NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: Wade as last-minute Miami pitchman for LeBron? — LeBron James finished up his skills camp in Las Vegas yesterday, concluding an eventful few days for the NBA star in the desert as he met with Heat boss Pat Riley out there a few days ago. The hubbub yesterday that James was all-but certainly headed back to Cleveland reached a boil yesterday, but by the end of the night, no word had come from LeBron about his choice. The Associated Press and other outlets reported that James had left Vegas with Heat teammate Dwyane Wade to fly back to Miami. But did that flight include a final Heat pitch from James’ longtime friend? Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports has more:
Hours after the Cleveland Cavaliers believed they were on the cusp of a commitment out of LeBron James, the superstar free agent jetted 30,000 feet over America with Dwyane Wade on his way back to Miami.
The fight for the generation’s biggest free agent raged out of the desert and back to the shores of Biscayne Bay on Thursday night, with James tempering a brimming belief within the Cavaliers into a trepidation that Wade could be playing the part of Pat Riley’s closer for the Miami Heat.
Cleveland had been carefully listening to the direction of James’ agent Rich Paul, who has been privately telling people for weeks – even months and years – that he has been determined to deliver the prodigal son of Northeast Ohio back home.
In the late morning, the Cavaliers operated with a belief James would soon commit to them, that it was only a matter of time. They had word out of everyone, except as one high-ranking source said, “It still hasn’t been confirmed by the only man whose confirmation counts.”
If James had left the free-agent process to his agent in the days after July 1, leaving him to meetings described as “a tremendous waste of time,” by one executive pitching the Cavaliers, James had returned and taken over the process himself. For all Paul’s leveraging and positioning with teams, James was back and he was running things again. Suddenly, there was no commitment on Thursday.
James played in games in his skills camp in Las Vegas and found himself photographed throughout the day with Wade. Twenty-four hours earlier on Wednesday, Heat president Pat Riley and assistant general manager Andy Elisburg met with Wade and Paul for an hour, discussing the possibilities of a Heat extension and roster overhaul. James left unconvinced, and Riley stayed with the franchise’s cool, nonplussed disposition over the James’ free agency. Riley hasn’t been bombarding James with text messages and calls, but ultimately left Wade as a most intriguing, last-gasp suitor in the desert. As much as anything, Wade’s bad knees could be chasing him out of Miami, and suddenly he had been cast back into the recruiter’s role.
Only there was no contract signed on late Thursday night, sources said. Chis Bosh remained committed to staying if James commits to Miami, or moving onto the Houston Rockets should James leave for the Cavaliers, sources said.
For a fleeting few hours on Thursday, Cleveland awaited a telephone call that never had come out of LeBron James four years ago. The Cavaliers believed they had James again, and perhaps maybe they still do. James did one more victory lap with Wade in Vegas, flew back to Miami and his next call might be the hardest of all.
No. 2: Report: Bulls staying in thick of ‘Melo chase — Knicks boss Phil Jackson told The Associated Press yesterday that he remains hopeful that New York will be the team the superstar eventually picks. But while he holds out hope for that, one of the teams believed to be a strong suitor for Anthony, the Chicago Bulls, are doing what they can to stay in the thick of the ‘Melo chase. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune has more:
Carmelo Anthony’s agonizing extended into another day.
Despite reports Anthony would make his return to the Knicks official on Thursday, the Bulls still hadn’t been notified of the All-Star forward’s intentions as the first full day of allowed signings passed.
A source said the Bulls continued efforts to find a third team to make potential sign-and-trade possibilities work if Anthony were to have a change of heart and leave the Knicks. Otherwise, not much changed: The Bulls believe they made a strong impression on Anthony during their in-person pitch July 1 in Chicago.
And they know, with the Knicks’ five-year, $129 million on the table, they have to hope Anthony recognizes their ready-to-win roster and proven coach in Tom Thibodeau appeals to the forward’s desire to compete for championships sooner rather than later.
The Bulls’ free-agency plans are centered on Anthony, but they remain engaged in contingency options. The Bulls have continued daily dialogue with Pau Gasol’s camp, a player Jackson confirmed he is trying to woo to the Knicks as well.
Though Jackson has strong ties with Gasol from their shared days with the Lakers, they only can offer him the taxpayer exception of $3.2 million. The Bulls can far surpass that offer if they don’t nab Anthony and have confidence a three-year deal can be reached.
General manager Gar Forman has maintained consistently the Bulls will improve significantly this offseason regardless of what transpires in free agency. Anthony is the top goal. But adding Gasol and possibly Nikola Mirotic, whose negotiations also are contingent on what happens with Anthony, would provide depth.
No. 3: Clock starts running for Rockets now — Houston, it is decision time. Small forward Chandler Parsons‘ offer sheet from the Dallas Mavericks was officially received by the team last night, which starts the three-day period the Rockets have to either match it or let him walk. As our David Aldridge details, the offer sheet decision puts a big crimp in Houston’s potential plans of keeping Parsons (which it wanted to do all along) and adding ex-Heat forward Chris Bosh (which it has hoped to do, too):
The Parsons sheet, which includes a 15 percent trade kicker (meaning if either Houston or Dallas trades him during the life of the contract, he’s due an additional 15 percent of his remaining salary) and a player option after the second year, was signed early Thursday morning.
Houston’s now facing a dilemma. The Rockets have moved to create enough cap room to make a maximum contract offer to Miami unrestricted free agent Chris Bosh, with trades that would send Omer Asik to New Orleans and Jeremy Lin to Philadelphia for future Draft picks. Those trades can now be carried out with the expiration Thursday of the July Moratorium on all contract signings and trades.
Once those deals are finalized, Houston can offer Bosh a max deal for four years and almost $90 million.
The problem for the Rockets is that if Bosh doesn’t agree to sign with Houston in the next three days, the only way Houston can match the Mavericks’ offer sheet for Parsons is to use the cap room it is saving for Bosh. If Bosh does agree to sign with the Rockets, Houston can exceed the cap in order to match the offer sheet and keep Parsons. But that is the sequence that must take place.
Houston had indicated it would match any sheet for Parsons, and the Rockets may well match this one. But it may cost them a chance at Bosh, which Houston views as the perfect power forward to play alongside Dwight Howard and James Harden.
And the Rockets, of course, are further hampered because Bosh has expressed a preference to continue playing with LeBron James. But Bosh may not know where James is going to play next season in the next 72 hours, as James decides whether to return to Miami or go home and play with the Cavaliers, the team that drafted him first overall in 2003 and that is near his Akron hometown.
No. 4: Veteran Wallace says James lacks ‘fight’ of MJ, Kobe — Journeyman forward Gerald Wallace has been in the NBA since 2001 and grew up as a child of the 1990s NBA. As such, he holds deep reverence for the abilities of Michael Jordan and, as a player, has respect for the career Kobe Bryant has forged as well. While Wallace respects the career LeBron James has forged thus far in the NBA, he isn’t ready to put him in the same category as Jordan and Bryant. Jimmy Toscano of CSNNE.com details Wallace’s comments, which were made during an interview with myfoxal.com earlier this week:
Wallace, speaking at his annual basketball camp at Childersburg High in Alabama isn’t ready to put James with the likes of Jordan, or even Kobe Bryant.
It’s not so much about James’ skill, but his attitude on the court. He lacks the “fight”, according to Wallace, who spoke with myfoxal.com.
“Jordan never had an off night,” Wallace said. “He found many ways to contribute to the team, and I’d say Kobe [Bryant] is pretty much the same. You can put Lebron in that category. I think what separates LeBron from Kobe and Michael Jordan right now is that he doesn’t have the attitude or the fight that those guys had. For me, he’s not willing to take over a game, demand a game or put the game all on his shoulders. I would like to see him get to that one day, but right now I don’t think he has that, and that’s what Michael Jordan and even Kobe has.”
“I grew up in the ’90s,” said Wallace. “I grew up in the Jordan era. I’m a Jordan baby, and to me he will always be the greatest player that I’ve ever seen play. I had an opportunity to play against him at the end of his career, which wasn’t the same, but I’ve even played against him in practice and had an opportunity to talk to him. Watching him on TV growing up, he’s the greatest player I’ve ever seen.”
But Wallace’s criticism of James didn’t end at his on-court attitude, but spread to off the court with how he – and other NBA stars – handle free agency.
“I don’t really pay attention to the offseason acquisitions or what’s going on just because of [the drama],” he said. “I think they put more attention into it than what’s needed. Their decision is no different than some of the other guys going through the same thing. It’s just their names happen to be LeBron, Carmelo [Anthony], Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, some of the superstars that are mostly seen on TV. I think that’s what makes a big deal out of it.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: New Knicks point guard Jose Calderon has texted Pau Gasol several times about having him come to New York … The Celtics say they’re hammering out a couple of last-minute details in Avery Bradley‘s new contract … The Thunder might have to pay big time to keep Reggie Jackson in the fold … Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo is excited to be playing in the Las Vegas Summer League … Roughly 10,000 Jazz fans turn out to watch Dante Exum‘s debut at an open scrimmage … Whom should the Hornets target if the Jazz match Gordon Hayward‘s offer sheet?