LeBron James lavished praised on the Toronto Raptors after the defending champions defeated his Los Angeles Lakers 107-92 on Saturday.

The Lakers, who are leading the way in the Western Conference, lost an 11th straight game in their rivalry with the Raptors as point guard Kyle Lowry scored 33 points and had a career-high 14 rebounds.

Toronto have not lost to the Lakers since November 2014 and, despite losing 2019 Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard to the Los Angeles Clippers after their historic 2018-19 campaign, the 47-18 Raptors produced a performance that suggested they will be a serious threat in the postseason once more.

"That's a great team - exceptionally well coached, [with] championship DNA, you can never take that away from a ball club," James told reporters.

"Even before that they've got playoff-tested guys. Guys who played not just here in the NBA in big games but FIBA games as well. Marc [Gasol] has been in big games throughout his whole life it seems like.

"They're just a great team. The media may not talk about them much or give them much credit because Kawhi has gone, but players in the league definitely know what type of team they are.

"They won a championship for a reason. It wasn't just solely because of Kawhi, and obviously you're seeing that.

"They've got the two-headed monster in Fred [VanVleet] and Kyle that set the tone and their wings are extremely good in Pascal [Siakam] and OG [Anunoby].

"They've got experience in the front court, at the center position in Marc and Serge [Ibaka] and then they've got a bunch of complementary guys. They've been the team that they've been all year."

The Lakers shot a season-low 35.4 per cent from the field and went 10-of-40 with their three-point attempts.

"I think for most of the game they double-teamed Anthony [Davis] and LeBron in the post and kind of left a lot of guys open to make some shots," said Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma.

"We just didn't hit shots tonight. We got what we wanted, great shots, open shots. It was tough for us to hit them."

Defending NBA champions the Toronto Raptors were too good for the Los Angeles Lakers, winning 107-92 in Orlando on Saturday.

Kyle Lowry posted 33 points and 14 rebounds and team-mate OG Anunoby scored 23 points as the Raptors claimed their 11th consecutive victory over the Lakers.

The Raptors – second in the Eastern Conference behind the Milwaukee Bucks – have not lost to the Lakers since 2014-15.

LeBron James' double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds was not enough for Western Conference leaders the Lakers, who are 1-1 since the restart at Walt Disney World Resort.

After scoring 34 points in the Lakers' return, Anthony Davis managed just 14 against the Raptors as the Los Angeles franchise remain one win away from clinching the top seed in the west.

TJ Warren, meanwhile, had a career-high 53 points as the Indiana Pacers resumed their season with a 127-121 win against Eastern Conference rivals the Philadelphia 76ers.

Warren was 20 of 29 from the field and nine of 12 from three-point range in his first game with at least 50 points.

The Pacers (40-26) and 76ers (39-27) had shared identical records prior to Saturday's encounter, but Indiana broke a tie to take control of the Eastern Conference's fifth seed.

 

George stars from beyond the arc

Paul George led the way as the Los Angeles Clippers outclassed the New Orleans Pelicans 126-103. George made eight of 11 three-pointers in a 28-point performance. The All-Star shot three straight from beyond the arc in the opening minutes to set the tone. The Clippers broke the franchise record by making 25 of 47 threes. Clippers head coach Doc Rivers also moved 11th on the NBA's career list for wins after celebrating his 939th victory.

Joel Embiid became the first 76ers player with multiple 40-plus point, 20-plus rebound-games since Charles Barkley. The All-Star finished with 41 points and 21 rebounds against the Pacers.

 

Mitchell struggles as Jazz lose

Donovan Mitchell (13 points) was just five for 15 in the Utah Jazz's 110-94 defeat at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder. The two teams were meant to meet on March 11 before Rudy Gobert tested positive for coronavirus prior to tip-off. The Jazz shot just 39 per cent from the field.

 

LeBron with the layup

While the Lakers lost, James still provided a number of highlights, including this run to the rim.

 

Saturday's results

Miami Heat 125-105 Denver Nuggets
Oklahoma City Thunder 110-94 Utah Jazz
Los Angeles Clippers 126-103 New Orleans Pelicans
Indiana Pacers 127-121 Philadelphia 76ers
Toronto Raptors 107-92 Los Angeles Lakers

 

Bucks at Rockets

Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Eastern Conference-leading Bucks (54-12) face the Houston Rockets (41-24) on Sunday. Both teams are coming off wins after the restart.

LeBron James hopes the return of the NBA can "spread a lot of love throughout the world" after he scored the winning basket in the Los Angeles Lakers' victory over the Los Angeles Clippers.

James followed up his own miss by being alert to grab the decisive points in a 103-101 win with 12.8 seconds to go when the season resumed in the Orlando bubble on Thursday.

Players took a knee wearing tops in support of the Black Lives Matters movement before the first NBA action since March got under way behind closed doors due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Four-time NBA MVP James says NBA stars can play a major part in raising spirits all over the world.

"The game of basketball has always been bigger than just a ball and a rim, 10 guys on a field and referees. It's an opportunity to use this platform to spread a lot of positivity, a lot of love throughout the world," James said in an on-court interview.

"We understand what's going on in society right now and we are using this NBA platform as players, as coaches, as organisations to continue to stand strong on that.

"This is a good start tonight, it's good to have the NBA back and I hope our fans are proud of us tonight."

James stressed the importance of the league and players continuing to take a stand against racial inequality.

"There has been progress, but in the past when we've seen progress, we've let our foot off the gas a little bit," he said.

"We can't do that, we want to continue to keep our foot on the gas, continue to push forward, continue to spread love throughout America.

"We are dealing with a lot of racism, a lot of social injustice, a lot of police brutality, not only in my neighbourhood, not only with black people, with people of colour and it's something that we want to continue to have people's ears open to.

"We have ears now, but we cannot stop putting our foot on the gas, as we've been doing for the last few months."

LeBron James scored the go-ahead basket as the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Lakers returned to NBA action with a 103-101 victory against rivals the Los Angeles Clippers.

James' layup with 12.8 seconds remaining ensured the Lakers topped the Clippers to move a step closer to clinching the number one seed in the west in Orlando, Florida on Thursday.

The Lakers – led by Anthony Davis' 34 points and a 16-point, 11-rebound James double-double – are six-and-a-half games clear of the Clippers in the Western Conference.

Paul George top scored for the Clippers with 30 points, while Kawhi Leonard added 28 of his own.

The Lakers-Clippers showdown was the second game in a doubleheader as the NBA resumed with the Utah Jazz outlasting the New Orleans Pelicans at Walt Disney World Resort.

COVID-19 forced the 2019-20 season to be postponed in March, but the league restarted behind closed doors, with all four teams kneeling in unison during the United States national anthem.

Four-time MVP James and the Lakers dusted off some early rust to earn bragging rights against Leonard and the Clippers.

The Lakers raced out of the blocks to lead 35-23 at the end of the opening quarter, but the Clippers moved ahead by 11 points midway through the third period.

In the final quarter, George nailed a three-pointer with less than two minutes remaining to reduce the Lakers' lead to 99-98 before hitting another shot from beyond the arc to level the game at 101-apiece 29 seconds from the end.

Three-time champion James, however, came up big with the late layup and a strong defensive effort on George, who missed a buzzer-beating three.

The NBA finally returns on Thursday and it's been a long-time coming.

Not since March 11 have players taken to the court and fans watched official games due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But, after months of waiting, the New Orleans Pelicans-Utah Jazz and Los Angeles Lakers-Los Angeles Clippers clashes will headline the 2019-20 season restart in Orlando, Florida.

Inside the Walt Disney World Resort bubble, 22 teams will resume their regular seasons before the playoffs.

The Milwaukee Bucks topped the NBA standings at the time of the postponement, while the Los Angeles Lakers were flying in the Western Conference.

Using STATS data, we look at the best-performing players prior to the hiatus as LeBron James eyes a fourth championship ring and Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo chases a maiden title.

 

Red-hot LeBron

After a tough first season in Los Angeles, James has returned to his brilliant best in 2019-20. Before the coronavirus-enforced break, the four-time MVP catapulted himself into the mix for a fifth Most Valuable Player honour by leading the Lakers – who have played 63 of their 82-game regular season – to a Western Conference-best 49-14 record.

As the 35-year-old superstar prepares to resume his bid for another NBA crown, James leads the league in assists per game with 10.6. If he maintains his pace, James would be the third-oldest player to lead the NBA in assists per game behind two-time MVP and Phoenix Suns great Steve Nash – who did so in both 2009-10 (age 35-36) and 2010-11 (age 36-37). The former Miami Heat and Cleveland Cavaliers forward has also been averaging 25.7 points and 7.9 rebounds per game this season.

James, whose maiden campaign at Staples Center was cut short by a Christmas Day injury almost two years ago, was playing some of his best basketball alongside All-Star recruit Anthony Davis before the March suspension. In five games that month, James averaged 30.0 points and 10.6 assists per game, while shooting 55.7 per cent from the field. It is the only time in the last 30 years that any NBA player has averaged 30.0-plus points and 10.0-plus assists on 55.0-plus per cent shooting in a calendar month (minimum five games played).

 

Giannis – The Greek Freak

The Eastern Conference-leading Bucks (53-12) are on track for their first NBA title since 1971 thanks to superstar MVP Antetokounmpo after Mike Budenholzer's side lost in the Conference Finals last season.

Antetokounmpo – expected to go close to winning back-to-back MVPs – has not taken a backward step since being crowned the league's best in 2018-19, averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game for the high-flying Bucks this season.

The only players to average 25/13/5 in a season are Elgin Baylor (1960-61), Wilt Chamberlain (1963-64 and 1965-66) and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1972-73 and 1975-76).

 

Harden firing Rockets

James Harden's standing among the greats is often debated but there is no doubting his quality and importance to the Houston Rockets.

Harden has established himself as a scoring machine in Houston since joining the Rockets from the Oklahoma City Thunder in 2012, especially from beyond the arc, and after averaging 36.1 points last season, the 2018 MVP is at it again.

In 2019-20, Harden – now partnered with fellow All-Star Russell Westbrook – is averaging 34.4 per game. The only players to average 34-plus points in back-to-back seasons are Wilt Chamberlain (six straight from 1959-60 to 1964-65), Baylor (three straight from 1960-61 to 1962-63) and Michael Jordan (1986-87 to 1987-88).

The Rockets – sixth in the west with a 40-24 record – are relying heavily on Harden to lead the two-time champions to their first NBA Finals appearance since 1995.

 

Dallas' dazzling Doncic

If you thought Dallas Mavericks star Luka Doncic was a one-season wonder, think again.

The reigning Rookie of the Year continues to take the NBA by storm, elevating the Mavericks (40-27) into a legitimate playoff threat after Dallas missed the postseason for a third consecutive year last term.

A first-time All-Star this season, Doncic is averaging 28.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 8.7 assists per game for the much-improved Mavs in 2019-20.

The 21-year-old Slovenian sensation – who is forming a formidable combination with fellow international star Kristaps Porzingis – is looking to join Oscar Robertson (five times), Jordan (1988-89), Harden (2016-17) and Westbrook (2016-17) as the only players to average 28/8/8 in a season.

 

Williamson following in MJ's footsteps

When it comes to number one draft pick Zion Williamson, believe the hype.

The Pelicans rookie has not missed a beat since debuting in January, quickly making his presence known around the NBA competition.

Likened to James during his college days with Duke, Williamson has averaged 23.6 points per game in his first 19 games – the most by any player through 19 career games since Chicago Bulls and NBA legend Jordan (25.6).

Williamson has helped fill the void left by Davis in New Orleans and the Pelicans – 10th in the Western Conference with a 28-36 record – will be hoping the 20-year-old can lead the organisation to just their second playoff appearance in five seasons.

 

Keep an eye on Nets' LeVert

The Nets will be far from full strength in the NBA bubble. Superstars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant are both sidelined through injury, while DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie, Wilson Chandler and Taurean Prince have opted out.

Step up Caris LeVert.

LeVert has been much improved since re-joining the starting line-up with the playoff-chasing Nets. In his first 14 games off the bench, he was only averaging 11.1 points, 2.7 assists and 2.6 rebounds as Brooklyn went 5-9.

Since returning to the starting five, the 25-year-old is averaging 24.1 points, 5.3 assists and 4.8 rebounds through his last 16 games. More importantly, the Nets (30-34) boasted a 9-7 record to be seventh in a congested Eastern Conference.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said he will not be turning off his phone during the NBA postseason amid the coronavirus pandemic.

James usually imposes a social-media blackout for the playoffs – the three-time champion staying away from Twitter and Instagram between April and June in his quest for NBA glory.

But the COVID-19 crisis has changed those plans, James determined to stay in contact with his family while he and the Lakers are based in the Orlando bubble for the league's restart.

The NBA has been postponed since March due to coronavirus, but the 2019-20 season will resume on Thursday, with the Lakers facing rivals the Los Angeles Clippers at Walt Disney Resort.

"It's definitely going to have a different mindset, different feel to it," James said on a video conference call on Tuesday.

"I won't be turning my phone off during this run. I can't afford to. I have to continue to check in with my family every single day."

James, who was averaging 25.7 points, 10.6 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game for the Western Conference-leading Lakers prior to the postponement, added: "Making sure everything is still going well, especially in the uncertainty of what 2020 has brought to all of us. So I can't afford to do that, just lose direct contact with everybody."

"The communication can always be consistent and the leadership can always be consistent, and that's one thing I've always had control over," the four-time MVP and 35-year-old continued.

"But you can't replicate actual presence when you're waking up and you're in the living room or you're in the kitchen, or you're outside playing with your kids or playing with your daughter, playing video games with your boys or working out with your boys. You can't replicate that. I'm not there.

"But [wife] Savannah is a beast at what she does: That's controlling the home and being that rock for our family. So I'm not worried about that. But you definitely, you have that miss factor when you miss your family, you miss your kids and things of that nature.

"But I thank Steve Jobs a lot and the team at Apple for having FaceTime, because that is a beautiful thing to have, especially during a time like this."

I use my Sundays to look back at what has been happening in the world of sport. On many a Sunday, I realize that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT 

T20 Cricket World Cup postponed, but still lots of cricket to see

The men’s T20 World Cup, which was scheduled to take place in Australia this year, between October 18th and November 15th, has been postponed due to COVID-19. The International Cricket Council Chief Executive Manu Sawhney said the decision was made with safety in mind and that it would be moved to 2021. 

Initially, the news came as a surprise and I must admit I was disappointed, to an extent, as West Indies are the defending T20 champions and I am always ready for some competitive cricket. Upon weighing the pros and cons of hosting a tournament of this magnitude and prestige, however, the huge risk it would pose due to the extent of planning and caution that would be required became clear.  

I compared it to the ongoing biosecure test in England, which has been smooth so far. It would definitely be more difficult to stage the World Cup than the biosecure tour of England as it would involve gathering 15 other nations with different levels of the coronavirus infection, in Australia, where the state of Victoria was currently under lockdown after a new surge in cases. Victoria was to stage the final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. 

Now, with every setback, we can choose to see the positives or dwell on the negatives. The postponement has reshaped the men’s international calendar to accommodate the bilateral series that have been postponed everywhere since March, except in England. 

Despite the loss of this exciting tournament, it has cleared the way for the popular Indian Premier League. The IPL has advanced the 13th edition of the tournament by a week, rescheduling the start date from September 26th to the 19th, with the final set for November 8th in the United Arab Emirates. Sixty matches will be played in fifty-one days. 

India will see in excess of 1200 individuals flying to the UAE once both governments give the nod. However, plans on how to fly the players, staff, and team management to the venue are still being worked out. This is the first time in the history of the tournament that the entire competition has been shifted out of the country and at the last minute. The BCCI and the IPL franchises are busy figuring out the logistics. 

In addition to this venture, Cricket West Indies Chief Executive Johnny Grave confirmed that discussions are ongoing with South Africa officials over a tour to the Caribbean. Grave says the tour is likely to follow the CPL, which ends on September 10.  I am appreciative of the effort being exerted to ensure our male cricketers continue to play the game they love but I do hope the same discussions are being carried out to ensure that our Windies women cricketers are afforded similar opportunities. 

Eagerly anticipating the NBA restart

   I shall not read too much into the scrimmage matches that took place during the week, but it was heart-warming to see the players back on the court, in their gears, doing what they love. The most outstanding part of the restart is the players' commitment to highlighting social justice issues and seeking change. The players have not allowed the issues to be swept under the carpet.  

Last week, LeBron, speaking for nearly 15 minutes, outlined his objection with the term movement in the “Black Lives Matter Movement.” LeBron stressed that being born black is not a movement but instead a lifestyle. In addition, LeBron wrote a message on his shoe with a marker, #justiceforbreonnaT. What resonates with me is that LeBron is not just wearing symbols associated with the injustices meted out to black people but he is using his voice and platform to call on the authorities to make a change. 

Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell believes that inaction is not an option. What happens if they do not continue to prop up issues of racial inequality and police brutality? The conversation could fade into the background. He stressed how sad it was for one to feel unsafe at one's own home.  “It’s near and dear to my heart and painful to see,” Mitchell said. “The fact that an African American woman can’t be safe in her own home is wild, just the concept is wild. The fact that there hasn’t been anything done about it is crazier. ... What are we waiting for?” 

            Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris also put pressure on Kentucky’s AG Daniel Cameron to press charges against the officers and questioned the No Knock warrant. Breonna Taylor’s mother, Tamika Palmer, is thanking players from the NBA and WNBA for continuing to keep her daughter’s name alive as she continues to fight for justice.  Keep up the good work on and off the court gentlemen!

Liverpool's 30-year wait well worth it!

The fireworks started at Anfield long before the Premier League trophy was presented to Liverpool at the Kop. Liverpool's 5-3 win against Chelsea was an entertaining finale to their third successive unbeaten Premier League season at Anfield. Liverpool has officially ended their 30-year wait for a Premier League title, beating all odds, even the coronavirus pandemic. 

Liverpool were confirmed as champions on June 25, with seven games to spare, when nearest rivals Manchester City lost at Chelsea, but they had to wait until their final home game of the season to be presented with the trophy. 

It was symbolic that the trophy was handed over by the last manager to win it at Liverpool, Sir Kenny Dalglish. Liverpool throughout the entire season showed they had what it took to be worthy Premier League Champions. 

How Liverpool won the title is the most striking thing for me. The 30-year time span that it took to secure the trophy. The fact that in 2018-2019 they finished one point behind Manchester City. Then came the pandemic in March and Klopp did admit he was concerned about the season being declared null and void during the enforced shutdown. As it turned out, Liverpool's tally of 82 points from 29 games when football was stopped was enough to win the title. Jurgen Klopp re-wrote the history books. A well-deserved victory. Congrats. 

 

LeBron James said there has been "no damn movement" for black Americans as he demanded justice for Breonna Taylor.

Superstar James spoke out on racial oppression after appearing for the Los Angeles Lakers in a 108-104 NBA scrimmage defeat to the Dallas Mavericks in Orlando.

In a passionate and erudite assessment of the state of American life, James said he and team-mates were firmly behind the drive for accountability after the shooting in March of African-American woman Taylor.

She died of gunshot wounds after three officers from the Louisville Metro Police Department executed a no-knock search warrant on her Louisville home, resulting in an exchange of fire between her boyfriend and the officers. It has been said by Taylor's family that she and her boyfriend suspected a break-in rather than a police raid.

James, also pointing to the death of George Floyd in police custody, insisted officers should pay for their actions.

"The same energy we had on the floor is the same energy we have toward having justice for Breonna Taylor and her family," he said.

"It's unfortunate. It's fortunate that we had the George Floyd video to see it, but is that what we need to see, a video of Breonna being killed, for people to realise how bad the situation is?

"I don't even believe they were at the right place. The cops weren't even in at the right place. They knocked down the wrong door and started doing what they do at that time and just started shooting away. And that's just not okay."

He added: "We want the cops arrested. Justice for Breonna Taylor is number one on our lists right now."

James spoke of reading about a black man who was trying to buy a bicycle for his son but had police called on him.

“It's just heartbreaking. You guys don't understand," James said. "Unless you're a person of colour, you guys don't understand. I understand you might feel for us. But you will never truly understand what it is to be black in America."

Speaking in a news conference, James also addressed the Black Lives Matter campaign, which has seen a light shone on racial injustices.

"A lot of people use this analogy that Black Lives Matter is a movement. It's not a movement. When you’re black, it's not a movement. It's a lifestyle," he said.

"This is a walk of life. I don't like the word 'movement' because unfortunately in America and in society there ain't been no damn movement for us."

He looked at America's political change, reflecting on how Barack Obama was in charge of the country four years ago. Without naming President Donald Trump, it was clear where James' message was directed.

"You know what's going on now. Is that progress?" he said.

"I think we can all say that’s not progress. The conversations being had right now and how many people are really listening or just having the conversations of trying to make things happen, that's progress. We got a long way to go."

LeBron James' remarkable consistency and the way he has silenced his detractors are the main arguments why he should be the NBA's MVP, says Los Angeles Lakers team-mate Anthony Davis.

It was decided the 2019-20 award would be decided on performances prior to the league's suspension in March as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Superstar James, reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo and others in the conversation will consequently not have the opportunity to enhance their claims when the season resumes at the NBA's bubble at Walt Disney Resort.

Prior to the NBA being halted, 35-year-old James was averaging 25.7 points, 10.6 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game.

Davis has had a close-up view of playing with James and thinks his team-mate has strong claims for the prize. 

"The thing's he's doing at his age [make it a good argument]," Davis told reporters of James, who is a four-time MVP. 

"He's playing probably one of his best years, we're the top team in the west, the things he's able to do on the floor, especially when everyone says he's washed and should hang it up and all these things he came back with a dominant performance.

"Then just to be in the race at his age, this part of his career, for me to see it every night, and on a consistent basis, not just three or four games here, he does it every night, he's been doing it all his career, it's a good argument for him to be MVP."

Davis is in also in the race for individual honours, with the 27-year-old among the favourites for the Defensive Player of the Year award.

Asked to assess his own chances, he said: "I don't have a case. 

"I let my team-mates decide and the fans decide, but I just go out there and play hard every night. 

"My biggest impact that I think I have is defensively. I love playing defense, I love stopping other players, making it tough on other players, so that's my case in a nutshell.

"But I'm pretty sure coach has some good things, and I'm pretty sure if you guys ask LeBron he'll have a whole list for you guys. 

"I just go out there and try to be great and lead my team on the defensive end, and the guys get better each and every night."

Giannis Antetokounmpo insists his main focus is on improving his game and lifting the NBA title with Milwaukee Bucks, rather than winning more individual honours.

The 25-year-old was named the league's Most Valuable Player last season, becoming the first Bucks player to win the accolade since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1974.

And he looks poised to make it back-to-back MVP triumphs thanks to some incredible displays before the campaign was suspended by the coronavirus pandemic in March.

The voting for the MVP and other individual regular-season awards is over ahead of the July 30 restart, with "seeding games" not being included to ensure a fair process.

Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James made his claim for a fifth Maurice Podoloff Trophy by declaring he knows what he is capable of, but biggest challenger Antetokounmpo is not focused on the award.

"I know there's going to be a lot talk about the MVP award. That's not my main focus," he told a news conference on Tuesday when asked about James' comments.

"I've got to get better, win games, help my team play good basketball, try to win the big trophy - the last time we did that was 1971."

Antetokounmpo was averaging 29.6 points, 13.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game when the NBA was suspended amid the COVID-19 crisis.

And the reigning MVP admits he has been working on his game during the lockdown, having previously stunned fans by claiming he did not own a basketball hoop at his home.

"Anybody out there that thought I didn't have access to a gym, they don't really know me," he said. "I just said that trying to get a little ahead of the competition."

The Bucks are in action against San Antonio Spurs on Thursday - their first action in four months - and Antetokounmpo is in line to feature after recovering from a knee injury.

"What I want to do is basically just try to get in shape and get in basketball shape," he said. "It doesn't matter how long I play. 

"If I play 10 minutes, 15 minutes, the whole game, I'm just gonna go as hard as I can because eventually when the season starts again and the play-offs start, that's what I got to do. 

"So you know, as long as I'm on the court, I'm just going to go as hard as I can."

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said he is not bothered by the decision to end the NBA's MVP race before the season resumes in Orlando.

The 2019-20 MVP will be determined based on games played up to when the league was suspended in March amid the coronavirus pandemic.

That means the likes of James and reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo will not have a chance to further stake their claims as the NBA prepares to return via a 22-team format at Walt Disney Resort on July 30.

James, however, told reporters on Monday: "I'm not disappointed because things happen. You control what you can control, and I can't control that.

"As far as the MVP race, I think that I've shown what I'm capable of doing. Not only individually but from a team's perspective, us being number one in the West."

The Lakers had played 63 of the 82-game regular season when the campaign was halted, Los Angeles boasting a Western Conference-best 49-14 record, with James leading the way.

After a difficult first season in Los Angeles, James had returned to his brilliant best for the Lakers in 2019-20 – the veteran's performances catapulting him into the mix for a fifth MVP award.

At the time of the NBA suspending the league, James had been averaging 25.7 points, 10.6 assists and 7.9 rebounds per game for the Lakers.

James, whose Lakers restart their campaign against rivals the Los Angeles Clippers on July 30, added: "There was a lot of conversation about, 'LeBron can do those things in the East, but if he ever came to the West, what could he do?'.

"So I heard all of that. To be able to have our team at the top of the Western Conference and playing the way that we were playing at that time and the way I was playing, it's definitely a good feeling."

I use my Sundays to look back at what has been happening in the world of sport. On many a Sunday, I realise that people have looked at the stories they've seen throughout the week with different lenses. I have my own personal take on some of these issues and I will share them with you. Welcome to #INCASEYOUMISSEDIT

 

Sorry is just not enough Jofra!

England fast bowler Jofra Archer has been fined, and given a written warning, after breaching bio-secure protocols ahead of the second #raisethebat Test against the West Indies. Despite numerous efforts to educate players on the dangers of the coronavirus and ensure their safety, Archer made an unauthorized trip to his home, in Hove, after the first Test at Southampton's Ageas Bowl.

 As a result, the bowler was excluded from the England squad for the second Test, at Emirates, Old Trafford, and is in isolation.  The 25-year-old has apologised for his conduct; "I am extremely sorry for what I have done. I have put, not only myself, but the whole team and management in danger. I fully accept the consequences of my actions, and I want to sincerely apologise to everyone in the bio-secure bubble.

 "It deeply pains me to be missing the Test match, especially with the series poised. I feel like I have let both teams down, and again I am sorry."

Saying sorry is not enough. Changed behavior is what is required moving forward. There are those arguing that he is young. However, twenty-five years is old enough to understand the severity of the coronavirus.  Archer’s action was selfish in many ways. Despite being briefed on the protocols and being aware of the dangers of the coronavirus, he put the health and safety of the team in jeopardy. Apart from health and safety concerns, which is enough to call off the series and put the organisers time and effort to waste, he let down his team and fans who waited months to see live sport again.

Archer, who took three wickets in the Southampton Test, which England lost by four wickets, was omitted from the squad to face West Indies in the crucial Manchester Test. Again, his selfishness put his team’s game plan into disarray, while costing him a place in the squad; a test match that they must win in order to stay in the series.

Following Archer’s selfish actions, England are now considering releasing players from the bio secure bubble before the series against Pakistan. This will be done in order to avoid the temptation to breach guidelines like Archer did when he took a 130-mile detour to go home on Monday.

 

 Is it time to revisit the financial fair play regulations (FFP)?

Manchester City’s two-year ban from UEFA competitions was lifted by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and is proof that the governing body's Financial Fair Play project needs reexamination. It was created to ensure balance between rich and poor clubs. Has it done that? The answer is no.

After CAS announced their verdict on Monday, under which City must still pay a €10million fine – reduced from €30m – for failing to co-operate with the investigation, UEFA issued a statement saying they are “committed to the principles" of FFP. How much of FFP is worth saving? How effective has it been?

Not much has been done in redressing the competitive balance. Those who earn more spend more, and in doing so, dominate on the field in most competitions. Bayern Munich won their eighth consecutive Bundesliga title this season, Juventus are on course for a ninth-straight Scudetto, while in Ligue 1, PSG were crowned champions for the seventh time in eight years. It is evident that clubs with money continue to hold a lot of power.

The CAS ruling is a chance for UEFA to re-visit the FFP rules, especially the time factor issue. The Swiss-based court said a number of the allegations against City were time-barred under UEFA's own rules, which means cases more than five years old cannot be punished. The ruling clearly points to the immediate future of FFP if it is not rectified or improved.

A softening of regulations was announced last month to help ease the financial pressure on clubs due to the coronavirus pandemic.  However, UEFA needs to remember the main reason these regulations were created; to ensure balance with rich and poor clubs, that balance has been lost or should I say it was never achieved.

    The regulations are not specific or clear, especially around sponsorship deals, stadium infrastructure, and youth development and needs revisiting if it is to achieve its true purpose. Despite calls to eradicate FFP completely, UEFA needs some form of financial control within the game but that doesn’t appear to be FFP in its current format.

 

  Is LeBron upset that he was not consulted in selecting social justice messages?

Los Angeles Lakers stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis have stated they will not be wearing social justice messages on the back of their playing shirts, when the NBA restarts on July 30, in Orlando, after the break due to COVID-19.

LeBron revealed in a Zoom call with the media that he prefers wearing his own name on the back of his jersey, rather than one of the NBA-approved social justice slogans. He explained that it does not resonate with his mission and he would have loved to contribute to what went on the back of his jersey but he was not included in the consultation process.

The NBA's approved social justice messages are: Black Lives Matter, Say Their Names, Vote, I Can't Breathe, Justice, Peace, Equality, Freedom, Enough, Power to the People, Justice Now, Say Her Name, Sí Se Puede (Yes We Can), Liberation, See Us, Hear Us, Respect Us, Love Us, Listen, Listen to Us, Stand Up, Ally, Anti-Racist, I Am A Man, Speak Up, How Many More, Group.

Le Bron’s refusal to wear a social justice message was surprising as he is often outspoken on causes that are dear to him. What else is surprising is the NBA not consulting him on possible messages.  Social justice messages or not, the Black Lives Matter movement has gathered momentum and will continue to have an impact. The key however is education and awareness.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James said on Saturday he will not wear a social justice message on his jersey during the NBA's season restart in Orlando, Florida.

Most NBA players have picked a social justice message to wear on the back of their jerseys starting later this month, but James is one of the few that declined to display one.

"It's no disrespect to the list that was handed out to all the players," James said on a video conference call.

"I commend anyone that decides to put something on the back of their jersey. It's just something that didn't seriously resonate with my mission, with my goal."

The NBA and Players Association agreed on several messages for jerseys, including Black Lives Matter, Say Their Names, Vote, I Can't Breathe and Equality. 

"Everything that I do has a purpose, has a meaning," James said. "I don't need to have something on the back of my jersey for people to understand my mission or know what I'm about and what I'm here to do."

James and the Lakers begin the season restart in the second game of an opening-night doubleheader against the Clippers on July 30.

The Lakers lead the Western Conference with a 49-14 record, 5.5 games ahead of the Clippers.

Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James congratulated Kansas City Chiefs quarterback and reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes on his record-setting contract extension.

Mahomes will remain in Kansas City through the 2031 season after signing a mammoth new deal reportedly worth up to $503million, including $477m in guaranteed mechanisms.

The contract is the largest in North American professional sports history, surpassing the 12-year, $426.5m deal Mike Trout signed with MLB franchise the Los Angeles Angels in 2019. 

Mahomes – the 2018 NFL MVP – had two years remaining on the rookie contract he signed after being taken by Kansas City with the 10th overall pick of the 2017 draft. 

James, who has won three NBA championships and four MVP awards, used social media to congratulate the 24-year-old star.

"Congrats brother!!!! Let me borrow $5," James wrote in an Instagram story on Monday.

After sitting behind veteran Alex Smith as a rookie in 2017, Mahomes took the NFL by storm the following year in his first season as a starter.

The Texas Tech product threw for 5,097 yards and 50 touchdowns, tied for the second-most in a single season in league history, while leading the Chiefs to a 12-4 record and earning NFL MVP honours. He joined Peyton Manning (2013) as the only players with 5,000 passing yards and 50 touchdown passes in a season.  

Mahomes followed up by leading the Chiefs to their first NFL championship in 50 years with a 31-20 come-from-behind victory over the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl LIV in February.

The 24-year-old threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter as Kansas City scored 21 unanswered points to overturn a 20-10 deficit, and was selected as the youngest MVP in Super Bowl history. 

Mahomes, who is 24-7 as a starter in regular-season games and 4-1 in the postseason, currently owns league records for passer rating (108.9) and passing yards per game (302.4) among quarterbacks with at least 25 career starts.

Anthony Davis believes the Los Angeles Lakers have a higher chance of winning the NBA championship thanks to the coronavirus-enforced break.

The NBA season is set to resume on July 30 after the 2019-20 campaign was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic in March.

Orlando's Disney World complex will host 22 teams, with LeBron James' Lakers headlining the league's comeback against rivals the Los Angeles Clippers on July 30 after the New Orleans Pelicans face the Utah Jazz on the same day.

The Lakers topped the Western Conference with a 49-14 record prior to the COVID-19 crisis and All-Star Davis feels the storied Los Angeles franchise are primed to claim their first NBA ring since 2010.

"Actually, I think our chances are higher just because we're all rested and we're all ready to go," Davis told reporters via a videoconference call on Thursday.

"If anything, our chances got higher and it's going to be about just who wants it more."

Davis added: "It's been good for me to kind of let some of them lingering injuries I had towards the time when the NBA stopped to kind of recover and heal and get back into the best version of myself.

"I feel 100 per cent healthy. Well, I don't feel, I am [100 per cent healthy]. I feel like I'm ready. Ready to go."

The Lakers had gone 8-2 after the All-Star break, with James and team-mate Davis leading the way.

Davis was averaging 26.7 points, 9.4 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.4 blocks and 1.5 steals per game prior to the postponement.

Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said: "[When] you're on the floor, you have an opportunity to grow and your team has an opportunity to grow.

"When we get to Orlando, it'll be the next step in that process and his journey in this season as a Laker. We look forward to seeing – hopefully the best is yet to come."

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