Posts Tagged ‘Chicago Bulls’

Morning shootaround — July 18


VIDEO: Sophomores delivering at Summer League

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Giannis sees Bucks as (more) family | Project Durant on track in Washington | Knicks, if not Jackson, kept ‘Melo in loop | Smart to miss Africa game

No. 1: Giannis sees Bucks as (more) family — It’s too bad, when Milwaukee forward Giannis Antetokounmpo writes about himself on his official blog, that he doesn’t lapse into third-person references to himself. If he did, he’d face the same challenge – spelling and typing that last name repeatedly – other scribes face. Nonetheless, the Bucks’ rising star posted Friday about the bond he feels with his team and how his sense of family extends these days to his workplace:

The Bucks and John Hammond chose me in the draft, got me in the NBA, kept me in the team with a role from my very first season and they are my basketball family. Not only that, but already at this young age, they have enough faith in me as a leader and they are doing everything in order to develop all of my potential. From my side, I feel that I want to be playing in the Bucks. I’m not talking about my next contract. The way I feel now, I want to keep playing for the Milwaukee Bucks for the next 20 years!

You never know how life turns out. Three years ago I was thinking that I might be playing for Filathlitikos forever! All of a sudden, the draft emerged, the NBA, the Bucks and everything that followed. I don’t know how I’ll be feeling and thinking in 2, 3 or more years. Right now I feel like I want to play for the Milwaukee Bucks forever.

I’m a guy who doesn’t really care about glamour and big markets. I like to be home all day. I get up in the morning, I take a shower and I go to practice. When I’m finished, the only thing that’s on my mind is to go back home and spend time with my family. I usually feel that I prefer to hide from people.

Okay, if LeBron said to me ‘Come to my team and play with me,’ I’d think about it! (laughs) He’s the best player in the world and a member of that exclusive group of the best that have ever played the game. Still, though, the Milwaukee Bucks would come first. They will always be the team that gave me my chance and opened up the doors to paradise.

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No. 2: Project Durant on track in Washington — The Washington Wizards aren’t running afoul of NBA tampering rules, but within the letter of the law, they’re not hiding the fact that they hope to be players in what most expect to be a Kevin Durant Sweeptakes next July. Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post looked at the Wizards’ plan, which will be competing with approximately 28 other teams’ plans 11.5 months from now in trying to lure the NBA’s 2014 MVP away from Oklahoma City:

The Washington Wizards have meticulously prepared for the opportunity to coax Durant, born in the District and a product of Montrose Christian School, to Washington once the clock strikes midnight on July 1, 2016. But the courting of Durant, 26, will be wildly competitive: Thanks to the coming flood of money from a new television contract that will kick in next July, a bevy of franchises will have the salary cap space to offer the maximum possible contract to Durant, the 2014 league MVP. Other teams are only a couple moves away from getting in the mix. It could become a free-for-all, raising the risks of going all-in for one player.

“The one thing I know about my brother is he wants to win,” said Damion James, Durant’s best friend and a member of the Wizards’ summer league team. “He’ll do whatever it takes to win. Whoever gives him the best chance to win is where he’s going to end up.”

“It’s difficult to imagine him leaving [the Thunder],” said a Western Conference executive, who spoke under condition of anonymity because league tampering rules bar discussing potential free agents who are still under contract with another team. “That team is loaded. If they can stay healthy, they’re championship favorites.”

Oklahoma City is one of the NBA’s smallest markets, a factor that would’ve repelled a player of Durant’s caliber just a few years ago, but technology has altered the NBA terrain. No longer does a player need to play in a metropolis to become a superstar and procure endorsement dollars. Every game is available to anyone, anywhere. Highlights are instantly accessible on the Internet. Social media is replete with NBA fandom. Durant, a Nike pillar, and [Russell] Westbrook, a fashion impresario of sorts, are two poster boys of the shift. The fact that [LaMarcus] Aldridge spurned a meeting with the Knicks and turned down the Lakers to sign this month with the San Antonio Spurs seemed to solidify the change.

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No. 3: Knicks, if not Jackson, kept ‘Melo in loop — Lest anyone fret that Carmelo Anthony was being kept in the dark on the New York Knicks’ offseason maneuvers, the New York Post stepped up to report that the veteran All-Star scorer actually was in the loop on team transactions. Certainly no Knicks fan could aide Anthony not being consulted, considering how, er, well thing have gone around Madison Square Garden lately:

According to an NBA source, general manager Steve Mills has been in communication with Anthony across the free-agent process to explain the recent additions.

As president, [Phil] Jackson delegates a lot, and Mills is in charge of directly speaking with agents and other teams regarding potential trades or free-agent acquisitions. According to the source, Mills also handles reaching out to players on matters such as recent transactions.

In fact, Mills has said publicly Anthony spent a lot of time in his office going over “the boards’’ regarding potential free agents they were after. One of the combinations, Mills has said, was the trifecta of Robin Lopez, Arron Afflalo and Kyle O’Quinn. The Knicks still had enough cap space to sign 2011 draft bust Derrick Williams and re-up with Lou Amundson and Lance Thomas for more than their minimums.

Jackson raised eyebrows on Monday when he said he had yet to speak with the vacationing Anthony, sparking speculation perhaps the Knicks rehabbing superstar was displeased with the signings. The Post reported on Wednesday Anthony had been in touch with Knicks officials this week and expressed frustration he was being perceived as a malcontent, and said he still “had trust in Phil.’’

After the draft, ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported Anthony felt “hoodwinked’’ by Jackson’s selection of European project Kristaps Porzingis with the No. 4 overall pick. The Post reported Anthony was indeed disappointed on Draft night but more because his friend Tim Hardaway Jr. was traded for a college prospect he barely saw play — point guard Jerian Grant. No one, other than Anthony, remains from the roster since Jackson took over 16 months ago.

Since, Anthony has been outspoken about his “love’’ for Porzingis and called him directly to tell him he wasn’t upset. Anthony watched Porzingis’ Knicks workout and multiple sources said he felt the Latvian big man would be a good pick.

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No. 4: Smart to miss Africa game — The good news for Boston guard Marcus Smart and the Celtics was that the two fingers on his right hand that Smart injured Thursday in the Las Vegas Summer League won’t require surgery. The unfortunate news is that Smart will miss participating in the NBA’s exhibition game in South Africa Aug. 1. Here is some more on that situation from the Boston Globe:

Smart, guard Evan Turner, and coach Brad Stevens were to be among a contingent of NBA players and coaches taking part in the first NBA game played in Africa. But Smart will now stay in Boston as his fingers heal.

Smart has not been available to speak to reporters since suffering the injury. One source said the guard is disappointed about missing the game in Africa but relieved that his injury is not more serious.

With 6:34 left in the second quarter of Boston’s summer league game against Portland, Smart, guard Terry Rozier, and Trail Blazers forward Noah Vonleh all converged on a loose ball. Smart braced himself with his right hand as he fell, and his right index and middle fingers were dislocated.

A bone in Smart’s hand also punctured his skin, requiring five stitches. Those sutures could slow Smart’s recovery, as they will affect his ability to regain range of motion in his fingers. Still, the Celtics were relieved that the X-rays on Smart’s hand were negative.

Celtics assistant coach Micah Shrewsberry said Smart will remain with the team as long as they are in the summer league playoffs, partly because he wants to support his team, and partly because the medical staff is here. Smart will undergo further evaluation when he returns to Boston.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Cleveland Cavaliers might be adding another Russian center, this one a player whose NBA rights they’ve had for the past eight years. … Jimmy Butler said again, on yet another media platform, that his relationship with Derrick Rose is friction-free. … New Nuggets head coach Mike Malone talks with Grantland.com about Ty Lawson, what he learned in Sacramento and a little Boogie Cousins. … Seth Curry writes about what he hopes is the end of his D League days. … Everything old is new again, as some NBA rookies remind ESPN.com of certain predecessors. …

McDermott finds way around NBA campus

VIDEO: Doug McDermott gets 16 points in Bulls’ victory.

LAS VEGAS – Welcome to the NBA, the old saying goes, and it’s not meant as hospitably as it sounds. There’s a smirk inherent, in that life-in-the-big-city, better-it-happened-to-you-than-to-me way.

That’s the way Doug McDermott‘s introduction to the league went last season, a rude welcome to the kid from Omaha in his rookie season with the Chicago Bulls. From college basketball’s player of the year and a Sports Illustrated cover guy to a lost and struggling newbie, all in a few months time. McDermott dealt with rattled confidence, a sore knee and bench splinters for the first time in his basketball life.

“I think maybe when I was 14 years old,” McDermott said Wednesday after the Bulls’ shootaround at the Cox Pavilion, one of the Las Vegas Summer League’s two venues. “I wasn’t a top guy on my AAU team, so I wasn’t playing a lot back then.”

Going through it at 23, after arriving as the No. 11 pick in the NBA Draft, that hit harder.

“But it’s a mental thing where you’ve got to stay positive,” McDermott said. “Your time is coming. Obviously, it was the first time I’d ever been hurt, too. That was hard to get through.”

McDermott got through it – 36 appearances, a mere 8.9 minutes per, and a whole lot of sitting that included 24 games lost to surgery on a meniscus tear in his right knee – but doesn’t intend to go back there. The Bulls can’t afford him to, either, with a familiar roster relying mostly on improvement from within this season.

Already this summer, McDermott has logged long hours at Chicago’s practice facility. He has been the Bulls’ leading scorer in Vegas, averaging 16.5 points through four games, while doing so in uncharacteristic ways: McDermott’s offensive repertoire has featured a variety of floaters, step-backs and layups, coming from isolation and in transition. He walked out Wednesday night with an ice pack taped to his right wrist, the price paid for an open-court dunk in the third quarter against Cleveland’s entry.

But he missed his only 3-point attempt, leaving him – whoa! – just 1-for-11 from the arc here.

“And I saw him make 30 in row in practice,” new Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said, “so I’m not worried.”

Hoiberg plays a central role in McDermott’s most significant source of inspiration for his second NBA season. If predecessor Tom Thibodeau was tough on the rookie because, well, he was a rookie – and because of McDermott’s surgery layoff, defensive lapses, blown plays, missed shots and passed-up shots – Hoiberg represents a clean slate and a more McBuckets-friendly style of play.

An accomplished 3-point shooter himself (he led the NBA in three-point percentage in his last season, before a heart ailment ended his career), Hoiberg shares the shooter’s mentality, too. He’ll be sensitive to quick hooks that can mess with a guy’s confidence.

“That’s the big things for Doug, to know that he has the confidence to go out there and be a basketball player,” Hoiberg said. “He’s one of the most successful college players in the history of the game, as far as scoring the ball. It’s just a matter of getting that confidence back. If he misses a few, keep shooting. That’s what the great shooters do, that’s what the great players do.”

McDermott’s frame of reference is his time at Creighton. He was a good player when he got there but he blew up as a sophomore, his feet fully wet, his body and mind acclimated to the level of play. His scoring average jumped from 14.9 ppg to 22.9, his accuracy from 52.5 percent to 60.1 percent, his 3-point success from 40.5 to 48.6.

Nobody in the NBA thinks much of college imagery, but in McDermott’s mind at least, he’s physically and mentally ready for his sophomore year.

“Everyone is so much more athletic, everyone is so much stronger than you’re used to,” McDermott said of last year’s transition. “Everyone that’s on the floor is essentially, probably, the best player on his college team. So there’s a reason everyone’s here. It’s just a matter of being able to prove yourself.”

Going from 26.7 ppg as a senior to 3.0 as a rookie wouldn’t be anyone’s idea of fun. McDermott just hopes it’s his idea of done.

“Being a rookie with my rep, everyone wanted to come at me. It’s part of the deal,” he said. “But I’m a competitor – I like that stuff. So I’m not going to back down.”

Blogtable: Some Summer League musings

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Knicks or Lakers worse off? | Toughest (and easiest) division? | Talkin’ Summer League



VIDEOKarl-Anthony Towns reflects on achieving his NBA dream

> Las Vegas Summer League is just days away. Which rookie are you most excited to see perform on the big stage? Which veteran will most benefit from Summer League play? And, which player in Summer League in Orlando and/or Utah has most impressed you?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com Among the rookies in Las Vegas, I’m going straight chalk. I want an up-close look at Karl-Anthony Towns simply because he is that rarest of species this side of the Tasmanian tiger: A Timberwolves No. 1 overall Draft pick. We’ve never had one before, but most insiders believe the Wolves got it right, so I want to see more than a glimmer of potential in Vegas. … Among returning players, it’s important for Chicago’s Doug McDermott to play as well as or better than he did last summer (and he was very good). McDermott’s rookie season was washed out by injury and bench splinters, but he has a new coach (Fred Hoiberg) friendly to his style of play and he has vowed the sort of dramatic, freshman-to-sophomore improvement that wowed ’em at Creighton. … As for Orlando/Salt Lake City, Indiana’s Myles Turner has opened some eyes, averaging 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks while hitting 14-of-22 shots in his first two games. With Roy Hibbert gone, and only Ian Mahinmi and Lavoy Allen ahead of him on the depth chart, Turner – while needing to tighten up defensively – might grab some “stretch-5″ opportunities in coach Frank Vogel‘s promised quicker attack.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: This could be the start of a decade or more of comparing Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor. At a time when people are saying it’s a “small ball” league, I want to see the big dogs hunt. Before he went down with an ankle injury, I was looking forward to seeing Dante Exum’s progress from year 1 to 2. Last year’s first round Thunder pick Mitch McGary is coming back from a fractured foot, a virtually lost rookie season and has now lost nearly 30 pounds and looking like the player OKC drafted. Have to like what Okafor showed, especially in the second half, of his first game in Utah. Along with the totally changed body of McGary, the Magic’s Aaron Gordon has come back for Year 2 with a shot, an energy level that could be contagious and an intensity that’s fun to watch.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: I am most interested to see Kristaps Porzingis and Emmanuel Mudiay in Las Vegas. Karl-Anthony Towns goes somewhere high on the list as well because there’s always the added excitement of seeing the No. 1 pick, but Mudiay has faced very little competition the last year. Porzingis has been challenged, but this will be a big step in a big spotlight. The veteran who will benefit most from summer league? The one that doesn’t get hurt and plays his way into a contract somewhere. As far as Orlando and Utah, Aaron Gordon has jumped out in early play. Not exactly a veteran, but not a rookie either.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: In Vegas, I’d love to see how D’Angelo Russell handles himself and how he can elevate a roster full of dreamers by making them better. It’ll be the first step in proving the Lakers did right by passing up Jahlil Okafor, or not. As for the “veteran” I suspect the Jazz would love to receive some reassurance from Dante Exum in Vegas. In Utah, Okafor had the kind of debut you’d expect from the No. 2 overall pick, especially with his soft touch around the rim. The Sixers are feeling better already. In Orlando, Aaron Gordon and Stanley Johnson clearly stood out. Gordon is flush with confidence after a so-so rookie season and Johnson is clearly a feisty baller, although a ‘tweener.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I’m curious to see D’Angelo Russell, because he’ll be handed the keys in L.A. right away. Noah Vonleh is a top-10 pick from last year who got injured in training camp, never got a chance to play with the Hornets, and could have a real opportunity in Portland. So these couple of weeks could be big for him. So far, I’ve been most impressed by Myles Turner, a skilled big who could make Pacers fans forget about Roy Hibbert pretty quickly.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: It will be all eyes on D’Angelo Russell in Vegas, and rightfully so. The Lakers put that on him when they passed on Jahlil Okafor. The veteran who will benefit most from summer school is Mitch McGary of Oklahoma City. He reshaped his body and is healthy and showed that his relentless motor is his greatest tool. The Thunder will be loaded with a healthy roster to start the season. I always think Summer League is a better place for second-year guys to show off the improvement in their game than it is an indicator of what’s to come from any rookie, even the ones who dazzle in summer league. Great first impressions from Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow, Frank Kaminsky and Myles Turner in the early stages of summer have highlighted things for me. They all look like instant impact contributors for their respective teams, based solely on what we’ve seen thus far.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: I want to see Kristaps Porzingis run the floor, defend and shoot from distance for the Knicks, who are desperate for young talent. Summer league is easy to dismiss but Porzingis’s blend of skills, length and agility should speak for itself – for better or for worse. I was going to cite Dante Exum as a veteran with the most to gain; but now that he has suffered a sprained ankle, I want to see whether James Young has matured defensively and off the ball for the Celtics. The breakout player so far has been Aaron Gordon, who has developed a jump shot to go with his driving athleticism.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Let’s see what Karl Anthony Towns can bring at this next level. Is he just a defender, as has been purported, or can he be a two-way player with stretch-5 range? And his teammate, Zach LaVine, was one of the most exciting players I saw a year ago in Vegas, so I’m looking forward to seeing his evolution. LaVine’s incredible explosiveness really lends itself to the pace of Summer League. One guy has stood out to me so far has been Charlotte’s Frank Kaminsky. He can shoot from the outside, but also can pump fake and get to the rim and finish. He already looks ahead of their previous lottery forward, the since departed Noah Vonleh.

Time for Butler and Rose to prove, or build, their on-court chemistry


VIDEO: How does Jimmy Butler’s reported deal help the Bulls’ future?

CHICAGO – Jimmy Butler got a lot of mileage, and an even bigger pile of moolah, from gambling on himself last season with the Chicago Bulls.

From this point forward – from the moment he signs that five-year, $95 million contract he reportedly accepted Wednesday when NBA free agency began – it’s the Bulls and their fans who are gambling on Butler.

So he might as well stop now with the “basketball’s just a day job” statement he tosses around a couple times in a RollingStone.com interview posted Thursday. And he needs to get a whole lot more convincing that the relationship between Bulls backcourt mate Derrick Rose and himself is solid enough, professional enough, to get Chicago’s NBA entry where it wants to go.

Butler’s most pertinent comments were what he said about published reports that he and Rose were at odds last season in what some felt was a battle over pecking order within the team.

Here’s what Butler, in the interview conducted after the Bulls’ postseason but before his free agency, told RollingStone.com:

“I don’t think we have any issues. I think we’re fine. I think we’re two basketball players that want to win games. That’s where I’ll leave it at. I think we just wanna win, bring a championship the city, to the organization. I think that’s our job. And I think we’re gonna do whatever it takes to make that happen. I have a lot of respect for the guy.”

Before we parse that, some context: Rose still is the darling of many Chicagoans, a native of the city’s South Side who established himself soon after he arrived in 2008 as the Bulls’ best player since Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen by becoming the youngest MVP in league history in 2011. Three knee surgeries and 185 missed games over the past three seasons allowed Butler to develop into the team’s most impactful player.

Rose’s rehabs and Butler’s own injuries have limited their time together on the court – they have teamed in only 53 games, with the Bulls going 33-20. Butler had a breakout 2014-15, earning an All-Star selection and Kia Most Improved Player Award honors while Rose played inconsistently and missed 31 games.

In Chicago’s two rounds against Milwaukee and Cleveland, Butler averaged 22.9 points on 17.8 field-goal attempts while Rose averaged 20.3 on 19.6. In their Game 6 elimination by the Cavaliers in May, a noticeably passive Rose took only four shots after halftime and scored two points in 17 minutes compared to Butler’s 12 shots and eight points in almost 22 minutes.

The reports of friction surfaced soon thereafter. General manager Gar Forman addressed them on Draft night (“I’ve read about the friction. I haven’t seen it”) without quelling any.

So what should people make of Butler’s “I don’t think we have any issues. I think we’re fine” comment? Or his “I think we’re two basketball players that want to win games. That’s where I’ll leave it at” remark? While he also said he never read the reports – healthy enough, given what passes for media these days – he stopped well short of a full-throated condemnation, not to mention expressions of camaraderie with Rose.

Was it an indication that Butler doesn’t enjoy playing alongside Rose? Was it a hint that whatever chafing might exist is coming from Rose’s direction rather than his own? There’s not enough there to work with and, frankly, any sweeping pronouncements now might ring hollow until all concerned step on the Advocate Center practice court.

But the bottom line for Chicago’s NBA fans is, there’s no time and even less tolerance for any high-school stuff. If the Bulls’ window as an Eastern Conference contender is still open at all, it’s an opening that’s narrowing. Rookie coach Fred Hoiberg is going to have plenty to do without coddling Butler and Rose into playing nice together. If Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe could manage to mesh their way to a Knicks title back in the day, if Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook find enough basketball to get all the way to The Finals, Rose and Butler can.

Butler’s emergence is what the Bulls have been hoping for – and what Rose long has needed: a backcourt sidekick with game and ability to lessen his load offensively and handle defensively perimeter players Rose can’t. Butler, meanwhile, has spent four seasons doing terrific work, yet almost everything he’s achieved has felt like a bonus. Now those things and more are expected – and they’re being paid for at top dollar.

So toying with a music-and-culture journalists about hanging with Mark Wahlberg, wanting to impress Taylor Swift with his singing voice and portraying himself only as a basketball player by day is fine in July. Butler is known within the Bulls as a fun-loving cut-up and he seems playful in the interview overall. After his hard-knocks upbringing in Tomball, Texas, and No. 30 selection out of Marquette as the final first-round pick in 2011, he has earned the right to walk through a few new doors opened to him.

But focusing on the untapped promise not just of himself but the Bulls overall, and building the chemistry with Rose (vice versa) needed for them to function nightly as one of the NBA’s elite backcourts has to be a 24/7 commitment. It need not wait till training camp, either.

The Bulls gambled on Rose to the tune of five years and $94.3 million right after his MVP season, and largely have lost on that deal. It’s on Butler to see that it doesn’t happen again, especially for some silly reasons.

Blogtable: Assessing the 2015 Draft

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Where are these 5 going? | Best/worst free-agent move ahead? | Assessing 2015 Draft



VIDEORelive all 30 picks from the first round of the 2015 Draft

> Let’s wrap up the Draft: Which lottery player is in the best position to make an instant impact next season? Which one is in the worst? And give us a later pick (say after No. 20) who you think will impress in 2015-16?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Jahlil Okafor will help Philadelphia immediately, in my view. He’s not coming in for a redshirt year like Nerlens Noel or Joel Embiid. He has low-post scoring potential straight out of the box and seems to bring maturity that will help him transition to NBA life. I don’t like sticking anyone with “worst,” so I’ll just say I’m leery of Kristaps Porzingis’ “hip stiffness.” If that costs him his summer league training and lingers into the season, we might be looking at an unplanned “redshirt” sort of year. Among later picks, I sense Chicago will give No. 22 Bobby Portis every opportunity to succeed, given rehabbing holdovers in the Bulls’ frontcourt (Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah) and an organizational desire to turn the page on the Tom Thibodeau era. Portis seems quite confident and one of those “sponge” learners.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Karl-Anthony Towns is the class of 2015 and fits in perfectly with Andrew Wiggins and shows immediately that the Timberwolves are most definitely on course to eventually be contenders.  Even though Kristaps Porzingas is the right pick in the right place at the right time, New York fans and media will make his life miserable if the 19-year-old doesn’t produce like he’s 29 right away.  Down at the bottom of the draft, Bobby Portis is a skilled big man who’ll make the Bulls stronger up front.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comFirst of all, the draft is never wrapped up. How dare you suggest otherwise. There is no avoiding the truth. Don’t even try. But anyway…. Emmanual Mudiay in Denver and Willie Cauley-Stein in Sacramento are in the best position to make an immediate impact, WCS because he is close to NBA ready after three seasons and Mudiay because he will have that much of an opportunity. He could be the opening-night starter. The Nuggets may give him the ball with instructions to make something happen. The inexperience will be obvious at times, and he is not at the top of any grouping of NBA-ready, but other rookies will dream of the immediate job description. The worst position for an immediate impact? Myles Turner with the Pacers. I think Turner will end up having a nice, long career. He will be good. But he needs time. Much of his situation, though, will depend on what happens with Roy Hibbert and/or David West. That will determine whether Indiana needs bigs to step in or whether Indy will continue to rely on the veterans for another season. Two names for the after-20 crowd: Justin Anderson with the Mavericks and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson with the Nets.

Shaun Powell, NBA.comNot exactly going out on a limb, but it’s hard to imagine Karl-Anthony Towns not having an impact when he’ll be guaranteed heavy minutes and responsibility in Minnesota from day one. In Utah, where the Jazz are pretty set at power forward with Derrick Favors, Trey Lyles might find it hard to get playing time right away. As for the sleeper, I’m gonna cheat and nominate the 19th pick. Jerian Grant is a straight-up baller and should get ample opportunity with the talent-starved Knicks.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: A few guys will have an opportunity to play and put up decent numbers. Jahlil Okafor is one of those guys, but he could make an impact in the standings as well. The Sixers were the worst offensive team in the league by a very wide margin last season, so someone who can put the ball in the basket and draw a double-team will make an impact. Kristaps Porzingis, however, looks like he will need time, which Carmelo Anthony doesn’t have. The timelines of the two most important players on the roster don’t match up, and if the Knicks get a couple of bigs in free agency, Porzingis might not develop very quickly. Justin Anderson is the late first-rounder (21st to Dallas) who could look pretty good this year. He’s a three-year college guy who’s ready to contribute and could have an opportunity if Monta Ellis signs elsewhere.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Justise Winslow and Stanley Johnson have the best opportunities for instant impact because of their skill sets and the need for what they bring to their respective situations. I feel for Kristaps Porzingis … there’s just no way he can escape the pressure of New York. And I like R.J. Hunter as the late pick who will impress in the 2015-16 season. Shooters with ridiculous range always make us take notice. But he’s much more than just a shooter and he’ll be a nice fit for a Celtics team that needs someone to help space the floor.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: D’Angelo Russell is going to be Rookie of the Year: He will fill a huge need for the Lakers, who will be reducing Kobe Bryant’s minutes and weaning him (as best they can) off the ball. Cameron Payne was drafted into a terrific situation with Oklahoma City, but if we’re taking about making an instant impact then we’re probably asking too much. The Thunder are going to be trying to win a championship next season, and rookie backups usually don’t play crucial roles on teams with such high aspirations. R.J. Hunter (No. 28 to Boston) will fill the Celtics’ instant need for shooting and has the maturity to take advantage.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I think Jahlil Okafor is going to have a huge year. It seems strange for the Sixers to draft a guy who is healthy and can play right away, but here we are, and with Nerlens Noel shoring up the defense, Okafor should be able to do what he does best: get buckets. As for a later pick, I’ll give you two that I really like and was surprised to see fall into the bottom third: Bobby Portis to the Bulls, and R.J.Hunter to the Celtics. Boston needs outside shooting, which Hunter can provide. And Portis can go to NBA big man school with Noah, Pau Gasol and Nikola Mirotic.

Take that, MJ and LeBron: Bulls’ Butler earns $46 million in single season


CHICAGO – All this talk about LeBron James, master strategist, working his contract levers, pulleys and buttons to become, in a few years, the NBA’s first player to earn $40 million in a season is fascinating.

But it’s already false.

Chicago’s Jimmy Butler already has done it. He did it in the 2014-15 season, actually. It’s just up to Butler now whether he wants to scoop up that enormous payday from the table sooner or later.

Follow along: The Chicago Bulls tried back in October to sign Butler, their diligent, developing shooting guard, to a reported four-year, $44 million contract extension. Butler, rather daringly, turned it down. He looked at that massive chunk of change – while still locked in to the rookie contract he signed as the No. 30 pick in 2011, worth just over $2 million last season – and shook his head no.

Butler believed in himself, in his skills, in the Bulls’ Tom Thibodeau and the rest of the coaching staff and, most of all, in the work ethic that has returned significant improvement with every passing season. And sure enough, the 6-foot-7 product of Tomball, Texas, via Marquette had a breakout season: NBA All-Star, Most Improved Player award, a 20.0 scoring average, another All-Defense Second Team berth and a top-six ranking in win shares (11.2).

So on Tuesday, with Butler about to test restricted free agency, word got out that the Bulls were about to offer him a maximum-salary deal to blow away the competition. In fact, ESPN.com reported that Butler postponed or cancelled the typical wine-and-dine meetings with the Los Angeles Lakers, Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers and Dallas Mavericks.

There likely was going to be some wiggle room, eventually, in what Butler chose to do. Would he opt to sign a shorter contract to hit free agency again sooner, unrestricted and on the market with the heftier TV revenues in play? Sure, why not – Butler had gambled before and won.

But the size of Chicago’s alleged max offer made clear both how much the Bulls value Butler (any chafing with backcourt ‘mate Derrick Rose reportedly is overstated) and how gutsy and lucrative his risk-taking was: Five years, $90 million.

To put it another way, that is $46 million more than Butler’s signing opportunity eight months ago. For one extra year on the previous deal, yes, but really for the production he already turned in and the potential he solidified this past season.

That is how Jimmy Butler became a $40 million-a-year man.

Top 5 Free Agents of 2015 (by position)

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — This time two days from now, we’ll be in the throes of the wild and wacky Free Agency season that marks every NBA summer. Who will change addresses? Who will stay put? Who knows. What we do know is that these are the players, in one man’s opinion, that are sure to be on the wish lists of teams with salary cap space to spare this offseason.

*** FREE AGENCY COVERAGE JUNE 30 ON NBA TV: The Starters, 6:30 ET | Free Agent Fever, 7 ET & 11:30 ET ***

Point Guards


VIDEO: Goran Dragic puts up a fantastic game against the Suns in Miami

1. Goran Dragic, Miami Heat (Unrestricted Free Agent, Player Option) — The mercurial Dragic is the template for the modern point guard and will be treated as such by suitors this summer.

2. Reggie Jackson, Detroit Pistons (Restricted Free Agent) — Young (25) and just scratching the surface of what he can do running a team as a starter.

3. Brandon Knight, Phoenix Suns (RFA) — More scorer than facilitator, Knight is an ideal fit alongside Eric Bledsoe in the Suns’ up-tempo attack.

4. Rajon Rondo, Dallas Mavericks (UFA) — Will a disastrous finish to his season in Dallas cost the hard-nosed Rondo this summer?

5. Ish Smith, Philadelphia 76ers (UFA) — Quality production in limited opportunities suggest there is much more to Smith’s game than meets the eye.

Shooting Guards


VIDEO: Jimmy Butler was the Kia Most Improved Player of the Year Award winner in 2014-15

1. Jimmy Butler, Chicago Bulls (RFA) — The top guard, regardless of position, on the market this summer, Butler gambled on himself and it should pay off handsomely.

2. Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat (UFA, Player Option) — Even at 33 with all of the wear and tear of 12 seasons in the league, Wade remains one of the league’s most versatile and dynamic players.

3. Danny Green, San Antonio Spurs (UFA) — An ideal fit for the role he played with the Spurs, Green’s skill-set is a fit anywhere in today’s NBA.

4. Monta Ellis, Dallas Mavericks (UFA) — Another casualty of a somewhat lost season in Dallas, Ellis in search of the right fit for a tweener who shot just 28 percent from deep last season.

5. Wesley Matthews, Portland Trail Blazers (UFA) — An Achilles injury ended his season early, but the rugged and relentless Matthews remains a top priority for the Trail Blazers.

Centers


VIDEO: Marc Gasol has become the focal point of a contending team in Memphis

1. Marc Gasol, Memphis Grizzlies (UFA) — The Grizzlies’ famed grit-and-grind approach does not work without their All-NBA center in the middle of the mix.

2. DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers (UFA) — A defensive force in need of an offensive arsenal to match, Jordan’s not a lock to return to Los Angeles … at least not with the Clippers.

3. Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs (UFA) — Still near the top of his and the big man game after 18 outstanding seasons in the league, Duncan has the energy for at least one more title chase.

4. Greg Monroe, Detroit Pistons (UFA) — Monroe is the ideal 5-man for the small-ball era, with his face-up game and ability to bang in the paint.

5. Brook Lopez, Brooklyn Nets (UFA) — An elite scorer, Lopez is still coveted in a game that isn’t as reliant on dominant big men as it once was.

Small Forwards


VIDEO: LeBron James’ best plays from the 2015 playoffs

1. LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers (UFA, Player Option) — The best player on the planet will be paid as such while also leveraging his power to affect change (on the roster and beyond) in Cleveland.

2. Kawhi Leonard, San Antonio Spurs (RFA) — The future of the program in San Antonio, Leonard is poised to become the leader of the pack in every way imaginable for the Spurs.

3. DeMarre Carroll, Atlanta Hawks (UFA) — His development as a knock-down (40 percent) shooter from beyond the 3-point line adds to his versatility and value on the open market.

4. Tobias Harris, Orlando Magic (RFA) — Harris has loads of admirers in front offices around the league, folks who appreciate his production for a young (22) hybrid who has still has a high ceiling.

5. Khris Middleton, Milwaukee Bucks (RFA) — A knock down shooter from deep (41 percent) and from the line (86 percent), Middleton showed his mettle in the postseason by serving as the Bucks’ catalyst.

Power Forwards


VIDEO: LaMarcus Aldridge’s highlights from 2014-15

1. LaMarcus Aldridge, Portland Trail Blazers (UFA) — Aldridge is everything a team could want in a modern power forward, complete with range to the 3-point line and the ability to dominate inside as well.

2. Kevin Love, Cleveland Cavaliers (UFA, Player Option) — The Cavaliers’ Finals run without him was revealing, but also a reminder of what they were lacking without the ultimate floor-spacer in the lineup.

3. Paul Millsap, Atlanta Hawks (UFA) — Few players have raised their stock the past two seasons the way Millsap did by assuming a dominant role for a Hawks team that rolled to the best season in franchise history.

4. Draymond Green, Golden State Warriors (RFA) — The Warriors’ championship, and Green’s role in helping make it happen, will be factored into the huge raise he is set to cash in on this summer.

5. Tristan Thompson, Cleveland Cavaliers (RFA) — A ringing endorsement from LeBron James always helps, but wasn’t needed for a player who dominated the glass the way Thompson did in the playoffs.

Bulls shift focus to frontcourt when Portis falls to them


VIDEO: Instant analysis on Bulls’ draft pick Bobby Portis

CHICAGO – The Bulls went shopping for a point guard and came home with a power forward.

Landing Bobby Portis, a jack-of-all-trades forward from Arkansas, was too good, and too unexpected, to pass up, which is why Chicago grabbed him at No. 22 in the first round of Thursday’s NBA Draft. But most of the Bulls’ focus had been on point guards, both as backups to Derrick Rose and – given that it is Rose we’re talking about – injury insurance.

Anyone who fills that role next season, however, will come via trade or free agency, much the way the Bulls have plugged the spot before (Aaron Brooks, D.J. Augustin, Nate Robinson). Portis brings a bundle of skills, but he’s more likely to be the picker and the roller than the ball handler.

“I can do a lot of different things,” Portis told reporters late Thursday. “I don’t have to have the basketball to score. I’m a guy who moves well without the basketball. I’m a guy that picks and pops, picks and rolls.”

Various scouting reports cast Portis as a big man skilled in multiple areas, without being dominant in any one. He’s 6-foot-11 with a 7-2 wingspan, the Bulls said. Multiple mock drafts penciled him in for Milwaukee at No. 17, with most projecting him to go between Nos. 13-20. With veteran Taj Gibson recently undergoing ankle surgery and center Joakim Noah coming off a down season limited by knee trouble, Portis brings depth the Bulls would rather not need.

Fred Hoiberg, the Bulls’ new head coach, faced Portis last season when his Iowa State team hosted the Razorbacks. He recalled Portis hitting six of seven shots in the first half, “all from the perimeter,” and finished with 19 points and eight rebounds.

“They play a different system at Arkansas – it’s a lot of pressure,” Hoiberg said. “It’s the ’40 minutes of hell,’ with a lot of pressing and he was in the back of that press quite a bit. With the turnovers they created, he probably wasn’t able to show his full package.

“The thing I’m excited about is his ability to play all over the floor,” Hoiberg added. “He was a guy who can hurt you from inside and out. … He moves very well for a kid that size, which is very important for the pace we’re going to want to play with.”

Portis also plays with an edge, Bulls GM Gar Forman said, that his employers welcome. An admirer of Kevin Garnett, Portis – who will have to lose his college headband, given Bulls tradition – said he tries to play as angry as that NBA veteran. “I envision that the player on the [other] team slapped my Mom,” he has said.

Speaking of edge, Forman addressed reports circulating after the Bulls were eliminated by Cleveland in the Eastern Conference semifinals that Rose and Jimmy Butler – the 2015 Most Improved Player and his team’s No. 1 priority to re-sign when he hits unrestricted free agency July 1 – chafed in the playoffs as competing alpha dogs.

“I’ve read about the friction,” Forman said. “I haven’t seen it. I think in all of our minds, you’ve got two guys who can attack, that want to run, that can play off the dribble, can play-make for themselves and for others. They haven’t had a chance to do it a whole lot because of injuries, but there’s no reason those two shouldn’t be able to play at a high level and, in our opinion, be one of the best backcourts in the league.”

Morning shootaround — June 20


VIDEO: Curry addresses fans at Warriors victory parade

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Sixers court doctor ‘Dream Team’ for Embiid | Lakers face limited choice at No. 2 | Did Warriors’ exuberance trump league memo? | Avery coulda been a contendah

No. 1: Sixers court doctor ‘Dream Team’ for Embiid — The Philadelphia 76ers have done so ding-dong-dandy well at drafting a basketball team with all their high picks lately that they apparently are branching into another field: medicine. The team’s front office is sparing no expense in rounding up the best possible sports physicians and orthopedists to examine the right foot of untested 7-foot center Joel Embiid. Keith Pompey of the Philadephia Inquirer wrote about the latest in Embiid’s unnerving foot plight:

76ers CEO Scott O’Neil said on the Breakfast on Broad show Friday that three more doctors will evaluate the latest setback in the healing of Joel Embiid’s right foot.

“We’re still waiting,” O’Neil said. “We have another three doctors to come see him. The nice thing about jobs like these – you can literally get the best experts in the world. All you have to do is call and they love to see us.”

He added that the franchise could get an answer about the 7-foot center’s future in “a couple of weeks.”

The team announced last Saturday night that Embiid had a setback in his recuperation. The 2014 first-round draft pick from Kansas missed what would have been his rookie season after undergoing surgery last June to repair a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his right foot.

It is unknown if Embiid, 21, will have to undergo another surgery, which could sideline him for part of next season. The team is still gathering information, and nothing has been ruled out.

The Cameroonian big man is not expected to participate in the two NBA summers leagues the Sixers will participate in next month although O’Neil said his status is not known. It’s also not known how long he will be sidelined.

O’Neil confirmed that Embiid has been shut down from working out.

There’s a chance this injury will hinder Embiid’s career the way it has for other 7-footers. Like Embiid, Yao Ming suffered a stress fracture in a navicular bone in 2008 and again in 2009. That injury forced Yao to retire in 2011.

***

No. 2: Lakers face limited choice at No. 2 — The Los Angeles Lakers appear to want no part of any “We’re No. 2! We’re No. 2!” chant, whether it pertains to their status as basketball tenants at Staples Center or to the spot in which they’re sitting for Thursday’s NBA Draft. They’re in the semi-awkward position of having to wait for the Minnesota Timberwolves to choose their man – most likely between Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns or Duke’s Jahlil Okafor – before getting their five minutes on the clock. And while 28 other teams would be more than accommodating to welcome Okafor into their fold, the sense that he’s being forced on them – the way a cheap magician forces a certain playing card when doing his parlor tricks – has the Lakers already feeling a little snubbed. After all, they’re the Lakers and Minnesota is the Timberwolves. And yet… As Mark Medina writes for the Los Angeles Daily News:

In less than a week, the Lakers will embark on an NBA draft that could significantly influence the pace of their massive rebuilding project. So with six days remaining before that date on June 25, the Lakers have scheduled numerous workouts in hopes for more clarity involving their No. 2, 27 and 34th picks.

The Lakers [were scheduled to] host a private workout for Duke center Jahlil Okafor on Friday afternoon at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo, marking the second individual workout Okafor has had wearing a purple and gold practice jersey. The Lakers also plan to host a private workout on Saturday both for Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell and for prospects that might be available at the No. 27 and 34th draft slots. The Lakers will then have private workouts next Monday and Wednesday just for prospects they would consider with the 27th and 34h picks.

The Lakers also held a second workout on Thursday for point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, though his session entailed training with prospects slated for the second round. On Monday, the Lakers invited Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis for an individual workout after seeing him train last weekend in Las Vegas.

The Lakers have also become increasingly doubtful they will have a workout for Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns. The Lakers believe their lack of progress with those efforts stem from most NBA mock drafts predicting the Minnesota Timberwolves will select with their No. 1 pick. But the Lakers will accommodate their workout schedule should Towns and his representatives express interest in a workout.

It isn’t likely this sort of stuff will buoy the Lakers’ hopes, a sighting by the Twins beat writer for MLB.com:

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No. 3: Did Warriors’ exuberance trump league memo? — A league directive is a league directive, right? When the NBA sends out an advisory to all its member teams to tread lightly when talking about restricted free agents – as ESPN and other outlets have reported – you’d expect that to be taken seriously and heeded. After all, there has been and can be a chilling effect to RFA players’ market value if prospective bidders are convinced their time is being wasted, thanks to the players’ most recent teams going big with the we’re-gonna-match rhetoric. The National Basketball Players Association doesn’t think that’s right and is said to be monitoring such talk, with the possibility of legal action against teams that engage in it. It’s not just some made-up problem, either, according to CBSSports.com‘s Matt Moore:

It’s a smart move by the NBPA. The comments generally fall inside two categories. One, to make a player feel loved and let fans know that they’re not going to let a key member of a team go, and two, to discourage teams from putting a bid in on a player knowing they’ll only be tying up their cap space while setting the bar of an offer for the player’s team to match.

In a broader sense, this speaks to a larger problem of the general lowdown underhandedness implicit with the restricted free agency device. A player is granted free agency at the end of his rookie contract, but he’s not actually free in the agent sense — he can negotiate with other teams, can sign offer sheets, but doesn’t actually control where he goes. New Orleans guard Eric Gordon very badly wanted to go to Phoenix several years ago, and the Suns’ training staff might have done wonders for his unreliable body. Despite public angst over the deal and a plea for the Pelicans to not match, New Orleans decided to keep the player they in essence traded Chris Paul for.

A more nefarious situation occurred without such a public stance in 2009. Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks –before he was the reclamation project that was waived by the Pistons and became an unlikely playoff contributor for Houston — was a restricted free agent in 2009. Teams knew that the Hawks would match any offer, though, and Smith just sat there on the free agency pile before eventually signing an offer sheet with the Grizzlies in the hopes Atlanta would let him go. They did not, and instead got Smith back on a bargain. Meanwhile, last summer the Suns pulled the same trick with Eric Bledsoe, forcing a nasty holdout that stretched on until August. Bledsoe eventually got the kind of big-money deal he was after, but it took the threat of the qualifying offer in order to force the Suns to move.

Banning public comments about a team’s determination to keep their restricted free agency star won’t stop word of a team’s intentions from getting around and impacting value. But it at least keeps it in the behind-curtains world of league rumors and provides a few more percentage points of leverage for a player as he and his agent negotiate a better position.

So then we get to Friday and the Golden State Warriors’ championship parade in downtown Oakland. Looks like somebody forgot about the memo:

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No. 4: Avery coulda been a contendah — Because Avery Johnson, former NBA point guard, one-time NBA champion (1999) and two-time head coach (Mavericks and Nets), is a pretty good self-promoter, one’s first response is to chalk his comments up to bluster. When he says he likely would have landed one of the four recent open coaching jobs if only he’d held off on moving into the college ranks to coach Alabama, it’s easy to think, “Yeah, and my Uncle Fred can say the same thing now that the jobs are all filled.” But Johnson, a New Orleans native who interviewed with that team before it hired Monty Williams in 2010, sounded pretty convincing when he talked with John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

”I know without a shadow of a doubt, that if I had waited, there would have been a high probabiliity I would have got an NBA job based upon the conversations my agent was having with some people,” Johnson said by telephone Thursday. ”But the main thing is that there is no turning back. I’m here at the University of Alabama and this is the right situation.”

Jonnson, 50, would not disclose what NBA teams his agent had exploratory conversations with.
The Pelicans were one of four teams, which included the Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls and the Denver Nuggets, that had coaching vacancies last month. However, all of those jobs have been filled now.

The Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry on May 30 to replace Monty Williams, who was fired after five seasons. Gentry will be formally introduced by the Pelicans on Monday afternoon. He took part in the Warriors’ parade celebration in Oakland, Calif., on Friday. The Warriors won their first NBA championship in 40 years on Tuesday night after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games in the NBA Finals.

Johnson is close friends with Pelicans executive vice president Mickey Loomis and he is a longtime friend of Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson.

”Sometimes change is hard,” Johnson said. ”But from what I’ve heard, Alvin did a nice job interviewing for the job. I think his experiences with the different head coaching jobs that he has had and assistant coaching jobs, he brings a wealth of experience to the franchise.”

Johnson said it is just a matter for the Pelicans to put the right pieces around star power forward Anthony Davis to win big in the Western Conference. [Davis] ended the season with the league’s highest player-efficiency rating at 30.8, which is the 11th highest for a single season in NBA history.

Davis also was a first-team All-NBA selection, finished fifth for the league’s MVP award and averaged 24.4 points and led the league in blocks with a 2.9 average during the regular season.
”I tell you what, his plays are going to work a whole lot better with Anthony Davis,” Johnson said.”I’m happy for Alvin.”

Johnson last coached in the NBA in 2012,when he was fired by the Brooklyn Nets after a 14-14 start.

Johnson was the NBA Coach of the Year in 2006 after leading the Dallas Mavericks to their first NBA Finals appearance but they lost to the Miami Heat. In almost seven seasons as an NBA coach, which included four seasons with the Mavericks starting in 2004, Johnson compiled a 440-254 record.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Melvin Hunt, the interim Denver Nuggets coach who won’t be returning under Mike Malone, has found a spot on Dallas coach Rick Carlisle‘s staff. … Portland guard Steve Blake has exercised his player option to stick with the team next season for a reported $2.1 million. Blazers fans still await decisions on Arron Afflalo (his, if he wants to be back for $7.3 million) and Chris Kaman (theirs, if they want him back for $5 million). … Taj Gibson‘s ankle surgery is going to sideline the Chicago Bulls backup big for an estimated four months. … If Steve Nash is a future Hall of Famer, so is Shawn Marion. Huh? That’s ESPN.com’s claim and they’re sticking to it. … Former GM Danny Ferry‘s buyout and exit from the Atlanta Hawks moved forward with approval of the team’s board. … J.R. Smith didn’t do enough for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals but he has done wonders for the “phunkeeduck.” Yes, the “phunkeeduck.”

Morning shootaround — June 17


VIDEO: Top 5 plays from Game 6 of The Finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LeBron, Cavs face bevvy of decisions| Report: Butler to pursue short-term deals | Report: Gordon likely staying with Pelicans | Nowitzki ‘guessing’ Ellis opts out

No. 1: What’s next for LeBron, Cavs? — The Cleveland Cavaliers put up a mostly valiant fight in The NBA Finals, but ultimately were short on firepower and succumbed to the Golden State Warriors in Game 6 to lose the series. LeBron James was great all series and was arguably the MVP of these Finals, too, but that’s all over for now. James and the Cavs must ponder the offseason and some choices lie in wait for LeBron himself, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com:

James’ foreseeable future is in Cleveland. With the ability to opt out of the two-year deal he signed with the Cavaliers last offseason, James must now decide just how much he wants to influence the Cavs as they enter a summer full of uncertainty and potentially massive spending.

The Cavs prefer he give a lot of input. In past similar situations, James has skewed toward passive-aggressiveness from the shadows. Taking such a position now would only add to the anxiety the franchise is sure to feel.

As if the Golden State Warriors’ championship celebration on the Cavs’ floor Tuesday night wasn’t bad enough, the Cavs’ immediate future is troublesome: James, Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, Iman Shumpert, J.R. Smith and Matthew Dellavedova could all be free agents by July 1.

James, Love and Smith have player options for next season and all are expected to decline them. Thompson, Shumpert and Dellavedova are expected to receive qualifying offers from the Cavs and they will become restricted free agents, giving the team the right to match any offer they receive. And the extensions Kyrie Irving (five years, $90 million) and Anderson Varejao (two years, $20.3 million) signed last year are also set to kick in.

Internally, the Cavs have discussed their payroll needing to balloon to between $100 million and $110 million for next season, according to sources.

When James does re-sign with the Cavs this summer, it’s probable it will be to another one-year contract plus a player option. Even if this route makes financial sense for James with the salary cap expected to surge following the 2016-17 season, it will keep the Cavs uncomfortable going forward.

But that’s the point: He doesn’t want his organization to be comfortable.

Welcome to the modern NBA, where James doesn’t just control every facet of the game, he controls every facet of the organization.


VIDEO: LeBron James talks after the Cavs’ Game 6 defeat

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