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Cooper: LeBron can earn 'King James' title with Game 7 win

Cooper: LeBron can earn 'King James' title with Game 7 win

WASHINGTON -- Michael Cooper recognizes the 2016 NBA Finals title isn't all that's at stake in Sunday night's decisive Game 7 for LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers as well as the defending champion Golden State Warriors. Deny if you must, but historic legacies are in play. Perhaps living up to nicknames as well.

"I think it's going to be important for him to do everything he can to win this," Cooper said of James, a four-time NBA Most Valuable Player and owner of a losing record in NBA Finals.

"If LeBron wins this game and [the Cavaliers] win the championship, I think he can legitimately claim the 'King' title. He'll be 'King James.' He'll be up there with the greatest."

Cooper, a five-time champion with the "Showtime" Los Angeles Lakers and current coach of the WNBA's Atlanta Dream, played with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and against Larry Bird, Julius Erving and Michael Jordan.

That's the group, along with Bill Russell, Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan and other all-timers that James has always competed against, as well as the hype that's accompanied the "King James" nickname since the do-everything forward entered the league straight out of High School.


Other than brief "who's the best active player" debates involving James and Bryant, the discussion about the 12-time All-Star has always been on the all-time level. Those who cannot comprehend any critique of James haven't always understood this.

Take away the pure haters and internet trolls. Criticism of James, whether over his current 2-5 NBA Finals record or for shrinking at times in big moments, isn't about suggesting he's a rank-and-file player, just like stating a preference for a musical prodigy like Prince means one thinks Michael Jackson was a hack. It's about stacking up with other been there, done that legends. It's fair to, as Boston Globe columnist/hoops historian Bob Ryan did this week, note James "certainly he's had an inconsistent record" on the biggest stage while also touting his brilliance.

Even with a win Sunday, which would mean his third NBA title, James would still have a losing NBA Finals record. Russell, Jordan, Johnson, Abdul-Jabbar, Duncan, Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal do not.

With a win Sunday, James will have done something no player has ever previously: Be part of a team that came back from 3-1 deficit to win the championship series. Cleveland won Games 5 and 6 with James scoring 41 points in each. 

"But a loss still doesn't diminish him because LeBron virtually carried this team the last two games, him and Kyrie [Irving]," Cooper continued during a dicussion with CSNmidatlantic.com following Atlanta's loss at Washington. "It's an important game for LeBron.  I think his status as far as being ranked among legendary players -- if he wins he definitely goes up there with them."

Cooper noted the James specific angle is only one part of Game 7's historic equation.

"On one hand LeBron going back to Cleveland and trying to get his team to win a first [NBA] championship. But then on the other hand you've got a team that's 73-9 and set a whole bunch of records on the way," Cooper said, who added Golden State showed its "greatness" coming back from a 3-1 hole against Oklahoma City in the Western Conference Finals.

Comparing the Warriors to other all-time teams is a new-ish debate topic. Whether for fun or not, the specific debate of whether the Warriors could down Cooper's Lakers became a recent topic. Cooper offered a serious opinion.

"They're a good basketball team. I never thought and NBA team could win a championship shooting jump shots, but they proved me wrong on that last year," Copper copped. "The kids, they can play. The One thing they don't do is they don't beat themselves -- but I think it would be a hard matchup for them with us.

"We had size. ...I think we had the one most unblockable, unguardable shot in the [Abdul-Jabbar] skyhook. It doesn't matter if they put Draymond Green on him. He's too little. [Andrew] Bogut couldn't handle him. We win in that category. I think James Worthy would be a tough matchup for them."

As for guarding the perimeter shooting Warriors, Cooper, a one-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, believes he and fellow guard Byron Scott "could deal with Klay Thompson and Steph Curry. We'd make them take tough shots."

The Cooper plan? Force Golden State inside the 3-point arc. "You can match two's, but you can't match three's with them. I think that's the one thing we would have done. They wouldn't have gotten 25-30 3-point shots [a game]. That's not going to happen."

If the Warriors become the first team in NBA history to lose a 3-1 series lead in the finals, such comparison talk will quiet dramatically. Golden State would standalone in a way nobody desires while "King James" would strut into the best-of-the-best player conversation nearly skeptic-free.

Yes, there is plenty at stake Sunday night. Game 7 isn't just about an annual championship. Legacies are at stake.


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5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

5 must-see moments from Wizards' important win over Pacers, including Kelly Oubre's big dunk

Here are five plays or moments from the Wizards' 109-102 win over the Pacers on Saturday night that are worth revisiting... 

1. The Wizards took care of business against the Pacers on Saturday night and in doing so earned an important advantage in the playoff race. They won the season series and therefore own a tiebreaker for playoff seeding and currently that would mean home court advantage in the first round if the playoffs began today.

The Wizards took control early and part of that effort were five first-half assists by Bradley Beal. He ended up with 19 points, but some of his best plays were passes.

On this one, he executed a perfect pick-and-roll with Marcin Gortat:


2. This was another pretty pass to Gortat. Tomas Satoransky, who had 12 points and eight assists, fed Gortat with a nice reach-around pass on a play that featured some impressive ball movement overall:

3. This was a great moment. The Wizards had a member of the military surprise his niece on the court. She literally did not see it coming:


4. These last two plays are dunks by Kelly Oubre, Jr., who finished with 16 points. On this play, he cut through the and threw down with authority:

5. This dunk was set up by a beautiful pass from Ramon Sessions. It traveled about three-quarters of the court and Oubre did the rest:

The Wizards now have three days off before their next game as they sit fourth in the Eastern Conference. Things are trending positive for the Wizards as the playoff race heats up.

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Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

Wizards take out Pacers to earn important advantage in playoff seeding

The Washington Wizards beat the Indiana Pacers 109-102 on Saturday night. Here's analysis of what went down...

Important victory: Saturday night's game between the Wizards and Pacers had several layers of playoff implications on the line and it was Washington who rose to the occasion and showed the urgency commensurate for the stakes.

By beating the Pacers, the Wizards locked up the season series between the teams, two games to one. That gives them the tiebreaker for playoff seeding if the teams finish the regular season with the same record. That could very well prove paramount. As of now, the Wizards and Pacers have the same record (40-30) with 12 games to go.

The season series advantage means the Wizards are above the Pacers in the standings despite having the same record. They moved into fourth place in the East with the win and the Cavs slotted back into third. There will likely be a lot more movement as these next few weeks play out, but the Wizards now hold an important edge over the Pacers.

The win also pushed the Wizards to 14-8 since John Wall went down with a left knee injury. Wall could return this coming week or the week after and the Wizards have more than stayed afloat during his absence.

The Wizards' magic number to make the playoffs is now just five. 


Sato went off: The Wizards jumped out to a double-digit lead in the first quarter mostly thanks to a hot start from Tomas Satoransky, who scored the Wizards' first five points and had 10 by the end of the first quarter.

Satoransky's floater was automatic. He dropped in several in the lane from all different angles. Satoransky was practicing the same shots, floaters off each foot, the day before in practice and it paid off.

It was a well-rounded night for Satoransky. In addition to his 12 points, he also had eight assists and five rebounds, including this one to find Marcin Gortat for the dunk:

Gortat came up big: Speaking of Gortat, the Wizards' big man had one of his best games of the season. He poured in 18 points to go along with eight rebounds, four assists a steal and a block. Gortat shot 6-for-8, consistently having his way on the block.

The Pacers were without two of their best big men in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis and Gortat took advantage of that. He was way too much for Al Jefferson.

The Pacers tried to roll with small-ball lineups using Trevor Booker and Thaddeus Young as their big men, but it didn't work. Gortat was too big for them and his teammates did a great job finding him for open looks.

Gortat's 18 points were his most since Jan. 3 when he had a season-high 21 against the Knicks. Lately, Gortat has seen his minutes dwindle with the increased role for Ian Mahinmi, so Saturday night must have felt good for the Polish Machine.


Bojan held in check: Bojan Bogdanovic, who spent part of last season with the Wizards, was a major factor in the first two matchups between Washington and the Pacers this season. He had 20 points in one game and 29 in another, each time getting hot from three.

The Wizards, though, made some adjustments in this one and held Bo Buckets in check. He didn't make his first shot until nearly the midway point of the second quarter and it was only because Kelly Oubre, Jr. (16 points, 18 minutes) lost his balance. Oubre stumbled backward, giving Bogdanovic a split second to get off an open three. That was the only shot he hit in the first half as he began the game 1-for-4.

Oubre did a good job harrassing Bogdanovic and not giving him space on the premiter. Otto Porter (eight points) and Bradley Beal (19 points) did as well. Both Porter and Beal stripped the ball out of Bogdanovic's hands early in the third quarter. Midway through the third, Bogdanovic got past Porter only to be called for an offensive foul on a collision with Gortat. All in all, it was a frustrating night for Bogdanovic, who had 11 points, three below his season average.

Bogdanovic is a very good shooter and when he's hot can alter games. But when you take his shots away, there's not much else he can do to hurt you. The Wizards did a good job taking away his strengths and making others beat them. Not having to focus on Turner and Sabonis certainly helped. 

Sessions is still in the rotation: It turns out those five games for Ramon Sessions over the course of his second 10-day contract weren't just an audition. Now that he has been signed for the rest of the season, Sessions is still getting the nod over Tim Frazier as the backup point guard.

Sessions logged 18 minutes and even played alongside Satoransky and Jodie Meeks in the fourth quarter. The Wizards had a sizable lead and head coach Scott Brooks decided to experiment with his lineups. That is something to keep in mind for when Wall comes back. Once he does, Sessions will be the third point guard and likely rarely see the court. But if they see something they like about him at shooting guard, that could open the door for more playing time possibilities.

Up next: The Wizards have three off-days before their next game. That will be on Wednesday when they head to San Antonio to face the Spurs. Tipoff is at 9:30 p.m. on NBC Sports Washington. Pregame coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. with Wizards HangTime.

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