LeBron James

Cavaliers Notes: Thomas, LeBron, Hill, Leonard

Isaiah Thomas believes the Cavaliers panicked when they sent him to the Lakers as part of a flurry of deals at the trade deadline, according to an ESPN story. Thomas, who was acquired from the Celtics in the offseason, played just 15 games for the Cavs before being sent to L.A.

“It was a tough situation I was being put in,” Thomas said. “It was — it was different. … It’s hard to get acclimated to a team halfway through the season. People don’t put in there that we had eight or nine new players. So it was basically a brand new team. … I’m in a new system. New team, new coach, new players. And then I’ve been off for seven months. So I got to get — individually, I got to for the most part get my rhythm back, get my timing back.”

Thomas, who will be a free agent this summer, said he has no hard feelings about his time in Cleveland and he is concentrating on his future with his new team. He added that he plans to “play my heart out and show the Lakers why I should be here long term.”

There’s more out of Cleveland:

  • LeBron James was revitalized by the trades because he knew he wouldn’t have to share the ball anymore with Thomas or Dwyane Wade, writes Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com. He adds that James prefers to control as much as he can, both on and off the court, and now has the freedom to initiate the offense any time he wants. Pluto has noticed a difference in James’ play and his on-court demeanor since he found out the trades were coming on the night before the deadline.
  • The addition of George Hill and Larry Nance Jr. has provided the defensive spark the Cavaliers needed, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com. The Cavs turned in one of their best performances of the season Saturday, holding the Grizzlies to 89 points while registering 13 steals and 35 points off 23 turnovers. “Obviously G. Hill’s hands, Larry’s length and athleticism allows us to kind of keep everything at bay,” James said. “Our league is all pick and roll. So when you’ve got a point guard and a center that can play two on two and the other three can kind of stay at bay, it helps out everybody.”
  • The Cavaliers would be very interested if the Spurs decide to part with star forward Kawhi Leonard, writes Sam Amico of AmicoHoops. Leonard reportedly has a strained relationship with the organization related to his lingering quad injury. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski revealed this week that Leonard has been medically cleared to play, but is choosing to sit out until the pain subsides. Amico speculates that Cleveland would be willing to give up the unprotected pick it owns from Brooklyn as the centerpiece of a deal for Leonard.

Cavaliers Notes: James, Future, Gudaitis

LeBron James is on pace to play in all 82 games of a regular season for the first time in his career. Cavaliers head coach Tyronn Lue feels that James’ leader mentality is driving him to set an example for his teammates, ESPN’s Dave McMenamin writes.

“I just think being the leader of this team, I don’t think he thinks he can take games off, because, you know, guys being hurt and going through a rough patch, and now new guys coming in,” Lue said. “So, I think he’s trying to lead and lead by example … I think we still got to be smart about the situation, but [the training staff] say he feels good.”

James continued his impressive season on Friday in a 112-89 win over the Grizzlies as he recorded his 11th triple-double of the year with 18 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists. Cleveland’s roster is revamped and James’ level of play has remained on par with the best of the game.

Check out other Cavaliers notes below:

  • The Cavaliers did win on Friday night but even in their losses, James seems to maintain a positive attitude. Cleveland lost 110-103 to the Wizards on Thursday but James said he likes the team’s direction, Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com writes. “I think we played well tonight, even though we lost,” James said. “I hate losing, obviously, but I think the way we played, the way we shared the ball. Defensively, we were flying around as well and those guys, they just played better than us tonight. I like the start, I like the direction we’re headed.”
  • The Cavaliers have invited Lithuanian big man Arturas Gudaitis to come to Cleveland for a tryout this summer, tweets basketball journalist Donatas Urbonas. Gudaitis, a 2015 second-round pick of the Kings, was sent to the Cavaliers as part of a three-team deal at the deadline. He’s currently with Olimpia Milano of the Italian LBA but his rights are owned by the Cavaliers.

Cavs Notes: James, Hill, Communication, Roster

LeBron James will hit free agency after the season and his next move has been – and will be – one of the biggest stories in basketball. Based on past and recent comments, Howard Beck of Bleacher Report examines the possibilities surrounding James’ third stint in free agency.

Most of Beck’s story focuses on James’ motives as he looks for his next NBA contract. With three championships to his credit, it’s possible LeBron will not choose his next solely based on his best chance to win a title. Other factors will be in play, such as James’ desire to play with his close friends — and fellow impending free agents — Carmelo Anthony, Chris Paul, and Dwyane Wade; lasting long enough to possibly play with or against his son; and establishing a media presence in a larger market. One major factor this summer will also be James’ strained relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, Beck writes.

“Dan Gilbert’s not going to do what it takes to keep him,” one source speculatively said to Beck. “Not a chance in hell he’s going to give him a no-trade clause, or let him dictate contract terms.”

James has publicly said that any reports of his intentions this summer are false unless they come directly from him.

Check out other Cavaliers news below:

  • Veteran George Hill was one of several players the Cavaliers acquired at the trade deadline as the team restructured the roster. Hill is happy to be back with a contending team that is in pursuit of a title, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com writes. “It’s a blessing,” Hill said. “I was in a tough situation. I thanked them for all they did, but I think my time there was done. To get another opportunity, not just to come and play but to possibly play for a championship is something that I’ve had early in my career going against him in Miami with the three-headed monster and the cat spoiling my summer. Now I get a chance to be a part of something special and get an opportunity to go to the Finals.”
  • With a huge chunk of the roster consisting of new talent, the Cavaliers are aware it will take time to integrate the new talent with the current crop, Fedor writes in a separate story.
  • After internal talks between front office personnel about a possible Kyrie Irving trade were relayed to Irving, it sealed his desire to be traded. For the future, the Cavaliers want to tighten up their communication channels to that private talks are not leaked, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes.

Pacific Notes: Jordan, LeBron, Harris, Cauley-Stein

The lack of teams with ample salary-cap space this summer will present a tough choice for Clippers center DeAndre Jordan, as Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer explains. Jordan has a player option of $24.1MM this summer and multiple league executives told O’Connor he probably wouldn’t receive an annual salary approaching that on the open market. Some of the teams that will have cap room, such as the Nets, Hawks and Sixers, aren’t looking to add a veteran center at a high salary, O’Connor continues. It’s plausible that Jordan will opt in and take his chances on the open market in 2019, O’Connor adds.

Also around the Pacific Division:

  • The lack of elite, established players on their current rosters will make it tough sell for the Lakers and Clippers to land LeBron James this summer, Marc Spears of The Undefeated opines. The Lakers could sign two major free agents this summer, but the Clippers don’t have that much cap room, Spears notes. The Clippers may have hurt their cause to sign a top free agent by trading away Blake Griffin in the first year of his long-term contract, Spears adds.
  • Forward Tobias Harris has been traded three times during his career and he’s taken the latest one in stride, as he told Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders. Harris was the top player acquired by the Clippers in the Griffin blockbuster. “My first trade from Milwaukee to Orlando was a situation where I just wanted to prove myself to the league,” Harris said. “When I was traded from Orlando to Detroit, it was a situation where I wanted to help the team get to the playoffs, and that’s similar to this one here, too.” 
  • Willie Cauley-Stein establishing his market value is among the storylines surrounding the Kings the remainder of the season, according to James Ham of NBCSports.com. Cauley-Stein has to emerge as the defensive stopper he was in college and improve his rebounding to earn an extension this offseason, Ham continues. The development of the De’Aaron FoxBogdan Bogdanovic backcourt and the need for Buddy Hield to become a playmaker are some of the other things to watch, Ham adds.

NBA Players Weigh In On 2018 Free Agency

With a big offeason looming once the 2017/18 NBA regular season comes to an end, several ESPN writers spoke to NBA players to get their predictions on where they expect some of this summer’s top free agents to land. In total, 48 players weighed in. Here are some highlights from the results of ESPN’s survey:

  • LeBron James is considered likely to return to the Cavaliers, with 59% of the respondents picking Cleveland as his free agency destination, while 22% chose the Lakers. “He won’t leave after all the moves they made last week,” one Eastern Conference forward said of LeBron, referring to the Cavs’ trade-deadline deals. Asked where James should sign, even more respondents (66%) voted for Cleveland.
  • If James does decide he wants to join the Lakers, the LaVar Ball show won’t be a deterrent, according to 89% of the players surveyed. “If LeBron comes to L.A., then it’s the LeBron show. Not the Ball show,” said one Eastern Conference center.
  • Most of the survey respondents (80%) believe DeMarcus Cousins will re-sign with the Pelicans.
  • Only 33% of the players surveyed expect Paul George to be in the Thunder‘s opening-night lineup for 2018/19.
  • The respondents are slightly in favor (59%) of maximum salary contracts existing in the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement. “LeBron, Steph and KD, all those guys bring a lot more than what they’re getting paid,” said one Western Conference guard. “But being a lower-tier salary guy myself, if you pay those guys even more, the lower guys on the totem pole don’t really get anything.”
  • Asked which teams make the best pitches to free agents, players chose the Celtics (27%), Heat (15%), Lakers (12%), and Warriors (9%), with nine other clubs receiving votes. One Eastern Conference guard on Boston: “If you bring Tom Brady? That’s pretty damn cool.”

Pacific Notes: George, James, Jackson, Warriors

It has been evident for the past few years that there is mutual interest between the Lakers and hometown All-Star Paul George. The Pacers and Lakers discussed George in a trade this past offseason and L.A. was even fined for openly discussing its interest in the All-Star forward.

This is just the latest chapter in the Lakers coveting not just top free agents but native free agents, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register writes.

Just two summers ago, DeMar DeRozan – a Compton product – was linked to the Lakers before he re-signed with the Raptors. Two summers from now, Klay Thompson, a Los Angeles native, is expected to hit free agency and the Lakers will almost certainly be in the mix. Kevin Lovewho played at UCLA, was expected to be a Lakers target in 2015 before the Cavaliers acquired him a year earlier. There is a noticeable pattern with the Lakers: pursue big names and if they happen to be from the area, pursue them even harder.

“I think that’s just the media,” George said about his impending free agency. “They see a headline and immediately they jump to conclusions. It’s funny but at the end of the day I know where my decision lands, or what my decision is, and that’s all that matters.”

Check out other Pacific Division news below:

  • Tonight’s All-Star Game takes place in Los Angeles and the Lakers‘ free agency targets — in addition to George — have been a major talking point, Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports writes. The Lakers cleared considerable cap space by trading away Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. at the deadline with eyes toward George and possibly LeBron James. Russell Westbrook, a California native himself, already shot down the notion of George wanting to jump ship over the summer. “That’s out! Paul ain’t going nowhere,” Westbrook told reporters as Lakers fans chanted for George. “It’s over for that.” As for James, his decision is still up in the air.
  • Josh Jackson‘s defense has always been strong but his recent surge on offense could make him a major threat for the Suns, Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype writes. Since January, Jackson has averaged 16.1 PPG for the Suns.
  • Michael Lee of Yahoo Sports examines the Warriors‘ success and how it has become a part of the team’s identity in both wins and losses.

Cavaliers Notes: LeBron, Irving, Love, Wade

Today’s All-Star Game will reunite LeBron James and Kyrie Irving as teammates for the first time since the trade that sent Irving to Boston for three players and two draft picks. They were on the court together at Saturday’s practice and neither made a big deal out of the reunion, relays Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com.

Irving told reporters it was “pretty awesome” to be back with James, but added that their interactions were “just normal.” “Sorry, I know that sounds like not a lot,” he added, “but it’s just normal.” 

James is responsible for bringing them back together. As one of the team captains for today’s game, he made the decision to select Irving, saying, “If he was available I was taking him.” James was originally angry that Irving requested a trade, but didn’t do much to talk him out of it, Vardon writes, even though he asked Cleveland’s front office not to make a deal. James said he still has fond memories of their partnership.

“Those thoughts still go into my head of how great it was to break the drought in our city, over 50-plus years,” James said. “The both of us had magical Finals runs and, so it’s always special.”

There’s more this morning out of Cleveland:

  • The Cavaliers got rid of a bad situation on and off the court with three deals just before the trade deadline, Kevin Love tells Vardon in a separate story. Several players the Cavs sent away were reportedly affecting team chemistry, although Love says he didn’t see any “friction” with Dwyane Wade. “It might not have been a bad thing to get some fresh faces in there and guys from situations where they really wanted to win,” Love said. “I think first and foremost, seeing those [new] guys in Atlanta, they didn’t play, but they got there right after the trade and they just said they want to win. You can tell when somebody says it, you can tell when somebody means it. They really meant it and it felt good to have that there.”
  • Love offered a medical update on the broken left hand that has sidelined him since late January, Vardon adds. Love has started running again and plans to have his cast taken off at the four-week mark, which will be in early March. His prognosis has him out of action for eight weeks.
  • James has been able to make about $20MM extra since rejoining the Cavaliers by signing one-year contracts with player options, notes Terry Pluto of Cleveland.com. The team wanted James to agree to a four-year max deal when he returned to Cleveland that would have been worth roughly $88MM. By opting for shorter commitments, James maximized his flexibility and will have earned $108MM by the end of this season.

Cavs Notes: Altman, Wade, Rose, James, Thomas

The Cavaliers had the busiest and most impactful trade deadline of any team, swinging three major trades and restructuring a faltering roster by the end of lunchtime on February 8. The behind-the-scenes and on-court struggles preceding the moves were a major talking point across the league, as Cleveland.com’s Joe Vardon breaks down.

For starters, Cleveland’s rookie general manager, Koby Altman, deserves a lot of the credit for seemingly righting a ship that was on the verge of sinking. LeBron James addressed the changes and praised the general manager.

“It just wasn’t working out for us, and he felt like, obviously you guys saw his quotes, he made the changes that he felt best fits our team,” James said.

Yet, Altman had to correct an issue that brought upon by decisions made by him, owner Dan Gilbert, head coach Tyronn Lue, and James himself, Vardon writes. James never wanted the team to trade Kyrie Irving; when he was dealt, the Cavaliers tried to assemble the best roster possible and attempted to accommodate James despite him not committing long-term.

  • In the story, Vardon writes that the Cavaliers did not feel Dwyane Wade fit on the roster. However, once his buyout from the Bulls was complete, and at James’ urging, the team signed him anyway. While he adjusted well to the bench, Wade initially taking J.R. Smiths starter role had an adverse impact on Smith, who never got on track in the first half of the season. Also, Vardon notes that Wade — not Isaiah Thomas — was the first to question Kevin Loves illness that forced him to leave a game.
  • Derrick Rose was recruited to Cleveland by Lue and – despite his injuries – was expected to a valuable piece on a team-friendly deal. However, just a few games into the season, Rose suffered a sprained ankle that diminished his performance and he eventually left the team to evaluate his future. Upon his return, his teammates accepted him publicly but privately felt it was a matter of time before he was dealt.
  • A lot of was made of Isaiah Thomas‘ criticisms, which came while he was struggling himself. He admitted that he was not at full health as he recovered from the hip injury that kept him out to start the season. Lue felt he had to play Thomas as he was essentially Irving’s replacement but his performance never matched his output last season in Boston.
  • Without a commitment from LeBron, the Cavs were reluctant to surrender draft picks or take on significant salary beyond the current season. However, Gilbert took on future salary in multiple instances, adding Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, and George Hill, who are all under contract beyond 2017/18. It’s an insurance net for Cleveland in case James does leave in free agency. For now, James is prepared to take on the leadership role that he seemed to vacate while the team struggled. “So it’s my job as the leader of this team to make sure that I acclimate the new four guys to be around a culture that’s built on winning and practicing championship habits,” he said.

Pacific Notes: Lakers, Thompson, Jackson

There’s no denying that the Lakers are set on making a push for Paul George and LeBron James this summer, but what if things don’t go according to plan? Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus recently broke down the club’s alternative options if one or both of those stars decide against a move to Los Angeles.

If James decides not to sign with the Lakers, it’s expected that the franchise will continue to make a push for George. What the team would do with its second max slot in that scenario remains to be seen, however. Given that the next-best reasonably available options could be an injured DeMarcus Cousins and DeAndre Jordan, the Lakers may opt hold onto their cap space until the summer of 2019 in that situation.

If neither of the two sign in L.A., the Lakers would almost inevitably have to hold onto their cap space until the summer of 2019 when players like Kawhi Leonard, Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker hit the market.

If the latter happens, the Lakers will need to be tactful in how they manage players like Isaiah Thomas, Julius Randle and Brook Lopez, all set to have their contracts expire at the end of June.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Although he won’t hit free agency until the summer of 2019, Warriors guard Klay Thompson has every intention of remaining with Golden State, Mark Medina of the Mercury News writes. “Anything I can do to stay with the Warriors is first and foremost. God willing, it happens. If not, I don’t even think about that,” Thompson said.
  • If a player needs to be convinced to play for the franchise and carry on the Lakers legacy, they’re not the right person for the job, Kobe Bryant said. The Hall of Fame-bound shooting guard discussed his role in recruiting free agents for the only franchise he ever played for with ESPN’s Jalen Rose.
  • Since the new year, Suns rookie Josh Jackson has averaged 16.1 points per game. That’s a notable increase from the 9.0 he averaged through the first three months of his NBA career. Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype recently shed light on the Kansas product’s in-season improvement.

Cavaliers Notes: Hill, Hood, Clarkson, Nance

The four players the Cavaliers acquired at the trade deadline understand that they’re now teammates with the NBA’s version of a superhero in LeBron James, writes Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com.“He’s the Batman and we gotta be all Robins,” George Hill said at practice today.

They’ve all played against James plenty of times before, but none more intensely than Hill, whose Pacers battled the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals in both 2013 and 2014. Rodney Hood attended LeBron’s summer Skills Academy in Las Vegas in 2012 and another of his training camps before then. “He’s the best player of our generation and I’ve been a big fan of his since I went to his camp when I was in high school,” Hood said. “To get a chance to play with him and learn from him I think will be great for me.”

Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. already had the experience of playing with a larger-than-life figure as teammates of Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles. They’re both looking forward to being in a similar situation. “That first year with Kob was unbelievable, getting to travel around that locker room, his fan base was insane,” Nance said. “This is going to be a whole ‘nother beast in itself. I’m anxious, I’m excited and I think I’m ready.”

There’s more today from Cleveland:

  • The four new players will make their Cavaliers debut tomorrow in Boston, but Hill will be the only one to start, Vardon relays in a separate story. Coach Tyronn Lue plans to use Hood, Clarkson and Nance in reserve roles and promises they will all see playing time. “I mean, they don’t know the plays yet,” Lue said. “So it’s going to be tough tomorrow with George starting because you can’t really run a lot of stuff. Just run some pick-and-rolls. But just having him on the floor will be good. He’s a veteran so he can understand the flow of the game and then once we get our plays down and defensively what we want to do, then you could see a lineup change.”
  • The Cavaliers took an obvious gamble in the deal that bought Clarkson and Nance from the Lakers, notes Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated. Cleveland helped L.A. clear cap room that may be used to pursue James this summer and sent the Lakers a first-round pick as well. However, Sharp adds that Isaiah Thomas was such a poor fit and a disruptive influence with the Cavs that he had to be sent somewhere.
  • The front office would have been inviting James to leave in free agency this summer if it hadn’t shaken up the team, adds Bud Shaw of Cleveland.com. It’s hard to say how much the Cavaliers improved their chances of keeping him, Shaw adds, but the franchise is now in better shape for the present and future.
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