OKLAHOMA CITY (Reuters) – In the aftermath of the Miami Heat’s second-half meltdown in the opening-game loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder in the NBA Finals, the spotlight is focused on the spotty play of All-Star Dwyane Wade.
The Heat guard scored 19 points but hit only seven of 19 shots and was at times listless in the 105-94 loss to the Thunder at raucous Chesapeake Energy Arena on Tuesday.
Wade acknowledged that in order for the Heat to win their first National Basketball Association (NBA) championship since 2006 he will have to be more assertive and take the pressure to score off league Most Valuable Player LeBron James.
He added, however, that he did not want to overreact after one game of a best-of-seven series.
“That’s when you start thinking too much, too many questions start coming up in your mind, you start over-analyzing things,” he said. “I want to score more points, I want to get my team to give us an opportunity to win the series.
“I’ll be more aggressive. Looking for my opportunities a lot more, probably more than I have of late. So that will be my change.”
Oklahoma City, playing in its first championship series since 1996 when the franchise was located in Seattle, outscored the Heat 24-4 on fast-break points in the series opener.
Heat Erik Spoelstra vowed to slow the Thunder’s frenetic pace while finding ways to free up Wade, an eight-time All-Star and former NBA scoring champion. Game Two of the series is Thursday night in Oklahoma City.
“We’re used to having the advantage on fast break opportunities, and they dominated that area 24 to 4,” Spoelstra said. “When we defend and we impose our will by being disruptive and aggressive, it opens up opportunities for us in the open court.
“And when we get our attackers in the open court, their confidence soars. In the half court we have to find ways to execute with more precision, to get (Wade) in places he can be aggressive and get into the paint.”
James had 30 points but was eclipsed by Kevin Durant, who scored 17 of his 36 points in the final quarter, helping the Thunder overcome a seven-point halftime deficit.
Spoelstra said it too early to write the Heat’s epitaph.
“Our focus will be on playing more to our identity tomorrow night,” he said. “They imposed their identity more than we did in that game. We didn’t feel we played well.
“They’re a part of that, okay, but we didn’t play to our identity. And yet we still were four or five plays from coming away with a win.
“That’s some of the resourcefulness about our group. Usually at the end of games we find a way.”
James admitted there are times he will tell the 30-year-old Wade to pick up his game and be a little selfish with the ball.
“A lot of times I try to let him figure it out on his own, but sometimes I go to him and tell him I need one of those games from him, I need one of those performances from him because he still has it,” he said.
“He knows he still has it, too, but every player needs a little kick every now and then, no matter how time tested they are.
“I try to continue to let him know how important he is to this team, which he should know, but he also needs to be D Wade and not worry about deferring as much.”
(Editing by Frank Pingue)
Original post taken from:http://news.yahoo.com/heats-wade-vows-more-aggressive-nba-finals-220536790–nba.html
The season started with 30 teams, got whittled down to 16 and now there are two — the Miami Heat and Oklahoma City Thunder, set to begin the NBA finals on Tuesday night.
LeBron James in his third finals. Kevin Durant in his first. One superstar set to get his first ring.
It has the makings of a classic. So with Game 1 on tap, here’s 10 questions and answers about this title matchup:
WHO’S BETTER, JAMES OR DURANT? Flip a coin. Kevin Durant is a three-time scoring champion. LeBron James is a three-time MVP. And this series probably won’t decide if one individual player is better than the other, either. They’ll be matched up against each other at times in this series, and everyone wants to see the 1-on-1 fireworks. Sounds like the only people not wrapped up in the whole KD vs. LBJ matchup are, well, KD and LBJ. “It’s the Thunder vs. the Heat,” Durant said.
CAN LEBRON SILENCE HIS CRITICS WITH A WIN? Not all of them. Look, no matter what James does — wins a championship, wins a Nobel Peace Prize, never wins another game in his life — he won’t silence everybody. He will get plenty of credit if the Heat win this title, and rightly so. It also could be a relive-the-nightmare scenario for Cleveland. It was hard enough for Cavaliers fans to watch James leave. Just imagine how hard it’ll be for them if James hoists the championship trophy wearing another city’s uniform.
ARE THE THUNDER READY FOR THIS? Sure. Same could have been asked about Miami in 2006, when yes, the Heat had veterans like Shaquille O’Neal and Jason Williams and Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning and Antoine Walker. But the guy who made the Heat go in that championship season was Dwyane Wade, who was 24 when he carried Miami to the title. Kevin Durant is 23. Russell Westbrook is 23. No, neither has been on this stage before. But they handled being down 0-2 to San Antonio. That’s proof enough of what they’re capable of doing at this time of year. “We’re not here just to be here. We’re here to win a championship,” Thunder coach Scott Brooks said.
WHO HAS THE BETTER SIXTH MAN? Well, that’s an easy one, since Oklahoma City’s James Harden is the premier sixth man in the NBA right now. But it may not be as one-sided as many would think if Miami continues using Chris Bosh off the bench. Bosh — who missed nine playoff games with a strained lower abdominal muscle and has been a reserve in each of his three appearances since — said last week that he isn’t counting on starting again this season, and the Heat have raved about what he’s been able to do with the second unit. So Harden may have some competition after all.
WHAT’S UP WITH THE POSTGAME OUTFITS? The glasses-without-lenses that LeBron James and Dwyane Wade have been wearing, they’re one thing. But seriously, the shirts that Russell Westbrook has been putting on before he goes to postgame news conferences look like they were designed to go with Rodney Dangerfield’s pants in “Caddyshack.” It’s like the postseason has been one long tribute to Steve Urkel or something. The fascinating part of the outfit craze is that Twitter is burning up after games with people trying to figure out where to buy the stuff.
WHY NO TWITTER? LeBron James hasn’t tweeted since April 27. Kevin Durant hasn’t tweeted since May 1. In a word, it’s about focus. Playoffs are hard enough without distractions like 4,784,446 followers — James’ total as of Monday afternoon — asking you for a retweet. One of them will tweet in a few days as an NBA champion. That’s enough for them.
SHOULD THE BEARD BE FEARED? James Harden has unbelievable amounts of talent. He’s best known for his mohawk-and-beard look. And one of the gripping questions entering this finals matchup got an answer Monday, when Harden was asked if he would be sitting down with some clippers at the end of the season. “The beard’s going to stay. Win or lose,” Harden said.
WHO HAS THE BEST SIDELINE MOM? LeBron, Dwyane, Kevin, Russell, say any of those first names and everyone who’ll watch these finals knows exactly who you’re talking about. It might not be long before the same can be said about Jolinda and Wanda. Really. Jolinda Wade (Dwyane Wade’s mom) and Wanda Pratt (Kevin Durant’s mom) will be getting plenty of airtime in this series. The Heat guard always makes a point to hug his mother just before tipoff, and maybe the most compelling image of the Western Conference finals was Durant falling into his mother’s arms when the Thunder knew they were going to the title round. (Side note: Those envelopes Heat players were handed after the East finals ended? They were cards from Jolinda Wade.)
WADE VS. WESTBROOK? Assuming that LeBron James and Kevin Durant put up similar numbers in the series, maybe one key element in deciding this title will be how Dwyane Wade and Russell Westbrook perform. Wade raises his game in the NBA finals, and for whatever reason, Westbrook has struggled against Miami — though that was news to Wade. “Russell Westbrook is what makes them very special,” Wade said. Yes, but Westbrook has shot just 30 percent in his last five games against the Heat. If Miami figures out a way to keep him from getting rolling, and if Wade turns in another finals-MVP-type showing, the Heat will have a huge edge.
WHO WILL WIN THE FINALS? Oklahoma City is 8-0 at home in these playoffs, winning by an average of more than 10 points per game. The Thunder got more rest going into the title series, and have a huge head of steam after winning four straight against San Antonio. But the Heat are driven by the pain of losing in the finals last season. And James may be playing at his highest level yet. So in a championship-or-bust season, the Heat … won’t bust. Miami in six.
Original post taken from:http://news.yahoo.com/nba-finals-questions-heat-thunder-ready-072307422–spt.html
By Kevin Iole | Yahoo! Sports
LAS VEGAS – Promoter Bob Arum was still fuming about the split-decision verdict that went against Manny Pacquiao on Saturday and said there would be no rematch with Timothy Bradley unless Nevada attorney general Catherine Cortez Masto launches an investigation.
Bradley, a 4-1 underdog, upset Pacquiao in one of the most controversial outcomes in years to take the World Boxing Organization welterweight title.
All three judges scored it 115-113, with Duane Ford and C.J. Ross seeing it in favor of Bradley and Jerry Roth siding with Pacquiao.
The rematch that Bradley thought he would get may be on hold, at least for a while, however. Arum, whose company promotes both fighters, said his feeling that Pacquiao had won a wide decision had not changed a day later.
Timothy Bradley celebrates after beating Manny Pacquiao by split decision. (AP)
But because of the outcry among the fans and media, many of whom accused Arum of somehow rigging the outcome, the veteran promoter said he would demand an investigation.
“I want to investigate whether there was any undue influence, whether the [Nevada Athletic Commission] gave any particular instruction and how they came to this conclusion,” said Arum, who at the post-fight news conference was adamant the result was a mistake but not the result of any chicanery. “But the whole sport is in an uproar. People are going crazy.
“If this was a subjective view that each of [the judges] honestly held, OK. I would still disagree, but then we’re off the hook in terms of there being no conspiracy. But there needs to be an independent investigation because it strains credulity that an event everybody saw as so one-sided one way all three judges saw it as close. It strains credulity.”
Ford spoke by telephone to Yahoo! Sports on Sunday. He said the criticism is a part of the job he accepts, but said those criticizing the outcome are almost certainly not familiar with the way fights are judged.
“If this were ‘American Idol’, without a doubt, Manny Pacquiao would have won,” Ford said. “But it was not. I gave an honest opinion. I had Pacquiao up 4-2, I think, at the end of six rounds. I thought he hurt Bradley a couple of times early in the fight. But when the bell rang to end that round, it was over and what happens in one round doesn’t carry over to the next round. They’re separate units.
“In the second half of the fight, Pacquiao picked off a lot of punches to the head, but Bradley landed some hard body shots. That hurt Pacquiao. I don’t mean it hurt him in the sense of it physically hurting him, but in terms of scoring and piling up points. Bradley did an excellent job standing his ground as a boxer. Remember, it’s a boxing match and Bradley demonstrated his ability to box expertly.”
Bradley has been harshly criticized by many who believe Pacquiao won, but the fact that Bradley won the fight with two badly injured feet should say something about his tenacity.
And the bout might suggest that Pacquiao is declining more than previously thought. If he had trouble with a fighter who had two injured feet and needed a wheelchair to attend the post-fight news conference, how difficult would it have been for him had his opponent been completely mobile?
Bradley injured his left foot in the second round when he pivoted. His manager, Cameron Dunkin, said an examination late Saturday revealed torn ligaments that will keep him off it for several weeks to a month.
He said the X-ray did not show a fracture, but doctors ordered an MRI on Monday in Palm Springs, Calif.
“They said that just because the X-ray did not show a fracture didn’t mean there isn’t one,” Dunkin said. “He has a lot of pain on the top of the foot and there are 700 bones in there. Some of them are so small. The doctor said the only way to tell if there is a fracture is to do an MRI.”
He said there was no serious injury to the right foot, which was far more swollen than the left.
“The right was just kind of rolled and it was basically a twisted foot that was pretty swollen,” Dunkin said.
Dunkin also said he was fine if Arum chose not to arrange a rematch. He said Top Rank promotes Bradley and owes him a fight. If it chose not to make a rematch with Pacquiao, it would have to book a different fight for Bradley.
Juan Manuel Marquez, who lost a controversial decision to Pacquiao on Nov. 12 in the same arena, was in attendance Saturday, Top Rank president Todd duBoef said, because the company was planning to make Pacquiao-Marquez IV in the event of a Pacquiao win.
That changed in light of the outcome, and Pacquiao said he wanted a rematch. Ultimately, Arum will likely accede to Pacquiao’s wishes.
Pacquiao’s next fight almost certainly will not be in Las Vegas after the uproar over Saturday’s fight. Ford, though, said it is unfair for those who don’t know the scoring criteria and who weren’t focusing intently on the fight to bash the judges.
“In pro boxing, you look for damage, and if the punches are equal and the damage is equal, you are looking for effective aggression, and that does not necessarily mean the guy going forward,” Ford said. “Effective aggression can be a guy going back. And then you look at ring generalship, and that’s all about control.
“When you score a fight of that magnitude, you know the criticism comes with the job. But unless you are totally focused on that scoring zone for three minutes, it’s impossible to score the fight correctly. I know you can’t do it talking into a microphone. It was a close fight in my mind that could have gone either way. The result was nothing more than three judges giving an honest opinion, and nothing other than that.”
Arum told media at ringside that Dunkin had scored it 116-112 for Pacquiao, but Dunkin angrily denied that Sunday. Dunkin said he had it 115-113 in favor of Bradley.
He said he understands the uproar, but said most of it is because of Pacquiao’s huge popularity.
“If they’re fighting on a street and we’re just scoring the fight, the whole fight, I can see you thinking maybe Pacquiao won it,” Dunkin said. “But when you score it round by round, I think it’s very reasonable to believe Bradley won.”
AS VEGAS — Timothy Bradley promised to shock, though the biggest shock in his fight with Manny Pacquiao came from the judges’ scorecards.
In a fight Pacquiao seemed to have in hand, two judges decided otherwise, giving Bradley a split decision Saturday night and ending the Filipino fighter’s remarkable seven-year unbeaten run.
Promoter Bob Arum fumed, the crowd at the MGM Grand arena booed, and Pacquiao seemed stunned when the decision was announced. Arum said there would be a November rematch, though he blasted the way the decision went down.
“I’ve never been as ashamed of the sport of boxing as I am tonight,” said Arum, who handles both fighters.
Bradley came on strong in the later rounds, winning five of the last six on two scorecards and four on the third. He won 115-113 on the scorecards of judges Duane Ford and C.J. Ross, while losing on Jerry Roth’s scorecard by the same margin. The Associated Press had Pacquiao winning 117-111.
“I did my best,” Pacquiao said. “I guess my best wasn’t good enough.”
Pacquiao tried to turn the fight into a brawl, using his power to hurt Bradley in the early rounds. But Bradley changed tactics in the middle rounds and used his boxing skills to win enough rounds to take the narrow decision for the welterweight title.
It ended a 15-fight winning streak by Pacquiao dating to 2005 that turned him into a boxing superstar and made him a national hero in the Philippines.
“I thought I won the fight,” Bradley said. “I didn’t think he was as good as everyone says he was. I didn’t feel his power.”
“I’m going to make a lot of money on the rematch, but this was outrageous.
” — Bob Arum, fight promoter
Ringside punching statistics showed Pacquiao landing 253 punches to 159 for Bradley, who vowed before the fight to take the 147-pound title from Pacquiao. The Compubox statistics showed Pacquiao landing more punches in 10 of the 12 rounds.
Bradley was so confident that he had oversized tickets printed up for a Nov. 10 rematch that now will likely happen.
Bradley seemed hurt in the fourth and fifth rounds, but Pacquiao had trouble landing big punches after that. Still, he seemed in control of the fight everywhere but on the judge’s scorecards.
“Can you believe that? Unbelievable,” Arum said. “I went over to Bradley before the decision and he said, `I tried hard but I couldn’t beat the guy.’ ”
Bradley said he hurt his ankle in the second round, and that trainer Joel Diaz said he could either quit or try to take the fight to Pacquiao.
“I got my second wind in the sixth round,” Bradley said. “I worked the angles, sticking and moving.”
Pacquiao said he studied Bradley on tape before the fight and wasn’t surprised by anything he did. He said he thought he was in control of the fight and was shocked when the decision went against him.
“He never hurt me with his punches; most of them landed on my arms,” Pacquiao said.
Pacquiao tried to brawl with Bradley and seemed to hurt him in both the fourth and fifth rounds. But Bradley started moving and counter punching, though he never seemed to land any shots that hurt Pacquiao.
Pacquiao had vowed to look impressive against Bradley after struggling in his last outing with Juan Manuel Marquez, a fight many thought he lost. And he did early, landing good long left hands while beating Bradley to the punch on most exchanges.
“He hurt me a couple of times with his left,” Bradley said. “He’s a beast.”
Trainer Freddie Roach told Pacquiao after the 10th round that he had control of the fight, and urged him to fight hard the final two rounds.
“You have six minutes to go, son,” Roach said. “It’s your fight.”
But it wasn’t Pacquiao’s fight, with Bradley getting credit for winning some of the close middle and later rounds. After the 11th round, Bradley went back to his corner and trainer Joel Diaz told him he needed to win the final round.
“I listened to my corner,” Bradley said. “I got to give him a rematch now.”
Arum said there will be one on Nov. 10, though he thought Pacquiao won easily, as did most writers at ringside.
“I’ll make a lot of money off the rematch, but this was outrageous,” Arum said.
It was the biggest fight of Bradley’s career and it came with a minimum $5 million payday. The rematch will be even richer, though Pacquiao’s loss could damage any plans for a fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Mayweather did not see the fight because he is serving a sentence on a domestic abuse charge at a jail a few miles from the MGM Grand.
A Powerful Defeat
Timothy Bradley came away with the welterweight title despite losing the power punches battle to Manny Pacquiao.
I’ll Have Another will not run in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes—in fact, the colt who had a chance to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978 will be retired.
Tendinitis in I’ll Have Another’s left-front foot was the reason for the decision to pull the horse from the Belmont—and ultimately call an end to his racing career—trainer Doug O’Neill said at a Friday afternoon press conference at Belmont Park.
I’ll Have Another was walked by a groom behind O’Neill and his owner, Paul Reddam, while the two addressed the media.
“It was unanimous to retire him,” Reddam said.
O’Neill added of his horse’s injury, “Could he run and compete? Yes. Would it be in his best interest? No.”
After an early Friday morning gallop, O’Neill declared I’ll Have Another “fit and ready to go,” but the trainer later noticed that the horse’s left-front foot was tender.
“He galloped great yesterday and then in the afternoon he had a little bit of swelling in his left front leg,” O’Neill said earlier on The Dan Patrick Show. “This morning he looked perfect. I took him out and I just did a little something with him, and after training that swelling came back. I had the vet come over. He scanned his left front leg and he’s got the start of some tendinitis in that front leg. So he’s not 100 percent, and we ain’t taking any chances and (are) pulling him out.”
Added O’Neill, “It’s a bummer but far from tragic.”
— Photo gallery: The 11 horses to win the Triple Crown
With I’ll Have Another out, the favorites in Saturday’s Belmont Stakes figure to be Dullahan and Union Rags. But there’s clearly a pall that’s been cast over the race, and the mood around Belmont Park has been characterized as one of shock.
“It’s devastating,” said Dale Romans, who trains Dullahan. “I thought this was going to be one of the great races in history. I wanted to be part of that. But this is bigger. This is terrible news.”
ESPN.com news services
The Denver Post reported the picture revealed what appeared to be six formations of one defensive play that had the label “Sink Sam 1 Tite (Formation Adjustment).”
According to the newspaper, a team official contacted Williams, and the plays were deleted from the account.
The Broncos gave the players iPads this offseason as an alternative to more customary playbooks.
After Williams sent out the photo, he sent an accompanying tweet that said: “Coach just told me I have to learn a new position over the weekn,, we have IPads as playbooks now, but I’m old skool I’m using flash cards.”
According to the Post, Williams is a weakside linebacker but has started at four different linebacker positions in his eight seasons with the team.
Williams later posted a note that said: “Dear Fans: My post about learning a new position and the fact that our playbooks are now iPad was all for you.”
The team said it was aware of the situation, but it declined further comment.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.
Denver Broncos 31-Inch Carved Wall Art
By Adrian Wojnarowski | Yahoo! Sports CLICK PICTURE/VIDEO Miami Heat v Boston Celtics – Game Six LeBron James #6 of the Miami Heat dunks in the first quarter against the Boston Celtics in Game Six of the Eastern Conference Finals in the 2012 NBA Playoffs on June 7, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. (June 6, 2012 – Source: Jim Rogash/Getty Images North America)
BOSTON – This was the Bleep You performance everyone waited for from LeBron James, the Hulk bursting out of his clothes, flexing his muscles and twisting steel in his bare hands. Out of the tunnel James marched into the Garden, and somewhere between the parquet floor and the 17 championship banners dangling in the rafters, he delivered a peerless performance that the sport hasn’t seen in nearly half a century: 45 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and a Game 7.
James had come out making one devastating shot after another in the Miami Heat’s 98-79 victory, his eyes giving nothing, his expression staid, his strength, speed and skill something straight out of the stratosphere. James wasn’t going down to these old men, the way he had gone down in those previous elimination games in his career. When James plays this way, he pushes past a generational talent that borders on the ferocity that comes with a force of nature.
“We just gave him the ball and got out the way,” Dwyane Wade said. “Locked in from the beginning of the game like I’ve never seen him before.”
Resistance was futile, and now comes Game 7 for the Boston Celtics and Miami Heat to determine the Eastern Conference champion. James drained all the joy from the Garden, all the breath out of the Celtics. Wilt Chamberlain had gone for 50 points, 15 rebounds and six assists in the ’64 Finals against the Celtics, and the NBA had to wait 48 years to see nearly all those points and rebounds and assists thrust together.
LeBron James scored 30 of his 45 points in the first half. (AP)
James didn’t dance and spar with the Celtics. He didn’t facilitate, get a feel for the game and slowly, surely impose his will. No, James walked into the Garden with a crowbar and started cracking it upside the heads of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo and Ray Allen. Nothing subtle here.
“Absolutely fearless,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Jump shots and fades, twisting, driving layups and throwback dunks plucked out of the air. Twenty-six shots, nineteen makes and each succeeding shot seemed to take a little more out of the Celtics. Thirty points had tumbled down on the Celtics by halftime, and the Celtics never found their footing in Game 6. Rondo tossed passes out of bounds, and Pierce missed open shots, and Garnett couldn’t make those high, arching jumpers that had pushed Boston to three straight series victories and the cusp of a third NBA Finals in five years. James jumped the Celtics in a dark alley and left them bloody, battered and scraping themselves off the pavement.
“He brought it to us, and we never gave it back,” Celtics coach Doc Rivers said.
In a declaration that was part practicality, part swagger, someone had scribbled on the grease board in the Celtics’ dressing room, “Pack for a week.” Between Boston and a flight to Oklahoma City for Game 1 comes the Game 7 the Celtics never wanted to play, that they never wanted to drag their tired old bones down to South Beach. “This was basically our Game 7 on our floor,” Allen said. Yes, this was the chance to close out the Heat, and the Celtics let James dictate the terms of engagement. Desperation rules the day in most playoff series, and the Heat had come to Boston with heaps of it.
For those expecting to see a hesitant, stilted James for Game 6, they were greeted with the three-time MVP as an evolved, efficient two-way force. For all the criticism heaped upon him after that Game 5 loss that pushed the Heat to the brink, he made the wise choice to trust fundamentals over the manufactured fury of the public onslaught.
When asked about his motivation for Game 6, James’ response told you everything you needed to know about the way he’s been locked into this postseason, the way his mind is rigged right.
“I didn’t use any motivation,” James said. “I just went to my habits. I went to what I built over the course of the season, over the course of the years. I wasn’t going to feel sorry for myself. … I don’t need no extra motivation. I know how big these games are.”
James led the Heat to a 98-79 victory and forced a decisive Game 7 against the Celtics. (Reuters)
That’s a mature, evolved response because James doesn’t need to work himself into a frenzy, into an angry, unnatural lather. He’s too good, and his talent will carry him if he comes to these pressure games with something far more lasting, with far more staying power than responding to the hellacious firestorm that surrounds his successes and failures. His personality is different than a Kobe Bryant, a Michael Jordan, and allowing for that has been a wise plan of action. There was a rage within James for this Game 6, a resolve, but it was contained within the context of the surgical way in which he took apart the Celtics in his own personal pop-a-shot game.
Forty-eight years since an NBA star had constructed a playoff line comparable to James’ 45 points, 15 rebounds and five assists, and wouldn’t you know, that, of all stars, it was Chamberlain. He’s the legend too often partnered with James, a historic physical specimen and star with galaxial statistics who ultimately wore his two titles but just one as the centerpiece as some kind of betrayal of his prodigious talent, too little to show for so much.
These are different times, James is a different figure, but winning matters. Winning changes everything for an athlete, and James spared himself a hellacious summer with this Game 6 victory. During the game, his personal PR rep and a Nike official were outside the restroom.
“What did you say to him?” the PR guy asked the sneaker rep.
“I told you!” the Nike guy yelled.
“What did you say to him?” he asked again.
“I TOLD YOU!” the sneaker guy yelled louder.
They were so pleased, but people were kidding themselves if they thought they knew what James would do on Thursday night. No one knew. Yet James refused to let one more championship chase perish beneath these championship banners, beneath the burden of his prodigious pressure and talent. All this did was get LeBron James and these Heat to a Game 7, get them within 48 minutes of where they had gone a year ago, the NBA Finals.
Nevertheless, they were on the brink, and James played the part of the best player on the planet when it mattered most. Everyone had been waiting, and here came that Bleep You game at the Garden, a June performance here worthy of those that Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan had come into Boston and delivered themselves.
Yet, even they never left the floor in Boston and had a drink spilled onto their heads the way James did on his way through the tunnel at game’s end on Thursday night. The final act of Game 6 came out of that lout of a fan, but make no mistake: James had the final word here and it turned out to be one of the most startling and spectacular performances of his starry basketball life. This was LeBron James’ Bleep You Game 6, punctuated with his most ominous promise for the Celtics: “I won’t regret Game 7.”
By Pat Forde | Yahoo! Sports
A leg injury has taken I’ll Have Another out of the Belmont Stakes and out of the running for the Triple Crown.
The issue is with a swollen left-front tendon, according to reports. A press conference is scheduled for 1 p.m. ET.
Triple Crown hopeful I’ll Have Another is bathed following a morning workout. (Getty Images)
There were indications Friday morning that something was amiss. Trainer Doug O’Neill took I’ll Have Another to the track for his morning jog hours earlier than he had been going for the past three weeks. O’Neill then left the Belmont track without speaking to the media, and owner Paul Reddam was also not available. That was highly unusual for what had been a media-friendly group.
“I was watching him this morning,” said trainer Ken McPeek, who has two horses in Saturday’s race – Unstoppable U and Atigun. “I wanted to see what his energy level was like, his aura, and the screen [on his stall] was closed. I thought, ‘What’s that about?’ There was people in there. It was a little unusual.” Rumors began to circulate late Friday morning that something was wrong with the horse, and O’Neill confirmed the shocking news on The Dan Patrick Show. “It’s not tragic, but it’s a huge disappointment,” O’Neill told Patrick. Saturday’s Belmont Stakes were highly anticipated, as I’ll Have Another was on the cusp of becoming the first horse since Affirmed in 1978 to win the Triple Crown. Never a favorite in any of his previous races, the three-year-old I’ll Have Another was a 4/5 favorite to win the final leg of the horse racing’s most elusive prize. “It’s too bad,” said McPeek. “It’s a hard thing. I feel really bad for the connections. I feel terrible for them. “Now,” McPeek said of Saturday’s race, “it’s wide open.”I’ll Have Another is only the third Triple Crown aspirant to miss the Belmont Stakes due to injury. The others are Bold Venture in 1936 and Burgoo King in 1932.
|“Belmont Stakes Blanket”
By Brian Windhorst | ESPN.com
Coach Erik Spoelstra would not commit to it Thursday afternoon, but at the very least, Bosh will be getting starter’s minutes after playing just 14 minutes off the bench in the Heat’s Game 5 loss Tuesday.
“I’m looking forward to a huge opportunity tonight,” said Bosh, who missed nine games with an abdominal strain. “Starting doesn’t matter, I just want to play. Starting is irrelevant at this point, I just want to be on the court.”
As with all the players who have played center for the Heat in the series, Bosh isn’t really a true center. He and the others spent most of their careers at power forward.
LeBron James said all the changes have had a wearing effect on the team as a whole.
“It’s been challenging not just for those of us who have been constants in the starting lineup but for those guys who have been in and out, not knowing if they’re going to start or not,” James said Thursday as the Heat prepared for an elimination game against the Boston Celtics.
The Heat have started five different players at center this season and seven over the last two years. They are Bosh, Joel Anthony, Udonis Haslem, Ronny Turiaf, Dexter Pittman, Erick Dampier and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. Three other veterans, Juwan Howard, Jamaal Magloire and Eddy Curry, have played minutes at center off the bench.
“It’s been a challenge for all of us,” said James, who also has played minutes at center in the series with the Celtics.
“At times it’s been hard to get a rhythm starting the game or starting the third quarter. That has been a rotating door for the last two years, not just this series. There’s Joel, C.B., U.D. at times, Ronny and Damp and Z. The list goes on in just two years.”
The Heat were left without a center when they let Jermaine O’Neal go in 2010 to clear salary-cap space to sign James and Bosh. The team has put the rest of its significant free-agent dollars into wing players like Mike Miller and Shane Battier. The Heat have not made center a priority and instead have attempted to sign players at the end of their careers, to develop young and unproven players and this season mostly have just rotated in the power forwards on their roster to the spot.
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PTI’s Michael Wilbon says Game 6 against the Celtics is an opportunity for LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Heat to change the storyline and prove their mettle.
The impact has been varied. The Heat have been successful as a team but last season in the Finals, Tyson Chandler played a huge role because he was able to freelance defensively and not worry about guarding his man. The scenario has repeated in the conference finals this season with Kevin Garnett able to “float,” as Heat players have called it, and provide help defense that has disrupted the Heat’s offensive rhythm.
“They are playing me differently than they’ve ever played me before,” said Dwyane Wade, who has seen regular double teams in the series. “KG is able to play safety out there.”
After last season, team president Pat Riley said getting a big man was an offseason priority.
“We would like to get size,” Riley said last summer after the Heat lost in the Finals. “I don’t know if you’re going to get a back-to-the-basket player but we’d like to get size and things of that nature inside that might be a little bit more athletic with great length.”
With so much money tied up in James, Bosh and Wade, the Heat have not been a player for top free agents. Then they made Battier their top target in free agency in December and spent most of their money on him. The Heat also have limited trade assets and have traded away four first-round draft picks in deals to get James and Bosh.
The only big man the Heat have signed since last season is Turiaf, who they picked up in March after he was cut by the Denver Nuggets. Two weeks later Turiaf was the starting center, an indication of just what sort of situation the team was in.
“Guys are going to have to play bigger,” Riley said in December when he explained why he had not gone with his stated plan of getting a big man.
Spoelstra, who has resorted to playing Battier at power forward to deal with his team’s size issues during the playoffs, has given the same answer routinely when asked about the big man situation over the last two years.
“We feel we have enough,” Spoelstra has often said. After deciding on Bosh, Spoelstra’s other decision will involve Haslem, who may replace Battier as the starting power forward.
“We’ll see, I’ll give you my lineup later,” Spoelstra said. “But Chris is fine, he should be able to play minutes.”