The Los Angeles Lakers are in the midst of a decided surge, having won four straight games after last night’s 121-113 victory against the San Antonio Spurs. As the Lakers collected their seventh win in their last 10 games, the storyline was the same: LeBron James did the heavy lifting and set the tone in victory.
He finished with a game-high 42 points (on 15-for-24 shooting) to go with five rebounds, six assists and two steals. Over that 10-game stretch, James is averaging 29.5 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.8 assists and shooting 53.7 percent. Still, James has heard some comments over the past week from Lakers legends Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson — and some comments from Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant — on how he should play his game.
After last night’s win, though, James was asked if his performance was fueled at all by the talk surrounding him of late.
“No, for what? I’m past the [taking things] personal stage,” James said after the game. “I can do whatever. I can have a huge workload, I can have a not so huge workload. … It doesn’t matter for me. What’s most important is seeing my teammates make huge shots in the fourth quarter. … That’s what’s most important to me. I can care less about the narrative about me. It doesn’t matter. I’m a staple in this game.”
In a story published by Bleacher Report on Wednesday, both Durant and now-Lakers teammate Tyson Chandler both were quoted about why some star players might perhaps be hesitant to play alongside James. Per Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher, Chandler said:
“If you’ve got LeBron, you’ve got to make it all about LeBron. You’ve got to be able to [coexist] with that and fit with that. Who are you, where are you in your career, and how do you fit in? It’s a sacrifice, but it’s a sacrifice for winning.”
Chandler made the comments to Bleacher Report a few days before he was waived by the Phoenix Suns and then signed with the Lakers.
As for Durant, he said. “It depends on what kind of player you are. If you’re Kyle Korver, then it makes sense. Because Kyle Korver in Atlanta was the bulk of the offense, and he’s not a No. 1 option at all, not even close. So his talents benefit more from a guy who can pass and penetrate and get him open.
“If you’re a younger player like a Kawhi [Leonard], trying to pair him with LeBron James doesn’t really make sense. Kawhi enjoys having the ball in his hands, controlling the offense, dictating the tempo with his post-ups; it’s how he plays the game. A lot of young players are developing that skill. They don’t need another guy.”
Chandler said he spoke to James about his comments to Bleacher Report, which he felt were taken out of context.
“What I said was, when you have a great player like LeBron, I said I’ve only played with one other player like that, and like Dirk, you have to make it about them because of how talented they are and where they can lead you,” Chandler told ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. “And of course all of that wasn’t put in. It was just, ‘When you have a player like LeBron you got to make it about LeBron,’ or something like that. However it read. But that wasn’t the full statement.
“And I just think I don’t like when negative articles come out like that, even if it’s not about my teammate, but about my teammate, somebody who carries teams the way he does, I just think we’re nitpicking. We’re trying to find something negative about something that’s great instead of just leaving it alone.”
As for Durant’s comments, James said he wanted to instead see what the reigning Finals MVP said in full.
“I would love to see the whole transcript of what was asked of him, the context it was asked of him, why it was asked and the whole thing,” James said. “So I’m not gonna comment on it because I don’t know the whole thing. That would be stupid on my part. I’m a veteran.”
Butler exits with strained groin, will not return
Philadelphia 76ers swingman Jimmy Butler left Monday’s game due to a groin injury after logging nine minutes of action and will not return.
Medical Update: Jimmy Butler (strained groin) will not return.
— Philadelphia 76ers (@sixers) December 11, 2018
Butler left the game with 2 minutes, 20 seconds left in the first quater after collecting four rebounds and two assists. He missed all three of his field goal attempts.
Kyrie Irving to miss game with shoulder injury
* Tonight on NBA TV: Pelicans vs. Celtics (7:30 ET)
Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving has been ruled out with right shoulder soreness for tonight’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans, the team announced on Monday afternoon.
#NEBHInjuryReport for tonight vs. New Orleans:
Aron Baynes (left ankle sprain) – OUT
Gordon Hayward (illness) – DOUBTFUL
Al Horford (left knee soreness) – DOUBTFUL
Kyrie Irving (right shoulder soreness) – OUT
Guerschon Yabusele (right ankle sprain) – OUT
— Boston Celtics (@celtics) December 10, 2018
In addition to Irving, Aron Baynes (left ankle sprain) and Guerschon Yabusele (right ankle sprain) are also out for tonight’s game. And they could be joined by starters Al Horford (left knee soreness) and Gordon Hayward (illness) who are both listed as doubtful for the matchup with New Orleans.
Irving tweaked his right shoulder near the end of the Celtics’ win over the New York Knicks last Thursday. After the game, Irving didn’t seem too concerned about the injury.
“It was just a weird play at the end of the game,” Irving told reporters after the game. “I don’t know. It’s like I got caught up as I was trying to get the ball out and pass it to Marcus [Smart] for a 3. It just caught me weird on my shoulder. So it’s probably an AC joint or something like that. I’m not diagnosing myself, I’m pretty sure. I saw the doctors afterward and they said AC joint or something going on there, but I’ll be all right.”
Warriors named Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of Year
The three-time NBA champion Golden State Warriors are the fourth team to be honored as Sports Illustrated’s Sportsperson of the Year.
The Warriors join the 1980 U.S. hockey team, the 1999 U.S. Women’s World Cup soccer squad and the 2004 Boston Red Sox as the other team honorees.
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) December 10, 2018
Sports Illustrated announced the winner Monday, and editor-in-chief Chris Stone said they have been thinking of some way to honor the Warriors during their run of three titles in four years. He also acknowledged that there were a couple years where Steph Curry has been in the conversation.
“There is something transcendent about the team where the sum of their parts was apparent from the beginning,” Stone said. “What they have built into a dynasty is a function of empirical success. They’re really a generational team. I don’t know if, in my lifetime, there has been a team where the pieces have blended so beautifully together.”
Stone also said that the Warriors’ honor is more about the celebration of the organization doing something unique over an extended period while the other teams were honored for what they did in a certain year.
Alexander Ovechkin, who led the Washington Capitals to their first Stanley Cup title, Tiger Woods and LeBron James also received consideration, but Stone said the Warriors felt like the favorite when they repeated as NBA champions.
— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) December 10, 2018
“In the same way they play, they seem to speak in a single voice,” Stone said. “The unity of message with the Warriors is the same way we refer to LeBron and his answering some of the hard questions. They did it forcefully, but also civilly, in a way that helps advance conversations.”
The Warriors will receive the award during a ceremony in Los Angeles on Tuesday that will air on NBCSN on Thursday.
“This is an incredible honor and one that certainly signifies our Strength in Numbers philosophy as a team and organization,” Warriors President of Basketball Operations/General Manager Bob Myers said. “Our success is due to the contributions of every single player, coach and staff member in our organization; for Sports Illustrated to recognize this unique dynamic is truly special.”
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