Bulls

LeBron James is the MVP ... right?

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LeBron James is the MVP ... right?

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- Whenever LeBron James gets asked about the NBA MVP award, he seems to answer carefully, as if to avoid any suggestion that he's campaigning for his third trophy. In fairness, James doesn't have to do much lobbying. Everyone else in the Miami Heat locker room takes care of that. And they say the James-for-MVP movement should be going strong. Not only did the Heat win a marquee game on Wednesday night -- they beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 98-93 -- but James won a head-to-head matchup against the player who is generally considered to be his top competition in the MVP race. He finished with 34 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, while Kevin Durant had his 30-point night also marked by a career-worst nine turnovers. "Every night I go out on the court, I try to play like the MVP for our team," James told the reporters surrounding his locker after the game. "I've always said that. ... It doesn't matter to me. For us, we got better tonight as a team. And I was the MVP for our team and just trying to lead those guys, lead us to a victory. That's what it's all about." James might have been considered a lock for the MVP award a month ago, when he and the Heat were both rolling along. But just about everything after the All-Star break has been a grind for Miami, which gets Thursday off -- James said he would be looking for the city's best massage -- and plays host to Memphis on Friday. Scoring is down by nearly nine points a game. The Heat aren't shooting as well, teams are shooting a better percentage against them, and that's all happened while James has dealt with injury woes like a dislocated left ring finger, an achy elbow and the aftereffects of banging his head on the court in a hard fall against Phoenix last month. On Wednesday, James twisted his ankle falling over a videographer, winced and grabbed his back after some inadvertent contact with a referee, took what he thought was excessive contact twice while attempting dunks -- getting pulled down by Russell Westbrook from behind on one of those, a play James later described as "scary" and "dangerous" -- and gritted his teeth after his finger started bothering him again down the stretch. And even shooting 37 percent, Miami still won. "I think he's the best two-way player in this league," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He does it in a night-in, night-out basis and he does it in a way where most teams would not ask a player to shoulder that type of responsibility. But the fact remains: He must play at an MVP level at both ends of the court for us. We've talked about him playing like a defensive player of the year, to defend all five positions, while at the same time playing four positions offensively." James' two biggest plays against the Thunder may be ones that don't show up in the box score. Oklahoma City had two possessions in the final 4 minutes where it had shots for a one-point lead. James snuffed out both. He ran Westbrook down and blocked a layup with 3:49 left -- ironically, it was at the same spot on the court where Westbrook grabbed him around the left shoulder and right side of his waist and sent him sprawling to the floor two quarters earlier -- to preserve a 92-91 Heat edge. Then with 1:30 remaining, the score then 94-93, Durant backed James down on the low post and tried a turnaround. James contested it well, so well that not only did Durant miss, but his shot bounced off the top of the backboard. Oklahoma City didn't score again, and James and the Heat were soon enjoying their payback win. On March 25, James was held to 17 and the Heat lost at Oklahoma City 103-87. "A great player," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of James after Wednesday's game. "You're not going to hold down a great player often. He missed some shots the first time we played them and we made him take some tough ones. He was feeling good. His jump shot was falling and he was getting some buckets in transition." It's not a stretch to say that James wants his third MVP in four seasons, and in what probably is no surprise either, Durant acknowledged before the game that he would like to win the award. Durant thinks it's too early to have the conversation -- and when it is time, he indicated he'd be like James, saying he'd rather not tout his own merits. "I can't worry about that," Durant said when asked about his own MVP candidacy. "If you worry about that type of stuff, that's when you take your focus off the game, start doing stuff that you don't want to do on the floor. I can't worry about that. It's not in my control. All I can control is how hard I work, how hard I play, and whatever else falls in line after that, we'll see." The Heat say they saw plenty on Wednesday. "Two MVP candidates, you have to want that matchup," Heat forward Udonis Haslem said. "LeBron accepted the challenge and that's what we expect him to do as our leader and our MVP candidate. You have to step up to the plate and that's what he did."

Why the Bulls should take Carsen Edwards with the No. 38 pick

Why the Bulls should take Carsen Edwards with the No. 38 pick

 

Carsen Edwards figures to be one of the more polarizing prospects in the late-first round to second round range of the 2019 NBA Draft. Generously listed at 6-foot-1 and (a much more accurate) 200 lbs., the diminutive guard burst onto the national scene after his super-hot scoring stretch during the NCAA Tournament.

He is an extremely talented scoring guard and his track record is impressive. He averaged double-digit scoring figures all three years of his NCAA career and helped Purdue rack up an 83-25 win-loss record over that same span.

Strengths:

Edwards is an elite volume scorer. He maintained a huge usage rate over three years at Purdue, including a 37.3 percent mark for the 2018-19 season. Matt Painter entrusted Edwards with the lion’s share of the Boilermakers’ offense every season of his career, and he stepped up to the challenge.

His finished his career with a 109.8 offensive rating, scoring 35.6 points per 100 possessions. The ability to score efficiently with high volume is the true mark of someone capable of being a star on offense.

The shooting is first thing that jumps off the page with Edwards. He has career averages of 7.1 3-point attempts per game on 36.8 percent. He would be a huge upgrade for a Bulls team that was 27th in 3-point attempts and dead-last in 3-point makes in the 2018-19 season.

If you watch film of Edwards, the high-degree of difficulty on his shots stand out. He can get downhill and draw attention at the rim, opening up shooters on the perimeter. Edwards’ confidence in his pull-up 3-point shot helped Purdue finish with one of the best offenses in the nation and also made the Boilermakers must-see TV.

Purdue was a good defensive team over Edwards’ three years there and while he wasn’t the best defender, he finished his career with 2.3 steals per 100 possessions. He gives great effort when trying to deny passes and has enough strength to hold his ground long enough to allow the help defense to come over.

Most of Edwards value in the NBA will come from his immense scoring ability. But his playmaking potential is intriguing because he became a better passer each year at Purdue, while having a bigger burden placed on him than he will in the NBA.

We know Edwards is very confident and competitive, he can shoot the 3-ball, and he is gradually improving as a playmaker. Any lineups containing Lauri Markkanen, Zach LaVine and Edwards would likely struggle on defense, but also would be full of effective 3-point shooters, a rarity for any Bulls lineup this season.

Weaknesses:

Though strong for his position, Edwards is 6-feet tall without shoes and is not going to be able to excel in a switching defense. And when his team is playing traditional defense, Edwards will need to do a lot work on fighting through screens.

NBA offenses will hunt for Edwards when he is on the floor. And a player who will need to be hid on defense will obviously cause issues for a Bulls teams without a lot of places to hide.

Though this is the weaknesses section, I would be remiss not to mention that Edwards should be able to not be awful on defense as long as he gives absolute, maximum effort. But we’ve seen what can happen to small guards on defense with today’s screen-happy game, and those flaws would be exposed even more in the postseason, which is one of the primary goals of the 2019-20 Bulls.

The Bulls do need a guard, but they need a point guard who can effective run the offense and generate great looks for others. Meanwhile, Edwards is more a shoot-first, undersized shooting guard than he is a point. In the 2018-19 season he finished with 104 assists and 113 turnovers.

He and fellow Purdue guard Ryan Cline actually shared playmaking duties during the 2018-19 season. Despite playing 52 more minutes than Cline on the season, Edwards finished with 16 less total assists.

The fact that Edwards carried the offense on his back means that a high-turnover rate isn’t the worst thing in the world. But his assist to turnover ratio is worrisome for a player who relies so much on of the dribble scoring. Edwards is a smart player who is confident and talented enough to takeover games with his offense, but that same confidence is what results in Edwards occasionally shooting his team out of games.

Long term outlook:

As a three-year NCAA veteran, Edwards is capable of being a solid backup PG in the NBA right now. His explosive display of offense during the NCAA Tournament could result in him rising into the bottom half of the first round, as there are always teams looking to add shooting. But most NBA front offices and their scouts don’t fall victim to recency bias.

So while the NCAA Tournament run helped his stock, his size and lack of defensive upside make him an excellent second round prospect, with the potential to develop into a steal if drafted in that range. If he slips to No. 38 in the draft, the Bulls would likely be more than happy to add Edwards 3-point shooting and high-scoring ability in to their backcourt mix.

Looking back on Rick Monday's flag-saving incident in 1976

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USA TODAY

Looking back on Rick Monday's flag-saving incident in 1976

"I would rather be remembered as someone who stood up and did something about something I felt strongly about, than as someone who just stood there and watched the parade go by."

When you least expect it, life can come at you pretty quickly. The way Rick Monday reacted 43 years ago in a Cubs uniform is still worth remembering.

The Cubs were playing at Dodger Stadium on April 25, 1976. Monday was in his fifth season with the Cubs and playing in center field. Steve Stone was the starting pitcher and in the bottom of the fourth inning, Monday heard something going on around him. Two fans ran onto the field and then past Cubs left fielder Jose Cardinal.

"Is it because they have a bet with somebody?" Monday said. "Is it because they've had too much to drink? Is it because they don't like you?”

The fans turned out to be protesters and one of them was carrying the American flag under his arm. As they laid down the flag and doused it with a can of lighter fluid, Rick Monday darted at them from center field.

"It angered me for a lot of reasons," he said. "First of all, you're interrupting the game. Secondly, now you're bringing out a flag and I was only about three or four years removed from being in the Marine Reserves."

Monday considered bowling them over if he got there on time, but the first match blew out as they tried to ignite the flag. Monday improvised. He scooped up the soaking wet flag and kept running with it. By the time he'd handed it to a teammate near the dugout, Tommy Lasorda let the protesters have a few choice words. At the time, Lasorda was the third baseman for the Dodgers.

"He [Lasorda] came running past me yelling about every expletive that a longshoreman would utter on a bad, bad day!" Monday said.

The fans were arrested, and when Monday came to the plate for his at-bat in the top of the fifth inning, the scoreboard in center field paid tribute with - "Rick Monday...you made a great play" and the California crowd gave the Cubs outfielder a standing ovation. One year later, they'd be cheering for him again. The Cubs traded Rick Monday in a five-player deal that brought Bill Buckner and Ivan DeJesus to the North side. Rick Monday went on to play a total of 19 seasons in the Majors. He was part of the Dodgers World Series championship team in 1981.

43 years after the flag incident, Rick Monday works in the Dodgers radio broadcast booth and that American flag is still a part of his life. He and his wife take the flag around the country while raising money for military charities. Monday says he reacted quickly that day because that's the way he was raised. Six years in the United States Marine Corps Forces Reserves only reinforced those instincts.

"It's a good thing I did get it, because I did not want any of my former drill instructors from the Marine Corps to come and say, 'Hey Marine! Why did you stand there and watch when they ignited the American flag?" Monday said.

An All-American play by a two-time All-Star outfielder

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