Mavs waive backup center Bernard James, 2 others (Yahoo Sports)

DALLAS (AP) — The Dallas Mavericks have waived center Bernard James, forward Ivan Johnson and guard Doron Lamb to get their roster to 15 for the start of the season.

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Clips from new Disney series, ‘Becoming’ with LeBron James

The Disney Channel is about to premiere its newest series, of course for children, entitled “Becoming,” which will showcase various athletes from their humble beginnings and their rise to stardom.
The first episode will feature the show’s developer, LeBron James.
“There’s no sports programs where parents and kids can sit down and watch it together,” James told USA TODAY Sports. “This made a lot of sense — me being able to come together with Disney and put together a program like this, where parents and kids to sit down together and watch episodes about people they look up to. They can get the history and the story and things they can relate to in their own households.”The pilot episode will debut on Sunday 5:30 p.m. ET and at 8 p.m. ET on Disney…

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James Harden’s defense for his maligned defense

The Houston Rockets star and his coach know that criticism abounds but take it in stride.

      
 

 

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LeBron James’ Leadership Is the Final Step in His Superstar Evolution

LeBron James‘ return to the Cleveland Cavaliers was about unfinished business—both in terms of championship pursuits and personal growth.

The first bit of business will take time to tackle, but the second may already be complete. James has matured into the leader he couldn’t be the first time around.

 

Narrative Perfection

James’ career has had a storybook quality to it all along. The hometown kid stays put, becomes an immediate superstar who exceeds absurd expectations, rises to the top of the league and then falls short of his goal. Then came the heel turn, the shocking exit many viewed as an outright betrayal.

That’s remarkably close to fiction.

So, of course James now gets to make the full pivot back to hero. Wiser for his experience away from home, he returns ready to pay those lessons forward.

The home he left, of course, welcomes him with open arms.

The overall narrative arc is perfect: A man previously incapable of leading—due to youth, emotional immaturity or unwillingness—is now in charge of the most promising young team in the league.

According to the lone holdover from James’ first tour with the Cavs, Anderson Varejao, the younger version of James wasn’t ready for the task at hand. The veteran center watched James explicitly tell every player on the roster what his demands were for the upcoming season during training camp.

His reaction, per Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports: “He used to talk individually to the players before, but not like that.”

 

Practical Maturation

The “LBJ returns transformed as leader” angle isn’t just the logical narrative completion to his story. It’s also necessary for the Cavaliers’ competitive goals.

Cleveland is young, and young teams generally need a strong veteran presence to keep priorities straight, agendas pure and goals in sight. But this particular Cavaliers team needed a leader more than most.

The infighting that plagued the locker room last year wasn’t a major problem in isolation. That Cavs team wasn’t talented enough to make any real noise. As composed heading into the summer, there wasn’t a championship future in sight.

Writ larger, though, Cleveland was in danger of letting the alleged rift between Kyrie Irving and Dion Waiters (not to mention the broader organizational disorder) define the club going forward, potentially letting the discord take deep root.

Irving was quickly developing a label as an exhibition game hero (see: All-Star MVP) who didn’t possess the team-first attitude or commitment to lead his team anywhere worthwhile. Fair or not, labels like that have a way of sticking.

In a similar way, new arrival Kevin Love caught heat for putting up gaudy numbers that somehow didn’t lead to team wins.

James can help his younger teammates shed those labels. He can show them the secrets, teach them what it takes to make personal success and team success the same thing. And his influence couldn’t be coming at a better time or place.

Because Love and Irving will be a big part of the foundation after LBJ is gone—not just for the Cavaliers, but for the NBA as a whole.

 

Already in Action

James has always been polished beyond his years, but his demeanor during his first tour with the Cavs was more emotional and less considerate of how it affected teammates who, whether he wanted them to or not, looked up to him. They needed him to lead—even though he was an NBA infant at the time.

Back then, I’m not saying he was a bad leader, but he had some ups and downs with that,” Varejao said, per Spears.

Now, James is acutely aware of how his comments and conduct affect teammates.

Case in point: his shrewd sound bite leading up to an Oct. 20 preseason game against the Chicago Bulls.

Per Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com, James said: “[The Bulls] are a team that’s much better than us right now just off chemistry. They’ve been together for a while; we’ve got a long way to go.”

Though it’s possible James genuinely believed in Chicago’s superiority, the point of his pregame nod was clear: He was trying to motivate his teammates.

Success. Cleveland went on to win by a final score of 107-98, and Irving, in particular, looked like a player bent on proving who the better team really was.

James is now the team’s resident sage, dispensing hard-won wisdom on the unavoidable adversity his Cavs will face and, more importantly, its value, per Windhorst

“It has to happen. I know it is going to happen. A lot of guys don’t see it, but I see it. That’s the only way we’re going to be able to grow. You don’t define yourself during the good times, you define yourself through the bad times.”

There’s nothing magical about what James is doing. He’s merely passing on the wisdom he earned the hard way with the Miami Heat. It took an uncomfortable stylistic overhaul and a loss in the 2011 NBA Finals for James to realize something: Struggle builds camaraderie and character.

That’s an old lesson. Now that James is an old head, he’s ready to teach it.

 

His Own Path

We shouldn’t discount the novelty of LeBron embracing his role as a leader. It’s not every day you see a transcendent, once-in-a-generation superstar who has the ability (and desire) to pass something on.

Kobe Bryant has always been brutal on his young teammates. Even now, as he takes Julius Randle under his wing, he’s doing it in a way that packs on the pressure (and expletives).

And it’s not like Michael Jordan did Kwame Brown any favors.

Being an MVP-caiber talent makes it hard to be a leader. You can’t just tell your followers to “do it like I do.” They can’t; that’s why you’re you and they’re them.

What James is doing now fits appropriately into his overall legacy. He’s the unselfish alpha, the wholly unique megastar whose greatness is defined by his inherent desire to give rather than take. It makes sense that he’d be the guy to pull off the impossible task of passing on greatness while still in his dominant prime.

He’s Kobe with a conscience. Jordan with a heart.

James’ evolution is complete, and we’ve never seen a finished product like this before.

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LeBron James Presented with Ohio State Locker Before Preseason Game

The Cleveland Cavaliers will take on the Chicago Bulls on Monday night at the Schottenstein Center, the home of the Ohio State basketball team.

To honor one of their bigger fans, the Buckeyes left LeBron James with his own personal locker from the basketball team, complete with all kinds of Ohio State gear. 

Cavs play-by-play announcer Fred McLeod provided a picture of the nameplate above LeBron’s locker:

[Twitter, h/t College Spun]

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LeBron James Featured in Newest Beats by Dre Powerbeats2 Commercial

In the newest Beats by Dre commercial, we follow Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James on a trip back to his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

The ad finishes with James working out in a gym, fittingly called LeBron James Arena, at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School.

“Don’t ever forget where you came from,” the narrator says.

[Beats by Dre]

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Breaking Down What Makes James Harden an Elite Offensive Player

James Harden of the Houston Rockets may be the most intriguing case study in the NBA. He’s easily one of the five most gifted offensive players in the league, yet all anyone talks about anymore is his defense. So, for this article, we’re not going to talk about those flaws. We’re going to discuss what makes Harden such a special player.

He’s able to score, he’s able do so efficiently and he involves his teammates while doing so. Those three things make him an elite offensive player. And by elite, I don’t just mean among his contemporaries. Harden is not just good—he’s historically good.

In his two years with Houston, he has averaged 25.7 points on a .609 true shooting percentage, adding 6.0 assists while doing so. Per Basketball-Reference.com, only three other players have had a season where they met those standards: Michael Jordan, Larry Bird and LeBron James.

If advanced stats are more your thing, during both of his years in Houston, Harden had a usage percentage over 27, an assist percentage above 25 and a true shooting percentage over 60, according to Basketball-Reference.com. Only three other players have accomplished that feat twice: Jordan, Bird and James.

I don’t mean to overstate things here, but Jordan, Bird and James make up a pretty elite trio. He is not on their historical level yet, but what he’s accomplished suggests he could be.

So what makes Harden so special? The answer might surprise you: It’s his brain. Kirk Goldsberry of Grantland writes:

James Harden is one of the smartest on-court players in the NBA. Perhaps more than anyone else, he understands the rules of the game and has engineered an approach to scoring that takes full advantage of these rules.

It may not always be pretty (although sometimes it is), but it is almost always productive. Between his Eurostep and his incredible ability to get fouled, Harden might be a referee’s nightmare, but he’s also one of the best scorers in the league.

Based on his understanding of the game, there are three things in particular Harden does to build his impressive offensive resume: shoot from the right spots on the floor, draws fouls and find open teammates when he’s double-teamed.

 

Shooting From the Right Spots

Probably the most important factor in scoring efficiently isn’t whether you make the shots; it’s where you take them from. If you shoot closer to the rim, you are more likely to make them. If you take them from three, they are going to count for more. Ergo, the restricted area and behind the three-point line are the target areas.

Harden’s shot chart, available at NBA.com/STATS, shows how his shots are distributed.

Notice how the concentration is in those two critical high-efficiency areas.

Last year, there were 22 players who attempted at least 400 threes and 47 who took at least 300 shots inside the restricted area. There were only five players who did both. Here they are with a glossary [1] to explain the headers:

You might notice that these are some of the most effective scorers in the league. That’s not a coincidence. 

 

Drawing Fouls

Another area of the court where players can boost their efficiency is from the free-throw stripe. If Harden were a sketch artist, he could make a living just drawing fouls.

One of the better new analysis tools is “free-throw rate,” which shows how often a player draws a foul. This is devised from dividing the field-goal attempts by the free-throw attempts.

There’s a hitch to that, though, as some players are fouled intentionally because they are more efficient from the field than from the stripe. In those cases, the defense feels it has an advantage in fouling, so they do. [2]

However, if we add the free-throw percentage to the free-throw rate, it gives us “free-throw rating.” That gives us a good feel for who not only gets to the line but also who takes advantage of getting there.

Not surprisingly, Harden and Durant top this list. Kevin Love is seventh. Those are the only three on both lists.

When you combine these two things—shooting form the efficient places on the court and shooting well from the stripe—you get an efficient scorer. True shooting percentage adjusts for three-pointers and free throws.

Five players averaged 25 points: James, Harden, Durant, Love and Carmelo Anthony. Three of them had a true shooting percentage over .600: James, Durant and Harden. When you combine that degree of volume and efficiency, you get MVPs.

What’s more remarkable is that, according to 82games.com, he was just called for just 32 offensive fouls. His 665 free-throw attempts suggest he was fouled well over 320 times (which would incur 640-ish free throws). In other words, he draws about 10 fouls for every offensive foul.

Call it flopping. Call it star treatment. Call it words I can’t use on Bleacher Report. But Harden calls them points. And that’s a big part of why he’s such an effective scorer.

 

Passing the Ball

The last thing Harden does that makes him an elite offensive player is pass prudently. He’s not an elite passer on the level of Chris Paul. He’s not always looking to create points for his teammates. But he is smart enough to pass out of a double-team rather than force up a bad shot.

Taking efficient shots is one way to bolster your shooting percentages. Not taking stupid ones is another. This might seem obvious, but without getting critical of anyone in particular, let’s just say there are some noteworthy scorers in the NBA who haven’t learned this lesson.

Basketball is not diving or gymnastics; you don’t get extra points for degree of difficulty. It’s better to find the open teammate than to force a bad shot. Case in point:

And that’s not just an isolated case. When I worked with Adam Fromal to develop passer rating, one thing we looked at is which players raised their teammate’s field-goal percentage the most when they passed them the ball. We called that field-goal percentage impact.

Among non-point guards, Harden had the fifth-largest impact (behind Joakim Noah, Nicolas Batum, Durant and James), raising his teammates’ field-goal percentage 3.62 percentage points.

Only two of those players, Durant and James, were also their team’s leading scorer.

Statistically, Harden establishes over and over that he is in the same company as Durant and James on offense.

 

***

There are three players who are among the best at all three of these areas: Harden, James and Durant. Two of them have won five of the last six MVPs. It’s not entirely unreasonable that Harden could have one of those in his future.

He’s not perfect on offense. He has too many passing turnovers (135 last year). He pressed too hard in last year’s postseason when he should have been trusting his teammates. I’m not trying to hide from that.

But remember, he just turned 25. These things (and defense) are lessons that players normally don’t learn until they’re in the second half of their 20s.

People say Harden has an old-man’s game. In the deliberate way he moves with the ball, that’s true. But in terms of where he shoots from, he’s much more of a modern-age man. And in terms of actual age, he’s a very young man.

If Harden’s game matures, he could blend those things together and become one of the most special players in history. He’s already posting numbers that are historically rare. When you consider that he’s already playing at such a high level and how much room he has to grow, it’s a scary combination.

 

 

[1] RAFG = Restricted Area Field Goal; RAFGA = Restricted Area Field-Goal Attempt; %ATT = Percent of Total Field Goal Attempts from efficient areas or (RAFGA+3PA)/FGA; EFG%EA = Effective Field-Goal Percentage on Attempts from Efficient Areas

[2] This is usually a bad strategy. In order for it to be effective, a player would have to have a higher field-goal percentage than free-throw percentage, otherwise, on average, you’re giving away points. 

 

Stats for this article come from Basketball-Reference.com, 82games.com, and NBA.com/STATS.

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Why James Ennis Could Be Miami Heat’s Biggest Surprise During 2014-15 Season

James Ennis wasn’t exactly a heralded prospect.

The Long Beach State product fell to the Atlanta Hawks late in the second round of the 2013 NBA draft. The Miami Heat ultimately traded for Ennis on draft night, but the California native did not make an NBA impact during the 2013-14 season. After salary-cap restrictions prevented Miami from sending him to the D-League, Ennis spent the past year playing in Australia and Puerto Rico.

Yet, despite being a late draft pick and a non-factor during his first potential NBA season, Ennis has the chance to play key minutes for Miami in 2014-15.

Ennis was a flat-out stud during the 2014 summer league sessions in Orlando and Vegas. Ennis was by far Miami’s best player, displaying the athleticism, length and shooting ability that made him successful at the collegiate level. 

In six games (four in Orlando, two in Las Vegas), Ennis averaged 15.5 points (51.7% FG, 48.1% 3PT), 5.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.

A result of his Summer League play and the Heat’s lack of wing options, Ennis entered this preseason as a player to watch.

The 24-year-old has not disappointed. 

Through five games, he’s averaging 13.2 points (54.2% FG, 45.5% 3P), 4.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists and 1.5 steals.

Ennis has had a few monster games, including a 14-point, 10-rebound, five-assist performance against the Orlando Magic.

However, even in games when Ennis hasn’t stuffed the stat-sheet, he’s been able to make a difference for Miami. Ennis took just one shot against the Golden State Warriors in Miami’s fifth preseason game, yet still finished with the game with a team-best +/- of +15, as pointed out by Couper Moorhead of NBA.com. 

Ennis isn’t a finished product. His handles in particular need work. But he’s already showing that he has many of the tools to be a successful NBA wing player, as Chris Bosh told Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

“We needed an injection of young talent,” center Chris Bosh said. “I think with James we’ve found a diamond in the rough. His athletic ability, his shooting and his playmaking ability is second to none. He has a tremendous upside. He’s going to help us a lot as long as he continues to develop.”

Even with the support of Bosh, Ennis’ role on Miami is far from set. Spoelstra was unwilling to guarantee a rotation role for Ennis when speaking about the wing player to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel after the Heat’s second preseason game.

He’s still just 24 years old and the Heat haven’t really shown a desire to rely on many young players in recent years.

But there’s a strong argument to be made that Ennis is simply showing too much at this point for to leave him out of the rotation to start the season. His ability to defend, do damage in transition and knock down open jumpers would surely be welcome on this team. 

If given the opportunity, Ennis has the chance to be a true difference-maker for Miami as a reserve playing behind Luol Deng at the 3.

The question is: Does Spoelstra give him the opportunity?

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Cavs’ Kyrie Irving Finds LeBron James for the 2-Handed Alley-Oop Slam

Kyrie Irving and LeBron James—Cleveland Cavaliers fans are salivating at the thought of this pair in the open court.

They got a taste of it Friday night.

In a preseason matchup with the Dallas Mavericks, Irving floated a one-handed pass to James, who proceeded to flush it down with authority.

Unfortunately, it seems a blocking call might have negated the dunk, but the fans got what they wanted out of the play.

The regular season can’t start soon enough.

[MaxaMillion711gifdsports, That NBA Lottery Pick]

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Photo from 2007 LeBron James Skills Academy Is Flooded with Future NBA Stars

Former Memphis Tigers guard/forward Wesley Witherspoon shared this photo from the 2007 LeBron James Skills Academy as a Throwback Thursday, and it’s flooded with future NBA stars. 

A quick glance at the photo reveals a number of familiar faces. On the far left, we see Charlotte’s Kemba Walker standing next to former North Carolina guard Dexter Strickland. Of course, James is in the center, standing next to…Charlotte’s Lance Stephenson (funny how the two would go on to develop a strange rivalry of sorts).

Behind Stephenson stands Detroit’s Greg Monroe. Sitting on the floor are Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and Toronto’s DeMar DeRozan.

In case you’re interested, here’s a short write-up of the event from Bob Gibbons of All Star Sports, via ESPN Deportes. One line stands out in particular as rather prophetic.

“Stephenson has outstanding potential, but throughout this event, he wanted to dominate the ball and constantly tried to slash to the hoop,” Gibbons wrote. “He made some spectacular plays—and some that were less than spectacular.”

[Instagram]

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