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Looking at the NBA MVP Race and Its Many Faces

There are many faces, old and new, vying to take home the NBA MVP award this season. Whether or not they will win is a matter of perception just as much as it is on their performances. Whoever gets it will have earned it because the caveat of it being “in the bubble” is no longer an issue. The return of fans has brought some atmosphere back to games; just ask the Lakers.

Last year’s (and the year prior, for that matter) winner, Giannis Antetokounmpo isn’t likely to make it three-straight. His numbers are down almost across the board, most notably from deep and at the free-throw line. Both were areas of concern he was making strides in.

So Clocker Sports is taking a look at the top candidates for NBA MVP so far. We’ll go into the case being made in their favor, and take a look into why voters might hesitate to select them.

The Many Faces of the 2021 NBA MVP Race

1. Kevin Durant

Just a couple of months ago this space was used to make a case for Kevin Durant to win the defunct ‘Comeback Player of the Year’ award. Based solely on off-season workouts and pick-up game footage, it was clear Durant would be returning at least close to the level of play he enjoyed pre-Achilles injury. Just 17 games into the season and Durant is putting up numbers close to his MVP-winning 2013-14 campaign.

Durant has the Brooklyn Nets as the current three-seed in the East despite starting 5-5 to begin the season. His 30.8 PPG is second in the NBA and the second-best mark of his career. He’s shooting better than 53 percent from the floor, again the second-best mark of his career, and hitting a career-high 45 percent of his triples. Durant’s averaging 32.2 points, 7.8 boards, and 5.4 assists per contest in his last 11 games.

The only argument one could make against him is his supporting cast in James Harden and Kyrie Irving is second to none. We’ve seen in the past how having a stellar teammate or two can detract from your efforts in the eyes of voters and fans. But consider Irving’s flakiness or Harden’s defensive issues and ask yourself if Brooklyn, who was the seventh seed last year, would be in the position they’re in without Durant.

2. LeBron James

You’ve heard all the narratives. 36-years old, washed, etc. All have been used to describe LeBron James in recent years just to have him go out and show why those assessments were misguided. Last season he helped bring the Los Angeles Lakers back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013 and their first championship since 2010.

We thought James would ease into the season considering, well, his reaction to the quick turnaround and the sentiments of teammates. While he isn’t leading the league in assists, he’s still leading his team in that category, scoring, and is second on the Lakers (third place in the West) in rebounds. Not bad for an over-the-hill, washed, superstar, huh? Only the foolhardy bought into that narrative.

James got dinged in the MVP race last year and voiced his displeasure. He’ll likely have to do so again because, while Anthony Davis isn’t having the MVP-type season we predicted early on, he’s still a perennial All-NBAer and arguably top-five in the Association. Perhaps the dip in Davis’ numbers can actually be used to boost the argument for James as MVP.

3. Joel Embiid

The best player on the best team in the East, Joel Embiid is having his best season since the 2018-19 campaign, of not his career. Averaging a personal-best 28.6 points and 1.2 steals per game, he’s also knocking down shots at career-best clips slashing .549/.423/.843 and a .588 eFG%. He and Tobias Harris have enjoyed Doc Rivers’ arrival on an individual level the most.

It’s a continuation of last year’s playoffs when Embiid put up 30.0 PPG (a career-high) and 12.3 RPG. Over his last eight games, Embiid is putting up 33.3 PPG and 10.5 RPG. More importantly, the Philadelphia 76ers are 8-0 in those games and 1-2 without him in that span. Philly lost the other two games he’s missed this season as well; not so uncertain evidence.

As always with The Process, it could come down to health. Embiid missed all of his first two seasons as a pro and has yet to appear in more than 64 games, though to be fair, that was his mark in 2019, and the pandemic shut down the season last year. If Embiid can stay on the floor, he has a legitimate shot at being the first center to win the MVP since Shaquille O’Neal in 2000.

4. Nikola Jokic

The Joker is currently the odds-on favorite to win the Maurice Podoloff trophy, thanks in part to his 47-point outburst against the Utah Jazz the other night. Nikola Jokic, much like Embiid before him is experiencing a banner year. He’s sitting with career-highs in points, rebounds, assists, and steals. This, unlike Embiid, is an improvement upon last year’s playoff performance.

Jokic has scored fewer than 20 points just four times this season, and in two of those outings, he had 19 points. He’s only failed to grab double-digit boards four times as well. In three of those performances, he had nine rebounds while he had eight in the other. No player has more 19-plus point, 10-plus board double-doubles than Jokic this season. We haven’t even addressed his passing of which he has nine games with double-figure dishes.  He also has five triple-doubles; tied with Luka Doncic for the lead.

Of course, we can’t let it all be rainbows and puppies. Some of the issues that may come up in the discussion in regards to Joker must be addressed. We cannot ignore that his career scoring year comes with a career-high in usage and shot attempts. Denver was also the three-seed last year and sits at fourth currently. That’s is the smallest of regressions but it must be noted. The Nuggets are getting better production from non-Jokic and Jamal Murray pieces, too. Will that hurt him when the vote comes?

5. The Field

The rest of the list gets kind of cluttered with some decent cases, but not many strong ones. Giannis’ case is the strongest. The reigning back-to-back winner is having a down year, yes. But we know how he goes, so go the Milwaukee Bucks. And for all the picking apart of his game, he still has the Bucks sitting second in the East. Not bad for a guy who can only run and jump.

Paul George has gotten a lot of love for his “redemption” season. Many will overlook his numbers simply because it’s happening in the regular season. ‘Playoff P’ is the guy we all want to see. But he has a bigger problem: Kawhi Leonard. Not only is Leonard ahead of George in PPG, but he’s also ahead in FG% while only slightly trailing in 3P%, rebounds, and assists. This isn’t saying George isn’t having a great year. Just remember who he plays with.

You’ll get calls for Davis to get consideration but, ya know, LeBron. Damian Lillard’s Trail Blazers are 11-9 right now. That ain’t getting it done. Doncic was a preseason favorite but Dallas is 9-13 and he has struggled from deep this season. Still, he has as good of a shot as anyone listed at getting back into the thick of the race. That’ll require some more wins and the Mavericks are fresh off a six-game slide.

Triple Zeros: The King, the Sniper, and the MVP Award

Triple Zeros: The King, the Sniper, and the MVP Award

Josh flips the script and leads with some NBA talk on MVP frontrunners, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. Then he gets into the NFL and the latest on Deshaun Watson, Matthew Stafford, and other quarterbacks expected to be on the move. That and so much more in this episode of Triple Zeros.

Anchor | Apple

Follow Josh on Twitter @JoshGBuck and follow the pod on Twitter and Facebook @3ZerosPod.

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Triple Zeros. This is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. DangeRuss.

Triple Zeros: WTF, WFT?

Triple Zeros: WTF, WFT?

NFL

🏈Undefeated No Longer
🏈Gase Firing Folks

NBA

🏀Melo ‘7’ Again
🏀Bron Talks Kyrie
+More!
 
 

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Triple Zeros. This is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. his is content to help reach the green light. Tis is content to help reach the green light. Ths is content to help reach the green light. Thi is content to help reach the green light. DangeRuss

With Friends Like James Harden, Who Needs Enemies?

Polarizing is a word that fittingly describes the kind of player James Harden is. Some view his style of play as innovative and unique; a skill set he has honed through practicing tough shots and understanding the rule book. Others would call it a detriment to the game. An abuse of poorly written and unevenly called rules. The amount of discussion coming from either side, though, shows just how high of a profile Harden has.

News broke on Wednesday that the Houston Rockets and Washington Wizards had agreed to swap star point guards. Russell Westbrook to Washington and John Wall to Houston. It’s been reported that Harden and Wall have worked out and played in open runs together for some time now. The move has received all sorts of reactions, just like anything else Harden does.

Harden Running Out of Friends to Help Him

Okay, But Why?

Some say this is a move designed to keep Harden interested in staying in Houston. Recent attempts to get over the hump in the postseason have all fallen short. We can go back to the Dwight Howard experiment but let’s instead focus on Chris Paul’s time in H-Town. There was much consternation about how they would coexist being as ball-dominant as they are. They worked well enough for folks to hypothesize that if Paul doesn’t get hurt the Rockets might make some noise.

Well, Paul got shipped out after two seasons. One of which they lost to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors in seven games. Injuries had always been a part of Paul’s history so an injury possibly derailing a playoff run is plausible. When Harden told reporters after they got bounced in 2018 that he knew what had to be done, the writing was on the wall.

Houston shocked the world again. They made another trade for what most considered an unmovable contract when they swapped CP3 for Russell Westbrook. After failing to click with the Point God, Harden now had his childhood friend for a running-mate. Unfortunately, Westbrook’s style caused the Rockets to change up their roster. They went with a small-ball approach. The tallest person on the floor for them often standing no taller than 6-foot-7. That ended with a five-game series loss in the second round. Again to the eventual champion, this time in the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now, even with Daryl Morey no longer in the fold, the Rockets have swapped unmovable contracts. The move is receiving mixed reviews. Some argue the Rockets won. On top of keeping Harden happy, they get rid of Westbrook whose style isn’t conducive to winning. Others will argue the Wizards won because of the off-the-court issues Wall has had as well as the complicated relationship with (and reaction to the team building around) Bradley Beal. Oh, and Wall, who hasn’t played since the 2018-19 season, is returning from serious injuries including a torn Achilles.

Same Difference

The tale of the tape is quite interesting. Wall is the bigger of the two and has the higher assist average. This is more than a little surprising given Westbrook’s three-year run of averaging a triple-double. But Wall had a three-year stretch where he averaged better than 10 dimes per game. The difference is Wall has never been the kind of shot-seeking scorer that Westbrook is.

Brodie has eight seasons (out of 12) averaging greater than 18 shots per contest. Wall, aptly nicknamed ‘Optimus Dime’, has but one. Westbrook is the more voluminous scorer too, but Wall takes the efficiency advantage everywhere but at the free throw line.

Perhaps ideally, in the mind of Harden and Rockets brass, is that Wall can be a happy medium between Westbrook’s explosiveness (a nice compliment to Harden’s lull-you-to-sleep style) and Paul’s pass-first mentality. That is if he is happy and focused. Going to a competitive situation in Houston after being in the tumultuous one in Washington will help. As will the singing of Demarcus Cousins; a friend of Wall’s going back to their day at the University of Kentucky.

We’re all missing the forest for the trees, though. It doesn’t matter if this will work for the Rockets (it won’t). Nor does it matter who won the trade (the blogosphere). No, what matters here is that Harden has cycled through a fair amount of friends for teammates and hasn’t figured out the right fit yet. At some point the question needs to be asked if building around him is worth it.

The Real Culprit

This isn’t an attack on his playing style, either, outside of his willingness to be complimentary. There aren’t many, if any, situations where Harden would be a second option but he could still benefit from being a better compliment on the floor to his team. Instead of standing in the corner watching the action when off the ball, become a better, more active cutter. Instead of dribbling out the shot clock on every possession, allow yourself to be more of a part of a system that get more guys involved.

Yes, star players are supposed to touch and shoot the ball more. Harden’s 36.3 usage rate in 2019-20 is second only to Michael Jordan’s ‘86-’87 season (38.3) in NBA history. With nowhere close to the hardware as ‘His Airness’, and a history of fading in the postseason, that number could stand to drop even if only a little bit. The last player to win a championship with a usage rate in the 30s was LeBron James in 2012-13 with the Miami Heat. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant, two of the most efficient scorers in NBA history, haven’t even done it.

It’s a big deal that the Rockets and Wizards pulled this trade off. We just need to recognize what the real story is here: Harden is the problem, not his teammates. At some point, it is no longer everybody else, it’s you. We are seeing this response to Paul George who is implicated in reports of dysfunction in the Los Angeles Clippers organization and now taking thinly-veiled shots at former coach Doc Rivers.

Harden’s passing of the buck isn’t as blatant as George’s was. But, even with the statements before the CP3 trade, the constant cycling of supporting cast speaks volumes. Talking heads have just overlooked it because the Rockets keep putting together intriguing groups. This time though, with a move that might be best described as lateral, we might be reaching the end of this case study. It’s been theorized that the Wall and Cousins moves are independent of a decision to move Harden, though that seems unlikely.

Rough Being Friends with James Harden

We saw Harden slapping Paul’s hand away on the sidelines and read the reports that Harden and Westbrook had bumped heads on occasion. These incidents get viewed through the lens of isolated incidents or as the fault of the other guy. Maybe rightfully so, none of the aforementioned teammates were choirboys. But the common denominator, and dominator of the situation, is James Harden. As a player who has been vocal about his scoring accolades, he needs to be a leader and own up to and adjust his ways.

Unless, of course, he truly doesn’t care about winning