LeBron James is the MVP ... right?

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LeBron James is the MVP ... right?

From Comcast SportsNet
MIAMI (AP) -- Whenever LeBron James gets asked about the NBA MVP award, he seems to answer carefully, as if to avoid any suggestion that he's campaigning for his third trophy. In fairness, James doesn't have to do much lobbying. Everyone else in the Miami Heat locker room takes care of that. And they say the James-for-MVP movement should be going strong. Not only did the Heat win a marquee game on Wednesday night -- they beat the Oklahoma City Thunder 98-93 -- but James won a head-to-head matchup against the player who is generally considered to be his top competition in the MVP race. He finished with 34 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, while Kevin Durant had his 30-point night also marked by a career-worst nine turnovers. "Every night I go out on the court, I try to play like the MVP for our team," James told the reporters surrounding his locker after the game. "I've always said that. ... It doesn't matter to me. For us, we got better tonight as a team. And I was the MVP for our team and just trying to lead those guys, lead us to a victory. That's what it's all about." James might have been considered a lock for the MVP award a month ago, when he and the Heat were both rolling along. But just about everything after the All-Star break has been a grind for Miami, which gets Thursday off -- James said he would be looking for the city's best massage -- and plays host to Memphis on Friday. Scoring is down by nearly nine points a game. The Heat aren't shooting as well, teams are shooting a better percentage against them, and that's all happened while James has dealt with injury woes like a dislocated left ring finger, an achy elbow and the aftereffects of banging his head on the court in a hard fall against Phoenix last month. On Wednesday, James twisted his ankle falling over a videographer, winced and grabbed his back after some inadvertent contact with a referee, took what he thought was excessive contact twice while attempting dunks -- getting pulled down by Russell Westbrook from behind on one of those, a play James later described as "scary" and "dangerous" -- and gritted his teeth after his finger started bothering him again down the stretch. And even shooting 37 percent, Miami still won. "I think he's the best two-way player in this league," Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "He does it in a night-in, night-out basis and he does it in a way where most teams would not ask a player to shoulder that type of responsibility. But the fact remains: He must play at an MVP level at both ends of the court for us. We've talked about him playing like a defensive player of the year, to defend all five positions, while at the same time playing four positions offensively." James' two biggest plays against the Thunder may be ones that don't show up in the box score. Oklahoma City had two possessions in the final 4 minutes where it had shots for a one-point lead. James snuffed out both. He ran Westbrook down and blocked a layup with 3:49 left -- ironically, it was at the same spot on the court where Westbrook grabbed him around the left shoulder and right side of his waist and sent him sprawling to the floor two quarters earlier -- to preserve a 92-91 Heat edge. Then with 1:30 remaining, the score then 94-93, Durant backed James down on the low post and tried a turnaround. James contested it well, so well that not only did Durant miss, but his shot bounced off the top of the backboard. Oklahoma City didn't score again, and James and the Heat were soon enjoying their payback win. On March 25, James was held to 17 and the Heat lost at Oklahoma City 103-87. "A great player," Thunder coach Scott Brooks said of James after Wednesday's game. "You're not going to hold down a great player often. He missed some shots the first time we played them and we made him take some tough ones. He was feeling good. His jump shot was falling and he was getting some buckets in transition." It's not a stretch to say that James wants his third MVP in four seasons, and in what probably is no surprise either, Durant acknowledged before the game that he would like to win the award. Durant thinks it's too early to have the conversation -- and when it is time, he indicated he'd be like James, saying he'd rather not tout his own merits. "I can't worry about that," Durant said when asked about his own MVP candidacy. "If you worry about that type of stuff, that's when you take your focus off the game, start doing stuff that you don't want to do on the floor. I can't worry about that. It's not in my control. All I can control is how hard I work, how hard I play, and whatever else falls in line after that, we'll see." The Heat say they saw plenty on Wednesday. "Two MVP candidates, you have to want that matchup," Heat forward Udonis Haslem said. "LeBron accepted the challenge and that's what we expect him to do as our leader and our MVP candidate. You have to step up to the plate and that's what he did."

Curran's Patriots-Bills preview

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Curran's Patriots-Bills preview

Click here for the gallery.

FOXBORO  – Four quarters left in Tom Brady’s suspension, an undetermined (but also dwindling) number of days remaining in Rex Ryan’s tenure as a head coach, this game is intriguing for a lot of reasons. The Patriots can close out a remarkable quarter-season performance without Brady and put him back in the driver’s seat with a three-game edge over the Bills simply by taking out Rex. How they manage that – and which quarterback manages that – is the question that’s swirled all week.
 
 
WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL
 
Traditionally, the Patriots have thrown over and around the Bills’ front-seven with great success. Tom Brady’s good at that. Jimmy Garoppolo, with a bad shoulder, or Jacoby Brissett, with limited experience, may not be able to pull off the same act. Which means this could be a day for LeGarrette Blount who so far is leading the league in rushing. Many of those yards have come at the closeout juncture of games. This week, he may asked to do the damage early. The Bills have allowed five touchdowns on the grounds this season but only 3.4 yards per carry.
 
WHEN THE BILLS HAVE THE BALL
 
Without Sammy Watkins and dealing with issues at left tackle, the Bills are going to have to get a productive, 25-to-30-touch game out of running back LeSean McCoy. He’s handled the ball 59 times so far in three games (11 catches) and has been by far the focal point of the Bills offense. But with the Patriots having the chance to fixate on McCoy, Buffalo and newly-minted offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn better have a backup plan if and when the Patriots send multiple players to dog him. The Bills’ will be in a position where it’s on Tyrod Taylor to figure something out. The Patriots aren’t going to aggressively rush him. If the rush gets past him, it was done by mistake. Force Taylor to be a passer, find Robert Woods, Marquise Goodwin and  ailing tight end Charles Clay. Meanwhile, the Patriots figure to have Donta Hightower back to help with quarterbacking the defense. The Patriots are in a position defensively to really put the screws to a Bills team that doesn’t seem to have a lot of options.
 
THE KICKING GAME
 
Old friend Brandon Tate is the Bills’ return guy on both punts and kickoffs. He’ll get a good test from the Patriots special teams corps which has been a major story this season. Ryan Allen had a career game last week against Houston with six punts inside the 20 and one sitting on the 20. There were no return yards. The Patriots kick coverage created two turnovers last game against Houston and hasn’t allowed a return past the 25.
 
PATRIOTS MEDICAL REPORT
QUESTIONABLE: QB Jacoby Brissett (thumb), QB Jimmy Garoppolo (shoulder), T Marcus Cannon (calf), G Jonathan Cooper (foot), LB Jonathan Freeny (shoulder), TE Rob Gronkowski (hamstring), LB Dont’a Hightower (knee), CB Eric Rowe
 
BILLS MEDICAL REPORT
OUT: WR Sammy Watkins (foot), T Cyrus Kouandjio (ankle), C Patrick Lewis (knee) and WR Greg Salas (groin) QUESTIONABLE: S Colt Anderson (foot), TE Charles Clay (knee), CB Ronald Darby (hamstring), T Cordy Glenn (ankle), QB Cardale Jones (right shoulder), S Jonathan Meeks(foot) and S Aaron Williams (ankle)
 
GAME WITHIN THE GAME  

The speed with which Buffalo adjusts to the Patriots offensive game plan and whether or not the Patriots have an adjustment to the adjustment. The uncertainty of the Patriots quarterback situation has been a distraction for the Bills and Rex Ryan this week and – given the Bills leaky pass defense – how Buffalo decides to deploy will matter a lot depending on who’s at quarterback.
 
BILLS GOTTA STOP
 
Jannyris Edeldolagan. That’s just an amalgamation of the three wideouts of similar talent, pallor and quickness that kill defenses in the receiver shell game the Patriots play every week. Just when a defense thinks it’s got it figured out on a key third down and has set itself to take away Edelman, for instance, the dagger gets inserted by Amendola or Hogan. It’s like a shell game.
 
PATRIOTS GOTTA STOP
 
LeSean McCoy. That’s the whole damn game. Cuz you. Don’t wanna mess with Shady. Cuz Shady. Will … cause big problems.
 
THAT SUMS IT UP PATRIOTS STYLE
 
“I fly around every day. You can’t land this jet, you know what I’m saying? It’s like having a private plane, wherever I want to go, I just go. I don’t have to worry about no jet fuel. I would say Gatorade but they don’t sponsor me so I’ll just go get me some good ole’ something to drink, and Gatorade can have the plug.” – Martellus Bennett, Patriots tight end, on the team flying around in September.
 
THAT SUMS IT UP BILLS STYLE
 
“It’s more of a ‘this is still a game.’ It’s a billion dollar industry and things but it’s still a game and you’ve got to be true to yourself and I’m true to myself. To me it’s just a thing where, you know, I enjoy Belichick’s press conferences and everything else because he’s true to himself and he does a great job. It’s pretty funny to me because you guys can never get anything out of him and I just think it’s great. It’s kind of funny that way. I pulled it knowing that every question is going to be about who’s the quarterback and all that. One thing I know for sure is that Tom Brady is not the quarterback and I feel good about that.” – Simple Rex, after being asked why he mimicked Bill Belichick during his week-opening press conference
 
THE WINNER IS...
 
Patriots 23, Bills 13
 

Saturday, Oct. 1: Vesey's New York state of mind

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Saturday, Oct. 1: Vesey's New York state of mind

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading, while gearing up for Big Papi weekend.

 
*A “behind-the-scenes” look as Jimmy Vesey was sold on the New York Rangers, but there’s not too much detail about the pitches from the other teams. Feels pretty apparent at this point that Vesey wanted to live, and work, in New York City.

*Damien Cox says that the World Cup of Hockey better get it right the next time, or else…or else what, Damien? You’re going to block them on Twitter?

*PHT writer Joey Alfieri has Patrick Kane, Erik Karlsson and P.K. Subban making their preseason debuts on Saturday. David Backes and David Pastrnak will play their first preseason games for the Bruins as well.  

*It’s a complicated, strange story with Vladimir Sobotka, the KHL and the contract he seemingly can’t get out of to again play for the St. Louis Blues.

*Oliver Ekman-Larsson is ready to get back to work with the Arizona Coyotes after his World Cup experience.

*San Jose Sharks prospect Timo Meier is out for the next month with mono, which is definitely worse timing than Zach Senyshyn getting hit with the mononucleosis bomb over the summer.

*A quick look at the Philadelphia Flyers in advance of their preseason meeting with the Black and Gold tonight, which won’t be televised.

*For something completely different: there will be some pretty funky stuff happening on The Walking Dead this season.