NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Big day for Heat in Las Vegas — Say this much for LeBron James and his free-agency mulling this time around — it’s the complete opposite of his 2010 “The Decision” special. Other than a few social media posts here and there, James has been a recluse since opting out of his deal a few weeks ago and news surrounding what team he’ll sign with next has been sparse to say the least. That may all change today, though, as James will reportedly meet with the Miami Heat’s braintrust. According to ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard, James will meet with the Heat today in Las Vegas:
LeBron James and Pat Riley will have their long-awaited face-to-face meeting Wednesday in Las Vegas, according to league sources.
James is in Las Vegas for his annual basketball camp, the LeBron James Skills Academy, and Riley has flown in for the meeting.
The meeting with Riley on Wednesday is believed to be the first meeting James has participated in since opting out of the final two years and $42 million of his Heat contract.
Some other Heat heavy-hitters will be at the meeting too, as Broussard tweeted this morning:
In addition to Pat Riley, it is believed Miami's Erik Spoelstra, Mickey Arison and Dwyane Wade will attend today's meeting with LeBron James—
Chris Broussard (@Chris_Broussard) July 09, 2014
And, per The Associated Press, some more details about how LeBron has spent his free agency period have emerged:
Asked by The Associated Press how free agency was going when his afternoon meeting agenda was apparently complete, the four-time MVP said “no complaints.” He offered a quick greeting, and provided no hints of anything – including when his next “Decision” will be known – before leaving with a wave.
The entire exchange lasted about eight seconds. James, who has been relatively quiet while weighing his options, never broke stride.
He was upstairs in an exclusive part of a Las Vegas hotel Tuesday, holding court for a little more than three hours before emerging in the lobby, walking toward his assembled brain trust – including longtime manager Maverick Carter and Nike representatives, a sponsor of the LeBron James Skills Academy he’ll be hosting in Las Vegas starting Wednesday – and got whisked away.
James is expected to meet with Miami Heat President Pat Riley before making a final decision on his NBA future, and a person close to the situation said that meeting had not happened as of Tuesday afternoon. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no one has publicly announced the date of the meeting.
Some of James’ representatives have met with several teams, including the Cleveland Cavaliers.
After filming a TV commercial in Coral Gables, Florida on Monday, James flew to Las Vegas, which was planned because of his academy. Later this week, he’s expected to travel to Brazil to the World Cup final.
He took time Tuesday morning to work out with Dwyane Wade in Las Vegas before his meetings, another person close to the situation told the AP. Like James, Wade has also not announced his plans for next season and beyond, though it is still largely expected that the 2006 NBA Finals MVP and three-time champion will remain in Miami.
No. 2: Kobe, Lakers staying in touch with ‘Melo; Fisher assures Anthony that Knicks will be better — As the Heat ready for their meeting with LeBron James today, the other big domino in free agency — Carmelo Anthony — continues to mull his next move as well. The pitches have been made by the Lakers, Mavs, Rockets, Bulls and Knicks and now he must make a choice. According to Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times, the Lakers (and star Kobe Bryant) are talking to Anthony often:
Day No. 8 came and went without a commitment from Carmelo Anthony.
To the Lakers. To the New York Knicks. The Chicago Bulls. To anybody.
He remained “torn” on his decision, the New York Daily News attributed to an unnamed friend of Anthony’s, and the Lakers remained very much in limbo.
Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak has been in contact with Anthony’s representatives on a regular basis. Kobe Bryant has also had continual conversations with the high-scoring forward.
If Anthony agrees to join the Lakers, another commitment is expected to come quickly from Pau Gasol, who wants to return to the Lakers but wants them to have a stronger roster.
Until then, the Lakers sit around and wait.
From the beginning, the Lakers have appealed to Anthony’s business sense, pitching him on the one thing they have over New York — Hollywood instead of Wall Street.
Another thing mentioned in the meeting was a possible venture for Anthony’s wife, Alani “La La” Vazquez, a TV personality who has been the centerpiece of a reality TV series for almost three years — “La La’s Full Court Life.”
At the same time, though, the Lakers also told Anthony they didn’t need him to sell tickets.
They needed something different than that from him. They needed his help to win more games.
And speaking of winning more games, that is a concern for Anthony should he opt to return to the Knicks. New York fell from 54 wins in 2012-13 to 37 wins last season, but new coach Derek Fisher told ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Bagley that he thinks the Knicks can turn it around in 2014-15:
Fisher, speaking in Las Vegas at the team’s summer league practice on Tuesday, said he gathered during the meeting that one of Anthony’s top priorities is to put himself in a winning situation. And the first-year coach made it clear to Anthony that he felt the Knicks could turn things around in 2014-15.
“He wants to win, wants to be successful,” Fisher told reporters of Anthony. “The time I had the visit with him I just shared with him we’ll be a better basketball team because we’ll play the game a better way, play as a team, play with a system and format to allow the game to be easier for him for him and his teammates.
“I’m not sure if it hit home,” Fisher added. “I guess we’ll find out. Hopefully we’ll find out soon.”
Anthony has yet to make a decision about his next NBA home. In addition to meeting with the Knicks, Anthony sat down with the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks last week.
The Knicks, according to sources, remain confident in their chances to re-sign Anthony.
But a source told ESPN.com that the Lakers made a “strong impression” on Anthony and are considered a strong contender. The Bulls, sources told ESPN New York, “wowed” Anthony in their meeting with him and are also considered a strong suitor for Anthony’s services.
No. 3: Will Jazz live up to their word on Hayward? — News broke late last night — courtesy of Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer and, later, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports — that the Charlotte Hornets and Utah Jazz star Gordon Hayward had agreed to a max contract (four years, $63 million). All along, the Jazz had said they’d match any offer Hayward gets … and in a few days, we’ll see if that holds true. Aaron Falk of The Salt Lake Tribune has more on what the Jazz might do:
Once a deal is signed, the Jazz would have 72 hours to match.
Hayward was thrust into the role of being the Jazz’s top option last year. His squad struggled to win and he struggled with his shot, dipping to career lows in field goal and three point percentage.
But Hayward also showed off his diverse skill set.
Hayward averaged 16 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Last week, Hayward visited with Cavs officials in Cleveland, but left Ohio without a deal. The 24-year-old swingman’s next stop was Charlotte, spending Monday and Tuesday with team officials there.
The Hornets made the playoffs last season under first-year head coach Steve Clifford and would stand to improve their lot in the East by adding Hayward’s talents to a roster that includes his one-time teammate Al Jefferson.
But the rebuilding Jazz also see Hayward as a key piece.
“The Jazz feel like he’s young enough and enough of a hard worker that he will get better,” an NBA source told The Salt Lake Tribune last week. “They think he can get better and that he can take a leap forward.”
No. 4: Van Gundy reaffirms Pistons’ commitment to Monroe — Practically from the outset of his hiring as the Detroit Pistons’ new coach and president, Stan Van Gundy has made it a point to stay in touch with restricted free agent Greg Monroe. The big man hasn’t gotten much buzz in free agency, but like most players, that’s due in large part to teams waiting to see where Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James end up. Van Gundy spoke with our Fran Blinebury at the Orlando Pro Summer League yesterday, though, and said he remains committed to keeping the center in the Motor City:
Stan Van Gundy might be wearing two hats now as coach and president of basketball operations for the Pistons, but he is of one mind on free-agent forward Greg Monroe.
“I’m not hesitant at all about that. I didn’t mean to be. We want Greg Monroe back,” Van Gundy said Tuesday afternoon in a hallway of the Amway Center before the Pistons took on the Heat in the Orlando Pro Summer League. “It’s obviously got to be a mutual thing too. But there’s no hesitation there.
“From Day One, Greg can tell you, I went down and met with him. He was the first player I met with. I went down and met with him within a few days of getting the job and made it clear to him … that we want him back and we haven’t wavered on that at all.”
It’s expected that Monroe will eventually get an offer in excess of his $10.2 million salary cap hold. The Pistons can match any offer Monroe receives as a restricted free agent.
“There’s been a lot of back and forth,” Van Gundy said. “I think it’s been productive and good. There’s no doubt on my part, on the basketball side of things, that we want him back.
“It comes down to the business part of the game. … That’s always a different thing than just the coaching and playing side. There’s a business part of it and that’s where we are right now and these things are a big part of it. You take your summer and do your business and you go from there.”
No. 5: Report: Brooks, OKC talk with Gasol; Bulls believe they have good shot at landing him — Former Los Angeles Lakers big man Pau Gasol is one of the bigger targets — literally and skill-wise — in free agency this summer and has no shortage of suitors. According to Dave McMenamin of ESPNLosAngeles.com, the Oklahoma City Thunder and coach Scott Brooks talked with Gasol recently, but the team feels it is a long shot to land him:
Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks met with coveted free agent Pau Gasol in Southern California on Monday, multiple league sources told ESPNLosAngeles.com, but the team quietly considers it a “long shot” to acquire him.
Despite the Thunder’s persistence in trying to persuade the 34-year old Spaniard to play alongside his Spanish national squad teammate in Serge Ibaka and the reigning MVP in Durant, a league source told ESPNLosAngeles.com on Tuesday that Oklahoma City considers acquiring Gasol a “long shot.”
Oklahoma City is limited to roughly $5 million in spending cash under the luxury-tax line to offer Gasol, but had hoped its position as a championship contender — coming off a Western Conference finals appearance in the spring — would speak to Gasol more than money.
During Gasol’s meeting with Brooks, according to a league source, the 13-year veteran peppered Brooks with questions about the quality of life in Oklahoma City and wondered aloud about leaving a culturally diverse city like Los Angeles for middle America.
The Bulls hold a markedly different view on Gasol, writes Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, as they believe they are among the favorites to land the former All-Star:
The patience of the Bulls’ front office continued to be tested Tuesday, with free agent Carmelo Anthony’s indecision still seemingly keeping them from pursuing a Plan B.
According to a source, the Bulls feel that if Anthony goes elsewhere, they are one of the leading candidates to land free-agent big man Pau Gasol — unless Anthony happens to choose the Los Angeles Lakers, which could start the dominos falling and convince Gasol to re-sign with the Lakers.
The Bulls met with Gasol in Los Angeles last Thursday, but his meetings and talks with All-Star center Joakim Noah impressed Gasol the most, the source said.
In joining the Bulls, Gasol would be walking in as a starter on a playoff-caliber team that plays an unselfish style he likes. He has expressed his desire to start wherever he goes. Bulls forward Taj Gibson has been focusing on moving from a Sixth Man of the Year Award second-place finisher to a starting job but has said he’ll do ‘‘whatever is best for the team.’’
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: New Jazz coach Quin Snyder says No. 5 overall pick Dante Exum looks ready to play … The Warriors are reportedly happy to try and help facilitate a sign-and-trade deal for Jordan Crawford … Kevin Durant also gave Carmelo Anthony a vote of confidence about Derek Fisher as Knicks coach … Adidas has signed No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins to an endorsement deal … Ex-Nets forward Andray Blatche will reportedly meet with the Raptors today … ICYMI, great piece from Grantland.com’s Zach Lowe on the double standard LeBron James and the rest of the Big Three are facing … If the Rockets miss out on Carmelo Anthony, the list of small forward priorities might go Chandler Parsons, then Luol Deng … Suns center Alex Len is ready to make some big strides in his second season …