Tag:Celtics
Posted on: December 13, 2010 4:10 pm
Edited on: December 13, 2010 5:37 pm
 

No suspension for Stoudemire (UPDATE)

NEW YORK -- The NBA has decided not to suspend Knicks star Amar'e Stoudemire for either of his dust-ups with Nene during Sunday's game against the Nuggets, a person with knowledge of the league's disciplinary review told CBSSports.com Monday.

The league reviewed two incidents in which Stoudemire and Nene were battling around the basket and determined that neither one warranted a suspension. In one incident, Stoudemire -- expressing frustration with Nene's frequent elbow swinging -- bodied up the Denver big man as he spun to the baseline and appeared to be trying to push Nene out of bounds. 

In an earlier incident during the first quarter, Nene cleared out with his elbow on a drive to the basket and Stoudemire reacted angrily by viciously swinging his elbow -- either in retaliation or to show the officials what Nene did. The elbow did not make contact with Nene, but Stoudemire was assessed a technical foul for the outburst.

The league's disciplinary review was not yet completed, but a source indicated that neither incident would be upgraded to a flagrant foul. A suspension would have kept Stoudemire out of the Knicks' game Wednesday night at home against the defending Eastern Conference champion Celtics. The Knicks carry their first eight-game winning streak in 16 years into the game, which is part of a three-game stretch against elite competition that concludes Friday night against the Heat -- a game that will feature LeBron James' first appearance at Madison Square Garden since rejecting the Knicks' efforts to sign him as a free agent.


Posted on: November 19, 2010 11:50 pm
 

Without Durant, Westbrook goes solo

BOSTON – At one point during the Thunder’s surprising victory over the Celtics without Kevin Durant Friday night, Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks saw something he admired, but didn’t necessarily like.

Driving fearlessly into the conversation about the most lethal point guards in a league filled with them, Russell Westbrook was doing what he was supposed to do in Durant’s absence. He was trying to carry his team, on the road, against the defending Eastern Conference champions. Against the team that lost to the team that knocked the surprising Thunder out of the playoffs last spring.

The trouble was, he was trying too hard. After a turnover and a charge on consecutive out-of-control possessions in the second quarter, Brooks took Westbrook out and tried to give him a chance to cool off.

“He has a spirit that’s not going to back down,” Brooks said after the shorthanded Thunder beat the Celtics 89-84, their second victory in four days against a playoff team on the road following an equally impressive performance in Utah. “But sometimes, you have to back down and use your guys. I said, ‘Russell, you have four guys out there working just as hard as you are. Use them.’”

After a three-minute stint on the bench, Westbrook settled down and ultimately needed those guys – on both ends of the floor – to hold off the Celtics down the stretch. Westbrook finished with 31 points, six assists, and seven turnovers, dueling with Rajon Rondo until the Celtics’ point guard missed the last five minutes with a strained hamstring. The Thunder won despite going the last 9 1-2 minutes without a field goal, with Westbrook going 0-for-7 with six points – all from the foul line – in the fourth quarter, and with Durant sitting on the bench in street clothes with a sprained ankle that caused him to miss a game for the first time since the 2008-09 season.

After finding out less than an hour before tipoff that the Thunder would be without Durant in addition to starting forward Jeff Green, the Celtics suffered a classic case of letdown.

“We were definitely out of sync,” Ray Allen said. “We didn’t have any ball movement. We didn’t have any rhythm all night.”

In effect, the Celtics learned how it feels to be their opponent on most nights. Typically, it is Rondo who controls the tempo and dances through the defense with the ball on a yo-yo string. Westbrook did it with aggression and straight-line speed, whereas Rondo does it with lateral quickness and cut-your-heart-out guile. But Westbrook’s method was just as effective.

“Russell did a phenomenal job controlling the tempo,” Brooks said.

That is, after coming to the bench, listening to a lecture Rondo used to hear all the time from Doc Rivers, and resisting the urge to do too much.

“When guys are down,” Westbrook said, “other guys have to come in and be ready to play.”

Just not too ready.

The Thunder needed a confidence-builder after struggling to a 3-3 start that was capped by a 92-83 loss to the Celtics at home on Nov. 7. Their success will almost always be about Durant. But it was interesting to see Westbrook fearlessly attack Rondo without his superstar scoring machine on the floor with him.

More and more, Westbrook’s matchup with the opposing point guard will be as much reason to watch the Thunder as Durant. The rest of this month alone will feature Westbrook vs. Jason Kidd and Chris Paul. Early next month, Derrick Rose. Westbrook belongs right there in the conversation with all of them.
Posted on: November 17, 2010 10:31 pm
Edited on: November 18, 2010 4:08 pm
 

Artest says he's NFL-bound after basketball

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Nope, never a dull moment with Ron Artest.

In an interview airing later this week on CBSSports.com, Artest revealed that he intends to try out for an NFL team when his contract with the Lakers is up after the 2013-14 season. Artest, who taped the interview at the Lakers’ practice facility on Saturday, his 31st birthday, already has divulged that he’s been training for a second career as a heavyweight boxer when his basketball days are over. Little did we know that there’s another professional sport Artest wants to try.

Then again, knowing him, of course there is.

“God willing, after my NBA career, God willing I’m still athletic enough – which I’m trying to take care of my body as best as possible and be prepared for this day, for this tryout of an NFL team,” Artest said. “... It’s a fantasy of mine. It’s an opportunity because I’m athletic. So if that fantasy can be fulfilled, and if it’s something that can really be reached as far as a goal, I’m going for it.”

In the wide-ranging interview, which can be viewed in its entirety later this week on CBSSports.com, Artest also discussed his motivation behind auctioning off his championship ring to raise money and awareness in a personal crusade against mental illness; how he might feel if he sees the Celtics and Jermaine O’Neal in the NBA Finals, given that he feels like a “coward” in the presence of former Pacers teammates after the infamous Palace brawl in 2004; and his personal battle with alcohol.

“I do sip occasionally,” said Artest, who last season admitted that he used to drink Hennessy at halftime during his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls. “But the impressive thing for me is, I don’t even want a drink sometimes. ... During the season and during August and during training camp, I try to stay away from it. And the more I stayed away from it, the more I’d forget that I actually want to drink.”

Artest, who helped the Lakers win their second straight championship last season, said he’s raised more than $500,000 selling raffle tickets at $2 each – with a minimum purchase of five tickets – for the ring he spent 11 years pursuing. The winner will be determined on Christmas Day, before the Lakers play the Miami Heat, with the proceeds going to mental health charities.



Posted on: November 17, 2010 1:14 pm
 

Post-Ups

Their three-game winning streak and 22-gun salute from the 3-point line against the Lakers notwithstanding, these are delicate times for the Phoenix Suns. So delicate, in fact, that a speculative riff on an NBA writer’s podcast last week sparked a flurry of trade rumors surrounding Steve Nash.

Such is life in the NBA blogosmear, but there’s an element of truth to the speculation. Watching Nash play without Amar’e Stoudemire, and Stoudemire without Nash, is a classic lesson in being careful what you wish for. The Suns, like many NBA teams, were hesitant to lavish five guaranteed years on Stoudemire given the uninsurable state of his knees. The Knicks, boxed out of the LeBron James and Dwyane Wade sweepstakes, were in the rare position of being open to Stoudemire’s in-person overtures back in July. It was a match made in Desperadoville.

The Knicks were in Denver Tuesday night to face the Nuggets and the latest apple of their eyes, Carmelo Anthony. They arrived in a tailspin, having lost five in a row, and left with a 120-118 loss, a six-game losing streak, and much of the hopelessness inspired by Knicks teams of the past decade. No fewer than 15 power forwards playing at least 25 minutes per game are ahead of Stoudemire in efficiency rating, according to Hoopdata.com. Among them are Michael Beasley, Charlie Villanueva and Hakim Warrick – who replaced Stoudemire in Phoenix. You don’t need data to see that Stoudemire is struggling in his new home. Watching him search in vain for someone who knows how to run a pick-and-roll is evidence enough.

Despite Warrick’s statistical accomplishments, things aren’t much better for Nash and the Suns. Lost in the Suns’ unconscious shooting exploits in a 121-116 victory over the Lakers Sunday night was the ongoing horror show of watching Nash dribble around desperately in search of someone to set a capable screen and roll to the basket. Both Nash and Stoudemire have lost something irreplaceable in each other.

While the Knicks plan to do their due diligence and inquire as to Nash’s availability, the Suns haven’t gotten to the point of entertaining offers, according to an executive familiar with their strategy. Coach Alvin Gentry already has made it clear publicly that the Suns aren’t trading Nash, and the executive familiar with the team’s posture characterized the flurry of rumors as “random” and “not factual.” But in Phoenix, as with many revenue-challenged NBA cities, basketball sense doesn’t always align with financial reality.

Without Stoudemire – and assuming they can’t make 20-plus 3-pointers a night for the rest of the season – the Suns will be struggling to get a whiff of the eighth seed come April. They’re the worst rebounding team in the league in terms of defensive rebounding rate and offensive rebounding differential, and the loss of center Robin Lopez to a sprained knee certainly won’t help.

“We’ve got to be a little bit more scrappy than we’ve been in the past,” said Jared Dudley, a key member of the superior bench that made the Suns such a threat to the Lakers in the conference finals last spring.

But Suns owner Robert Sarver, whose non-basketball businesses in the banking and real estate sectors have been hammered by the recession, isn’t paying $63 million for a scrappy, barely .500 team. The Suns are comfortably below the $70.3 million luxury-tax threshold, so there’s no urgency there. However, Sarver has been one of the most vocal in a new wave of owners in the collective bargaining fight, and rival executives believe he’ll be on a rampage at the trade deadline if the Suns are out of the playoff hunt. That’s an eventuality the Suns hope to prevent, and despite their current upswing, it will prove to be a difficult fight.

“Hopefully we can get a couple of wins in a row so we can get those rumors away,” Dudley said of the Nash speculation. “You don’t want your franchise player to go. He makes everybody better here and he’s the face of Phoenix. If you think the transition is big with Amar’e, I can only imagine. It would be a journey having [Nash] leave.”

Which brings us to the next step in our journey, to the rest of the Post-Ups:

• With Jermaine O’Neal out several weeks with a sore left knee, you and I both know what name comes to mind as a free-agent replacement: Rasheed Wallace. While ‘Sheed’s agent, Bill Strickland, wouldn’t completely rule it out, it doesn’t sound like Wallace is even contemplating the possibility of coming out of retirement – for the Celtics or anybody else. “I have not talked to Danny [Ainge, the Celtics’ president] or Rasheed about that, but I think Rasheed is through,” Strickland said. Wallace, 36, isn’t believed to be working out on the court in any capacity in the event a team might be interested in his services. And while it’s hard to imagine Wallace coming back with the NBA’s tech-happy mandate to the referees, it’s more of a physical issue. As far back as when Wallace was still with the Pistons, he was known to sometimes leave his shoes on between games in order to keep playing. If he’d removed them, his ankles would’ve swelled up so badly that he wouldn’t have been able to get them back on.

• Leave it to the Zen Master to decode the mystery of Utah’s amazing string of double-digit road comebacks last week. Lakers coach Phil Jackson pointed out that Jazz coach Jerry Sloan is perhaps the only NBA coach who elects to have his team play offense in front of his bench in the second half. Most coaches prefer to have their team in front of them on defense down the stretch of road games. Lo and behold, the Jazz reeled off double-digit road comebacks against Miami, Orlando, Atlanta and Charlotte by pouring on the offense in the second half. Visiting coaches choose which basket to defend in which half. “You can generate a lot of points in front of your bench,” Jackson said. “Defensively, a lot of coaches like their team to be in front of the bench in the second half on the road, because you can call stuff and give eyes to the players with their back to the basket. They’re the only team in the NBA that does it the other way.”

Brandon Roy’s future with bone-on-bone in both knees bears watching, given that his game is based on getting to the basket and he’s only 26 – with a lot of mileage theoretically ahead of him. But Dr. Nicholas DiNubile, spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and former consultant to the Philadelphia 76ers, said it depends on the extent of the damage and where it is. After his latest bout with knee swelling and pain last week, Roy learned that surgery was not an option because he has no meniscus left in either knee. DiNubile said Roy’s fate will be determined by whether he lacks cartilage, too. “It would be extremely unlikely at that age to have no meniscus and no cartilage,” DiNubile said. Whether the bone-on-bone condition is occurring in the actual knee joint (bad) or under the kneecap (still bad, but better) also is important. If the bone-on-bone situation is where the tibia meets the femur, “You’re kind of doomed,” DiNubile said. “That’s not compatible with up-and-down playing. If he were to have bone-on-bone in the main part of his knee, his career’s going to be limited one way or the other.” If the condition exists in the kneecap, DiNubile said athletes “can do surprisingly well.”

• As more than an innocent bystander in the Carmelo Anthony saga, Nuggets coach George Karl is more than doing his part by using his considerable powers of persuasion to try to keep Melo in Denver. But it’s impossible to evaluate Karl’s efforts on that front without noting his own pursuit of a contract extension. Two people familiar with the situation told CBSSports.com that the Nuggets view Karl as part of their future, regardless of whether Anthony stays. Whether Karl wants to remain in Denver if he winds up with a rebuilding team post-Anthony – that’s another matter. But despite Karl’s disenchantment with the ouster of his friends Mark Warkentien and Tim Grgurich, the lines of communication between Karl, GM Masai Ujiri, executive Josh Kroenke, and team president Paul Andrews are very much open. And weighing on the matter more than Anthony’s future is Karl’s health. Karl, 59, has several more hurdles to clear in his heroic efforts to beat throat and neck cancer, and wants to be sure he remains cancer-free before asking the Nuggets to commit to him beyond this season. Everyone in the NBA, including the Denver front office, is rooting for him.

Tayshaun Prince’s repeated blowups, with coach John Kuester giving as good as he’s getting, aren’t expected to play a major role in the Pistons’ decision on whether to trade the swingman and his $11.1 million expiring contract. A person with knowledge of Prince’s thinking told CBSSports.com that his frustration isn’t fully directed at Kuester; losing, after his time as a member of the formerly contending Pistons, is a bigger issue. But the biggest issue in the decision on whether to move him is the impending ownership change in Detroit. Trading an expiring deal, by definition, involves taking on future money – which is difficult, at best, to do when a new owner is entering the picture.

Kevin Love’s 31-point, 31-rebound game – an incredible performance and the first of its kind since Moses Malone in 1982 – was a quiet victory for Timberwolves coach Kurt Rambis. Rambis had been trying to prove a point to Love by limiting his minutes: If you don’t play both ends of the floor, you’re not going to play. Rambis’ message finally got through, and the result was an example of what Love is capable of when he puts his mind to it. But this isn’t the end of the dysfunction in Minnesota, by any stretch. Just because Love performed in an historic way doesn’t mean he’s buying Rambis’ message long-term. And a person familiar with the Wolves’ locker room dynamics isn’t convinced it’s smooth sailing from here. “The team is a disaster,” the person said. Depending on who you ask, the issue is either lack of communication from Rambis, or an unwillingness to listen on the part of Love and others who are disenchanted with minutes. It’s going to take more time to sort it all out.
Posted on: November 12, 2010 3:15 am
 

Kobe, Melo in the middle of it again

DENVER – In two different locker rooms, separated by about 50 yards and five championships, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony assessed the night’s developments in the NBA as we now know it.

The end of the Lakers’ 8-0 start. A significant victory by the Nuggets, who bounced back from consecutive losses that included an embarrassing meltdown in Indiana. The latest, ever-so-subtle shift in the Melodrama, with Anthony saying after the Nuggets’ 118-112 victory over the two-time defending champs, “I’m content with my situation.”

Across the continent, the Miami Heat lost again to the Celtics and fell to 5-4 – while the Cavaliers, LeBron James’ former team, are 4-4.

“Oh, ____,” Bryant said with a smile after being informed of the delicious irony. “That’ll make for a good story in Cleveland in November. But come April, I don’t think that’ll be much of a story.”

Somehow all the stories were intertwined Thursday night at the Pepsi Center. The best team in the league took one on the chin, giving up a 33-point fourth quarter to the small-ball Nuggets, who can do nothing more than view Anthony’s fragile future as a day-to-day proposition. The team the Lakers beat in the Finals, Boston, made mince meat of the mighty Heat – a 112-107 victory that, for now, has changed everyone’s perspective about how good this free-agent fabrication will be.

It is knee-jerk reaction time, because it is November in the NBA. Hours earlier, Bryant was sitting in a courtside seat at the Pepsi Center after shootaround, deflecting questions about whether the Lakers could win 70 games. Two weeks ago, everyone wanted to know if the Heat could win 73, eclipsing the NBA record established by Phil Jackson’s 1995-96 Bulls.

“You guys never stop that stuff,” Bryant said after the game, his knees wrapped in ice and a black, boxer-style robe draped over his shoulders. When asked if there’s too much dissection of the early returns, Bryant stood up and said, “What else are you guys going to do? Talk about Miami all the time?”

If nothing else, Thursday night, Nov. 11, was a turning point in this season of anticipation and unprecedented interest. It was the night when doubts about the Heat were driven home, and when the world exhaled with the knowledge that, no, the Lakers will not go undefeated. It seemed fitting that it all came together on a night when the old-guard Celtics humbled the new-look Heat – and when the young star of the league whom Bryant relates with the best showed why he belongs in the conversation about the top of the pecking order in pro basketball.

“We’re both brutally honest,” Bryant said. “I think that’s the thing. We don’t pull punches. We don’t sugarcoat how we feel. That’s what attracted me to him, and I think vice versa. We don’t pull punches. We hang out all the time and we can be harsh with one another, and it’s fun.

“He and I are like that all the time, and I’m like that with everybody,” Bryant said. “We rip each other pretty good back and forth. Obviously, I pull a little bit more weight because I’ve won a little bit more than him so I can talk a little bit more. We really just have a great relationship. We hit it off in Beijing and we’ve been tight ever since.”

After Anthony put up 32 points on 14-for-25 shooting from the field with 13 rebounds, Bryant hugged him and told him something.

“Just, ‘Good win,’” Melo said. “‘Keep it up.’”

Anthony is in the same position Bryant was in three years ago, wanting to find greener pastures. Bryant found them at home, in L.A., because the Lakers got lucky and got him Pau Gasol. They’ve been to the Finals three times and won two titles since then.

Melo said he isn’t looking ahead too far ahead, that he can’t see what December, February, or June have in store.

"I see the Phoenix Suns Monday night,” he said. “That’s what I see. … I’m content with my situation right now.”

It turns out there is an NBA beyond South Beach, and on Thursday night, Bryant and Melo were basking in it. Bryant, chasing his sixth title to equal the great Michael Jordan, was unusually jovial after a loss. Anthony, Bryant’s partner in brutal honesty, said he was “proud of my team” for the way it bounced back. And he promised to keep answering all the questions that result from his decision to leave his options open by refusing to sign a three-year, $65 million extension – a decision that has given the Nuggets no choice but to continue exploring what they can get for him in a trade. Because if Anthony doesn’t sign that extension by the February trade deadline, it will no longer a question of whether they trade Anthony, but what they get for him.

“I’m looking forward to just playing basketball, man,” Anthony said. “I’m not concerned about anything else right now. The only thing on my mind right now is winning, playing games, getting my guys back healthy and getting them back out there on the court. Everything else is irrelevant to me right now.

Down the hall, Bryant had just finished regaling his postgame audience with stories of why he respects Anthony so much – why, of all the stars on the 2008 Olympic team, he gravitated toward Anthony. For one thing, the elbows Bryant always makes a point of throwing at the new guys didn’t cause Anthony to recoil when he came into the league.

“He welcomed it,” Bryant said. “He just kept coming and coming and coming, so I respected that about him.”

Bryant respects his honesty, too, and can relate because he was once sitting in the same seat. The only advice Bryant said he’s given his friend is to make sure he’s sure about what he wants.

“Like I tell him, he’s got some catching up to do,” Bryant said. “It’s a long, rocky mountain to climb.”
Posted on: November 3, 2010 4:31 pm
Edited on: November 3, 2010 6:41 pm
 

Garnett denies calling Villanueva cancer patient

Kevin Garnett on Wednesday denied calling Pistons forward Charlie Villanueva "a cancer patient" in a trash-talking rant during the teams' game the night before.

“I am aware there was a major miscommunication regarding something I said on the court last night," Garnett said in a statement from his representatives released by the Celtics. "My comment to Charlie Villanueva was in fact, ‘You are cancerous to your team and our league.’ I would never be insensitive to the brave struggle that cancer patients endure. I have lost loved ones to this deadly disease and have a family member currently undergoing treatment. I would never say anything that distasteful. The game of life is far bigger than the game of basketball.”

After the Celtics beat the Pistons 109-86 Tuesday night, dropping Detroit to 0-4 and sending the team into turmoil, Villanueva wrote on his Twitter account that Garnett had called him a "cancer patient" during a trash-talking rant. Villanueva has no body hair due to a rare autoimmune disorder known as alopecea areata.

"KG talks alot of crap, he's prob never been in a fight, I would love to get in a ring with him, I will expose him," Charlie V tweeted. "KG called me a cancer patient, I'm pissed because, u know how many people died from cancer, and he's tossing it like it's a joke. I wouldn't even trip about that, but a cancer patient, I know way 2 many people who passed away from it, and I have a special place 4 those."

Moments after Garnett's statement was released Wednesday, Villanueva wrote on Twitter, "
New day, moving forward, Pistons lets get a win tonight." But before the Pistons played the Hawks in Atlanta on Wednesday night, Villanueva was asked about Garnett's denial.

"I know exactly what I heard," Villanueva said, according to the Detroit Free-Press .

Posted on: October 26, 2010 10:17 pm
 

Big Three = Big Flop

BOSTON – On opening night, the Big Three were a Big Flop.

So much for the coronation, the predictions of a 73-win season, and shooting to the top of the Eastern Conference in July. In October, when it finally mattered, the Celtics were still the Celtics. The Heat were the test-tube babies of the 2009-10 Cleveland Cavaliers and the 2006-07 Heat: Not good enough.

The champions of the summer have a lot to work on in the fall.

Returning to the scene of his greatest career disappointment, LeBron James once again was denied by the savvier, grittier, defensive-minded Celtics, who inflicted the first scar on the team expected by some to dominate the NBA. The original Big Three beat the newer version, 88-80 Tuesday night in the 2010-11 NBA season opener.

Boston had to sweat out a flurry of one-on-one majesty by King James, who had 15 points in the third to turn a 45-30 rout into a six-point game, 63-57, heading into the fourth quarter. Then, the Celtics – 26th in fourth-quarter scoring last season – tempted fate with a sloppy closeout attempt as the Cavs – I mean, Heat – went on a 10-0 run from the 4:14 mark to the 1:10 mark. The run cut Boston’s 83-70 lead to 83-80 with 70 seconds left.

The Celtics, still undisputed Kings of getting baskets out of timeouts in big moments, got a 3-point dagger from Ray Allen with 49.8 seconds left to keep mighty Miami winless in 2010-11. The Heat, and their accompanying media circus, travel to Philadelphia Wednesday for Game 2. And if opening night was any indication of the drama and hype that will surround this team, it is going to be a crazy ride.

But the anticipated issues of chemistry between LeBron and Wade, who missed all but three minutes of the preseason with a hamstring injury and Chicago court appearances, reared their ugly head all night. LeBron led the Heat back in 1-on-5 Cavs style in the third, with Wade and Chris Bosh on the bench. Like his old team, LeBron’s new team had no answer to pesky Rajon Rondo and no fortitude in protecting the basket from Boston’s improved frontcourt.

All of this is fixable, and not entirely surprising when you consider that the Celtics’ core has been together for three years, with one title to their credit, and the Heat have been together for what coach Erik Spoelstra reminded everyone before the game was 14 practices and two shootarounds.

But none that changed the fact that LeBron would walk out of TD Garden, his house of horrors, in much the same fashion that saw him leave last spring: In defeat.
Posted on: October 26, 2010 7:14 pm
 

LeBron: Never thought I'd leave Cavs


BOSTON -- The last time LeBron James was in TD Garden, he was walking down the hallway to a summer of uncertainty and, ultimately, tumult. The Cavaliers had just lost to the Celtics in the playoffs, and LeBron's future -- and the transformative summer of 2010 in the NBA -- were deep in flux.

"It definitely felt disappointing," James said Tuesday night, about 90 minutes before tipping off the 2010-11 season in the same building, but with a new team. "At that time, I didn’t think that it would be the last moment I wear a Cleveland Cavaliers uniform. It was disappointing, and I never thought in the back of my mind that I would be somewhere else. But right now, as I reflect back on it, I'm excited about this new start. I'm excited about this season. I'm excited about this team and this franchise, and I'm glad to get it going in the city where we struggled in previous years."

It was a thoughtful revelation from James on the night when he was set to begin the next, and most important phase of his career. Surrounded by a horde of media in an auxiliary interview room before the game, James spoke about developing chemistry with Dwyane Wade, his many critics, and his new Nike commercial that debuted online Monday before it hit the TV air waves Tuesday night.

In the ad, James took on his critics as part of a new ad campaign titled, "Rise," a takeoff on the famous Maya Angelou poem , "Still I Rise," which James reads from in the commercial. James took aim at one of his fiercest critics, Charles Barkley, mimicking Barkley's famous and controversial line, "I am not a role model," before popping a donut into his mouth.

James also pokes fun at himself with a segment depicting him finishing his Hall of Fame speech in an empty room.

"It was mostly my execution and me just hearing a lot of people saying some of the things that I've done, have I ruined what I've done over the years," James said. "That instance was a point where no one shows up to the Hall of Fame speech. Not saying I'm a Hall of Famer right now, but I'm headed in the right direction."

After a summer of public gaffes, highlighted by the widely panned "Decision," the commercial shows James in a different -- and better -- light. But he wanted to make one thing clear Tuesday night, when I asked him which lighthearted or serious moment in the ad was his favorite.

"None of them were jokes," James said. "I wasn’t in a joking mood. None of them were jokes. I don’t know if I had a favorite. I think when you look back on it, it’s basically saying, 'Should I be who you want me to be? Or do should I just be me?' That’s how I got to this point. I respect everyone who’s had an opinion, but at the same time, you've got to do the best for yourself. And I think everyone has to do that."
 
 
 
 
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