Cavs owner Dan Gilbert is a nine on a scale of one to 10 in terms of an owner’s involvement in his team, with the ubiquitous Mark Cuban a 10, a prominent agent tells Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. Gilbert was the only Cavs representative in his pitch meeting to LeBron James when the four-time MVP was a free agent last summer, and the owner was alone with GM David Griffin when they helped convince Kevin Love to accept a trade later this past summer, according to Windhorst. Gilbert insists he’s not so hands-on, but his ballooning net worth and willingness to spend it on the Cavs has played a major role in the team’s rise to prominence, as Windhorst details. Here’s more from around Cleveland:
- Kyrie Irving hasn’t had nearly the trouble meshing with James as Love has, Fred Kerber of the New York Post examines. That’s surely a relief for the Cavs, who committed a five-year extension to Irving this past summer that won’t kick in until next season.
- The Knicks’ division championship of two years ago is but a memory to J.R. Smith, who isn’t high on the return the Knicks got when they traded him to the Cavs in January, as Kerber notes in the same piece. “It seems extremely distant, like one of the first years I was in the league, that’s how far back it seems,” Smith said. “Honestly, I don’t really think about it. If anything, it’s their fault for making a bad business move, I guess.”
- Assistant coach Tyronn Lue has been instrumental in keeping the Cavs’ locker room together, as Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com writes in an Insider-only piece that tabs Lue as one of the league’s top head coaching prospects. Cleveland made Lue the highest-paid assistant of all-time this past summer. “He respects the work that’s required to do the job and he has the gift of being able to verbalize things to players in a straightforward way without being offensive,” said Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers, Lue’s former boss. “He sees things in games a lot of people can’t see. He’d see opportunities for us — in games, watching film, observing — and would bring them to me. He has a chance to be very special.“
Several sources tell Frank Isola of the New York Daily News that LeBron James is frustrated with the failure of Kevin Love to mesh with the Cavs this season, but James isn’t upset that Love believes Russell Westbrook, and not James, has the edge for MVP, notes Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. Love said Wednesday that he believed his comments, which he made on The Dan Patrick Show (video link), were widely taken out of context and that James “could very well be the MVP,” McMenamin adds. Many executives and players don’t think that Love can accept the limited role he’s played on this year’s Cavs team again, writes Michael Lee of The Washington Post, who nonetheless believes that it probably doesn’t matter much that James and Love aren’t the best of friends. As the Love story continues to take on a gossipy edge, here’s more from the Central Division:
- The Pistons plan an all-out push to re-sign Reggie Jackson this summer, and Jackson is hinting that he’s already planning to return to Detroit with comments about playing alongside Andre Drummond and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in the future, MLive’s Brendan Savage observes.
- The Bucks could have signaled to other players that they would reward those who developed in their system if they’d hung on to soon-to-be restricted free agent Brandon Knight and re-signed him, but trading him set the franchise back, opines Steve Aschburner of NBA.com. Still, coach Jason Kidd told reporters that it’s all part of a plan for the long term. “It’s something much bigger than that that you guys are going to have to wait and write about,” he said. “We’re here to build something, not to do something in six months. There’s a bigger picture. We feel we have a core here that will be around for a long time and have success.”
- Chicago made Nikola Mirotic this season’s highest-paid rookie with a three-year deal worth more than $16.631MM, similar to what the Rockets are reportedly prepared to offer draft-and-stash prospect Sergio Llull. The move is paying off for the Bulls, as Mirotic is making a late push for Rookie of the Year, as ESPN’s Michael Wilbon examines.
No one involved in the process believes Kevin Love will pick up his $16.744MM player option to remain with the Cavaliers as he’s said he plans to do, according to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. Love nonetheless spoke of a strong camaraderie amongst the Cavs to Ananth Pandian of CBSSports.com, countering a narrative that he’s not getting along with his teammates, an idea that Love seemed to stoke when he said his relationship with LeBron James and other Cavs could be better. Rumors surrounding the No. 2 free agent on the Hoops Rumors Free Agent Power Rankings have intensified, and Michael Rand of the Star Tribune wonders if Cleveland, like Minnesota, will be in the power forward’s past soon. Here’s more from around the Central Division:
- The Timofey Mozgov trade has worked out splendidly for Mozgov, whose offensive numbers are up, and for the Cavs, who’ve taken off since the deal, as Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio examines. Cleveland has a $4.95MM team option on Mozgov for next season. “When we made the trade, everything that he brought is what we needed and wanted,” James said. “He’s going to be huge for our team. Very, very skilled offensively and understands defensively. He’s just a smart basketball player and it’s great playing with him.“
- Nikola Mirotic and Jimmy Butler, a pair of late-first-round picks from 2011, are playing key roles for the Bulls, and trading for the rights to Mirotic took particular effort, as K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune details. “We were bidding against somebody,” Bulls GM Gar Forman said. “Significant money was being laid out. And that’s when [owner Jerry Reinsdorf] really stepped up and included a good chunk of money to make that happen.”
- No team surged higher from last year’s ESPN Insider Front Office Rankings to this year’s than the Bucks, who jumped from 29th to 15th. Chad Ford of ESPN.com, in another Insider-only piece, credits the work of assistant GM David Morway, who joined the team in the summer of 2013, for having been instrumental in the rise.
Pacers coach Frank Vogel insists that Paul George is not ready to play, Candace Buckner of the Indianapolis Star tweets. ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst reported on Friday that George could return within a week but Vogel told Buckner that’s not the case. “There’s a lot of layers to it,” Vogel said. “He’s not ready. He hasn’t reached our level of what we feel he’s ready to play.” In a separate tweet from Buckner, Vogel added that while George is cleared to practice, he’s not cleared to play, though that refuted what president of basketball operations Larry Bird indicated to ESPN.com’s Mike Mazzeo.
In other news around the Central Division:
- Trading Brandon Knight to the Suns has led to the Bucks’ recent struggles, according to Steve Aschburner of NBA.com. The deadline deal had an emotional impact on the team and hindered the team’s offense because replacement Michael Carter-Williams isn’t as proficient as Knight, in Aschburner’s assessment. Coach Jason Kidd did not view Knight as his long-term solution at the point and Knight’s status as a restricted free agent after the season contributed to the decision to deal him, Aschburner adds.
- Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg could be a candidate for the Bulls head coaching job if they part ways with Tom Thibodeau after the season, Chad Ford of ESPN.com speculates. Thibodeau reportedly has a strained relationship with the team’s management and Ford considers Hoiberg the hottest college coach on the market. Hoiberg played in the league, worked in an NBA front office, and has a more laid-back demeanor than Thibodeau, Ford points out.
- The Cavs turned their season around by making trades for Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Timofey Mozgov, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer opines. Cleveland started out 19-20 and GM David Griffin fixed its problems by shaking up the roster, which dramatically improved the team’s defense, Pluto adds.
Kevin Love reiterated his plan to remain with the Cavaliers in an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show today, as Joe Vardon of the Northeast Ohio Media Group relays. Rumors that Love will opt out and sign elsewhere this summer have dogged the power forward for months, even though he’s said he plans to opt in for next season and avoid free agency altogether this year. Still, Love stoked the flames in comments he made on Patrick’s show (video link) and on ESPN Radio’s Mike & Mike (audio link) in which he said he wouldn’t vote LeBron James for MVP and admitted his relationship with James could be better.
“You know, we’re not best friends, we’re not hanging out every day, but we see each other every day, whether we’re at the practice facility, whether we’re on the road or going to a game,” Love said on Mike & Mike. “I think our relationship is also evolving. I could say the same with each and every coach, coach [David] Blatt, and each and every player on the team. But, that’s part of the NBA.”
Most of the Hoops Rumors readers who voted in a recent poll believed Love will be playing for another team next season. Here’s more from around the big man’s current home:
- J.R. Smith has embraced the role of catch-and-shoot three-point shooter that Dion Waiters was reluctant to fill, which is part of the reason the Cavs made the trade that shipped out Waiters and brought in Smith, writes Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal. James was fully supportive of the acquisition of Smith and has been key in keeping the mercurial swingman focused, and Blatt is ecstatic with results, Lloyd notes. Smith has a nearly $6.4MM player option for next season.
- Cavs draft-and-stash prospect Sasha Kaun expressed interest in playing in the NBA and having Cavs center and fellow Russian Timofey Mozgov as a teammate in an interview with Leo Savary of Championat (translation via Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia). Kaun wouldn’t confirm an earlier report that he’s already told his Russian team, CSKA Moscow, that he’s leaving.
- Kaun and Mozgov are both centers, and the Cavs haven’t really discussed Kaun since they traded for Mozgov, according to Lloyd, who writes in the same piece, running counter to a report that the team is thinking of signing Kaun this summer. Some speculate that Kaun’s camp is planting the idea of interest from the Cavs to drive up his price for CSKA Moscow, Lloyd adds.
- The Cavs have recalled Joe Harris from the D-League, the team announced. The rookie averaged 10.0 points in 29.0 minutes across two weekend games for the Canton Charge while on the D-League assignment, which began Friday.
The Cavaliers were interested in signing Steve Nash if he had reached a buyout with the Lakers, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Cleveland made it clear to Nash’s agent, Bill Duffy, that it had interest in Nash after the trade deadline if he could strike a deal with L.A. Cavaliers’ GM David Griffin and Raja Bell, the team’s director of player administration, are both fans of Nash and were interested in having him play some backup minutes to Kyrie Irving. However, Nash’s response was that he only wanted to come back as a Laker.
There’s more from the Central Division:
- After a slow start, the Cavaliers‘ David Blatt has proven he can handle the challenge of a high-profile team, writes Moke Hamilton of SNY.tv. Hamilton points out that Blatt isn’t coaching the team he expected to when he was first hired. The acquisitions of LeBron James and Kevin Love changed the equation, as did an injury to Anderson Varejao and the trade of Dion Waiters. After a 19-20 start brought rumors about his job security, Blatt led the Cavaliers to a turnaround that has them second in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
- The Pistons have said they want to hold on to free agent guard Reggie Jackson, but Susan Bible of Basketball Insiders isn’t sure that’s the best move. Jackson, who was acquired from Oklahoma City in a deadline-day trade, has shown displays of individual brilliance since the deal, but the Pistons have struggled, losing 10 in a row at one point. Jackson praises Stan Van Gundy, Detroit’s coach and president of basketball operations, saying he can “help me on this journey to be one of the best point guards ever,” but Bible worries Jackson may be too focused on individual goals rather than team ones.
The short-handed Bulls should be be getting some help soon, tweets Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com. Coach Tom Thibodeau said Jimmy Butler is “real close” to returning to action. His elbow is improving and he could be back on the court this week.
There’s more news from the Eastern Conference:
- Thibodeau has no interest in a front office role, tweets K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune. Before tonight’s game in Detroit, Thibodeau was asked if he would like a dual position, similar to the Pistons‘ Stan Van Gundy, who serves as coach and president of basketball operations. Thibodeau replied, “I’m happy right where I am.”
- The Knicks‘ Carmelo Anthony tweeted Saturday that his recovery from knee surgery is “going well.” Team president Phil Jackson told Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com that Anthony has visited the practice facility to receive treatment on the knee, and the plan is for Anthony to begin workouts in June.
- Don’t expect Kendrick Perkins to be part of the Cavaliers‘ rotation, writes Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal. Lloyd says Cleveland acquired Perkins as merely an insurance policy, and he won’t see much action in the playoffs, barring injuries or foul trouble.
- The Magic’s Evan Fournier is hoping to return to action before the season ends, reports Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel. Fournier is dealing with a hip injury and hasn’t played since February 25th. “Hopefully, I’m going to be able to play soon.” he said. “Hopefully, 10 more days. I don’t know.”
The Pistons are getting a sneak peek at life without Greg Monroe, writes David Mayo of MLive.com. Monroe, who has been sidelined since hurting his knee in Monday’s practice, will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy said his absence is forcing big changes. “We post Greg a lot and we don’t have, really, that anymore,” Van Gundy said. “So that’s a tough element for us to miss. And we’re putting more and more on our point guards to make plays on pick and rolls. The post game’s not only effective for us, but gives guys a rest — throw it in, space the floor, spot up, catch your breath. It requires a lot more energy, the other stuff that we do, and that’s how we have to play now.”
There’s more from the Central Division:
- Spencer Dinwiddie is the one sure thing in the Pistons‘ point guard equation for next season, Mayo writes in a separate story. With Reggie Jackson entering free agency and Brandon Jennings hoping to recover from a season-ending injury, the Pistons are sure Dinwiddie will be around when they need him. Unlike most second-round picks, Dinwiddie has a fully guaranteed second year on his contract. Jennings’ misfortune has created extra playing time for the rookie out of Colorado, and although Dinwiddie’s shooting numbers aren’t impressive, other elements of his game have been. “How he’s playing, his composure, his poise on the floor, his ability to handle pressure, that’s all been good, his decision making,” Van Gundy said. “But he’s got to get the ball in the basket.”
- Nikola Mirotic has been one of the few bright spots for the Bulls this month, according to Steve Aschburner of NBA.com. With Derrick Rose, Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson all sidelined by injuries, Mirotic has raised his game, averaging 20.8 points and 8.2 rebounds during March. Chicago acquired the rights to the 24-year-old rookie from Montenegro in a 2011 trade.
- His team has far bigger goals, but Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving is taking time to enjoy his first official trip to the NBA playoffs, writes Chris Fedor of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. Cleveland clinched a postseason spot with Friday’s win over the Pacers. “It’s an exciting moment,” Irving said. “It’s been four years. I was just talking to [Kevin Love], all of us coming together as a team and us making the playoffs for the first time is an awesome thing.”
NBA commissioner Adam Silver said changes to the draft lottery favored by the majority of teams will likely be postponed because the NBA Players Association recently turned down the league’s smoothing proposal regarding salary-cap increases, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. The dramatic increase in the salary cap from $63MM to an estimated $90MM during the summer of 2016 makes changes to the lottery system unfeasible, Silver told Houston-based reporters on Thursday. “What I am hearing from some of the general managers in the league is that because it’s unclear how the cap will operate with a massive amount of cap room in ’16 and ’17 and potentially in the year after that it may be premature to change the lottery until we have a better understanding of what the changed behavior will be, so it’s something we are going to continue to look at,” Silver said.
In other news around the league:
- The Pistons are unlikely to sign and trade Greg Monroe this summer, David Mayo of MLive.com opines. Mayo doubts that any team interested in signing Monroe, who becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer, would give up anything of value for him. The Pistons would probably have to take back a bad contract to execute such a deal, which makes it unwise for them to make such a move, Mayo continues. The only party who would truly benefit from a sign-and-trade deal would be Monroe, who could get a bigger contract without having to return to Detroit, Mayo concludes.
- Dirk Nowitzki is averaging 20.3 points on 52.4% shooting from the field for the Mavericks over the last three games and a less taxing schedule is the primary reason for the veteran forward’s recent outburst, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com. Nowitzki said to the team’s beat writers that longer stretches in-between games has made him feel fresher, “Going into the break, I think we had the most games in the league,” Nowitzki said. “Then coming out of the break, we had the shortest break and then we had five games in seven days. A brutal stretch for us, but finally it slowed down a little bit. It allowed us to get a little healthy, mix in some good rest with good work. I think it helped us and helped me.”
- The Cavaliers assigned guard Joe Harris to their D-League affiliate, the Canton Charge, Cleveland GM David Griffin announced Friday on the team’s official website. Harris has appeared in 47 games with the Cavs this season, averaging 2.5 points in 9.2 minutes per game. He has played in seven games for the Charge, averaging 17.0 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.3 assists in 32.3 minutes per game.
Cavs first-year coach David Blatt believes that finishing second in the Eastern Division is a worthy goal the remainder of the regular season, according to Chris Fedor of Northeast Ohio Media Group. Cleveland’s relative lack of playoff experience, other than LeBron James, makes homecourt advantage even more essential, the story continues. The Cavs have not lost a home game since January 7th. Blatt may still rest some of his top players at times but not if it costs the team in seeding, Fedor adds. “I’d like us to finish as high as possible because there’s value in that,” Blatt said to the team’s beat reporters. “We’re going to come out and try to win every game regardless of who we are putting on the floor. If we see the need and we have the ability to rest someone we may do that too. We’re not going to lose sight of the fact that we’re going to compete every single game and not give anything away.”
In other news around the Eastern Conference:
- Knicks first-year coach Derek Fisher says the most frustration he’s experienced this season is trying to instruct and lead players from the sidelines rather than on the court, Fred Kerber of the New York Post reports. “A lot of times, you see things in them that they’re still trying to discover in themselves,” Fisher said. “Being a guy that was just in that position a year ago at this date, there are a lot of things I can relate to and I can offer.”
- The Sixers are winning too much for their own good and need to stay among the top four in the draft to get an impact player, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer opines. Philadelphia, which currently owns the third-worst record in the league, has won three of its last six. It plays the Knicks, who are tied for the worst record, and Lakers, who have the fourth-worst record, this weekend. Pompey notes that Jahlil Okafor, Emmanuel Mudiay, Karl Anthony-Towns and D’Angelo Russell are generally considered by most NBA scouts as the only sure things in the draft. You can track all of the teams in the hunt for the No. 1 overall pick by visiting our Reverse Standings page.
- Miles Plumlee is making the most of his extended playing time with the Bucks, writes Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel. The team likes what the 6’11” center has brought to the court since coming to Milwaukee in a deal with the Suns at the deadline. “I think his athletic ability, his ability to set screens and run the floor [was impressive],” coach Jason Kidd said. “The big thing is rebounding the ball, and he had 11 rebounds in 18 minutes. We have to get him more time on the floor.”
Chris Crouse contributed to this post.