NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Carter: LeBron wasn’t pushed to pick Cavs — When LeBron James‘ letter was posted on SI.com detailing why he was returning to the Cleveland Cavaliers as a free agent, some skeptics emerged about why he made that choice. Was it made to make his various handlers and such happy? Was it done to make Clevelander’s happy and restore his legacy and standing in his home state? James’ longtime business partner, Maverick Carter, spoke on an ESPN.com podcast and explained that James’ decision was exactly that — his decision:
Maverick Carter, LeBron James’ business partner, says he didn’t push James to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, nor did anyone else in the NBA superstar’s inner circle.
“This was a decision that LeBron made in his heart,” Carter told ESPN.com’s Jason Whitlock on the Real Talk podcast. “We didn’t push him to do it. We don’t push him to do anything. If he asks our opinion or what did we think about the pros and the cons, we help him think through it. We don’t push him.”
James decided to return to the Cavaliers on July 11 after spending four years with the Miami Heat. He opted out of his contract with Miami and signed a two-year deal to return to Cleveland, where he spent his first seven seasons in the NBA.
“Listen,” Carter said, “LeBron’s a 29-year-old man with lots of money, got a wife, two kids, one on the way. He makes his own decisions. He doesn’t need anyone pushing him any way, and a guy like that, you’re not going to push him either way. We’ll help him think through things and help him see through things, but he makes his own decision in his heart. Because, ultimately, he has to live with it. I’m not the one who has to show up and play games for any team.”
He also said that James and Dwyane Wade will be “friends for life” and that James told Wade before the Sports Illustrated article was released of his decision. Carter did not know exactly when James told Wade.
“Their friendship goes beyond basketball,” Carter said. “It’s bigger than basketball.”
He also said that he, as well as James, has nothing but good things to say about the Heat or their management.
“The Heat run a first-class organization,” Carter said. “They have one of the best organizations in all of sports. Just being around that organization, I think LeBron learned a ton about what it takes to be a championship organization and how it works.”
No. 2: Jefferson a big fan of Hornets’ offseason — There’s no doubt last season was a successful one for Charlotte Bobcats, what with it reaching the playoffs for just the second time in its existence and amassing 43 wins, too. Now that their name has been changed back to the Hornets, Charlotte is looking to take that fresh look and add it to a team that boasts an All-NBA Third Team center in Al Jefferson and rise even higher. Jefferson has been plenty impressed by Charlotte’s offseason moves — particularly adding Lance Stephenson — and talked with BasketballInsiders.com’s Alex Kennedy about that and more:
“We just need to continue to build off of what we what we did last year,” Jefferson told Basketball Insiders. “We know that if we play defense and focus on defense, we will have a chance to win. That’s one of the things that I did last year that I’ve never done before, just really buying in to the defensive end. I believe us finishing sixth in the NBA in defense was the reason why we had the success we had. We just have to continue to build off that.”
Much of Charlotte’s core has been brought back, but they’ve also made some key additions this summer including Lance Stephenson, Marvin Williams, Noah Vonleh and P.J. Hairston. Jefferson loves the moves and can’t wait to take the court with his new teammates.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Jefferson said. “I told them how I felt when the season went over well. They did everything they said they were going to do [this summer]. I think we have got better.”
“I think Lance is the type of guy we need on our team,” Jefferson said. “[He’ll] bring that aggressiveness on defense, he’s a playmaker, he can shoot it and he knows what it takes to win. He’s got deep into the playoffs every year for the past couple years. I’m really excited to have him.”
Jefferson is also thrilled to see Charlotte adding more quality young players like Vonleh and Hairston. He recently made his way to Las Vegas to be around the Hornets’ summer league team and give the players some guidance, and he plans to continue leading the youngsters when the season starts. So far, he likes what he sees.
“I like them guys, they play with a lot of energy and I see a lot of good shooters out there,” Jefferson said of the Hornets’ summer league squad. “We need to get more rebounds, but I know it’s been a long couple weeks for these guys. I’m satisfied.
“It means a lot, not only just for the Charlotte Hornets but the whole NBA, having a bunch of us [veterans] all around the league come out and support the young guys. Ten years ago, I was one of them young guys playing here. It’s come a long a way. It’s been a while since I’ve been here and to see the fans that come out to support the young talent and the NBA, it’s amazing. It just shows you how big it’s getting.”
No. 3: Report: Celtics, Turner agree to deal — Former No. 2 overall pick Evan Turner was dealt from the Philadelphia 76ers to the Indiana Pacers at the trade deadline to try and deepen the Pacers’ bench in hopes of a Finals run. The marriage between Turner and Indiana never fully meshed and, as the playoffs wore on, Turner was stuck on the bench. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald has more on Turner’s deal and why he picked Boston over other suitors:
In a marriage of two sides hoping to raise their station, the Celtics yesterday reached agreement on a contract with free agent swingman Evan Turner.
The Herald first reported the deal, noting that, according to sources, the 2010 second-overall NBA draft pick will receive a portion of the Celts’ mid-level exception. Turner’s representative, David Falk, acknowledged the agreement last night. Terms were not confirmed, but sources say Turner will have the opportunity to cash in when the NBA’s salary cap rises significantly, as expected in 2016.
The sides had been in discussion nearly every day since July 1. Turner, traded from Philadelphia to Indiana in February, became an unrestricted free agent when the Pacers declined to extend him the $8.7-million qualifying offer.
“There’s tremendous upside in the opportunity for both sides,” said Falk. “I think the Celtics got an old-school Celtic-type player who’s very, very talented, has a very high basketball IQ and is highly motivated to prove to people that he’s not the player who ended the year in Indiana.
“I think he was probably the most undervalued free agent on the market. Evan was in a dramatically different situation the day before the deadline than he was when he finished the year. He didn’t get a lot of playing time in Indiana unfortunately.
“But that’s history. There’s nothing we can do to change that. This is a situation where he can come and grow as a player. I think Brad (Stevens) realizes he’s a multi-dimensional player.”
Turner played at Ohio State for Stevens’ former Butler boss, Thad Matta, and coaching appears to have played a major role in Turner’s decision.
“There are teams that offered him one-year deals. There are teams that offered him multi-year deals,” said Falk. “But I think the deal here is secondary to the environment.
“Boston all along has been probably our No. 1 destination. I felt what Evan needed was to kind of replicate the relationship that he had with coach Brett Brown in Philadelphia. … We were really looking mostly for an environment more than geography.”
No. 3: Report: Van Gundy assures Smith he’ll likely be with Pistons next season — The latest news about Josh Smith being in trade talks lines up with the last bit of news we heard out of Detroit, which was that Pistons coach/president Stan Van Gundy expected more in any trade for the versatile forward. The Kings had been hot on Smith’s trail, according to multiple reports, but Van Gundy recently told Smith that he expects him to be on Detroit’s roster next season. Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski has more:
Detroit Pistons president and coach Stan Van Gundy reached out to forward Josh Smith to tell him that reports of the franchise engaging in substantive trade talks with Sacramento centered on Smith have been inaccurate and – barring an unexpected turn of events – Smith will be in training camp with the Pistons this fall, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Sacramento had made calls about Smith in June, but Detroit never heard an offer that remotely interested them and never seriously engaged in discussions, sources told Yahoo Sports.
Since his hiring in the spring, Van Gundy has had productive discussions with Smith and sources say that Smith has been enthusiastic about moving forward with Van Gundy as coach.
Smith could return to a frontcourt that includes forward Greg Monroe, who is a restricted free agent this summer. The Pistons have been willing to engage teams in sign-and-trade scenarios for Monroe, but those talks have gained little traction, sources said.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Warriors teammates Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green have been added to the U.S. Select Team roster, as was Jazz point guard Trey Burke … Interesting fact about Jan Vesely, who is to play in the Turkish league next season … Ex-Lakers and Nets guard Sasha Vujacic has hopes of returning to the NBA this season … Bucks point guard Brandon Knight is excited about new coach Jason Kidd and rookie Jabari Parker …
ICYMI of The Night: The Starters look back on all the best plays from a thrilling Las Vegas Summer League …