Thursday, June 21, 2018
Sports

Elusive championship finally within James' reach

MIAMI — LeBron James has been in nearly every imaginable situation over his nine seasons marked by three MVP awards, three trips to the NBA Finals with two teams and one decision that changed everything.

And now this: For the first time, he's one win from a championship.

"I have a job to do," James said Wednesday. "And my job is not done."

The job may get done tonight, when the Heat, up 3-1 in this title series, hosts the Thunder in Game 5. Even after leaving Game 4 late with a leg cramp, James is on the cusp of becoming a champ. James and the Cavs were swept in the 2007 Finals, then he and the Heat fell in six games in the 2011 title series.

After so many ups and downs, the 804th game of his career may end his title quest.

"I have no idea what I'll say before we go out there," said James, who got treatment again Wednesday but said soreness that followed the cramps in his left leg was easing. "It kind of just comes to me when I'm getting ready to go out there and stand on the floor. But hopefully whatever I say will inspire our guys to go out and give a good show."

James could not finish Game 4, though he returned after the first wave of cramps and delivered a key 3-pointer. With James watching the final minute, Dwyane Wade and Mario Chalmers helped close out the Thunder 104-98. The Heat could become the third team since the Finals went to the 2-3-2 format in 1985 to sweep the three games at home (2004 Pistons, 2006 Heat).

The outlook isn't as bright for the Thunder. No team in Finals history has successfully rallied from a 3-1 deficit under the 2-3-2 format. Still, Oklahoma City's losses have come by four, six and six points.

"We didn't get here just to make it here and say we did," Thunder star Kevin Durant said. "… We want to come in here, and we want to try to get a title. It's all about keep competing until that last buzzer sounds, and that's what we're going to do."

Schooled Thunder: Next time, the Thunder will know the rule. With Miami leading by three in Game 4, Oklahoma City's James Harden and Miami's Udonis Haslem grabbed a rebound simultaneously with 17.3 seconds left in the fourth quarter, after Wade shot an airball.

Miami had 0.8 seconds on the shot clock, but because of the jump-ball situation, it was reset to 5 seconds.

Thunder players were apparently, were unaware of that rule, and several players thought the shot clock was turned off. That explains why Russell Westbrook fouled Chalmers after Heat forward Shane Battier sent Haslem's tip to Chalmers, looking stunned when the whistle blew. The Thunder could have forced the Heat into a quick shot with time to rebound a miss. Instead, Chalmers made two free throws for a five-point lead.

"For some odd reason …I was just thinking like it was 13 seconds left, so if they won the tip, then we were going to have to foul," Westbrook said. "But I forgot that you get 5 seconds once the jump ball occurred again."

Harden bruised but ready: Harden has a bruised left hand but is expected to play tonight. The league's sixth man of the year has shot 2-for-10 in both games in Miami, falling to 13-for-37 in the series. He is averaging 10.8 points, six points below his season average. "It's definitely frustrating when those shots get open and don't go in, but you've got to continue to play," he said.

Around the league

Hornets-Wizards trade: New Orleans traded forward Trevor Ariza and center Emeka Okafor to Washington for forward Rashard Lewis and a second-round draft pick (46th overall). Lewis is entering the last season of a six-year, $118 million deal and could be a candidate for the amnesty clause, meaning the Hornets may choose to cut him to clear cap space.

Obituary: Former NBA (Lakers, Hawks) and ABA (Pittsburgh, Kentucky) player Dennis Hamilton died Monday, according to Arizona State, his alma mater. He was 68.

Magic hires Thunder executive, 30, as GM

ORLANDO — The Magic and Rob Hennigan reached an agreement in principle Wednesday that will make the Thunder executive the youngest general manager in the league.

Hennigan, 30, spent the past four seasons in Oklahoma City, including the past two as the assistant GM/player personnel overseeing the scouting departments. Before the Thunder, he spent four seasons with the Spurs.

"He's got experience working for championship organizations beyond his years, and from my perspective, this is his time," Magic CEO Alex Martins, who chose Hennigan over former Hornets GM Jeff Bower and Spurs assistant GM Dennis Lindsey, told the Orlando Sentinel. Martins expects the deal to be finalized and Hennigan introduced by this afternoon.

He replaces Otis Smith and will lead a search for a coach to replace the fired Stan Van Gundy. Hennigan also will try to sell star center Dwight Howard, who is said to want a trade, on the future of the franchise.

The draft is June 28, and the Magic owns the 19th and 49th overall picks.

Orlando Sentinel, Times wires

Comments
Next move is simple for the Bucs: Get rid of Jameis Winston

Next move is simple for the Bucs: Get rid of Jameis Winston

Trade him. Waive him. Cut him.Whatever.Just get rid of him.Jameis Winston should never play another game for the Tampa Bay Bucs.Plain and simple, he's a bad guy and the Bucs should have nothing more to do with him.He's already going to miss the first...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

Timeline of investigations, suspensions and allegations involving Jameis Winston

The NFL will suspend Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston at least three games without pay for violating the league's personal conduct policy. Winston's suspension could be increased if he fails to meet certain undisclosed requirements expected to be...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

Jameis Winston suspension means Bucs will turn to Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB

The news of Jameis Winston's suspension to start the upcoming season likely means that the Bucs will have veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick stepping in at quarterback for three crucial games.Fitzpatrick stepped in as a starter for three games last year when W...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Three-game suspension looms for Bucs QB Jameis Winston

Three-game suspension looms for Bucs QB Jameis Winston

TAMPA — The Bucs will open the upcoming season without the face of their franchise, as quarterback Jameis Winston will be suspended three games by the NFL for violating the league's personal conduct policy.Winston, 24, was accused of groping a ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

2018-19 schedule unveiled: Lightning opens with five straight at home

NHL schedules all balance out at the end, but the Lightning will open 2018-19 with five straight home games and end the season with its last four on the road.The Lightning released its schedule Thursday evening for the upcoming season, with all sorts...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

Without a first-rounder, Lightning still could have busy draft weekend

The Lightning doesn't have a first-round pick in this weekend's NHL draft, but that's not to say it couldn't be a busy weekend for Steve Yzerman and his front office.The Lightning sent its top draft pick to the Rangers in February as part of a packag...
Updated: 3 hours ago
The all-time NBA draft — the best pick from every slot

The all-time NBA draft — the best pick from every slot

There’s a definitive answer every year to the question of who is No. 1 in the NBA draft. But who is the No. 1 pick of all No. 1 draft picks ever? Or No. 1 among the list of No. 2 draft picks? Those are questions that have no definitive answer, except...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Captain’s Corner: Size of sea trout a welcome surprise in Pinellas grass beds

A nice surprise has been the quality size of the spotted sea trout on deeper grass beds in southern Pinellas. Typically, summertime trout tend to run smaller than the 16- to 20-inch trout we’ve been finding. Fishing the deep grass with scattered sand...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Islanders hire Barry Trotz as coach fresh off winning Stanley Cup

Islanders hire Barry Trotz as coach fresh off winning Stanley Cup

DALLAS — The New York Islanders have hired Barry Trotz as their new head coach. President of hockey operations Lou Lamoriello announced the move Thursday at the NHL draft, two weeks after Trotz won the Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals and thr...
Updated: 5 hours ago
One last chance to see MF Marcel Schafer in a Rowdies uniform

One last chance to see MF Marcel Schafer in a Rowdies uniform

ST. PETERSBURG — Marcel Schafer's departure from the Rowdies was predetermined, with a major post awaiting back home in Germany. But the process sped up recently.As in, this is it. Rowdies fans who enjoy watching the midfielder had better get t...
Updated: 7 hours ago