LeBron James

Western Notes: Thunder, Rockets, Morey, Doncic, LeBron

Over half of the NBA’s teams are either currently hosting fans at their home games or have announced plans to do so soon. However, the Thunder won’t be joining that list. The team sent out an email to season ticket holders confirming that fans won’t be allowed to attend games at Chesapeake Energy Arena for the rest of the season, as Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets.

The decision was based on several factors,” the Thunder said in their email, according to Mussatto (Twitter link). “The ultimate one being that the overall health and safety of our fans and our community is the most important thing to us.”

Let’s round up a few more items from around the Western Conference…

  • Multiple sources within the Rockets organization believe that former general manager Daryl Morey decided to leave the team last fall in part because he expected James Harden would want out, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN. According to MacMahon’s sources, Morey had expressed reservations last summer about his ability to “keep James happy” without the assets necessary to keep upgrading the roster.
  • Mavericks guard Luka Doncic has been downgraded to doubtful for Wednesday night’s game vs. Oklahoma City, but a source tells ESPN’s Tim MacMahon that Doncic is still expected to play in this weekend’s All-Star Game even if he sits out tonight. Doncic is also tentatively on track to participate in the Skills Challenge.
  • Lakers star LeBron James, who ranks fourth in the NBA this season in total minutes played, will sit out the second half of the team’s back-to-back set on Wednesday, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link). According to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, James will receive treatment on his left ankle, but like Doncic, he expects to play in Sunday’s All-Star Game.

California Notes: Poole, LeBron, Kings, Wiggins

Anthony Slater of The Athletic wonders if second-year reserve point guard Jordan Poole should be given the keys to the Warriors‘ bench ahead of current main backup point guard Brad Wanamaker.

Poole has struggled to carve out consistent minutes in Golden State’s rotation this season, as he appears better-suited toward a play-maker role than an off-ball one, and yet he has frequently been slotted in the latter position to accommodate Wanamaker. Poole has flashed his bona fides in the NBAGL Orlando “bubble” thus far, averaging 22.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 3.8 APG in eight games for the Santa Cruz Warriors.

There’s more out of California:

  • Lakers All-Star forward LeBron James is happy with his heavy minutes load, even in his 18th NBA season, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. In February alone, James has played more than 40 minutes in four games. “This is a fast turnaround from last season, and we all wish we could have more rest,” James acknowledged. “But I’m here to work, I’m here to punch my clock in and be available to my teammates.” With starters Dennis Schroder and Anthony Davis both recently sidelined, James has been needed more than usual to help Los Angeles. He is currently averaging 35.0 MPG.
  • Kings backup swingmen DaQuan Jeffries and Robert Woodard II represent the ideal athletic, big wing defenders Sacramento’s front office is targeting, writes Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee.“Toughness on the defensive side of the ball is definitely something [Jeffries] brings,” center Richaun Holmes said. Kings head coach Luke Walton also expressed excitement for Woodard. “Woodard, obviously he’s a rookie and he needs a ton of experience himself, and he’s getting some good experience down in the [NBA G League] bubble right now.”
  • Warriors assistant coach Ron Adams lauded the defensive development of swingman Andrew Wiggins, according to Drew Shiller of NBC Sports Bay Area. “His total defensive game is coming along,” Adams said. “He’s getting better on the help side.” Adams cited one area in which he would like to see Wiggins continue to grow. “Like any player he has a few things he can improve — we’d like to see him rebound [he’s averaging 4.7 per game] a little bit better.”

Pacific Notes: LeBron, Kerr, Green, Payne

Lakers superstar LeBron James acknowledged he must adjust due to the absence of Anthony Davis, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. James finished with 19 points (and four free-throw attempts) in the team’s loss to Miami on Saturday, mostly playing facilitator as the Heat double-teamed him throughout the game.

“I think that’s what it all boils down to, and right now is another challenge for me, to be able to adjust,” James said. “Not having AD for a long period of time is something that we haven’t had over the last year and a half, and now it’s time for me to adjust again and see ways I can be even more effective to help this team win ballgames. Because that is the sport that we’re in.

“We’re in the winning business, and I’ve always been a winner. So, it’s time to click into that.”

Davis is expected to miss at least another week or two with a calf strain, while starting point guard Dennis Schroder is out due to the league’s health and safety protocols. The Lakers have lost two straight games and currently own a 22-9 record — tied with the Clippers.

Here are some other notes from the Pacific Division tonight:

  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr believes Draymond Green let his emotion get the best of him in the final seconds of Saturday’s game, Nick Friedell of ESPN.com writes. Green was ejected in the 102-100 loss to the Hornets, picking up two technical fouls in the heat of the moment and giving Charlotte the two free throws that tied the game. “He crossed the line,” Kerr explained. “That’s the main thing. We love his passion and his energy. We would not be the team we are without him, but that doesn’t give him license to cross that line, and he knows that.”
  • While still too early to seriously discuss, the outspoken Green is seen as a strong candidate to become a broadcaster once his playing career ends, Richard Deitsch of The Athletic writes. In addition to frequently speaking his mind, the Warriors forward has a high basketball IQ and is a three-time NBA champion.
  • Suns guard Cameron Payne had a tough road back to the NBA, Brian Snyder and Greg Moore examine for the Arizona Republic. Payne has once again served as a valuable asset for Phoenix this season, averaging 7.3 points, 3.8 assists and 17.7 minutes per game. He’s also shot 49.5% from the field and 45.7% from deep.

2021 NBA All-Star Game Starters Revealed

The NBA has revealed its 2021 All-Star Game starters. Here are those names:

Eastern Conference

After missing all of the 2019/20 season while he recovered from a ruptured Achilles tendon, Durant is making his triumphant return to the All-Star Game. In his first appearance as a Brooklyn player, the 11-time All-Star will captain a team, having led the Eastern Conference in fan votes.

[RELATED: Community Shootaround: Eastern All-Stars]

This is the seventh All-Star appearance for Durant’s teammate Irving. Antetokounmpo, the reigning two-time MVP, has just made his fifth All-Star game. A frontrunner for the 2021 MVP award, Embiid is appearing in his fourth such contest. Beal will be making his first All-Star start after playing as a reserve in the 2018 and 2019 All-Star contests. The Wizards are the No. 13 seed in the East.

Western Conference

James, who was the top vote-getter in the Western Conference and the entire NBA with 5,922,554 fan votes, will again be a team captain. He will be suiting up for his 17th All-Star appearance, the third-most ever behind only fellow Laker legends Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (19 appearances) and Kobe Bryant (18). James was previously tied for making the third-most cumulative All-Star contests alongside Hall of Fame Nets and Sixers wing Julius Erving, who was selected into five ABA All-Star games and 11 NBA All-Star games.

Jokic, an early top MVP contender along with James and Embiid, will earn his first All-Star start in his third appearance in the game. Curry will partake in his seventh All-Star contest, while Leonard has just been voted into his fifth All-Star game.

[RELATED: Community Shootaround: Western All-Stars]

Doncic barely edged out Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard to be the second All-Star guard next to Curry among the starters, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports tweets. Despite extended absences from starters CJ McCollum, Jusuf Nurkic, and Zach Collins, the Blazers boast an 18-10 record, good for the No. 4 seed in the crowded West, largely thanks to Lillard. The Mavericks, meanwhile, are 13-15, the No. 10 seed in the West.

As was the case during the last two years, the top vote-getters of each conference will captain a team, and will be able to draft players from either conference. The “Elam Ending,” which made the conclusion of last year’s game much more entertaining than it had been in recent years, is set to return again this year.

Earlier today, the league officially announced that the 2021 All-Star Game is set to take place at State Farm Arena in Atlanta, as a one-night event on March 7. The evening will also include its three All-Star weekend mainstay events: the Skills Competition, the Three-Point Contest and the Dunk Contest.

A full list of fan voting totals is viewable at this Twitter link, courtesy of Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. The complete voting breakdown by position and conference, including media and player votes, can be found at the bottom of this press release.

The league will announce the 14 players who will comprise the All-Star reserves on Tuesday, February 22, at 7 p.m. ET, per Omari Sankofa II of the Detroit Free Press (via Twitter).

Lakers Notes: Matthews, Vogel, LeBron, Schroder

Wesley Matthews helped the Lakers secure an overtime win over the Thunder Monday night in a rare high point of a frustrating season, writes Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. After not playing at all for 10 days, Matthews got an opportunity due to any injury to Alex Caruso and responded with 16 points. His time with L.A. hasn’t gone the way he expected after signing as a free agent during the offseason, but he doesn’t regret the decision.

“No, it didn’t make me second-guess anything,” Matthews said. “It’s just a matter of time. … Since entering this league, nothing has gone according to what I would have dreamed of being an NBA player. … It was unfortunate, but at the same time, it’s your job to be professional. It’s your job to stay ready.”

At age 34, Matthews is adjusting to a new role after being a starter for most of his career, including 67 games with the Bucks last season. He said he appreciates coach Frank Vogel’s honest approach when he decided to trim the rotation.

“He knows the conversation isn’t going to be easy. I know the conversation isn’t going to be easy,” Matthews said. “But the conversation needs to take place just so that you can get the best out of somebody. … Conversations can be difficult. They need to be had and I didn’t love anything he had to say, but your job is to be professional. Your job is to play basketball and cheer on your teammates and be supportive and be a pro.”

There’s more on the Lakers:

  • LeBron James said it was “very inspiring” to watch Tom Brady win a seventh Super Bowl at age 43, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. James, who is sometimes compared to Brady for their ability to remain productive past normal retirement age, has no time frame in mind for ending his career. “I don’t know how long I’m going to play the game,” James said. “I don’t know how much more I’ll be able to give to the game. The way I feel right now, we’ll see what happens. But I have no timetable on it. I have no year of, ‘OK, do I want to play until 30-this or 40-that?’ The game will let me know when it’s time, and we’ll figure it out then.”
  • Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times examines the reasons for James’ longevity and finds it’s a combination of three factors — continuing to improve his skills, remaining committed to health, and fitness and mastering the mental part of the game.
  • Dennis Schroder knew he had to take on a complementary role to James and Anthony Davis when he was traded to the Lakers, Turner writes in a separate story. Schroder adapted right away and has become the third-leading scorer on the team at 14.4 PPG. “I play with the two best players in the world,” he said. “So, for me, I try to adjust to this group, to them, it’s big time. I think I just got to be more aggressive taking the right shots and putting them in good position to score and play a lot faster.”

And-Ones: All-Star Game, Super Bowl, Trade Restrictions, Jerebko

LeBron James publicly spoke out this week against holding an All-Star Game this year. Several other stars have joined that chorus, according to Eric Woodyard of ESPN.

Giannis AntetokounmpoJames Harden and Kawhi Leonard also made their feelings public on Friday after the league and Players Association agreed to hold an All-Star Game in Atlanta on March 7.

“I’ve got zero energy, zero excitement,” Antetokounmpo said. “At the end of the day, if they tell us we’re going to show up, we’ve got to do our job. … Inside, deep down, I don’t want to do it. I want to get some break.”

We have more from the basketball world:

  • The league is discouraging players and personnel from holding Super Bowl parties, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. They are not permitted to gather outside of their home for Super Bowl Sunday. At home, individuals are expected to watch the game only with household members. Team members that are on the road may host up to four family members or close friends in a hotel with advance testing.
  • Trade restrictions on most free agents that signed contracts this offseason have been lifted, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets. A total of 90 players that signed offseason deals are trade-eligible, while 29 others are still restricted in some fashion, Marks adds. However, there haven’t been any trades on the date that those restrictions were lifted in prior seasons, dating back to 2012, Marks adds.
  • Former NBA big man Jonas Jerebko had his contract with BC Khimki Moscow terminated last month and he told Swedish news organization Aftonbladet that his time there was an unpleasant experience, Sportando relays. The dispute began when Jerebko asked permission to visit his family in December. “The day before departure my agent writes me. He told me I could stay at home. Coach said I might not come back. It was not such a difficult decision to stay at home when he said so. Since then, there have been some non-payments and stuff like that.”

And-Ones: Vaccines, Ball, Trade Candidates, Defenders, All-Star Voting

In an effort to alleviate players’ – and some coaches’ – fears and skepticism about receiving COVID-19 vaccines, the NBA is arranging mandatory meetings over the next two weeks between its top medical expert and all 30 teams, Sam Amick, Joe Vardon and David Aldridge of The Athletic report. Teams felt there was a need to provide information and insight on this issue to its players.

The NBA wants everyone associated with the game — players, coaches, referees and chief front office personnel — to get the shots, not only for safety reasons but also as part of a national volunteering-public relations campaign.

We have more from around the basketball world:

  • LaMelo Ball ranks as the leading candidate for the Rookie of the Year award, according to Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report. The Hornets guard ranks first in assists and steals, second in rebounding and third in scoring among all rookies despite coming off the bench in all but two games. Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton sits in second place for Wasserman, who ranks the rookies from 10-1.
  • With Wizards guard Bradley Beal apparently off the market, there won’t be another blockbuster trade this season to rival the James Harden deal, Tim Bontemps of ESPN opines. Some of the players who could be moved by March’s trade deadline are Lonzo BallJ.J. Redick, P.J. Tucker, George Hill, Evan Fournier and Aaron Gordon, though Hill and Gordon are currently injured.
  • Rudy Gobert‘s contract with the Jazz is a rare case in which a defensive stalwart is compensated like a elite scorer, Aldridge notes in a separate Athletic story. Aldridge takes a closer look at why top defenders are generally not as valued as scorers.
  • Kevin Durant has received the most All-Star votes in the early returns, JD Shaw of Hoops Rumors tweets. Beal is the top vote-getter among Eastern Conference guards. LeBron James has the most votes among Western Conference forwards and Stephen Curry leads all Western Conference guards by a wide margin.

LeBron James Speaks Out Against All-Star Game

LeBron James has been an All-Star for the past 16 seasons, but he doesn’t believe this year’s game should be played, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

The most prominent voice among NBA players, James told the media after Thursday’s game that he believes it’s a mistake to hold the event while the pandemic continues. Twenty-three games have been postponed since the season began.

“I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year,” he said. “I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game.”

James is also unhappy about not having a mid-season break after a short offseason, calling it a “slap in the face” for him and his teammates. Because last year’s NBA Finals lasted through October 11, the Lakers had just 71 days off before training camp began.

The NBA and its players union reached an agreement Thursday to hold the game March 7 in Atlanta, rather than Indianapolis, which had originally been scheduled to host. Atlanta is one of nine cities currently allowing fans at home games. It isn’t clear whether other All-Star weekend events, such as the skills competition, 3-point competition and dunk contest, will be part of the arrangement.

“We’re also still dealing with a pandemic,” James said. “We’re still dealing with everything that’s been going on, and we’re going to bring the whole league into one city that’s open? Obviously, the pandemic has absolutely nothing to do with it at this point when it comes to that weekend. Obviously, you guys can see that I’m not very happy about it.”

Kings guard De’Aaron Fox was the first player to speak out publicly after the agreement was announced, calling it “stupid” and asking, “If we have to wear masks and do all this for a regular game, what’s the point of bringing the All-Star Game back?”

James adds a very loud dissenting voice, although his objections may not matter now that the union has agreed to go through with the game.

“It’s the agreement that the players’ association and the league came about. … It’s out of my hands,” James said. “I’ll be there if I’m selected. But I’ll be there physically, but not mentally.”

Pacific Notes: Dudley, Suns, LeBron, Davis, Toscano-Anderson

Lakers forward Jared Dudley said the team was motivated by Clippers star Paul George‘s comments last season, with Dudley clarifying further in his book released earlier this week, “Inside the NBA Bubble: A Championship Season under Quarantine”.

“We hear some of those guys talking about how they’re the team to beat in L.A.,” Dudley and co-author Carvell Wallace wrote, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “It’s fine if Kawhi [Leonard] says stuff like that. He’s defending a championship. We don’t trip if someone like Patrick Beverley is talking trash; that’s how he feeds his family. We get it. We respect the hustle.

“But we think it’s disrespectful for Paul George, who hasn’t won, to put himself on the level of [LeBron James] and [Anthony Davis]. This motivates us.”

Dudley also mentioned how the league could benefit from having a Lakers-Clippers rivalry, with both teams seemingly eager to meet in a playoff series — potentially the Western Conference Finals.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns are set to welcome back fans for the first time this season, the team announced on its website. Phoenix will host 1,500 fans on February 8, with suites being available to purchase at 25% capacity for each game after February 7.
  • Marc Stein of the New York times examines the pairing of Lakers superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, exploring whether the duo has gotten even better together since signing long-term extensions in the offseason. Los Angeles has opened the 2020/21 season with a 16-6 record, good for third-best in the Western Conference.
  • Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic looks at the making of Warriors swingman Juan Toscano-Anderson. Toscano-Anderson is in his second season with Golden State, with the 27-year-old adding 16 points off the bench in Tuesday’s loss against Boston. “He has an appreciation for the grind that it’s taken for him to get to this level,” teammate Stephen Curry said. “He has a spirit of representing Oakland. Playing for the hometown team for him has got to be such a dope experience. But when it comes to getting on the floor, he plays hard. He’s a smart basketball player. He’s reliable in that sense. He’s worked for everything he’s gotten, for every opportunity. … He hasn’t taken his foot off the gas pedal.”

Los Angeles Notes: George, Scrubb, James

Paul George is playing with a chip on his shoulder after his subpar performances during last season’s playoffs, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes. George’s shooting percentages are a career best while averaging 25.3 PPG, 6.1 RPG, 5.2 APG and 1.3 SPG. “I’m coming back with vengeance,” the Clippers forward said. “I didn’t like, not so much of the noise and everything around [the way last season ended], but just the fact that people saw weakness. And I had to address that. I had to answer that. That fueled me.” George signed a four-year, max extension last month.

We have more on the two Los Angeles teams:

  • Clippers rookie guard Jay Scrubb got his cast removed last week after he fractured a bone in his foot, Adam Zagoria of the New York Times tweets. He may play during the G League’s “bubble” season in Orlando, which begins next month, Zagoria adds. A second-round pick and last season’s JUCO Player of the Year, Scrubb signed a two-way contract with the Clippers in November.
  • Lakers star LeBron James said that playing fewer minutes during lopsided games has very little impact on him, he noted during a press conference this week. “I’m 36 years old, 18 years in this league. Ain’t no saving something for later on in the season,” he said. “My body is ready to play whenever I need to play throughout the course of the game. … I wish I could ‘bank’ time.” James has appeared in all 14 Lakers games this season, averaging 31.8 MPG.
  • James is making a major swap in the cola wars. He’s signing with Pepsi to promote the Mountain Dew brand, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. James has been endorsing Coca-Cola products since his rookie season in 2003.