VIDEO: Clippers superstar Chris Paul put in the work in preparation for the 2015-16 season
NEWS OF THE MORNING
LeBron wants Cavs, Thompson to “get it done” | Kobe’s (preseason) return lasts 12 minutes | Williams counting on comforts of home to help rejuvenate career | Room to grow for Westbrook? | Warriors will hold each other accountable in Kerr’s absence
No. 1: LeBron wants Cavs, Thompson to “get it done” — The leader of the Cleveland Cavaliers spent his weekend doing what needed to be done, speaking publicly on what he called the “elephant in the room.” Tristan Thompson‘s holdout has officially become a distraction for LeBron James and the rest of the Cavaliers in their quest for a championship. Yes, it’s early in the process. But James is calling for both sides to do whatever it takes to get Thompson back in the fold so the Cavs can get back to the business of trying to finish what they started last season. ESPN.com’s Dave McMenamin has more LeBron clearing the air after practice Sunday…
“I’m not here to talk about numbers, things of that nature, because that’s for them, for both sides to figure out. The last thing you need is a distraction when you try to make a championship run. And we have that right now. And it’s unfortunate for both sides that we’re going through it right now as a team. It’s not an excuse, we will be ready to go but hopefully something happens in the near future.”
James and Thompson both attended the wedding of Todd Leebow, a mutual friend, in Miami on Saturday. The pair’s agent, Rich Paul, was also in attendance. James said he decided to post his message via social media after spending “the majority of the day” with Thompson.
Last week, James told reporters that he wouldn’t be addressing Thompson’s holdout ad nauseam. After making his comments Sunday, he said it was “probably my last time” speaking up about Thompson.
“I know he wants to be here, I believe this franchise wants him to be here, and so on and so on,” James said. “So, like I said, hopefully something gets done soon so we can really get down to it.”
James maintained that his Instagram post was not meant to be a directive aimed solely at the Cavs’ front office.
“Throughout the negotiation process, it’s always both sides,” James said. “It’s not just one-sided. I’ve been a part of negotiation before, and making deals and things of that nature, not much in the NBA but in other businesses, so, it’s always for both sides to figure out.”
Paul recently vacated a five-year, $94 million max contract demand for his client in favor of a preferred three-year, $53 million deal, league sources said. The Cavs already have tendered a five-year, $80 million offer to Thompson, according to sources.
Beyond taking to social media and speaking to reporters about Thompson, James said he will not interfere any further with the negotiations. Meaning, don’t expect him to knock on the door of general manager David Griffin’s office.
“I’m not going to go to them and tell them what they should do,” James said. “That’s their job, they know to do it very well, and they’ve done that to this point. They’ve brought in and did what they had to do for us to be a contending team, and, so, obviously Tristan is a big part of that run we want to make. I believe that something will happen.”
VIDEO: LeBron James addresses Tristan Thompson’s contract situation
No. 2: Kobe’s (preseason) return lasts 12 minutes — No one said it would last forever, or even two quarters. And fireworks were not expected in Hawaii for Kobe Bryant‘s long awaited return to action with the Los Angeles Lakers. But a 1-for-5 shooting effort in a 90-71 loss to the Utah Jazz was not the fairy tale comeback Kobe’s biggest fans might have hoped for in his 2015-16 debut. But it was just fine by Kobe and Lakers coach Byron Scott, who has no plans to push it at this stage of the process. ESPN’s Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com explains…
After his first game since late January, when he tore the rotator cuff in his right shoulder, ending his 2014-15 season after 35 games, Bryant said he felt “pretty good” and that it was “good to get out there.”
He added that his legs feel strong and that he didn’t feel any fatigue.
“It’s just getting the timing,” said Bryant, whose past three seasons have all been cut short by injury. “Getting timing. Getting acclimated to that again.”
Lakers coach Byron Scott seemed pleased with Bryant’s performance.
“He was pretty good,” Scott said. “He moved well.”
Scott said the plan of playing Bryant 12 minutes was agreed upon before the game.
“I told him before we went out, let’s just play the quarter and then let’s shut it down and see how you feel [Monday], we’ll go through practice and then get ready for Tuesday,” Scott said.
The Lakers face the Jazz again Tuesday, and Bryant is expected to play limited minutes in that game as well, though Scott said they’ll likely increase Bryant’s minutes gradually throughout the preseason.
VIDEO: Kobe Bryant says he still has some rust to work out of his game
No. 3: Williams counting on comforts of home to help rejuvenate career — He wouldn’t be the first NBA player to retreat to the familiar to recharge himself, to jumpstart his career. But Deron Williams went home to Dallas to do more than that. He went home to rejuvenate an All-Star career that has stalled in recent seasons, basically since his ugly departure from Utah in the wake of the Jerry Sloan drama to his injury-filled tenure in Brooklyn with the Nets. No longer mentioned at or even near the top when the conversation turns to the best point guards in the league, Williams aims to change all of that in his first season back in Dallas since high school. Dwain Price of the Star-Telegram explains…
That pressure could become magnified again now that Williams is playing for his hometown team. A 2002 graduate of The Colony, Williams must deal with having friends and family members around him more than usual, along with the constant requests for tickets to games.
But he sees a bright side to this (family) reunion.
“My kids are in school and in their activities, and their grandmas get to come and see them play, play soccer and play volleyball,” Williams said. “And when we need a break we can send them over to her house, so it’s definitely a lot of advantages to it.
“My family mainly has always been my biggest supporters. They know what I’m capable of.”
A two-time Olympic gold medal winner, Williams shot a career-low 38.7 percent from the field last season. Both he and the Mavs know he’s capable of a better performance.
“The important thing there is his health,” said Carlisle, whose team opens the preseason at home Tuesday against Denver. “With the beginning of last year he was coming off double ankle surgery, so it limited him.
“Late in the year he had a really good run and his health was very good. We’ve got to help him continue the momentum with good health.”
As he attempts to rejuvenate his career, Williams would like nothing better than to prove a lot of people wrong. And that includes the person he sees in the mirror.
“I want to prove myself wrong because I started to doubt myself in the past,” Williams said. “That’s what I was talking about — mentally, it just took a toll on me.
“I’ve just got to get out of that rut that I was in the last couple years mentally, and I look forward to this situation. I think it’s going to be better for me.”
No. 4: Room to grow for Westbrook? — Russell Westbrook was a revelation last season in Oklahoma City with Kevin Durant out with an injury. But could there be even more to his game? Certainly, writes Erik Horne of the Oklahoman…
“He’s reaching a level where it’s hard to make strides, it’s hard to make gains,” Thunder GM Sam Presti said.
Until now, “small” and “incremental” have not defined the progression of Westbrook’s career. As much as Kevin Durant‘s greatness has defined the Thunder, it’s been Westbrook’s continual quantum leaps of development and production that has driven Oklahoma City’s rise.
So, what’s the next step for a player with a seemingly limitless ceiling?
“You have to be looking for the small and incremental,” Presti. “And that I think again is part of the aspect of where our team is.”
“Smaller,” Westbrook said when asked if his game has come down to large or small improvements. “It’s important each year you find different things, different nits in your game that you want to get better at. Working on your balance, working on different things that I can do to be more effective.”
No. 5: Warriors will hold each other accountable in Kerr’s absence — Draymond Green‘s not worried about the Golden State Warriors losing their way while their coach, Steve Kerr, is away taking care of his surgically repaired back. Green insists that, to a man, the Warriors will hold each other accountable to stay on course and do things the right way. The same way, he says, any championship team would with their leader missing. And there is plenty of leadership within the locker room, writes Carl Steward of the Bay Area News Group writes…
Kerr’s absence during training camp and the preseason may be the first mini-test in the Warriors’ quest to repeat, and Draymond Green knows the kind of mentality that can seep in if the players, particularly the veterans, don’t pay heed.
“It’s like if your boss leaves work, everyone relaxes,” Green said Saturday. “It’s like a weight off your shoulders. When your boss checks out, it’s like, ‘Oh, man, what’s up, now we can chill.’ It’s just human nature. So it’s a challenge for us to not do that.”
Green said the players have to be more accountable to one another than they were last season. Walton and the club’s other assistants, while fully qualified, can only do so much. Players must carry more responsibility to “keep the ship sailing,” as Green put it. It’s another lesson he learned from Michigan State coach Tom Izzo.
“That’s myself, that’s Steph (Curry), that’s (Andrew) Bogut, that’s Andre (Iguodala), that’s us as leaders,” he said. “If something isn’t going right, we have to step up. At the end of the day, Luke can do it and he will do it, but anytime you can get something from another player, it’s better. Coach Izzo always had a saying, ‘A player-coached team is always better than a coach-coached team.'”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Former Phoenix Suns legend Neal Walk has died at 67 … Mark Price is fired up to coach in Charlotte (the 49ers now after leaving the Hornets for the college game) … One prominent Chicago columnist says surgery cannot fix what ails Derrick Rose … Jerry Stackhouse “happy” to add NBA flavor to Raptors’ staff … Wizards rookie Kelly Oubre isn’t running short on confidence in his game … The Suns finished camp with a chemistry boost … Eric Gordon knows he has to have his healthiest and best season this year … So who fills the void in Detroit left by Greg Monroe‘s departure?
ICYMI: An all-access look at the launch of NBA2K16:
VIDEO: A behind-the-scenes look at the launch of NBA2K16