Morning Shootaround

Morning shootaround — July 16


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played July 14

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Hornets, Stephenson reach deal | Reports: Wolves, Warriors renew Love trade talks | Parsons clarifies comments about Houston | ‘The Greek Freak’ at point guard? | Silver: Clips sale may not happen soon

No. 1: Report: Stephenson headed to Hornets — The Charlotte Hornets opened free agency by taking a big swing at landing restricted free-agent swingman Gordon Hayward of the Jazz, but Utah matched the Hornets’ offer sheet last weekend. Swing No. 2 appears to be a success for the Hornets this time, though, as they have agreed to terms on a three-year deal with Indiana Pacers standout (and unrestricted free agent) Lance Stephenson, as first reported by Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. This marks a big loss for the Pacers — who had the best record in the East last season — but there had been talk that contract negotiations between Stephenson and Indiana had broken down of late. Bonnell has more on the move for Charlotte:

Following an all-night negotiating session, the Charlotte Hornets have come to an agreement to sign Indiana Pacers shooting guard Lance Stephenson, the Observer has learned.

Under terms of the agreement, Stephenson will make $9 million in 2014-15 and $9 million in 2015-16. Stephenson will get a slight raise in 2016-17 if the Hornets pick up the team option.

Stephenson fills an obvious need, as the Hornets were weak offensively at the shooting guard and small forward positions. The 6-foot-5 Stephenson had a breakthrough season statistically, averaging 13.8 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.7 assists. He also shot 49 percent from the field and 35 percent from 3-point range.

However, he has a quirky personality that seems to have limited his market when he became an unrestricted free agent July 1.

The Pacers had offered Stephenson $44 million over five seasons, and reportedly did not come off that number. Stephenson thought he was worth considerably more.

But the question becomes how Stephenson’s quirkiness might play out once he signs a lucrative contract extension. He famously blew in opponent LeBron James’ ear in the playoffs. He was fined for flopping this season and was charged with 14 technical fouls, fourth-most in the NBA.

It is not the Hornets’ habit to take frequent risks on high-maintenance players. Trading for Stephen Jackson worked out for two seasons before they traded him on to the Milwaukee Bucks. Now they have drafted P.J. Hairston, a player who lost his NCAA eligibility over improper benefits and who recently was cited for punching a teenager during a pickup game at a Durham YMCA.

Hornets owner Michael Jordan has said one of his team’s greatest strengths last season was the character of the players on the roster. Did that embolden the front office to pursue Stepehenson? Is Stephenson now a threat to that chemistry?

Certainly the Hornets faced competitive pressure in the Eastern Conference. The Cleveland Cavaliers improved dramatically with the addition of James, so that’s a non-playoff team in the East that now looks like a post-season lock. While the Heat lost James, they weakened the Hornets with the signing of Josh McRoberts.

It’s possible the Hornets would have struggled just to make the playoffs this season without upgrading the roster with a move like Stephenson.

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Morning shootaround — July 15


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played July 14

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Anthony took pay cut to return | Parsons ‘offended’ by how Rockets treated him | Marion, Williams out of Mavs’ mix? | Report: Lakers may make coaching hire soon

No. 1: ‘Melo took small pay cut to stay with Knicks — When Carmelo Anthony announced he was re-signing with the New York Knicks on his website, he said he is a Knick at heart. That may be truer than you think as Anthony took a $6 million paycut on the overall value of his deal to free up future cash for New York. Team president Phil Jackson confirmed that fact to reporters during his chat with them at Summer League in Las Vegas, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post:

Phil Jackson said Carmelo Anthony took less than the maximum $129 million contract, and the Zen Master declared he needs his star player to maximize his teammates to win a championship.

Anthony took less to stay with the Knicks — estimated at $122 million to $123 million over five years. But it was still a lot more than what the cap space-challenged runner-up Bulls could offer — four years, $73 million.

Jackson confirmed The Post’s reports Anthony structured the deal to give the Knicks more cap space in 2015. It is believed he didn’t take his annual 7.5 percent raise in Year 2 and may have taken a tiny pay decrease. Under collective bargaining agreement rules, a player can receive as high as a 7.5 percent pay raise annually.

“He did exactly what we kind of asked him to do,’’ Jackson said. “Give us a break in the early part of the contract when we have some wiggle room — hopefully big enough wiggle room — next year when we can exploit it.’’

Anthony’s sacrifice in Year 2 likely opens up about $2 million more in cap space for 2015, but the rest of his annual wages suffer by not taking the raise.

Meanwhile, Jackson emphatically said Anthony has to buy into this triangle-like new system that will promote sharing the ball and taking the load off him offensively. Otherwise, Jackson feels the Knicks won’t compete for a title anytime soon.

“It depends how quickly our team evolves,’’ Jackson said of how soon the club will be in title contention. “If we evolve as a team, we can do it rather quickly. If we’re still going to sit and rely on Carmelo to do everything, it’s not going to happen.

“We put that load on him, it’s not going to happen. That’s what we’ve wanted to assure him. We want to evolve as a team and that sometimes means the old buying into the system and giving in to the process. And the process can take time. Hopefully shorter time than longer.’’


VIDEO: Phil Jackson talks with NBA TV about the Knicks’ offseason to date (more…)

Morning shootaround — July 14


VIDEO: Daily Zap for games played July 13

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: KG open to Nets return? | Report: Spurs, Bonner reach deal | Bulls round out roster | Ariza-to-Houston deal grows

No. 1: Report: KG still ‘excited’ to play for Nets — Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Garnett will be entering his 20th NBA season if he chooses to play in 2014-15. The likelihood of him playing next season was always up in the air … but is it even more so now? Garnett’s longtime teammate, Paul Pierce, agreed to a deal with the Washington Wizards over the weekend and led some to think perhaps KG will hang it up for sure this summer. ESPN.com’s Mike Mazzeo writes that Garnett may still be back in Brooklyn next season anyway:

Despite the loss of Paul Pierce via free agency, Kevin Garnett likes the direction of the Brooklyn Nets and is “excited” about joining them for the upcoming season, sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard.

Garnett, who turned 38 in May, is due $12 million in 2014-15, which would be his 20th NBA season.

He has yet to publicly announce that he’s playing this season, but all indications continue to point that way. On Saturday, a league source told ESPNNewYork.com that the Nets still expect Garnett to return.

Pierce elected to sign a two-year contract with the Washington Wizards for $11 million with a second-year player option, sources told ESPN.com.

Pierce and Garnett had been teammates since 2007-08. They won a championship together with the Boston Celtics.


VIDEO: Paul Pierce and the Wizards agree on a two-year deal (more…)

Morning shootaround — July 13


VIDEO: Daily Zap: July 12

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Decision day for the Rockets | Only a two-year deal for James | Pierce keeps it moving | Deng the next domino?

No. 1: Decision day for the Rockets — The Houston Rockets have a new small forward, having agreed to a four-year deal with former Wizard Trevor Ariza. Does that mean that they’re ready to part ways with their old small forward? Not necessarily. The Rockets have until 11:59 p.m. ET on Sunday to match the three-year, $46 million offer sheet that Chandler Parsons signed with the Dallas Mavericks. And they may feel like Ariza and Parsons could play together, as Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski writes:

The Houston Rockets are still strongly considering the Dallas Mavericks’ offer sheet for Chandler Parsons after reaching agreement on a four-year, $32 million contract with free-agent forward Trevor Ariza, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Ariza’s contract is on a declining scale, paying him $8.6 million, $8.2 million, $7.8 million and $7.4 million over the next four seasons, sources said.

The Rockets are expected to take until 11:59 p.m. ET Sunday to match the three-year, $46 million offer sheet the Mavericks gave Parsons, sources said. The Rockets could give Parsons some minutes at power forward, allowing them to play him and Ariza together.

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No. 2: Only a two-year deal for JamesLeBron James could be a free agent again next season. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports that James only signed a two-year contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and it has a player option for 2015-16, allowing him to look for a new deal again next summer. But Windhorst writes that it isn’t about James not being truly committed to Cleveland. It’s about the additional money he could make with a new deal in a year or two:

Depending on how the new television contracts are put together, the salary cap is projected to leap to as high as $80 million in 2016. There is also uncertainty with the current collective bargaining agreement starting in 2017, another reason James wanted to keep his long-term options open when it comes to the structure of his contract.

James’ off-court earnings, which top $40 million per year according to some estimates, allow for him to take some short-term risk to maximize long-term earnings.

James has earned $129 million over his 11-year career but has only earned the max salary three times during that span.

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No. 3: Pierce keeps it moving — It was weird seeing Paul Pierce in a Brooklyn Nets uniform last season. It may be even weirder seeing him in the Washington Wizards’ red, white and blue this year. In a bit of a stunner, Pierce and the Wizards agreed on a two-year deal (for the mid-level exception) on Saturday night. Michael Lee of the Washington Post has the story:

Refusing to stagger after the stunning defection of Trevor Ariza to the Houston Rockets, the Washington Wizards shook off the disappointment and made a shocking deal of their own by landing Paul Pierce.

Pierce, a 10-time all-star and likely Hall of Famer, agreed to sign a two-year deal for the full mid-level exception worth $10.8 million, according to a multiple people with knowledge of the situation. He has a player option for the second year.

The 36-year-old Pierce spent the first 15 years of his career with the Boston Celtics, winning a championship in 2008, and his former teammate and current Wizards assistant Sam Cassell played a huge role in recruiting him to Washington. He averaged a career-low 13.5 points last season in Brooklyn but gives the Wizards a proven big-game performer and another veteran mentor to help expedite the progression of franchise building blocks John Wall and Bradley Beal.

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No. 4: Deng the next domino? — Ariza, James and Paul Pierce have found new homes, while Parsons will either be a member of the Dallas Mavericks or Houston Rockets when the clock strikes midnight on Sunday. But where does Luol Deng land in this game of small forward musical chairs? The Miami Heat have been trying hard to make him James’ replacement and stay near the top of the Eastern Conference, but other teams (Atlanta, Dallas and Phoenix) are still in the mix for Deng, as ESPN’s Marc Stein reported late Saturday:

Sources say it’s possible Wade’s looming deal with the Heat might not be finalized until next week while negotiations with Deng continue. But Miami’s current aim is assembling a core that features Wade and Bosh with newcomer Josh McRoberts and Deng if they can complete a deal with the former Chicago Bulls All-Star.

Dallas and Atlanta remain interested in Deng as well, with sources saying Saturday that the Phoenix has also jumped into the mix for Deng, who was traded from Chicago to Cleveland in January after years of trade rumors.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Nets could still be a playoff team this season, but championship dreams are basically out the windowIt’s a “wait ’til next year” situation in BostonIs LeBron Melo’s Jordan?The Thunder got what they needed in Anthony Morrow … The Kings and Isaiah Thomas weren’t on the same page.

ICYMI of The Night: After his Summer League debut, Jazz rookie Dante Exum sat down the The Starters:


VIDEO: Starters: Dante Exum

Morning Shootaround — July 11


VIDEO: Like the rest of us, Phil Jackson is waiting to see what happens next in free agency

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Wade served as late Heat pitchman? | Report: Bulls staying in ‘Melo chase | Rockets face Parsons dilemma | Journeyman Wallace questions LeBron’s ‘fight’

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.

(more…)

Morning Shootaround — July 10


VIDEO: What might LeBron James do next in free agency?

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Reports: LeBron leaves meeting with no decision made | Uncertainty reigns in Anthony’s decision | Report: Nets to pay $90M in luxury taxes | Report: Bulls pick up pursuit of Gasol

No. 1: Reports: LeBron leaves meeting with no commitment to Heat — Well, the LeBron James-Pat Riley-Miami Heat summit in Las Vegas is done and the team has no more of an idea of where LeBron will choose to play next season and beyond. The choices, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, seem to come down to the incumbent Heat and his old team, the Cleveland Cavaliers. Depending on which report you read, the decision may happen soon … or, who knows when. First, here’s Wojnarowski first on the meeting:

Superstar free agent LeBron James met with Miami Heat president Pat Riley on Wednesday in Las Vegas and left without committing to a new contract, a league source told Yahoo Sports.

No decision date has been set, a source close to James told Yahoo Sports’ Marc Spears.

James and his agent Rich Paul met with Riley on the same day the Cleveland Cavaliers agreed to a three-team trade to clear enough salary-cap room to make James a maximum contract offer, opening a path for his possible homecoming, sources said. The Cavaliers are also pursuing a trade for Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love, contingent on James returning to Cleveland, sources told Yahoo Sports.

If James leaves Miami, Chris Bosh‘s intention is to also leave the Heat, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Bosh has been speaking with the Houston Rockets, who are prepared to clear enough cap room to offer him a four-year, $88 million contract.

If the Cavs can’t get James, their backup plan remains making a run at signing free-agent forward Trevor Ariza, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Timberwolves will demand Andrew Wiggins, the Cavs’ No. 1 overall pick from last month’s NBA draft, be a part of any proposed deal, sources told Yahoo Sports.

ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard and Brian Windhorst also have a report on the meeting and what might be next for James:

LeBron James met with Miami Heat officials for more than an hour Wednesday afternoon in Las Vegas but emerged without a decision about his future, sources told ESPN.com.

James and his agent Rich Paul are done meeting with teams, according to sources close to the situation. James now will talk with his family and make his choice.

There is no timetable for James’ decision, but with him reportedly planning to attend the World Cup this weekend in Brazil, a decision before then seems likely.

The Rockets’ position, however, got more complicated on Wednesday when their restricted free agent Chandler Parsons signed a three-year offer from the Mavericks for more than $45 million, which the Rockets have three days to match.

If the Rockets match, they will lose the requisite cap space needed to sign Bosh. They can match the offer and still afford Bosh, but only if they sign Bosh first. To make room for Bosh, the Rockets will need to execute at least two trades, likely involving Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, to clear cap space.

The Heat were represented at Wednesday’s meeting with James by president Pat Riley and general manager Andy Elisburg. James was joined by Paul. This was the first known face-to-face meeting James has held since officially becoming a free agent on July 1. James’ agent met or spoke with officials from the Mavericks, Rockets, Suns, Cavaliers and Lakers last week, but James was not present.

James spent Wednesday morning and evening working out, playing pickup and speaking to high school and college stars at his LeBron James Skills Academy basketball camp.

(more…)

Morning Shootaround — July 9


VIDEO: Howard Beck of Bleacher Report discusses Carmelo Anthony’s free agency

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Heat ready for Vegas meeting with LeBron | Lakers, Knicks in ‘Melo race | Key moment arrives for Jazz’s front office | Van Gundy wants Monroe back | Report: Brooks meets with Gasol

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:

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.


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew breaks down the latest news on LeBron James’ free agency

(more…)

Morning Shootaround — July 8


VIDEO: Kevin Ding of BleacherReport.com talks about where Carmelo Anthony may go next

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Riley not sweating a Big Three departure | Houston may be Bosh’s best fit | Report: Celtics still angling for Love | Reports: Westbrook withdraws from Team USA

No. 1: Riley confident Big Three are returning– Yesterday, the Heat agreed to deals with free agents Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger in moves that — as our David Aldridge reported — that are seen by some as ones to help assure LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh they’ll have more help in Miami. USA Today‘s Jeff Zillgitt and Sam Amick echo that sentiment and report that Heat president Pat Riley isn’t sweating the departure of any of his Big Three:

Seven days into free agency, Miami Heat President Pat Riley made his first roster moves to show LeBron James why he should stick around.

This much is clear: Riley is confident James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade will return, according to people who have had phone conversations with Riley in the last week. The people spoke to USA TODAY Sports under the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the conversations.

Of course, Riley’s confidence doesn’t guarantee anything. But right now, he isn’t scrambling.

Reaching deals with forwards Josh McRoberts and Danny Granger is step one in making the necessary roster additions to improve the Heat. At the very least, Riley has tangible evidence to show James when they meet in the next couple of days to discuss the future. He is letting him know the Heat will spend what is required, including top dollar on Bosh, to win another title after two in four years together.

In the big picture, the Granger and McRoberts agreements give Riley room to present James with a couple of different spending options, including the ability to give Bosh a big contract, too.

The Heat got longer, more athletic and younger with the two deals, which can’t be signed until the free agent moratorium ends Thursday. July 10. McRoberts and Granger are fine complementary pieces.

McRoberts is 27 and coming off one of his best seasons at 8.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game for the Charlotte Bobcats. He gives the Heat another big man who can pass, rebound and play inside or outside. Last season, Charlotte coach Steve Clifford said McRoberts was one of the three major reasons for the team’s turnaround.

Splitting time between the Indiana Pacers and Los Angeles Clippers last season, Granger had his moments but wasn’t close to All-Star form. But the Heat don’t need him to be an All-Star. They need him to be an upgrade off the bench.


VIDEO: NBA TV’s crew discusses the Heat reaching deals with Danny Granger and Josh McRoberts

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Morning Shootaround — July 7


VIDEO: Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports joins GameTime to talk about free agency

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Reports: Cavs have shot at landing LeBron | No word on ‘Melo for Bulls | Report: Hibbert being shopped? | Uncertainty reigns for James, Anthony

No. 1: Report: Cavs trying to get in position for LeBron offer; James listening to offer? – Seemingly from the start of last season, there has been talk that perhaps and just maybe, Cleveland could find a way to bring Ohio native LeBron James back to the team that originally drafted him. Although James would have nothing to do with such talk — or any free-agency chatter — during the season, the notion remained out there. As Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports, the Cavs are doing everything they can roster-wise to be in position to sign LeBron if he so chooses to return to them:

At the urging of LeBron James’ agent, the Cleveland Cavaliers are pursuing a maximum contract salary slot to bring back the free-agent superstar, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Rich Paul, the president of Klutch Sports, has been funneling belief into the organization that the Cavaliers are in strong position to lure James from the Miami Heat, sources told Yahoo Sports.

For years, Paul has confided to people that bringing back James to Cleveland has been something of a mission for him, and he’s encouraging Cavaliers officials to offer no restraint in the recruitment of James, sources said.

Paul will be joining James for a sit-down meeting with Miami president Pat Riley early this week, when there could come more clarity on James’ future with the Heat. Riley has been recruiting free agents to join Miami, but has been limited in salary cap space to make competitive offers and limited in the ability to promise players they’ll get to play with James.

For the Cavaliers, the shedding of contracts to create salary-cap space isn’t a tremendous risk. For James, a four-time MVP and two-time NBA champion, the stakes are far higher. If Paul gets up the hopes of the franchise and Northeast Ohio without delivering James’ return, Paul risks playing a part in turning James into a villain all over again.

Nevertheless, the Cavaliers have little choice but to dutifully make the moves necessary to make James an offer. The biggest obstacle remains unloading the contract of Jarrett Jack. The Cavaliers have found a landing spot for Jack and his $6.2 million annual salary in the Brooklyn Nets, but only if the Cavs can find a third team to take on Brooklyn’s Marcus Thornton, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Cleveland is offering Thornton and future draft considerations as incentive to absorb his $8.7 million expiring contract, sources said. The Cavaliers need to unload more contracts and have made 2013 first-round pick Sergey Karasev, among others, available in deals, sources said.

ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein report that James may in fact be listening to the Cavs’ offer, but they have work to do to land the former MVP:

After more than two years of planning, the Cleveland Cavaliers, believe they have LeBron James legitimately listening to their pitch to leave the Miami Heat and return to his home state in free agency, according to sources close to the process.

There has yet to be a firm indication that James actually is ready to leave Miami after four years and two championships with the Heat, but sources told ESPN.com that the four-time MVP is increasingly considering the Cavaliers as an option as he moves into the final stages of deciding which team to sign his next contract with.

A critical face-to-face meeting looms with Heat president Pat Riley on a day to be determined this week, sources confirmed Sunday night, so that James can hear the Hall of Famer’s plans for the Heat’s roster. But James’ agent, Rich Paul, has already sat down with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert in what is regarded as the first formal step toward trying to shrink the gulf between James and Gilbert after the ocean of hard feelings stemming from James’ departure from Cleveland in 2010 to sign with the Heat.

Sources say that the Cavs’ pitch made to Paul last week — which they also hope to make this week to James in their own face-to-face meeting — revolves around Kyrie Irving and the other young prospects they have, in addition to the numerous options Cleveland possesses to add to the roster over the next year.

The Cavs also believe they have made the greatest move yet this summer, convincing Irving to sign a five-year maximum contract extension in the first few hours of free agency. With No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins under control for the next five seasons as well, the Cavs are pitching youth and roster stability to James, who played on one of the oldest teams in the league last season.

The team also potentially owns three first-round picks in the 2015 draft, including the Heat’s pick if they fall outside the top 10. They also have the Memphis Grizzlies’ pick if it falls between Nos. 6 and 14 and their own pick. The Cavs believe they can use these as assets in potential trades to further upgrade the roster if James will come aboard.

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Morning Shootaround — July 6


VIDEO: TNT analyst David Aldridge reports the latest free-agent news

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Lakers make move for Melo | Heat meet with Deng | Gortat’s return to D.C. was easy call | Novak traded to Jazz

No. 1: Lakers make move for Melo — In the earliest days of free agency, the Los Angeles Lakers seemed to be the odd team out, as free agents and reps for LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony met with and considered various franchises, from Chicago to Miami to Houston to Dallas, not to mention the incumbents — the Knicks and the Heat. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers entered the summer with just a handful of players under contract and significant room to maneuver under the luxury tax.

But you can never count the Lake Show out. While many reports had Melo choosing between the Knicks and Bulls, last night Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Lakers are definitely in the picture. After his meeting with Lakers execs, reports are that Carmelo is absolutely considering a move to the coast, to join Kobe Bryant in a west side connection…

The Los Angeles Lakers have ascended into serious contention to sign New York free agent Carmelo Anthony, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Lakers moved into strong consideration with the front-running New York Knicks and Chicago Bulls over this weekend, sources told Yahoo Sports.

No one with direct knowledge of the process would declare the Lakers had overtaken New York and Chicago in Anthony’s mind, but one source close to Anthony said of the Lakers, “They’re in the game now.”

The Lakers met with Anthony on Friday, offering him a four-year, $97 million contract. Lakers star Kobe Bryant has been in constant contact with Anthony, and the Lakers could re-sign Pau Gasol to pair with Anthony on the frontline.

This story kicked off when ESPN’s Bill Simmons noted via Twitter…

Of course, Melo signing with the Lakers would mean him leaving over $30 million from the Knicks on the table — as his former team, the Knicks can offer Anthony a larger and longer contract than any other team. There’s also the question of whether a pairing of Anthony and Bryant (with Gasol) in the rough-and-ready Western Conference would give Anthony the best and quickest chance to win.

Whatever happens, after weeks of speculation and simmering, free agency is finally reaching the boiling point. Get your popcorn ready.

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No. 2: Heat meet with Deng — While several NBA teams are loaded with cap space, the Miami Heat are still a work in progress. While James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh all opted out of their contracts and seemed interested in returning, the path forward for the Heat has seemed less clear, both in terms of financials and personnel. With an aging roster and burgeoning payroll, the Heat have to find a way to get their Big Three some help, without breaking the bank.

Yesterday, according to an ESPN report, Heat president Pat Riley took another step forward by meeting with one of the top free agents on the market, Luol Deng

The meeting was described as “preliminary,” according to a source, as Riley attempted to sell Deng on the benefits of joining the four-time defending Eastern Conference champions.

Sources told ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard that Deng will not take a salary significantly below his market value, believed to be above $10 million annually, merely to sign with the Heat.

Deng has several suitors, including Dallas, Atlanta, Chicago and the Los Angeles Lakers, but a source said Riley’s pitch intrigued him.

Adding Deng would give the Heat experience, depth, and help on both ends of the court. It may also be something of a dream — can the Heat actually create enough room to make Deng an offer he can’t refuse?

The task facing Riley and the Heat is anything but easy. But then, the best things very rarely are. Four seasons ago, Riley defied many expectations when he successfully constructed the Big Three. Now he’s got a different kind of difficult task ahead of him.

***

No. 3: Gortat’s return to D.C. was easy call — Not long before last season began, the Wizards gave up a first-round pick along with the rights to injured center Emeka Okafor in exchange for Marcin Gortat. While Gortat has always been a solid interior performer, he was going to be a free agent this summer, and the Wizards were gambling they’d be able to convince him to re-sign in D.C. After showing promise during the regular season and making a run into the second round of the playoffs, Gortat felt confident enough in the future of the Wizards to stick around.

In an interview yesterday from Orlando Summer League on NBA TV, Gortat said re-upping with Washington was a simple decision

“A lot of different reasons,” Gortat said, when asked why he elected to stay with the Wizards. “First of all, I like the city. I like the team. I definitely feel comfortable over there. The team really took me under the wing and they help me since the day one. I definitely love the chemistry between me and John Wall. I think Bradley Beal is going to be a great player one day. Coach Randy [Wittman] believes in me, and I have a great relationship with him. So, the decision was real easy for me. I believe that we will be a special team for the next four or five years.”

Gortat was asked about interest from the Miami Heat and bobbed his head side to side, “We had a few teams, but I don’t think it [makes] any sense to talk about that now.”

If they’re planning to get the entire band back together, the Wizards still have to convince Trevor Ariza to re-sign — and as an in-demand swingman, Ariza may take a little more convincing than Gortat.

***

No. 4: Jazz trade for Novak — Sweet-shooting swingman Steve Novak spent the last few seasons knocking down 3-pointers for the Knicks and the Raptors. While out enjoying the 4th of July holiday with his family in his hometown of Milwaukee, Novak found out he would have a new NBA home next season: The Raptors reportedly agreed to move Novak to the Jazz for Diante Garrett, who the Raptors could waive to create salary cap space.

One of the interesting bits of this story is how Novak discovered he was being traded: According to the Desert News, Novak found out via a series of text messages from his Toronto teammate Kyle Lowry

Novak, who was dealt to the Raptors from the Knicks just a year ago after thinking he’d finally found his long-term NBA home in New York, wasn’t expecting that news. He even wrote back to Lowry, “Are you kidding me?”

Traded again? To Utah? On Independence Day?

What!?!

“It was the Fourth of July. I didn’t have any idea that you could get traded on a national holiday,” Novak said, laughing, Saturday evening in a phone interview with the Deseret News. “I didn’t think GMs worked so hard.”

The gift and the curse for Novak is his combination of shooting and size (he is 6-10) simultaneously makes him a hot commodity and a tradeable asset. For his part, Novak seems to be embracing his new home…

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The long wait to see Nerlens Noel in a Sixers uniform may have been worth every second … If the Rockets need to move Jeremy Lin to create cap space, Philadelphia might be an option … You know who’s not happy about players being asked to take pay cuts? Their agents and their union. … Looks like Devin Harris will agree to a three-year extension with the Mavericks …