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Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is a stats guru. He says he has checked the numbers and there’s no question: LeBron James is the best player in the history of the NBA “by a bit of a big margin.”

Talking Wednesday in an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show, Morey said, “You look at his ability to generate wins and championship probability over time, and you basically break that down. You don’t need all the numbers. You can watch as well and see that.

“But if you basically isolate that and also look at the career he’s had, frankly I think at this point it’s become a bit of a big margin, actually, where he’s come out ahead. I know that’s a little controversial.”
LeBron James told Sports Illustrated in 2016 that his motivation was “this ghost I’m chasing” who played in Chicago. Ethan Miller/Getty
Morey has spent 12 seasons with the Rockets, 11 as head of basketball operations. With a background in computer science with an emphasis on statistics, he has built a Rockets team that had the best regular-season record in the NBA in 2017-18.

Talking about the Los Angeles Lakers’ outlook next season with the addition of James, Morey said, “I would expect, I hope, that we’re ahead of them and I would expect Golden State to be ahead of them, but I would never count out a LeBron James team. He is the greatest ever in my mind.”

As the debate over Michael Jordan versus James as the greatest of all time continues unabated, ESPN looked at the numbers in May and found that James was closing fast on Jordan. The factors considered were championships added, regular-season versus playoffs stats and quality of play.

James has three titles to Jordan’s six, and four MVP titles to Jordan’s five. At 33, James continues to play at near-peak levels deep into his career. ESPN’s conclusion was that to the extent it’s close now, James’ eventual superiority is all but inevitable.

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Top officials with the NBA and USA Basketball were blindsided with timing and changes in the NCAA’s announcement of future rules surrounding pro basketball prospects, sources told ESPN.

The NCAA launched a commission and set of subcommittees to address the fallout of the FBI investigation into the college basketball industry, resulting in several policy shifts — including the assigning of responsibility to USA Basketball for something the organization had already told the NCAA it wanted no part: bearing responsibility for selecting elite senior high school prospects who will be allowed to sign with registered agents.

USA Basketball doesn’t have the infrastructure, nor interest in accepting the role of evaluating the nation’s top prospects for a yet-to-be-determined number of players who’ll annually be allowed to sign with agents at the end of their junior years, sources told ESPN.

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USA Basketball prefers that the NBA make those decisions, sources said. The NBA already oversees the invitation process to the Chicago pre-draft combine and Portsmouth Invitational camps every spring. The NBA will be immersed in scouting the high school ranks once those players have an earlier target date of entering the NBA draft, and if the NCAA wants to allow a select number of high school players the opportunity to sign with agents, the belief is that NBA front offices would be most informed to cull a list.

The NBA, USA Basketball and NCAA did meet and discuss these prospective changes, but the NBA and USA Basketball never believed they had come to a consensus with the NCAA on how they would move forward together on the issues, sources said. And then, the announcement of a litany of changes came Wednesday.

“We will review the NCAA’s planned reforms and continue to assess, along with our players’ association, the potential for any related NBA rules changes,” NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.

Several NBA officials were surprised over the presumptive and premature nature of the NCAA’s rules changes, which assumed that the NBA and National Basketball Players Association will abandon the one-and-done college rule and allow high school players into the NBA draft. While that appears to be the direction the league and union are headed, discussions are centered on the 2022 NBA draft as the earliest.
University of Kentucky coach John Calipari, talking about the NCAA rules changes on SportsCenter, said, “None of this goes into effect until the NBA and the players’ association come up with something, and I’m hearing it won’t be until 2022 so we’re probably wasting our breath dealing with the ins and outs of this.

“I’ll give you an example: I’m here in the Bahamas, and the CEO of USA Basketball, Jim Tooley, is here and he’s saying, ‘Wait a minute. We deal with one of the one-percenters. We don’t deal with foreign players. We’re not in a position to try to say who gets an agent and who does not.’

“There’s a lot of stuff that needs to be worked out,” Calipari said. “I hope as we go through all this stuff that we’re thinking about is what it will do to all of these young people.”