As painful as it was for the city of Cleveland, LeBron James‘ departure for Miami back in 2010 laid the groundwork for the Cavs’ title chances this season, Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald writes. If James had remained, the franchise would not have been in the position to draft Kyrie Irving, nor have had the opportunity to select Andrew Wiggins, who was the centerpiece of the deal to acquire Kevin Love, Bulpett notes.
“Could he have won a championship if he stayed here? We’ll never know,” said former Cav Jim Chones, who is the team’s radio color commentator. “But we do know this, and this is a fact, that we’re better than we were the first time he was here. And we also have other opportunities down the road because of draft picks that we’ve stored up, so Cleveland is in a position where they’re going to be good for a while, not just a flash in the pan. Looking back to when LeBron left, philosophically speaking, it created an acute awareness within our organization that we had to be better at everything we did. Him leaving … we were so dependent on him, as most teams are with the super players, that it put us in a position that we weren’t prepared for.”
Here’s more news out of Cleveland:
- Though their relationship hasn’t been perfect this season, James understands the difficulties that Love has had to deal with since coming to the Cavs, Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio relays. “He’s been highly criticized this year,” James said. “I know why. For a team that finally gets together, when you have a ‘Big Three,’ they’ve got to find someone. When I was in Miami, Chris Bosh was that guy at one point. I’ve seen it before. When you’ve been in position where you’ve had your own team and now you come and join forces, at one point in Miami we were 9-8. They started pointing fingers at anybody. They’ve got to find somebody.“
- The Cavs’ role-players are proving this postseason that Cleveland is more than just the “big three,” Tom Withers of The Associated Press writes. Just as James, Irving and Love have had to make personal sacrifices, the Cavs’ second-stringers have forgone individual accolades for team success, Withers adds. “It’s like a company. You have your janitor, your CEO. You have your secretaries,” said Tristan Thompson, who knows that his job is to bring energy as a reserve. “I don’t mind being the cleanup guy, punching the clock. I’ll do all the little things.”
J.R. Smith has fit in much better with the Cavaliers than many predicted he would when the guard was acquired earlier this season from the Knicks, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com writes. “For J.R., I think he’s been misunderstood,” LeBron James said. “He had a great column last week about the perception of him before he got here. I think you should read it, it’s pretty great. And he said at the end, it doesn’t matter if he’s playing in New York, or Cleveland or Denver or Timbuktu, all he cares about is winning. For a guy that’s been highly scrutinized throughout his career, saying he’s not a team guy and takes bad shots and he follows around everyone else, I think it’s unfair to him. He comes out every single day and works his tail off to try to get better, to help our team win. He defends at a high level and he’s a great teammate and he’s a great guy.” Smith has a player option worth $6,777,589 that he can opt out of this summer if he wishes to become an unrestricted free agent.
Here’s more from the Central Division:
- Bucks coach Jason Kidd sees a lot of himself in Michael Carter-Williams, and he believes that the change of scenery from the losing culture the Sixers have cultivated will be good for the young guard, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com writes. Kidd also believes that having a healthy offseason can help Carter-Williams improve his outside shooting, which is a glaring weakness in the young point guard’s game, Youngmisuk adds.
- Acquiring Carter-Williams also helped the Bucks‘ salary cap situation, Youngmisuk notes. By swapping Brandon Knight, who is set to become a restricted free agent this offseason, for Carter-Williams, who has two years remaining on his rookie contract, the team can now focus solely on re-signing Khris Middleton, who will also be a restricted free agent this summer, the ESPN scribe adds.
- Kevin Love has seemingly found his niche with the Cavaliers now that the playoffs have begun, and the veteran forward appears to be more at peace with being in Cleveland, Jason Lloyd of The Akron Beacon Journal writes. “People have focused my whole career on what I couldn’t do rather than what I could do,” Love said. “I know my teammates and coaching staff has my back. I know the organization has my back. I’m sending the love right back to them.”
The D-League’s regular season is now complete, and the three-round D-League playoffs are winding down. The relationship between the NBA and the D-League continues to grow, and 17 NBA franchises currently have one-to-one D-League affiliates amongst the 18 D-League teams. The remaining 13 NBA teams shared the Fort Wayne Mad Ants this season.
We at Hoops Rumors will be recapping each team’s use of the D-League this season, looking at assignments and recalls as well as the players signed out of the D-League. We’ll begin with a look back at how the Cavaliers utilized the D-League during the 2014/15 campaign…
D-League Team: Canton Charge
Affiliation Type: One-to-one
D-League Team Record: 31-19
Number of NBA Players Assigned To D-League: 2
Total D-League Assignments: 14
Player Stats While On Assignment:
- Alex Kirk: 5 assignments, 41 games, 12.2 PPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.2 APG. .492/.219/.727.
- Joe Harris: 11 assignments, 11 games, 14.1 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 3.5 APG. .391/.261/.733.
The Cavs improved their win total over last season’s by 20 games and appear to be the favorite to win the Eastern Conference. LeBron James returning to Cleveland was a huge factor in the team’s improvement, but GM David Griffin deserves credit for the moves he made during the last 14 months, as I wrote in his Executive of the Year Candidate piece.
Here’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- President of Basketball Operations Pat Riley may have taken a jab at LeBron James during the Heat’s season ending press conference today, Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald writes. “No more smiling faces with hidden agendas, so we’ll be going in clean,” Riley said in response to a question about the draft. When ask to clarify if that comment was about James, he said, “that could be anyone across the board. I’ve already got about half a dozen emails from people I don’t even know recommending [a player], and somewhere in that email or text is always a smiley.”
- Maurice Harkless regressed during his third season in the league and Ken Hornack of Fox Sports Florida believes he is unlikely to remain in Orlando long-term. The forward is eligible for a rookie scale extension this offseason.
- The Cavs have recalled Joe Harris from their D-League affiliate, the Canton Charge, according to the team’s website. To date, the guard has played in 48 games for Cleveland this season while seeing only 9.1 minutes per game.
Heat team president Pat Riley said today that he’s “at peace with” the choice LeBron James made last summer to return to Cleveland, and he indicated that everyone else in the organization had moved on, too, as Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald transcribes (Twitter links). That didn’t appear to be the case when Riley, in response to a question about the draft, said there would be “no more smiling faces with hidden agendas, so we’ll be going in clean,” as Goodman also relays from today’s season-ending press conference (Twitter link). That could be interpreted as a jab at James, whose affection for Shabazz Napier was well-known before the Heat drafted him just weeks prior to James’ departure from Miami, but Riley insists his remark could be a reference to “anyone across the board,” Goodman tweets. Regardless, Riley had much more to say about the Heat’s future, and we’ll round up the highlights here:
- Riley underscored the importance of re-signing Goran Dragic, as Herald columnist Barry Jackson relays. “If he doesn’t sign, my [expletive] is going to be in that seat and I’ll be writing about it,” Riley said to the gathered media. Still, Riley is “very confident” that Dragic will be back, Jackson notes.
- Dwyane Wade‘s health been an ongoing issue, but Riley challenged the 33-year-old to be prepared to play more often. Wade said last week that he intends to opt in for next season. “Dwyane has to change the narrative about his body, his injuries, his missing games,” Riley said. “We’ve had a discussion about that. Night in, night out, there’s always a question of whether he can or cannot [play]. I’d like to see him do whatever he has to do to get himself ready to practice and play every single night. He’s got five months. This is not just a Dwyane Wade problem. It’s throughout the league.”
- Riley would like to see the current starters return, Jackson relays in the same piece. That would indicate that the team wants to keep Luol Deng, who’s undecided about his more than $10.15MM player option.
- The Heat president laid out what he’s looking for in the draft, where the Heat have a lottery pick as long as it falls in the top 10, and the 40th pick, saying that he wants “developed players, experienced players,” Jackson notes. “While we felt we might have had enough on the perimeter, that might be an area where we look,” Riley said. “I don’t want a one-dimensional guy. [I want] guys that can [shoot], guys that are playmakers, guys that can defend. We will take the best player that’s available.”
- Riley believes the Heat will return to title contention next year, Goodman tweets, and he expressed bitter disappointment about falling short of the postseason this time around, as Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel notes (on Twitter). “There is not a person in the organization that doesn’t think we should have made the playoffs,” Riley said.
The playoffs will shed a lot of light on Kevin Love and his future in Cleveland, writes Ethan Skolnick of Bleacher Report. Love can become a free agent by opting out this summer, and although he has stated his intentions are to remain with the Cavaliers, some around the league wouldn’t be convinced of that unless Cleveland wins the title this year, as Skolnick details. He has become the third option in Cleveland and his usage rate has fallen to 21.7%, the lowest since his rookie season in Minnesota. “Obviously, he went there with LeBron to win a championship,” former Timberwolves assistant Bill Bayno said of the offseason deal that sent Love to Cleveland. “I think he had an idea his role would be a little different, I don’t think he knew it would be this different.”
There’s more from the Central Division:
- LeBron James told Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com that he will take responsibility for giving Love a bigger role in the offense during the postseason. “I think Kevin has not had the season that he’s accustomed to having the past few years,” James said, “but in order for us to win, Kevin Love has to play at a high level, and it’s my job to help him get to that point as well.” Like Love, James can opt out and become a free agent this summer, but there seems to be little chance of him leaving Cleveland.
- The Pistons finally started getting the production they expected from Reggie Jackson toward the end of the season, according to Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. Acquired from the Thunder in a deadline deal, Jackson averaged 20 points, 11 assists and 4.8 rebounds over his final 16 games in Detroit. “If you look at his numbers over the last third of the year, he’s going to be top seven or eight point guard in the league over that time,” said coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy. Jackson will be a free agent this summer, but he is expected to stay in Detroit.
- The Bucks are running short on time to start building their new arena, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com. The franchise is under an NBA-imposed deadline to have a new facility completed or near completion by 2017. With government budgets due by the end of June, funding must be secured quickly. “The arena is a two-year process,” said Michael Fascitelli, a member of the Bucks’ ownership group who is leading the arena development. “Every day is critical.”
Danny Ferry may be on a leave of absence as Hawks GM, but he hasn’t been forgotten, writes Scott Cacciola of The New York Times. Coach Mike Budenholzer said Ferry deserves a lot of credit for building Atlanta into the top seed in the East. The coach added that he talks to Ferry frequently. “I think it’s probably important to both of us that those conversations are somewhat private,” Budenholzer said. “It’s safe to say that we talk about everything.” Ferry has been on indefinite leave since racially insensitive comments about Luol Deng‘s African heritage surfaced in September. Budenholzer declined to suggest a resolution to Ferry’s situation.
There’s more from the Eastern Conference:
- J.R. Smith probably would have picked up his $6.4MM player option if he had remained with the Knicks, according to Al Iannazzone of Newsday. Despite the team’s awful season, Smith’s love of New York and his friendship with Carmelo Anthony would have influenced his decision. “I think I would have opted in,” he said. “I would have stayed. I wanted to be part of the building process to be one of those teams that ‘this is the team we got and we’re going to give a shot at it.’ I wanted to be a part of it.” A January 5th deal sent Smith to a Cavaliers team that is among the favorites for the NBA title.
- Rival executives don’t expect a quick fix in New York, Iannazzone writes in a separate piece. The Knicks will have a top five draft pick and are expected to have about $30MM to spend in free agency, but that doesn’t guarantee a huge jump in wins. “They don’t really have any trade assets,” said an unidentified Western Conference executive. “It’s going to be hard to get off the deck. They have a long road up the hill. They got to go one block at a time. One piece at a time and have some patience.”
- Sixers rookie Nerlens Noel told Tom Moore of Calkins Media that he would like to see the team improve its outside shooting through the draft. Philadelphia finished third in Hoops Rumors’ Reverse Standings and will find out its draft position at the May 19th lottery. “I think we’re pretty good with the frontcourt,” Noel said. “I think we definitely need to add shooting, whether it’s with the first pick we have or [possible] second pick.”
Sources close to the Nuggets say money won’t be an obstacle in the search for a new coach, reports Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. He speculated that veterans like Mike D’Antoni and Alvin Gentry could be had at an annual salary of $3MM to $4MM, as the chance to coach again would be more important than haggling over a contract. If they want Billy Donovan, the Nuggets would have to top his $3.7MM salary at the University of Florida and handle his $500K buyout. GM Tim Connelly has stated that he would like to fill the coaching vacancy before the June 25th draft.
There’s more from the Northwest Division:
- The Rockets’ Corey Brewer credits the Wolves for their help in finding him a new home, reports Brett Pollakoff of Pro Basketball Talk. Brewer, who has become an important reserve in Houston, said coach and president of basketball operations Flip Saunders helped him find his way to a playoff team with the December trade to Houston. “We looked at the trade options,” Brewer said of Saunders, “he gave me permission to talk to teams, and it worked out perfectly.” Brewer said the Rockets and Cavaliers were his top choices.
- Saunders is hoping to keep Kevin Garnett in Minnesota, according to Andy Greder of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. A sore knee has limited Garnett’s playing time since he was traded to the Wolves in February, but Saunders said the free-agent-to-be is working hard behind the scenes. “He is doing things right now to get ready to play [next season],” Saunders said.
- After having the best week of his NBA career with the Jazz, Bryce Cotton is returning to the life of a fringe NBA player, writes Brad Rock of The Deseret News. Cotton had a 21-point game Monday against Dallas and scored 14 Wednesday against Houston, but because his contract isn’t guaranteed for next season, he’s looking forward to the summer leagues and a chance to keep proving himself.
Mavs forward Chandler Parsons understands the criticism levied against him regarding his production not being worthy of his $14.7MM salary this season, Ben Golliver of SI.com writes. “The whole expectations of being a max player and taking that next step, it’s tough to manage at first,” Parsons said. “A lot of people look at me like I’m a different player. I’m the same player. I’ve gotten better. My numbers are down a little bit but at the same time I continue to get better. I’m on a different team. We’re very explosive offensively, we have more of a balanced attack, and I’m playing five minutes less than I did in Houston. I’m a basketball player and I impact the game in many different ways. My job is to be a good teammate, work extremely hard and do whatever it takes to win games.”
Here’s more from around the league:
- Rich Kleiman of Roc Nation Sports and Leon Rose of the Creative Artists Agency will team up to represent Willie Cauley-Stein, as Liz Mullen of the SportsBusiness Journal reports in a subscription-only piece. The center from the University of Kentucky is the No. 6 prospect in Jonathan Givony’s DraftExpress rankings and No. 7 with Chad Ford of ESPN.com.
- Nuggets GM Tim Connelly indicated that there are no players on Denver’s roster who are untouchable in terms of trades, Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post tweets.
- The Knicks are expected to have a busy offseason, and team president Phil Jackson will need to make decisions regarding a large number of players on his current roster. Marc Berman of The New York Post breaks down the team’s roster, and who the franchise should retain for the 2015/16 campaign. Players whom the Post scribe believes the team should bring back include Louis Amundson, Lance Thomas, and Cleanthony Early, while the team should part ways with Cole Aldrich and Travis Wear.
- The Cavaliers have assigned Joe Harris to the Canton Charge, their D-League affiliate, the team announced.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
Soon-to-be restricted free agent Khris Middleton is in line for salaries of around $10MM this summer, several GMs and other executives tell Michael Scotto of SheridanHoops. Middleton said to Scotto that he would love to return to the Bucks but insists he’ll keep his options open. Still, multiple league sources tell Scotto that Middleton won’t be going anywhere, a sign that the Bucks intend to exercise their right to match any offer for him.
Here’s more from the Central Division:
- A new arena in Milwaukee has seemed well on its way, but Gery Woelfel of The Journal Times has some doubt for the first time about whether the project will come to fruition, given the resistance that public funding has met in the Wisconsin state legislature. The NBA has the right to seize control of the Bucks if an arena deal isn’t in place by November 2017.
- The Cavaliers have recalled guard Joe Harris from the Canton Charge, their D-League affiliate, the team announced. Harris has played in three playoff games for the Charge this season, averaging 17.7 points and 8.0 rebounds in 30.0 minutes per game.
- Pau Gasol has enjoyed a career resurgence in his first season with the Bulls, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune writes. “This season has been extremely positive individually,” Gasol said. “I’m just happy that I’m playing at this level and accomplishing things I haven’t done in the past, which is pretty remarkable at this stage of my career. I just want to continue to work and stay focused and extend my level of play as long as I can.“
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.