LeBron James

Heat Notes: LeBron, Draft, Haslem, T. Johnson

The Heat are often mentioned as a potential destination for LeBron James if he decides to leave Cleveland, but Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel doesn’t believe such a move is realistic. Miami, of course, is where James went the last time he parted ways with the Cavaliers. He spent four seasons with the Heat and combined with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to reach the NBA Finals each year.

However, a reunion is extremely unlikely, Winderman notes. The Heat don’t have any cap space to work with and would need to have a massive sell-off or have James opt in and engineer a trade. Winderman estimates Miami would have to part with Josh Richardson, Justise Winslow, Bam Adebayo and the high salary of either Hassan Whiteside or Goran Dragic, which would leave LeBron with a worse supporting cast then he has now in Cleveland.

There’s more news from Miami:

  • Without a pick in this year’s draft, the Heat can’t get prospects to come to Miami, so scouts are going on the road to see them, Winderman writes in a separate piece. Team representatives are headed to Bradenton, Florida, New York City, Atlanta and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, this week to attend workouts being held by agents and trainers. Next week, the scouting staff will be at seven workouts in Los Angeles and one in Las Vegas. “We go there not only to watch that workout, but we also would use that as a mini-Chicago [draft combine], where we interview players,” VP of Player Personnel Chet Kammerer explained. “It’s not us running the workouts, but we’re going to get to look at as many people as we can among our staff.”
  • At age 38, Udonis Haslem hasn’t decided if he will return for another season, but he continues to work out as if he’ll keep playing, Winderman relays in another story. “When you get to this stage of your career and life, you either do it or you don’t,” Haslem said. “You can’t really turn it on and off. It becomes a lifestyle.” Interviewed Saturday, Haslem repeated that he has no interest in coaching but would be intrigued by a front office position.
  • Tyler Johnson won’t try to change his game to live up to the salary increase that’s about to kick in, writes Jordan McPherson of The Miami Herald. The backloaded offer sheet Johnson received from the Nets two years ago increases from $5.88MM this year to $19.25MM in each of the next two seasons. “It doesn’t bother me,” Johnson said. “It’s just a nicer paycheck when I go home.”

Cavaliers Notes: Smith, D. Jordan, James, Draft Pick

J.R. Smith won’t face any repercussions from the league for a hard foul on Al Horford in Tuesday’s Game 2, according to an ESPN report. Horford was in the air late in the fourth quarter when Smith shoved him from behind, causing him to crash to the court. The officials called a flagrant 1 on Smith after a video review.

Smith agreed with the call when interviewed after the game, admitting he “blatantly” shoved Horford.

“It wasn’t like I was trying to low-bridge him or something to make sure he didn’t get it. It was a good, hard foul,” Smith said. “I can understand why they gave me a flagrant.”

There’s more today from Cleveland:

  • Smith has been through a lot of scrapes in his 14-year career and doesn’t mind playing the role of villain in playoff road games, relays A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston. “I don’t want the opposing fans to like me,” he said. “That’s not why I’m here. They can chant and scream all they want.”
  • LeBron James  and coach Tyronn Lue both wanted to trade for Clippers center DeAndre Jordan at the deadline, according to Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. Lue felt the team needed a rim protector to anchor the defense.
  • The trades the Cavaliers made instead in February are letting them down in the conference finals, notes Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com. George Hill managed just three points in 33 minutes of Game 2 and couldn’t contain Celtics guard Terry Rozier. Rodney Hood didn’t take a shot from the field in 11 minutes, while Larry Nance Jr. was scoreless and Jordan Clarkson didn’t play.
  • The Nets’ first-rounder the Cavaliers acquired in the Kyrie Irving trade will strengthen their position whether LeBron James stays or not, contends Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. The Cavs will have 14 of their 17 players under contract for next season if James returns, but they have minimal guarantees beyond that, which will make rebuilding easier if it becomes necessary. Vardon suggests the team might try to trade Kevin Love again this summer and speculates that the Hornets could be interested in the No. 8 pick as a way to part with Kemba Walker‘s contract.
  • A podcast on Cleveland.com examines whether James’ future with the organization is tied to how the team performs in the conference finals.

Finalists For NBA Awards Announced

The top three finalists for each of this year’s NBA awards are being released on tonight’s TNT pre-game show. The trophies will be presented June 25 at the league’s official awards show.

Here’s an ongoing list that we will update as the candidates are announced, along with links to our staff’s picks for each honor:

Rookie of the Year

Hoops Rumors Analysis: ROY

Most Improved Player

Hoops Rumors Analysis: MIP

Sixth Man of the Year

Hoops Rumors Analysis: Sixth Man

Coach of the Year

  • Dwane Casey (Raptors)
  • Quin Snyder (Jazz)
  • Brad Stevens (Celtics)

Hoops Rumors Analysis: COY

Defensive Player of the Year

Hoops Rumors Analysis: DPOY

Most Valuable Player

Hoops Rumors Analysis: MVP

Sixers Will Pursue Top Free Agents

Luxury tax concerns won’t scare the Sixers away from chasing elite talent this summer, relays Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

LeBron James tops the list of targets and is rumored to be considering Philadelphia as a possible destination. GM Brian Colangelo estimates the team will have about $25MM in cap room, but more could be opened to meet James’ demand for a maximum deal starting around $35MM a year.

“I think the bar is very high for us in terms of who we are going to put on this team,” said Sixers co-managing partner Josh Harris. “But on the other hand, for a certain small number of players, like we are going to go after them hard. People have asked me about the luxury tax. I don’t have any problem spending for good players.”

Pompey shares a few other notes about the Sixers’ offseason:

  • The franchise is planning to pursue Oklahoma City’s Paul George as well as James. George has expressed a desire to play in Los Angeles, but could be swayed by the young talent in place in Philadelphia. His defense and outside shooting would make him an attractive fit alongside Ben Simmons.
  • The Sixers will make a play for Spurs star Kawhi Leonard if he becomes available in trade. Leonard has a good relationship with coach Brett Brown, but Pompey cites the risk of trading for him without a guarantee that he will sign an extension. Leonard can opt out of a $20.1MM salary next summer.
  • Creating room for a max contract means renouncing the rights to free agents J.J. Redick, Amir Johnson, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova. The Sixers could try to bring them back with the mid-level exception and minimum contracts, but they may all get better offers elsewhere. Redick signed a one-year, $23MM deal to come to Philadelphia last summer and is probably seeking a longer arrangement at age 33. Pompey expects him to get an offer in the $12MM to $15MM range. Johnson, 31, will also be searching for a long-term contract.

Sixers Notes: Probably LeBron James, McConnell, Fultz

Sixers head coach Brett Brown made it very clear that the team could benefit from acquiring a high-level free agent as they accelerate their title-contention timeline. That, Derek Bodner of The Athletic writes, probably means one LeBron James, though tampering rules prevented Brown from saying that outright.

The Sixers coach spoke in a press conference after his team’s exit from the second-round of the playoffs, saying that he believes the organization is an appealing landing spot.

Given that the dynamic tandem of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons wasn’t enough to guide the Sixers into the Eastern Conference Finals, the club is ready and willing to add the necessary reinforcements to make a genuine title run.

I’m not here to tell names,” Brown said in regard to the type of player the Sixers will pursue. “To me, the answer becomes clear. […] It’s true though, right? I mean, like, we don’t have to turn this into calculus. It’s quite clear.

There’s more out of Philly this evening:

  • After head coach Brett Brown spoke of attracting a high-level free agent this summer, general manager Bryan Colangelo clarified that the organization needs to add high-level talent in general, which could come in the form of a trade or internal development, Derek Bodner of The Athletic tweets.
  • There’s no denying that T.J. McConnell‘s future with the Sixers will be impacted by Markelle Fultz‘s growth as a player. “Markelle is a special player, that’s not a lie,” McConnell told Sarah Todd of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “When he plays at the level that they drafted him to play at, if there’s a spot for me, great; if not, I’m not really sure what I can do about that. Unfortunately, that’s out of my hands. But I’d love to be here.
  • The most likely draft-and-stash player to join the Sixers next season is 2017 second-round pick Jonah Bolden out of Australia, The Athletic’s Derek Bodner tweets. The power forward played for Maccabi Tel Aviv in EuroLeague this season.
  • Unsurprisingly, Bryan Colangelo said that he has no regrets about trading up in the 2017 draft to select Markelle Fultz. Derek Bodner of The Athletic tweets that Colangelo doesn’t have an ounce of buyer’s remorse.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Belinelli, McConnell, Fultz

Asked on Thursday about the possibility of recruiting LeBron James to the Sixers this summer, Joel Embiid hesitated and requested clarity on the NBA’s tampering rules before ultimately telling reporters to ask him again on July 1, the first day of the 2018/19 NBA league year.

Still, while Embiid wasn’t willing to commit specifically to helping the 76ers pursue the summer’s top free agent, he did say in general terms that he’s very open to selling players on Philadelphia, as Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer details.

“I’ll do whatever this team needs me to do,” Embiid said of recruiting free agents, per Pompey. “I feel like I’m the leader. If the team needs me to recruit somebody, I’ll be here. I’ll be doing that. … I want to win. I feel like any of those guys that they want to go after that’s going to help us win, I’ll be right here helping them.”

Here’s more out of Philadelphia:

  • Count veteran sharpshooter Marco Belinelli among the free-agents-to-be who has interest in returning to Philadelphia next season. In a post on Twitter, Belinelli tells fans that he “trusted the process since day one” and would like to continue wearing a Sixers jersey.
  • T.J. McConnell indicated on Thursday that he expects the Sixers to pick up his inexpensive team option for 2018/19 (Twitter link via Kevin Kinkead of Crossing Broad). While that $1.6MM option would be a great bargain for the club, it’s not a mortal lock to be exercised — picking it up would put McConnell on track for unrestricted free agency in 2019, while the Sixers could safely lock him up to a multiyear deal this summer by turning down the option and making him a restricted free agent. (Update: Bryan Colangelo confirmed the Sixers will exercise McConnell’s option.)
  • After a rookie season in which he appeared in just 14 regular season games and three postseason contests, Markelle Fultz may be a candidate to play in Summer League for the 76ers this July. Keith Pompey explores that possibility in a story for The Philadelphia Inquirer.
  • ESPN’s Zach Lowe took an in-depth and interesting look at how the Sixers’ analytics department informs many of the club’s rotation and lineup decisions.

David Fizdale Notes: Assistants, Reactions, More

With David Fizdale and the Knicks in agreement on a four-year contract that will make the former Grizzlies coach the new head man in New York, Fizdale will now be tasked with filling out his coaching staff.

Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com recently suggested that Fizdale could recruit some of his old Grizzlies assistants to join him elsewhere, and Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News agrees with that assessment, tweeting that a list of potential Knicks assistants should start with Bob Bender, Keith Smart, and Nick Van Exel.

Meanwhile, Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype attempts to identify a few more candidates to join the Knicks as assistants, including Juwan Howard, who spent plenty of time with Fizdale in Miami.

Here are a few more items related to the Knicks’ decision to hire Fizdale:

  • An NBA source tells Marc Berman of The New York Post that the Knicks are prepared to open cap room this summer in the event that LeBron James shows any interest in heading to New York. While Fizdale has a good relationship with James and it may technically be possible for the Knicks to create cap space, that scenario is an extreme long shot. As Mitch Lawrence of Forbes writes, the Knicks hope Fizdale’s popularity among NBA players with help them in free agency, but they’re probably looking ahead at least to the 2019 market.
  • Before he accepted a four-year offer from the Knicks, Fizdale turned down a four-year offer from the Suns to become their new head coach, tweets Michael Scotto of The Athletic.
  • There has been no shortage of praise for the Knicks’ decision to go with Fizdale. As Marc Berman of The New York Post relays, ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups referred to Fizdale as the “best coach on the market,” while Jalen Rose called him the “right fit” for the Knicks. Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post agrees that Fizdale is the right man for the job, and Enes Kanter told Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic that he likes the ex-Grizzlies coach “a lot.”
  • Still, not everyone is bullish on the Knicks’ hire. Dan Feldman of NBC Sports believes the optimism on Fizdale is misplaced, arguing that there are still too many issues within the Knicks’ organization to expect success from any new head coach.
  • Ian Begley of ESPN.com takes a look at the next steps for Fizdale and the Knicks as they attempt to turn the page on years of dysfunction.

Central Notes: Hill, Prunty, James, Porter

The Cavaliers got their first real payout from the George Hill acquisition during Game 7 against the Pacers on Sunday, Terry Pluto of the Cleveland Plain Dealer writes. Hill returned from a back injury to score 11 points in 19 minutes but his health remains an issue in the upcoming series against the Raptors, Pluto continues. Hill was a pricey acquisition from the Kings, as Cleveland picked up a contract that will pay the veteran point guard $20MM this season and $19MM next year.

In other news around the Central Division:

  • Interim Joe Prunty will be a candidate to retain the Bucks’ head coaching job but there will be an open, active search to fill that spot, Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports. There’s no timeline on the coaching search, but the Bucks will likely make a decision prior to the free agency period in July, Velazquez adds.
  • LeBron James run of seven straight Finals appearances will end abruptly in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Martin Rogers of the USA Today predicts. James’ heroics won’t be enough against the top seeded Raptors, who are better, younger, fresher, and more technically sound than Cleveland, Rogers adds.
  • Landing Michael Porter Jr. in the draft would be a best-case scenario for the Bulls, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun Times opines. Chicago wants to improve at the wing and Porter would fill that need as long as the medical reports on the Missouri freshman are positive, Cowley continues. The Bulls are not far enough along in their current rebuild to attract a top-level NBA wing player, so the draft is probably the best place to upgrade that area, according to Cowley.

Cavaliers Notes: LeBron, Hill, Hood

LeBron James may be facing a unique “win or leave home” scenario in tomorrow’s Game 7 with the Pacers, writes Tom Withers of The Associated Press. No matter when the Cavaliers’ season ends, speculation will immediately begin about James’ destination in free agency. Considering the heavy load he has carried for his team in the regular season and playoffs at age 33, James may be looking for a situation where he has more help.

After Friday’s loss in Indiana, James said he hasn’t given any consideration to free agency or the potential magnitude of Sunday’s contest.

“The thought that if we don’t play well that it will be my last game of the year will probably hit my mind,” James responded when asked about the possible end to a second era in Cleveland. “But I haven’t thought about that.” (Twitter link).

There’s more today out of Cleveland:

  • Count Marc Stein of the New York Times among the voices who expect James to leave the Cavaliers. In his weekly newsletter, Stein speculates that Philadelphia is the most likely destination for James, stating the Sixers have “growing behind-the-scenes confidence” that they can land this summer’s top free agent. He adds that the path to the NBA Finals remains easier in the East, which is why he expects James to pass on offers from the Lakers and Rockets.
  • Coach Tyronn Lue is “optimistic” that George Hill will be ready for Game 7, but his status may not be determined until game time, relays Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. Hill was able to participate in practice today and did extra shooting work afterward. “Moved around good today, played 5-on-5 with some of the guys and felt decent so just have to see how his back reacts after that,” Lue said. “Moved around pretty good, so we will see.” Hill has missed the past three games with back spasms.
  • Rodney Hood will draw on experience as he prepares for the second Game 7 of his career. In a video posted on the Cavaliers’ website, Hood reflects on going through the same thing with the Jazz last season when they topped the Clippers in a series-deciding game. “Last year’s Game 7 was on the road, so you know the type of atmosphere,” said Hood, who was acquired from Utah at the trade deadline. “It’s kind of different, but at the same time it’s win or go home. We don’t want our season to end, so we’ve got to come out ready to play. Play confident and I think we’ll be all right.”

Cavaliers Notes: LeBron, Calderon, Hill, Thompson

Only LeBron James can save the Cavaliers from an embarrassing first-round loss, writes Jason Lloyd of The Athletic. James’ teammates haven’t been providing much help during the first three games with Indiana, hitting just 41% of their open shots, one of the worst percentages among playoff teams. Lloyd notes that youngsters Jordan Clarkson and Rodney Hood and veterans Jeff Green and Kyle Korver are all struggling with their shots, and even coach Tyronn Lue admits that James’ supporting cast isn’t doing enough.

The dangers of an early exit are obvious, giving James more than two months to ponder whether he wants to return to a team that couldn’t get past the first round. Lloyd adds that several Cavs veterans told him in January that the team wasn’t good enough to compete for a title and they didn’t expect it to be by June. If they turn out to be right, it could make James’ next decision a lot easier.

There’s more this morning out of Cleveland:

  • The Cavaliers will start Jose Calderon at point guard if George Hill is unable to go tonight, relays Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com. Hill is listed as questionable with back spasms, tweets ESPN’s Dave McMenamin, and will receive treatment prior to the game. Hill, who had an MRI Saturday, first hurt his back in Game 1, then aggravated it chasing a loose ball Friday night. Lue chose not to put Calderon into a “tough spot” in the fourth quarter after not playing all game, Pluto adds, which meant James never got a break in the second half. He is averaging more minutes than anyone through the first three games of the playoffs.
  • Lue plans to give backup center Tristan Thompson a greater role in tonight’s game, Lloyd tweets. Thompson played just two minutes at the end of Game 1 and hasn’t gotten off the bench since. However, Lue made similar comments before the past two games, then elected not to use Thompson at all.
  • Larry Nance Jr. is chronicling his first playoff experience in a postseason blog for NBA.com. “I haven’t been surprised by anything so far,” he wrote. “I knew it was going to be a bunch of guys flying around, playing hard – and it’s been exactly that. It’s just, a couple of shots here and a couple there fall differently and it’s a completely different series. But that’s Playoff basketball.”