This guy thinks LeBron will be better this season

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This guy thinks LeBron will be better this season

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) -- All LeBron James has done so far this year is win the NBA's MVP award for the third time, an NBA Finals MVP trophy to go along with that one, his elusive first championship and a second Olympic gold medal. Dwyane Wade thinks his Miami Heat teammate is just getting started. With the start of Heat training camp now just six weeks away, Wade said on Friday that he expects James to be even better this coming season now that the will-he-ever-win-a-championship question has been forever put to rest. "That monkey is off his back and now he's just playing basketball," Wade said while taking a break from his annual fantasy camp, where fans pay up to 12,500 to get a four-day luxury taste of NBA life. "I think we'll see a better LeBron James -- scary to say, three-time MVP -- than we've seen. And it's because all he has to do is play basketball now. He doesn't have to worry about what he hasn't done. It'll always be something, but he's got the biggest one off his back." Wade was a James fan instead of a James teammate this summer, when the U.S. men's basketball team won its second straight Olympic gold. Wade could not play while recovering from knee surgery but was in London for part of the Olympic tournament, and he said James made playing at a high level -- such as a triple-double against Australia in the quarterfinal round -- seem "effortless." It's been that way for a while, too. Going back to Miami's win-or-go-home Game 6 in Boston of the Eastern Conference finals, James has played in 20 games with the Heat and for USA Basketball. In those, his teams are 19-1, with the lone loss being Game 1 of the NBA Finals against Oklahoma City. Four straight wins to close that title series, then five straight exhibition victories with the U.S. team, then an 8-0 Olympic record -- 17 straight wins in all. "He's on an amazing run," Wade said. "When you're on these kind of runs, you enjoy it. You keep going because you don't know when it's going to stop. I think he's just enjoying it right now. He's doing all this stuff without thinking about it. He's breaking records. He's in the history books. He's not thinking about it; he's just doing it. He's at a gear that I've seen myself at before when it just feels easy. He's just a gear above everyone." Soon, Wade hopes to be back at his usual gear. He's starting to hit the peak of his offseason schedule. Wade hosts his annual "Wade's World" weekend for kids in Chicago next week, then begins his book tour in New York on Sept. 4. Wade spent much of the past year writing a book about his experience as a father and the custody fight for his two sons. And as he said in London, Wade reiterated on Friday his recovery from knee surgery is going according to plan, and that he intends to be back on the court to begin workouts in a couple of weeks. That means he won't be scrimmaging the fantasy campers this weekend -- though instead of dunking on them, as he did last summer, he will take them on in a 3-point contest instead. It's far from the strongest part of his game, but he's not too worried. "I'll have some fun, be able to interact with them, make sure they're able (to) say that they lost to me again," Wade said. "I won't show up and leave. I'm here. They'll see me here all day; they know I'm a part of it. They know I'll run out on the court when they do something great and know I'll say something when they don't." Campers get to stay in an upscale hotel, receive plenty of new basketball gear, and even get coached by, among others, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and Indiana's Tom Crean -- who coached Wade at Marquette. Miami coach Jim Larranaga and South Carolina's Frank Martin, a Miami native, are also on the coaching lineup. "I wish I could play," Wade said. Instead, he'll be a fan this weekend, just like he was for James in London. "I'm one of LeBron's biggest fans," Wade said. "I couldn't be teammates with him if I wasn't a fan of his game. I'm one of his biggest supporters, one of his best friends. It's good to see him succeed like this, especially because I know the stuff he's dealt with. It's in the rear-view mirror now and he's going to move forward."

Rewind: Warriors 'weren't on the same page' in loss to Memphis

Rewind: Warriors 'weren't on the same page' in loss to Memphis

He is a cheerful presence, a terrific teammate with considerable knowledge of how basketball should be played at the NBA level.

Only in exceedingly rare cases, though, is Anderson Varejao able to produce for the Warriors, and he’s no help at all when most of his teammates fail to show up.

Such was the case Saturday night in Memphis, when the Warriors, with Varejao starting at center in place of Zaza Pachulia, submitted their worst performance – worse, even, than that stunning setback to the Lakers on Dec. 4 – of the season in a 110-89 loss to a shorthanded Grizzlies team that, even when fully healthy, has difficulty scoring.

Though Varejao was a special level of awful, he was not alone in his ineptitude.

“It was one of those nights, you know,” Kevin Durant told reporters in Memphis.

Stephen Curry was careless on offense and indifferent on defense. Klay Thompson struggled with his shot and, therefore, his game. Draymond Green didn’t bring his usual energy but picked up a technical foul for beefing with an official. Durant didn’t meet his usual standard but acquitted himself relatively well.

The Warriors were smashed by a team of castoffs and hopefuls circulating around the established talents of Marc Gasol, Tony Allen and Zach Randolph. Most of the damage, however, was self-inflicted – as in 23 turnovers, resulting in 30 points for the Grizzlies.

Asked what went wrong with the offense, Warriors coach Steve Kerr didn’t hesitate.

“Everything,” he said. “Poor decision-making, poor ball-handling, good defense on their part. They were denying a lot of things and trying to knock us off our cuts, and they did a good job of that.”

So bad were the Warriors that Kerr, joked about his job status.

“I just checked with Bob,” he cracked, referring to general manager Bob Myers. “I’m not fired. I called him just to make sure.”

It was that kind of night, laughably bumbling, the kind of showing that has led to the firing of coaches on shaky status. It was stunning to watch the best team in the NBA, take the court at FedEx Forum and performed as if scrimmaging for season-ticket holders at team headquarters.

With stars Mike Conley, Chandler Parsons and Vince Carter out with injuries, the Grizzlies owned the night from the start, leading by as much as 30.

“We weren’t on the same page,” Thompson said. “We were trying to force too many things. We weren’t patient enough. When you play a team like that that plays at a slow pace you have to be patient. You can’t play at a fast pace like we have in the past. You have to be patient. You have to move the ball around the perimeter. You have to trust each other. It’s a bad night.”

The Warriors were playing without Andre Iguodala, who was resting, and Kevon Looney, who was nursing a sprained right ankle. Pachulia, with a contusion on his right wrist, was a late scratch.

The result was Varejao joining Green, Durant, Thompson and Curry in the starting lineup. It didn’t take long to get ugly, as Memphis took leads of 29-11 in the first quarter and maintained a double-digit lead until the final buzzer.

Varejao played 18 minutes and contributed five rebounds, two assists, one steal and two turnovers. He took only two shots, missing both, and finished minus-21.

“We definitely missed Zaza,” Durant said, “but that’s not the reason why we missed the basketball game. We waited too long to try to be physical. Once we started it was a little too late.

“We definitely want to have all our guys there, but sometimes it’s not in play. We still have to go out there, and play a better game than we played tonight. It’s just one of those games we have to throw out and get ready for the next one tomorrow.”

Well, that’s all there is to do. Every team, no matter how gifted, will have nights when its members stagger about like zombies. The Warriors have had two in 24 games.

The upside of this one was that Kerr could pull his starters early in hopes of preserving them for a game Sunday against the defective but frisky young Minnesota Timberwolves.

Rewind: Sharks get the bounces in imperfect win against Hurricanes

Rewind: Sharks get the bounces in imperfect win against Hurricanes

SAN JOSE – The Sharks’ performance over the Hurricanes on Saturday night at SAP Center won’t be one that the team re-watches and reflects back upon as a model for how they want to perform.

Still, after deserving better in last Wednesday’s loss to Ottawa, and maybe even Friday’s defeat to the rival Ducks, there was a sense that the 4-3 win was essentially an evening out of their recent luck. San Jose had just 20 shots on goal, tying their season low, but four of them beat Cam Ward. That includes the second period when their shooting percentage was a lofty 50 percent (four shots, two goals).

“It’s good to see the puck go in for a few guys,” Joe Pavelski said. “The bounces – that’s why you just have to keep playing. I would have thought we would have won the other two games before this one.”

Pete DeBoer said: “I think when you look at the week, out of the three games we played, it was probably our poorest of the three. But we found a way to win, and the other two we lost, maybe we deserved better. That's hockey.”

After falling behind 2-0 in each of their last two games, the Sharks jumped on the Hurricanes just 12 seconds in when Patrick Marleau scored on a two-on-one with Joe Thornton.

Aaron Dell was surely chuffed after that one. In a previous start against Carolina on Nov. 15, the first-year backup stood on his head but got no support in a 1-0 loss.

“It’s a good feeling to get one right away,” Dell said.

The difference in the game was the Sharks’ pair of second period goals, after they had leads of 1-0 and 2-1 wiped away. Logan Couture’s redirection of a Brent Burns shot put San Jose ahead to stay, 3-2, while Kevin Labanc’s second goal in as many nights on the rebound of a Dylan DeMelo blast was the necessary insurance, and the game-winner.

Labanc now has three goals in his last five games, generating the type of offense that was expected from others on the team, but just hasn’t come.

“It’s a confidence booster, that’s for sure,” Labanc said of scoring in consecutive games. “It’s just momentum, and you ride with it. You just keep going, and whatever opportunities come by you, you’ve just got to make sure it goes in the net.”

DeBoer said: "For a team that's had trouble scoring, he's one guy that's consistently scored for us. The puck follows him around. … He's done a great job, and he's a hard guy to remove from the lineup just because of how he's playing and how he's contributing.”

At the end of a three-game California road trip, Carolina pushed hard to start the third down 4-2. Derek Ryan’s power play goal brought the ‘Canes back to within one, and the way the ice was tilted over those first four minutes, it looked like the Sharks might be in trouble.

Instead, they buckled down in the defensive zone despite missing defenseman Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who is “day-to-day” with a lower body injury after leaving in the second period, according to DeBoer.

"They have a lot of talented guys on the team that can make plays,” said Paul Martin, who got the most fortuitous bounce of the night when his first period slap shot went in off of defenseman Brett Pesce's skate. “For us, it was just trying to find a way to win at that point, take care of our own zone, and Deller made some big key saves when we needed them."

Dell’s biggest stop came with about 20 seconds left, when he challenged Jeff Skinner on a rebound try – one of 11 shots for the Hurricanes forward – and saw the backhander hit him in the chest. He’s now 3-1 in his nascent NHL career.

“The last minute six-on-five is always a really, really long minute,” Dell said. “I think we played it pretty well.”

Carolina had plenty of zone time over the final two minutes with Ward pulled for an extra attacker. But this time, it was the Sharks’ opponent that never got that necessary bounce.