LeBron James is youngest player ever to...


LeBron James is youngest player ever to...

From Comcast SportsNetOAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- LeBron James has reached so many milestones in his NBA career it might be easy to lose track.He hasn't.Just a point shy of becoming the youngest player in league history to score 20,000 points, James knew exactly where he stood Wednesday night. He worked a switch off Draymond Green on the wing, dribbled past David Lee and pulled up in the lane from 12 feet to make an off-balance jumper with 2:45 remaining in the second quarter.Swish."The best part about it is I was in a rhythm, too, so it wasn't one of those forced shots," James said. "I was able to get the switch on David Lee and get to the elbow and make a shot. It's pretty cool."On a road trip that has had more bad news than good, James rewrote the headlines and the record books again.The three-time NBA MVP also surpassed 5,000 assists on a landmark night, leading the Miami Heat to a 92-75 victory over the undermanned Golden State Warriors. He finished with 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds in just 30 minutes to grab his latest slice of history.In the locker room after the game, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra and team president Pat Riley took a moment give James the game ball and recognize his latest record.Players shouted and huddled in the center of the room. Then, as Spoelstra said, "Everybody took a shot at him -- a punch, a jab, an elbow, whatever they could get in before he started hitting back.""That's a big-time moment," Spoelstra said. "He's a special guy. He's a special player. He's a once-in-a-generational type of player."James eclipsed both marks before halftime, helped Miami go ahead by 34 points in the third quarter and allowed Spoelstra to rest his starters -- without debate this time -- for the fourth. Dwyane Wade added 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists and Mario Chalmers scored 15 for the Heat, who had lost three of their last four away from home.James already had been the youngest player in NBA history to win rookie of the year, record a triple-double, score 1,000 points, score 10,000 points and win MVP honors at an All-Star game.Add another to the list."It means everything," James said. "It means a lot. First of all, like I continue to say, it means I've been able to be healthy. To be out on the floor and do what I love to do, I love the game of basketball and I try to give everything to the game. And hopefully it continues to give back to me."David Lee had 12 points and 11 rebounds and Jarrett Jack scored 16 in place of Stephen Curry, who sprained his twice surgically repaired right ankle during Golden State's morning practice. The team said X-rays were negative, and Warriors coach Mark Jackson said he doesn't expect Curry to be out long.The Warriors, who upset the Heat 97-95 in Miami on Dec. 12, lost consecutive games for only the third time this season. With center Andrew Bogut already out indefinitely recovering from left ankle surgery, Curry's absence turned out to be too much to overcome against the defending NBA champions."Disappointing, but we faced a team that remembered what took place in South Beach and came with a mindset to make a point, individually and collectively," Jackson said. "That's what great players do."James and Wade just overwhelmed the Warriors from the start.Wade lobbed an alley-oop from half court that James finished with two hands early in the first quarter. James hit Wade slicing down the lane for a dunk moments later for his 5,000th career assist, and James made a 3-pointer after falling hard on his right elbow a play earlier to give the Heat a 23-14 lead.James, who made 11 of 20 shots from the floor, needed 18 points entering the game to become the 38th NBA player to reach the milestone.Previously, the youngest player to score 20,000 points was Lakers star Kobe Bryant, who got there when he was 29 years, 122 days old. James was 28 years, 17 days on Wednesday."He probably would've had it sooner if he didn't decide to come down here to South Beach," Wade said. "It's just a testament to him as a player."Only Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain (29 years, 134 days) and Michael Jordan (29 years, 326 days) reached the latest milestone before turning 30.James also is the 13th player with 20,000 points and 5,000 assists. The only active players to reach both marks are Bryant and Boston's Kevin Garnett.With the long-awaited record out of the way, James and Wade switched roles and opened the second half almost the same way they began the first.Wade tossed an alley-oop just inside half court to James while two Warriors defenders watched the three-time NBA MVP soar for the slam, part of a scintillating 26-6 surge filled with highlights to open the third quarter and put the Heat ahead 78-44.In a 104-97 loss at Utah on Monday, Spoelstra sat Wade and played Chris Bosh for just 40 seconds in the fourth quarter in a decision that had been critiqued and questioned for the past two days by fans and national media. The Heat sliced a 19-point deficit to two without both before falling short.This time, the Big Three watched the final 12 minutes smiling from the bench."Hopefully," Spoelstra said, "we can put to rest everything that happened the other night."NOTES:In terms of games played, James is the seventh-fastest to join the 20,000 club. Wednesday was his 726th regular-season game. Chamberlain needed only 499 games to score 20,000 points. ... The Warriors are 13-3 against the Eastern Conference this season. The two other losses came against Orlando. ... Heat backup F Shane Battier returned after missing two games with a hamstring injury. He had two rebounds and finished 0 for 3 from 3-point range in 10 minutes.

Why the Bears can't afford a complete collapse just for a better draft pick

Why the Bears can't afford a complete collapse just for a better draft pick

As the 2016 Bears season spiraled down to its 1-6 point, one segment of the fan base looks at that problem and sees opportunity in the form of a total collapse that would position the Bears in 2017 to draft a true franchise quarterback.

Nothing could be worse.

Because if the crumbling continues and the Bears wind up, say, 2-14, the Bears might wind up with the No. 1 or No. 2 pick overall. But the lurching downwards will have revealed so many grievous need craters that the organization will be forced to shop the pick in order to fill more gaping holes than they appear to have even now. “Best available” is where teams like that go, because almost any pick at any position will be an upgrade, and a 2-14 team will need a lot of “best availables.”

Put another way: If the Bears bumble in at 2-14, one broader conclusion could be that two years of franchise-reforming by general manager Ryan Pace have been utter failures. If that comes to pass (unlikely), his ability to successfully direct a third draft would be highly suspect.

Instead, consider: The Bears held the No. 7 pick in the 2015 draft. They took their due-diligence look at Marcus Mariota in that draft class. But Tennessee wanted a ransom, and the Bears concluded that the price for moving up would have gutted Ryan Pace’s first draft class. Instead, the Bears landed what was five starters (Kevin White, Eddie Goldman, Hroniss Grasu, Jeremy Langford, Adrian Amos) before the injury tsunami rolled through.

The Titans used the pick for Mariota and improved — from 2-14 to 3-13, leaving them at No. 2 again. This time they traded out of the pick and built a book of 10 selections, but only one (Michigan State tackle Jack Conklin, No. 8) is starting on a 3-4 team. Quantity does not assure quality.

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Now consider: The Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles finished 7-9 in 2015. Meaning, they had solid pieces in place: for the Rams, Aaron Donald, Todd Gurley, Robert Quinn; for the Eagles, Fletcher Cox, Lane Johnson, Malcolm Jenkins, Jason Peters.

The Rams climbed the draft from No. 15 to the No. 1 pick that belonged to the Titans. They took Jared Goff, who’s still waiting for Jeff Fischer to conclude that the rookie could do a whole lot worse than Case Keenum’s 8-10 touchdown-interception ratio and 77.5 rating. Even with that, the Rams are still 3-4.

The Eagles (4-2) went all in for Carson Wentz (swapping 2016 No. 1s and giving up a No. 2, a No. 3, and No. 4 this year, and their 2017 No. 1) and thought enough of him to deal away Sam Bradford to the Vikings, whom Wentz and Eagles just bested last weekend.

Better in the Bears’ current situation and have a demonstrably good enough core that dealing up for a top-ranked quarterback — Clemson's Deshaun Watson, Ole Miss' Chad Kelly or North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky? — makes sense rather than to be a complete shambles at the end of the 2016 season and wondering if any draft pick, quarterback or other, could be trusted.

How Cubs offense plans to approach Indians pitching in World Series

How Cubs offense plans to approach Indians pitching in World Series

CLEVELAND - The Cubs obviously aren't going to share specifics on their gameplan against the Cleveland Indians pitching staff, but the overall approach remains the same.

The Indians are blowing away the competition with a 1.77 ERA in the postseason, striking out 81 batters in 71 innings and tossing three shutouts in eight games.

The Cubs offense sent a new franchise record for postseason futility by going 21 straight innings without scoring a run during the middle of a tense National League Championship Series only to break out and plate 23 runs in three games since to send the Dodgers back to Los Angeles and an early winter.

Anthony Rizzo and Addison Russell were struggling in particular, combining for only three hits in the first seven postseason games before exploding for 13 hits in the final three games.

"It really wasn't physical at all," Cubs hitting coach John Mallee said. "When you struggle a little bit, usually it's because the pitcher's making pitches that are just executing very well and then you try to change things or try to do too much and then you start chasing out of the strike zone and those types of things.

"Like anybody, they want to do well for their team and then they start to press and that's what slumps are - just pressing. And then with them getting a couple hits and squaring some balls up, all of a sudden the confidence comes back and they feel better again."

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Mallee believes Rizzo and Russell getting hot created a trickle-down effect on the rest of the lineup and the Cubs suddenly got back to their "pass the baton" ways that helped net 103 wins and the No. 3-ranked offense in the majors.

As veteran catcher Miguel Montero said after the Cubs' second straight shutout loss in Game 3 of the NLCS, everybody needs to just focus on doing one good thing and then passing it on to the next guy.

"It's nine on one," Mallee said. "As an individual, you feel like you're letting your team down if you don't get a hit. Pass the baton. You can have a good at-bat even if you make an out if you saw seven pitches on the guy. 

"It's the nine-on-one mentality. Just pass the baton to the next guy. Not trying to think you have to do it all yourself."

Mallee also pointed out how much different everything is in the postseason. There are no fifth starters and in some cases, there aren't even any fourth starters.

Teams are throwing their top starters and relievers as much as possible, bringing typical late-inning guys like Indians star Andrew Miller in during the fifth inning and utilizing them for more than three outs.

"You're facing their best guys all the time," Mallee said. "You're facing better pitching: These are the better teams and you're facing the best of the better pitching."

The Cubs also aim to come out firing against the Indians with an eye on getting on the board first.

The team that scored first won eight of the Cubs' 10 postseason games, including all six in the NLCS.

"Overall, it's just to win this series - like every other - score first and win innings," manager Joe Maddon said. "You need to get on top and not have to face their better [relievers] at the end of the ballgame, otherwise you're going to be in trouble."