LeBron James won basketball
Well, for a few weeks things seemed pretty much set. The Indiana Pacers were the team to beat in the Eastern Conference and Kevin Durant was your 2013-14 NBA MVP frontrunner. This seemed even more likely after the Miami Heat’s broke his nose in a game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Instead, LeBron returned to the court wearing a mask and hit a few milestones of his own to put himself and his team back in the mix of the closest thing to a superhero, or super-villain, depending on one’s allegiances, origin story as the NBA has ever seen.
LeBron James puts on a mask, sets a Miami Heat record
After breaking his nose in a Sunday night game, LeBron James took a few days off to heal before getting back to the floor. While wearing a black, Kato-like mask, LeBron James led Miami to victory over a team that’s still finding lower levels to crash down through. The Heat probably didn’t need any superheroics to help them defeat the Knicks 108-82 that night, but it’s hard to argue that the mask didn’t add to the intimidation factor.
Apparently, and told James that he would have to stick with a less stylish mask next time around. James switched out to a clear mask for their next game, not that it slowed him down. Next up on Monday night, against the Charlotte Bobcats, LeBron James scored a career-high 61 points in the 124-107 victory, the most points scored by a Miami Heat player in game. ()
The weirdest thing about James’s night was that it felt belated. Doesn’t it feel like LeBron James already set the Miami Heat’s all-time scoring record (previously Glen Rice’s 56)? Isn’t it surprising that James had never scored more than 60 points back when he was the only reliable offensive option for the ? Our expectations are so sky high with LeBron that we’re vaguely disappointed that he hasn’t hit all of these numbers already.
It must have been a disappointing night for Charlotte, who, despite their woeful reputation, have taken advantage of the marshmallow-soft Eastern Conference and kept themselves in the playoff mix. While some may want to give James’s 61 points an asterisk because it was against Charlotte, that’s not entirely fair. They , and the fact that LeBron James’s career night says more about James than the Bobcats defense. The person you really had to feel for was Charlotte’s Al Jefferson, who had the misfortune of getting 38 points and 19 rebounds on a night where LeBron James had entered in a “God Mode” code before game time.
Of course, before any concrete MVP columns could be written, the Houston Rockets defeated the Miami Heat 106-103 while the Oklahoma City Thunder beat the 125-92. In that game, Kevin Durant scored 42 points while Russell Westbrook also racked up a triple double in 21 minutes. Okay, wait, are we entirely certain that we’re not entering the realm of superhero movies here?
Danny Granger, Jimmer Fredette find new homes
If there was any doubt that the Philadelphia 76ers sent Evan Turner to the Indiana Pacers to dump salary, it was squelched with their next move. The 76ers bought out former Indiana all-star forward Danny Granger’s contract, allowing him to sign with any team that he wanted. Granger himself probably wasn’t incredibly disappointed in leaving behind one of the worst teams in the for one the best. Granger signed a contract with the Los Angeles Clippers on Friday.
This wasn’t the first post-deadline move for the Clippers. Earlier in the week, former Orland Magic power forward, , Glen Davis decided to sign with LA’s only winning pro basketball team. The fact that the Clippers, of all teams, were able to attract two bought-out veterans after the trade deadline must offer some sort of proof that hiring former Celtics coach Doc Rivers to replace Vinny Del Negro has made it a bit easier for the team to sign free agents. Just the mere fact that Davis is willing to reunite with Rivers, despite a somewhat rocky relationship in Boston, says a lot about how those in the league respect the coach.
The last we heard, NBA draft disappointment Jimmer Fredette was getting released by the Sacramento Kings on his birthday. If a different team had released the former Brigham Young star, this would count as a pretty solid “worst birthday ever” anecdote. Instead, Fredette is leaving behind the team with the second worst record in the Western Conference, that’s been bombarded by relocation rumors since he’s arrived and is currently showcasing an immature star player who .
Now, Fredette is with the Chicago Bulls, a much better situation even if the Bulls are without an injured Derrick Rose for the second straight season and have shipped off Luol Deng to Cleveland. Despite not having the personnel they expected and a rocky relationship with ownership, head coach Tom Thibodeau and once again have the Chicago Bulls playing at a much higher level than anyone could reasonably expect. While it’s not exactly certain how this will help the Bulls this season, where fourth place in the Eastern Conference probably only means an almost impossible early round match-up with the Indiana Pacers or Miami Heat, but the Bulls, like the Clippers, have some pull in attracting free agents thanks to their coaches. That, at least, puts them far ahead of teams like the increasingly dysfunctional Cleveland Cavaliers and New York Knicks.
Jason Collins honors Matthew Shepard
Jason Collins . With the Nets taking a commanding lead over the Chicago Bulls, the team brought Collins into the game, . Collins immediately picked up a foul, because despite the newfound attention as the NBA’s first openly gay player, Jason Collins is still Jason Collins.
The Nets ended up winning 96-80. It’s difficult to argue that Collins affected the outcome of that game, but Brooklyn has been happy enough with Collins to offer him another 10-day contract. Already, the “media circus” that teams in the league, and possibly other leagues, were worrying about . As Collins himself predicted, once the games started, there wasn’t any additional news on the court.
Well, OK, there is a little news off the court. For the first few days that they were offered, Collins’s #98 jerseys were the NBA’s biggest sellers, but the league won’t be making much money on them. Collins is wearing #98 to pay tribute to the late Matthew Shepard, . While this was admirable on Collins’s part, the NBA quickly, and rightfully, announced that profits from the sale of the 98 jersey would (and would amount to a minimum commitment of $100,000). This as a no-brainer on the part of the NBA, as any other decision would look like the league was trying to make money by exploiting a tragedy.
So where are we at with the Jason Collins story? The and Collins both seem happy with what they’re getting, the NBA is raising money for charity and media attention is already starting to slowly drift away. What, then, were are all of these distractions that everyone was worried about again?
The highlight of this 76ers season might be AI’s jersey retirement
The Philadelphia 76ers are 15-46. With the exception of a hot start during the first few weeks, the 76ers have been as bad as they were expected to be before the start of the regular season. Only the 12-47 Milwaukee Bucks have a worse record in the NBA, which is amusing because it felt like the Bucks were actually almost hoping to be competitive before this season began, while the 76ers made it obvious on draft day, where they traded Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for the still-rehabbing Nerlens Noel, that they weren’t planning to be competitive this year.
Considering how widely praised this upcoming draft has been, Philadelphia can be forgiven for not even trying this time around. The only problem with all of this, of course, is that no matter what, it’s always better to give fans a reason to actually want to go to a game. So, it’s not a huge surprise that Philadelphia on Saturday. Philly fans deserve something to celebrate this season.
The event felt rather special, with all of the (not always unfair) criticism levied against Philadelphia sports fans, Saturday’s ceremony emphasized that the stating: “I was their own. I am Philly. It’s going to always be like that.”
Although Iverson’s reputation has been damaged by his combative personality, a drawn-out public decline and a current analytical environment that doesn’t quite embrace high-volume shooters, he was one of the best players of his generation during his peak with Philadelphia. Although none of his teams ever won the NBA championship, something which will be counted as a mark against him even though it’s probably incredibly unfair, he might have been the NBA’s most exciting player in the period between Michael Jordan’s second retirement and LeBron James’s arrival.
Oh yeah, and he also was responsible for .
Iverson won’t be the only former player to have his number retired. The Cleveland Cavaliers plan to retire Zydrunas Ilgauskas’s number on Saturday, a move which is generating a lot of buzz. Of course, that has less to do with Ilgauskas himself than his friend and teammate LeBron James . No matter how many times he tries to say “it’s not about me”, it seems quite clearly that Ilgauskas ceremony will be framed in terms of LeBron James and Cleveland.
It’s going to always be like that.
Other things we’ve learned
• With the trade deadline in the rear view mirror and the mad scramble for cut players nearly complete, it’s now officially not too early to start thinking about the likelihood of your team getting the best possible pick in the NBA draft. OK, if your team is in the Eastern Conference there is a good chance you’ve gotten a head start on the rest of us. Whatever your case, as your team starts lurching towards mathematical elimination, you may want to start bookmarking
• The Detroit Pistons are, reportedly, in what can only be a move to gain the support of lazy, snarky NBA bloggers.
• The Los Angeles Lakers are saying it’s unlikely that point guard Steve Nash will be able to return from injury this season, furthering speculation that both he and Kobe Bryant are accepting that this is a lost season. Bryant almost assuredly will be with the team next season no matter what, .
• New York Knicks fans have hit the point , because that means they’re just asking for the fates to devise something even more horrific for their favorite team to go through. It’s hit the point where New York sports talk radio is actually promoting “Knicks-free” time-slots for those who still want to follow their favorite teams in other sports but break out into hives whenever the Knicks are mentioned.
• And finally, LeBron James and Jimmy Fallon pay tribute to Kurtis Blow: