LeBron doesn’t need 61 to validate his greatness or MVP status


Just when LeBron James was starting to move comfortably through the prime of his career without the albatross that haunted the beginning of it, he managed to usher a new elephant into the room.

The first albatross, of course, was that LeBron James was not — and never will be — Michael Jordan. But we had all grown to accept that, in large part because James himself did. The loss to Dallas in the 2011 Finals changed him, and refocused him on the more appropriate goal of simply trying to be LeBron James. 

Being LeBron James is enough, as he has proved time and again. But then James went out and dropped a career-high 61 points on the hapless, helpless Charlotte Bobcats on a random Monday night in early March, and all it did was cause more frustration and confusion about his standing in the game.

Just as most of us have accepted that LeBron is not Michael, we also must come to grips with the fact that he is not the guy who scored 61 points Monday night, either. That is not to diminish James’ accomplishment, or to say that it hasn’t tilted the MVP race in his favor and away from Kevin Durant. It is, instead, to afford James the highest compliment.

He’s so much better than that.

He’s so much more than an historic number in the points column of a box score.

What comes to mind today as far as the two-man race for MVP is, “Your move, KD.” There’s this notion that, with his emphatic, efficient and devastating 61-point performance, James has positioned the proverbial chess pieces on the MVP board in such a way that he’ll soon be able to say, “Checkmate.” This shortsighted horse-race mentality is the same one that had everyone believing that Durant was somehow leading the MVP race when he went on a one-man-wrecking-crew binge after Christmas, with Russell Westbrook down with a knee injury.

Neither is true. What rings true to me is that James is the man to beat in the MVP race not because he scored 61 points on Monday night, but in spite of it.

James doesn’t have to — and shouldn’t have to — put up a scoring number like that to remind us how great he is. Scoring doesn’t define him because he’s so much more.

But in today’s short attention span theater, with so much noise in the atmosphere, most of us need an occasional reminder that a basketball player of James’ stature can — and will — unleash a virtuoso scoring game from time to time. Our appetites demand it — especially those of us who came of age with Jordan’s NBA and were then spoiled by the Kobe Bryant-Allen Iverson era that followed.

But once the excitement dies down, once the social media buzz subsides and the clicks stop clicking, we can return to that quiet, calm place that allows us to recognize James’ overall greatness for what it is.

He can play five positions and guard five positions. He could just as easily get 20 rebounds or 20 assists as 61 points if that’s what the game required — or, if that’s what the MVP horse-race mentality demanded. 

The man is shooting a career-high 58 percent from the field while averaging the fewest field-goal attempts (17.4) of his 11-year career. Put another way, that’s 3.4 fewer attempts per game than he averaged through his seven seasons in Cleveland, when everyone still wanted him to Be Like Mike.

Is he better thag.The defender has been linked with Juventus this week.However, his brother Luan wrote on Instagram: “Marquinhos has never agreed terms with another club.”L’Equipe adds Luan told fans who contacted him, “Marquinhos will stay at PSG”.It’s been suggen Mike? I’m not even going there. Such a leap would take the horse-race mentality I abhor to new depths of impatience and irrationality. But it’s far from a leap to say he’s the best basketball player on the planet now, and that the MVP trophy is his to lose as long as he continues to put on his headband (and mask, as the case may be). Even on his rare night of sl focus from his players for Saturday’s clash with Liverpool.The Blades have made an impressive start to their first Premier League campaign since 2006-07 to sit 10th after six games, but face their stiffest challenge yet when they host the European coring indulgence, James Since 1985-86, only four other humans — Bryant, Karl Malone, Gilbert Arenas and Tom Chambers — have scored 60 points on 33 or fewer field-goal attempts.

But the truth is, I am only responsible for my own MVP vote and can’t control (much to my chagrin) the ebbs and flows of the “race,” such that it is. So let’s play along for a moment and consider my earlier point of what Durant has to do now to get back into it. What now, KD?

The Thunder have 22 games left, most of which presumably will include Westbrook, who is five games into his latest return from knee troubles. The Bobcats, who’ve generously surrendered the three most recent 55-plus scoring games in the league (James’ 61, Carmelo Anthony’s 62 and Deron Williams’ 57), are not on the schedule. The Thunder just beat Charlotte on Sunday, and Durant only scored 28 points. (More fuel for the horserace crowd, you see.)

Ten of Oklahoma City’s remaining games come against teams that are in the bottom third of the NBA in defensive efficiency: Philadelphia, the Lakers (twice), Dallas (twice), Denver, Utah, New Orleans (twice) and Detroit. Seven come against teams that are in the top third of the league in defensive efficiency: Houston (twice), Chicago, Toronto, San Antonio, the Clippers and Indiana.

What does that mean? It shouldn’t mean anything if, for example, Durant answers with a career-high 60 or 65 against the tanktastic Sixers on Tuesday night. But if he did, the short attention span theater would reopen for business, the buzz machine would roar back to life and we’d get another 24-hour news cycle of “analysis” telling us that Durant had “pulled even” with James in the race for an award that should be determined on an 82-game body of work rather than blips on the regular-season radar.

What if Durant did it on Sunday against the Lakers on national TV? Would that move the needle more? 

No more than LeBron’s 61-point outburst moved theions League clash against Ajax this week.The Blues are hoping to get a positive result against the top side in the group.Ajax have two wins from their first two games, while the Blues have one win and one loss from those matches.”We know it’s a massi needle for me. They’re both so much more than that, and choosing one over the other for MVP requires a much deeper dive — not to mention a much broader appreciation of their talents.


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Knicks’ Tyson Chandler to return Wednesday against the Bucks


Things are really bad for the right now. But they could be getting a little better. 

First, they get to play the tonight. But more important, coach Mike Woodson that center Tyson Chandler will return to the starting lineup against Milwaukee. 

Chandler, who has been out since Nov. 5 because of a stress fracture in his leg, had a timetable of 4-6 weeks,ibar refuse to give up on keeping hold of Asier Riesgo.The veteran goalkeeper, 34, is off contract aform Everton goalkeeper Jordan Pickford.Pickford has made a number of blunders this season, and most recently was at fault when he failed to stop Bruno Fernandes’ tame effort in the 1-1 draw with Manchester United.”I think the reality is, as a goalket the end of month and has an offer to extend his stay by a year.However, Mundo Deportivo says Eibar management have yet to hear back from Riesgo duri and is returning right on the back end of that. 

The plan tonight, Woodson said, is for Chandler to return as the starting center with coming off the burnemouth goalkeeper Asmir Begovic is excited with his move to AC Milan.Begovic joins the Rossonero on a straight loan to June.“I chose Milan because it’s a great challenge for me,” Begovic said to Rossoneri TV. “It’s one of the best clubs in theench. 

The Knicks have felt most of their problems on the defensive end, allowing 104.3 points per 100 possessions, which ranks them 25th in the league. Having Chandler back to patrol the middle will aid that quite a lot, especially because it presents the Knicks more options to play with at power forward with Chandler alongside him. 

Chandler, 31, is averaging 7.3 points and 9.0 rebounds in four games this season.

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boss Harry Redknapp.Bowen joined West Ham last mon


guard was at itg world-class talent Dad could’ve signed for Hammers boss Harry Redknapp.Bowen joined West Ham last month from Hull City.“My dad Sam used to play and when he was at Merthyr Tydfil he came to West Ham for a trial and Harry Redknapp wanted to sign him,” he told the Lond, says the Football Association’s Kelly Simmons, reports BBC Sport.English top-flight sides are currently permitted to spend 40% of their turnover on wages, under FA rules.The USA’s NWSL has upts playing for Chelsea as a supporter is a “great feeling”.The winger spoke to the match programme for tonight’s clash with Manchester United.”I’ve been a Chelsea fan since I joined and, trust me, when you play for the club you support, it’s a massivped its salary cap by nearly 20% to $ again on Sunday, scoring a game-high 34 points on 13 of 27 from the floor, including 4 of 11 from 3-point land, and 4 of 6 from the free throw line in a loss to the Raptors on Sunday.Curry also chipped in with seven assists, four rebounds and one steal while logging 43 minutes of game action. He is averaging 20.4 points, 8.0 assists and 6.2 rebounds over his last five games.

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during a 107-104 win over the Chicago Bulls. Wrote


backup point guard had a fairly solid performance on Saturday night during a 107-104 win over the Chicago Bulls. Wroten led the Philadelphia bench in scoring. Wroten shot 4 for 11 from the field with three 3-pointers in six attempts to scose to being a top four contender.Ancelotti passionately believes that Everton are just three players away from challenging for the Champions League.“I think the Champions League is a realistic target for Everton next season…yes it’s realistic,” ore 11 points. He played 23 minutes and added five rebounds, a steal and a block. The 20-year-old defender Toby Alderweireld insists they go to RB Leipzig in good spirits.Spurs fought back from a goal down to draw 1-1 at Burnley on Saturday ahead of Tuesday’s second-leg Champions League round 16 clash in Germany. RBL lead the tie 1-0 on aggregat out of Washington has been in double figures in scoring in each game this season and has yet to really heat up believes that Newcastle United are performing better this season.Many fans were skeptical about whether Steve Bruce had what it took to replace Rafa Benitez as manager.And while Newcastle are only a place and point off the relegation zone, Schar thi with his shot.

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s 110-107 loss to the Mavericks Friday.It’s


guard scored a team-high 28 points on 12 of 20 shooting in his team’s 110-107 loss to the Mavericks Friday.

It’s his second time hitting that scoring mark in his last threticket holder Cameron Robson received a letter on Tuesday detailing how they believe he ‘intended to incite the crowd’ ahead of their Premier League defeat by Liverpool.Robson, 23, had volunteered to wave a giant flag while the players walked out ande games. Dragic has recorded seven assists, five rebounds and ty boss Pep Guardiola plans to overhaul his squad this summer.The Telegraph says as many as five first-team players could be set to leave the Etihad at the end of the season.Attracting interest from City is Villarreal’s Pau Torres, 22, who made his Sphree steals in 38 minutes of action Friday. He has have several other positions that they want to strengthen before the transfer window closes on August 8.Among them include a new centre-back, with former Chelsea ace Cahill now the No 1 priority following his release from the Blues.The Englishman isaveraged 19.5 points and 6.0 assists in 36 games played.

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w 1-1 with Olympiacos in front of a barren stadium


forward turneby the coronavirus outbreak.The Premier League club drew 1-1 with Olympiacos in front of a barren stadium in Greece on Thursday.Speaking after the Europa League last-16 tie, Wolves skipper Conor Coady said: “It was a tough game, it went harder when td in another dominant performance during Saturday’s contest against the Rockets.Love went 11 of 22 shooting from the field, including 2 of 5 from beyond the arc, and a perfect 3 of 3 from the charity stripe. He finished the game with 27 points and 15 rebounds, with six of them coming from the offensive side. He also chipped in with Love has doubled up in all but one of the team’s first 15 games this season. He is averaging 20.4 points and 13.2 rebounds on 41.3 shooting froays that he is not thinking about his future at Newcastle United while he is out on loan at Swansea City.The goalkeeper is only worried about helping Swansea get into the playoffs and eventually back into the Premier League.The 22-year-old has ten mom the field, includr Kalvin Phillips.The Mirror says Wolves and Bournemouth have joined Aston Villa in the race to sign Phillips.Villa have offered £11million for Phillips and now Leeds’ rising midfield star has attracted interest from Wolves and Bournemouth.Phillips,ing 32.0 percent from downtown.

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e fifth straight game in a 98-91 win over the Trai


guard continues to play a big role, scoring in double figures for the fifth straight game in a 98-91 win over the Trail Blazers Tuesday.

Lee scored 12 points on 5 of 9 shooting Tuesdayketed a combined €321.8 million (US$357.6 million) of La Liga’s broadcast revenues for the 2018/19 season, according to the latest figures published by the organising body for Spanish top two tiers, reports, /.La Liga distributed a total €1.42 bi, incliker Andy Carroll has hit back at West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady.In November, days after Carroll played in Newcastle’s 3-2 win at London Stadium, Brady attacked him in her newspaper column, questioning his commitment when with West Ham and jokinuding a 3-pointer in his 31 minutes. He also tossed in three steals, but was quiet otherwise with one rebound and one assist.

Lee is averaging 15.0 points per game in 10 games since arriving in Memphis. He has been a starter in eight of those games, and is receiving 30-plus minutes on a consistened.Marca says he has rejected every contract offer Tottenham have tabled this summer as he awaits an approach from Real Madrid.The Danish playmaker remains at the London club but has failed to agree terms and now has less than a year on his Spurs cont basis for the first time since 2011-12.  

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f the season, scoring 29 points on 10 of 18 shooti


forward came one assist short of recording his first double-double of the season, scoring 29 points on 10 of 18 shooting while totaling 15 rebounds and a season-high nine awith Spurs.”I do more for the team defensively. Maybe not getting as many goals and assists, but that’s not important to me. I make sure I help the team and try to keep my pla his exit from the club last season.The 34-year-old has enjoyed a resurgent season at Villarreal which has led to a recall to the Spain national team.And he still harbours some regret at not being able to say farewell to the Emirates.”I have always nce in the starting 11. I’m learning every year as a player and I feel more ssists in his team’s 120-109 win over the Blazers Wednesday.

Love alscould yet play outside of Europe.Lloris told France Football: “I do not think so. I think I still have a few years ahead of me. In any case, I will do everything to make the most of it. I will also know how to say stop at the right time, but I’m not o hit four of his seven three-point attempts while playing 41 minutes in the victory. He has averaged 25.2 points, 13.7 rebounds and 4.2 assists over 25 games played.

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keeper Kieran O’Hara says his dream remains to mak


forward scored 20-plus points for the second timnchester United goalkeeper Kieran O’Hara says his dream remains to make it at Old Trafford.O’Hara is currently impressing on-loan at Burton Albion.Speaking to FourFourTwo, O’Hara says, “I’ve adapted as well as I could have possibly hoped.“But note in the last five games during Thursday’s win over Miami.Boozer went 10 of 17 shooting from the field and 7 of 9 from the free throw line. He finished the game with a team-high 27 points and fell one rebound shy of a double-double, racking up nine boards in a 107-87 victory. He also chipped in with one assist while logging 33 minutes of game action.Boozer is averaging 15.0 points aere’s more to come after their Community Shield final triumph on Sunday.City overcame Liverpool on penalties at Wembley after a 1-1 draw, with Raheem Sterling’s first-half effort cancelled out by Joel Matip’s header.“It was a really tough game, yound 9.chester United striker struggled with his confidence during Jose Mourinho’s time in charge.The Frenchman wasn’t happy working with the Portuguese coach, and he was suffering on a daily basis at Old Trafford.”During our first two years together in Man0 rebounds over his last five games played. He is shooting 45.7 percent from the field over that span.

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Playoff Picture: First look as race starts to take shape


As we enter the last quarter of the NBA, it’s time to start discussing the season that matters, the postseason. We’re less than 20 games and 40 days from the playoffs, which is just close enough to take a look at how the playoff positioning is taking shape. Here are the important battles in each conference. Bear in mind that a lot can change, but consider this a primer for where we’re at as we head down the stretch.

numbers: number of games that in combination a team must win or their closest challenge must lose to clinch the spot in question.

back one game, none in the loss column. Remaining games: 21 for the Heat, 19 for the . Magic number: 20 for the Pacers.

The Pacers had chances with a recent Heat falter and Miami’s overall coasting to push this thing to an insurmountable lead. Instead, the Pacers are in free fall. What started as “not convincing wins” has eroded into actual losses with the Pacers going .500 in their last ten, and having lost four straight.

The dynamics of this one are fascinating, though. The Heat likely want to start shutting it down and coasting to the finish line by resting players sometime in early April, but they’re so close to getting homecourt, it’s going to be a tough sell for them not to push to the end. They know being healthy is more important for them than homecourt advantage, but they also know how demoralizing it would be for Indiana to take it from them in a season where Miami honestly hasn’t tried all that hard.

Meanwhile, Indiana doesn’t want to coast, but it also doesn’t want this thing neck and neck to the finish line. They’re a half-game back of the for homecourt advantage throughout the playoffs to boot. But how long is it going to take for them to kick the Heat off their tails?

Chicago half-game behind Toronto for No.3 (one in loss column), Washington 2.5 back (three back in loss column), Brooklyn three back (three back in loss column). Remaining games: 20 for Toronto, 19 for Chicago, 19 for Washington, 20 for Brooklyn.

Magic number: 21 for Toronto, 18 for no worse than fifth.

This mess could wind up pretty fascinating. If you’re the , do you want a higher seed to potentially avoid Miami in the second round (if the Heat stay the No.2), but risk having to face Chicago, the “team no one wants to face?” Chicago on paper is actually the weaker team, and Toronto can play Brooklyn tight as they did on Monday.

Meanwhile, the are just far enough out to where they likely won’t catch. It’s going to take a big slip even at just 2.5 games for Washington to catch. But homecourt advantage is just close enough to keep them engaged.

This one’s going to go down to the wire, barring a calamitous fall-off from someone. Don’t be surprised if Brooklyn, who has played the best of the teams since January 1st, makes a run and might even snag homecourt.

Safe: Brooklyn

Mostly Safe: Charlotte

Bubble: Atlanta, New York

Dead meat: Detroit, Cleveland

Charlotte three back for the No.6 (four back in the loss column), Atlanta two back for the No.7 (one back in the loss column), New York 3.5 back of the 8th spot (five back in the loss column).

Magic numbers to clinch playoff spot: 11 for Brooklyn, 13 for Charlotte, 16 for Atlanta.

Welcome to the Eastern Conference, y’all, where the are still alive at 25-40. Detroit may not be tanking, but if they’re not they have no concept of how to win. They’re tied with New York at 3.5 back, and have one less in the loss column. But they’ve absolutely imploded and don’t seem to have any answers right now. They have more incentive to lose (and keep their pick that would go to Charlotte) than win.

Yes, Cleveland could make it. The ‘ magic number to clinch over Cleveland (should the Knicks and implode) is a whopping 15. Thats’ a lot of wins for the Hawks should the Cavs get hot. Cleveland has 18 games left, though. At current pace, they’re only on track for six-to-seven more wins. It doesn’t look likely.

But New York… once thought to be dead, they’ve won four straight. Atlanta is 2-8 in its last ten, and has been decimated by injuries. This could get tight, but the Knicks absolutely must go strong throuon in Australasia.The summer signing from Crystal Palace was blown away by the club’s world-wide support.He told the club’s website: “I was told what would happen, but I didn’t know it was going to be that big. As soon as we landed, the fans were waigh their next three weeks of weak games. They haveManchester City boss Pep Guardiola was coy when asked if Liverpool are jealous of their Premier League success.The Citizens retained the title but Liverpool won the Champions League for the sixth time in their history in Madrid a month later.“To win the league in England is very hard,” Guardiola said.“The test is that it is the first time in 11 years that a team has repeated a league win, which Barcelona has done many times.“By contrast, Liverpool have not won the league for 30 years, and we all saw what Liverpool are this year.” Boston, Milwaukee, the Sixers, the , and the coming up, with a stop vs. the freefalling Pacers. That Indiana game isn’t a must-win, but it would sure help a lot.

Charlotte could conceivably fall out, too. They’ve got Washington, Minnesota, Brooklyn, Atlanta, Portland, Houston, Brooklyn again, and Washington again before April comes. But if they can survive til then, Charlotte finishes with Philly, Orlando, Cleveland, Boston, and Philadelphia again.

a half-game back for the No.1, one game back in the loss column.

It’s a battle with no end in sight. OKC had built up a decent lead for a while, but their struggles since Westbrook returned has put San Antonio up at the top. Realistically, neither team thinks it needs homecourt over the other one, but San Antonio might want homecourt in case it gets back to the Finals, after that whole.. you know… Game 6 thing.

Overall, OKC has been the better team this season, but it’s close, and the Spurs are clicking at the right time. With 20 games left, the Spurs and Thunder are 14 wins away from 60 wins, and both look relatively likely. This one will in all likelihood go down to the wire.

Houston at No.3, Clipper tied (one game back in the loss column). Portland two games back for the No. 3/ No. 4 (two games back in loss column). Golden State 4.5 back of the No. 3/No.4, 2.5 back of the No. 5. (four games back in loss column).

Magic numbers: Let me put it this way. Houston has won 44 games and their magic number just to finish no worse than 5th is 14 with 19 games left. There are no magic numbers, just pain.

This one is just brutal. Houston’s only two back of the No.2 seed, which is a whole other level of intense I won’t deal with yet. Let’s assume for the moment the Thunder and Spurs are locks for the top two spots. You’re talking about four great teams battling over who gets who in the first round.

Do the Clippers want to aim for OKC in the second round? That could have a lot to do with this. Houston’s also likely to aim for the Thunder like they did last year. Where OKC finishes could actually have a lot to do with this. Portland likely wants to avoid Houston.

Last year, avoiding the 4-5 matchup was the keypoint for teams, but then Denver lost to Golden State despite grabbing the 3-seed. This year, you get the Warriors again in the three spot.

The Western Conference is absolutely brutal. The best thing these teams can do is just try and win as much as possible andhn Lundstram.His original contract – signed when he was plucked from Oxford United in a £800,000 deal – expires this summer.Wilder said: “Talks are ongoing with two or three players. We’re always looking to reward the players if they perform and we’ hope for the best. There are no optimal roads through the West.

Safe: Golden State (probably)

Bubble: Dallas, Memphis, Phoenix

Dead Meat: Minnesota

Phoenix is a half-game back of the 8th spot, one back in the loss column.

Games remaining: 18 for Golden State, 18 for Dallas, 20 for Memphis, 19 for Phoenix.

Magic numbers for playoff spot: 16 for Golden State, 20 for Dallas.

Golden State is 3.5 up over the . It’s not insurmountable, but if they can just keep up their pace as of late (8-2 in their last ten) they should be fine. They’re just inside the furthest reaches of the danger zone.

Dallas dipped into the 9th spot in February and since then have managed to kick and claw their way to the No. 7 spot. They’re not out of the woods by any stretch of the imagination, but they’ve also managed to dodge bullets like they’re in the Matrix.

At this point, Phoenix is the concerning one. They’ve lost six of their last ten, and Memphis has been gaining on the bubble teams for two months. The schedules for all the remaining teams is tough, but at this point, Phoenix has to be the underdog for a spot. With coming back, though, this one could go to the wire as well.

Minnesota is five back, which isn’t insurmountable, but it’s not easy to summit with 20 games left either.

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