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Willie Cauley-Stein: “I’m Ready To Get Paid”

While most players on expiring deals downplay the extent to which they’re thinking about their contract situation, that’s not the case for Willie Cauley-Stein. The fourth-year Kings big man told James Ham of NBC Sports California that he’s entering his contract year “ready to get paid.”

“I’m ready for it,” Cauley-Stein said. “I’ve seen everybody else – all my peers. Alright, I’m ready for that. What do I got to do to do that? That’s what they’re doing? Alright, I’m going to go ahead and do this now. I was doing it this way, obviously it wasn’t working, so now let’s do it this way.”

Because he’s in the fourth year of his rookie scale contract, Cauley-Stein is eligible to sign a contract extension up until October 15. However, Ham writes that the Kings are unlikely to do a long-term deal for the former sixth overall pick at this point. He’s more likely to reach restricted free agency next summer, so his play this season could go a long way toward determining what his market looks like in 2019.

[RELATED: Players Eligible For Rookie Scale Extensions In 2018]

In 73 games (58 starts) last season, Cauley-Stein established new career highs in PPG (12.8), RPG (7.0), APG (2.4), and several other categories. However, his production was somewhat inconsistent on a night-to-night basis, which is something he’ll be looking to improve upon heading into 2018/19.

“Consistency, that’s the word of the decade for me,” Cauley-Stein told Ham. “Consistency. That’s what’s going to get you paid. So I’m going to say it until it happens. That’s how it works these days. Just keep on talking about it, eventually it’s just going to happen.”

While Cauley-Stein looks like the frontrunner to open the season as Sacramento’s starting center, the 25-year-old will face plenty of competition for playing time. Over the offseason, the Kings added Marvin Bagley III and Nemanja Bjelica to a frontcourt that already includes Zach Randolph, Skal Labissiere, and Kosta Koufos. The team also envisions a regular role for Harry Giles, who missed his entire rookie year while recovering from ACL injuries.

Kings Open To Facilitating Three-Team Butler Trade

Only one NBA team still has any real cap space available for the 2018/19 season, and that team – Sacramento – is keeping a close eye on the Jimmy Butler sweepstakes, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com. According to Wojnarowski, the Kings have been “aggressive” in courting both the Timberwolves and potential Butler suitors, offering to use their cap room to accommodate unwanted contracts.

As Wojnarowski explains, the Kings – who have about $11MM in cap space – don’t have their own first-round pick for 2019, but could be in position to acquire another team’s first-rounder or other assets as part of a three-way Butler swap. Sacramento assistant GM Brandon Williams has let teams know that his club isn’t opposed to taking on multiyear contracts, whether that means Gorgui Dieng‘s deal or perhaps a pricey contract from a potential Wolves trade partner like the Heat, Clippers, or Nets.

While the Kings don’t have enough cap room to absorb, say, Dieng’s $15MM+ salary on its own, the club could send out any number of expiring contracts to make the math work. Zach Randolph ($11.7MM), Iman Shumpert ($11MM), Kosta Koufos ($8.74MM), and Ben McLemore ($5.46MM) are among the Sacramento veterans on expiring deals.

As the Kings explore ways to get involved in a possible Butler deal, teams interested in acquiring the All-Star wing have been receiving mixed signals from the Timberwolves on what kind of assets they value, sources tell Wojnarowski. According to ESPN’s report, clubs dealing with the Wolves are also confused about whether to deal with owner Glen Taylor or front office execs Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden — there’s a perception that the management and ownership groups may not be in agreement on the structure and timetable of a potential trade.

Although Thibodeau tried on Monday to convince Butler to report to the team during the preseason, the 29-year-old remains adamantly opposed to ever practicing or playing with the Timberwolves again and has implored Thibodeau and Taylor to trade him soon to avoid prolonging the drama, writes Wojnarowski. While there has been some optimism among opposing teams that Minnesota will comply with that request, “renewed uncertainty and hazy chains of communication” have dominated recent talks, Woj adds.

Thibodeau Tries To Convince Butler To Report

Timberwolves coach and president of basketball operations Tom Thibodeau met with Jimmy Butler on Monday, attempting to coax the disenchanted swingman to rejoin the team during the preseason, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

It’s another hint that Thibodeau hopes to patch things up with Butler and keep his core group intact rather than trade him. Butler did not report to training camp as he awaits a trade.

Thibodeau indicated during the team’s media day on Monday that he’s willing to deal Butler, who can become a free agent next summer, but he’s not going to give away an All-Star talent.

“We’re not going to make a bad deal,” Thibodeau said. “If it’s a good deal, we’re interested.”

Teams have been lining up with offers for Butler and the process was accelerated when news broke that owner Glen Taylor wants to move Butler as soon as possible.

Kemba Walker Wants To Stay In Charlotte

Hornets guard Kemba Walker is happy in Charlotte and has no desire to join a “super team,” according to an Associated Press report.

Walker made the comments today at the team’s media day, offering some insight into his plans for next summer. He will be part of a stellar free agent class in 2019 and is in position to earn a huge raise from the $12MM he will make this season.

“You see guys who are on elite teams,” Walker said. “I don’t want to do that. I want to create something special here in Charlotte, something that we have never had here before. I want to create some consistency. And I want to be a part of that.”

Walker has spent his entire seven-year NBA career in Charlotte after being taken with the ninth pick in the 2011 draft. The leading scorer in franchise history, Walker expressed confidence that the Hornets will make a strong effort to re-sign him, saying, “I just have that feeling.”

James Johnson May Not Be Ready For Season Opener

Heat forward James Johnson hasn’t been medically cleared for contact and may not be ready when the season begins next month, relays Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald.

Johnson had surgery in May for a sports hernia that he suffered at the end of January. He remains hopeful that he’ll be ready for the October 17 season opener, but that depends on his medical progress.

“My goal would be be back before that first game, try to get a couple preseason games in,” Johnson said. “… I am not going to push nothing I’m not supposed to push. A setback would be the same as going back for surgery, I believe.”

Asked about being cleared for contact drills, Johnson responded, “I wish I knew the answer to that. I can’t veer off from this path they’ve got us on. I have to stay humbled and stay patient.”

Coach Erik Spoelstra described Johnson’s condition as close to 100% and said he will be participating in every practice, although his level of involvement will be determined by the medical staff.

Johnson elected not to tell the Heat about the injury when it occurred because he was concerned he might be sidelined for the rest of the season. He opted to play through the pain and address it once the team was eliminated from the playoffs.

“I thought it was just a strain,” he said. “I didn’t know what to call it. At first it wasn’t even that terrible. As the season went on, a little bit of my abilities started to go with it.”

Miami already faces the prospect of starting the season without Dion Waiters, who is recovering from ankle surgery in January. He was given an eight- to 10-month recovery prognosis, which could put his return in late November.

“He didn’t have a setback,” Spoelstra said of Waiters. “He’s actually on course. Everybody’s body is different. He’s been working all summer. You probably noticed his Instagram posts, that’s how everybody follows players now. It hasn’t been like he hasn’t been working. It’s on course. He’ll be back when his body tells him that he can be back.

“The thing I’m encouraged by is he’s able to work, he’s on the court, he’s able to do stuff. He won’t be able to participate in the type of training camp that we’re going to be starting with. But we’ll continue to monitor him. He’ll be with us.”

Pacers To Exercise Options On Sabonis, Leaf

The Pacers will exercise their options on the rookie contracts of Domantas Sabonis and T.J. Leaf, tweets Scott Agness of The Athletic. Team president Kevin Pritchard confirmed the moves, which are contingent on both players passing physicals.

Sabonis, who will have a cap charge of $3,529,555 in 2019/20, was a pleasant surprise in his first year with Indiana after being acquired in a trade with the Thunder. He averaged 11.6 points and 7.7 rebounds in 74 games, mostly as a reserve.

Leaf, the 18th pick in the 2017 draft, got into 53 games as a rookie, averaging 2.9 PPG and 1.5 RPG. He will have a $2,813,280 cap hit for 2019/20.

Warriors Expect To Open Camp Without Patrick McCaw

The Warriors will hold today’s media day with no resolution to the Patrick McCaw standoff, tweets Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated. Sources tell Spears that McCaw hasn’t accepted his qualifying offer from the team and isn’t expected to be at training camp when it opens tomorrow.

Golden State extended the $1.7MM QO to the third-year shooting guard in June and has been waiting for a response ever since. He remains the last restricted free agent left on the market.

McCaw faces an October 1 deadline to accept the offer unless the Warriors agree to extend the deadline. The team can pull its QO at any point after that date, but McCaw would still be restricted and Golden State could match any offer he receives.

McCaw has been part of the rotation during his first two years with the team, averaging 4.0 points  in about 17 minutes per game last season. He may have a larger role if he returns, as coach Steve Kerr has talked about reducing the playing time for his four All-Stars.

The Warriors have been keeping a roster spot open for McCaw all summer and will enter camp with just 13 players who have guaranteed contracts.

Timberwolves Sign Karl-Anthony Towns To Extension

SEPTEMBER 23: The Timberwolves have officially signed Towns to his new extension, the team announced today in a press release.

SEPTEMBER 22: Karl-Anthony Towns has decided to accept an extension from the Timberwolves, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The new deal could pay Towns as much as $190MM over the next five years based on current cap projections.

The latest news out of Minnesota may be further indication that Jimmy Butler is headed out of town soon. A report this week suggested that Towns, who clashed with the former Bulls star during his first year in Minnesota, was delaying a decision on an extension until Butler’s fate was decided.

News first broke in July that the Wolves were discussing an extension with Towns, and they have been waiting more than two months for the fourth-year center to accept their offer. His agent, Leon Rose of CAA Sports, contacted the club tonight with news of his decision, sources told Wojnarowski.

“On June 25, 2015, I was drafted to and committed to the Minnesota Timberwolves,” Towns said in a prepared statement. “On September 22, 2018, I made a recommitment to the Wolves and have the same feelings of excitement that I felt back in 2015.

“I promise to the fans, my teammates and the organization to keep the vision of the man who drafted me, Flip Saunders, alive and treat his dream of winning with respect and dignity. To the fans from Day One and the Timberwolves fans, this is for you. Thank you for believing in me.”

Terms of the super-max contract enable Towns to earn 30% of the team’s salary cap by making an All-NBA team or by being named MVP or Defensive Player of the Year this season. The deal does not contain a player option, according to Michael Scotto of The Athletic (Twitter link).

If Towns doesn’t meet the super-max criteria, his new deal would start at 25% of the cap rather than 30%. In that scenario, the yearly cap hits for the Wolves project to be worth $27.25MM, $29.43MM, $31.61MM, $33.79MM and $35.97MM, for a total of $158.05MM. If Towns earns one of the honors noted above, the annual cap hits would increase to $32.7MM, $35.32MM, $37.93MM, $40.55MM, and $43.16MM ($189.66MM in total).

The new deal also establishes Towns as the cornerstone of the franchise for the foreseeable future. He quickly turned into one of the best young centers in the league after being drafted with the top pick in 2015. Towns hasn’t missed a game in his first three seasons and posted a 21.3/12.3/2.4 line last year.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Anthony Davis Signs With Rich Paul Of Klutch Sports

Pelicans superstar Anthony Davis has signed with agent Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, the company announced on Sunday. Klutch Sports represents 20 NBA players, most notably LeBron James, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link).

As we noted earlier this month, Davis parted ways with longtime agent Thad Foucher and that Paul was the leading candidate to become his new representation. Davis, 25, has two years and $52MM left on his deal with the New Orleans in addition to a $29MM player option for the 2020/21 campaign. It will be key to watch how Davis’ new representation handles the five-year, $235MM max extension he will be eligible for next summer.

In 75 games last season, Davis averaged 28.1 PPG and 11.1 RPG, finishing third in NBA Most Valuable Player voting.

There have been waves of trade speculation surrounding Davis, who could eventually look to join a bigger-market organization if the Pelicans don’t move any closer toward title contention within the next year or two.

Knicks, Joakim Noah Close To Buyout Agreement

2:17pm: The buyout between the Knicks and Noah is expected to be finalized either Monday or Tuesday, per Marc Berman of the New York Post.

9:12am: The Knicks are close to a waive and stretch agreement with veteran center Joakim Noah, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic. No matter when the agreement is finalized, Noah will not report to training camp.

Several teams may have interest in signing Noah, notes Charania, who adds that he has put in a lot of work over the offseason (Twitter link).

Noah’s reputation has suffered greatly during his two years in New York. He was a recent All-Star and was considered a team leader when former Knicks president Phil Jackson gave him a four-year, $72MM contract in 2016.

Noah performed poorly during his first year with the team, posting a 5.0/8.8/2.2 line in 46 games, then fell apart completely last season. He opened the year under suspension for using a banned substance, then clashed with ex-coach Jeff Hornacek over playing time, resulting in a suspension in January that he never returned from. Noah appeared in just seven games throughout the season.

Noah still has two seasons and $37.8MM left on his contract. He is owed $18.53MM this year and $19.295MM in 2019/20, although both numbers could be reduced in a buyout agreement. The main focus for the Knicks is maximizing cap room for next summer, when they hope to be able to offer a maximum salary in free agency.