LeBron James

Central Notes: Cavs, Bradley, LaVine

The Cavaliers are essentially playing without a true point guard, as both Isaiah Thomas and Derrick Rose are out with injuries and Jose Calderon has been relegated to the bench, averaging only 6.7 MPG. Lately the Cavs have been using Iman Shumpert as their starting point guard, with LeBron James handling ball-handling duties as well.

However, according to a team press release, the Cavs will now also be without Shumpert for at least the next 5-7 days. Shumpert left last night’s game against the Clippers in the first half with left knee soreness. He was examined and did not return.

As first reported by Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com, the Cavs will likely recall two-way player John Holland from the Canton Charge to replace Shumpert on the Cavs’ active roster. According to VardonDwyane Wade could also see his role at point guard increase after he filled in admirably during the Cavs’ come from behind victory against the Clippers last night.

There’s more from Cleveland and the rest of the Central Division:

  • As detailed by Chris Fedor of Cleveland.comKyle Korver has become an important centerpiece of the Cavaliers’ line-up so far this season. Perhaps most telling is James’ comparison of Korver to former teammate and 10-time NBA All-Star Ray Allen. “You’ve got two of the greatest shooters to ever play this game,” James said. “There’s a lot of similarities in their approach… they take that craft, that marksmanship very seriously.
  • In another piece for Cleveland.com, Fedor analyzes how James is beginning to accept the challenge of defending the opposing team’s best offensive player during crunch time. In the fourth quarter of the Cavs’ recent victories against the Knicks and the Clippers, James was the primary defender in the fourth quarter against both Kristaps Porzingis and Blake Griffin.
  • Avery Bradley is slowing becoming one of the best two-way guards in the NBA, writes Rod Beard of The Detroit News. Bradley is averaging career-bests in PPG (17.8) and 3P% (45.2%) this season and Stan Van Gundy has been impressed. “He came in with the respect based on what he had done, but it grows a lot more when you’re out here every day and see the way he goes to work.” The Pistons are currently tied for 2nd place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 10-5.
  • The Bulls’ Zach LaVine is expected to be cleared for practice on Monday, tweets K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune. LaVine, who has not yet played for the Bulls this season after being traded from the Timberwolves as part of the Jimmy Butler trade, has been out with a torn ACL since February.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Simmons, Hinkie

While Joel Embiid has attracted much of the attention following a career night on Wednesday, it could be Sixers forward Ben Simmons who ends up changing the NBA, Mike Sielski of The Inquirer writes.

The scribe writes that the 2016 first-overall pick is coasting to the Rookie of the Year Award with averages of 17.9 points, 9.2 rebounds and 7.7 assists per game. At the same time, the Sixers rookie is as marketable off the court as he is versatile on it.

Beyond all that, however, Sielski writes that Simmons’ openness about how pointless and unnecessary he feels the one-and-done rule preventing 18-year-olds from entering the NBA Draft is could add to his lasting impact on the league itself.

There’s more from the Sixers tonight:

  • The Process worked, Victor Mather of the New York Times writes. Mather breaks down the years-long, Sam Hinkie-led roster rebuild for the uninitiated.
  • Excitement around Joel Embiid grew ever so slightly this week as a stat-filling career best provided a glimpse into what could possibly be the Sixers’ future. That’s conditional, Sam Amick of USA Today writes, on if the big man can consistently stay on the court.
  • There have been no shortage of takes that LeBron James would be wise to join the Sixers via free agency next summer. Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype writes that Philly could punish the Warriors in the paint with James on board.

Cavaliers Notes: Thomas, James, Love, Thompson

Isaiah Thomas discusses his injury, the long recovery process, his trade to Cleveland and much more in a new docu-series on The Players Tribune, writes Sam Amick of USA Today. Titled “The Book of Isaiah II,” it will trace his experiences from the 2017 playoffs through the present, but the part that should most interest Cavaliers fans is Thomas’ rehabilitation of his injured hip. January 1 has been floated as a possible return date, but Thomas is hoping to make it earlier.

“This is what I live for,” he said. “Every time something happens in my career, I always bounce back and it’s bigger than anything anybody ever thought. And this is just going to be the same thing. I’m excited about the opportunity. I’m excited to be able to be on this stage playing and battling with the best player in the world. … I’m ready for all that, and I’m preparing right now for all of that, and I can’t wait.”

There’s more news out of Cleveland:

  • The agent for LeBron James says the chance to compete for a title should drive his client’s decision when he becomes a free agent next summer, relays Dan Feldman of NBC Sports. “For anywhere – not Los Angeles, not Miami, not Detroit, Milwaukee – I think for LeBron, and for most athletes, the most important thing is about winning,” Rich Paul said in an interview on The Herd. “At his level, it should be. It should be about winning at his point in his career.” He noted that Cleveland has been very successful since James’ return, with three straight trips to the NBA Finals.
  • The Cavaliers should ask James directly about his plans for the future and explore a trade if he’s not fully committed to Cleveland, suggests Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders. James has a contract provision that allows him to reject any deal, but Kyler believes it would be wiser to address the situation now than to have to launch another rebuilding project if James leaves again.
  • Cleveland needs to find an athletic swingman who can guard multiple positions and would be willing to trade Kevin Love or Tristan Thompson to obtain one, according to Chris Mannix of The Vertical. However, Mannix says that type of player isn’t on the market right now, with the Hawks’ Kent Bazemore being the closest available version. Mannix speculates that the Cavs would move any asset except James or the Nets’ unprotected first-rounder in the right deal, but nothing is close at the moment.

Cavs, LBJ Attempted To Add Jonathon Simmons In Free Agency

Jonathon Simmons believes he can be an elite player in the league and that mindset forced him to say no to LeBron James when the four-time MVP attempted to bring him to Cleveland.

“I even talked to LeBron James over the phone, and he was like, ‘We want you in Cleveland.’ And I said, ‘No, I want to play against you.’ I want to be able to play against elite guys and be able to, in a couple of years down the line, be just where they are,” Simmons said (via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel).

Salary also played a role in turning down the opportunity to join the defending Eastern Conference champs. “It wasn’t enough money, anyway. I have a family. I expressed that to him, which he kind of already knew. He said, ‘I respect that and I’ll see you soon,’” he added.

Cleveland has been over the salary cap since its first offseason with James back in town and because of cap constraints, the franchise was limited in what it could offer free agents this past summer. The most the Cavs could have offered Simmons was the taxpayer’s mid-level exception — it’s worth roughly $5.2MM, and the club used about half of it to sign Cedi Osman. Any deal with Simmons would also have come with serious tax implications for the Cavs since the team is a repeat offender.

Simmons, who’s been a solid fantasy basketball option this season, inked a three-year, $20MM contract with the Magic in July. He’s played 25.3 minutes per game this season and he owns a 25.5% usage percentage, a figure that ranks second on the team.

Atlantic Rumors: Johnson, LeBron, Stauskas, Raptors

Sixers veteran big man Amir Johnson isn’t pouting about sitting out the team’s loss to the Warriors on Saturday, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. Johnson, who signed a one-year, $11MM contract in the offseason, was actually appreciative that coach Brett Brown forewarned him that he would not play for the first time this season.  “I can’t do anything but respect having a coach come up to you and letting you know when you are going to get ready,” Johnson told Pompey. “With me being a vet, I always stay ready.” Johnson and Richaun Holmes are sharing time as center Joel Embiid‘s backups. Johnson isn’t concerned how his lack of playing time could impact him in the free agent market next summer, Pompey adds.

In other news around the Atlantic Division:

  • Cavaliers forward LeBron James wasn’t criticizing rookie guard Frank Ntilikina but rather taking a potshot at former Knicks president Phil Jackson with his comments regarding Mavs rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr., according to ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin. James said over the weekend that Smith “should be a Knick,” referring to Smith going one pick after the Knicks selected Ntilikina. James clarified his remarks on Monday, emphasizing he didn’t mean to disparage Ntilikina’s ability. Ntilikina still apparently took offense to James’ comments, giving the perennial All-Star a shove during their teams’ game on Monday night, the Associated Press’ Brian Mahoney tweets.
  • The Sixers will be without backup guard Nik Stauskas for at least a week. He’s out with a sprained right ankle, Pompey tweets, and will be reevaluated in 7-10 days. That leave the Sixers a little thin in the backcourt. Jerryd Bayless is out indefinitely with a wrist injury.
  • The Raptors’ offensive issues have led to poor transition defense, as Doug Smith of the Toronto Star notes. The Raptors have made just 33.5% of their 3-point attempts while hoisting up an average of 31.1 per game. That leads to long rebounds and poor floor balance, a major reason why the Raptors rank 27th by allowing an average of 13.4 fast-break points per game, Smith adds.

Knicks Notes: LeBron, Smith Jr., Cauley-Stein, Lee

LeBron James offered an assessment of the Knicks’ draft strategy after Saturday’s game in Dallas, relays Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. impressed James with 21 points, five rebounds, seven assists, two steals and two blocks. The Cavaliers star told reporters after the game that Smith “should be a Knick,” indicating that New York should have taken him instead of Frank Ntilikina, who was selected one pick earlier.

“He’s an unbelievable talent [with] athleticism,” said James. “He’s very poised to be his age, can shoot the ball, penetrate. He’s only going to get better and better with the opportunity that he’s getting here. Dallas got a good one. I’ve been knowing that. I’ve been with him for so long now. I’ve been knowing his talent level.”

James is sure to be asked to expand on those comments when the Cavaliers visit Madison Square Garden Monday. MacMahon suggests the statements were part of a long-running feud with former Knicks president Phil Jackson, who angered James last year by using the word “posse” to describe his associates. The Knicks came to Ntilikina’s defense, with Enes Kanter tweeting, “Nope!! We love what we got…Thanks!!!”

There’s more this morning out of New York:

  • The Knicks received a better draft grade from Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein, who told Howie Kussoy of The New York Post that the organization made the right decision in 2015 when it passed on him to select Kristaps Porzingis. Cauley-Stein was labeled as the best defensive big man in the draft and had a pre-draft workout for the Knicks. The team opted for Porzingis at No. 4, and Cauley-Stein went to Sacramento two picks later. “I thought I had a pretty good chance of coming here, but they ended up picking the right guy,” Cauley-Stein said. “This league’s all about situations. I went to a situation where I’m playing behind the best center in the league [DeMarcus Cousins], or I could’ve gone to somewhere where they don’t have a guy, and now you’re the guy, and you’re getting all the touches. That helps a lot.”
  • Coach Jeff Hornacek has wanted Courtney Lee to shoot more often since he signed with the team in the summer of 2016, Kussoy writes in a separate story. The 10-year veteran posted a 20-point performance Saturday night and is making a case to be the team’s second option. “He shot the shots he was supposed to,” Hornacek said. “He didn’t need to be wide open. He’s a great shooter. He can shoot it with guys in his face. That helps spread the court.”
  • Hornacek is an overlooked factor in the Knicks’ 7-5 start, according to Ian Begley of ESPN. He has the team sharing the ball, improving from 23rd to seventh in assist ratio, and working together on defense. “I think he’s done a great job,” said Jarrett Jack, who became a starter after New York lost its first three games. “I know for me, as someone who always has to be a kind of extension of the coach, me and him have been able to kind to develop a relationship where I can kind of read what he wants on the court and I can kind of relay it to the guys.” 

Cavs Notes: James’ Impact, James’ Ambitions, Monroe

The impact that LeBron James has on the basketball world goes beyond the court. The superstar has helped a number of teammates land significant paydays, as outlined by Jason Lloyd of The Athletic.

[James] definitely puts you in position to be successful to showcase what you’re great at and he enhances it on the bigger stage,” teammate Tristan Thompson, one of the chief beneficiaries of James’ impact said. “Eight and eight on a championship team is worth more than eight and eight on a .500 team or a team that doesn’t make the playoffs. Of course, that’s definitely a huge factor.

Beyond Thompson, Lloyd lists players like J.R. Smith (who is represented by the same agency as James and Thompson) but also Matthew Dellavedova, whose scrappy play under the postseason spotlight landed him a $38MM contract.

If we didn’t go to the Finals, I don’t get that playoff experience,” Dellavedova said. “I think the effect he has on everybody — he impacts so much that people don’t even think of. I think he has a role in a lot of things. An impact on everything.”

There’s more from the Cavs:

  • In the same feature at The Athletic, James opens up to Lloyd about the idea of owning an NBA franchise in the future. There’s no guarantee that opportunity comes in Cleveland, however. “To be an owner of any team would be crazy. If this thing opened up and I’m in a position financially, and I’ve got the right team around me, obviously. But who’s to say Dan will [sell]?” James said.
  • It’ll take some time for Isaiah Thomas to get used to playing with LeBron James and the rest of the Cavaliers but he tells Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com that he’s well-suited to make that transition quicker than most. “Me being older, me knowing the game a little bit more and being a student of the game, I’m going to be able to adjust quicker than somebody else could,” Thomas said.
  • The Cavs aren’t interested in making a move for Sixers big man Jahlil Okafor but their interest in Greg Monroe would be higher, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com says in a question-and-answer with readers.

 

Central Notes: Pacers, Drummond, James

The Pacers won the Paul George trade, even if the Thunder happened to win it as well, Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star writes. The scribe, who memorably critiqued Indiana’s handling of the George saga prior to the deal, says that he didn’t initially appreciate Kevin Pritchard‘s haul for their disgruntled star.

While it seems likely that Victor Oladipo won’t end up averaging the 23.8 points per game he’s averaged through eight games so far this season, he’s a more valuable player than what he came across as during his lone season with the Thunder. It’s reasonable to expect the Pacers two-guard to continue to post a scoring average in excess of the 17.9 points per game he posted in his career-high season with the desolate 2014/15 Magic.

Of course the component that makes or breaks the deal will be Domantas Sabonis. Fortunately for the Pacers, the 21-year-old big man has looked excellent averaging 13.1 points, 11.1 rebounds and 3.0 assists per game in just 27.1 minutes.

Doyel compliments Pritchard for winning a trade that seemed unwinnable, considering the lack of leverage the Pacers were left with after George’s agent leaked that George wanted out.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Pistons have had success running Andre Drummond and Reggie Jackson in the pick-and-roll. Lately, Rod Beard of The Detroit News writes, the big man has added a new tool, the ability to take his man off the dribble, giving the club another option to utilize on offense.
  • The business partner of Cavaliers forward LeBron James – long-time friend Maverick Carter – says that location won’t influence where James signs as a free agent next summer. “Could he sell a few more sneakers if he was in a gigantic market like Boston, Chicago, New York, or L.A.? Maybe. But not as much as if he wins. What matters the most is if he wins. When you win as an athlete that matters the most,” Carter said in an interview on The Rich Eisen Show (via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com).
  • After vastly improving his free-throw shooting over the offseason, Pistons center Andre Drummond should look to get to the line more, Ansar Khan of MLive writes. Historically terrible from the free-throw line, Drummond has shot 70% from the line in 2017/18. He could now benefit from attacking the basket more aggressively.

Central Notes: Mirotic, Cavs, Rose, Tolliver

Bulls power forward Nikola Mirotic will not have surgery on the facial fractures he suffered when teammate Bobby Portis punched him, team vice president of basketball operations John Paxson told George Ofman of WBBMNewsradio (Twitter link). Mirotic will have a light workout at the team’s practice facility on Tuesday, Ofman adds.

Mirotic was expected to miss 4-6 weeks in the aftermath of the altercation, but this development suggests a four-week absence is more likely. There has been speculation that the Bulls’ power forward would be willing to waive his no-trade clause to escape the tense situation but he cannot be traded until January 15.

In other news around the Central Division:

  • Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue believes some of his players are too timid because of LeBron James presence, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com relays. Lue expressed those feelings after an embarrassing loss to the Knicks on Sunday. “Guys have got to understand that LeBron, he’s a giving person, he’s a giving player,” Lue said. “You’ve got to come in and play your game and we’ll adjust. I think a lot of times we defer to LeBron or guys are scared to be aggressive because of that.” Vardon speculates that Lue was referring mainly to former Celtics forward Jae Crowder, who’s averaging 7.3 PPG on 6.6 shots per game.
  • Lue said that re-inserting Derrick Rose into the starting lineup was an easy one, as he expressed to Vardon and other media members. Rose scored 15 points on Sunday in his return from an ankle injury that cost him four games. “I thought those first two games we were really playing well, and especially defensively,” Lue said. “After that it’s been tough trying to maneuver guys in and out of the point guard position.”
  • Reserve power forward Anthony Tolliver has carved out a defensive role in the Pistons’ rotation, Rod Beard of the Detroit News notes. Though coach Stan Van Gundy has said publicly that second-year forward Henry Ellenson deserves steady playing time, Van Gundy has turned to Tolliver to guard the Knicks’ Kristaps Porzingis and the Clippers’ Blake Griffin in recent games, Beard adds. Tolliver is in his second stint with the team after signing a one-year, $3.3MM free agent contract during the summer.

Cavs Notes: LeBron, Nets’ Pick, Rose, Green

While the LeBron James rumor mill hasn’t really picked up in earnest yet, there has already been plenty of speculation about where he’ll sign when he becomes a free agent in 2018, and it’s a storyline that figures to pick up steam over the course of the season.

Over at SI.com, Richard Deitsch takes an early look at James’ options, soliciting opinions from basketball writers like Howard Beck of Bleacher Report, Michael Lee of The Vertical, Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times, Candace Buckner of The Washington Post, and more. Asked to predict LeBron’s 2018 landing spot, Beck stresses that no one knows yet where the four-time MVP will play next season, but the group overwhelmingly votes in favor of the Lakers, with the Cavaliers as the runner-up.

Meanwhile, Bobby Marks of ESPN (Insider link) also explores the LeBron sweepstakes in a roundabout way, examining which clubs will have the cap flexibility next summer to make a run at a maximum-salary free agent. While teams like the Sixers, Mavericks, Hawks, and Bulls project to have significant cap room, no team will have more room than the Lakers, who could potentially open up two max-salary slots with a little help.

Here’s more on the Cavs:

  • After losing to the Nets on Wednesday night, James points out to Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com that Brooklyn’s 2018 first-rounder – currently held by the Cavs – “might not even be that good of a pick.” Given the Nets’ record over the last couple seasons, their unprotected 2018 first-rounder was considered the crown jewel of the Cavs’ trade with the Celtics this summer, but Brooklyn is off to a good start this season, with a 3-2 record. “We’re running around here worrying about getting the Brooklyn pick, they might want our pick,” said head coach Tyronn Lue.
  • The Cavaliers are giving Derrick Rose what the Knicks didn’t last season, according to Alex Squadron of The New York Post, who explains that Lue’s offensive system gives the former MVP far more freedom than he ever had in the triangle. “Coach Lue and the team have been doing a great job of letting me play the way that I want to play,” Rose said. “So I can’t complain at all.”
  • Lue hopes to get Rose – who has been sidelined with an ankle injury – back in the lineup on Saturday, per Ashish Mathur of AmicoHoops.net.
  • Moves like the Kyrie Irving trade and the Dwyane Wade signing overshadowed the Cavs’ offseason signing of Jeff Green, but the team is relying upon the veteran forward to be a defensive stopper early in the season, as Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com details.
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