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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — No team in NBA history — not Michael Jordan’s Bulls, not Bill Russell’s Celtics, not Jerry West’s Lakers — has won more regular-season games over a three-year span than the 207 games the Golden State Warriors have won since the start of the 2014-15 regular season.

The Warriors have a star-studded roster led by two former league MVPs in Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant and a team that enters Game 1 of the NBA Finals on Thursday having lost only once since March 11.

LeBron James was asked Sunday to compare the threat the Warriors present to all the other challenges he has faced in his career.

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“It’s probably up there,” James said after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice. “I mean, it’s up there. Obviously, I’ve played against four Hall of Famers as well too, with Manu [Ginobili], Kawhi [Leonard], Tony [Parker] and Timmy D [Tim Duncan] on the same team. And if you add Pop [Gregg Popovich] in there, that’s five Hall of Famers.

“So it’s going to be very challenging. Those guys are going to challenge me. They’re going to challenge our ballclub. This is a high-powered team, and I’ve played against some other [stiff competition]. I’ve played against Ray [Allen], KG [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce], [Rajon] Rondo and Doc [Rivers]. So it’s going to be very challenging not only on me mentally, but on our ballclub and on our franchise.”

Curry and Durant are surefire Hall of Famers. Draymond Green and Klay Thompson could be on their way to Springfield, Massachusetts, too, depending on how the rest of their careers play out.

Yet the fact that James is preparing for such a formidable foe in the Finals has become old hat for him. Six of the eight times James’ teams have reached the Finals, they have been the underdog, including this year. The only time a James team was the favorite in the Finals and lost was 2011, his first year with the Miami Heat, to the Dallas Mavericks.

“I only play blackjack in Vegas anyway, so it doesn’t matter,” James said of the sportsbooks doubting the Cavs’ chances.

For the record, James feels quite confident about evening his career Finals record to 4-4 with a win over Golden State.

“I feel good about our chances,” James said. “Very good.”

Does the thought of seeing another season extend all the way until June only to end in a loss deter him?

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“I think it’s just the joy of being able to compete for a championship,” James said. “If you add more pressure to it, I don’t believe in it.”

James does believe that these Finals, his seventh straight trip to the championship round, will have people appreciating his career no matter what the outcome.

“I think it’s going to be great for my legacy, once I’m done playing the game and can look back on the game and say, ‘Oh, this guy went to three straight Finals, four straight Finals, five, six whatever,’” James said. “I think it’s great to be talked about, see what I was able to accomplish as an individual.

“When you talk about longevity and being able to just play at a high level for a long period of time, and I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to do that and be a part of two franchises that … being able to take two franchises to four Finals apiece … no one has ever done that either, so I’m always happy and proud. … I’ve always been proud to be part of the biggest stage in our league, and it’s the Finals.”

And this Finals, the first time in league history that the same two teams are clashing three years in a row with a title on the line, might be the most anticipated of James’ career.
“First of all, I don’t get involved in the hype,” James said. “But I do know that both teams are better than last year’s teams. We’re a better Cavaliers team, and they’re a better Warriors team. What does that mean? We don’t know yet. But we’re both better. We both added pieces that have helped our offensive package and defensive package be even more scary, and obviously you can see that. We’re both playing at a high level, and we’re both … when you look back on it at the end of the day, you’ll look back and say that was two great teams who competed for championships and we did whatever it took to get to that point.

“So I don’t know what the outcome is going to be, but we’re going to write about it and talk about it during the series and see what happens. But I’m honored and I’m happy and I’m extremely excited to be part of the Finals again.”

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The Miami Heat, Chris Bosh and the players’ association have tentatively agreed to a resolution that would allow all parties to move on, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.

Bosh, 33, hasn’t played since February 2016 because of blood clot issues. He has remained on the Heat roster as the sides have worked through complex medical and legal issues in this delicate and unique situation.

The agreement hasn’t been finalized as Bosh and his family, agents and lawyers are still reviewing documents.

Both the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald reported that the sides were in talks Tuesday. It’s a process that has played out since last fall, when Heat team doctors declined to clear Bosh to take part in training camp following blood test results.

Bosh is guaranteed $52 million over the next two seasons, though a significant portion of that is covered by insurance. But he has remained on the Heat’s salary cap, limiting their ability to replace him. This agreement is expected to remove Bosh from the cap and allow the Heat to move on with their team.

The Heat will end up with between $14 million and $37 million in cap room, depending on player options, team options and waivers decisions.

Part of the reason this process has been so drawn out is the sides are caught between two collective bargaining agreements with differing rules on players with potentially life-threatening medical conditions. The new CBA, which takes effect July 1, has new policies for evaluating player health, partially because of Bosh’s situation.

Bosh has said in several interviews that he still hopes to find a treatment plan that would allow him to return to the floor in the future. Under the current rules, if he were to return and play more than 25 games for another team, his salary cap hit would return to the Heat’s books and they would potentially face luxury tax penalties.

Working that out was part of the motivation from the Heat’s side during the discussions.

Under the new CBA, a panel of doctors selected by the league and the association would determine whether a player with a potentially life-threatening medical condition would be cleared to play.

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ATLANTA — Ryan Howard doesn’t want to retire from baseball.

He may not have a choice.

The former National League MVP was released from his minor league contract Monday by the Atlanta Braves after he struggled at Triple-A Gwinnett, a major blow to the 37-year-old slugger’s hopes of carrying on with another team after a long career with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Less than a week after Howard insisted “there’s more in the tank,” the Braves decided otherwise. He lasted only 11 games with the G-Braves, hitting .184 with one homer and five RBIs.

The Braves were hoping Howard could bolster an anemic bench and serve as designated hitter in interleague games. But his options were limited, since he could only play first base and Atlanta already has Freddie Freeman.

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Going a different direction, the Braves completed a deal with Minnesota for utility player Danny Santana. The Twins received left-handed reliever Kevin Chapman and cash.

Howard was once among baseball’s most feared hitters. In 2006, his first full season as Philadelphia’s starting first baseman, he put together one of the greatest stat lines in baseball history: 58 homers, 149 RBIs, a .313 average and an MVP award.

The Phillies would go on to win five straight NL East titles, a stretch that included two trips to the World Series and a championship in 2008. Howard averaged 41 homers and 129 RBIs during that run, finishing in the top 10 of the MVP voting every season.

But his career was forever altered on the last play of the 2011 division series against the St. Louis Cardinals, when he tore his Achilles tendon running out a grounder for the final out of a 1-0 loss.

He hasn’t been the same since.

Plagued by one injury after another, Howard’s production plummeted the last five seasons. In 2016, he showed flashes of power with 25 homers but batted a career-worst .196, prompting the Phillies to decline a $25 million option for this season. He was honored by the team before its final home game but insisted that he had no plans to retire.

Howard made it clear last week that he still believes he can contribute.

“If you walk away, don’t walk away with something still left in the tank,” he said. “Then you’re wondering like, `Man, what could I have done?’ When I’m done playing, I want to leave it all out on the field.”

Howard was even willing to go to the minors, taking a fraction of the salary he once made and with no guarantees that the Braves would bring him up to the majors.

“Once you leave the minor leagues, you want to not come back,” Howard said. “But it’s the path that I’m on, the journey that I’m on.”

That journey may have ended, especially since he missed all of spring training before the Braves finally called. There’s clearly not a lot of interest in an aging slugger with a cumulative .226 average over the past five years.

The Braves decided Santana was a better option for the bench. The 26-year-old has spent parts of four seasons in the big leagues, hitting .276 with 10 homers, 76 RBIs and 41 stolen bases. This season with the Twins, he’s hitting .200 with one homer in 13 games.

Chapman was claimed off waivers by the Braves late in spring training after spending parts of the last four seasons with the Houston Astros. Control has always been an issue for the lefty, who had a 7.71 ERA in nine games at Gwinnett after failing to earn a spot on Atlanta’s big league roster.