Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Caplan’

Cavs need to give LeBron what he demands and Wiggins what he deserves


VIDEO: GameTime discusses latest Love rumors

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Let’s stop referring to Andrew Wiggins as the No. 1 Draft pick. He is the No. 1 trade chip, and until further notice, it is all he can be.

When the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 6-foot-8 rookie swingman wrapped up the Las Vegas Summer League last Friday with rumors swirling of his inclusion in a potential deal for Minnesota’s Kevin Love – a disturbingly silent figure in all this – Wiggins was asked if LeBron James, the re-crowned King of Cleveland, had hit him up with a phone call, connected via Skype, through text, a follow on Twitter, liked him on Facebook or perhaps sent him a selfie on Instagram.

After all, a full week had passed since the King penned his love letter to Northeast Ohio and, ostensibly, became the wide-eyed Wiggins’ dreamy teammate.

Wiggins only smiled and said he’s been busy and surely LeBron’s been busy, too, before telling how awesome it would be to grow up beside the King. Apparently James has been busy working in the shadows. Last week he reportedly reached out to Love to extol the virtues of Rust Belt living. But there was no reach-out to Wiggins, no welcoming him into the Cavs’ booming No. 1 Draft Pick Club, no welcoming him to his hometown — “hey, check out the cribs in Shaker Heights” — no “get to work fellow prodigy, see you soon.”

LeBron’s first-person essay in Sports Illustrated was certainly warm and heartfelt and, it was assumed, sincere. But less than two weeks since it exploded on the Internet, the shine of his sentimentality has worn thin. LeBron’s strategy off the court is becoming as calculating and cutthroat as it is on the basketball court.

He signed only a two-year contract, a business decision we are told he smartly made in order to reap maximum annual earning power in line with the league’s projected salary cap increases with each season. In two years the league’s television contracts expire and the NBA is expected to land monstrously lucrative new network deals. That’s in two years, which makes James’ opt-out after next season — the leagues first revolving free-agent superstar? — just a bit curious.

In his essay, LeBron stated his affinity for becoming a mentor, for the time-honored process of growing a championship team, unlike the ready-made one he joined four years ago in Miami: “We’re not ready right now. No way,” James wrote of his current Cleveland cast. “Of course, I want to win next year, but I’m realistic. It will be a long process, much longer than it was in 2010. My patience will get tested. I know that.”

In actuality, Love’s trade demands had the alarm bells blaring on LeBron’s patience the moment he committed to Cleveland. He’s made it clear to owner Dan Gilbert what he expects. He expects Love.

This is all about James’ expectations, if not his demands. It’s his show now. Four years after he bolted town as the villain through a trail of flaming No. 23 jerseys, he valiantly returned home a hero again. This time he’s ensuring that if the ship doesn’t sail it will be Gilbert left holding the wheel.

James’ behind-the-scenes power play for Love, plus his short-term contract — interpret it as you wish — are the first shots fired as he seizes control as CEO. The King knows his return to the Cavs has already generated millions in new revenue for the fortuitous owner, both within the organization and for Gilbert’s private ventures. As a perennial free agent, James darn well knows he can shut off that spigot at any time, and this time the fans’ ire will point sharply in Gilbert’s direction.

After all, what more could James do?

The Cavs will reportedly sign Wiggins to a contract this week. That doesn’t mean the 19-year-old will be off the table. It only means he can’t be traded for 30 days. It doesn’t put a moratorium on front-office negotiating.

If James wants Love, as it appears he staunchly does, Cleveland needs to do the deal already and avoid the risk of Golden State reconsidering its stance to include Klay Thompson or another team making a run at the three-time All-Star and double-double maestro (as Chicago is reportedly doing).

That wouldn’t be a good start with James as he wields the mightiest hammer in all the league.

So give James what he demands. And give Wiggins, left twisting now nearly one month since Draft night, what the No. 1 Draft pick deserves — a team to call his own.

Needing surgery, Lewis out in Dallas

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – Rashard Lewis, felled by a right knee in need of surgical repair, is back on the market.

The Dallas Mavericks confirmed Wednesday that the Texas native did not pass his physical and will require surgery. The Mavs opted to void the one-year contract for the veteran’s minimum they signed Lewis to on Saturday. Lewis, 34, becomes an unrestricted free agent.

“It came to our attention during Rashard Lewis’ physical that he is in need of a medical procedure on his right knee,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said in a statement. “We wish him all the best for a speedy recovery and continued success in his remarkable career.”

The 6-foot-10 Lewis finished up a two-year run with the Miami Heat, winning the lone championship of his career in 2013. Although Lewis was called upon late in the 2014 postseason after Chris “Birdman” Andersen was injured, Lewis as mostly a non-rotation player during his time with the Heat.

His upcoming 17th season in the league with Dallas was expected to be much the same, filling a role as an end-of-bench insurance policy. The re-made Mavs signed Chandler Parsons and Richard Jefferson at the small forward positions, and have plans to use Brandan Wright more at power forward behind Dirk Nowitzki.

Now Lewis’ future is unclear. His agent, Colin Bryant told Yahoo! Sports: “Rashard discovered he needs a medical procedure on his right knee to ensure he functions at a high level this season. We look forward to [Lewis] getting this behind him as soon as possible so he can continue his stellar NBA career.”

Lewis entered the NBA in 1998 straight of out of high school in suburban Houston. The 32nd pick overall played nine seasons in Seattle before being traded to Orlando as the Magic pursued a championship with Dwight Howard. In 2008-09, Lewis averaged 17.7 ppg and 5.7 rpg and shot 39.7 percent on 3-pointers as the Magic lost in the NBA Finals to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Lewis’ production has tailed off every season since as he’s journeyed from Orlando to Washington and Miami. With his deal in Dallas dead, Lewis will have to show he’s physically ready post-surgery to resume his career.

Blogtable: Summer’s most intriguing team

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: The price of Love | New most intriguing team | Sleeper rookie



VIDEO: Glen Rice Jr. impressed for the Wizards at Summer League

> You’ve seen the Draft. You’ve seen some Summer League. Outside of the Cavs, what team most intrigues you now? Why’s that?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI’m intrigued by Charlotte, with its addition of Lance Stephenson, along with pick-up Marvin Williams. There’s talent there, especially if Cody Zeller and Noah Vonleh can rev up their frontline contributions, and it’s possible the Hornets push for a top-4 spot in the East playoffs. Steve Clifford should be able to prevent them from becoming The Lance Show (in the event Stephenson decides to start playing for his next contract right away). And let’s face it, if an NBA team can’t find a way to move on from the loss of Josh McRoberts, well, then Charlotte becomes watchable in an odd, case-study sort of way.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: In the East, and thank the basketball gods for this, there’s actually several teams of intrigue. Toronto kept its momentum going by re-signing so many of its own starting with Kyle Lowry. Washington is on the come and adding a big-brother figure in Paul Pierce should be great for John Wall and Bradley Beal. And, of course, Chicago with Pau Gasol in the mix and Derrick Rose coming back should be great fun to watch (yes, and post-LeBron Miami). In the West, the Oklahoma City Thunder are my choice. They missed out on Gasol, who would have been an absolute game-changer for that squad, and instead only came away with Sebastian Telfair, an end-of-bench addition, and Anthony Morrow, a 3-point specialist who could fit in quite well. I’m really curious to see how Russell Westbrook‘s game continues to evolve after his powerful postseason, how Kevin Durant comes off his first MVP season (but a bit of an individually disappointing postseason) and if Scott Brooks can add some new wrinkles to one of the most efficient (yet also most criticized) offenses over the last several years. If healthy the last two postseasons, this conversation could be totally different.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThe Washington Wizards, mostly because they have put together a quality offseason and have a clear path up the Eastern Conference food chain now that the entire field has been thinned out by LeBron’s departure for Cleveland. The Wizards will have an ideal blend of youthful energy and athleticism to go along with a seasoned supporting cast capable of pushing this team over the top a year after making that surprise run to the Eastern Conference semifinals. For whatever was lost in free agency (Trevor Ariza and Trevor Booker), the Wizards more than made up for it by keeping Marcin Gortat and adding Paul Pierce, Kris Humphries and DeJaun Blair. Toss in a ready-to-go Otto Porter Jr. and the Samsung Summer League MVP Glen Rice Jr., and the Wizards have every reason to believe that John Wall and Bradley Beal have a legitimate shot to lead this crew to the top of the Southeast Division and perhaps beyond.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The Wizards have a chance to be one of the top two or three teams in the East. John Wall and Bradley Beal are getting better every season and could be the clear No. 1 backcourt in the conference by the start of 2015. Marcin Gortat has great pick-and-roll chemistry with Wall, Paul Pierce brings another element to the offense, and they have a ton of depth on their frontline. The only question is if they can maintain a top-10 defense with Pierce (who’s a better defender at the four than the three) replacing Trevor Ariza.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: Washington. They kept Gortat, they did not overpay for Ariza, and then they managed to add Paul Pierce to that mix. Plus, after watching them in Summer League, it seemed clear that Otto Porter and Glen Rice Jr (who was terrific in Vegas) are ready to add perimeter depth off the bench and give them the athleticism that Pierce lacks. Is Randy Wittman the right guy to take them to the next level? To me that’s the bigger question. But after a second-round run last season, all the pieces are in place for the Wiz to continue to grow what they’ve already started.

Blogtable: Rookie on the rise

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: The price of Love | New most intriguing team | Sleeper rookie



VIDEO: All-Access at Summer League with Zach LaVine

> And, now that Summer League has finished, do you have a new favorite rookie you expect to be a sleeper this season?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Philadelphia’s Nerlens Noel doesn’t count, right? He’ll be sneaking up on no one after his redshirt season. Phoenix’s T.J. Warren is no sleeper either, in my opinion, after all the buzz he generated this month. So I’ll keep an eye on Minnesota’s Zach LaVine, partly based on the versatility he demonstrated in Las Vegas and even more so on the opportunities he’ll get to shine as coach Flip Saunders proves how astutely POBO Flip Saunders drafted.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: I came away really impressed with Doug McDermott, but I’m going with a guy I wrote about Tuesday, Minnesota’s brash, super-confident combo guard Zach LaVine out of UCLA. He’s 19 and has a chip on his shoulder the size of Bill Walton. He quickly gained attention in Vegas for an array of acrobatic dunks, by he left Vegas revealing a high IQ, promising point guard skills and a fierce competitiveness.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comZach LaVine. Maybe it has something to do with seeing LaVine’s final game in Las Vegas from courtside, where all of his athleticism and raw skill was on display. I talked to several NBA decision-makers who are worried that LaVine is all hype and just a superior physical marvel and not polished enough to be an impact player. I disagree. I think he’ll shock some people with his versatility and readiness to step in and play quality minutes for the Timberwolves, who’ll need someone and something to get excited about if Kevin Love ends up leaving town before the trade deadline. LaVine struck me as much more than just a highlight waiting to happen on a fast break. There’s much more meat to his game than I realized. He’s not only my pick as a potential sleeper in this rookie class, he could wind up being the steal of this Draft.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: There aren’t too many guys who were picked outside of the top 11 and will have a clear opportunity to play regular rotation minutes as rookies (well, except the Sixers’ second rounders, because the Sixers have only a few real players on their roster). Noah Vonleh could be a really good fit in Charlotte, sharing the power forward position with Marvin Williams on a playoff team. He shot just 28 percent in Summer League, but did so in Al Jefferson‘s role (posting up as the focal point of their offense). He’ll have an easier time playing off Jefferson, Kemba Walker and Lance Stephenson.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogThe best rookie I saw in person at Summer League was Minnesota’s Zach LaVine. His skills as a decision-maker weren’t anything special, but they won’t have to be if he’s playing alongside Ricky Rubio. His athleticism, however, was phenomenal, and I’d expect that to quickly set him apart from other players on the floor and give him an early advantage. If Love stays for a few months, perhaps LaVine will give the T-Wolves the jolt of energy/excitement they need to convince Love that they’re headed in the right direction and get him to opt-in for the long haul.

Blogtable: Giving it all up for Love

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: The price of Love | New most intriguing team | Sleeper rookie



VIDEO: What’s the going price for Kevin Love these days? The GameTime guys have ideas.

> You’re David Griffin, GM of the Cavs. What’s the absolute most that you’re willing to give up to get Kevin Love? Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins? Why? Now, or wait?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: To get Kevin Love to Cleveland, I would give up Andrew Wiggins, Anthony Bennett, Dion Waiters and a future pick or two. Too much? Not for one or more championships, which I think would be the Cavs’ harvest from the deal. Two reasons to include Bennett: First, Love would play his position essentially, rendering him less important. And second, the Cavs didn’t “have” him last year anyway, given his disappointing rookie season, so it’s not a tangible loss. One huge reason to give up Wiggins: The trade doesn’t happen without him and Love heads to the Bay Area or Chicago soon or to Los Angeles later. Waiters is a high-maintenance guy neither team really covets and LeBron James-Kyrie Irving-Love should render lousy most future Cavs draft picks. As for timing, sooner is better. You’d hate to wait and then realize in May or June, rats, if only this group had had more time together …

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: I’ll answer the last part first. Wait. There’s no reason to trade for Kevin Love today when you haven’t seen what Andrew Wiggins can do or be alongside LeBron James. I understand the tug to go get Love now, but unless the Cavs feel the Warriors are about to pull the trigger, Love isn’t going anywhere and will be available throughout the season right up to the deadline. What if Wiggins just blows everybody away? What if he proves to be a very good defender from the jump? If you wait, the Wolves might get desperate, not wanting to lose love for nothing. So eventually it might, or might not, take Wiggins to pry Love. Three months into the season, the Cavs should have a good read on Wiggins, and if LeBron still wants Love, then, yes, I trade the No. 1 picks in 2013 and 2014.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comIf I’m David Griffin, I’m willing to give up Wiggins, Bennett and anyone else not named Kyrie if it makes LeBron James happy. I do it now (before Chicago undercuts me) and I do it without hesitation or regret, since my time on this job could be limited if championships aren’t chased immediately. This is a win now league and, on paper, that’s the logical stance to take if I’m Griffin. He’s not handing off sure thing No. 1 picks in this deal (courtesy of his predecessor, Chris Grant). There is no guarantee that Wiggins becomes the All-Star caliber player Love is right now by his sixth season in the league. And there’s no guarantee that Bennett becomes a bona fide starter six seasons in. But the fact is, whatever I do, I’m gambling on guys who have the same amount of playoff experience in the league. Love, as stellar a player as he’s been in a dreadful situation year after year in Minnesota, has just as much hype to live up to if he joins the Cavaliers as Wiggins ever would. And I’m not completely convinced that Love is the missing piece in Cleveland.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: I’m not crazy about the idea of trading so much for Love. LeBron James and Love complement each other offensively, and Love is one of the league’s best players on that end of the floor. But Wiggins has the potential to be one of the league’s best two-way players, and defense is more important than offense. James is only 29 years old, so the Cavs’ window will be open for at least five more years. Love doesn’t guarantee them anything in the next year or two, and their ceiling could be higher three years from now with Wiggins & Co. than with Love. I doubt this happens, but I’d wait it out, see what Wiggins can do for three months, see how much Bennett benefits from playing with the best player in the world, and put pressure on Minnesota to make a decision closer to the trade deadline or risk losing Love to free agency next summer. If they send him somewhere else, there will be another All-Star you can trade the young guys for within the next year or two.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: What does Minnesota want for Kevin Love? Whatever it is, outside of Kyrie Irving and/or LeBron James, I’m ready to move them for Kevin Love. Hey, I understand that Wiggins could turn into a primo NBA player who could be a perfect third pillar in the James/Irving alliance. But how long are you willing to wait for that to happen? LeBron did a nice job lowering expectations in his Sports Illustrated piece, even noting that they shouldn’t be expected to win right away. Which is great, but it ignores the fact that after 11 seasons in the NBA, the clock is ticking on LeBron’s prime. And if you can go get a guy who is a two-time All-Star and all-world rebounder RIGHT NOW, I don’t think you pass on that opportunity.

LaVine delivers more than dunks in Vegas

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Rookie Zach LaVine from UCLA tore up the Samsung Summer League in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS – Zach LaVine jumps really high and talks really fast. He exudes a brash confidence like Russell Westbrook and plays with a chip on his shoulder the size of Bill Walton.

This latest UCLA product is headed either for a stunning rookie season with the Minnesota Timberwolves or cold, hard NBA reality.

“I’m a very confident person, I always hold myself to high standards,” LaVine said Friday after scoring 22 points with four assists in the Wolves’ sixth and final Summer League game. “You know, there’s a lot of doubters on me. I feel  always like changing peoples’ minds, you know, ‘He’s not NBA-ready, why’d he come out?’ and different things like that. So I just come out here and always try to prove my point. I think I fared well for myself.”

There was little not to like about the 6-foot-5, 19-year-old’s debut in the Las Vegas Summer League. Everybody was aware of his athleticism coming in, but many were skeptical about his decision-making and the durability of his 180-pound frame..

“I definitely have to get in the weight room and let my body mature. But if they can’t touch you, you know, strength really isn’t a factor,” LaVine said. “I feel I’m a pretty physical person, just not the strongest yet, so I definitely have to get into the weight room. But I use my speed to my advantage.”

He averaged 15.7 points a game and more than five free-throw attempts per game in the Summer league. Twice he got to the line 10 times.

Fans mostly will remember a dazzling array of dunks. He’s already nominated himself for the dunk contest when February’s All-Star weekend props up its big tent in New York City.

“I’m definitely going to be in the dunk contest, know that,” LaVine said  “I haven’t lost a dunk contest for a long time, maybe since I first started dunking. So I have some dunks in my package.”

The Wolves are more intrigued by the 13th overall pick’s size at the shooting-guard position, his ball-handling and his higher-than-expected court IQ at point guard. He bounced between the two positions during Summer League.

He scored in double figures in all six games. In the final three games he averaged 19.3 points, 3.3 assists and 3.7 rebounds. He had two games with five turnovers, but averaged just 3.6 turnovers in 32.2 minutes a game, a good rate considering he was playing with little practice time and with unfamiliar teammates, most of whom won’t sniff the NBA.

“We knew he had talent, we knew he was good, but he exceeded all our expectations thus far,” Wolves assistant coach Sam Mitchell said. “He’s smart, he’s athletic, he can handle the ball, he can shoot the ball, he’s a sponge, he learns. We threw a lot at him. We’ve run a lot of NBA sets, we’re doing a lot of things defensively and he just picks it all up.”

The Wolves could have playing time available. Behind point guard Ricky Rubio is the diminutive J.J. Barea, who is in the final year of his contract and has seen his shooting percentages drop the last two seasons. Behind shooting guard Kevin Martin is young Russian Alexey Shved, who took a step back last season after a promising rookie campaign.

“I feel like I’m player,” LaVine said. “Wherever he [team president and coach Flip Saunders] needs to play me at; if that’s the 1, I feel like I can handle the ball and run the team, to a point where I’m still learning the position, but I feel like I can handle it. I like scoring the ball as well, so whatever he needs me to do, facilitate, shoot, defend, anything he needs me to do.”

There’s a chance LaVine could be one of two 19-year-old talents in Minnesota. If the Wolves deal Kevin Love to Cleveland for Andrew Wiggins, Minnesota could be set up with two tremendously gifted athletic wings for years to come.

For now, LaVine is headed back home to Seattle to train. The league will have to wait to see if he builds on his Summer League success. But Timberwolves fans should know that they will hear from their newest addition.

Countdown is on for optimistic Noel


VIDEO: Noel discusses his play during Summer League

LAS VEGAS – Nerlens Noel gets an “A” for perseverance and patience and for somehow maintaining optimism throughout the most physically and psychologically challenging 17-month stretch of his young life. NBA schedules have yet to be released, but there’s roughly 100 days until the Philadelphia 76ers open the 2014-15 season and Noel is counting down every last one them.

The 76ers’ 6-foot-11 center (more like 7-foot-3, seriously, with his trademark flat top now elevating ever higher) sat out all of last season to rehabilitate the left knee he damaged late in his one-and-done campaign at Kentucky. The injury dropped him from the consensus No. 1 pick into Philadelphia’s lap at No. 6. He finally made it back on the floor earlier this month, playing three games at the Orlando Summer League, and he wrapped up an encouraging July tour playing two of five games at the Las Vegas Summer League where paint penetrators were quickly put on notice.

Though still months away, visions of how Opening Night will go down dance in his mind on almost a daily basis.

“It’s going to be something special,” Noel, 20, told NBA.com Friday after watching the Sixers’ final game in Vegas. “I know how passionate those fans are so I really can’t wait to step on the floor.”

Game 1 will be a milestone for sure, but the unanswerable question is how Noel will fare through 82 of them. His conditioning will take time and he acknowledged it “wasn’t great” early in Orlando, but built up as the games came and went. Before the start of Summer League, Noel had not played in an actual game since the night of the injury in February 2013.

“It’s been a process the whole time,” Noel said. “I’ve had to really have patience, not being able to play this past year, and finally being able to play and show what I’ve been working on. I didn’t get to show everything, but I’m going to continue working on my body and be able to come back in the regular season and be better.”

The Boston native will split the rest of the offseason between his hometown and Philly, where he’s stayed since the regular season ended in mid-April to continue working with the team’s coaches and training staff. Noel remains a thin, 228-pound pogo stick, still not strong enough to command the low block offensively, though in four of five games he scored in double figures and overall shot 49 percent (24-for-49).

That side of his game remains raw, even as it pokes through with parts of a multi-dimensional attack — including lefty hooks in the lane, a perimeter jumper that he spent countless pregame workouts with coach Brett Brown reconstructing his release, plus a quick first-step dribble-drive from the elbow. Still his offensive capabilities remain miles behind the type of force he delivers on the defensive end.

In his five summer games, Noel swatted 13 shots and altered dozens more. His quickness to elevate in the paint and meet shots at the rim can be astonishing. He’s so long and nimble that he glides almost effortlessly as a help-side defender. The 76ers, who surrendered more baskets from within five feet last season than only the Los Angeles Lakers, should see a major boost in that category next season.

He also showed he’s going to be difficult to deal with on the boards. In four games, he grabbed at least a half-dozen rebounds. Through it all, Noel said his rebuilt and cautiously monitored knee has passed every test with flying colors.

“I have no problems with it all,” said Noel, who has claimed he can actually jump higher now than before the surgery to repair the torn ACL.

It still likely won’t help the Sixers contend for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. It will be months into the season before Noel will team with No. 3 overall pick Joel Embiid, who has his own rehabilitation to endure following foot surgery. It’s a frontline pairing in which optimists crow about the possibilities and pessimists fret about durability.

“I talked to him a few times briefly over texts, he’s a great kid, great personality,” Noel said. “I’m really looking forward to getting on the court with him and really starting that relationship we’re going to need if we are going to be one of the best tandems in the future.”

Rookie of the Year point guard Michael Carter-Williams, a former AAU teammate of Noel’s, returns with veteran and consummate pro Thaddeus Young. From there, the roster remains perilously thin in Year 2 of general manager Sam Hinkie‘s ground-up reconstruction. It’s a plan that again came under scrutiny on Draft night when Hinkie selected the injured Embiid and then Dario Saric at No. 12. While Embiid hopes to play at some point next season, the 6-foot-10 Croatian will play in Turkey.

Philadelphia won just 19 game last season and Noel watched helplessly through a 26-game losing skid. But again, the optimism of youth sees past these facts that could be depressing and believes the program is in good hands and pointed in a positive direction.

“We have a great vision,” Noel said. “Me and Mike [Carter-Williams] are very close, we’ve known each other for years now, from high school playing with each other on the AAU circuit. “I think with me, Joel and Mike, that would be a great three-person core, and then it’s adding pieces that we need. I think Sam is going to make it all happen for us. We have a lot of faith in him and I think we’ll be fine.”

At least now the countdown is really on.

Wiggins handles rumors, pleased with effort

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Andrew Wiggins discusses his Summer League performance and the constant trade rumors

LAS VEGAS – No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins says he’s as much in the dark as just about everybody else when it comes to the Cleveland Cavaliers’ plans for him.

He says if he’s Minnesota-bound in a trade that would deliver discontented Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love to LeBron James, the team hasn’t informed him of his involvement in the talks.

“Nothing to me,” Wiggins said as he flashed a playful personality with a wide smile after taking the Cavs’ Friday night Summer League finale off following four promising performances in his debut as a professional. “I just know what you know. I just see what you see on TV. That’s about it.”

The 6-foot-8 swingman said he’s letting his “agent and support system” handle the off-court twists and turns while he focuses on preparing for his rookie season, wherever it may be.

“I just play basketball, man, wherever I go,” Wiggins said.

James’ intent seem clear. On Thursday, Yahoo! Sports reported that James has reached out to Love about forming a superstar pairing few ever in thought about before a week ago. The Timberwolves have stood pat that there’s no deal unless Wiggins is the centerpiece. Whether or not the Cavs are now prepared to make their top pick available seems to change with the wind.

There’s just no clear indication yet of the Cavs’ position. It was only a week ago that James announced his return to the Cavaliers. Later that night Wiggins made his first appearance in Cavs colors at Summer League. Since then, Wiggins has been the at the main attraction in Vegas and at the center of constant trade rumors.

As he sat on the bench early in Friday’s game, a section of the crowd at the Thomas & Mack Center stood and chanted: “We want Wig-gins!”

“It’s been crazy, but it’s all positive stuff,” Wiggins said. “With LeBron coming back, there’s nothing negative about that; the best player in the world coming to your team. The organization is on the rise right now.”

That could go with or without Wiggins, who said he would relish the chance play by James’ side.

“It would be great for me, just really learn and pick his brain and see what it takes to get to his level,” Wiggins said. “That would be good.”

In four summer games, Wiggins averaged 15.5 ppg and 3.5 rpg. He didn’t shoot well, just 17-for-42 from the floor, but his long, lanky frame was nearly impossible to keep out of the lane. He got to the free throw line 37 times, including shooting 20 in his 21-point effort Thursday night.

“I was looking at Wig’s performances, the guy was in double figures every game, he rebounded, he defended, he went to the foul line, he played with intensity at both ends of the court,” first-year Cavs coach David Blatt said. “I thought for a rookie, for a guy with a lot on his shoulders as the first pick in the draft, for a 19-year-old, I thought he played extremely well. We’re real happy with what he did.”

Wiggins, unsure of whether he’s coming or going, should be pleased with his performances both on the floor and off during an unusual, to say the least, welcome to the league.

“I played my heart out since I’ve been here,” Wiggins said. “I showed people how quickly my skill set has developed and transitioned to the NBA. How the NBA operates, just like more one-on-one stuff, creating space, I think that’s what I really feel I can do.”

Now he waits to find out where he’ll be doing it.

Stay tuned.

Mavs double-down: Sign a forward and fall for 5-foot-7 Japanese PG Togashi

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: The diminutive Yuki Tagashi has become a fan favorite with the Mavs in Summer League

LAS VEGAS —  The Dallas Mavericks may have double-downed in Summer League, potentially finding a depth forward for the big club and possibly an international sensation to play point guard for their nearby D-League team.

It’s rare for any team out here to offer an off-the-street free agent a contract, but the Mavs signed athletic, 6-foot-8 forward Eric Griffin on Friday just hours before the Dallas squad played its final game. Griffin closed out his strong summer with 20 points, three rebounds and three blocks in the 88-62 win over the Suns.

“It’s been a long time coming, but it’s a blessing at the same time,” Griffin said of signing the contract. “I’m just real happy to be part of a team that wants me.”

Griffin, cut from the Miami Heat last year after they signed Michael Beasley, played two seasons at San Jose State and finished his collegiate career with two years at Campbell in North Carolina. He played in Italy and then Venezuela last season. The contract doesn’t mean Griffin’s made it to the big leagues just yet, but it does reserve him a spot at training camp where he can fight for a spot on the 15-man roster.

Mavs assistant coach Kaleb Canales, who coached the summer team to a 3-3 record, texted Griffin the news Friday morning.

“It brought a big smile to my face,” Griffin said. “But more than anything, my mom was happy. She knows where I came from and how I started. It’s a big day for me.”

The other half of this dreams-can-come-true Mavs summer is 5-foot-7 Japanese point guard Yuki Togashi. The 20-year-old’s combo of stature, speed, instincts and fearlessness instantly made him a fan favorite over the past week, although not quite to the level of another Mavs Summer League point guard sensation a few years ago, a guy named Jeremy Lin.

Of course Togashi’s size, quick-twitch style and terrific ability to run the pick-and-roll is more similar to yet another great Dallas Summer League find, the diminutive J.J. Barea. Now with Minnesota, the 5-foot-9 Barea developed into a steady, change-of-pace backup point guard for the Mavs and even started in the 2011 NBA Finals.

Togashi’s dream is to play in the NBA and said Friday that he will follow that dream and enter the D-League draft in the fall. His other option is to return to Japan’s pro league and take home a much bigger paycheck.

“I played professionally for a year-and-a-half in Japan. I think I did a good job in Japan,” said Togashi, who took the BJ-league by storm last season and led it in assists. “To improve my skills I think I have to go overseas and play in the D-League.”

The D-League draft has 10 rounds. The early rounds are dominated by players on the edge of being good enough to make an NBA roster. Togashi is projected as a late-round pick so it’s quite possible the Mavs’ D-League team, the Texas Legends, co-owned by Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson, will be able to select him.

Togashi idolized Allen Iverson as a kid and says he now watches a lot of Chris Paul. Interestingly, Togashi came to the United States for high school and attended Montrose Christian in Maryland, where a number of NBA players went, including Kevin Durant. When no Division I scholarships came, Togashi took his talents back home and began his professional career.

His agent steered him to Charlie Parker, a longtime assistant coach with the Mavs, who now works for the Legends. Parker has been training Togashi in Dallas for the last six weeks. Parker called his friends with the Mavs and told them they should consider putting the point guard on their summer team.

Obviously a part of his instant popularity here was initially due to his against-all-odds size. When he takes the court, he looks like one of the smaller kids on a youth team at the YMCA swimming in his oversized uniform. Then he gets the ball in his hands and the oohs and ahhs suggest he’s much more than a sideshow attraction.

“It is tough,” Togashi said of his height and 143-pound frame. “But I use my speed to be able to make plays.”

Togashi will return to Japan on Saturday morning and join the national team for practices in preparation for a tournament in Taiwan. If all works out, U.S. basketball fans will get their next look at the little man in the D-League.

Griffin’s pursuit of his NBA dream begins now. The high-flyer averaged 11.4 ppg and 2.8 rpg in Vegas. A Mavs scout described Griffin as raw offensively and depending on his athleticism. But he runs the floor with energy, finishes above the rim and Dallas coaches believe he can develop a perimeter jumper essential to making it as player who can switch between the two forward positions.

“His activity on both ends just makes things happen,” Canales said.

Griffin heads home with a list of improvements to work on — starting with “my dribbling and keep shooting” — before heading to Dallas in a few months as training camp approaches.

“It’s definitely not over,” Griffin said. “I’ve got to prove myself now to the team and organization.”


VIDEO: Eric Griffin executes perhaps the dunk of the summer

Wiggins’ strange summer is no Love-in

By Jeff Caplan, NBA.com


VIDEO: Andrew Wiggins scores 21 points in Cavs’ Summer League loss Thursday

LAS VEGAS – The best advice for Andrew Wiggins at this point is to rent. Don’t buy.

If the recently re-crowned King of Cleveland is calling Kevin Love, as Yahoo! Sports reported Thursday, then it can’t be too long before the Wiggins-for-Love swap goes down. LeBron James gets what LeBron James wants.

And poor Wiggins thought getting used to hoops life in Lawrence, Kan. was a rough transition.

But man, all this so fast has to be a bit crushing for the 19-year-old No. 1 pick. First the best player on the planet completely omits him in his epic “I’m Coming Home” essay in Sports Illustrated and is now dissing the kid with the hope of discarding him by personally reaching out to Minnesota’s discontented double-double machine.

This has to be one of the strangest Summer League experiences in the history of top draft choices. Last Friday, as Wiggins is preparing for his hyped pro debut in Las Vegas against Milwaukee and No. 2 pick Jabari Parker in front of an overflow crowd, he finds out with the rest of the world that James is returning to Cleveland. Wow, cool. Then the rest of the world reads along with Wiggins about how excited James is to play with Kyrie Irving, Tristan Thompson, Dion Waiters and his favorite crazy-haired Brazilian Anderson Varejao. No mention of Wiggins. Whoa, not so cool. (Interestingly, James also didn’t list 2013 No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett as a member of his mentorship club either. Bennett would likely be included in a trade).

In the days between then and now, new coach David Blatt has told reporters Wiggins isn’t going anywhere while whispers come and go and come again that he is-he isn’t-he is available, and now LeBron’s talking to Kevin. To his credit, Wiggins, the one-and-done star out of Kansas via Canada, has handled it like a pro.

That the 6-foot-8 wing and projected phenom played against Houston on Thursday revealed that a trade is not imminent, not yet. The Rockets’ defenders had zero clue how to keep Wiggins from using his super-stretchy arms and legs to get from the top of the arc to the basket in only a few long strides with a ball fake or two mixed in.

Wiggins officially only attempted five shots, and made three, but secured 15 of his 21 points on 20 trips to the free throw line. He added five rebounds and another blocked shot, this one of the chase-down variety in the fourth quarter (he’s second in the Summer League in blocks per game and first among non-centers).

“You know what you got to like about a kid like that is it doesn’t make a difference if it’s the fourth game of Summer League and the fourth game in seven days or eight days, or if people are keying on him, or if the crowd has funny things to say to him,” Blatt said. “He just goes out there and really plays and has a nice calm about him and a real good demeanor. Andrew’s going to be a high-level player and it’s good to see it.”

The 6-foot-10 Love is a high-level player, a three-time All-Star, and he, James and Irving would make quite the offensive triple-threat. And that’s the crux of it all: Go for the gold right now with Love or patiently wait — hope — for the kid to get great. We know what LeBron wants.

With the rumors swirling, the Cavaliers aren’t exactly thrilled to have their new coach and top pick inundated by trade questions during what should be breezy Summer League postgame interview sessions.

After Thursday’s game, Cavs officials quickly whisked Wiggins off to an ESPN photo shoot and then immediately to a sit-down autograph session for trading card behemoth Panini in the concourse of the Thomas & Mack Center. Fans stood in a line that snaked around the corner and out of site.

From there, Wiggins was in the custody of his agent and was not made available to wax about his 15 free throws and 21 points or to talk ice fishing.

The second question posed to Blatt asked if the persistent trade rumors are a distraction for Wiggins. After all, a No. 1 pick is typically immune to the business side of sport for at least a couple years, not a couple minutes. If a top pick is traded it almost always occurs on Draft night, a deal having been worked out in advance. A Cleveland official monitoring the outwardly personable Blatt’s interview session quickly stepped in to deflect the question, but Blatt, just as quickly, said he could answer it.

“I can answer that just because rumors are rumors, that’s why they call them rumors,” Blatt said. “And sooner or later in one’s career, you’re going to have to deal with it. So if you have to deal with now, so be it. It’s Summer League, he’s learning everything as he goes along.”

Not exactly a comment to inspire confidence on a down payment. If the Cavaliers decide to move Wiggins in a deal for Love, the Timberwolves will jump for joy and jump on it fast, before Cleveland has time to rethink it. But watching Wiggins in Summer League should have the Cavs proceeding with caution. His size and ability are apparent to the most casual observer. He hasn’t shot the ball particularly well, but he’s showing he can use his length and quickness to be a very good two-way player, and soon.

And wouldn’t James love a young set of legs to chase the other team’s best player on a nightly basis? Wiggins could become James’ pre-knee problems Dwyane Wade, a slashing, offensive force and a defensive partner capable of hyper-trapping the perimeter and busting it the other way.

LeBron, fast approaching 30 and now taking his contract year-by-year — apparently to maximize his annual take as the salary cap is estimated to increase each year, and not as an escape — clearly doesn’t feel he’s got time to wait.

The ball’s in Cleveland’s court, and that’s got to be a tough thing for the No. 1 pick who has come to find out he isn’t fit for a King — at least not at this juncture of his reign.

“No, no, I don’t talk to him about any of that stuff because, for me, it doesn’t mean anything,” Blatt said. “At least not right now.”