LeBron James is youngest player ever to...

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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.

Blackhawks will consider breaking up Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane

Blackhawks will consider breaking up Artemi Panarin, Patrick Kane

Saturday morning’s potential lineup looked different for a few reasons. First, there were more familiar faces, thanks to players trickling in after their World Cup of Hockey work.

Second, Artemi Panarin and Patrick Kane weren’t on the same line. While part of that is because the Blackhawks are still short a few players, it’s also an experiment that could carry over into the regular-season.

Kane was with Nick Schmaltz and Artem Anisimov and Panarin was with Vinnie Hinostroza and Richard Panik and they’ll see how that works starting Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues. Granted, this is only part of the change. The main gist is to give Jonathan Toews, who hasn’t joined the Blackhawks for camp yet, a good playing partner on that top line. Still, it’s a first look coach Joel Quenneville would like to take.

"It’s definitely a thought process and we’re saying ‘Let’s have a look at it in camp," Quenneville said. "And maybe we can have a different look or something to think about, at least, going into the season with Johnny and Kaner being on different lines and having more balance on both lines."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The Blackhawks struggled with finding the right combinations, outside of that top line, last season. Panarin did play with Toews for a few games but the combination didn’t click as well as the Panarin-Kane one, and that second line of those two and Anisimov was quickly restored. This season the issues facing the Blackhawks’ forward depth are obvious, so it’s worth another look to see, once Toews gets here, if he and Panarin can get something going.

"[It’s] more so about having balance on both lines and having more depth and scoring throughout the lineup," Quenneville said.

BRIEFLY

- Niklas Hjalmarsson, Marcus Kruger and Brent Seabrook will also play vs. St. Louis.

- Quenneville said Duncan Keith (knee) is progressing well and, "we’re hoping that he can get a [preseason] game in or so."

- Scott Darling is slated to play the entire game against the Blues.

Bears formula for beating Lions is basic

Bears formula for beating Lions is basic

Talking about what the Bears can do to defeat the Detroit Lions suddenly has a vague feel of irrelevance, since the downward spiral of the 0-3 start raises far broader questions and doubts than one game. But in point of fact, it IS about one game. More on that later.

Earlier in this week your humble and faithful narrator laid out three foundation points upon which the Bears could begin building a way out of the abyss. Nothing has changed in the meantime other than a few injury designations, and there is zero reason to dwell on those because the solution is about as simple as things can get. And they extend beyond Sunday’s game against the Lions.

“You’ve just got to keep improving,” said Brian Hoyer, the presumptive starting quarterback Sunday against Detroit and until Jay Cutler’s injured right thumb is sufficiently healed. “Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. Everybody has injuries. It’s unfortunately part of the business so everybody just has to step up.

“And not only the guy himself has to step up, the guys around him have to step up. That’s just the nature of the beast.”

Which gets back to those three “turnaround” elements, because those comprise the basic formula for the Bears to overcome the Lions and themselves. Consider these the proverbial “three keys,” tailored to the immediate game at hand.

Unleash a defensive “village”

The Bears have not proved themselves capable of winning enough one-on-one matchups pretty much anywhere on the field, any side of the football. An alternative exists on defense, however: Swarm to the football, something that was axiomatic with Lovie Smith defenses but evaporated under Marc Trestman/Mel Tucker and has not developed under John Fox and Vic Fangio. It is also the only realistic way the Bears can have a dominant defensive game, which is the only realistic way the Bears can win a football game.

The Lions were never a particularly fun matchup for Chicago defenses when they had Calvin Johnson. In beating the Bears the last six times the teams met, Detroit averaged 29.3 points per game. Without Megatron the Lions are averaging 27 per game this season. Meaning: Things haven’t necessarily gotten any better since the Big Fella called it a career.

In place of Johnson, the focal point of the Detroit offense has become wideout Marvin Jones, No. 2 in the NFL in receiving yards and averaging 22.7 yards on his 18 receptions. Equally concerning: Jones has picked up first downs on 13 of those 18 catches.

[SHOP: Gear up Bears fans!]

“He's made some big plays,” defensive coordinator Vic Fangio said. “He's had some big ‘chunk’ plays, a 73-yarder last week, I think he had a 50-some yarder in another game. He leads the [NFC] in receiving yards and [is No. 2 in] average per catch. They've got a lot of weapons.”

The problem with that is that the Lions are predominantly a three-receiver offense, another team that will schematically force the Bears out of their base 3-4 and into nickel. The Bears intercepted a Houston Texans pass on the first possession of the season. They have not intercepted one in the 34 opponent possessions since then.

Detroit doesn’t run the football overly well (101 yards per game), but if the Bears cannot force quarterback Matthew Stafford to throw toward Jones or Golden Tate before he wants to, an undermanned secondary has no chance.

The defense no longer has a shutdown corner, even one must-account-for pass rusher or an established all-around game-changer. Jerrell Freeman is the best player on a struggling defense. The solution is a form of flash-mob flying to the football, second and third men in stripping the ball. One tackler or pass rusher has proved insufficient.

Take it on the run

It is far from any sort of exact correlation, but all six of the Bears’ wins last season came in games where they rushed more times than their opponent. A seventh win escaped them when Robbie Gould missed a kick against San Francisco. Only the Lions in Week 17 rushed fewer times than the Bears and won.

The Bears are not only among the NFL’s worst rushing teams (70 yards per game, 30th), but also its least busy, with 53 total attempts through three games. The total is mystifying because the Bears led the Texans through three quarters and the Eagles for most of two, making the reasoning that the Bears were trailing and forced to throw very difficult to understand.

The Lions allow 5.1 yards per rush, worst in the NFL. They are without top pass rusher Ziggy Ansah. If the Bears cannot run on this defense (allowing 28.3 ppg.), the issues are far deeper than feared and the philosophies and play calling of coordinator Dowell Loggains will come under even more scrutiny than they already have.

“I was pretty disappointed as well [after 15 rush attempts at Dallas],” guard Kyle Long said. “Just execution, and sometimes it’s not execution. It’s just you’ve got to beat the guy across from you and we haven’t done that enough.”

Win one play…then one drive…one quarter…one game

The Bears cannot get back to .500 Sunday afternoon. Barring a 28-point outburst, they cannot win the Detroit game in the first quarter. They led Houston and Philadelphia in first halves and lost.

To his credit, Fox has kept the target small, and simple. Because it is.

“It’s execution and it’s execution in all three phases,” Fox said. “Whether it’s the first half or the second half, they’re two equal times. And you have to put a complete game together and we have not done that through the first three games.” 

And the winner is...

“View from the Moon” erred in Dallas by going against its first impression and pick back early in the offseason, that the Bears would lose to the Cowboys, which they did. The Bears have done little to suggest that they are poised to go on any sort of upswing, but the Lions inspire not a lot to suggest that they are an NFC North power. The preseason pick stays:

Bears 17,  Lions 14

View from the Moon 2016 record: 1-2