Month: May 2017

Cavaliers Notes: James, Durant, Lue, Blatt

Kevin Durant, much like any other young player, sought out LeBron James for advice in the early part of his career. Now, both men will now face each for a second time in the NBA Finals starting next week when the Cavaliers and Warriors begin their series. Marla Ridenour of the Akron Beacon Journal writes that James is fully prepared to take on Durant and company.

Recalling his past days and workouts with Durant, James understands that the former NBA Most Valuable Player is one of the elite talents in the game.

“I think it reaches a point where that guy thinks he’s good enough where he doesn’t want to talk to me,” James said to reporters, including Ridneour after practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts on Saturday. “I always have an open-door policy. When those guys get comfortable and they feel like they got enough of the blueprint, they’re like, ‘OK, I got enough, I’m done with you.’ ”

Durant made headlines this past offseason when he departed Oklahoma City to create a super team in Golden State. Durant joined Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, forming a foursome of talent that is four wins away from capturing a championship.

“He’s one of the most dangerous guys we have in the world already,” James said. “So it makes it even more dangerous when you equip that talent, that skill, with those guys.”

The series kicks off on Thursday evening in Oakland as the Warriors host the Cavaliers for Game 1 of the NBA Finals.

  • The Cavaliers are also just four wins away from a title, which would mean back-to-back championships for Cleveland. George M. Thomas of the Akron Beacon Journal writes that coach Tyronn Lue‘s demeanor has helped the team in its chase for gold.“I just think it’s just his level of calmness no matter what’s going on,” James said. “He always talks about, at the end of the day, he’s already won in life so whatever else happens after this is extra credit.”
  • Former Cavaliers coach David Blatt has  reportedly left his role as head coach of Darussafaka Dogus in Turkey but is drawing interest from other EuroLeague teams, according to Sportnado. Maccabi Tel Aviv — where Blatt has already coached — and Barcelona were reportedly in Istanbul to discuss their coaching vacancies. Blatt led the Cavaliers to the NBA Finals in 2014/15 but was fired midway through last season in favor of Lue.

Community Shootaround: Chris Paul And The Spurs

After another early playoff exit with the Clippers, Chris Paul is expected to exercise his early-termination option, give up almost $24.27MM for next season and hit the free agent market. If and when he does, the Spurs have quickly come to the forefront as a possible destination for the nine-time All-Star.

There has been rumored “mutual interest” between both sides and while San Antonio has limited cap space, the Clippers view the Spurs as a serious threat for Paul’s services, per ESPN’s Marc Stein (link via Twitter). As previously noted, to make room for Paul’s hefty salary, the Spurs would likely have to renounce the rights to Patty Mills and not match an offer sheet to restricted free agent Jonathan Simmons. Additionally, Dewayne Dedmon and David Lee have player options the Spurs would likely have to renounce to swing an agreement with Paul — trading Tony Parker, LaMarcus Aldridge, or Danny Green could make space, too.

At 32 years old, Paul is still one of the best players at his position and in the NBA. Adding him to a Gregg Popovich-led Spurs could help the team — which was swept by the Warriors in the Western Conference Finals — possibly supersede Golden State in the Western Conference.

Last October, Paul said to reporters, including ESPN’s Andrew Ham, that he does not look ahead, instead prioritizing his current situation.

“And I always say this — I don’t think about things long term,” Paul said. “I think about right now. I don’t know who said it — somebody said it: The funny thing about the NBA is, everybody comes into the season pretty optimistic. You know what I mean? Everybody is like, ‘Oh, this could be our year.’ I guess it’s one of those things only time can tell.”

Six years in Los Angeles has not yielded a championship and Paul is not getting any younger. However, the Clippers, led by Doc Rivers, have always been on the verge of greatness but have fallen short each year. It will be up to Paul to decide what he wants to do.

That brings up a series of important questions:  Does it make sense for the Spurs to devote a significant chunk of their cap space to Paul? Would acquiring Paul be the move that puts the Spurs over the top? Is staying with the Clippers Paul’s best best at a championship?

Share your thoughts on Paul down below!

Celtics Notes: Brown, Thomas, Offseason Plans

Jaylen Brown was the third overall pick in the NBA Draft last year and was expected to be a strong reserve option, growing into the rigors of the NBA lifestyle. However, injuries allowed Brown to get crucial experience as a starter with the Celtics. As of CSN New England writes, Brown is not worried about his label as a “future” contributor and instead focused on the now.

“I’m excited about the now,” Brown said. “I’m excited about this summer,” Brown said. “I try not to look too far ahead. Everybody talks about the future and how much potential we have; I’m worried about the now. I want to be part of the now. That’s all I’m focused on.”

Brown averaged 6.6 PPG and 2.8 RPG in 78 games (20 starts) for Boston, and by the end of year, he was guarding LeBron James in the Eastern Conference Finals. By his own admission, Brown says coming to the NBA was a daunting experience as he did not know what to expect. However, now he’s focused on improving himself in the offfseason.

“I didn’t know what I was getting myself into, coming into the NBA,” Brown said. “Throughout the year, I don’t think people expected me to contribute as much as I did. Now just getting to the Eastern Conference finals and losing, it builds a hunger you know;  I have a bad taste in my mouth. Gotta put in work during the offseason and come back stronger.”

  • A lot of news and speculation has circulated throughout the NBA in regards to point guard Isaiah Thomas. Tim Bontemps of the Washington Post examines the dilemma of Thomas’ contract situation; he’s a free agent after next season and his last two dominant seasons line him up for a hefty payday. However, 5’9″ guards do not have a great history of sustained success in the NBA, which could make the Celtics apprehensive of a long term commitment. For his part, Thomas has stated he’s willing to hold off extension talks until next year so the Celtics can lure top tier free agents.
  • Speaking of free agency, Chase Hughes of CSN New England examines the Celtics ahead of the offseason. The team owns the No.1 overall pick and has several impending free agents, soon-to-be free agents, and players of interests in the trade and free agent markets, including Blake Griffin, Paul George, Gordon Hayward and more. Regardless of their targets, the Celtics are expected to be one of, if not the, busiest organizations in the NBA.

Kevin Garnett Trade To Warriors Vetoed In 2007

Before Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, and Draymond Green created a powerhouse in California, the Warriors were seemingly on the verge of creating a special team in the late 2000s. However, the team was in need of a superstar player to take the team all the way and Kevin Garnett could have been that piece.

Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News spoke for former Warriors executive vice president of basketball operations Chris Mullin on The TK Show and revisited a deal that could have brought the former league MVP to the Warriors. As Mullin recalls, Garnett was ready to leave the Timberwolves and pursue a championship elsewhere; and the Warriors were coming off an improbable season where they upset the N0.1 seed Mavericks in the first round of the postseason before losing to the Jazz in five games.

“After the playoff series with Utah, we had a nice group but we were trying to figure out a way to bridge the gap,” Mullin said (via RealGM). “We had a deal. Kevin Garnett was getting ready to move and I think he was being very selective. But at one point, he liked our situation.”

Acquiring “The Big Ticket” would have required a steep package but Mullin believes that Golden State was in prime position to field a championship-caliber squad, no matter the cost.

“The exact deal was probably going to be more Minnesota’s choice. We had Monta (Ellis), Andris (Biedrins), the pick itself, Jason (Richardson), Baron (Davis). We felt whatever combination they took, we had enough,” Mullin added.

However, the Warriors’ higher-ups, Chris Cohan and Robert Rowell, vetoed the deal, citing financial reasons. Garnett went on to be traded to the Celtics and form “The Big Three” alongside Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, capturing the 2007/08 NBA championship.

If money had not been an issue, Garnett could have cemented his Hall of Fame career with the Warriors.

And-Ones: Teague, Blatt, Hayward

The Mavericks own the No. 9 pick in the upcoming draft and if they go with a frontcourt player, it could signal that the team is planning on adding a point guard this offseason. Jeff Teague could be a realistic option for Dallas this summer, the staff at The Dallas Morning News speculates. Teague will turn 29 next month and he could help Dirk Nowitzki make the playoffs one last time before leading the team’s younger players for the next few seasons.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • David Blatt won’t return as the coach of Darussafaka Dogus, the Turkish team he led this past season, Sportando’s E. Carchia relays. International Journalist David Pick reports (Twitter feed) that several other international teams have interest in Blatt.
  • ESPNs Michael B. Schwartz believes there’s a real possibility that Gordon Hayward joins the Celtics this summer. Boston can carve out the max space necessary to offer Hayward an estimated four-year, $130MM deal if it says goodbye to a few role players.
  • Blake Griffin joining the Thunder isn’t a likely scenario due to the team’s financials, Schwartz contends in the same piece. Oklahoma City handed out massive extensions to Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo last fall and those deals will kick in this summer. Schwartz added that a sign-and-trade would represent the best way for OKC to acquire a top talent like Griffin.

Thunder Notes: Grant, McDermott, Presti

The Thunder will have trouble adding talent around Russell Westbrook this summer, as I discussed in the team’s Five Key Offseason Questions piece. The front office dished out lucrative deals to several contributors over the last two seasons and it left the team without much financial flexibility. If Oklahoma City hopes to make it further than the first round of the playoffs next season, the team will need some of its young talent to make significant improvements.

Here’s more from Oklahoma City:

  • Jerami Grant has worked with the Thunder on many aspects of his game since the season ended, as he tells Erik Horne of The Oklahoman. “I think they’re doing a great job here of getting me stronger in certain areas. I think they’re specific to what we want to do with my body. And on the court, being able to read the defense, slow my game down a little bit, not moving 100 miles an hour,” Grant said. His contract with OKC contains a team option worth slightly over $1.52MM for next season and it appears that the team will opt to keep him around.
  • Doug McDermott, who was traded to the Thunder at this year’s deadline, said he’d “love to be” in OKC long-term, Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman writes. McDermott has one year left on his rookie deal and he’ll be eligible to sign an extension with the franchise this offseason.
  • GM Sam Presti is preparing this offseason as if McDermott will play more minutes at the four spot, Dawson adds in the same piece. “[McDermott] has the versatility to play a little [power forward] for us,” Presti said.

Atlantic Notes: Weltman, Fox, Ilyasova

Masai Ujiri knew the day would come where Jeff Weltman would take the reigns of another front office and the Raptors GM did everything he could to keep the executive in-house, Mike Ganter of the National Post passes along.

“I tried to fake it [by giving Weltman the] GM title last year and give him a raise and everything, but it didn’t fake anyone out, I guess. But a phenomenal opportunity for an unbelievable person,” Ujiri said.

Weltman was hired by Orlando to be the team’s president of basketball operations. Ujiri added that the move was “a great loss to the [Raptors] organization.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • De’Aaron Fox met with the Sixers at the draft combine to discuss how he would fit playing off the ball alongside Ben Simmons, Jessica Camerato of Comcast Sportsnet writes. Camerato can envision Philadelphia staying put at No. 3 and selecting Fox, but she could also see the team trading down and drafting Malik Monk while picking up another asset.
  • Ersan Ilyasova fit in nicely last season before the Sixers traded him away, though Camerato (same piece) cautions that despite the good synergy, the power forward is unlikely to return to Philadelphia in free agency. The 30-year-old should attract several teams this offseason and he’ll likely look to secure a long-term deal, which isn’t something that’s in Philadelphia’s best interest.
  • Jaylen Brown gained valuable experience playing for the Celtics and he believes his role on a playoff team this season will help him be successful down the road, as A. Sherrod Blakely relays. “Being on a winning team and developing good habits, learning how to win, play the game the right way … learning that at a young age is really going to help me,” Brown said. “A lot of young guys, they don’t learn that early. They have to figure it out three, four, five years in. I’m happy I learned it now.”

Danny Ainge: ‘We Want To Keep Isaiah’

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge won’t let financial concerns force the team to get rid of Isaiah Thomas, writes Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald.

Since Boston’s playoff run ended, there have been rumors that Thomas may not be part of the team’s long-term future, despite the outstanding season he just turned in. The two-time All-Star averaged 28.9 points per game and was considered part of the MVP race.

Thomas has one season left on his contract at about $6.26MM before becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2018, when the Celtics will also face decisions about Avery Bradley and Marcus Smart. Thomas is eligible for an extension this summer, and while Ainge didn’t promise that will happen, he tried to quash rumors about a possible deal.

“Yeah, we can fit everybody in,” Ainge said. “But listen, those are questions that I don’t even have answers for yet. That’s part of the difficult puzzle that is all hard. All I’m saying is those are things I have to worry about that even I don’t like to think about. And I know that those are going to be difficult decisions at some point. But we want to keep Isaiah.

“All I know is that he’s had an amazing year, and who doesn’t want Isaiah Thomas on their team? Like, you’ve got to be kidding me.”

Thomas was third in the league scoring race and earned second-team All-NBA honors. Ainge said he had one of the most impressive seasons ever compiled by a Celtics player, putting it in a class with the best of Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Larry Bird and Bill Russell.

He also laughed at the idea that money will be a factor in keeping Thomas.

“Why do the fans need to worry about how much money he makes?” Ainge said. “I can understand if Isaiah and his wife and his agent are worried about that, but I don’t understand why that’s a conversation that needs to be had in the media.”

Weekly Mailbag: 5/22/17 – 5/28/17

We have an opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com. Here are this week’s inquiries:

I heard Paul George has interest in playing with Gordon Hayward. What if Indiana traded George to Utah for Derrick Favors, Dante Exum , the 24th pick, 42nd pick and the rights to the higher first-rounder in 2020 between Utah’s pick and Oklahoma City’s. Resign Hayward using his Bird rights. — Jason Tom

The key for any team that trades for George is confidence in re-signing him past next season. George has a player option in 2018 that he’s almost guaranteed to use to set up a long-term maximum contract. George grew up near Los Angeles, and rumors have been circulating for some time that he wants to play for the Lakers. L.A. has about $19MM in available cap space for 2018 (including a $5.67MM player option for Nick Young), so look for deals over the next 12 months designed to free up cash for a max offer. George would be a nice running mate for Hayward, but there’s little chance that he signs a long-term deal in Utah. Your trade idea would be a nice offer to give Utah six or seven seasons of George, but it’s way too much for one.

What type of moves will the Pistons be involved in? — Rick Fuller, via Twitter

Detroit’s primary concern will be keeping Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The fourth-year shooting guard is a restricted free agent, so the Pistons can match any offer, but the size of his new deal is going to eliminate any future flexibility for a team that is already over the cap next season. The Nets reportedly have KCP in their sights, so expect an offer similar to what they gave to Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson last summer. Detroit would also like to re-sign Aron Baynes, who can opt out of his $6.5MM contract, but there may not be enough money to keep him. The Pistons made some calls before the deadline to gauge league interest in Andre Drummond. Don’t be surprised if his name gets thrown around again over the summer as a way to open up future cap room.

Is there a chance the Knicks trade  Kristaps Porzingis this offseason? — Nathan Dylong, via Twitter

It sounds like there’s much more smoke than fire coming out of New York about a possible Porzingis deal. There was a skipped exit meeting, a failure to disclose plans to play for the Latvian National Team and a mysterious tweet about the Clippers, but that’s not enough evidence to suggest that the Porzingis era is about to end. Phil Jackson’s primary offseason focus will be to get a deal done for Carmelo Anthony. The Knicks will need a team leader after that happens, and Porzingis is the only name on the roster qualified to fill that role.

Texas Notes: Ntilikina, Mudiay, Paul, Rockets

Several Mavericks executives have traveled to Europe over the past month to watch French point guard Frank Ntilikina, relays Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News. At 6’5″, Ntilikina is among the bigger point guards in the draft, and he possesses athleticism and skill to go with his size. Dallas is believed to be targeting point guards after waiving Deron Williams in February so he could sign with a contender. The Mavericks hold the No. 9 pick, and Sefko expects Ntilikina to be among the players considered, along with North Carolina State’s Dennis Smith Jr., Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen and Gonzaga’s Zach Collins.

There’s more news today out of Texas:

  • The Mavericks have a better shot at solving their point guard problems through the draft than by trading for someone like Emmanuel Mudiay, writes Matt Mosley of The Dallas Morning News. The seventh pick in the 2015 draft, Mudiay was a heralded prospect but has experienced shooting problems through his first two NBA seasons. He is a 37% shooter from the field and was stuck behind Jameer Nelson in the Nuggets’ rotation. Mosley says Ntilikina or Markkanen would be a better gamble with the No. 9 pick.
  • Signing Chris Paul may not get the Spurs any closer to challenging the Warriors for Western Conference supremacy, argues Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Adding the All-Star point guard would requiring sacrificing someone like LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol or Danny Green in a trade, and it would destroy the salary flexibility the team has set up for next summer.
  • North Carolina center Kennedy Meeks was the biggest name to attend a pre-draft workout for the Rockets this week, relays Tom Miller of The Grand Forks Herald. Also at the session were Quinton Hooker of North Dakota, Paris Lee of Illinois State, JaJuan Johnson of Marquette, Kavin Gilder-Tilbury of Texas State and Tacko Fall of Central Florida, who decided to withdraw from the draft and return to school. “My agent hadn’t said anything about the Rockets’ interest,” Hooker said. “I was anticipating at least one [NBA tryout]. But for the last month, I’ve just been waiting. It was definitely a humbling experience to get that first one and show my talents.” The Rockets own picks 43 and 45 in next month’s draft.

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