NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: ‘Melo opt-out deadline set; Heat might make push for Anthony — The Miami Heat are in the midst of The Finals against the San Antonio Spurs and find themselves in a 2-1 series hole. As such, don’t expect Miami’s players — namely its Big Three of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade — to start speculating or discussing what moves they’ll make this summer when they can all become free agents. Their lack of comments, though, hasn’t stopped a report from surfacing that the Heat may make a serious push to land free agent Carmelo Anthony this summer and team him up with the Big Three (who would have to take serious pay cuts to make this all happen).
ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein have more on the notion of a “Big Four” in Miami. Of course, before there can be any Big Four, Anthony has to officially let the Knicks know he’s opting out of his deal. Marc Stein of ESPN.com has more on that move, too.
First, here’s Stein on Carmelo’s opt-out deadline date:
Carmelo Anthony has until June 23, essentially one week before the start of free agency, to notify the New York Knicks if he plans to opt in or out of the final year of his current contract, according to sources familiar with the terms of his deal.
Sources told ESPN.com that Knicks president Phil Jackson is continuing to urge Anthony to exercise next season’s $23.3 million player option and put off unrestricted free agency for one more year.
The Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are all teams Anthony would consider starting July 1, sources say, if the 30-year-old decides to become a free agent this summer.
Jackson’s pitch to Anthony — which sources say he has delivered more than once over the past month — is founded upon the notion that the Knicks will have increased financial flexibility in the summer of 2015 to bring in a marquee free agent to pair with a re-signed Anthony.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said on his ESPN New York radio show Tuesday and in subsequent interviews that Anthony and James, members of the NBA’s ballyhooed 2003 draft class and longtime USA Basketball teammates, have expressed the mutual desire to play together before their careers end and will look into teaming up if both wind up on the open market in July 2015.
James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all have until the end of June, sources say, to notify the Heat whether they intend to opt into the final years of their respective current contracts or become free agents July 1.
The Miami Heat’s immediate focus remains overcoming a 2-1 NBA Finals deficit to the San Antonio Spurs, but discussions have begun within the organization about trying to grow their so-called Big Three into a Big Four, according to sources close to the situation.
Sources told ESPN.com that Heat officials and the team’s leading players have already started to explore their options for creating sufficient financial flexibility to make an ambitious run at adding New York Knicks scoring machine Carmelo Anthony this summer in free agency.
The mere concept would require the star trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to all opt out of their current contracts by the end of the month and likely take further salary reductions in new deals that start next season to give Miami the ability to offer Anthony a representative first-year salary. The Heat also are prevented from making any formal contact with Anthony until July 1 and can do so then only if he opts out of the final year of his current contract. Anthony has until June 23 to notify the Knicks of his intentions, according to sources.
Sources say internal conversations within the Heat organization about pursuing this course have run concurrently with Miami’s bid to win a third consecutive championship, with sources adding that James in particular is likely to try to recoup potential salary sacrificed through fresh off-court business opportunities if the Heat’s new dream scenario does come to fruition.
James’ off-court business is booming, thanks to a string of investments paying off massively and the prospect of new opportunities in endorsements and entertainment projects promising to expand his wealth significantly in coming years.
The Heat are in essence trying to emulate some of the longstanding policies employed by their current Finals opponent, as the Spurs have been able to keep Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili together for more than a decade — while routinely strengthening the supporting cast around them — because their three best players have been repeatedly willing to take pay cuts.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said on his ESPN New York radio show Tuesday and in subsequent interviews that Anthony and James have expressed the mutual desire to play together before their careers end and will look into teaming up if both wind up on the open market in July 2015.
No. 2: Love hoping ‘everything works out’ — No topic is more on the minds of Minnesota Timberwolves fans right now that that of the future of All-Star big man Kevin Love. The lay of the land hasn’t looked good for that sect and as our Steve Aschburner pointed out a few days ago, the hiring/return of Flip Saunders as Timberwolves coach likely won’t do much to spur Love to not try and force a trade. Love’s teammate, Ricky Rubio, recently told our Scott Howard-Cooper he intends to make a pitch for Love to stay in Minnesota. But what does Love think about all this free-agent chatter? He opened up a little bit on ESPN’s “SportsNation” show yesterday:
Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love said Wednesday that it “burns me and hurts my heart” that he hasn’t made the playoffs in six seasons in the NBA.
But Love stopped short of confirming that he’s determined to opt out of his contract and become an unrestricted free agent in 2015.
“My agent is handling everything at this point … I’m hoping that everything works out for all parties involved,” Love said during an appearance on ESPN’s “SportsNation.”
Love’s comments were the first since sources reiterated to ESPN.com last week that team president Flip Saunders’ move back to the bench next season will have no impact on Love’s decision.
“No matter what the outcome is, I just want to end up in a great place where I can win,” Love said on “SportsNation.” “At the end of the day, I’ve played six years, haven’t made the playoffs yet, that burns me and hurts my heart, so I really want to be playing.”
One place Love is rumored to be interested is the New York Knicks.
“I think any time you have Phil Jackson involved in any organization, you’re going to definitely look at it and it’s definitely intriguing,” Love said. “The Knicks are definitely a place where anybody would like to go.”
And, in a separate interview with FoxSports.com, Love told the website that he remains close with Saunders — despite notions to the contrary:
Earlier this week, new Minnesota Timberwolves head coach Flip Saunders said Kevin Love had no reason to feel frustrated over the team’s future.
On Wednesday, Love spoke with our own Aja Dang at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 2014) in Los Angeles, where he was at Activation checking out the new “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.” And while there, he addressed his coach’s remarks.
“What some people don’t know is that Flip and I have a great relationship, and we’ve been constantly speaking about my situation,” Love said. “Flip is going to be a tremendous coach again for the Timberwolves; he did a great job last year with our team, even throughout all the injuries and different things that we had. But that’s the way of Flip of getting people motivated, whether it’s me or people you don’t even know about. Am I happy he said those things? I think he’s supposed to come out and say that because it’s a team game, not about one singular player.”
He was then asked whether he was actually frustrated with the Timberwolves.
“I’m not frustrated,” he said. “I just think it’s all in my people that represent me, it’s in their hands, and I just want to go to a spot — wherever that is, one of 30 teams — where I can win. In six years I haven’t been in the playoffs, and I think it’s time for people to be watching me.”
So where would he want to play if he left the Timberwolves?
“I don’t really have a wish list, I just want to win, wherever that may be,” Love said. “One of the 30 teams; (I) want to play for a great coach, great teammates … it’s not about just one player. It’s not about myself, it’s about a whole team.”
No. 3: Rondo impressing Celtics’ coaches — Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo was hardly himself last season in several ways: he played in just 30 games (after recovering from offseason ACL surgery), shot a career-low 40.3 percent and seemed to have little impact on the games he did play (Boston went 6-24 with him). Rondo has been a regular at the team’s practice facility during the offseason and the pep in his step and his improved play has been noticed by coach Brad Stevens and others. Boston.com has more:
Rajon Rondo was not himself last season after spending the majority of the year recovering from a torn right ACL. Just two months into this offseason, head coach Brad Stevens can already tell that the point guard is eager to put the injury-plagued season in his rearview mirror.“He only played 30 or so games this year,” Stevens said at a Celtics draft workout Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t he ever felt like he was good as he could be game-to-game and that was in large part due to coming back (from the injury).”
At long last though, Rondo looks healthy and has been a regular visitor to the team’s practice facility and draft workouts all summer. His constant presence has been welcome sight for Stevens and the rest of the team’s coaching staff.
“He’s been great,” Stevens said. ““Physically, he looks fantastic. That really sets a tone having him come in. That really is helpful.”
Stevens continued: “I think Rajon is anxious to get back out there playing. You can tell that from his work ethic. He’s been with our small groups a lot in the last 8-10 days. That’s not always the case with a guy as seasoned and accomplished as him.”
Rondo’s improved health should also help him from a leadership and learning standpoint with the team. The point guard was unable to take part in the team’s workout regime last offseason and that may have affected his play on the floor as well.
“We were talking about some of the things that you do in a typical defensive technique workout,” Stevens explained. “He missed most of that because he was hurt when you go through most of that stuff. So then you’re scrambling when you’re coming back. Certainly, he’s been really well-coached in the past. But there may be things from a vernacular standpoint that are a little bit different. There may be a tweak here or a change there that fits in the system differently.”
No. 4: ESPN pays tribute to coaching legend — After yesterday’s NBA Finals media availability with the San Antonio Spurs and Miami Heat, the podium and press room stayed open for a special reason. ESPN used the facility as part of a special memorial tribute to Hall of Fame coach and broadcaster Dr. Jack Ramsay, who passed away in April after a lengthy battle with cancer. Both Hall of Fame coach Hubie Brown and Ramsay’s son, Chris, spoke eloquently about the man who was a true legend of the game:
Hubie Brown still cherishes Dr. Jack Ramsay’s memory to the point of choking up when he talks about him.
There aren’t many highlights in Brown’s decorated career as an NBA coach, ambassador and broadcaster that rival the April day in 2005 when he received a call from the Basketball Hall of Fame informing him of his induction.
But the occasion meant just as much to Brown because of the man with whom it was shared.
The official from the Hall of Fame had a routine request for all new inductees.
“By the way, we’re going to send to you a list of the Hall of Fame people that are still alive, and that you would prefer to have one walk you up [for presentation],” Brown said Wednesday as he recalled what he was told by the representative from the Hall. “I said, ‘You don’t have to send that list. If Jack Ramsay is available, he’s the only one I want to walk [me] up.”
As part of the tribute Ramsay’s son, ESPN executive Chris Ramsay, was presented a bronze radio microphone for his father’s years of service as a radio broadcaster after he retired from coaching. Engraved in the microphone was the message: ESPN remembers Dr. Jack Ramsay — Friend, Mentor and Analyst.
“My dad loved the NBA,” Chris Ramsay said during Wednesday’s tribute. “He loved coaching the games. He loved broadcasting the games. He loved analyzing the games with the coaches and the players. He loved his role as a worldwide ambassador for basketball. If he were here today, he would say, ‘Why are we making such a fuss about Jack Ramsay? The NBA Finals are going on. Let’s talk about the teams and the games.’ Well, we make a fuss because we miss him and we wish he was here.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Fun little look back at what the world was like when Tim Duncan and Ray Allen made their NBA debuts in the late 1990s … The Jazz are hosting an undrafted free-agent mini-camp in hopes of finding a future Danny Green or Chris Andersen … Greg Oden is disappointed with his role in Miami, but hopes to play in the NBA next season … Former Wolves player (and coach) Sidney Lowe may join Flip Saunders‘ staff in Minnesota … A fascinating look/feature on the Spurs’ shooting coach … Bulls are hoping they have a future Kawhi Leonard on their hands in Tony Snell …
ICYMI of the Night: The Starters’ Trey Kerby and Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All Ball Blog have some fun ‘Boshing‘ people in Miami …