NEWS OF THE MORNING
July is even bigger than June for the Cleveland Cavaliers | Four-team race for DeAndre Jordan’s services | Sixers’ concerns about Embiid growing | Upset ‘Melo or not, Porzingis was right pick for Knicks
No. 1: July is even bigger than June for the Cleveland Cavaliers — Playing for a championship is one thing. Playing for the right to contend for more in the future, however, is another beast altogether. The Cleveland Cavaliers are just days away from a colossal offseason, a July even bigger than the June that saw them scrap and claw their way to within two wins of winning the NBA title, that rests on the franchise’s ability to master free agency. Kevin Love, Tristan Thompson, J.R. Smith and whoever else needs tending to will be the focus for the Cavaliers and certainly LeBron James. Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer sets the summer table for the Cavaliers:
1. I don’t expect J.R. Smith to be back with the Cavs. He turned down his $6.4 million player option, and is looking for a raise with a long-term deal. I doubt the Cavs would want Smith on an extended contract. His emotions are on edge. He was one more flagrant foul away from being suspended in the playoffs. Smith is best on a short-term deal. Smith is an unrestricted free agent.
2. Now that the Cavs will have a huge payroll, they would much prefer to keep Iman Shumpert over Smith. Shumpert is a restricted free agent, meaning the Cavs can match any offer that he receives. They will extend the $3.9 million qualifying offer to the guard and try to work out a long-term deal.
3. Look for the Cavaliers to offer maximum contracts to both Kevin Love and Tristan Thompson. The two deals will be different because they are at different stages of their career. Love can receive a five-year deal in the $100 million range. The Cavs think Love will give it serious consideration. It’s possible that Love will sign a “1-and-1″ contract. It would pay him the maximum salary in 2015-16, and a one-year player option for 2016-17. An agent wants the player option just in case your client has a horrendous injury in 2015-16, so he can at least pocket a maximum salary for 2016-17.
4. The Cavs believe Love came to a comfort level with the team by the end of the season. He knows that this is his best place to contend for a title. The top contenders in the Western Conference don’t have the salary cap room for him. It’s only the struggling or lesser teams (the Lakers, Boston, etc) that may be able to find a way to fit Love into their cap.
5. Love is coming off major shoulder surgery. His is expected to fully recover. He has also dealt with some back problems. Love missed seven regular season games in 2014-15. He missed five in 2013-14. He had a broken hand in 2012-13, missing 65 games. Injuries are a concern, but it’s not as if he has been Anderson Varejao — who simply can’t stay healthy.
6. The summer of 2016 is the “Money Summer.” It’s when the salary cap is expected to increase by at least 30 percent. So a maximum contract to Love this summer is considerably less than a maximum deal a year from now. It’s why LeBron James started the “1-and-1″ deal last summer, and it’s why he’s expected to sign another contract like that this summer with the Cavs.
7. Thompson’s long-term maximum deal would be about $70 million for four years. He is a restricted free agent, meaning the Cavs can match any offer that he receives from another team. Does Thompson play for a “qualifying offer” in the $7 million range and aim to be an unrestricted free agent in 2016 when they big money really flows? That’s something his agent Rich Paul (who also represents James) will have to discuss with Thompson. It was Paul and his chief negotiator, Mark Termini, who helped James design the “1-and-1″ contract approach last summer.
No. 2:Four team race for DeAndre Jordan’s services — So there is a rift between Los Angeles Clippers free agent center DeAndre Jordan and All-Star point guard Chris Paul, or at least that’s the latest smoke rising from Hollywood. Even after Doc Rivers dismissed the rumors that two of his stars were not on the same page all season, the rumblings have not stopped. Jordan’s choice this summer in free agency could very well be influenced by his reportedly deteriorating relationship with Paul. There is apparently a four-team race for Jordan’s services. Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times provides some context:
The Clippers’ main focus now is on keeping Jordan.
The season ended with Rivers denying reports Jordan and Chris Paul had a beef with each other.
But other NBA officials not authorized to speak publicly on the matter said there indeed is a rift between Jordan and Paul.
The officials said Jordan wants to be more involved in the offense and wants to be an All-Star, and he’s not sure whether those things can happen on the Clippers with All-Stars Paul and Blake Griffin.
Dallas Mavericks forward Chandler Parsons has been recruiting Jordan, the officials said. The two have been hanging out together in Jordan’s hometown of Houston.
When free agency starts at 9:01 p.m. PDT Tuesday, Jordan will be home in Houston.
The officials said four teams will visit Jordan at home — the Clippers, Lakers, Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks.
The Clippers can offer Jordan the most security.
He can sign a five-year maximum deal for $108 million with the Clippers. Other teams under the salary cap can offer Jordan a maximum deal of four years for $80 million, with an opt-out clause after the third season.
Jordan can also sign a two-year deal with the Clippers with a player option for after the 2016 season, giving him a starting salary of about $18.8 million for next season.
No. 3: Sixers’ concerns about Embiid growing? — Jahlil Okafor was more than just the obvious No. 3 pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, he was a security pick for the Philadelphia 76ers. With growing concerns about the health and future of Joel Embiid, the 76ers had to make the right choice with that No. 3 pick. Sixers boss Sam Hinkie is as concerned as anyone about his prized big man from the 2014 Draft, writes John Smallwood of The Philadelphia Daily News:
Conspiracy theorists had looked at the timing of the Sixers’ announcement that redshirt rookie center Joel Embiid was not healing as well as anticipated from the foot injury and surgery that cost him last season and determined that it was a smokescreen to hide Hinkie’s true intentions for Thursday’s NBA draft.
Yesterday, that was put to rest. The concerns about Embiid are all too real.
Hinkie said selecting Duke University freshman center Jahlil Okafor third overall was not connected to Embiid’s situation. He said Okafor was the pick because he was the best player available.
But what if there was no issue with Embiid?
“I’d like to think we’d have had the courage to do it anyway,” Hinkie responded when asked if he would have still selected Okafor. “I knew and it’s hard to unknow where things stood with Joel, but I’d like to think we’d have the courage anyway.”
It would almost have been better had it been the mysterious Hinkie talking about Embiid. It would be easier on the concern meter to believe it was just Hinkie being Hinkie and not wanting to divulge any information that he feels might weaken his position.
The troubling thing about this is that it was clear that Hinkie does not know for sure what is going on with Embiid.
“[Embiid] feels really good,” Hinkie said. “That’s part of what makes this, um, maybe confusing is the right word.
“It’s certainly confusing for Joel. He said, ‘I can’t believe how good I feel and I’ve felt great for a while.’ It seems hard to believe that something is wrong.”
Something, however, is wrong – or rather, not quite right.
A CT scan of Embiid’s foot about a week ago led to the Sixers making the infamous Saturday night release saying things weren’t as healed as “anticipated.”
Hinkie pointed out that a year ago, while some had said it would be a 4- to 6-month recovery from surgery to repair the navicular bone in Embiid’s right foot, that he had a more conservative estimate, at that time, of up to 8 months.
Embiid had the surgery on June 20, 2014, which makes it more than 12 months and there are still issues.
“I’ll give a timeline that might help clear some things up but might also help show why we’re looking so hard to try to understand,” Hinkie said. “Joel we’ve watched like a hawk in rehab every day of the year.
“The nature of navicular injuries and the nature of stress fractures is that you see these slow improvements and then you slow [rehabilitation] down and check things.
“Anytime you get any kind of negative feedback, you unload, slow down and re-assess.
“As part of that, we have a set of pro-active MRIs on Joel, and each of those we sent out to a variety of doctors both internally and externally and ask, “What do you think?’ We get the consensus responses and move from there.”
No. 4: Upset ‘Melo or not, Porzingis was right pick for Knicks — It doesn’t matter where you come down on the New York Knicks’ Draft night decision to select Kristaps Porzingis over several other more NBA-ready prospects. What’s done is done. And Phil Jackson believes that Porzingis was the right choice, even if his star player, Carmelo Anthony, does not. Porzingis was the only choice, writes Frank Isola of the New York Daily News, for a franchise that can no longer operate strictly for the short-term:
The Daily News first reported on Friday that Anthony is upset over Jackson’s decision to draft Porzingis, a 19-year-old, 7-foot-1 project. Anthony, according to a source, doesn’t understand why Jackson would waste such a high pick on a player who can’t help immediately. That, of course, is just the point. It would be short-sighted of Jackson to draft, for example, Willie Cauley-Stein, who could make a bigger contribution in years one and two.
But when you’re picking that high in the draft, you’re looking for a future All-Star, even if that may not help the only current All-Star on your roster, who is 31 and is coming off major knee surgery.
On Friday, Anthony tweeted: “What’s understood doesn’t need to be spoken upon” #DestiNY #TheFutureIsNow.
Anthony should have considered “the future is now” last summer when his instincts told him to leave New York as a free agent to join a contender. The Chicago Bulls and Houston Rockets were both viable options.
Now Anthony’s stuck with the Knicks, a rebuilding team that barring a few major free agent moves won’t be a playoff team next season. Conversely, the Knicks are stuck with Anthony, his bad knee and his bad contract.
ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith said on SiriusXM Radio on Friday that Anthony feels betrayed and hoodwinked by Jackson.
Anthony is apparently upset specifically with Jackson’s decision to draft Porzingis, telling a close friend “are we supposed to wait two or three years for this guy?”
Since January, Anthony has seen his pal J.R. Smith along with Iman Shumpert get traded to Cleveland. And a Knicks source claims that Anthony called Tim Hardaway Jr. after the third-year player was traded to Atlanta for the draft rights to Jerian Grant to express his displeasure with Jackson’s moves.
“He doesn’t understand it,” the source said.
“The bond between mentor and protégé enables us to stay true to our chosen path,” Anthony tweeted along with a photo of himself and Hardaway smiling.
Knicks officials are aware of Anthony’s feelings about the moves. Early Friday, Jackson was asked if he thought about Anthony when picking Porzingis and said: “Carmelo’s always on my mind. He’s our favorite son.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Los Angeles Lakers think they have a good shot at landing LaMarcus Aldridge … Portland’s Neil Olshey has a demanding juggling act that needs completing this summer … Will the Pacers regret passing on hometown kids Trey Lyles and RJ Hunter? …