Posts Tagged ‘Dan Gilbert’

The Finals Live Blog — Game 6

CLEVELAND — The energy is different for do-or-die games.

The blood pumps harder than usual. The senses are heightened. Paying attention to every little detail, all of the minutiae, is paramount.

Lose your focus for a moment, a two or three minute stretch, and that’s the game.

The Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors will be locked in that pressure-packed chamber for at least 48 minutes here tonight at Quicken Loans Arena. Game 6 of The Finals, the same game it all ended a year ago between these two, with the Warriors turning the visitor’s locker room into the “Champagne Room.”

Draymond Green would love to see his return (from a one-game suspension) bring that feeling back for the Warriors, who despite a doomsday narrative since their Game 5 loss at home, still lead this series 3-2.

So what if the Cavaliers pushed for a two-game suspension for Draymond for his Game 4 swipe at LeBron James. And so what if all of Draymond’s Flagrant fouls in this postseason came after review from the league office instead of by the game officials. These things happen.

Again, the minutiae is what matters. The details.

Who scrambles for loose balls and wins?

Who does the basics, putting a body on a body when a ball goes up for the best box out position?

Whose will is stronger?

It's GAME DAY!

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

LeBron has been great in these situations, historically speaking. He’s been known to rise to the magnitude of the moment, the way he and Kyrie Irving did in Game 5, becoming the first pair of teammates to score 40-plus in the same game in The Finals.

Historically speaking, of course, applies to basically everything these Warriors have done this season. The 24-0 start, the 73-9 record, the 402 makes from deep from Stephen Curry and on and on …

The fear that this could very well be the final game of this NBA season cranks the anxiety level up to code red for all involved. That’s why having the great Craig Sager working the sideline on the ESPN broadcast makes this night even sweeter.

#SagerStrong

We are very excited to have Craig Sager joining our broadcast team for Game 6 of the #NBAFinals.

A photo posted by NBA on ESPN (@nbaonespn) on

***

***

Whose stars will shine brightest tonight?

Draymond already said there is no need for him to try to be “He-Man” out there. And LeBron and Kyrie have already done their Batman and Robin routine.

The unanimous KIA MVP is certainly capable of donning his cape tonight and you can be sure Klay Thompson will have his cannon loaded. And might we even get a Kevin Love sighting?

But I think back to this time a year ago, when Draymond finished with a triple-double in the clinching game and wonder, does he have another one in him tonight?

Oh, the energy and anxiety in do-or-die games … I can’t wait!

Dubs at work. #NBAFinals

A photo posted by Golden State Warriors (@warriors) on

***

Anything is possible tonight! Watch Game 6 pregame w/ me @imisiahthomas @realgranthill @matt_winer. @NBATV @ 7p!

A photo posted by Steve Smith (@steve21smith) on

***

The clowning has already started with #Game6WardrobeWatch! #BeetleDraymond

***

SchoolBoy Steph!

***

Where is the Love?

***

Pregame coach speak from Tyronn Lue

.. and Steve Kerr

***

J.R. Smith‘s daughter didn’t hold back when talking about her pops …

***

2008 Finals MVP Paul Pierce showing off that bling!

***

Stager’s suit game on blast, as always!

Craig Sager will work his first #NBAFinals game tonight! #SagerStrong

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

***

Point guard show game for Game 6 …

Craig Sager will work his first #NBAFinals game tonight! #SagerStrong

A photo posted by NBA (@nba) on

***

Andre Iguodala gets the starting nod tonight for the Warriors, Lineup of Death on deck …

***

Good question ???

***

***

They are ready up in here! Quicken Loans Arena …

***

Save some for the game LeBron!

***

***

Get in formation!

***

Harrison Barnes is being left open on purpose and he’s not making the Cavaliers pay for it. 6-0 Cavs start.

***

It’s a continuation of Game 5 early on, Cavaliers up 13-5 thanks to stuff like this …

***

And this …

***

***

Cleveland is rolling up 26-9 …

 

***

It’s already that kind of night, and we’re not through the first quarter yet.

***

END FIRST Q: CAVALIERS 31, WARRIORS 11 … the end?

***

Finals MVP … just playing with you. But he’s in BEAST MODE!

***

***

***

***

Warriors fans have to be really worried now.

***

Of this we are all certain!

***

***

Warriors finally settle down and start making shots and they are still down 39-24 with 8:54 to play.

***

Warriors, unbelievably, are back in this thing. Down 46-38 with 4:40 to play. Crowd has quieted down.

***

***

Warriors need look no further for the source of their struggles ….

***

This debate never ends!

***

T. Lue pushing all the right buttons so far …

***

HALFTIME CAVALIERS 59, WARRIORS 43 … crazy first half, to say the least.

***

***

***

Well, that didn’t go as planned Steve Kerr.

***

***

🛫🛫🛫

A video posted by NBA (@nba) on

***

***

So it’s not just on Steph tonight, huh?

***

Grand Rapids stand up! #GRDrive

***

***

***

***

***

***

That’s one way to settle this thing … hmm!

***

More Barnes and Love Tom Foolery …

***

***

A motliest of crews. T-Mac, Mike Miller and the great Bill Russell?

***

Lost mojo, lost bodies (Iguodala is in the bak getting looked at right now), lost everything at the moment!

***

The Cavaliers don’t look anything like the team we saw in Games 1 and 2 of this series. #SWAG

***

Iguodala update!

***

END OF THIRD CAVALIERS 80, WARRIORS 71 … this thing is far from over. DO NOT GO TO BED JUST YET!

Warriors ended the quarter on a Klay Thompson powered 10-run and once again this crowd is nervous.

***

***

Steph with the hoop and the harm on ABC. #NBAFinals #StrengthInNumbers #DubNation

A video posted by Golden State Warriors (@warriors) on

***

***

***

***

My man Ronnie2K dropping dimes on Lil’ Kev … cold!

***

***

Steph picks up his fifth for after a clean pick of Kyrie with 9:46 to play. Tough call. Bad call?

***

Game 6 down to the wire, thanks to this guy.

***

LeBron saving the bacon right now for the Cavaliers. Possession by possession.

***

***

Folks do need appreciate his rare combination of size and skill and the fact that he’s met or exceeded all of the expectations that have dogged him since he was what, 14?

***

***

***

Turtles is watching, too.

***

Just so we’re clear on what’s going on here.

***

4:22 to play and Steph’s night ends with his sixth foul and a tech and a tossed mouthpiece and a long walk to the tunnel and the, well, you get the point.

***

***

Cavaliers not only stave off elimination for the second straight game, but do it in dominating fashion. They are physically whipping the smaller Warriors at every turn. Oh and LeBron is cooking, just for good measure …

***

All he did was drop 41 points in 42 minutes on 16-for-27 shooting, 3-for-6 from deep, 11 assists, 8 rebounds and a whole lot of flexing. Game 7 it is.

***

***

***

***

***

***

***

GAME 7!!!!!!

There will be a Game 7. #NBAFinals

A photo posted by @nbatv on

***

 

 

 

Morning shootaround — May 29

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Warriors more than pretty shots | Fourth-quarter woes return for Thunder | Tyronn Lue, reluctant head coach? | DeJean-Jones’ death hard on coach

No. 1: Warriors more than pretty shots — The game was instantly unforgettable, some of the shot-making was remarkable. But the Golden State Warriors’ ability to force a Game 7 in the Western Conference finals – it will be played on their home court Monday night in Oakland (9 ET, TNT) – owed as much to the defending champions’ ability to grind their way back from the brink against Oklahoma City Saturday. That was the take of our man Fran Blinebury:

OKLAHOMA CITY — It’s hard to take your eyes off Steph Curry and Klay Thompson when they’re doing their tricks with the basketball way up on the high wire.

Curry paints the canvas with equal parts imagination and sheer fearlessness. Thompson just fires like a machine-gunner with a hair trigger.

Spectacular to watch, it can take your breath and vocabulary away.

Thompson set an NBA playoff record with 11 3-pointers, firing in five of them in the fourth quarter. Curry tossed in a half dozen that included the one that finally dropped the hammer.

Yet in order for the pair of All-Star guards to flap their wings and soar like eagles, it was the ability of the Warriors to wrestle in the dirt that set up the incredible come-from-behind 108-101 win that now forces a Game 7 in the Western Conference finals on Monday night.

“We battled,” said Draymond Green.

“We fought for every opportunity,” said Andre Iguodala.

“We stuck with it,” said Andrew Bogut.

This was another game that could have gone like that last two times the Warriors stepped out onto the court in OKC, where a leak in their defense and ball handling became a raging flood and the defending champs were swept away by 28 and 24 points

But instead of sinking on Saturday night, the Warriors found a way to paddle their arms and kick their legs and kept popping their heads back up above the water.

They were frustrated time again and by the Thunder getting second shot opportunities that produced putback baskets. And yet they went right back to work on the backboards and down in the paint and out on the perimeter, swinging their axes with the resolve of coal miners.

“Game 5 was a battle,” Green said. “This was a war.”

The TV highlights that will run in an endless loop between now and Game 7 will show the Splash Brothers doing the act. It is the part of the show for which everybody buys their ticket. But it is often only possible if the Warriors are playing the kind of high-level, high-intensity defense that carried them to the title a year ago and built a large portion of that historic 73-9 record during the 2015-16 regular season.

The idea is to keep doing enough of the dirty work with the shovels in order to give Curry and Thompson a chance to come out and play. They never gave the longer, more athletic Thunder a chance to run away and hide.

In closing, here were a couple of pertinent Tweets overnight:

***

No. 2: Fourth-quarter woes return for Thunder — One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. And, of course, vice versa, which is the side of Saturday night’s outcome on which the Oklahoma City Thunder landed. Seemingly within reach of The Finals for the first time since 2012, they wound up with a closing performance worthy of some failed bullpen ace nicknamed “El Gasolino.” The Thunder’s two stars, Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, found themselves in the he-who-giveth, he-who-taketh-away dilemma: Without their heroics, OKC wouldn’t have been in position to nail down Game 6. But without their gaffes, the Thunder wouldn’t have been forced to head back to Oracle Arena for the Game 7 showdown. Our own Lang Whitaker reported on the OKC side:

For the Thunder, the loss brought about more questions than answers. Despite not shooting the ball particularly well — the Thunder finished 3-for-23 on 3-pointers — they had every opportunity to close out the series. Yet when it came time to make a closing statement, the Thunder were mostly mute.

During the regular season, fourth quarters were not always the Thunder’s happy place: they lost a league-high 14 games where they’d entered the fourth quarter holding a lead. While they had only lost one playoff game in similar situations, Saturday’s game doubled that total.

“I felt like we didn’t do a great job coming down the stretch,” said Thunder coach Billy Donovan, “and I think we’ve made such great improvements coming down the stretch in terms of just on both offense and defense of doing a better job of executing and that really wasn’t — hasn’t been us the last month and a half. I thought we got a little stagnant coming down the stretch.”

Historically, whenever things get stagnant for the Thunder they can usually get help on the offensive end from either Kevin Durant or Russell Westbrook, their two transcendent offensive stars. But neither shined particularly bright tonight, at least by their standards, combining for six fourth quarter turnovers and going 3-for-14 from the field when the Thunder were most desperate for baskets.

“I like my shots,” said Durant, who finished 10-for-31 overall, including 1-for-8 on 3s. “It’s just a matter of them going in. When I drive to the rim, they’re bringing extra guys at me, so I’ve got to do a better job making the extra pass. I wish I could have got a lot of those shots back. I felt great on a lot of them, but that’s just how it is.”

“We want [Durant] to be everything he can,” said Thunder center Steven Adams. “He’s one of the best players in the world, so we want him to be aggressive and he can. We as a team support and trust him, him and Russ. So we give him that freedom. Hopefully we make a play and we do the best we can to put them in the situation we need to be in.”

With their offense sputtering, the Thunder’s defense, which has been terrific throughout the series, also hit a rough patch, giving up 60 second half points to the Warriors. While the Thunder’s athletic roster has presented problems for the Warriors’ high-octane offense, particularly with their ability to switch picks and bother shots, tonight the Warriors basically ran a shooting clinic, finishing 21-for-44 on three-pointers. Golden State’s vaunted Splash Brothers, Thompson and Stephen Curry, totaled 70 points.

***

No. 3: Tyronn Lue, reluctant head coach? — One team, the Cleveland Cavaliers, already has taken care of its conference championship business and is patiently waiting for the West to deliver its champion to The Finals. That team is coached these days by Tyronn Lue, a rookie head coach thrust into that job when Cavaliers GM David Griffin fired David Blatt four months ago. Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com filled the gap between Cavs games this weekend to pull back the curtain on Lue’s hiring and how – even though he aspired to be a head coach someday – Lue didn’t enjoy the manner in which this promotion came:

Tyronn Lue was enjoying a peaceful, rare afternoon off when his phone begin to ring. There would be little peace for the rest of the day.

Eventually, that one call led to others. It sparked conversations between Lue and every member of the Cavaliers roster that eventually reset a season. But it was that initial call that changed everything. General Manager David Griffin was on the line.

In speaking with numerous sources close to “The Call,” cleveland.com learned the details. There were no initial pleasantries. Griffin got right to the point — David Blatt was being relieved of his duties.

Lue’s response was candid and immediate.

“This is f—– up, Griff.”

That didn’t prevent Griffin from calmly asking Lue if he could take over. Hired as the associate head coach a year and a half earlier, becoming the head of a franchise was Lue’s eventual goal. But this didn’t seem right.

Lue pleaded with Griffin, arguing for several minutes that firing Blatt was an excessive move for a team carrying a conference-best 30-11 record. Griffin listened to Lue’s pleas. When they ended, he told Lue the decision has already been carried out.

Griffin circled back to his original question.

“What’s done is done. I’m asking you if you can lead this team?” It had taken a few minutes, but Griffin got the response he sought.

“Yeah, I can f—ing lead this team.”

Griffin then congratulated him.

January 22 marked the birth of a rejuvenated culture that catapulted the franchise to securing its second consecutive NBA Finals appearance.

“I was like, ‘what the f—.’ That was my initial thought,” Lue told cleveland.com. “I didn’t see it coming. I couldn’t believe it. But, you’re prepared because you’ve done the coaching interviews and you have your philosophies. But to fire the head coach and you take over the next day with no practice or anything and you have the Chicago Bulls coming in. It was overwhelming.”

Owner Dan Gilbert has been reluctant to speak about Blatt’s departure and Lue’s promotion. However, after his team eliminated the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals in Friday night’s Game 6, Gilbert took in the sight of a revived and confident roster. He felt it was the appropriate juncture to comment.

“I just think it was a great decision that was made,” Gilbert said to cleveland.com. “You never know what would happen any other way, but I think [Lue is] fantastic. It’s rare that a guy knows the game and has people skills. You get both with him, like offense and defense almost. He’s a special guy.”

***

No. 4: DeJean-Jones’ death hard on coach — Followers of the NBA were just getting to know Bryce DeJean-Jones, given his brief stints on 10-day contracts this season with the New Orleans Pelicans and the multi-year deal he signed with the team to stick around for 2016-17 and maybe more. But there were plenty of people who knew DeJean-Jones and were stunned by the news of his death in a tragic shooting in Texas. One of those was Dave Rice, who had coached the young wing player during their time together at UNLV. Rice spoke with The Sporting NewsMike DeCourcy:

The news came to Dave Rice as a question more so than a statement. A friend from Las Vegas checked in to ask if it were true: Was Bryce Dejean-Jones really dead?

It did not take long for Rice to confirm. Dejean-Jones, 23, had been shot to death in Texas. The Dallas police stated Jones broke into an apartment, kicking in the front door and a bedroom door, and a startled resident had grabbed his gun and shot. The apartment owner released a statement indicating Dejean-Jones had been attempting to break into the home of an “estranged acquaintance” — multiple reports indicate it was the mother of his child — but had entered the wrong home

Rice had coached Dejean-Jones at UNLV for three seasons, after he transfered from Southern California. It was a challenge at times, and Dejean-Jones spent his final season of eligibility elsewhere. But they never lost touch.

“It’s just tough when you lose a former player that was special, that went through quite a bit of adversity — and Bryce would be the first one to say he was responsible for a lot of that adversity,” Rice told Sporting News on Saturday. “But he’d made a lot of progress.

“When you see someone you’ve tried to help and you see that person making progress, becoming a man and doing well, and then something like this happens it’s — tough is not the right adjective, but you know what I’m trying to say.”

A 6-6 forward from Los Angeles, Dejean-Jones spent a redshirt year at UNLV after transferring from Southern California, then played two years for the Rebels and produced scoring averages of 10.3 and 13.6 points a game. He was suspended for a violation of team rules and missed UNLV’s final regular-season game in 2014. He reportedly was heard yelling at teammates following the team’s conference tournament loss to San Diego State. It was time to move on.

Rice, now an assistant coach at Nevada, said the rough end to their time together did not diminish their relationship. The UNLV staff worked with Dejean-Jones to assure his graduation and transfer would go smoothly, and at Iowa State he averaged 10.5 points for a team that won the Big 12 tournament.

When Dejean-Jones was called up from the NBA Development League to play for the New Orleans Pelicans, he called Rice to share the joy. When UNLV made the impetuous decision to fire Rice last January, Dejean-Jones was among the former players who called to commiserate.

“We had a very special relationship,” Rice said. ”He knew that I always had his back. I think that was his way of saying ‘Coach, I’ve got yours.’ “

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Anthony Slater of the Daily Oklahoman provides a forensic breakdown of the Thunder’s Game 6 meltdown. … Luke Walton isn’t talking about the Lakers job for now and certainly isn’t inclined to delve into his interview with Phil Jackson. … New Memphis coach David Fizdale may be close to adding a top-notch lieutenant to his staff. … If you want more Klay Thompson — apologies to Thunder fans — here’s a story from last June on the Warrior guard’s high school roots. … For some reason, that Yahoo! site The Vertical treated Thompson’s Yoda socks as if it was breaking news about the Lindbergh baby kidnapping or something. Here’s what all their fuss was about.

Morning shootaround — Jan. 23


VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from Friday

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Unraveling of Cavs, James, Blatt began early | Warriors’ Kerr grateful in return | Bulls earning ‘soft’ label | Winning gives edge to All-Star reserves

No. 1: Unraveling of Cavs, James, Blatt began early — It was a hair-on-fire day for news in the NBA Friday, starting with the Josh Smith trade back to Houston and continuing through the pre-emptive weather postponement of NBA games from Saturday’s schedule in Philadelphia and Washington, right on to coach Steve Kerr’s return after a 43-game health absence to Golden State’s bench. But the whopper was Cleveland’s abrupt firing of head coach David Blatt. Not only had Blatt helped the Cavaliers reach the Finals last June, he had them atop the Eastern Conference with a 30-11 record and was in line to coach the East All-Stars in three weeks up in Toronto. Both local and national coverage blanketed the story, with ESPN.com providing the most exhaustive report courtesy of Brian Windhorst and Dave McMenamin. Here are notable excerpts:

At the very heart of the matter, this is why the Cavs fired Blatt on Friday, despite a record of 83-40 and a Finals appearance. Blatt viewed himself as a coach with numerous championships in Europe, an Olympic medal and 20-plus years on the sideline, a career that made him one of the most experienced coaches in the world.

The Cavs players, especially the veterans, saw him as a rookie.

The issues started before [LeBron] James returned to the franchise in July 2014. The Cavs were all over the place in their coaching search that summer. They offered the job to numerous big names, from John Calipari and Bill Self in the college ranks to Steve Kerr from the broadcast booth. [Cleveland GM David] Griffin also interviewed Alvin Gentry, whom he had worked alongside with the Phoenix Suns, and Tyronn Lue, a rising assistant who learned under Doc Rivers.

But team owner Dan Gilbert wanted to make a different kind of hire. He didn’t want a retread or an inexperienced coach, which is why he chased the veteran college coaches. It’s why he loved Blatt, who was a legend in Israel, something that appealed to Gilbert.

To complicate matters, the Cavs hired the runner-up for the job, Lue, to be Blatt’s assistant. To keep him away from the Clippers, the Cavs gave him a record four-year, $6.5 million deal — for an assistant. Gilbert would later call the coaching staff the best he had assembled in his time as owner.

Blatt endorsed the Lue move, which many in the league saw as an immediate undercutting of the head coach. Never before could anyone remember the runner-up for a job being hired as the lead assistant, and it was taken as an example of Blatt’s NBA inexperience. Blatt also didn’t understand that he would have to earn players’ respect; it would not be instantly given.

“It was like an 800-pound gorilla as the season moved on,” one person involved with the team said. “You could just see LeBron connecting to [Lue] and turning his back on David.”
That didn’t stay a secret. James’ and other players’ complaints about Blatt’s style got out quickly. During games, Cavs players complained about the coach to opposing players. Once, while on the road, an injured Cavs player used the home team’s therapy pool and complained about Blatt, with his thoughts literally echoing throughout the home locker room.

Those who knew Blatt from Europe, where he was known as a fire-breather with players during games, were stunned at how he had changed. When Blatt was the coach of the Russian national team, he famously once kicked two of his best players off the bench because they were talking over him in a timeout. Now, spectators watched in awe as players barked at Blatt in timeouts. That was just one of many adjustments he made to try to make this unwieldy job work.

Blatt, meanwhile, retrofitted the Cavs’ defensive system with his new players, and that helped launch the team’s midseason turnaround. He melded in the new players effectively. He showed his experience as he found a way to give James space while looking for other ways to make a positive difference. At the same time, his yielding to the players — James especially — only further reinforced that Blatt wasn’t a coach who demanded respect.

***

No. 2: Warriors’ Kerr grateful in return— While one NBA coach’s relationship with his team was getting blown up Friday, another was reuniting. Steve Kerr, after nearly four months and 43 regular-season games, was back on the Golden State bench for its game against Indiana. Kerr had taken a leave of absence on Oct. 1 to recover and rehab from two back surgeries, and while his physical health demanded and benefited from the layoff, his mental health definitely craved his return to everything Warriors. Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury-News was at Oracle Arena to chronicle Kerr’s first game back:

But on this night, one of the biggest adrenaline-rushes of the game actually came before the game, because Kerr had been gone so long after taking a leave of absence due to complications after back surgery.

And despite the Warriors’ amazing 39-4 run under interim coach Luke Walton–who happily moved aside one seat for Kerr’s re-arrival–the Warriors missed their coach.

More than that, he missed them. And was thankful to return to them.

“I felt great,” Kerr said afterwards. “Really nice reception at the beginning of the game. Our fans are amazing. Just felt good to be back in Oracle with all the energy from the crowd.

“Wasn’t our best stuff but we got the job done.”

Kerr has been at team practices for several weeks and on the last several road trips, but he’s the Warriors coach, he won a championship with them last season, and a coach needs to coach.

During the game, Kerr sat quietly through the first quarter as the Warriors got out to a big lead–what was he supposed to fret over?

Then, as the Warriors went through a flat period or two, or when Kerr protested a call or two, he got up, yelled a few things, and called a few timeouts.

He was back.
“Honestly, I didn’t think one bit about who we were playing and when,” Kerr said about the Spurs game ahead. “It was strictly about when I felt ready.

“I wanted to come back a couple weeks ago and I sort of had a target date in mind–and we got to the date and it was, ‘I’m not ready.’ I knew I wasn’t ready.

“But the last 10 days or so have been great; I’ve really felt good physically. Felt like I turned a corner. Feel like I’m ready to go, regardless of who was on the schedule.”

***

No. 3: Bulls earning ‘soft’ label — As of Friday, there wasn’t a coach in the Central Division who was happy with his team – and maybe not a fan base all that happy with its coach. Tyronn Lue is undefeated for the moment in Cleveland but the Pacers, Bucks and Pistons all have had their issues lately. And then there are the Bulls, where new head coach Fred Hoiberg is frustrated with his team’s poor starts and inconsistent efforts, while many Chicago fans are wondering if management’s designated replacement for Tom Thibodeau is the right guy for the job. Beat writer Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times suggested after Friday’s loss in Boston that the Bulls are “soft,” a four-letter word equal to any profanity around pro athletes and teams:

The first-year coach was asked if he was tired of his team looking soft in too many moments this season, and without hesitation responded, “Yeah, I am.’’

He wasn’t alone.

“Soft’’ is always a dangerous word to use about a team on any level, but also a very fitting description of what this Bulls team has become on a night-to-night basis. And they can try and dress it up with buzzwords like “communication’’ and “energy,’’ but it seems to come back to one common theme with this team: Too soft in too many key moments.

Jimmy Butler definitely wasn’t going to hide from that label.

“Yeah, especially coming out of the gates, and that’s on us starters, man,’’ Butler said, when asked about the marshmallow moments from this team. “We’re digging ourselves a huge hole a lot of these games because we know how talented we are, how well we can score the ball, but defense is all about grit. The will and the want to do-so. I don’t feel like we do-so right now.’’

Even more troubling was Butler pointing out that the coaches stress it, the players talk about it and practice it in shootaround, but once those lights turn on, well, as Butler put it, “when we get out there it’s kind of like we do what we want to do. We’re not on the same page, we’re not communicating, and then on top of everything else we don’t get to the loose ball like the other team does.

“It’s time to stop talking about it. We’ve been talking about this all year long now.’’

***

No. 4: Winning gives edge to All-Star reserves — If Charles Barkley felt confounded by the fan balloting for the 2016 All-Star starters, he probably will again find plenty with which to quibble when the conference coaches make their selections for the East and West All-Star reserves. The seven players added to each roster – to be announced Thursday as part of TNT’s doubleheader telecast – presumably represent the next-best players through the first 45-50 games of the season. But of course, there are other factors involved. Some coaches apply arbitrary filters to thin the herd of candidates. Others might indulge shameless biases or personal grudges, or game the voting so one of their guys benefits. A couple of East coaches – Toronto’s Dwane Casey and Boston’s Brad Stevensgave some insight on their criteria to Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe:

“Probably the biggest criteria is looking at the team’s record,” Casey said, “because you can score 50 a game and have a losing record, and you’re not going to [be an] All-Star. That’s not only for me, but for all coaches.”

Casey was probably exaggerating just a bit, because a 50-point scorer on any team would be a lock, but you get his point. Wins matter. Stevens echoed that sentiment, saying he uses team success as an easy tiebreaker among players who otherwise appear to be equals.

“Probably a differentiating factor will be who scares me the most,” Stevens said. “That’s just kind of the way I’d look at it. Obviously, who do you have to prepare for differently? Who makes you tweak what you normally do?”

When Stevens analyzes numbers and figures, he does find some advanced statistics quite helpful.

“I look more at efficiency than anything else,” he said. “I don’t get too caught up in points per game or rebounds per game or those types of things. You get caught up in efficiency and those types of things. You get caught up in efficiency from a points standpoint. You get caught up in rebound percentages. I think that, again, you have to also factor in fourth quarter and crunch-time performance.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: One of the most popular topics related to David Blatt‘s firing Friday was speculation over the degree to which Cavaliers susperstar LeBron James was involved. Should James be thought of as a “coach killer” after his experiences with Mike Brown and now Blatt? Or does he draw that sort of criticism unfairly? … The Brooklyn Nets might find plenty to like in Blatt as they cope with a real freefall. … The Nets needed a shooting doctor, so they hired a Nurse. … Former Marquette teammates Jimmy Butler and Jae Crowder battled in Boston. … Former NBA referees are mentoring their profession’s next generation. … Re-think whatever your definition might be of a “high basketball IQ.” Introducing the smart ball. …

Blatt fired, Lue promoted, James blamed?


VIDEO: Cavaliers fire David Blatt midway through second season

Cleveland head coach David Blatt – midway through his second season, seven months since taking the Cavaliers to the Finals and weeks away from likely coaching the Eastern Conference All-Stars – has been fired.

And LeBron James is going to have to answer for it.

That’s just the nature of James’ superstar status and clout within the Cleveland franchise. There’s a hierarchy in the organization that includes owner Dan Gilbert and general manager David Griffin, who will be front and center in explaining the decision to dump Blatt at this point in another winning season. James and fellow Cavs stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love will field the questions, too.

But in the long term, James will be the one most charged with demonstrating whether this was the right move at the right time.

The news of Blatt’s termination was first reported by Yahoo! Sports.

Blatt, 56, exits with an 83-40 record and a 14-6 mark in last spring’s playoffs. Even with the Cavaliers’ elimination in six games from the 2015 Finals, the injury absences of both Love and Irving (after Game 1) made it unrealistic to expect Blatt, James or anyone else to beat the Golden State Warriors.

Blatt had been successful enough in Israel and Europe to become the first international coach hired directly as an NBA head coach. But he was hired before James made his free-agent decision in July 2014 to return to Cleveland after four seasons in Miami. Blatt, ostensibly, had been hired to build a team around promising young players such as Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Tristan Thompson and others.

It also opened the door to speculation that Blatt never was the coach that James wanted, or trusted in his quest to bring an NBA championship to the market near and dear to the Akron (Ohio) native.

Tyronn Lue, the Cavs’ associate head coach, reportedly will take over immediately and be on the sidelines for Cleveland’s next game, a clash with the Chicago Bulls at Quicken Loans Arena on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET on ABC).

Blatt had been named Eastern Conference Coach of the Month for October/November after guiding the Cavs to a 13-4 start. Cleveland recently had gone 5-1 on a 12-day road trip, pushing its record to 28-10.

But a home blowout loss to Golden State Monday, 132-98, revealed a startling lack of preparation and focus by the Cavs. It exposed further difficulties in blending Love’s complete game with James’ and Irving’s talents. And it had James afterward saying, “We do understand we’ve got to get better. … We’ve got a long way to go.”

There was, naturally, no early confirmation of how much input James or any other players had in the decision. However, there certainly was speculation:

Cavs sign holdout Thompson, should welcome ‘overpaid’ tag


The Cleveland Cavaliers will know Tristan Thompson‘s new $82 million contract is a success if they hear, non-stop from now through the Finals, that the backup power forward is overpaid.

Maybe not “vastly overpaid” and definitely not “outrageously overpaid.” That would suggest some dramatic under performance from what Thompson has been in his first four NBA seasons. But if Thompson winds up giving the Cavaliers something close to what they’ve been getting from him – 12.7 points and 10.6 rebounds per 36 minutes, at adapting last season to contributing off the bench – and he merely stays tagged as “overpaid,” that will mean mostly good things for Cleveland.

It will mean that Thompson wasn’t pressed into starter’s duty by a debilitating injury again to Kevin Love. It will mean that his playing time didn’t have to jump up to the 39.1 minutes he logged over the Cavs’ final 16 playoff games after Love’s shoulder injury in the first round against Boston. It will mean that Timofey Mozgov, Anderson Varejao and (yikes!) LeBron James likely didn’t miss significant time either to thin the roster’s complement of big men.

The bottom line on Thompson’s new deal – a $2 million bump from what reportedly was discussed with the Cavs at the start of free agency – is that, if it seems a little painful to the organization’s bottom line, a bunch of basketball-related things likely will have gone right.

Here was the initial report on the end of the restricted free agent’s holdout as offered by Cavaliers beat writer Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:

The two sides agreed Wednesday to a five-year, $82 million pact, ending a lengthy stalemate that should ensure Thompson’s presence in Northeast Ohio through the deals already in place with Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving and, most likely, LeBron James.

Cleveland will have the highest payroll in NBA history with the signing, opening training camp next week with a commitment this year of approximately $115 million.

The dollar amount may baffle some, but Thompson earned his new contract. He bet on himself at the beginning of the 2014-15 season by turning down a four-year, $52 million extension.

Knowing he was stepping into a season in which he was Kevin Love’s backup, Thompson, advised by his agent Rich Paul, decided he was better off playing his hand at restricted free agency.

Critics mocked him for rebuffing such a lucrative offer, citing his “limited skill set.” Nevertheless, he played on and accepted his new reserve role. He was the league’s leading rebounder off the bench with 8.0 boards a night, while also continuing his streak of not missing a game in his four-year career.

Thompson led the playoffs with 88 offensive rebounds. With Love and Irving sidelined, those extra offensive possessions proved invaluable for a shorthanded Cavalier squad.

His motor on the backboards was a constant irritant to opponents. In the Finals, the Golden State Warriors decided they often had to box him out with two guys.

That helped Thompson’s resume and encouraged him and his agent to wait out the league’s Oct. 1 deadline for signing a deal or playing on a one-year qualifying offer. It seemed likely

Thompson could cash in next summer as an unrestricted free agent, shopping in a market flooded with fatter TV revenues that will send the salary cap soaring again. That would, however, almost certainly mean the end of Thompson’s days in Cleveland.

The Cavaliers will be paying dearly to make another run at the Finals in 2016 and keep the core of this championship contender together well beyond that. In addition to the $115 million payroll cited by Haynes, ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst reported that Cleveland’s luxury-tax obligation for 2015-16 will approach $65 million. That’s a big check to write for owner Dan Gilbert and a big swallow for general manager David Griffin.

So while this sort of thing is undeniably true…

… there is the concept of insurance, and how the best policies are the ones you never actually cash in.

There’s a saying in the NFL that the most valuable player on the team is the starting quarterback and the second-most valuable player is the backup quarterback. Those guys get paid, too, even though no one really wants to see them prove their value on Sundays – that would mean the starter got hurt or stinks.

That’s how the Cavaliers and their fans need to look at Thompson’s deal now. The more he actually plays up to that $82 million figure, the more likely something else will have gone wrong in their championship plan.

Morning shootaround — Oct. 18



VIDEO: Run through Saturday’s highlights with the Fast Break

NEWS OF THE MORNING:

Time for Dan Gilbert to step in? | Kawhi Leonard wants rings, not acclaim | Lillard ready to lead his team | Jabari Parker needs more time
No. 1: Time for Dan Gilbert to step in? — The ongoing negotiations, if that’s what you still want to call the state of stalled talks, involving the Cavaliers and holdout forward Tristan Thompson might require the pulling of an emergency cord. With the regular season just a week away, should Cavs owner Dan Gilbert get more involved in the talks in order to reach a solution? According to Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio News Group, it may come to that:

In fact, there doesn’t seem to be a sense of urgency from either side in reaching an agreement. And that means Thompson’s stalemate will continue to hover over the organization like a black cloud, a cloud LeBron James considers “a distraction.”

It may be time to signal to the dugout for Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.

Thompson’s presence on and off the court is sorely being missed. Internally, members of the Cavaliers have expressed to each other how it would be such an unnecessary hurdle to try to contend for a title without their best offensive rebounder and most versatile big defender.

James has been in constant contact with Thompson throughout the negotiations. He has made it clear the importance of ending the impasse as soon as possible.

A championship run is at stake.

“I try not to get involved in that, as far as what the team is speaking on or talking about,” James said about the stalled negotiations. “It’s basically more on a personal level, asking him how he’s doing and if his mind is right and things of that nature. There’s a lot of things that’s much bigger than basketball, even though I know he would love to be here right now and we would love to have him here, but I kind of stray away from that.”

***

No. 2: Kawhi Leonard wants rings, not acclaim — Some players say they don’t care about fame, applause, blah, blah, but when Kawhi Leonard says it, you tend to believe him. His previous pattern of being soft-spoken and staying in the shadows plays to his personality. And yet this season, Leonard will probably make the All-Star team for the first time if he takes another leap forward in production. Here’s Jabari Young of the San Antonio Express-News with a discussion with Leonard on this topic:

“I just want (another) one of those up there,” Leonard said, referring to one of the championship banners hanging from the Spurs’ practice facility.

Leonard, 24, has little concern with individual accolades.

“In 2014 I wasn’t an All-Star or Defensive Player of the Year,” Leonard told the Express-News. “If I can get back and win a championship, that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich wasn’t surprised Leonard’s motivation stems from pursuing a championship.

“That sounds like him,” Popovich said. “ … He really is more interested in winning than he is with (individual awards). He’s a really selfless kind of guy. … It’s not about him in any way, shape, or form. It’s always been about the group.”

It’s this type of attitude that supports the notion Popovich will be around for a few years after the Big Three dismantle. With Leonard, and now LaMarcus Aldridge added to the mix, Popovich doesn’t worry about character issues, just basketball.

“I’ve always said I’ve been fortunate with the guys I’ve had come through here,” said Popovich. “My job is pretty easy when people have that character and you don’t have to convince them to get over themselves, convince them to be happy for their teammate’s success, or to feel responsible to each other. (Leonard) already feels all that. He understands it when we talk about it. It makes it easier to have a team that enjoys playing together.”

But who could doubt Leonard if he did have MVP aspirations, or if making an All-Star team was a goal?

“I’m not one of the guys in the league for the fame,” Leonard said. “I’m here so I can take of my family, my mom, my friends and take care of myself. I love the game of basketball and as long as I can do that, keep playing and try to get some more championships with the organization, I’ll be happy. I don’t care about winning an MVP – the MVP doesn’t mean you’re the best player in the league.”

***

No. 3: Lillard ready to lead his team — It’s difficult to imagine the Trail Blazers finishing anywhere close to what they did last season, when they turned a 51-win season into yet another playoff berth. But then the mass exodus began and the lone returning starter is Damian Lillard, who’s hardly backing down from the challenge of spearheading the transition, painful as it might be. Lillard spoke about it with Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune:

If you’re counting, that’s four of five starters from the reigning Northwest Division champions. The rubble is clear, and Lillard is the only mainstay remaining. He’s the one being counted on to guide a bunch of young and unproven players, a gaggle of free agent signings and draft picks looking to make their mark.

Lillard says he’s up for the challenge.

“I have a lot of belief in myself,” Lillard told the Tribune. “I give a lot of credit to my upbringing, and I’ve already done more in this game than I ever thought I would. So I’m prepared for what’s to come. This year will be similar to what I went through at Weber State, except on a higher level.”

When the Jazz face the Blazers on Sunday at the Moda Center, the preseason will be almost over for both teams. When the regular season starts, Lillard will be counted on for more than just the 21 points, six rebounds and almost five assists per game that he provided last year.

He’ll be looked to for additional leadership. He’ll no longer have Matthews around to guard premier opposing backcourt players. He’ll have to take full ownership in clutch moments, instead of splitting them with Aldridge.

Most importantly, he’ll be the unquestioned top option, which means he’ll be at the top of opposing scouting reports nightly. Now in his fourth season, and armed with a new long-term contract, Lillard is prepared to be the face of the Blazers on and off the floor.

***

No. 4: Jabari Parker needs more time — Despite rehabbing well from the knee injury that ended his rookie season after a little more than a month, Jabari Parker will require a bit more time before he returns to the court. How much time is anyone’s guess right now, but the Bucks and Parker are playing it carefully and sense that there’s no need to rush. All they know is Parker will play at some point this season. Here’s Charles Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel with details:

Parker is making steady progress in his comeback from major knee surgery in January and is practicing with his teammates.

Right now, that’s enough for the 6-foot-8 forward and the Bucks.

“I’m feeling my legs getting underneath me,” Parker said after going through practice Thursday. “It’s going to be a grind.

“I’m looking long-term. I really don’t want to risk going back and lingering on if I’m not ready. I just want to be as productive as possible.

“There’s no use in me playing if I know I can’t contribute the way I want to.”

Parker suffered a torn left anterior cruciate ligament Dec. 15 in Phoenix, an injury that shortened his rookie season to 25 games.

But he said he doesn’t feel cheated by missing so much time.

“My No. 1 goal was to make the playoffs,” Parker said. “A lot of people looked at me like I was crazy.

“It’s all about the team; that’s where it starts. We all contributed at the end of the day.”

The Bucks did make the playoffs as the sixth-seeded team in the Eastern Conference, even without Parker. Now they have Parker returning and the addition of 6-foot-11 center Greg Monroe, raising hopes even higher for this season.

Coach Jason Kidd said no target date has been established for Parker to play in a game. Milwaukee has five preseason games left and opens the regular season Oct. 28 at home against the New York Knicks.

“For us it’s day by day, but at the end of the week we’ll see how he feels,” Kidd said. “We’ll continue with the game plan of loading and giving him more things to do and we’ll see how his body responds to it.

“So far his body has been great.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Chris Paul and Blake Griffin visit Lamar OdomArron Afflalo says he once hustled records to the stars … There’s a good chance that rookie RJ Hunter will pass James Young in the Celtics’ rotation … Is the NBA preseason too long or just right?… Dave Bing helps Pistons players adjust to life off the court.

The fall guy in Cleveland?


VIDEO: Kevin Love is Cleveland bound — how will his arrival help the Cavs?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Seventeen games into his tenure with the Miami Heat, LeBron James was taking abuse from every direction. In those early stages of the 2010-11 season, the Heat were 9-8 and the Big 3 era was off to a shaky start, given the outrageous expectations that accompanied the joining of forces between LeBron, fellow free agent Chris Bosh and incumbent face of the franchise Dwyane Wade.

The Heat rebounded from those early stumbles and made it to The Finals before being taken apart by Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and the Dallas Mavericks.

In the aftermath of that ugly finish to their first season, LeBron was quickly cast as the scapegoat (with Heat coach Erik Spoelstra stuck in the mud with him). He flatlined at crunch time in The 2011 Finals. Unlike Wade, he had no championship ring or Finals MVP to fall back on. And Bosh was seen as the third wheel, so there was no way he could be the fall guy in that scenario. So LeBron was left to shoulder that burden, one that ultimately led to back-to-back titles and Finals MVPs.

The roles have been shuffled in LeBron’s latest super-team situation in Cleveland, where he’s the championship veteran with rings and Finals MVPs, playing alongside young All-Stars in Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving. Unlike Bosh and James back in 2010, though, the next playoff points Love and Irving score will be their first.

Far be it from me to rain on the attention parade going on in Cleveland, the epicenter of the sports universe with the Cavaliers’ new look and the seemingly never-ending Johnny Manziel news cycle. But what happens if (it’s blasphemy, Cavaliers fans, I know) LeBron and friends don’t win the title in their first season together?

Who is the fall guy this time?

Forget the common sense that should come with a new team with new leadership (coach David Blatt playing the Cleveland edition of Spoelstra’s role). The 2010-11 Heat and the 2014-15 Cavaliers face this similar circumstance: anything short of a title will be viewed as a disappointment by most.

And that means someone has to shoulder the burden of that disappointment the way LeBron (and Spoelstra) did when he went dark for weeks after The 2011 Finals trying to reflect on what had been a whirlwind 11 months.

LeBron should be immune this time around. We know what to expect from him. He has extensive experience playing with other elite superstars. He won’t have to make as many adjustments to his game to be effective. Even with the San Antonio Spurs shredding the Heat in The Finals this year, LeBron (cramps aside) was basically unstoppable. It was his supporting cast, both Wade and Bosh in particular, who didn’t play up to their own lofty standards.

And the Spurs were so good, it might not have made a difference if Wade and Bosh played well or not.

Love and Irving are clearly in the crosshairs this time around, given their lack of playoff experience and the fact that the only time they have shared a locker room with players as good or better than them is during All-Star Weekend and their time with USA Basketball. No one knows how either of them will hold up in the crucible that is the postseason. All of those regular-season highlights are useless if either of them melts down in the playoffs or runs into a matchup they simply cannot win.

Love will have to assume the Stretch 4 role that Bosh played in Miami, where his numbers dipped considerably compared to what he put up as a stand-alone All-Star in Toronto. Irving will have to relinquish some of the facilitating duties and scoring load that he’s had to carry early in his career to make sure his game meshes perfectly with two new elite teammates with higher profiles than his own.

Both Love and Irving will have the luxury of playing with the best player on the planet. But not even LeBron will be able to save them from expectations that are not fulfilled. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, general manager David Griffin and LeBron have all done their part. The pieces for success at the highest level have been assembled.

The rest is up to Love, Irving and the supporting cast. And if things go awry come playoff time, the scapegoat list will be easy to make!

Heat owner classy in disappointment

Miami Heat owner Micky Arison handled the disappointment of losing LeBron James much better than Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert did four years ago.

Arison expressed his shock after learning James will leave the Heat after four seasons and two championships to return to the Cavs with a message on Twitter.

James does leave Arison with those two titles, but losing the game’s greatest player will cost the Heat and Arison untold millions in revenue in the years to come.

Gilbert has felt that impact over the last four seasons after James took his talents to South Beach. Incensed by James’ stunning decision to leave, a decision James made on national television without first apprising the Cavs owner, Gilbert wrote an open letter to fans that disparaged James.

Thankfully, Arison, informed of James’ decision not long before Sports Illustrated broke the news through a first-person essay by James earlier Friday, issued his more measured response.

Gilbert offered his own response to James’ homecoming on Twitter.

And this in response to a logical question from his young son:

Reports: LeBron won’t meet with other teams, decision looms


VIDEO: GameTime: Aldridge on LeBron


‘Melo to New York
 | No LeBron decision expected tonight | Cavs eye ex-Heat players

Update 11:30 p.m. — Raptors, Vasquez agree to terms

While so many teams are wondering who’s coming and going, the Toronto Raptors keep re-signing their own. The latest to agree to terms is backup point guard Greivis Vasquez, a key player in the team’s resurgence after coming over from Sacramento in the Rudy Gay trade.

Update 10:57 p.m. — No more meetings; LeBron decision looms

After meeting with Heat president Pat Riley on Wednesday, LeBron James has all the information he needs to make his highly anticipated decision: Miami or Cleveland. Multiple reports suggest that James and his agent, Rich Paul, will not entertain meetings with any other teams, and that James will talk with his family and then make his decision.

Interesting about this decision is that James — unless privately or through back channels — has not met with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, new general manager David Griffin or new coach David Blatt.

Update 9:45 p.m. — Bosh to Houston if LeBron bolts Miami … Or will he?

Hours after news broke of the Mavericks and Rockets restricted free agent Chandler Parsons coming to terms on a lucrative offer sheet came a report that Chris Bosh will accept the Rockets’ offer if James leaves for Cleveland.

However, our own David Aldridge is hearing a different tune.

If this development is true, it could potentially help quicken a decision by James, who likely wouldn’t want to interfere with Bosh’s chances of joining the Rockets if James is indeed headed back to Cleveland. Once Houston receives the Parsons offer sheet, which Parsons can sign tonight when the clock strikes midnight, Houston will have 72 hours to match. But until general manager Daryl Morey knows where James is headed, and, thus, where Bosh is headed, they won’t have a clear indication of how to proceed with Parsons, which was Dallas’ intention.

The Rockets could theoretically sign Bosh and match the Parsons offer sheet, but it would take some hasty work to carve out enough cap space.

Update 9:30 p.m. — No Love for Cleveland

In a frenzy to boost its roster as it guns for LeBron James, Cleveland reportedly was trying to push for a trade to acquire Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love. Love, of course, wants out of Minnesota, but it appears team president and coach Flip Saunders isn’t ready to make a deal.

Update 8:08 p.m. — No decision expected tonight

According to several reports, LeBron James is not expected to announce his decision tonight.

Update 7:40 p.m. — LeBron, Riley wrap up meeting, direction unclear

The highly anticipated meeting between LeBron James and Heat president Pat Riley in Las Vegas has ended, and there is no clear indication of James’ intentions.

One media member, Chris Sheridan of sheridanhoops.com tweeted that James has decided to return to Cleveland.

However there has been no further confirmation.

Update 7:01 p.m. — Mavs make move for Rockets’ Parsons; Cavs want Love

Seeking to upgrade at small forward, the Dallas Mavericks have put the Houston Rockets on the clock by coming to an agreement with restricted free agent Chandler Parsons on an offer sheet reportedly for three years and in excess of $45 million.

Parsons can’t officially sign the offer sheet until midnight ET. When he does, the Rockets will have 72 hours to match, a move they have consistently vowed to make.

However, those plans could change depending if Heat free agent Chris Bosh accepts an offer already on the table from the Rockets. If Bosh remains undecided on his plans as the clock ticks down on a decision on Parsons, Houston could be put in a situation of having to decide to pass on Parsons at the risk of not getting Bosh — or matching on Parsons at the risk of losing Bosh if he indeed leaves Miami.

Bosh’s decision, in all likelihood, will revolve around James’ decision to either stay in Miami or bolt to Cleveland. And at this point (as James is currently meeting with Heat president Pat Riley in Las Vegas), there is no telling how much longer James might take to reveal his plan.

In more LeBron James machinations, the Cavaliers are reportedly seeking to put together a trade for Minnesota’s discontented power forward Kevin Love, on the contingency that they sign James.

Update 5:05 p.m. — It’s about this money

The NBA announced its salary cap for the 2014-15 season — an all-time high, 7.5 percent more than last year. It’s a bit of news that will come in handy in the Heat’s talk with LeBron James in about an hour.

The release from the league:

The National Basketball Association today announced that the Salary Cap has increased by 7.5% to an all-time high of $63.065 million for the 2014-15 season.  The tax level for the 2014-15 season increased by 7.1% to $76.829 million.

The Salary Cap and tax level go into effect at 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday, July 10, when the league’s “moratorium period” ends and teams can begin signing free agents and making trades.

The minimum team salary, which is set at 90% of the Salary Cap, is $56.759 million for the 2014-15 season.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement provides for three different mid-level exceptions depending on a team’s salary level.   The non-taxpayer mid-level for this season is $5.305 million, the taxpayer mid-level is $3.278 million and the mid-level for a team with room under the Salary Cap is $2.732 million.

Update 4:50 p.m. — Reports: LeBron’s meeting with Heat

After all the rumblings earlier in the day about Cleveland making room for a LeBron James return (scroll below), remember, James still has a meeting with Heat brass to talk things over … and who knows what might happen there.

James, evidently, will have company when he talks to boss Pat Riley:

Elisburg is the Heat’s senior vice president of basketball ops and a salary cap specialist.

The meeting, according to several reports, is scheduled in Las Vegas for 6 p.m. ET.

Update 3:46 p.m. — Report: Melo Back to the Knicks

Carmelo Anthony isn’t waiting on LeBron James or anyone else. He is sticking with the New York Knicks, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. The official announcement is expected to come Thursday, the first day free agents can sign deals and trades can be stamped by the NBA:

A person close to Anthony told The News on Wednesday that barring a last minute change of heart Anthony will re-sign with the Knicks after “agonizing over this” for the past week.

“He will have something for everybody on Thursday,” said the friend who was with Anthony before Anthony’s scheduled workout with Kevin Durant and Kevin Love in Los Angeles on Wednesday. “He is really torn because this is the biggest decision of his career. But he wants to get it done in New York. He told me he believes in Phil.”

The Knicks offered Anthony a max deal of $129 million, some $33 million more than any other team could offer. The team, according to many sources, has yet to be told of the decision. But the Knicks had been considered by many to be the front-runners.

Isola’s source, who quotes ‘Melo, may have spurred an immediate catchphrase, as NBA.com’s Jeff Caplan points out:

Almost an hour after Isola broke his story, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne put a brake on it:

Update 3:39 p.m. — No stress

This man has the entire basketball world on edge and yet he seems totally relaxed … SMH!

Update 3:26 p.m. — What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas!

What would this day be without a shameless plug from the fine folks of Sin City?

Update 3:17 p.m. — It’s about forgiveness in Cleveland

Can all really be forgiven in Cleveland?

Update 2:40 p.m. — Celtics still chasing Love

Don’t be fooled by the Celtics involvement in any deals this summer. They have one player and one player only on their minds and that’s Kevin Love.

Update 2:20 p.m. — LeBron ready to turn the other cheek to Gilbert?

J.A. Adande weighs in with the best question surrounding this LeBron-back-Cleveland narrative that has ruled the day, the one that includes LeBron’s face-to-face meeting with Heat boss Pat Riley.

How could you even consider going back to work for an owner like Dan Gilbert?

If I could get a meeting of my own with LeBron James, I’d ask him how he could even consider compromising his values and stepping down from the moral high ground he ascended to during the playoffs by weighing an offer from Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

LeBron produced the sharpest and most noteworthy criticism of Clippers owner Donald Sterling after TMZ made Sterling’s racially offensive diatribes public, saying “it’s unacceptable in our league.” No one has accused Gilbert of holding the same misguided racial perceptions as Sterling. With Gilbert, it’s about the personal attacks on LeBron’s character, and his diametrically opposed views on the business of the NBA.

Gilbert, for those who never bothered to read his unhinged response to The Decision in 2010 before the Cavaliersrecently purged it from their website, called LeBron’s departure to the Miami Heat a “cowardly betrayal” and said LeBron was a bad example for the children of Cleveland. This wasn’t just a critique of the televised announcement; it was a tantrum about the very premise of free agency, as if anything other than a career-long commitment to the team that drafted a player constituted treason.

A year later, Gilbert was among the group of owners holding to the hard line when the NBA locked out its players, willing to sacrifice games in order to institute a new collective bargaining agreement that limited player earnings and hampered the formation of superteams.

A return to the Cavaliers by James would be a tacit endorsement of all that he rejected. It wouldn’t represent just a swallowing of his own pride — it would be a surrender in the battle for self-determination for NBA players.

As much as people blasted LeBron about “The Decision,” Gilbert’s letter was the most egregious transgression made by any single individual in the summer of 2010.

The idea that all could be forgiven now is rather remarkable.

Update 2:06 p.m. — James arrives at his hoops camp

As we mentioned earlier, LeBron is in Las Vegas for his LeBron James Skills Academy, which just began and features many top-flight high school and college players …

Update 2 p.m. — LeBron silent as Cavs jockey for him

While Cleveland seemingly works to land him, LeBron James has had little to say the last few days …

Update 1:31 p.m. — A look into the (free-agent) future

If LeBron James takes a two-year deal with the Heat, who else would join him on the free-agent market in 2016?

Update 1:17 p.m. — LeBron more valuable to Cavs than Heat?

LeBron James has allowed the Miami Heat to reach a new level as a franchise. What would his return mean — in dollars and cents — to Cleveland?

Update 1:14 p.m. — The real reason LeBron is in Vegas …

We all know LeBron James is meeting with Heat boss Pat Riley today in Las Vegas, but the real reason James is there is to host his LeBron James Skills Academy, which begins today (sorry the list is upside down) …

Update 12:48 p.m. — Recapping the action thus far

We’ve hit a bit of a lull in the Cavs/LeBron/free agency news, so take a second and catch up on what you might have missed …

Update 12:22 p.m. — Report: LeBron talked to Miller; Heat moves impress James?

Update: 12:04 p.m. — No Love-to-Cavs deal lined up (yet)

Thinking this salary cap purge is being done to line Cleveland up to land Kevin Love? Think again …

Update: 11:57 a.m. — Parsons on Cavs’ radar; some crucial LeBron-to-Cleveland points

Informed observers Marc Stein and our own David Aldridge bring up key issues regarding a potential LeBron-Cavs reunion …

Update 11:42 a.m. — Cavs eye more ex-Heat players; what might Bosh do?

The Cavs are after two more ex-Heat players (Mike Miller and James Jones), but if LeBron does return to Miami, will Chris Bosh come back?

Update 11:39 a.m. — Deal may not be harbinger of anything

Hold off on those celebrations there, Cleveland …

Update 11:36 a.m. — Don’t fret just yet, Heat fans

Many GMs see a LeBron-Heat reunion as possible, but just maybe for not as long as some thought …

Update, 11:33 a.m. — Options aplenty in Cleveland

The Cavs will have some explaining to do whether or not this trade helps them land LeBron … or not …

Update, 11:28 a.m. — Cavs reportedly after Allen, too

If the Cavs are trying to get LeBron James back in the fold, maybe going after one of his old teammates wouldn’t hurt?

Update, 11:26 a.m. — Detailing the three-team deal

Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal spells out in further detail why the Cavs made this trade

https://twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ/status/486893073465483264 (more…)

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.

(more…)