LeBron James

Cavaliers Notes: James, Anthony, Cousins, Wade

Don’t expect a firm answer from LeBron James tomorrow when Media Day questions turn to his future, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. Monday will mark the first time the Cavaliers star has spoken to reporters since Game 5 of the NBA Finals and the first time since rumors emerged that he has plans to join the Lakers as a free agent next July. LeBron will probably tell the media that he hasn’t made up his mind, which Vardon believes is true.

The talk about LeBron’s next decision will overshadow other issues surrounding the team heading into training camp, such as the condition of Isaiah Thomas‘ hip, the new personnel on hand, the chances of Dwyane Wade coming aboard after a buyout from the Bulls and whether the organization plans to keep or trade the unprotected first-rounder it got from Brooklyn. But Cavaliers fans had better get used to it because LeBron’s future is going to eclipse everything all season.

There’s more news out of Cleveland:

  • The Knicks were demanding a first-round pick from the Cavaliers in exchange for Carmelo Anthony, Vardon writes in a separate story. Anthony included Cleveland among the three teams he was willing to waive his no-trade clause to join, but the Cavs felt the price was too high.
  • The Cavaliers are listening to offers for the Brooklyn pick, but it’s unlikely a deal will involve either of the Pelicans’ big men, according to Sam Amico of Amicohoops. Rumors have been circulating about DeMarcus Cousins, who will be a free agent next summer, but Amico says the teams haven’t discussed a Cousins trade and the Cavs may not even be interested. Also, Amico hears that New Orleans won’t trade Anthony Davis under any circumstances.
  • Amico believes Wade is headed to Cleveland, possibly before the season begins. He and the Bulls are ready to part ways, and Amico sees no reason why the buyout should be a lengthy process. He passes along a few other roster details in the same piece, stating that it’s unlikely that Kay Felder or Edy Tavares earns a spot, although both could wind up with the team’s G League affiliate in Canton; most scouts like Ante Zizic, who was acquired in the Kyrie Irving trade, more than Cedi Osman; and the Cavs and Rockets “were at the one-yard line, ready to punch it in” on an Iman Shumpert trade this summer.

Central Notes: James, Jefferson, Stephenson, Wade

LeBron James‘ future in Cleveland could be tied to the Brooklyn Nets’ performance this season, writes Harvey Araton of The New York Times. The value of the Nets’ unprotected first-rounder that the Cavaliers received in the Kyrie Irving trade won’t be known until much later in the season. If Brooklyn finishes last in the league again, the Cavs will have a 25% shot at the number one selection and their choice of players such as Michael Porter Jr., Luka Doncic and Marvin Bagley.

Although rumors have been persistent that James will be headed to the Lakers next summer, Araton speculates that scenario might change if the Cavaliers are in position to add another franchise player. If Isaiah Thomas returns to All-Star form after his hip injury, Jae Crowder improves the perimeter defense and James returns to the Finals for the eighth straight year, he might have a difficult time saying good-bye to Cleveland.

There’s more news from the Central Division:

  • Pacers center Al Jefferson lost a significant amount of weight in preparation for his second season in Indiana, relays Scott Agness of VigilantSports. The 32-year-old opted for a vegetarian diet after posting his worst season in more than a decade, averaging 8.1 points and 4.2 rebounds in 66 games. “He looks incredible, man,” said teammate Myles Turner“I think he’s dropped 40 pounds. When you see him you’ll see [how] he’s really trimmed down a lot. He’s moving well, he’s running the floor.”
  • The Pacers are counting on youthful energy to carry them through the season after most of the organization’s veteran presence was lost over the summer, relays Mark Montieth of NBA.com. In addition to Paul George, who was traded to Oklahoma City, Indiana cut ties with Jeff TeagueRodney Stuckey, Monta Ellis, Aaron Brooks and Lavoy Allen. “Everybody wants to talk about the whole Paul thing, but we’ve blocked all that out,” said Glenn Robinson III. “We’re looked at as an underdog team, but we’re coming in very hungry. I’m excited for this team. It seems we all have our minds in a great place and are ready to get better.”
  • Lance Stephenson, who returned to the Pacers in March, will be used as a sixth man, Montieth adds in the same piece.
  • Bulls vice president John Paxson and GM Gar Forman will meet with Dwyane Wade when he returns to Chicago to discuss his future with the team and a possible buyout, according to CSN Chicago. Paxson insists he and Forman were honest about their plans for the offseason during Wade’s exit meeting after the playoffs.

Celtics Notes: Irving, Ainge, Pierce, Morris

Kyrie Irving addressed the circumstances surrounding his desire to leave Cleveland during an appearance this morning on ESPN’s First Take (Twitter link). The All-Star point guard dismissed the idea that his trade demand was motivated by a desire to get away from LeBron James, according to a post from Chris Forsberg on ESPN Now. But Irving also told the hosts he didn’t inform James before making the request and doesn’t care if the Cavaliers star took it as a personal insult. “Why would I have to?” Irving responded to a question over whether he talked to James before meeting with owner Dan Gilbert.

Irving also discussed the loss of a potential “supermax” designated veteran extension by changing teams, saying “You can’t put a price on happiness,” relays ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (Twitter link). He responded to a question on whether he can win a title without James, first by saying “time will tell,” then “absolutely.”

There’s more today out of Boston:

  • President of basketball operations Danny Ainge may regret not trying harder to get Jimmy Butler from the Bulls when he was available, writes Shaun Powell of NBA.com in his season preview of the Celtics. He states that Ainge could have easily topped Minnesota’s offer and that Butler would have provided a greater upgrade than switching Isaiah Thomas for Irving. Powell speculates that Ainge was reluctant to give Thomas a max extension next summer considering his hip problems and his age.
  • Paul Pierce, who signed a one-day deal with the Celtics in July so he could retire in Boston, is sharing his knowledge with the organization’s younger players, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE. He has taken a particular interest in Jayson Tatum, the Celtics’ first-rounder, who has a skill set similar to Pierce’s. “I feel I can help out this young generation and impact that way,” said Pierce, who has landed a job as an ESPN analyst. “I can still talk about the game. I enjoy talking about the game, being around it; traveling to see games. It’s always going to be in my blood. It’s what I’ve been doing my whole life. So, it’s gonna be hard to completely pull me away from the game.”
  • Opening arguments were set to begin today in the felony assault trial for Marcus Morris and Markieff Morris, according to The Associated Press. The trial regarding a 2015 beating incident is expected to last 10 days and will conflict with the start of training camp. The Celtics acquired Marcus Morris from this Pistons this summer in a deal to free up cap room to sign Gordon Hayward.

Central Notes: Jackson, Wade, Bulls

One of the biggest factors that will influence the fate of the Pistons is just how well Reggie Jackson manages to bounce back after a disappointing 2016/17 campaign. The 27-year-old guard, Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press says, appears right on schedule following lingering knee issues from last season.

The technical term for Jackson’s knee issue is tendinosis, which Ellis describes as chronic tendinitis. As such, knee woes aren’t exactly new for the Pistons guard and he’s supposedly been impacted by them since he was drafted back in 2011. It was recovery from the platelet-rich plasma injection that he received last offseason, however, that set his 2016/17 campaign askew from the start.

A healthy Jackson is an incredibly potent weapon for the Pistons and Lang Green of Basketball Insiders reminds us that the playmaker averaged a staggering 17.6 points and 9.2 assists per game in his first half year with the club. Do the Pistons still hold Jackson in the same regard following last year’s disappointing results though? And how long will his leash be in 2017/18?

A healthy Jackson tends to inspire Andre Drummond and an enthusiastic Drummond can be a game-changer for a Pistons team that seemed to lack motivation last year. If Jackson can stay healthy and produce as he did when he earned his lofty contract extension back in the summer of 2015, we could very well see Detroit pick up where they left off at the end of 2015/16.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Bulls squandered Jimmy Butler and it has left the franchise a wreck, Dan Feldman of NBC Sports says in his review of the club’s offseason.
  • Time to bring out your tinfoil banana boat again — LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are working out together, Alex Tekip of ESPN writes. If the Bulls buy Wade out, he could join his former teammate on the Cavaliers.
  • The Pistons don’t have any mega-stars in an era that virtually requires them, Rod Beard of the Detroit News writes, suggesting their title outlook is dim. The league, he says, just isn’t what it used to be back in 2004, when Detroit last won a ring with no superstars.

Pacific Notes: LeBron, Warriors, Pachulia, Kerr

Numerous reports have suggested that LeBron James – who is set to hit free agency next season — is the Lakers‘ top target. While acquiring James alone would be great, pairing him with another elite talent is the goal and Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report examines who that ideal player could be.

Russell Westbrook and Paul George are the obvious two names. The California natives could both hit free agency; George is nearly certain to test the market after one season with the Thunder whereas his new teammate Westbrook has a maximum deal on the table. Whether Westbrook eventually decides to accept that deal will significantly impact the market.

Pincus also looks at bigger players, like DeMarcus Cousins, who could be paired with James in Los Angeles. However, the goal, for now, is to clear as much cap space possible; and Luol Deng‘s albatross of a deal is the biggest priority.

Check out other news around the Pacific Division:

Western Notes: Caldwell-Pope, Wolves, Bertans

The Lakers were motivated to sign shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope because he shares the same agent as LeBron James, sources indicated to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com. Caldwell-Pope was inked to a one-year, $18MM contract after the Pistons cut ties with the restricted free agent this summer. Rich Paul represents both Caldwell-Pope and James. Signing Caldwell-Pope allows the Lakers to keep the lines of communication open with Paul and show how they run their organization, among other benefits, McMenamin continues. James is expected to opt out of the final year of his contract next summer and become an unrestricted free agent.

In other nuggets regarding the Western Conference:

  • The Timberwolves will host some free agents this week, Darren Wolfson of KSTP tweets. Wolfson didn’t name the free agents who are visiting but added that the club has grown antsy waiting on decisions from free agents Shabazz Muhammad and Dante Cunningham. Muhammad is reportedly mulling a contract offer from the Lakers, while the Pelicans and Bucks are also pursuing Cunningham.
  • Spurs forward Davis Bertans suffered a finger injury in Latvia’s loss to Serbia during the Eurobasket tournament, Kurt Helin of NBCSports.com tweets. Bertans’ finger isn’t broken, according to X-rays, so it shouldn’t affect his status for the NBA’s regular season.
  • Kings assistant Elston Turner and his family were displaced from their suburban Houston home by Hurricane Harvey, Ailene Voison of the Sacramento Bee reports. Turner gives his account of evacuating his home and describes the havoc and damage caused by the hurricane. He’s been uplifted by the support of the Kings’ brass and coaches, Voison adds.

More Notes On Tampering Investigation

As we discussed yesterday, the Lakers were fined $500K by the NBA for tampering with 2018 free agent Paul George. Sports Illustrated’s Michael McCann quickly explored the penalty in detail, noting that the league in general has a “decidedly low-bar” for the prohibited act.

Considering the wording of the league’s constitution, there is no specific means of contact that’s permissible or not. Teams are, the constitution says, “forbidden from any kind of attempt to persuade” either individuals or team personnel, emphasis mine.

Another troublesome point of ambiguity McMann highlights is the fact that there need not be any proof that the tampering attempt actually swayed the individual, it’s solely the attempt that the league is concerned about.

All told, the Lakers have little choice but to pony up the cash for the fine but McMann doesn’t think that the penalty will dissuade teams from repeating the behavior in the future.

That’s not all we have about tampering this evening:

  • If you’ve heard the Pat Riley Heat/Knicks tampering example offered up as a precedent for the Lakers’ recent situation, note that there is one critical difference. Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets that the $1MM the Heat paid the Knicks in 1995 was a settlement and not a league-enforced penalty.
  • The Lakers may have bought themselves a year of contact with LeBron James‘s agent ahead of the 2018 free agency period, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes, and all it cost them was the $18MM they committed to another Rich Paul client, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
  • Don’t expect Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard to put up a fuss about the league’s ruling on the tampering investigation. “We accept the league’s findings,” he told Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times.
  • …do expect the Indiana media. Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star suggests that the relatively small fine is but a slap on the wrist for a Lakers franchise worth $3B. The scribe offers alternative penalties that he says would have had more of an impact.

Cavs Notes: Irving, LeBron, Goodyear, Gilbert

While he was fairly quiet up until word broke this week that the Celtics and Cavaliers had finally agreed on compensation in the Kyrie Irving blockbuster, the star point guard has issued some public comments on the deal since then. As Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com details, Irving published a video farewell to the Cavs and their fans on Thursday, thanking them for his time in Cleveland.

On Friday, the Celtics formally introduced Irving alongside Gordon Hayward, and the point guard was asked about his relationship with LeBron James (link via Vardon). While some of Irving’s comments during the press conference hinted that he wanted to get out from under LeBron’s shadow, he had nothing but praise for his former teammate when asked specifically about him, calling it “awesome” to have played with the future Hall-of-Famer: “I’d be telling you guys a lie if I didn’t tell you how much I learned from that guy.”

Here’s more on Irving, along with a few more Cavs notes:

  • In a piece for USA Today, Sam Amick examines how the Cavs’ organizational culture and stability (or lack thereof) may have contributed to Irving’s desire to head elsewhere, not to mention the uncertainty about James’ future in Cleveland.
  • Within an article about the larger issue of tampering in the NBA, Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com notes that it would likely be futile for teams interested in signing James next summer to start courting him now, since LeBron “is known for wanting to have the control rather than be wooed.”
  • The Cavaliers’ agreement with Goodyear, the sponsor for the club’s jersey patches, is worth nearly $12MM annually, a league source tells McMenamin.
  • The Cavs recently scrapped plans for a $140MM renovation project to Quicken Loans Arena, prompting some speculation that owner Dan Gilbert may be interested in moving the franchise. Gilbert addressed those “silly” rumors on Thursday, assuring fans that he’ll never move the Cavs out of Cleveland (Twitter link).
  • Sources outside the Cavs organization believe Gilbert could consider selling the team within the next few years, but a team spokesman said no thought has been given to a sale, per Joe Vardon.

Cavs Notes: Irving Trade, LeBron, Crowder, IT

The Cavaliers and Celtics were able to complete the Kyrie Irving trade before Thursday morning’s deadline after Boston agreed to send an additional pick to Cleveland. While Boston did well to draw the line at a future second-round pick, it’s not a great look for the Cavs, who let the saga play out very publicly for more than a week before settling for a 2020 selection that may not even fall in the top 45.

Although the move represents the first major trade completed by new Cavs GM Koby Altman, it was team owner Dan Gilbert who was calling the shots on the deal, multiple sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, who says that Gilbert’s “fingerprints were all over” this week’s drama. The Cavs owner, who publicly questioned the Pacers for their return in the Paul George deal, was very aware of the public perception of the Cavs’ return for Irving, O’Connor adds.

According to O’Connor, the Nets‘ first-round pick and Jae Crowder were the assets the Cavs management valued most in the swap, but LeBron James and head coach Tyronn Lue cooled somewhat on the trade when they learned that Isaiah Thomas could miss part of the 2017/18 season. The front office had sold James and Lue on the deal by making the case that Thomas and Crowder could help the club contend immediately, so Thomas’ health was a major concern, even if he wasn’t necessarily the centerpiece of the deal.

Here’s more out of Cleveland:

  • While O’Connor suggests in his piece that the Cavs are preparing for the possibility of LeBron signing elsewhere in 2018, we can count Kevin Durant among those who don’t believe the King will leave Cleveland again. As Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com details, Durant told Bill Simmons on his podcast this week that he can see James remaining with the Cavs for the rest of his career.
  • With the Irving deal done, former Cavs GM David Griffin, who was replaced this offseason by Altman, can envision the Cavs making another move before the trade deadline, as he said on NBA TV (h/t Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com). “One of the real blessings of this is Koby and his team don’t need to be done (trading) at this point,” Griffin said. “They can continue to try to build the team. The value-to-production of Jae Crowder and his contract are incredible. As you move closer to the trade deadline, the assets they’ve acquired may be able to be put to work again in continuing to improve the team. I think they clearly wanted to get some sustainability so that lottery pick was really important because in the absence of LeBron that’s the piece that helps them rebuild rather quickly.”
  • Dave McMenamin of ESPN.com takes a closer look at where the Cavs stand now that the Irving era is officially over in Cleveland, and wonders whether the deal will end up helping or hurting the club’s quest for a second title in the last three years.

Chris Crouse contributed to this post.

Cavs Weighing Options Following Thomas Physical

10:55pm: Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe tweets that a source close to him said the Cavs and Celtics would attempt a renegotiation before rescinding the deal, should it ultimately reach that point.

10:13 pm: Following the results of Isaiah Thomas‘ physical, the Cavaliers are “weighing their options” with completion of the Kyrie Irving trade, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Earlier this week, the Cavs and Celtics agreed to swap Irving for a package involving Thomas, despite the fact that the C’s guard was forced out of last spring’s postseason with a hip injury.

As is customary, the trade is contingent upon players passing physicals with their new teams and it’s here where things appear to be hitting a possible snag.

Per Celtics executive Mike Zarren in a question and answer on Boston’s official site: “A trade is not officially complete, and no player may suit up for his new team in a game or practice, until all players report to their new teams and pass a physical exam.”

Wojnarowski adds in another tweet that a source involved in the process says that the C’s and Cavs have found themselves in a “very sensitive situation.”

In a feature published earlier today, Bleacher Report’s Ric Bucher discussed the lingering impacts of Thomas’ hip injury. In July, the guard opted to let the injury heal without surgery but uncertainty about his recovery remains.

We all have the numbers when a guy gets hip surgery,” a  league executive told Bucher. “They’re not good. Now what if he’s not right and needs surgery anyway? That is not nearly the same trade.

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