Posts Tagged ‘Jeff Caplan’

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.”

Casey, Raptors want to ride continuity

 

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Dwane Casey will be looking to build on last season’s 48-win campaign. (NBAE via Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – Back in December it hardly seemed possible that Dwane Casey would be standing here at Summer League with a smile on his face and his lightweight button-down shirt casually untucked, and most of all still as the coach of the Toronto Raptors.

This misbegotten big-market franchise with the redundant roster was floundering again, off to a 7-12 start, and the well-liked, but lame-duck Casey looked to be running out the clock on his three-year contract.

Then, on Dec. 8, new general manager Masai Ujiri, having built a reputation as a next-generation whiz, made the deal to send Rudy Gay and his massive contract to Sacramento for depth help in point guard Greivis Vasquez and forwards John Salmons, Patrick Patterson and Chuck Hayes. Around the same time, Knicks president James Dolan vetoed a trade that would have landed Raptors starting point guard Kyle Lowry in New York.

Suddenly, a feeling of stability overtook the team. They looked around, looked at themselves and liked what they saw. And everything changed.

“After the trade happened, I thought it brought our team together — camaraderie,” said Casey, who signed a three-year contract extension in May. “They made the decision that we were not going to be a lottery team — I think that’s what everybody expected — and we kept teaching them the principles of what we wanted to be doing and it just came together.

This wasn’t a referendum on Gay, who went to have a surprisingly efficient offensive season with the Kings. Gay and DeRozan are friends off the court, but ill-fitting parts on it, and as the parts fit better and the floor opened up, the Raptors’ offense, also buoyed by Lowry’s uprising, took off.

“It was a fit,” Casey said. “A lot of times you have talent and it doesn’t fit. DeMar and Rudy were similar and Terrence Ross is sitting there, he’s similar, so once you took all the pieces out it opened up things and we went from 29th, I think, in the league in assists to 16th or 17th. That really changed things for us. It helped us tremendously.”

On Dec. 8, the Raptors ranked 30th in assists and 28th in offensive efficiency (101.4 points per 100 possessions). From Dec. 9 to the end of the season, they ranked 13th in assists and ninth in offensive efficiency (107.2). They went 41-22 after the Gay trade and played a rousing seven-game series in front of madhouse crowds, plus gatherings of 10,000 fans in Maple Leaf Square. It was truly one of the great scenes of the postseason.

And it was enough to convince Lowry to stay put, making him the rare Raptor to re-up when he had a chance to leave. He signed a four-year deal worth $48 million. Free agents Patterson and Vasquez also re-signed. Amir Johnson, Landry Fields, Jonas Valanciunas, Ross, Hayes and Tyler Hansbrough are all back, giving the Raptors a real sense of continuity in roster and process.

Toronto also traded Salmons to Atlanta for guard Lou Williams and intriguing developmental center Lucas Nogueria, and signed long, athletic wing James Johnson, who is coming off something of a breakout season with Memphis.

“I don’t know if [Lowry] is the first player to be a free agent to re-sign that had an opportunity to leave, so that says something about what we’re trying to do, where we are, trying to build,” Casey said. “For the first time in his career he was able to say, ‘this is a team that I’m one of the leaders of,’ and for him to come back, it does make a statement of where we are in our growth process and the kind of program we have, and kind of opened some eyes to what kind of city Toronto is.

“The continuity is huge,” Casey said. “You can just see it turning, guys are getting comfortable with the defensive system, the offensive system. We can be top 10 in both offense and defense. Now we just have to continue to do that.”

The Raptors could get some votes as the team to beat in the Eastern Conference when the preseason predictions start to hit the newsstands. LeBron James’ return to Cleveland has shaken up a conference that might boast a favorite in Chicago, but mostly has a handful of what should be entertaining squads, including Toronto, Cleveland, Washington, Indiana and perhaps Brooklyn and still Miami.

“There’s opportunity for somebody to step up, it’s so balanced right now from top to bottom,” Casey said of the conference. “It gives us an opportunity to move up and take another step.”

Back in December, that hardly seemed possible.

Hawks’ Schroder has eye on big stage


VIDEO: Dennis Schroder leads all scorers as the Hawks take down the Warriors

LAS VEGAS – Dennis Schroder knew he was up against the clock.

“I watched until the 70-minute mark, then I went to the game,” the Atlanta Hawks’ 2013 first-round pick said.

He was in Las Vegas with the Hawks’ Summer League team and they had a game Sunday evening, taking him away from watching his countrymen in the FIFA World Cup final against Argentina.

“We watched it in the locker room a little bit,” said Schroder, who grew up playing soccer before he took up basketball. The Hawks, though, had to take the floor before the match got to the 113th minute, when Mario Goetze scored to give Germany the 1-0 lead and the championship.

“It’s always good when our nation wins a world championship or a European championship,” Schroder said.

The 20-year-old won’t get the chance to compete on the world stage later this summer as a full-fledged member of the German national team. The Germans did not qualify for the FIBA World Cup (which until now has been called simply the world championships) in Spain.

The Germans weren’t helped by the fact Dirk Nowitzki has not played for the national team since 2011 in the European championships when Germany failed to qualify for the 2012 Olympics.

Schroder, the first native German drafted in the first round since Nowitzki went No. 9 in 1998, will play for Germany in the 2015 European championships with hopes of getting his country back to the Olympics for the first time since Nowitzki led them to the 2008 Beijing Games. Schroder has hinted in recent interviews that Nowitzki could decide to play once again in an effort to get the country to Brazil in 2016.

But before all of that, the 6-foot-2 point guard is focused on his NBA career and carving out a consistent spot in second-year coach Mike Budenholzer‘s rotation. Schroder played in 49 games last season and went through long stretches of watching from the bench.

The level of competition, Schroder said, was an intense eye-opener after playing two years professional in his home country where at times he could put in cruise control, yet still be the best player on the floor.

“You have to compete every night and I think that was the biggest adjustment for me is to compete every night against the best point guards in the world,” Schroder said. “That was the toughest thing to do.”

There is opportunity for Schroder behind starting point guard Jeff Teague. The Hawks traded Lou Williams to Toronto, leaving Shelvin Mack, as his prime competition.

Schroder is a quick penetrator and a primarily pass-first point guard whose shooting need works. He can be flashy and breathtaking with a first step that darts him toward the basket. His lightning-quick first step might be the reason he showed up to Vegas with a gold stripe running through the front of his hair.

“It’s me,” Schroder said of the stripe. “Everybody knows it’s me.”

The goal is for everybody to know who he is by his play on the floor. So far in Las Vegas, he has delivered both up and down performances. He put up a highlight-reel effort with 30 points on 9-for-14 shooting, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range and 9-for-10 from the free throw line in Sunday’s double-overtime loss. However, he also had eight turnovers in 32 minutes against a team made up exclusively of D-League players.

Through three games Schroder’s averaging 18.0 ppg and 3.3 apg. He’s shooting 44.7 percent (17-for-38), which is an improvement over his 38.3 percent last season (23.8 percent from 3). The No. 17 overall draft pick last summer is a skilled and confident player, but he also knows there is work to be done before he reports to training camp in October looking to play a much more significant role for the Hawks.

“What I’m working on is leading a team, talking to them, and try to focus on my shot a little, 3s and 2s, but the biggest thing is lead the team,” Schroder said. “I don’t worry about it [his role next season]. I worry about practicing hard and try to do the  things that I can control.”

Dirk’s pay cut has Mavs back in race


VIDEO: Dirk Nowitzki and the Mavs agree on a new three-year contract

LAS VEGAS – To put into perspective the magnitude of Dirk Nowitzki‘s pay cut, consider this: He’ll make in the next three seasons what Kobe Bryant is charging the Lakers for just next season.

It’s a big reason why the Dallas Mavericks could be back in the conversation as a top-four contender in the Western Conference while the talent-depleted Los Angeles Lakers are more likely to miss the playoffs for a second consecutive season. That hasn’t happened since 1976.

Bryant signed a two-year, $48.5 million extension last year. Nowitzki signed an exceedingly below-market-value deal of three years and $25 million earlier this week. The total is even less than than the three years and $30 million he was initially believed to be signing.

When the Mavs convene for training camp in October, the league’s all-time 10th-leading scorer and the franchise’s leading scorer in every season since 2000, will be Dallas’ fourth-highest paid player.

“It’s just the kind of human being he is. He’s all about winning; he’s all about championships,” Mavs president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said Wednesday as he watched Dallas’ Summer League team take on Charlotte. “He’s one of the most selfless superstars that have ever played in the NBA, and he’s willing to do whatever it takes to bring another parade to Dallas.

“He understood that we needed flexibility in order to get the team better. He’s part of the tapestry of the city of Dallas. He’s really a made man in a lot respects if you think about all the superstars that have come through in all the sports, in terms of basketball it doesn’t get any better than Dirk. He just made a decision to end his career there. Hopefully we can tag another contract on to that.”

By agreeing to go from making $22.7 million last season to $7.97 million this season, Nowitzki provided the Mavs front office with the financial ammunition to deliver a three-year, $46-million offer sheet to Rockets restricted free agent small forward Chandler Parsons.

“The one consistent from Day 1 is Dirk,” Nelson said. “We’re not in position this summer to be as active as we are without him taking a fairly major pay cut and being a team player.”

Houston eventually did not match the contract and the Mavs acquired much-needed youth and talent in the 25-year-old Chandler. He joins a front line that includes Nowitzki and also 7-foot-1 center Tyson Chandler, whom the Mavs acquired in a trade before the start of free agency.

Chandler, on the final year of a four-year, $60 million deal he signed with the Knicks following Dallas’ 2011 championship, will be the Mavs’ highest-paid player at $14.8 million. Parsons is right behind him at $14.7 million. Shooting guard Monta Ellis will make $8.36 million.

To bring this back to the Lakers, power forward Jordan Hill will make $1 million more than Nowitzki next season.

In each of the last three summers, Dallas has tried to lure a max free agent to pair with Nowitzki in his final seasons and then to take the mantle once the big German finally calls it a career. That plan hasn’t worked out and since winning the title in 2011, owner Mark Cuban has continually flipped the roster. They were bounced in the first round of their title defense, missed the playoffs in 2012-13 and then won 49 games last season and took the Spurs to seven games in the first round.

The organization talked of continuity, but when the chance arose to reclaim Chandler from the Knicks, they sent starters Jose Calderon and Samuel Dalembert to New York. Dallas lost Vince Carter to Memphis and appears on the verge of losing veteran small forward Shawn Marion, the last player left along with Nowitzki from the title team. Point guard Raymond Felton came to Dallas in the Chandler trade and will tag team with Devin Harris.

Dallas also signed veteran Richard Jefferson and depth center Greg Smith, and it still has a $2.73 million exception and a minimum salary slot to fill. The Mavs didn’t get the big fish again, but with the help of their longtime superstar taking not only a haircut, but a buzzcut, they’ve remade the roster yet again, and this time might have pulled themselves back into contention.

“It’s always been that way,” Nelson said. “Dirk is part of the Mavs family, and he and Mark have had a special, unique, honest and forthcoming relationship since Mark has owned the team. He’s probably the biggest reasons we’ve had 15 years of great chemistry in the locker room. We haven’t been without our speed bumps, but for the most part we’ve had a really good team atmosphere and it starts from the top with Dirk in the locker room, Mark from a franchise perspective and you have the best coach in the game in Rick Carlisle.”

Giving Melo in NY the benefit of the doubt


VIDEO: Knicks welcome back Carmelo Anthony

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – It’s time to cut Carmelo Anthony some slack and stop cynically scoffing at his return to the New York Knicks as being, perceptually anyway, for no greater reason than to gobble the millions of dollars other teams couldn’t give him.

If we’re going to lather such thick praise upon LeBron James for the heartfelt letter as he told it to Sports Illustrated in which he was clear his return to Cleveland was more about the tug of his hometown and his family’s happiness there than his immediate quest to collect championships, then why can’t we be equally happy for Anthony for choosing the place he and his family feel most at home?

That the Knicks could offer more money, by rule of the league’s collective bargaining agreement, than the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers or any other team, is completely out of Anthony’s control. The $30 million or so more that he could earn in New York (Anthony signed for $124 million, about $6 million less than the max), plus getting a fifth year as opposed to a maximum of four years anywhere else, are both worthy enticements to return, just as they are meant to be.

But what if Anthony’s love for the city, where he spent his early years and where his wife LaLa grew up, and his son calls home, was his true calling? What if his desire to one day bring a championship to the long-struggling franchise, just like the one in Cleveland that James so admirably wants to lift up, was Anthony’s deeper motivation for re-signing?

Anthony, like James, talked about his family’s happiness in an interview with VICE Sports before his free agency tour of Chicago, Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles began:

“The average person just sees the opportunity to say, ‘Melo should go here, Melo should go there.’ But they don’t take into consideration the family aspect of it, your livelihood, where you’re going to be living. Do you want your kids to grow up in that place? Do I want to spend the rest of my career in that situation, in that city?

“My son goes to school and loves it here (in New York). To take him out and take him somewhere else, he would have to learn that system all over again. I know how hard it was for me when I moved from New York to Baltimore at a young age, having to work your way to try to make new friends and fit in and figure out the culture in that area.”

I can hear the scoffing from here. But why are James’ intentions viewed as pure, while Anthony’s as only greedy?

I understand. You don’t have to be John Hollinger to recognize that adding Anthony as the missing, high-scoring wing to the Bulls, with coach Tom Thibodeau‘s defensive philosophy stamped all over the club, with Joakim Noah as the fiery, emotional leader and former league MVP Derrick Rose returning, would mean big, big trouble in the Eastern Conference.

It seemed a natural fit. Of course, the Bulls, by virtue of the CBA and their own cap situation, could only offer Anthony around $75 million. That’s significantly less money than his New York deal and one likely any rational human being, or businessman, wouldn’t consider for long.

But because this is basketball and not a Fortune 500 company, we want Melo to take less and go to the Bulls because it just makes too much basketball sense. And clearly it seems Anthony grappled with the decision.

He knew he could join an instant contender in Chicago, while the 2014-15 campaign in New York will be a learning one with rookie coach in Derek Fisher and an incomplete roster. Reaching .500 would seem a realistic goal.

But what if Anthony decided to stick with the team that unloaded a package of talented players in the trade to get him out of Denver just three years ago? What if Anthony decided to trust in new president Phil Jackson – the franchise’s first respected voice of authority in years — and give him a chance to assemble a roster in 2015 and 2016 when for the first time under this CBA, the club will boast cap space?

What if the money wasn’t the overriding factor, and visions of becoming the first Knick to hoist the championship trophy since, well, a much younger Jackson in 1973? And how much more meaningful it would be to do it in New York than anywhere else (just as LeBron said about Cleveland)?

Again, I hear the scoffing.

Maybe in the end, the money really was the only thing that mattered.

But just maybe, at age 30 and with a family, and understanding his legacy is far from complete in the game, Anthony embraced the bigger picture, the greater challenge ahead in New York, the city he and his family call home.

Maybe, like LeBron’s sentimental decision we ate up, Anthony’s, too, came from his heart; the extra wallet padding only New York could provide being nothing more than a bonus.

Stop scoffing.

Blogtable: L.A.’s long coaching search

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: Free agency winners & losers | Thoughts on LeBron | Lakers’ coaching search



VIDEO: Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak talks about the Lakers’ coaching search thus far

> What is taking the Lakers so long to hire a coach? And who should get that gig?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Byron Scott is the right guy. Maybe he didn’t take his cell onto the golf course with him. Better send out Mitch Kupchak in a cart to intercept soon.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: They are too busy trying to assemble an NBA team. Your worst enemy.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: The Lakers wanted to take a stab at landing a superstar before they hired a coach supposedly to reduce complications. Fact is, there was no one out there that blows their socks off. I mean, reports say they’re going to bring in Byron Scott for a third interview. A third interview? Give the man the job already.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: Nothing is taking the Lakers so long that we weren’t told to expect. It was pretty clear from the beginning they wouldn’t make a hire before July, unless it was someone like Kevin Ollie or Tom Thibodeau. Maybe this has gone a few days or a week longer than you would have though, but it’s not like they’re on the clock now. Who are they racing for candidates? Byron Scott should get that gig.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: Well, they obviously wanted their big free-agent signing to have the opportunity to choose the coach. And now that Jordan Hill is back on board for $9 million a year, the Lakers can go ahead and make his selection. Byron Scott has reportedly been the lead candidate, but I’d talk to George Karl first. That team is bound to be awful defensively, but Karl had a top-seven offense in each of his last five seasons in Denver (with and without Carmelo Anthony).

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: Why the Lakers are taking so long to hire Byron Scott is beyond me. He’s clearly moved to the top of the list, Kobe Bryant‘s list, and that should be more than enough to seal the deal. It made sense for them to wait on hiring a coach until after their free-agent haul was complete. Now that we know they won’t be landing any of the big dogs, it’s time to handle this business of finding a coach. Scott has Lakers ties, is crazy enough to want the job right now, when the franchise is at a true crossroads. He will have the full blessing of the legion of former Lakers who watch over the franchise from wherever they are (near and far). Scott knows what sort of outlandish expectations exist in Hollywood, which makes him uniquely qualified to at least dive in on a job that will no doubt provide the drama we’ve always enjoyed out of the Lakers.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: I don’t know why they’re taking so long to hire a coach, although everything I’ve heard points to Byron Scott being their next coach. Who should be the coach? Well Kobe, obviously. He’s eating up most of their cap room, and because of that they can’t splash out cash for multiple free agents, so let Kobe run the show and let’s see what he can make of all this. And if not Kobe, I nominate my Hang Time Podcast cohost Rick Fox. Nobody rides for the Lake Show like Rick, so put him in charge of a Kobe/Linsanity/Swaggy P/Bobby Sacre/Jordan Hill team and let’s see Pretty Ricky fight for a title with them.

Blogtable: Free agency winners & losers

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: Free agency winners & losers | Thoughts on LeBron | Lakers’ coaching search



VIDEO: Carmelo, LeBron, Pierce … The Starters review the big offseason deals

> Who are the winners & losers in free agency thus far? Also, which free agent on the market is still ripe for the picking?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I’d like to get clever here, but I’ll leave that to the crew below and stick with the “A” material here. LeBron James made the Cavaliers the biggest free-agency winners since the Heat four years ago. Losers? Either the Lakers, who got snubbed as if they still were back in Minneapolis, or the Rockets for their mighty whiffs on Carmelo Anthony and Chris Bosh, and what I think were shaky decisions adding Trevor Ariza (contract year!) and subtracting Chandler Parsons, Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin. Best guy left? I understand why he’s still on the board – can you say “restricted?” – but as an impact addition, if someone managed to pry him loose, I’d go with big man Greg Monroe of Detroit.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: Winners: Cavs, obviously. Champion Spurs kept their core together for another run in 2015. Bulls didn’t land Carmelo, but that’s a nice consolation prize in Pau Gasol.  Mavs did a good job with combined salaries of Dirk and Chandler Parsons and plugged that hole in the middle with Tyson Chandler. Losers: Pat Riley and the Heat. Despite keeping Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, then signing Luol Deng, you are always losing when the best player in the game gets away. The Rockets were left holding an empty bag when Bosh spurned off and also let Parsons go to Dallas. Lakers wind up with Jeremy Lin, but still have no coach and are without Gasol. Hard to see them being relevant again by October. Eric Bledsoe is now the top name still out there, but the Suns insist they’ll spend what it takes to match and keep him. Since Stan Van Gundy also insists he’s keeping Greg Monroe and Lance Stephenson is headed to Charlotte, who else is out there?

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: Obviously the big winner is Cleveland. They got the King Fish. Chicago nabbing Pau Gasol and Dallas winning a restricted free-agent game of chicken with rival Houston to get Chandler Parsons are also winners. Miami, Houston and the Los Angeles Lakers are the big losers. As for free agents still out there, Phoenix point guard Eric Bledsoe has yet to receive an offer sheet, and probably because teams know the Suns will match. As for unrestricted free agents, Andray Blatche is a pretty talented big man, who comes with baggage, and there seems to be very little talk of him. There’s also 36-year-old Shawn Marion, who seemed to be a perfect fit in Miami had LeBron strayed, but now appears to running short on options.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The Cavaliers are obviously the winner. Getting LeBron James not only changes a roster, it alters the mood of an entire organization. Plus, while Kyrie Irving was not a free agent, getting his extension done at the same time, and done quickly in another positive statement, made it the best July possible. Loser: Rockets. Most every team misses on a free agent, but Houston moved assets and still came up empty on Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony, lost Chandler Parsons and turned to Trevor Ariza as a save. We’re still waiting to see what happens with Eric Bledsoe and Phoenix.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The biggest winner is obviously Cleveland. The biggest loser is Houston. Not only did the Rockets miss on the big free agents they were targeting, but they traded away their depth in order to do so. Defense and shooting should be priorities across the board, so Shawn Marion and Mo Williams are two available guys that could contribute meaningful minutes. Either would be a good fit in Houston and Williams could also help Atlanta’s backcourt. (For the record, my original answer was Anthony Tolliver, writing that he’d be a good fit with the Suns. Right after I sent that in, he agreed to terms with them.)

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I think it’s still a bit too early to declare an extended list of winners and losers. But there is no doubt the Cleveland Cavaliers came up in a major way with LeBron James deciding he was ready to come home. Anytime you score the No. 1 player on the planet, you’re the official winner of free agency. Surprisingly, the Heat rank high on my list. They rebounded nicely from losing LeBron by keeping Chris Bosh from going to Houston. The Bulls make my winners list, too, snagging Pau Gasol. The Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers, two of the biggest aggressors for superstar players on the market this summer, came up empty. And while I love risk takers, they’ve landed themselves on top of the losers list for me. This list is fluid, though, and could continue to grow depending on how several teams finish off their free agent summers.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blogThe loser has to be Houston. (Well, Miami, too, but other than that.) The Rockets gave away Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, and let Chandler Parsons go as well, all to clear room for Chris Bosh, who stayed in Miami. Then they overpaid (for a second time) Trevor Ariza to fill that void. For a winner, how about Washington? They lost Ariza but picked up Paul Pierce, who will be terrific to be in John Wall‘s ear for two seasons, at a completely reasonable price. I also like Atlanta getting Thabo Sefolosha, the Human Lisp, at a reasonable price, giving them two (with DeMarre Carroll) stoppers on the wings. And I love Memphis getting Vince Carter to fill that wing scoring void they’ve had forever.

Blogtable: Thoughts on LeBron?

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: Free agency winners & losers | Thoughts on LeBron | Lakers’ coaching search



VIDEO: Cavs GM David Griffin talks about LeBron James’ return to Cleveland

> It’s been five days since LeBron James shook the NBA with his latest decision. What are your last thoughts on his move and its effect on the NBA?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: Even commissioner Adam Silver said he was “moved” by James’ homecoming essay. That’s great, and because of it, I trust the two-year term of his Cavs contract is solely about signing a fresher, bigger one in 2016 – he cannot leave Cleveland again that quickly and have a shred of credibility left. But I think this was about basketball more than James let on, because the Cavs have a budding supporting cast on the fast track now. Impact on the NBA? We’re back to a “tandem” rather than “trio” world again, as far as superstars congregating. With 30 needy teams, spreading the firepower thinner is a good thing.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: The two-year contract he signed in Cleveland with an out next summer could have the longest-lasting effect. It signals that he’s playing year-to-year from now on and it could be the first step toward the elimination of max contract ceilings in the next collective bargaining agreement.

Jeff Caplan, NBA.com: He definitely took the sentimental approach over the business approach in terms of picking a team. He took the business approach in terms of structuring a two-year contract in which he can opt out after NEXT season. Now, the thinking on this is to maximize his salary as the salary cap increases with each season, and perhaps by leaps and bounds once the league’s new TV deals are secured. But if James hesitates at all to re-sign with the Cavs, his talk about coming home for all the reasons he listed will be hot air. The effect on the league is that now Cleveland holds the ace and not Miami. Veterans seeking a ring will be drawn to the Rust Belt instead of South Beach.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: That there can’t be any last thoughts yet. James’ decision could still have a ripple effect, with players who previously might not have been interested in signing for less to join the Cavs now more open to the possibility. Kevin Love wouldn’t have sent Cleveland a signal before that he would be very interested in staying as a free agent next summer. The presence of LeBron changes that.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com: The reason I was surprised LeBron left Cleveland in 2010 is the same reason I wasn’t surprised he returned in 2014. He’s a loyal dude. Akron and his friends and family from Akron/Cleveland have always been close to his heart. He knows that he needs more than one more championship to get in Michael Jordan territory, but he also knows that Cleveland hasn’t won a championship in 50 years. To bring a title to that city would mean more (to him and to the people he cares about) than winning two or three more somewhere else.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: In retrospect, and after reading LeBron’s own words, his return to Cleveland should not come as a surprise to anyone. It’s clear that even while he was taking the Miami Heat to The Finals year after year, his heart was actually somewhere else. Northeast Ohio in particular. It’s a game-changer for the league, no doubt. The Cavaliers go from afterthought to an Eastern Conference contender with LeBron’s return. In fact, the impact his homecoming will have cannot be quantified in any traditional manner. Just by returning to Cleveland, this guy is going to lift the spirits of an entire fan base, region and, really, a state. I lived in Cleveland (for a short 14-week stint) when LeBron was still in elementary school. And I’ve had family there my entire life, so I know how serious they take their sports teams and heroes. They’ve never had anyone like LeBron, homegrown, to latch on to. So to lose him four years ago in dramatic fashion only to see him win it all twice in Miami, their joy in getting him back now cannot accurately be displayed in words. If he actually comes home and wins a title, brace yourself for absolute pandemonium.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog: It makes the East much more competitive from top to bottom. There isn’t that same excellence in the top teams as in the West, but it makes it much harder to delineate the best teams in the conference. I wouldn’t be surprised if Chicago, Indiana, Cleveland, Toronto or Washington won the Conference, with Atlanta, Brooklyn, Miami and Charlotte in the mix as well. LeBron returning home is a nice narrative, but that doesn’t give Cleveland a rim protector or a coach proven in the NBA just yet.

Blazers’ would-be depth all in Vegas


VIDEO: The Trail Blazers’ young guns rout the Hawks in Las Vegas Summer League

LAS VEGAS – Two seasons ago the Portland Trail Blazers’ bench was remarkably young and perilously inadequate. Last season, the addition of veteran Mo Williams plus incredibly good health among the starting five limited opportunity for the Blazers’ babies.

As Summer League heats up, that banging sound you hear is opportunity knocking. Which young Blazers finally walk through that door will be an intriguing story line to monitor. The choices are all right here in Vegas. In fact, if the Blazers don’t boast the most players from their big-league team on their Summer League squad then they’re right there near the top.

Six of Portland’s 15 roster players are on its Summer League squad: Guards Will Barton, Allen Crabbe and C.J. McCollum, as well as frontline teammates Joel Freeland, Meyers Leonard and Thomas Robinson. All six players have either one or two years of league service, and all six are seeking to make a first-time impact in the Blazers’ rotation.

McCollum, Robinson and Leonard are all top 11 draft picks.

“It’s an important summer for our young bigs and and our young perimeter guys,” Blazers coach Terry Stotts said as he watched Portland’s summer team beat down Atlanta, 91-76. “CJ, Will and Allen, there’s an opportunity. I can’t say how many minutes, but there’s an opportunity. Joel, Meyers and T-rob, after signing Chris [Kaman], there’s some competition.”

Kaman was granted a two-year, $9.8 million contract coming off two subpar seasons with Dallas and then the Los Angeles Lakers. Yet Portland felt compelled to sign him up as backup to starter Robin Lopez because they’ve haven’t been able to count on Leonard or Freeland.

The young guards won’t have to contend with Williams, who remains on the market as an unrestricted free agent, however the Blazers signed steady veteran in Steve Blake.

“In my rookie year everyone talked about the bench,” said Leonard, who took a step back last season, partly due to injury. “Last year was a much better year for us, young guys stepped up. Now we need to have even more of a deep bench, confidence from coach to put us in there and know the score isn’t  going to down, we’re going to keep it there or we’re going to increase the lead. It’s confidence in the starters and coaches that when we come in we’re going to do a good job and they can know we’re going to be all right.”

Self-confidence is a big pat of it, too. The leader in that category could be Thomas Robinson, the fifth overall pick two years ago by Sacramento, who was traded by the Kings and then the Rockets. He played in 70 games for Portland last season, averaging 4.8 ppg and 4.4 rpg in 12.5 mpg. He provided some high energy moments off the bench during the playoffs and now the 23-year-old says he’s discovered what it takes to be a productive NBA player.

“I am where I was supposed to be after my rookie year, making that leap to knowing what type of player you are in this league and knowing what you’re going to do for your team,” Robinson said. “That’s where I am now, where I should have been last year.”

Few expected the Blazers to end up where they did last season, winning 54 games and advancing to the second round of the playoffs for the first time in the last 14 years. They have a dynamic starting five with All-Stars Damian Lillard and LaMarcus Aldridge, streak-shooter Wes Matthews, stat-stuffer small forward Nicolas Batum and Lopez, their lunchpail center.

Bench parts at every position are on the roster. Now, with another year under the belts, the question is which ones walk through that door.

Mavs’ power play nabs Chandler Parsons

HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Dallas Mavericks rolled the dice and came up with 3-point ace Chandler Parsons.

The Houston Rockets on Sunday opted not to match the aggressive, three-year, $46-million offer sheet Mavericks owner Mark Cuban delivered to the restricted free agent the moment the NBA’s moratorium period expired on Thursday. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle first reported the Rockets would not match, the organization concluding that the high price tag would hinder long-term building.

The always opportunistic Cuban, who partied with Chandler and his parents at a bar after the 6-foot-9 small forward signed the offer sheet, made it official Sunday afternoon, writing “Welcome to Dallas Chandler Parsons” on his Cyber Dust app.

Parsons, who becomes Dallas’ highest-paid player at $15 million next season, alerted the masses via Twitter:

Parson’s arrival, coupled with the trade for Tyson Chandler, means Dallas has flipped a front line of Shawn Marion, Dirk Nowitzki and Samuel Dalembert into Parsons, Nowitzki and Chandler. The starting lineup rounds out with shooting guard Monta Ellis and either Raymond Felton or Devin Harris at point guard.

Nowitzki, 36, is the hero here. Coming off a four-year, $80-million contract, he agreed to a three-year deal for $30 million in the first week of free agency. The hometown discount allowed Dallas to pad the price of Parsons’ offer sheet. While $15 million per season might seem hefty for a player just three years into his career, put it in terms of $25 million total for Parsons and Nowitzki, and it’s much more palatable.

During the three days the Rockets had to mull their Parsons strategy, they signed small forward and Mavs secondary target Trevor Ariza away from Washington, the first sign Houston might be moving away from Parsons. Another Mavs Plan B target, Luol Deng, agreed to a deal Sunday with Miami.

Suddenly, if Rockets general manager Daryl Morey was going to match, the Mavs’ alternatives were looking bleak at a position they wanted to upgrade. Plus, they had already lost nearly half of their 3-point shooting from last season with Vince Carter signing a free-agent deal with Memphis and Jose Calderon now in New York, the price for acquiring Chandler.

Now Dallas has a 25-year-old borderline All-Star who last season averaged 16.6 ppg, 5.5 rpg, 4.0 apg and shot 37.0 percent from beyond the arc. Chandler was the classic “sleeper,” a four-year player at Florida who became the Rockets’ prized second-round pick by tremendously outplaying his low-cost contract.

Dallas believes next to the sweet-shooting Nowitzki and quick-penetrating Ellis, Parsons will fit seamlessly in coach Rick Carlisle‘s flow offense.

This will be a bitter pill to swallow for the superstar-searching Morey. He declined the team option that would pay Parsons $965,000 next season, a move that would have made Parsons an unrestricted free agent in 2015. Morey wanted to clear as much cap space as possible to make a run at LeBron James or Carmelo Anthony, but always with the objective of retaining Parsons.

Neither superstar chose Houston, but when James announced he was returning to Cleveland, the door opened for a run at All-Star forward Chris Bosh. And the Rockets thought they had him. Only at the last minute Bosh signed a $118-million max contract to stay in Miami, simultaneously nuking Houston’s plans to match Parson’s offer sheet.

For Dallas, the risk paid off gloriously. Parsons will replace Marion, a popular and reliable veteran, and the last player other than Nowitzki from the Mavs’ 2011 championship team. The 36-year-old will likely be moving on as Dallas is down to a $2.73 million exception which they’ll likely use to bolster the backcourt where point guard would appear to be the one key weakness. Combo guard and 3-point specialist Mo Williams has been a target.

Cuban, like Morey, has been big-fish hunting for three summers, but unlike Morey, he has come up empty each time. In a twist surely not lost on either men, Parsons heavily recruited Dwight Howard last summer and the All-Star center passed on Dallas and signed a four-year deal with the Rockets. Now Cuban will certainly delight in a little revenge.

Not to mention an improved roster. Dallas won 49 games last season, yet had to fight to the end to secure the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. With the flexible and adaptable Carlisle at the controls, the Mavs, boasting one of the league’s most efficient offenses throughout the regular season, took eventual champion San Antonio to seven games in the first round.

Interior defense was the obvious weakness and Dallas quickly pulled the trigger to return Chandler, the 7-1 anchor who completed the title team.

Now, by taking a gamble mixed with little good fortune, the Mavs got their other Chandler, as in Parsons.