BS Meter on LeBron James, Joel Embiid and Other Hot NBA Topics

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistNovember 15, 2017

BS Meter on LeBron James, Joel Embiid and Other Hot NBA Topics

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    Hit refresh on your news source of choice, and you've got more NBA-related content than you can digest. Wait five seconds, and you've got more.

    With all those reports, rumors and trending topics washing over you, it can be tough to keep everything straight.

    We're here to help.

    Cutting through the fluff and slowing the rotation on all that spin, we'll give you the sensible take on what's worth believing and what you can shovel aside as B.S. in the NBA news cycle.

    Is Dion Waiters dirty? Is Lonzo Ball really OK? Is Joel Embiid the troll king? Or is it LeBron James?

    Let's assess B.S.

Dion Waiters Getting Dirty

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    Rudy Gobert, who's out four-to-six weeks with a bone bruise (and lucky the injury wasn't much worse), has a case for this being a dirty dive by Dion Waiters.

    "I think it was a dirty play," he told reporters afterward, before posting the clip to Twitter and sarcastically writing, "Dove for the ball, right?"

    That's a heavy accusation to level against anyone other than Matthew Dellavedova, who fields allegations like these several times a week. No wonder Waiters retorted, via Shandel Richardson of the South Florida Sun Sentinel "I've never been a dirty player in my life. I went for the ball. Tell him to get out of his feelings and that's what it is, just like that."

    The last word went to Gobert, who told reporters: "It's not my feelings, it's my knee. ... I like to play basketball. Sometimes if someone takes that away from you, you've got to get in your feelings for a reason."

    Assigning Waiters the specific intent to injure Gobert is difficult; maybe impossible given the ambiguity of the video and our inability to crawl inside someone else's head. But it feels unfair to let Waiters off completely.

    It at least looks like he leans into Gobert mid-dive. And even if he doesn't, his play for the ball was a long shot and undertaken without regard for anyone else's health.

    You don't want to discourage competitive play, and in your mind, you can hear every old-school coach you've ever had screaming about getting on the floor. Any player's bench would all be stood applauding a dive like this. There's a longstanding appreciation for heedless hustle in the NBA, and it's not going away.

    Waiters should have been more careful, but nobody celebrates or rewards careful in competitive sports.

    Was it on purpose? Is Gobert being a baby? Who can say?

    It's not going to make anyone happy, but we have to split the difference on the week's most controversial play and just call it reckless. That falls short of intentional, but it's the only fair way to adjudicate this mess.

                                  

    B.S. Meter Reading: Debata-Bull

Lonzo Ball: This Is Fine

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    Lonzo Ball didn't play in the fourth quarter of the Los Angeles Lakers' 100-93 win over the Phoenix Suns on Monday, and he didn't seem to mind.

    "We got a win so I got no complaints," he told ESPN's Ohm Youngmisuk.

    There aren't many players who could say this and sound credible, but Ball's whole ethos is wrapped up in unselfishness and team-first feel-goodery. You get the sense he'd sit at the top of the arc and do cartwheels for 37 minutes a night if it demonstrably improved his team's chances of winning.

    So, yeah, this actually is fine.

    For now, Ball's inability to consistently shoot over 30 percent from the field makes head coach Luke Walton's decision defensible. Even if he wanted to, Ball couldn't logically argue he's entitled to minutes with that glaring hole in his skill set.

    Ideally, a key flaw wouldn't confine a lottery pick to the bench behind Jordan Clarkson or Corey Brewer. But Ball's only 20, and it must be said he has held it together admirably in the midst of a media circus he didn't create. He's going to get better.

    If these benchings persist, we'll have another issue to address. But at the moment, there's nothing to worry about.

                       

    B.S. Meter Reading: No Bull...for Now

King LeBron?

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    In one of the more enjoyable 24-hour periods of the season, LeBron James took shots at Phil Jackson for passing on Dennis Smith, Jr., rode a subway train, infringed on the likeness rights of a perturbed passenger, got into a dustup with Frank Ntilikina and Enes Kanter, came back from a huge deficit to beat the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden and proclaimed himself king of New York on Instagram.

    Kanter disagreed, proclaiming Kristaps Porzingis ruler in the Apple.

    And that's just the short version.

    You've got to hand it to James for starting and ending several fights here, but some credit goes to the Knicks—particularly Kanter and Ntilikina—for refusing to back down. Still, the bravado rings awfully hollow in the aftermath of Cleveland's massive second-half comeback win.

    That's not the important part of all this, though. This is about systems of government, and James is way out of line with all this king talk. So is Katner.

    This is America, sirs. Rife with corruption and incompetence as our government has become, we still don't do the monarchy thing. Budding overclasses of craven oligarchs? Sure, we're in for that. Bought-and-paid-for legislators consolidating wealth at the behest of shadowy lobbyists? Absolutely!

    But a king? Not here, fellas.

    That, apparently, is where we draw the line.

                          

    B.S. Meter Reading: Total, Undemocratic Bull

Greek Freak in Dallas?

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    Buried in a chronicle from ESPN's Tim MacMahon about Dirk Nowitzki's twilight years, we got this tantalizing nugget:

    "[President of basketball operations Donnie] Nelson advised Cuban to take Giannis Antetokounmpo, an intriguing but raw Greek prospect, with the 13th overall pick in the 2013 draft, but Cuban's focus was on the salary cap entering the summer free-agency shopping period.

    "Cuban opted to trade down twice, saving about $400,000 in cap space, needing every penny to make a max run at Dwight Howard." 

    What!?!

    Are you telling me the Mavs were close to a Dirk-to-Giannis torch-passing that would have extended Dallas' impressive run of success (61.2 winning percentage since Nowitzki entered the league, which ranks second only to the San Antonio Spurs in that span) for another decade—at least?

    Intriguing as this sounds, and sure as MacMahon's reporting is credible, every team has a story like this. They were all seconds away from drafting Draymond Green or Rudy Gobert or whomever.

    We know for sure the Minnesota Timberwolves nearly took Giannis. And considering he went 15th overall, I'm guessing there are several teams who could find staffers claiming they caped for the untested Greek kid who became a megastar. And anyway, this isn't even the most exciting what-if.

    What if the Oklahoma City Thunder had added him instead of Steven Adams at No. 12?

    Imagine if the Philadelphia 76ers had taken him at No. 11. What's that do to The Process? How many Sam Hinkie statues would there be outside the Wells Fargo Center by now?

                     

    B.S. Meter Reading: Revisionist History Bull

Joel Embiid Is Forgetful

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    There's a higher level to NBA beef that only those truly committed to psychological destruction can reach. It's tough to get there in the heat of competition; usually, when an opponent is hacking you or barking in your face, the tendency is to respond in kind and to meet anger with anger.

    But this elevated plane requires a unique brand of return fire: You have to act like the seething opponent in front of you is a joke or, better still, someone you don't recognize as a threat—or at all.

    Joel Embiid is already an advanced practitioner of mind games, and he may have ascended to that rarefied air occupied by only the greatest NBA beefers when he pretended to forget Willie Reed's name.

    Joel, Reed is the guy you dominated on Monday. Right before you played DeAndre Jordan off and stared down Blake Griffin following a dunk.

    He tried to tackle you.

    You laughed and pointed in his face more than once.

    His jersey says "Reed" right on the back.

    Not ringing any bells?

    OK, sure.

    Embiid knows who Reed is, but he's gone full "Don Draper on Ginsberg in the elevator." There's no higher level of competitive disdain. We're watching a master.

                         

    B.S. Meter Reading: I don't even know what B.S. is...

                  

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