LeBron remains 'optimistic' about NBA season

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LeBron remains 'optimistic' about NBA season

From Comcast SportsNet Tuesday, August 9, 2011
AKRON, Ohio (AP) -- LeBron James stood before 360 third-graders on Monday, telling them their futures are bright. Plenty of ominous signs notwithstanding, he believes the same is true for the NBA. In an interview with The Associated Press, the Miami Heat forward said he is not considering offers to play internationally during the NBA lockout -- with one catch. He's committed to the 2012 Olympics and trying to help the United States defend the gold medal he helped win at the Beijing Games. "I'm optimistic that we will have a season this year," James said. "Very optimistic." A little anxious, too. He's working out twice a day, trying to erase some of the sting that's still there after the Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA finals. "Right now I've just been focusing on being a better player, working on my game every single day," James said at a news conference before the AP interview. "Like I said, the Dallas Mavericks were a great team and they deserved to win that championship. And I'll just use that as motivation coming into this season." He's also trying to deliver on his vow to be even better whenever the Heat resume play, saying he's been in Houston at times this offseason to learn post play from one of the game's all-time greats, former Rockets star Hakeem Olajuwon. "I look at what he was able to do throughout his career," James said. "Unbelievable talent. Multiple champion. Just to see how he was able to dominate in the low post, for me as an individual, I just try to look at some of the things I feel I need to get better at and hit home at it. Our team becomes better if I continue to get better and that's what it's about." So even with signs of major trouble afoot in the NBA -- union chief Billy Hunter told a conference of attorneys in Baltimore last week that he would bet against there being a 2011-12 season "at this moment" -- James remains hopeful. He said he understands why someone like star guard Deron Williams would feel compelled to seek a deal overseas and why Kobe Bryant appears to be flirting with the notion. It's just not for him, he said. "We all love the game of basketball so much," James said. "And the love of the game is always going to be there. Guys love the game." The Olympics count as a motivating force as well. And in time, he hinted he may even try recruiting some of his NBA pals in an effort to convince them to play in London next summer. Not yet, though. "I love representing my country and doing it the way I love to do it and that's playing the game of basketball," James said. "So I would love to be a part of the 2012 team traveling to London and defending our gold medal." James was in his hometown Monday to open "Wheels for Education," a program he's doing in conjunction with corporate partners State Farm, HP and Nike to provide hundreds of third-graders from Akron Public Schools academic tools they need. The program will follow those kids through their high school graduations in 2021, and James wants the initiative to continue growing annually -- plus even sees a chance to take it beyond his hometown, maybe to South Florida, maybe even internationally. Doused by rain on his 2-mile bike ride through Akron with 22 children ambassadors for the program pedaling alongside him, James said it still resonates deeply within in when he hears screams of joy in his hometown. Some people carrying signs in support of James showed up at the event more than two hours beforehand, hoping just for a glimpse of the two-time NBA MVP. "He just lives in Miami," said Doris Thomas, who brought her grandson. "He's one of us. He's Akron." The kids all get a laptop, a backpack with school supplies, and a bike. "I believe LeBron is a better person than he is a basketball player," Akron Mayor Donald Plusquellic said. "And I believe he's the best basketball player that ever lived. So that puts it in perspective, because he cares. He gives back. He doesn't have to do this. Riding around the city street, taking a chance on falling or something, giving back here and having some jerk yell something like they yell at me ... there's a sincerity inside of him." Monday's event was part of a busy two days for James: On Tuesday, a new 240,000 clubhouse -- some of the 3 million generated from his Decision' show last summer -- at Akron's Boys & Girls Club will be named in his honor, and later that night James and four of his high school teammates will be added to the athletic Hall of Fame at their alma mater, St. Vincent-St. Mary High School. "I'm just using what I have, using my ability, for better and good," James said. James touched on a variety of other topics in his interview with The AP, including: -- How he finds motivation to work, even with many people expecting the NBA season to be delayed, at least: "I believe that Billy Hunter and the owners and (NBA Commissioner) David Stern are going to work toward having a season this year. And I'll be ready for it." -- His upcoming trip to China, which starts later this week: "I look at it as an opportunity for me to go there and to continue to see the growth of the game of basketball. I've been there, I think this is going to be my fifth time being there and every year I continue to see the growth of the game and how inspired they are by the game of basketball. And mostly the game is played outdoors. That's another thing that I hit home ... when I grew up, that's all we had." -- How he is still overwhelmed by the reaction when he makes appearances in Akron and around the world, especially from kids: "It's very humbling that not only I can get a great reception here in my hometown but also when I travel abroad I get the same reception. It was never like a dream of mine, but at the same time, it's very satisfying to see that these kids love the way I play the game of basketball and respect the way I play the game of basketball every night." James seemed completely relaxed. He was surrounded Monday by nearly his entire inner circle: Longtime girlfriend Savannah Brinson, his mother, his two sons, many of his closest friends and advisers, even former teammates like Damon Jones. He urges fans to relax as well. James had a message for NBA fans, suggesting they not abandon hope for the season. "Stay positive," James said. "The game of basketball, we all love it. And we're going to try everything in our power to make sure that this game stays at a high level. And for me personally, I do it because of the fans. Every night I go out on the basketball court, I try to showcase my talent at the highest level because of the fans. They are our league. Our fans are our league."

Giants lineup: Ruggiano moves up against lefty Lester

Giants lineup: Ruggiano moves up against lefty Lester

Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon issued their lineups for Game 2 of the four-game series in Chicago:

Giants (20-26)
1. Joe Panik (L) 2B
2. Christian Arroyo (R) 3B
3. Brandon Belt (L) 1B
4. Buster Posey (R) C
5. Justin Ruggiano (R) RF
6. Brandon Crawford (L) SS
7. Eduardo Nunez (R) LF
8. Gorkys Hernandez (R) CF
9. Johnny Cueto (R) P (4-3, 4.50 ERA)

Cubs (22-21)
1. Ben Zobrist (S) 2B
2. Kyle Schwarber (L) LF
3. Kris Bryant (R) 3B
4. Anthony Rizzo (L) 1B
5. Ian Happ (S) CF
6. Jason Heyward (L) RF
7. Willson Contreras (R) C
8. Addison Russell (R) SS
9. Jon Lester (L) P (2-2, 3.57 ERA)

Seventeen narratives to tide you over until Game 1 of the NBA Finals

Seventeen narratives to tide you over until Game 1 of the NBA Finals

It’s time once again to play, “Narrate That Narrative,” with your increasingly weary hosts, the Golden State Warriors.
 
And we say increasingly weary because, in playing 12 games (slightly less than 29 hours of elapsed time) in 46 days (slightly more than 1,100 hours of real time), the Warriors have spent far more time engaging, rejecting, advancing and goofing with narratives than they have with actual ball-related duties.
 
You know, the idiotic side stories with a two-day shelf life until someone serves up a new narrative, because after all, sports are really just delivery systems for disposable tales of no enduring value and very little transitory value. I’ve known cheeses left too near a heater than maintained their integrity longer.
 
But with another nine days (eight now, in case your narrative happens to be mindless timekeeping) before Game One of the NBA Finals, all we have is narratives. And yes, for that we can very definitely blame the Warriors, for without their refusal to mix in a devastating loss that really isn’t, we’ve had atomic clocks of time on our hands.
 
So muscle up, kids. This is your future until tipoff.
 
LEGACIES: This is without question the stupidest of them all, because trying to figure out an active athlete’s legacy is one of the most pointless things you can do with yourself. The Warriors will either be a budding dynasty or a one-hit-wonder-in-the-making. They will not be the best team of all time (the 1960s Celtics have that locked away), nor will they be the new Buffalo Bills (who unlike the Warriors tried many times and never won). They will be a team still fashioning their legacies, which as it turns out won’t actually be written accurately for decades.
 
In other words, remember O.J. Simpson’s legacy when he stopped playing football, and think of it now.
 
STEVE KERR: His spinal cord has a worse reputation than Stephen Curry’s ankles, and at this point it seems awfully likely that he will be an interested spectator with an all-access credential for the Finals. Thus, he remains the second best coach in NBA history in winning percentage (.848 if you include playoffs), behind only Not Steve Kerr (92.4).
 
KEVIN DURANT’S DECISION: It was a good one. He’s happy. He’s winning games. He’s wired into the Bay Area business community. Russell Westbrook is a year ago and Oklahoma City is a million miles away. Nothing new here, as there hasn’t been since the last time they played nine weeks ago. This story was old in August, and has been dead since January. Stop.
 
LEBRON JAMES: Is he Michael Jordan? Is he better than Michael Jordan? Does he like to troll people? Is he smug? Is he justifiably proud? All fascinating subjects if you just like making stuff up in your head based on your very limited ability to see inside the souls of others. But hey, you paid your fees just like everyone else. Psychoanalyze away.
 
ZAZA PACHULIA AND BRUCE BOCHY: He has become bigger than Andrew Bogut in Warrior lore because of his ill-placed foot in Game One of the Western Conference Final, and because his head was deemed far too large in Monday’s postgame celebration to accommodate a hat. Now you see how these two are linked?
 
JAVALE MCGEE: More fun than Zaza Pachulia, though dealing with Tristan Thompson will probably mean that his fun will be significantly truncated.
 
ANDRE IGUODALA’S KNEE: That’s not a narrative, that’s an injury report.
 
ANDRE IGUODALA’S DEFENSIVE ASSIGNMENT: See above. If the knee is sound, it will be LeBron James. If not, Draymond Green, David West and whatever else will work.
 
DRAYMOND GREEN’S TEMPER: 21 technical fouls, a flailing foot and a hideously timed suspension a year ago, 16 this year, no suspensions. Plus, only two technicals this postseason. His history remains his history, and he has been both targeted and given some slack depending on the official (he damned near chased Scott Foster down the floor one night this year and Foster patiently eased him off the ledge). He has been a voluble and expressive model citizen as these things go.
 
KLAY THOMPSON: Poor shooting in the San Antonio series has condemned him despite his offensive and defensive ratings both being up from a year ago. It’s a talker if shooting is your deal, but he won’t play any fewer minutes in this series than any of the other 11. His “struggles” are a mild amusement for those who still think trying to force drama on these guys is a useful exercise.
 
STEPHEN CURRY: I give up. Is there anything new to say about him?
 
JOE LACOB GIVING AN INTERVIEW TO THE FINANCIAL TIMES: Quick, everyone head for the shelters.

SCOTT FOSTER: Last year's officiating bete noire, now not even worth a mention. If you need something, the Warriors are 20-0 with Ron Garretson and 17-4 with Ed Malloy in the last three years. Just keep it to yourselves.

PLAYOFF HISTORY: Right now, the Warriors could become the first team to win all 16 postseason games, but even if they don’t, they can still go 16-3, tie the record currently held by the 2005 San Antonios and still have a parade. They did good – as long as they win. If they don’t win, the hell they will pay will be at full retail prices with the usual jewelers’ markup.
 
PLAYOFF BOREDOM: If Cleveland wins, this is the series you all demanded. If Boston wins, you get a surprise. But neither will make us happy because the playoffs weren’t sufficiently entertaining for us. That’s how we do our cultural life now – we reflexively turbo-bitch about something because it keeps us from getting diabetes, or some other excuse. As a result, we are the worst generation so far, and those who come behind us are very likely to be worse unless they can cure themselves soon.
 
LUCK: Yep, lucky again. No Yusuf Nurkic to allow Portland to play at its best. A limited Rudy Gobert to allow Utah to play at its best. No Tony Parker and only 28 minutes of Kawhi Leonard to allow San Antonio to be at its best. They were lucky two years ago as well, and the ring was just as big and the parade just as sunshiny. They weren’t as lucky a year ago (Stephen Curry’s wobbly legs, Draymond Green’s suspension, the auto-asphyxia of the last five minutes of Game Seven of the Finals).
 
In other words, it’s good to put yourself in a position to be lucky. Every champion ever, in every sport, on every continent, they’ve all been lucky. Luck is a compliment not wasted on second-round losers. Deal with it.
 
THE OPINIONS OF OTHERS: There has never been a champion that was universally beloved, with the possible exceptions of Leicester City when it won the Premier League last year, and maybe Secretariat. Every other one ever had critics based on style of play, level of success, arrogance, dismissiveness, bullying, plain geography or just, because . . . well, see “turbo-bitching.” It won’t be that hard. It was two paragraphs ago. Suck it up, scroll your screen and move your eyes.

The point is, one word of criticism from Charles Barkley is somehow louder than reams of glowing reviews. Warrior fans are like all the others in that they demand universal worship of their favorite team, and they hear “just a bunch of jump-shooters” no matter what Barkley actually says at any given moment.
 
See, they don’t have to like your team, and it affects nothing. Stop caring. 
 
There will be more, but these are the main ones that should tide you over until game time, whether it’s the series you want (Cleveland) or the series you never expected (Boston). We’re all very sorry if we couldn’t make it the New York Knicks, or LaVar Ball, just to name two narratives you won't have to deal with in the coming days.