WATCH: Russell Westbrook gets into it with heckling fan

Russell Westbrook got into it with a heckler while leaving the court for the locker room during the first half of the Oklahoma City Thunder-Los Angeles Clippers game. Westbrook hurt his hand and was headed to the tunnel to be examined when he abruptly did a 180 and looked up to the stands. The TNT…Read More

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Derrick Rose’s ‘Minor’ Ankle Sprain Is No Reason for Chicago Bulls to Panic

CHICAGO—Derrick Rose wasted no time showing us the shape The Return 2.0 will take.

The Chicago Bulls’ 114-108 overtime loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in their home opener was everything that Rose’s latest comeback will be: a lot of promise, a minor setback and an exercise in patience.

With about four minutes to go in the second quarter, Rose landed awkwardly on Kyrie Irving’s foot after missing a floater. He hobbled for a few seconds while the rest of the team ran back on defense, and the United Center went dead silent. They’d seen this movie before.

But Rose walked it off, and stayed in the next time Tom Thibodeau made a substitution. He started the third quarter, too, but quickly came out and didn’t return.

The diagnosis was a right ankle sprain, and that will be the story. But there was a lot to be encouraged by in Rose’s 2014-15 debut. In his 25 minutes, he had 20 points on 8-for-16 shooting with four rebounds and four assists.

And he looked great doing it. He blew past Matthew Dellavedova for a layup. He drew a charge on Irving. He hit a pull-up three off the dribble. He had no trouble getting anywhere he wanted on the court. The explosiveness was all there.

He looked like himself.

The most important thing for the Bulls will be Rose still looking like himself in April, May and June. If this was a playoff game, he probably would have come back in. But if he isn’t feeling 100 percent, there’s no point in playing him in a game that doesn’t mean a whole lot. This injury will dominate a news cycle, and the mild inconvenience of being asked about it for the next few days is a price he’s perfectly willing to pay.

“It’s basketball,” he said. “It’s not like I tore a ligament or something. I sprained my ankle and I had to sit out. It’s minor. I’m walking around, so I think everyone can breathe.”

There are going to be setbacks for Rose and the Bulls. He knows that, and so does Thibodeau. He was adamant after the game that he’s leaving all decisions on minutes to the team’s training staff, and he’s stressed throughout training camp that Rose is a work in progress.

“It’s two years now with the ACL,” Thibodeau said in September. “I think he’s gotten the confidence back in that knee, but he’s got to shake a lot of rust off.”

He’s been off for two consecutive seasons with serious knee injuries. He needs time to get his conditioning back. There will be planned rest days and minor nicks and bruises, and every single one of them will make it that much harder for him to escape the skepticism about his ability to stay healthy.

As disappointing as it was to see Rose unable to finish the game, it was still only one game at the beginning of the regular season. It may have come against a Cavaliers team that most expect the Bulls to face in the Eastern Conference Finals in May, but it was just one game, nonetheless. He may or may not play in Minnesota against the Timberwolves on Saturday. That’s just one game, too, and not against a very good team.

“I’m going to go to Minnesota and try to give it a go tomorrow,” Rose said after the game. “If not, we’ve still got 80 more games to go.”

Rose’s controversial decision to sit out the entire 2012-13 season was made with the long term in mind. If the Bulls weren’t competing for a title, he wasn’t going to risk his career. The same dynamic is at play here, on a smaller scale. There’s no reason Rose should feel compelled to play against a team the Bulls would probably beat without him if there’s a higher risk of injury.

With the talent the Bulls have, they can afford to be conservative with Rose’s minutes. They hung with the Cavs through overtime down not only Rose but Jimmy Butler as well. They will play 15 games in the month of November, and only three of them (against the Toronto Raptors, Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers) feature opponents that are likely playoff teams.

He may have to sit out a game here or there against a team like Orlando or Philadelphia as a precaution. Those games will reignite the cycle of panic that surrounds everything Rose does these days. He can deal with that. Rose and his teammates all believe this is a championship-caliber team, and their ultimate goal is to be playing in June. Rose playing in a Conference Finals game against Cleveland or a Finals game against San Antonio is more important than him playing in a regular-season game in November against Milwaukee.

When you’re a run-of-the-mill NBA player, a sprained ankle is part of the job description. When you’re a former league MVP coming off two consecutive season-ending knee surgeries, it’s just another annoyance. But with everything Rose has been through in the past two years, a twisted ankle isn’t something he’s going to lose sleep over. 

 

Sean Highkin covers the Chicago Bulls for Bleacher Report. 

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Frankamp decides to transfer from No. 5 Kansas

Shooting guard Conner Frankamp elects to transfer from No. 5 Jayhawks before season starts

      
 

 

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Charles Barkley tells TNT to quit showing the Lakers

Charles Barkley stepped into the broadcast booth for TNT last night to call Cavs-Knicks.  And as you might expect, Sir Charles wasn’t your typical game analyst.  He spent a bit of time talking about LeBron’s return to Cleveland and the nerves at hand, the eastern conference as a whole, and other issues around the association.
One of which was the sucktitude of the Los Angeles Lakers.  Barkley spoke for a lot of NBA fans outside Los Angeles by pleading with his network to stop showing the Lakers…

Right now the 0-2 Lakers are scheduled for 8 TNT appearances and 27 total national television appearances!  Good Lord!
While this is just plain awful, it’s a good kind of awful and not just awful awful.  If the Lakers are going to be intentionally playing crappy basketball and end up tanking, there could be some kind of American Horror Story: Freak Show element that draws viewers in this year.
(H/T SB Nation)
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Cavaliers Show Their Rugged Side in Ragged Win Against Chicago

CHICAGO  Suddenly, for the first time all night, Tristan Thompson showed a touch of shyness. Standing shirtless in the locker room, the 23-year-old from Toronto absolutely warranted the media crowd that gathered in front of his stall. But the Cleveland Cavaliers forward didn’t think it was his turn, and certainly not while bare-chested, before his shower. 

“You gotta talk now,” LeBron James bellowed, from three seats down. “Just put a towel over your shoulders.” 

This wasn’t James hazing the kid.

This was James honoring him.

“You deserve it,” the four-time MVP told the fourth-year pro. 

So Thompson observed the order, indulging reporters by explaining that his 12 offensive rebounds against the bruising Chicago Bulls were about “just being active,” summarizing his motto as “see ball, get ball,” and joking that his single, solitary defensive rebound was the result of Kevin Love taking the rest of themwhich was just about true. Many were meaningful, especially when they extended possessions that weren’t especially pretty, but none more significant than when he shed Taj Gibson and soared to corral the ricochet off James’ missed step-back jumper, and slammed the clincher through, late in overtime of a 114-108 victory. 

“Tristan was unbelievable,” James said later, while reciting Thompson’s statistics. “That’s a man’s man game right there.” 

It stood out even more in light of the circumstances since, as Thompson was cleaning the glass, the clock was ticking down to the deadline for a contract extensionat midnight Eastern, that opportunity would expire. Or, if you prefer, it would turn into a pumpkin, which just happened to be the Halloween costume that James’ newborn daughter Zhuri was wearing back home. 

Thompson’s Cavaliers future was put into question on the same day that Anderson Varejao’s was secured, as the 11-year veteran officially signed a two-year extension for $20 million, plus a team option for a third season at $10 million more. “I always said that I never wanted to leave Cleveland, that Cleveland was home to me,” Varejao said. “From the beginning, when I got to Cleveland, they really took care of me. The fans, the city and everything. So I’m happy…. I had a lot of people in my ears telling me that I should ask for a trade when we were going through the rebuilding process. It was tough, I’m not going to lie to you. It was tough to lose so many games, I went through some injuries, and it wasn’t fun. But I always told them that, ‘No, I’m not going to ask for a trade. … I want to stay here and I want to win here.’” 

If Varejao wants to win big, bigger than he ever did during James’ first time around when they reached one NBA Finals together only to get swept by San Antonio, he needs to play big.

As does Thompson.

As does Love.

This team lacks the experience of the one he joined in Miami in 2010Kyrie Irving was captured on ESPN’s “Wired” replay asking Mike Miller if this was what a playoff game felt like. But if it has one distinct edge, it should be in physicality. The Heat hardly had elite pivots during James’ first season there, rotating the likes of late-career Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jamaal Magloire and Erick Dampier with the limited Joel Anthony. Then, in James’ second season, Erik Spoelstra abandoned conventional centers almost entirely, opting for pace-and-space. And while James benefited from the approach, with the mobile Chris Bosh in the middle and plenty of shooters on the perimeter, he also often spoke of the Heat’s undersized reality.

After losing to Chicago eight times during four regular seasons, often due to a rebounding deficiency, he seemed to bemoan it. 

That is different here, different now. 

That was evident on an evening when the Cavaliers won while shooting just 39 percent, although it should be noted that they benefited from Derrick Rose‘s fourth quarter and overtime absence due to a minor ankle injury. 

The Bulls were sixth in the NBA in rebounding percentage and seventh in rebounding differential, while the Heat were 27th and 26th, respectively. 

The Cavaliers should be in Chicago’s carom-grabbing company.

Friday, they were better, outrebounding the Bulls by 10, grabbing a remarkable 20 of a possible 51 rebounds in Chicago’s end, and leaving Bulls coach Tom Thibodeauof all peopleto complain that “rebounding was a problem from the beginning.” 

“We’re one of the best rebounding teams in the league as well,” said James, who had eight rebounds Friday. “(Thursday) night against the Knicks, we got outrebounded. That’s something we cannot do ever. When you got Tristan, Andy and Kevin, you should be up there, either tied for rebounding or winning. Versus this team, we understand they are going to be a hit-first team, and we can’t shy away from the contact.” 

The Cavaliers should at least find themselves competitive with Chicago in the rebounding arena, as long as they don’t get complacent and overly carefree. That was among the pointed messages from their coach, David Blatt, during a fiery morning meeting. 

“He got on us from the time we started our meeting until the time we left,” James said. “For a team like us, we need that. I love constructive criticism, I never take it personal. It’s just an opportunity for us to get better, and it definitely lit a fire under us.”

It helped that he stopped handling the ball as if it was scorching. James had three turnovers after totaling eight in the opener. 

“I’m sure we were 70 or 80 percent in 50-50 balls tonight,” Blatt said. “We had nine turnovers in a (53) minute game against a great defensive team. Last night we had 19 turnovers, most of them irresponsible, and I would say borderline inexcusable. And we moved the basketball, and we moved ourselves. Those are the three main things, and we did those tonight.”

They did, while James had 14 drives in the first half alone, as he took 17 shots, all part of a plan to be more aggressive.

“I take pride in how I perform, and last night I gave myself an F,” James said.

This was closer to a B. 

He took 30 shots in total, more than in all but one game last season, the game he took 33 and scored 61. He scored only 36 on Friday. So he wasn’t especially efficient.

But it was sufficient, as the Cavaliers regrouped after squandering a nine-point lead at the start of the fourth and rallied after falling behind by fivemostly due to a hot Kirk Hinrichwith 1:15 left in regulation. Then, they survived the overtime, as the Bulls committed five turnovers and nine fouls. 

“Today was a huge step,” James said. “It was something that I didn’t know if we had, just right now.”

Thompson didn’t know something else.

“I didn’t know I had 12 offensive rebounds,” he said. 

Or how to act after he got them. 

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Wolves give Rubio 4-year, $56M deal (Yahoo Sports)

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - OCTOBER 30: Ricky Rubio #9 of the Minnesota Timberwolves during the game against the Detroit Pistons on October 30, 2014 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Ricky Rubio is getting a four-year, $56 million contract extension from the Minnesota Timberwolves.


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Who wants to see LeBron James dressed as Flo from Progressive?

Well, you clicked on it, so you, obviously…
LeBron James (or one of his people) put this picture of the superstar up with a “Happy Halloween” message. Makes me wonder just how much LeBron might have gotten in order to make this his “Halloween Costume.” I am on record multiple places saying how much I hate dressing up and how little I liked Halloween as a kid. So it really makes me wonder how many zeroes I’d need in a check in order to bust out the wig and corporate gear that Flo wears on TV.
Maybe I can tweet at Darren Rovell to find out.

Makes me wonder where all this started… Maybe back in 2012 with some tweet flirting?
Gee, thanks LeBron! “@KingJames: I love “Flo” from the progressive commercials! She’s hilarious in her own way”
— Flo from Progressive (@ItsFlo) January 22, 2012

Or maybe not…
I tweeted about “Flo” the other day from the commercials! In no way shape or form was I trying to promote them or what they do!!
— LeBron James (@KingJames) January 26

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Philadelphia 76ers vs. Milwaukee Bucks 10/31/14: Video Highlights and Recap

The Milwaukee Bucks looked to bounce back from a tough season-opening loss when they faced the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. The Bucks lost a heartbreaker in overtime against the Hornets in their first game of the season, but faced a tough test from a young Sixers squad. 

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Playoff preview? LeBron, Cavs top Bulls for first win

If this was a prelude to a playoff matchup, we’re in for a treat in June.

      
 

 

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Duke seeks blend with one-and-done approach

The cornerstone of the Blue Devils program still is its reliance on long-term players.

      
 

 

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