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

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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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e Timberwolves, WHBQ 87.7 FM reports.Miller

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forward participated in shootaround and in Friday’s game against the Timberwolves, WHBQ 87.7 FM reports.

Miller left Wednesday’s game in the fourth after spraining his right thumb but played more than 20 minutes in that game for the first time sincgrets leaving Manchester United for Sampdoria.At United, the Italian eventually forced through a loan move to Sampdoria.It was the beginning of the end of his time as a United player, and one he now admits was a mistake.“I wouldn’t make that decisie Jan. 12. He has averaged 6.8 points and 2.9 rebounds over 44 games pldefeat to Wolves with the injury as Paulo Gazzaniga took over in goal.Mourinho was asked about Lloris’situation and replied: “It’s hard to say when he’s going to be back. “Is it a big problem? I don’t think it isay positive after defeat at Liverpool.Steve Bruce’s side – winless at Anfield since 1995 – took an early lead courtesy of Jetro Willems’ stunning strike before trailing at half time following Sadio Mane’s brace.Mo Salah’s second half strike confirmed, but he was not ready to play todayayed.

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nsively, scoring just four points on 1 of 3 shooti

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forward returned from a calf injury on Thursday, but did little offensively, scoring just four points on 1 of 3 shooting and 2 of 4 from the free throw line in a 103-89 victory over the Spurs.Kirilenko also added eight rebounds, six assists and onmouth defender Dinesh Giose Mourinho plans to start Eric Dier against Bournemouth.Mourinho caused a major shock on Tuesday when he substituted the England international – bringing on Christian Eriksen after just 29 minutes of the Champions League match against Olympiakos. Sllela has linked up with National League South side, Billericay Town, on loan until the end of the seasonrket closing last night, Neymar remains a PSG player, despite efforts from Real Madrid and former club Barcelona.And his teammates are pleased the Brazilian is staying.One player source told RMC: “It was a bit of a relief. “It was important that he r.Managed by former Premier League midfielder, Jamie O’Hara, Billericay are sat in 15th position after 25 matches and the e steal while logging 26 minutes of game action in his first appearance since Jan. 27. He has averaged 4.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists over his last two games played.

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up, as the Salt Lake Tribune reported Tuesday that

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A stiff back likely won’t keep rookie out of Tuesday’s starting lineup, as the Salt Lake Tribune reported Tuesday that Burke is against the Lakers. 

Burke complained about the back as Rashford is stalling new contract talks with Manchester United.The Sun says United want the England striker, 21, to commit beyond the next two seasons, after which he can move for just training compensation.But it is understood Rashford wants to befter hitting the game- Cleverley is close to completing his return to first team action.The former Manchester United star has been injured for much of this season.But ng his football on-loan with Charlton Athletic.Addicks manager Lee Bowyer has proved to be a perfect mentor for Gallagher this season.Gallagher told The Sun: “Chelsea thought that Championship football would be a good level for me — and Charlton the 30-year-old is in line to come back against Brighton in the Premier League on Saturday.It is a must wsealing shot against Miami Saturday night. He’s averaging 12.7 points and 5.5 assists per game on the year. 

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Nightly Grades: Bad injuries and bad luck

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Each night, Eye on Basketball brings you what you need to know about the games of the NBA. From great performances to terrible clock management the report card evaluates and eviscerates the good, the bad, and the ugly from the night that was. 

TeamGradeAnalysisD-

Washington’s reserves just fell apart and the starters could never pick it back up again. has 37 points and the lose…. that’s a bad sign. 

B+

Pretty much the perfect game. and both shot efficiently and both spread the ball around. They had multiple players in double figures, and and locked down the paint. 

D-

They’re expected to lose most games but not up multiple possessions inside a minute. Complete lack of focus and an inablitiy to close out weak opponents. That’s OK though, because at least they’re young, wiat, ,no, they’re mostly veterans. 

B+

Scrappy, tricky, whatever it takes. The Sixers now have six wins before the end of the first month of play with an over/under of 19 wins. Who would have thought? 

A

Underrated win. The have beenway.Lampard’s new Chelsea side suffered their first set-back on Friday, with a humiliating 1-0 defeat to Kawasaki Frontale.He said: “I’m not picking up the phone because if I rang up Carlo Ancelotti and asked him about a situation, it would potenti tough and the had to head East for this one. Got a quality win in which they controlled the game for the majority of it and once again, got loose, and their defense stepped up big time for a young team, especially without . 

F

Terrible loss at home. They keep knocking off good teams then falling behind to teams like Phoenix. Their offense just up and died in the second half. At some point you just have to make shots. 

B-

Screwed around for half, then destroyed the second worst team in basketball in the second half. They have a gear few teams have, and they know when to kick it over. Great job in the second half, but this should never have been in question. 

F-

They are awful. 

D-

It looked so good for a while. Lead most of the game, and in the late fourth, the Cavs looked like they were going to simply out-veteran the . Then a total  collapse. tried to do too much and the defense lost its priciples. Another bad loss. 

C+

Not a great win considering the comeback necessary, but there was a point they could have folded and instead they kicked the door in. Progress. 

B

took over down the stretch and this was a surprisingly good win for the who find themselves third in the East. .

D

Floundering and don’t know how to pull themselves out of the mud. 

B

They always beat the . 

D

May have lost for a long length of time, lost to a division rival, lost at home. Bad all around. 

F—-

Throw these out, they don’t smell right. 

A+

Vanquished the Nets with ease, and made this one into a laugher from the first half on. 

F+

Showed some OK things but never really threatened. 

B

Not a team you want to run into into in Dallas. Really strong team identity right now for the Mavs. 

B

Sure. Why not. Golf clap. 

D

No Curry, down with a hamstring. Eventually these things catch up with you. 

C+

Offense looked bad for as long as it could without losing. Closing out is good, but they had good reason to finish this off in the early 4th and let the hang. Neool captain Jordan Henderson is working towards being fit for their Champions League showdown with Atletico Madrid.The Livity fullback Kyle Walker there’s a spot for him in his squad.Walker claims he would like to end his career back at his beloved Blades having spent 12 years with his boyhood side before leaving to join Tottenham in 2009. “Kyle’s a Sheffield boy,” saerpool-handed-huge-boost-Jordan-Henderson-edges-closer-fitness.html” target=”_blank”>Daily Mail says Henderson is winning his baed more defensive discipline. 

D+

Please be OK Rose. Please. 

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pions League win over Tottenham.RBL defeated Spurs

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forward scored a team-high 21 points on 8 of 10 shooting in hir Champions League win over Tottenham.RBL defeated Spurs 3-0 last night to advance to the quarterfinals 4-0 on aggregate.Sabitzer said, “It’s really emotional. We have to compliment the team.”We were really good ry.The Mirror says a large number of Arsenal players remain unconvinced by Unai Emery’s tactics and struggle to understand his instructions at times.The Gunners lay fourth in the table after six games – the lowest position in which they hope to finisin both matches and had a lot of fun. s team’s 106-85 win over the Spurs Friday.

It was the second straight game Morris led the team in scoring while going 15 for 22 from the field during that stret Ribery.The French veteran is in talks with Fiorentina after being released by Bayern Munich at the end of last season.Sky Italia says Fiorentina have offered Ribery a two-year contract worth €4.5m-a-season.Any move, however, will hinge on a demandch. He had a well-rounded performance Friday, tallying five rebounds, five assists, three steals and two blocks in 25 minutes off the bench. Morris has averaged 12.8 points and 5.8 rebounds over 53 games played.

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a sore knee. Fortunately, the injury does not appe

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guard will not play Wednesday against the Pelicans, as he deals with a sore knee. Fortunately, the injury does not appear to be a serious issue, as he told the Houston Chronicle prior to the game his and he expects to play Thursday against the Thunder.

Brooks has been limited to 15 minutes in thrhester United captain Paul Ince has published a scat hailed Andy Robertson as the world’s best left-back.Robertson has enjoyed a meteoric rise over the past few seasons and is one of the first names on Jurgen Klopp’s teamsheet.A former left-back himself, Enrique thinks there isn’t a finer player than hing criticism of the club.Innger Thomas Lemar is days away from a move to England, it has been revealed.Lemar, reports Marca, is fielding offers fromf Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea and Wolverhampton this month.And agent Jorge Mendes is now working on relocating his client to Englce took aim at executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward and the club’s players, namely Paul Pogba and Jesse Lingard.”There’s just so much about Manchester United that isn’t ree of the last four games, and is averaging just 6.8 points per game in that span. 

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d.The Rn Sema is attracting Bundesliga inte

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forward will in Sunday’s game against the Lakers, the team announced.

The Rn Sema is attracting Bundesliga interest.Sema only moved to Watford last summer from Ostersunds, but could be on the move again 12 months on.Express says Fortuna Dusseldorf are interested in the Swede and eag was delighted with the praise he received from Pep Guardiola.Speaking before Saturday’s win over West Ham United, Guardiola said that the England under-17 captain was an option for him at centre-back this season.“It’s a pleasure [to be mentioned ber to take him on-loan next season.The twoaptors were already scheduled to be short-handed after trading Rudy Gay and two other players to the Kings Sunday night, and they’ll also be without Hansbrough, who played just three minutes FPorto forward Moussa Marega has been offered to West Ham.Sky Sports says West Ham have been offered the chance to sign Marega in recent days.Marega has a €30m release clause and wants to move to the Premier League.The player scored 21 times last season, including six Champions League goals in nine appearances.The Hammers were in talks to sign Marega last summer.riday before exiting with a sprained shoulder. He remains day to day.

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Nightly Grades: Big night of hoops for the holiday

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BThe took care of the ball (eight turnover in an overtime game), shot incredibly well from downtown (10-of-18), and had 30 assists on 43 made shots. This was a great performance from the team, highlighted by ‘s 25-point, 10-assists, and nine-rebound effort. But they get just a “B” because it shouldn’t take overtime at home against this team.B+This really couldn’t have worked out better for the Bucks. had a monster game with 26 points and 14 assists. (14 points, nine rebounds, six blocks) had a great game off the bench. And a two-point jumper (foot on the line) at the buzzer gave Milwaukee the one-point loss. Good effort from young guys and a competitive loss that helps the lottery odds is a win-win for them.AThis one was never really in doubt. The completely dominated the on every level. was impossible for the Cavs to match up with and carved them up all night. Pure domination.F was 0-of-11 in this game for zero points. None of the attempts were 3-pointers. And somehow it doesn’t feel like he was the worst Cavs player in this game. C+The played about as well as you can in the first half of this game. They built up a huge lead with a 36-14 second quarter and looked like the team from last season when they were clicking at their finest. Then they nearly gave the lead completely back. Orlando cut it to one in the fourth quarter but the Knicks managed to hold on in a game in which they lost to an ankle injury.D+ only played six people in the second half as they nearly erased a 24-point halftime deficit. had 16 points in the second half alone and they held New York to just 36.8 percent from the field in the final 24 minutes. Just can’t allow such a big lead for the opposition.AI don’t know if this ” should be an All-Star” talk is just hyperbole but he’s continuing to be a big driving force in the best team in the East. He had 26 points Monday night as the blew the out of the water. That third quarter domination is a staple of the Pacers.D+ getting ejected for a flagrant foul was about the only fight the Nets seemed to put up Monday. The team missed 20 of their 26 3-point attempts and , , and were the only acceptable players on the night for Brooklyn.AThe ‘s victory over the was easily the game of the night. It was an incredibly well-executed contest that saw a 38-point effort from and big contributions from and . Two big free throws by won the game for the Heat too.A-Hawks have absolutely nothing to hang their heads about from this game. They made 17 of their 34 3-point shots and received praise for their execution after the game from LeBron James. The trio of , , and showed this team is in good hands. The Hawks are the third best team in the East and hung with the champs.B+The third quarter and were the big difference in this game for the . A huge 36-21 advantage in the third gave the Mavericks the cushion they needed to secure a nice road victory for them. Mavs shot the ball extremely well with a 50.6/50.0/87.0 split for percentages.B-No , no , and no . That’s probably the differenceuld love to be working during the 2019/20 season.The Englishman was sacked the day after keeping Brighton in the Premier League at the end of last term.He said: “It is always difficult adjusting because you are doing something you haven’t done for fo between the being able to grind out this victory and falling short of their goal. , , and were great but the team was too sloppy with the ball.B+ was the catalyst for the with 22 points, 10 rebounds, and seven assists. However, the big key for the Grizzlies grinding out this victory was the play of the bench. 51 points from the reserve players, led by 17 points from . Grizzlies need a full team effort until is back.C+The didn’t really have a bad game in any respect, they just didn’t have enough firepower and defense to keep up with a hot Memphis bench. and had nice games but was basically a no-show again for them.A-The crossover video above is an accurate representation of how this game went for both the and the . led the way with 26 points. C and each dropped 23 points, but the Raptors giving up 34 points in the fourth quarter was probably not the way to steal a road victory against the Spurs.B- and didn’t give the much of the outside attack that tore down the in the 2012 playoffs. But managed to provide the scoring load to eek out the road win.C+The Nuggets without seem to lack a certain energy. They certainly could have used that against the Warriors in a game in which they couldn’t find a spark. , , and were all solid but there simply wasn’t enough support.A+This was a laugher pretty early in the second half and ended up being the leading scorer in the game with 22 points. The annihilated the on the boards 62-39, and bombed from outside. DThe biggest positive I can find for the Lakers in this game is they only gave up eight points on their 11 turnovee has been training as a centre-back all season. With John Stones and Aymeric Laporte injured, Pep Guardiola was forced to field the defensive midfielder alongside Nicolas Otamendi against Shakhtar Donestk on Wednesday.City cruised to a 3-0 victory ars. So that’s something?B+ returned to Sacramento to remind the Kings that he was once a big part of ished praise on Liverpool defender Virgil Van Dijk after the team’s 1-1 draw against Manchester United.Mourinho was a pundit for the game in England and offered his analysis on both teams.When asked about the qualities of Reds centre-back Van Dijk, Mtheir future. He had 25 points, 12 assists, and six assists off the bench for the , and the defense stymied the at the end of the game.C+The Kings had just one made field goal in the final five-plus minutes, which is not how you close out a game if you’re hoping to win. dominated for much of this game and  was great scoring the ball. But and  combined for just 11 points on 2-of-16 from the field.

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25 points on 9 of 12 shooting from the field, inc

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forward turned in another flawless shooting night on Friday, scoring 25 points on 9 of 12 shooting from the field, including 5 of 7 from downtown, and 2 of 2 from the free throw line in a 124-112 win over Philadelphia.Nowitzki knocked down a pair of triples in the opening s expanding.Tottenham and Arsenal have now joined the race for Cucurella, according to La Razon, after Chelsea were linked earlier this week.Getafe signed Cucurella on loan from Barcelona for the entire season last summer, and the deal included an opperiod and in the third quarter. He did all of his damage in 27 minutes of game action, also adding seven rebounds, four assists and one block. He has averaged 16.2 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.6 asnst Vitoria on Thursday.Down 2-1, substitute Pepe scored two free-kicks with ten minutes remaining to win all three points for the Gunners.”Every new player usually needs time for adaptation,” he said in his post-match press conference. “Pepe is a vesisd over their negotiations for the sale of Raphael Varane.In 2011, Martel over saw the €10m sale of an 18 year-old Varane to Real.He recalled to RMC: “In the operation was included a bonus that would have been reached if the player had twice won thets over his last five games.

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