Remember all the way back in the great month of February, when JaVale McGee swore up and down that he wanted to be part of the Philadelphia 76ers’ rebuilding plan? That he wanted to mentor the team’s young big men, and that he wasn’t the type to go chasing for a ring? Confronted with the ability to make all the money he is owed – the rest of the $11.25 million he’s set to take in this year, and $12 million in 2015-16 – while being afforded the luxury to hop to whatever team will have him, McGee has now decided to leave those poor and mentor-less Sixer bigs to the wolves. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] Philadelphia officially bought him out on Monday afternoon, after Sam Amick of USA Today first reported that the two sides were looking to officially part ways. From Amick : Players waived by March 1 can still sign with teams that compete in the postseason, meaning the 27-year-old McGee will likely have a fruitful market when he clears waivers. Whether it's a new job with one of the Texas teams (San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets), the Miami Heat or another contender, McGee has every reason to be enthused about what lies ahead — especially considering he didn't give any money back. As you’ll recall, this flies in the face of what JaVale told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer just last week : "I don't want to get bought out," said McGee, a 27-year-old in his seventh NBA season. "That's not a positive thing. When you think about it, you don't get all of your money when you get bought out. "So it doesn't make sense why someone would want to get bought out unless they are older - older and they want to go to a contender or something. I'm not that old. I just want to play basketball.” Sixers coach Brett Brown was less enthusiastic about McGee’s time with the Sixers , especially after he came through with some rather pitiful basketball in his first few times out with the team, telling the press that “it's not going to be on us” if McGee didn’t work out in Philly. Because the Sixers only dealt for McGee’s massive contract in order to take on a first-round pick and approach the NBA’s minimum salary floor, the team wasn’t exactly looking at the 27-year old as a future cornerstone. McGee did get regular minutes in his six games with the 76ers, but he appeared woefully unprepared to take on the task of collecting the only things he knows how to pick up: JaVale managed just 13 rebounds and only one block in 61 minutes of play with the team. McGee has always been a careless, inconsistent, and often indifferent player that never seemed keen to build upon the physical gifts he’d been given, but at the very least you could count on him to corral some caroms or reject a few shots before slunking back off to acting a basketball ghost. Somehow, McGee has gone from a raw young prodigy to an older and less-appealing non-contributor in just a few years, without giving us that productive middle of a career that even the most frustrating project players seem to usually provide. And he’s certainly proven not to be worth that four-year, $44 million deal he signed back in 2012. McGee, who had played 22 total games in over a season and a half with Denver prior to the trade to Philadelphia, will now have his pick of the litter. He’ll also be playoff eligible, as Philadelphia cut ties with the 24th player to wear a Sixers uniform in 2014-15 prior to the postseason cutoff. Ten teams, mostly playoff contenders, have already expressed interest in free agent to be center JaVale McGee, a source told Yahoo Sports. — Marc J. Spears (@SpearsNBAYahoo) March 2, 2015 Despite his past transgressions, some playoff contender will take a chance on McGee, he’ll likely end up at the end of the team’s bench and hardly factor into the team’s postseason run, but he will be the biggest part of one or two second quarter runs off the bench – offering a batch of nationally televised blocks and throwdowns as fans in Washington, Denver and even Philadelphia roll their eyes. And he’ll be paid $12 million next year, as yet another team (possibly his fourth in six months) takes another chance at making a consistent contributor out of JaVale McGee. As always, good luck to both sides. - - - - - - - Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at KDonhoops@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter! Follow @KDonhoops
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For the second time in four days, LeBron James went head-to-head with a fellow MVP candidate leading a Western Conference contender. But while he dominated Thursday's matchup with Stephen Curry and the Golden State Warriors, on Sunday, Houston Rockets star James Harden matched him step-for-step in a rough-and-tumble contest that featured 13 ties and 11 lead changes, and came down to the final seconds of overtime. And on this particular occasion, the most gifted player in the game found himself bedeviled at the worst time by an uncontested 15-footer. [ Follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr: The best slams from all of basketball ] With the Rockets leading his Cleveland Cavaliers 104-103 late in the overtime session of a nationally televised Sunday showcase contest, James beat excellent Rockets defender Trevor Ariza off the dribble to gain the lane, where he was fouled while attempting a layup by Houston forward Josh Smith. The whistle sent James to the foul line for a pair of free throws that could have tied the game and given the Cavs a one-point advantage with just 4.2 seconds left. But James, who had struggled from the line all day, found no charity at the stripe, missing them both — making him just 3-for-11 from the foul line on the day — and prompting ABC play-by-play man Mike Tirico to exclaim, "Are you kidding me?" as Harden corralled the miss. After a pair of Cleveland fouls to extend the game, Harden stepped to the line on the other end with 0.6 seconds remaining and a chance to seal the victory. As the Toyota Center crowd serenaded him with "M-V-P!" chants, Harden made his first free throw before missing his second — intentionally, he said after the game, at the behest of head coach Kevin McHale. The plan to bleed out the final six-tenths backfired, though, as Cavaliers guard J.R. Smith snagged the rebound and called timeout, giving them one last look at a potential equalizer. The Rockets snuffed out the Cavs' attempt, though — Josh Smith covered up a potential lob to the rim, and James' inbounds pass to little-used 3-point shooter James Jones resulted in a catch-and-after-the-buzzer shot that was blocked anyway, putting the finishing touches on an impressive 105-103 overtime victory . In his return to the lineup after missing Friday's loss to the Indiana Pacers with a sore back, James led all scorers with 37 points on uncharacteristic 15-for-35 shooting — his highest single-game shot total in more than nine years , two more than he needed to score a career-high 61 — to go with eight rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks in 42 minutes for the Cavaliers, who were once again without All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving as he works his way back from a left shoulder strain . (Cleveland head coach David Blatt said Irving's expected to be back for Tuesday's meeting with the Boston Celtics.) But after missing eight freebies in a two-point loss — those final two in OT, obviously, looming largest — James didn't seem particularly excited about the rest of his stat line. LeBron: "I didn't come through for my teammates. I tripped the game up at the FT line ... I didn't come through. It won't happen again." — Jason Lloyd (@JasonLloydABJ) March 2, 2015 Way to trick it off today Bron! — LeBron James (@KingJames) March 2, 2015 The missed free throws wrote a frustrating end to a physical matchup that featured thrilling, high-level play in the early going, but at times seemed to be barely officiated later in the proceedings. (It might be a good thing for referees Danny Crawford, Michael Smith and Tony Brown that the NBA's "last two minutes" reports , which will evaluate calls made and not made during the final two minutes of the fourth quarter and throughout OT periods in close games, won't start getting made public until tomorrow.) Things began getting especially dicey after halftime, when hard-nosed Rockets point guard Patrick Beverley's attempt to draw an offensive foul on a driving James about 2 1/2 minutes into the third quarter turned into something a bit spicier than a mere question of "block or charge?" Both James and Beverley were assessed technical fouls for their role in the skirmish, while Beverley also received a personal foul for sliding into LeBron's path too late on the bang-bang play. About seven minutes later, James would again find himself in the midst of a scrape, this time with Harden, who took a somewhat Rodmanian approach to letting LeBron know he didn't appreciate his tight defense: James and his teammates, as you might expect, didn't particularly appreciate Harden's decision to go south of the equator, which earned Houston's hirsute All-Star a flagrant foul-1 — but not a flagrant-2, which would have carried with it an automatic ejection: LeBron on Harden kick: "Obv it was not a basketball play & obviously the league will take a look at it... I don't know what he was thinking" — Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) March 1, 2015 James Jones on the Harden flagrant: "It was an intentional groin kick ... It was an intentional kick to a troublesome area" — Dave McMenamin (@mcten) March 2, 2015 James Harden, wearing black hat, called his kick "just a reaction.". Says "they called a flagrant and we moved on." Doesn't fear discipline. — Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) March 2, 2015 It remains to be seen whether Harden will face additional discipline from the league office for his foray into crotch karate. There's precedent for it, though — Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade received a one-game suspension for a low blow on Ramon Sessions, then of the Charlotte Bobcats, that didn't even earn Wade a personal foul at the time. (In fact, remarkably enough, Sessions was the one who got called for the reach-in.) Perhaps the most baffling confluence of physical play and absent discipline, though, came at the one-minute mark of OT, as Harden drove on James and ... well, just take a look: "That's got to be something !" exclaimed Tirico after watching James reach in on Harden, Harden hook James' arm, Harden move his feet a few times without taking any dribbles, James recover and straddle Harden's left leg, all as three officials just ... sort of ... chilled? The result of the play: a shot-clock violation. Duh. Amid all the silliness and strong-arming, though, there was quite a bit of wonderful basketball, and some brilliant late-game dueling between Harden and James, two of the league's top three scorers and two members of the lead pack in the race for this season's Podoloff . Harden scored 18 of his team-high 33 points after halftime, showcasing his penchant for creating contact and getting to the line (9-for-12 at the stripe post-intermission, 15-for-18 in the game) while also displaying his talents for creating space and bombing away from long-distance: ... and his water-through-pavement capacity to find every open crease in the lane on his way to the basket before finishing through contact: James answered the bell, doing his level best to stifle Harden when defending him one-on-one: ... while also making some absurd shots of his own late in the game, as he carried a Cleveland offense that was once again without Irving and, for all intents and purposes, might as well have been without Kevin Love (a relatively quiet 21 points, all of which came in the first three quarters): In the end, though, it was the Rockets' ability to cash in on their freebies (26-for-33 at the line) and the Cavs' inability to do the same (11-for-21, topped by LeBron's dismal outing) that wound up providing more than enough of a margin to give Houston its fifth straight win and burnish an impressive late-and-close résumé: Rockets 5-0 in OT games, 13-2 in games decided by 5 or fewer points and 8-0 when TJones starts. — Jonathan Feigen (@Jonathan_Feigen) March 2, 2015 The Rockets now sit at 41-18, just 1 1/2 games back of the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, and improved to 19-8 without injured center Dwight Howard. There are plenty of reasons for that — improved play in the middle from Donatas Motiejunas, midseason acquisition Smith finding his form, stout team defense helping keep Houston near the top of the league in points allowed per possession — but the biggest remains Harden, the serpentine lefty who described the tenor of Sunday's contest to ABC's Lisa Salters as "playoff basketball." "Whatever it takes to win," he said. "Both teams competed hard. I'm happy we came out with the victory." Harden began his postgame interview by rubbing his left shoulder, prompting Salters to ask him multiple times whether he was feeling all right. Harden said he was. "I'm a warrior," he said, smiling. And on Sunday, he was a victorious one. More NBA coverage: - - - - - - - Dan Devine is an editor for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @YourManDevine Stay connected with Ball Don't Lie on Twitter @YahooBDL , "Like" BDL on Facebook and follow Dunks Don't Lie on Tumblr for year-round NBA talk, jokes and more.
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