West Virginia athletic director Luck joining NCAA (Yahoo Sports)

FILE - In this March 2, 2013, file photo, West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck watches a women's NCAA college basketball game between Baylor and West Virginia at WVU Coliseum in Morgantown, W.Va. A person with direct knowledge of the hiring tells The Associated Press that West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck is joining the NCAA to take a high-ranking position on President Mark Emmert's staff. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2014, because an announcement was being prepared by the NCAA. (AP Photo/David Smith, File)

West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck is joining the NCAA as executive vice president of regulatory affairs.

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Does LeBron James Have Second Thoughts About Joining the Cleveland Cavaliers?

Not all is well with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

There’s the 5-5 record and the mediocre 1.9 scoring differential, sure, but there’s also the grim stuff that’s undergirding it. This is a basketball team with problems.

Kevin Love is shooting 38.9 percent from the floor, looks lost and is playing, in the words of Grantland’s Chris Ryan, “like he has concrete in his sneakers.”

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Love—the troika Ohio has pinned its title hopes to—were all among the NBA’s top five in minutes entering Wednesday’s loss to the San Antonio Spurs. The workload isn’t sustainable and James, who’s logging more time on the floor than he has since 2010-11, has been vocal about it.

“For me, I don’t want to do that all year,” James told ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin, adding, “I really think that it might be a good idea for our guys to play some shorter stretches harder rather than longer stretches.”

There’s also the matter of James’ performance in general—his 24.25 player efficiency rating, according to Basketball-Reference would be the lowest since his rookie year if it persisted—the occasionally overaggressive Irving and the continued presence of Dion Waiters in the rotation, of whom the less that’s said the better.

It’s enough to make one wonder, just maybe, if James doesn’t have second thoughts about leaving the Miami Heat for his hometown team.

While Miami has been inconsistent—Chris Bosh’s up-and-down play epitomizes the yo-yoing Heat, who are 6-6 after getting shellacked by the Los Angeles Clippers on Thursday—the team LeBron won his two rings with would be considerably more stable with his presence. That goes without saying, obviously, but this doesn’t: James might be more stable too.

LeBron is struggling in Cleveland. But while some of it can be chalked up to simple growing pains—as Heat fans know, it can take more than 10 games for a group of individuals, however excellent, to coalesce into something like a team—many of his issues can be pinned to what he left behind as much as to where he landed. The Heat miss LeBron, but he might miss them too.

Consider James’ efficiency from the floor. LeBron had a true shooting percentage of 56 when he joined the Heat in the summer of 2010. In four years in Miami, James upped that to a staggering 62.2. Now, granted, a lot of this is due to the natural maturation of his game and his commitment to harnessing his (equally staggering) abilities. But it’s also due to the uniquely talented players who surrounded him in Miami and the genius system Erik Spoelstra built to get the most out of each of them.

With the mid-range threat Chris Bosh posed, Shane Battier, Ray Allen and the corner-three brigade, and the still dangerous Dwyane Wade, defenses somehow couldn’t sell out to stop the greatest basketball player on the planet. LeBron got looks he wouldn’t have gotten elsewhere—and hasn’t since he left.

But past performance, as we’ve heard ad nauseam, is no guarantee of future results. LeBron saw an aging core, a team that was slipping and decided the time was right to get out of Miami. He figured he could do better. He was probably right. 

But that doesn’t necessarily mean Cleveland was the right move. While James’ return to Ohio was probably about more than just basketball, as he argued in Sports Illustrated, winning certainly played a pretty large role in his calculus. And by that criteria at least, there were better landing spots for James.

To wit: When LeBron was still on the open market, Nate Silver of Fivethirtyeight.com ran some numbers to ferret out what team, with the addition of James, would be the best. After forecasting a handful of contenders and a few of the league’s flagship franchises, Silver found that two organizations stood out above the rest: The Clippers and the Houston Rockets.

A James-led Clippers team projected to 66-16, Silver determined, while the 2014-15 Rockets could have expected to win 69 games with LeBron. The Heat and Cavaliers each projected to 52 wins with James.

“There’s room for concern about how well James, Harden and Howard would mesh together — something that statistics like SPM may not capture well,” Silver wrote. “But this would be a really, really good problem for Houston General Manager Daryl Morey to have.”

Though, after Cleveland added Kevin Love, Silver bumped its projection to 63 wins, it’s still clear that, in a strictly basketball sense, LeBron could have picked a a better situation than Cleveland. 

It wasn’t just about basketball, of course. Even those who thought the aforementioned Sports Illustrated essay was little more than a crisply executed PR play recognize that James has deep ties to the area, was badly stung by the harsh and histrionic reaction to his initial “Decision” and is eager to vindicate himself to a region of the country the economy might have left behind, but he never really did. 

We might be second-guessing James’ choice to head back to the Cavs, but I doubt he is. 

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Bosh on not joining Rockets: ‘All that guarantees is pressure’

With the NBA offseason and the free agency period in full swing over the summer, there appeared to be mutual interest between Chris Bosh and the Houston Rockets. So much so, in fact, that the Rockets offered Bosh a max deal. With LeBron James’ future with the Miami Heat hanging in the balance, it was…Read More
The post Chris Bosh on why he didn’t join Rockets: ‘All that guarantees is a bunch of pressure’ appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

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Jim Calhoun joining ESPN’s NCAAB coverage

Former UConn coach will provide regular analysis in the Bristol studio.



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Andrew Wiggins reacts to joining Minnesota Timberwolves on Twitter

Today, Andrew Wiggins started his journey as a member of the Minnesota Timberwolves as he along with Anthony Bennett and Thaddeus Young landed in Minneapolis to meet fans and folks within the Minnesota organization.
Only a few short moments ago, Wiggins posted the below tweet on his official Twitter account where he states that he’s ready for his new journey:
New journey in the great state of Minnesota #GoWolves
— andrew wiggins (@22wiggins) August 25, 2014

Hopefully, Andrew will have a great career in Minnesota.
Wiggins image courtesy of Getty Images

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Kevin Love Out of Excuses After Joining LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers

At long last Kevin Love is a member of the Cleveland Cavaliers, his days with the lottery-crossed Minnesota Timberwolves officially over, his time beside LeBron James finally beginning, his well of excuses scorched dry.

Months of rumors, anticipation and anxiety—all borne out of waiting—came to a merciful end when the Cavaliers announced Love’s acquisition, confirming what became common knowledge, yet couldn’t quite be accepted as fact.

This is the ending Love has wanted from the beginning, since May, when Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski first relayed his intent to leave. It’s perhaps what he’s wanted for a while now, since the days of David Kahn, when he wasn’t deemed good enough, or important enough, for a five-year extension—the same commitment Minnesota would inevitably make to Nikola Pekovic, he of lesser importance and status.

Indeed, this breakup between devalued player and tumultuous team has been brewing for years. The outcome—this outcome—is fairly new. It’s the concept that’s old and time-worn.

If and when Love left Minnesota, it would be for a winner. And the more the Timberwolves lost, the more likely it became that his future lied outside the Land of 10,000 Lakes. 

Only recently did the Cavaliers qualify as an upgrade, their meteoric transition from clown to contender further compounding an already complex and delicate situation for Love.


Goodbye, Safety Net

Leaving the Timberwolves would always increase the pressure Love was facing. That’s what happens when a superstar jumps ship.

Pressure amounts. Safety nets are pulled. Excuses evaporate. 

But it could have been different for Love.

Where there was resentment for Carmelo Anthony, spite for Dwight Howard and reluctant acceptance for Chris Paul, there would be sympathy for Love. Six years without a playoff berth justified his aim. The very postseason drought often used to diminish his individual standing was actually his license to leave. The Timberwolves were the culprits; Love was the victim.

“Their power plays made them villains, in their home markets and beyond,” Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck writes. “But Love might be the first trade-demanding, franchise-hopping superstar to walk away unscathed, unvilified. Love’s motives seem pure, his rationale unimpeachable.”

Acceptable though Love’s intentions are—or rather, were—the armor shielding him against outside criticism and impatience has been removed in one fell swoop. Forcing his way off the Timberwolves and onto the Cavaliers exhausts Love’s last bit of goodwill.

The Cavaliers are unlike any other team Love could have gone to. Pressure would have existed wherever he went, but not like this. There would have been grace periods in Boston and Chicago. More time would have been afforded to Love if he waited until free agency and journeyed to Los Angeles or New York.

Life in Cleveland is a different animal. 


Unparalleled Circumstances

Playing alongside James drains Love of most excuses. Catching passes from—and throwing touchdown outlets to—the NBA‘s best player has that effect. 

Competing next to the freshly maxed out Kyrie Irving and numerous James trucklers—Mike Miller, James Jones, Shawn Marion, etc.—is gravy. It’s talent complementing talent, rendering Cleveland the league’s newest superteam

And as a superteam, like ESPN.com’s Kevin Pelton (subscription required) discusses, the Cavaliers’ success is viewed as a formality:

The Cavaliers’ window to win is now, while James is the league’s best player, and Love’s versatility makes him one of the best possible offensive complements for the four-time MVP. Further, it’s hardly like Cleveland is sacrificing its future by dealing for a 25-year-old player. Health aside, Love is a sure thing, which is something that can’t be said of Wiggins.

Forget the endurance James’ return essay highlighted. The Cavaliers aren’t in the business of rebuilding and waiting anymore. Instant results are the standard.

“I don’t even really care about the 26 [points] and 12 [rebounds], I care about his basketball IQ,” James said of Love before the trade was official, per ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein. “His basketball IQ is very, very high. I had the opportunity to spend 32 days with him in the 2012 Olympics. He was huge for us…he’s a great piece.”

Love is the sidekick James—who spent four years alongside Dwyane Wade and Chris Boshnever had. More importantly, James is the sidekick Love has neither had nor even sniffed; he’s a sidekick unlike any other.

Meshing with anyone else would have been a process, but because of the clout James carts as a champion and active legend, Love can no longer hang his hat on progress. His new teammate is so good, so talented, he basically negates the line of credit Love established while playing on a team that ESPN.com’s Tom Haberstroh found curbed his potential with the absence of a consistently strong supporting cast:

Few will show empathy for Love’s past—and future—now. Such is the cost of playing with James. Such is the cost of, well, what Love cost.

Being seen as the perfect complement to James is different when the risk is marginal. But the Cavaliers traded away a No. 1 pick in Andrew Wiggins, a projected All-Star once heralded as the second-coming of James himself.

Love is, without question, more of a sure thing. He’s proved to be a top-10 superstar worthy of relocation. Sacrificing potential for guaranteed production was just part and parcel of his scenery change.

Even so, Love has only increased the burden upon his shoulders by costing that much. Teams don’t trade No. 1 overall picks. It just doesn’t happen. 

That Love was complicit in Cleveland matching the bounty Minnesota placed upon his talent only raises the bar of expectations. And he was complicit.

Does this deal get done, do the Cavaliers trade Wiggins if, as reported by Wojnarowski, Love doesn’t provide assurances—or whatever you want to call it—of his return after next season? Perhaps, but it’s less likely James and the Cavaliers endorse Wiggins’ departure if the return could be a one-year rental. 

Except Love apparently isn’t going anywhere. He went from showing what ESPN Boston’s Jackie MacMullan described as having no interest in playing with the Cavaliers, to purportedly committing the next six seasons—2014-15 plus a five-year contract—to their cause, further depriving himself of any excuses. 


Picking His Own Path

It’s not like the Timberwolves are sending Love somewhere he despises. Cleveland isn’t Los Angeles or Chicago, New York or Boston, Oakland or Houston, but it seems to be Love-approved. The factors that spawned his approval are almost irrelevant.

If we’re being led to believe that Love’s long-awaited free agency is now a non-issue almost one year before it takes place, it stands to reason that Cleveland is where he wants to be. And if Cleveland is where he wants to be, the clock starts ticking like it never did in Minnesota. 

Promising the next half-decade or so to the Cavaliers is the equivalent of Love publicly endorsing the Timberwolves as championship contenders. Had he ever done that, the clock would have started ticking in Minnesota, too.

Once a player shows that he believes, the moratorium period is over. Once they gain control of their future and make a decision, displacing blame becomes impossible. 

No remorse will be shown for Howard if he doesn’t win in Houston, or Paul if he doesn’t succeed in Los Angeles. They chose to their path. So, too—assuming reports are accurate—has Love.

Criticism will be dispersed accordingly if Love, James and the Cavaliers fail. Their fate is not on Love alone. It’s on everyone, from James and Love, to Irving and head coach David Blatt, to the second unit and front office. Like the 2010 Miami Heat before them, these Cavaliers will fail or succeed together.  

On an individual level, though, Love’s standing has never been more indeterminable. 

“If Love is really a winner, contrary to all previous evidence, it will be revealed very soon,” our own Kevin Ding writes. 

Ending his career-long playoff dry spell no longer qualifies as success. Escaping the excuse-heavy Timberwolves for the pressure-packed Cavaliers is but a small victory. The real victory—or loss—will be in how Love fares with his new team.

Individual production will no longer be his safe haven. The Cavaliers have plenty of it. The absence of help will no longer be his saving grace. He has plenty of assistance in Cleveland. 

There are only mandatory expectations—for him and Cleveland—he’s never faced before. He and the Cavaliers will be tasked with doing things he’s never done, and going places he’s never been.

Thrive or flop, Love’s reputation is truly on the line for the time. Cleveland is giving him what he wants and needs, without the comfort of legitimate excuses.

All of those are back in Minnesota.


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Ethan Skolnick on the Possibilty of Pau Gasol Joining the Big 3 in Miami

With veteran forward Pau Gasol fielding a phone call from the Miami Heat‘s president, Pat Riley, speculation has begun over whether or not the Spaniard could join the Big Three in South Beach. How realistic is it that Gasol could sign with the Heat?

Heat insider Ethan Skolnick breaks it down in the video above.

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Carmelo Favorites Tweet About LeBron Joining Him With Knicks

Carmelo Anthony ‘favorited’ a report on Twitter that “LeBron James is rumored to be strongly considering joining Carmelo Anthony and Phil Jackson in New York.”
The report from IActAFool.com hardly seems credible or newsworthy, but Anthony’s response is certainly intriguing.
The Knicks do not cap space for 2014 and Jackson suggested that 2015 will have a more interesting free agency class.
Anthony has only favorited two other Tweets and none since May of last year.

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Phil Jackson Joining NY Knicks Allows LA Lakers to Finally Move On

With Phil Jackson now running the New York Knicks, the Los Angeles Lakers are officially on their own. And as terrifying as the prospect of life without the Zen Master might seem, Lakers fans, players and front-office members are all better off knowing they can’t rely on Jackson to float in on a cloud of sage smoke to save them.

L.A. got its clean break from Jackson in the form of a press conference on March 18. It watched Jackson accept the Knicks presidency. And though it was a painfully abrupt form of closure, it was exactly what the Lakers needed.


Never Got Over Him

Jackson retired from the Lakers in 2011, walking away after winning five rings in Los Angeles because of health concerns and, probably, an understanding that the team’s top-tier talent was heading down the wrong end of the aging curve.

Since then, Lakers fans haven’t exactly done a great job of letting go.

When Jackson was in the running to replace Mike Brown in November 2012, fans at the Staples Center let their feelings be known.

They piped up again at the end of that season when the Lakers retired Shaquille O’Neal‘s jersey.

Those are just two examples, but there have been plenty of other instances when the assembled Purple and Gold loyalists gave voice to their innermost desires by chanting “We Want Phil.”

The desperate cries were a symptom of a larger disease that afflicted everyone associated with the Lakers organization. Whenever anything went wrong, hiring Jackson was always the answer. It was a panacea capable of curing issues on the sidelines, in the locker room and in the executive suite.

Well, at least that’s what many fans believed.

Kobe Bryant was as guilty as anyone, openly campaigning for Jackson to succeed Brown last season. And when the news broke about New York hiring the only coach with whom Bryant had ever won a title, No. 24 lashed out at his bosses for letting Jackson slip through their fingers a second time, per Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com:

You know how I feel about Phil. I have so much admiration for him and respect and I have a great relationship with him. Personally, it would be hard for me to understand that happening twice. It would be tough. I don’t really get it.

The mythical figure even Bryant believed could save the Lakers was gone, and nobody adjusted to that development well.

ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne explains the mentality that made accepting the reality of Jackson’s departure so difficult:

People got used to it that way. It was comforting to know Jackson was still there, close by. Just a tweet away. That also made it hard for other things to grow, but it was better than the alternative.

When legendary owner Dr. Jerry Buss passed away last February, Jackson was still the one subsuming that patriarchal role in this very strange, dysfunctional saga. The Lakers and their fans never really had to stare into the abyss in front of them.

All alone, they’re staring into the abyss now. And in a strange way, that’s a good thing.


A Dose of Reality

Jackson was always going to be just out of reach for the Lakers, and that’s part of what makes his official unavailability so healthy for his former organization.

Jim Buss was never going to hire him, something we should have accepted when the team passed over Jackson in favor of Mike D’Antoni. The decision itself would have been enough, but the fact that L.A. abruptly cut off talks with Jackson on a late-night phone call (when Jackson was reportedly giving a return serious thought, no less) permanently severed the tie.

And whatever slim chance for reconciliation might have existed disappeared when L.A.’s roster fell apart.

Jackson has never really been a “fixer” by trade. He generally takes a group of players with enough talent to get the job done and imposes his system onto them. There’s no system that can fix the Lakers’ broken roster, and Jackson knew it.

Admittedly, that theory makes it hard to fathom why he’d sign on with the similarly dysfunctional Knicks, but that’s another discussion entirely.

The point is, Phil was never coming back. Now, everyone who plays, works and roots for the Lakers has to focus on the future—instead of foolishly hoping for help from the past.

The safety net is gone. Jackson isn’t hovering around the periphery as a symbol of hope anymore. He isn’t going to save Los Angeles.

Based on the comments James Dolan made at Jackson’s introductory press conference, it’s the Knicks’ turn to rely on the Zen Master’s ability to magically resurrect a franchise.

At least Jackson’s on the payroll in New York, though. That makes those hopes a bit more realistic than they ever were in L.A.


What Now?

Jackson’s decision to join the Knicks doesn’t provide any answers for the Lakers’ current problems. It does, however, force L.A. to confront some unpleasant questions on its own—for the first time in years.

The team has to find some unity at the top. And perhaps whatever rift might exist between Jim and Jeanie Buss will start to close now that Jackson is out of the picture professionally.

From there, a coaching search has to begin in earnest. Jackson’s absence from that event will also be a good thing for the Lakers. Now, whoever replaces D’Antoni won’t be viewed as a backup plan or placeholder. Jackson won’t loom over the next coach like he did D’Antoni.

And maybe as Bryant comes to terms with the notion that no savior can swoop in and help him squeeze another ring into the twilight of his career, he’ll gradually acknowledge the reality of his final seasons in the league. It’s too late for Bryant to undo his team-crippling deal, but maybe he’ll finally admit his contract is as much of a roadblock to his team’s future success as anything else.

Again, that won’t change much. But it could result in a little less hypocritical complaining from Kobe. I think we’re all in favor of that.

Jackson is a few thousand miles away from the Lakers now, but he might as well be a few thousand light years. That distance does nothing to fix what’s wrong in Los Angeles, but it provides real closure. Nobody affiliated with the organization can rationally hold out hope he’ll come out of retirement to help.

Now, maybe L.A. can get down to the business of helping itself.

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Carmelo Anthony: Phil Jackson Joining Knicks Won’t Affect Free Agency

Carmelo Anthony confirmed to reporters that Phil Jackson will be hired by the New York Knicks, although he’s uncertain of the exact role Jackson will play. ‘Melo also told reporters that bringing the Zen Master aboard won’t impact his impending free agency, per ESPN: “I don’t think it’ll have any effect on me, just as far as what I’m thinking or my decision or anything like that,” Anthony told reporters after the team’s shootaround in Boston on Wednesday morning. “Like I said, I haven’t talked to Phil yet, just to get his insight on a lot of things — what’s his plan, what’s his future plan — because everything’s in his hands now.” He does, however, recognize what someone like Jackson could do for a Knicks organization, which has lacked direction in recent times: “You can always use Phil Jackson inside an organization, his philosophy, his mindset, his résumé, what he brings to a team, what he brings to an organization,” Anthony said. “That goes without even saying, so

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