July 26, 2014

Mike Miller signing and some Dion Waiters thoughts

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Does this look like ‘bench’ material to you?

The Cleveland Cavaliers reached a deal with veteran sharpshooter Mike Miller, reportedly being ready to sign the 14-year veteran to a two year deal worth around $5.4 million, including a player option for the second year. Miller is a favorite of homeward-bound Cavalier LeBron James (yes, that was as fun to write as it probably is to read) and he, by all indications, chose the Cavaliers over more lucrative offers from the Denver Nuggets and possibly Houston and Dallas. According to Jeff Goodman of ESPN, Miller had a longer-term, higher-paying offer of around three years for a total of $12 million from Denver. But he followed LeBron’s decision by wanting to play in Cleveland. For less money.1

Now it isn’t as if Mike Miller is hurting to feed his family, as Latrell Spreewell once proclaimed after being offered a $30 million extension from the Timberwolves that he felt was below his value. Miller, according to Hoopshype, has made just under $76 million in his 14-year NBA career. But due to his age, this could be Miller’s last shot at a long-term deal. You could be asking yourself, “Who is this guy and why is he writing about a deal that is yesterday’s news?” We’ll get to me later, but the answer to the latter half? Because he chose to come to Cleveland so he could play alongside the best player in the world and possibly compete for additional championships, that’s why. Why is this all significant? Because Miller wanted to come to Cleveland! No, he isn’t a game-changing player—although he will really help spread the floor with his dead-eye three-point shooting. Players want to play with LeBron and Miller’s signing demonstrated this. Hopefully this is just the first of many veterans that choose to come to Cleveland in order to win big and play with LeBron.

[Read more...]

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Footnotes:

  1. Yes, the deal in Cleveland doesn’t include a third year so the actual comparison to the Denver offer has to be looked at in the prism of Miller and his possible contract two years from now, because he will most likely be getting paid something after his two-year Cavalier deal. But by that time Miller will be 37 and it would be surprising if he could still get close to that $4 million that Denver would’ve still been paying him. So for arguments sake, let’s say Miller will be playing for the veteran minimum of about $1.5 million two years from now. That means he would’ve taken about $5 million less over three years to come to Cleveland. That is quite significant. []

Ray Allen leaning toward joining Cavs

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The Free Agency haul rolls on as Ray Allen is reportedly leaning toward signing with the Cleveland Cavaliers. This report is according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.

Allen is expected to have MRIs on his legs to make sure they’re healthy, so nothing will be official until after Thursday. Mike Miller, another recent addition, has been recruiting Ray Allen to join him and LeBron James—both teammates of Allen in Miami—in Cleveland.

“With LeBron James, you are going to win 55 to 60 games regardless,” Miller said on ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd Show. “Now it’s about what you do in the playoffs. For us, even with the young talent that they have there, you’ve got to bring guys that have been there before, even if they are not giving you heavy minutes. Because those are the guys that understand the preparation, the adjustments, things like that can really bring those guys along. And then you build it from there.”

The 39-year-old Allen was fielding offers from the Cavs as well as the Houston Rockets in addition to contemplating retirement. He is the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-point makes with 2973, and over 19 years of professional play, Allen has shot 40.0 percent from beyond the arc.

Cavs “firmly in lead” to acquire Kevin Love

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Andrew Wiggins is one step closer to being an official member of the Cleveland Cavaliers. Whether or not he ultimately reaches that destination remains to be seen.

The Golden State Warriors were long considered to be the Cavs’ lone rival in obtaining Love as they refuse to include swingman Klay Thompson in discussions given Love’s potential to leave after one season. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst report that the Chicago Bulls—one of the choice destinations for Love—have also entered into the fray1, but the Cavs remain “firmly in the lead” in a deal that would center around Wiggins. The Cavs are reportedly increasingly optimistic that they are progressing toward a trade framework that the Minnesota Timberwolves will accept in exchange for Love to pair him with his Team USA teammate LeBron James.

The Associated Press has confirmed an earlier report from Windhorst that states the Cavs’ No. 1 overall pick will sign his rookie contract with the team. Wiggins has been the topic of trade talks since being selected this past summer, the 6-foot-8-inch shooting guard being the top target of the Minnesota Timberwolves as they look to deal power forward Kevin Love before he reaches free agency. Last week, the AP cited two people familiar with the discussions in saying that the Cavs were still not willing to include Wiggins in a deal despite previous reports to the contrary.

Once the deal (said to be worth roughly $5.5 million in 2014) is inked, the Cavs would be prohibited from dealing the rookie for 30 days. Prior to being signed, Wiggins’ value in a trade was zero. If the Cavaliers do decide to part ways with the highly touted swingman, they would be $5.5 million closer to the required $12.56 million needed to acquire Love. Other players rumored to be involved include Dion Waiters ($4.06 million) and last year’s No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett ($5.56 million).

[Related: Mike Krzyzewski would trade Wiggins for Love “without hesitancy”]

(Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images)

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Footnotes:

  1. Taj Gibson and Jimmy Butler appear to be their starting point. []

Kyle Shanahan, Miracle Worker? While We’re Waiting…

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It’s Monday, Monday, gotta get down on Monday….

I’m trying to not get excited. Last year at this time, we were discussing the merits of Norv Turner’s offense and how it was going to be night-and-day compared to that of Pat Shurmur. Gone was the West Coast; here was the vertical game that included the tight end to a larger degree. And while Jordan Cameron and Josh Gordon were undoubtedly superb, the Browns’ offense was excruciating to watch—save for the few moments we got to see Brian Hoyer. This, however, is all a long way of leading into Terry Pluto’s latest that discusses the merits of the team’s new offensive coordinator, the 34-year-old Kyle Shanahan.

The pieces all appear to be in place. The strong running game. The mobile quarterbacks. The offensive line. Will it bear fruit? I want to get excited. I want to see Ben Tate rack up 1,000 yards. I want to watch Terrence West truck over would-be tacklers. I want to slice and dice defenses with the zone read. But will these happen?

It has to at least be better than last season. Right?

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Speaking of the Browns, I thoroughly enjoyed this piece from Tom Reed on linebacker Craig Robertson. By all accounts, Robertson came into last season as a Secret Weapon and left it as one of the worst starting inside linebackers in the game. He was the subject of a Training Camp piece here at WFNY. His defensive coordinator went on to call him the Ace in the Hole. He then went on to get abused in the passing game, putting up marks that were ranked dead last by Pro Football Focus.

But kudos to Robertson for not only knowing how awful his season was, but being willing to discuss it and the challenges that exist ahead with the team adding Christian Kirksey.

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If you haven’s read enough debates surrounding Kevin Love and Andrew Wiggins, here’s a recent 5-on-5 from the folks over at ESPN.com which discusses that very matter!

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Heave those Hot Takes, here’s this week’s edition of #ActualSportswriting:

Awakening the Giant” by Seth Wickersham (ESPN The Magazine): “You remember the picture. Y.A. Tittle is on his knees in the end zone after throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown. Swollen hands on his thigh pads, eyes fixed on the grass, he is helmetless and bleeding from the head, one dark stream snaking down his face, another curling near his ear. His shoulder pads make him seem hunched over, resigned, broken down. The black-and-white photo was taken in 1964, the final year of Tittle’s career. It hangs in a silver frame at his home in Atherton, California, not with the prominence befitting one of the most iconic pictures in sports history but lost among many mementos from a Hall of Fame career.”

Pitchman: How Tom Emansky changed the sport of baseball—and then disappeared” by Erik Malinowski (FOX Sports): “Tens of thousands of times over a decade, people watching any number of sports on TV could usually expect to see one name pop up during a given commercial break: Emanski. A sweetheart deal kept the commercials on the air and the orders rolling in, thereby ensuring that an entire generation of ballplayers grew up with Tom Emanski as the coach they never met.”

…Dan Jenkins deserves some barbecue” by Sally Jenkins (Washington Post): The British Open is better in Texas because you can watch it with barbecue. This is how my father has consoled himself while missing his first golf major championship in 45 years. It seems his doctor felt the bracing air of northwest England might not be good for him, but the medical community said nothing about smokehouse ribs. The fact that Dan Jenkins, 84, stayed home from the British constitutes not just a concession, but some kind of historical event, because the last time he was absent from a major the club heads were made of persimmon, and not every Tour wife was a blonde.”

I got gored in Pamplona. But I will run with the bulls again.” by Bill Hillman (Washington Post): “It was raining off and on that morning. The cobblestones were extra slick. First-time runners were everywhere, and the crowd was roaring. I saw the long willow canes of the pastores, the official herdsmen of the run, poking out above tourists’ heads. Suddenly, a suelto, a lone bull, appeared ahead of me. When a bull has separated from the pack, he loses his herding instinct and sees all runners as predators. That’s exactly what this one did — throwing his horns at the dozens of scattering runners.”

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A quick note about that Dan Jenkins story. First, I may have been the only sportswriting fan alive who didn’t put two and two together to realize that Sally Jenkins was the daughter of Dan. Talk about bloodlines. Second, think about this for a minute: Dan Jenkins covered every single major golf championship for 45 years. He’s unquestionably the best when it comes to covering the game of golf, but regardless of sport—forty-five years is one hell of a run to have not missed a single major event. No wonder he’s already in the Hall of Fame despite still practicing his craft.

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These wouldn’t qualify as #ActualSportsWriting, but I wanted to share a couple other links. The first comes in the way of the New York Times where a long-time pickpocket details his life. Stories like these always captivate me. Who would’ve guessed that, amidst all of the technological progress out there, that it would be pickpockets who are being left in the cold? The second link comes from BusinessWeek, and it’s about everyone’s favorite club-thumping shill: Pitbull. BusinessWeek features are terrific on their own. This one, however, detailing  guy who wants a meeting with BitCoin only to later ask “I still want to know, what exactly is Bitcoin?” is next level. And who knew he had ties to Uncle Luke? Anyway…These are both well worth your time.

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And just because: You nasty, Trevor.

What’s it like to play for new Cavs’ coach David Blatt?

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David Blatt is still largely an unknown commodity to NBA fans, but in the past week the mainstream media can’t seem to get enough of this mystery man. The story that everyone seems to know regarding the Framingham, Massachusetts native is one of success in stops all across club basketball in Europe, in addition to a 2007 EuroBasket title with the Russian National Team, and a Bronze medal with the Russians at the 2012 Olympics in London.

The word around Blatt is that he is an offensive savant, rooted in the ideals he learned as a player/English major at Princeton, and then fostered during his playing and coaching careers in Europe. But outside of his ability for offensive innovation, what makes Blatt tick is still a mystery.

[Read more...]

LeBron asks fans if he should wear No. 23 or 6?

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LeBron James took to Instagram to ask his fans what number he should wear in his return to Cleveland.

6 or 23?......

James famously retired the No. 23 after the 2009-10 season, stating that it should be retired across the NBA in honor of Michael Jordan. He then, in his move to Miami, chose No. 6. (Bill Russell, interestingly, wore No. 6 while amassing his 11 championship rings.)

There are a slew of photoshops out there with James in a Cavs jersey with the No. 6, but many fans think that should be left in South Beach. What say you?

Conflicting reports surrounding Wiggins, Love

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Welcome to last week! While it’s not the constant refreshing of LeBron James dot com, the news surrounding a potential acquisition of Minnesota power forward Kevin Love is reaching new levels. In response to Thursdays reports that had the Cavaliers being willing to include No. 1 draft pick Andrew Wiggins in a deal for the All-Star, multiple reports are now being filed in the contrary.

The latest from Withers is noteworthy as the veteran AP scribe tends to only report concrete, multiple-sourced information, refuses to report on things coming from player representatives and has had direct lines of contact with team owner Dan Gilbert.

In an interview 850AM/WKNR, Withers told Tony Rizzo’s “The Really Big Show” that there have been multiple discussions between both teams, but Wiggins has not been mentioned as being available. (Withers also hinted that it may have been the Timberwolves who leaked this news in attempt to get Golden State to increase their offer.) Discussions are wildly different than negotiations and that could obviously change. For now, however, it appears that the teams are in a staring contest.

Wiggins, despite swirling rumors, tallied 21 points (3-5 FG, 15-20 FT), five rebounds and a block in Thursday night’s loss to the Houston Rockets in the Las Vegas Summer League

[Related: All you need to know about trading for Kevin Love: WFNY FAQs]

All you need to know about trading for Kevin Love: WFNY FAQs

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So the Cavs are willing to trade Andrew Wiggins now for Kevin Love. Maybe. LeBron wants Love on this Cavs roster. But even that’s easier said than done.

Why would they make the deal now? Why wouldn’t they just wait? Who counts as what? Is Wiggins even signed? How is the Collective Bargaining Agreement involved?

As the questions pile up, we here at WFNY have compiled a bit of an FAQ of sorts to help guide you through the process. Enjoy.

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Cavs now willing to deal Andrew Wiggins?

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So about all that ‘untouchable’ talk… It has taken a little over one week for the Cleveland Cavaliers to loosen their grip on No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins if in fact it were to net them Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Love. Bob Finnan of The Morning Journal reports, citing a league source, that the Cavs are now willing to trade the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 draft.

Up until this point, it was assumed the Cavs wanted to hang onto Wiggins, largely because of comments made by Coach David Blatt in Las Vegas. Finnan’s source, however, said that the recently signed LeBron James wants the 6-10, 250-pound Love on the Cavaliers’ roster. James’ pull has also netted the Cavs swingmen Mike Miller and James Jones, two former teammates of James during his time with the Miami Heat. (Miller recently told ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd that he’s attempting to lure fellow shooting guard and former teammate Ray Allen to Cleveland as well.)

Finnan reports that the latest offer could include Wiggins, last years’ No. 1 pick in power forward Anthony Bennett and an additional first-round pick. Center Brendan Haywood, who was acquired on draft night, might be included in the deal to make it work contractually. USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt corroborates Finnan’s report regarding Wiggins being available.

This deal, if transacted, would be the exact opposite of what Grantland’s Bill Simmons recently coined “Don’t Do The Wrong Thing Every Time Anymore” movement.

[Related: WFNY Roundtable: Should the Cavs trade for Kevin Love?]

Wolves’ owner wants to keep Kevin Love

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As Cavalier fans debate the merits of a trade that could bring All-Star power forward Kevin Love to Cleveland, Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor is doing all he can to make the disgruntled Olympian feel wanted by the team that is bordering on becoming an afterthought.

“My preference is that Kevin will come to (training) camp — and I’m sure he will — and play with the team,” Taylor said in an interview with NBATV.

When asked about dealing Love in a trade that did not involve the Cavs’ No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins, Taylor stated that the team was going to look at everything that makes sense that would make our team better, “but we are not going to move a superb player like that without getting equal or more value back.”

Since drafting the 6-foot-10-inch Love with the fifth pick in 2008, the Timberwolves have yet to make the playoffs, finishing with 40 wins in 2013-14. Love, who has iterated that he wants to win, is matched by Taylor who believes Minnesota is right on the cusp of doing so.

“I think our team is just on the border,” Taylor said. “We lost too many close games last year, and having Kevin Love there as, right now, the heart of our team … I would like to have Kevin back and play under Flip (Saunders) and see how the coaches will utilize him with the other players.”

Taylor can offer Love a new contract worth $26 million more than any other team can offer, but if he is not dealt by the 2014-15 trade deadline, it is expected that Love will test free agency. The Cavs maintain that they will not discuss trade packages that involve Wiggins who has averaged 14 points per game (37.8 percent shooting) for the team during their Summer League play.

[Related: Trade Wiggins for Love? Why I’d do it.]

Cavs in talks with Larry Drew to join coaching staff

Former Atlanta and Milwaukee head coach Larry Drew has chatted with the Cleveland Cavaliers about joining the team’s coaching staff. The Boston Globe’s Gary Washburn reported the news late Tuesday evening.

Drew was awkwardly fired two weeks ago as Milwaukee’s head coach. He was only 15-67 in his lone season with the Bucks, then the team went out and recruited the unhappy Jason Kidd away from Brooklyn to take Drew’s job. It was a pretty messy situation.

He coached the previous three seasons with the Atlanta Hawks, bringing them to the playoffs each year. But then the team went in a new direction as well, bringing in Spurs assistant Mike Budenholzer to work under Danny Ferry.

It’s possible that Drew has received a tad bit of bad luck in both draws. Milwaukee had a bunch of injuries last season amid their overall suckiness. Atlanta’s been a perennial playoff team that has never seemed to have enough talent to make any significant playoff noise. It’s possible Drew wasn’t too much to blame.

But on Twitter, many Milwaukee fans chastised Cleveland’s interest. And it’s important to note that we’re also talking about Gary Washburn here. Washburn, if you recall, was lambasted by the national media — including Deadspin — for voting for Carmelo Anthony over LeBron James for the 2013 MVP award. So take this report with a mild grain of salt, although he is a veteran reporter.

The Cavs have David Blatt as their new head coach and Tyronn Lue as their new associate head coach. The Cavs made Lue one of the highest-paid assistants in league history. On the team’s website, Bernie Bickerstaff, Jim Boylan, Igor Kokoskov and Bret Brielmaier are still listed as holdovers from the previous regime. It’s uncertain how many more assistants Blatt might be looking to still add.

Keep ‘em coming: James Jones signs with Cavs

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While Ray Allen deliberates his future, James Jones has reportedly jumped ahead of him in former members of the Miami Heat to join LeBron James in Cleveland.

Jones appeared in only 20 games for the Heat last season, averaging 4.9 points in 11.8 minutes of action, but he is a very close friend of James, both players’ respective families vacationing together as recent as this past summer. The 6-foot-8-inch space-creating swingman would likely just provide depth behind James and recent addition Mike Miller, allowing the four-time All-Star to potentially slide to the ‘stretch 4′ position with David Blatt at the helm.

It’s clear that the Cavs are pinpointing players who are not just friends with James, but those who can create the space needed for the Cavs’ offense to thrive. Jones led the NBA lasts season in catch-and-shoot situations, hitting 52 percent of his attempts. This past May, James went to bat for Jones, pleading for the three-point specialist to receive more playing time.

“It’s the space that he provides, and his ability to shoot the ball,” said LeBron. “You can’t do both when he’s out on the floor: You can’t help on my drive and try to contest the threes.”

Jones fielded offers from Golden State, Washington, New Orleans and Miami before choosing Cleveland. Your move, Ray. Everybody’s doing it.

Ray Allen deciding between Cavs, Rockets and Retirement

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The Cavs may have signed Mike Miller to a two-year deal, but they may very well find themselves with another former teammate of LeBron James as shooting guard Ray Allen contemplates joining the team versus outright retirement.

Allen is still undecided whether he wants to return for another NBA season, or retire after 18 years in the NBA. He has reportedly been in talks with both the Rockets and Cavaliers, but is yet to speak with his former team. Allen is the NBA’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made with 2973, and has shot 40.0 percent from beyond the arc.

As recent as late June, reports swirled that Allen wished to continue playing despite being 39 years of age, hoping to do so alongside LeBron James, with whom he reportedly developed a close relationship with during their two seasons together in Miami, whether it is with the Heat or another team.

“I guess everything [is factored into the decision],” Allen told the Boston Globe during the most recent NBA Playoffs. “You get away from it, you sit down and get an opportunity to think about it. It depends on how my body feels. I love the condition I’ve been in over the last couple of years. It’s just a natural progression.”

With the trading away of Jarrett Jack and the loss of CJ Miles, the Cavs continue to look for floor-spacing shooters who can hit open shots in the event defenses converge upon James or point guard Kyrie Irving. Miller and Allen would both fit this mold, the former recently turning down more money from the Denver Nuggets to join James in Cleveland.

[Related: What’s Next for the Cavs in Free Agency?]

 

Erik Spolestra speaks on LeBron’s return to Cleveland

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[LeBron] seemed at peace with the decision. We don’t have any regrets. He shouldn’t have any regrets. It was a historic four-year run. This league does teach you that it’s inevitable that there’s constant change and you always have to continue to embrace change, adapt with change. This is a big, monumental change that we didn’t necessarily anticipate but you have to respect it because when you’re a free agent in this league you have the right to make a decision that’s best for you and your family. When he made that decision that was best for his family, where his heart is, all you can do from our side is respond with respect and love.

— Miami Heat coach Erik Spolestra in an interview with the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, speaking for the first time since LeBron James decided to return to the Cleveland Cavaliers via free agency. In his essay that was posted on SI.com, James attempted to squash any talk of a rift between him and the coach, saying “I’m doing this essay because I want an opportunity to explain myself uninterrupted. I don’t want anyone thinking: He and Erik Spoelstra didn’t get along. … He and [Heat president Pat Riley] didn’t get along. … The Heat couldn’t put the right team together. That’s absolutely not true.”

WFNY Roundtable: Should the Cavs trade for Kevin Love?

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And you thought that the Cleveland Cavaliers were done with lightning-rod debates for the summer? No, my friend, they are just getting started.

During the four days since LeBron James’ letter, Twitter has been on fire with all sorts of takes on the potential for a trade for Minnesota Timberwolves star Kevin Love. To get a sense of where we all stand, I asked my Waiting For Next Year colleagues for their brief responses to the current rumors. Stay tuned for more posts to come soon and share your thoughts in the comments.

Scott Sargent (@WFNYScott): This won’t make for great debate, but I somewhat feel that the Cavaliers—especially David Griffin—will be in a no-lose situation. The decision, reduced to its most simplest terms, comes down to winning more games sooner, or delaying potential dominance, but with the window open a bit longer. [Read more...]

Kyrie Irving selected to join Team USA for 2014 Training Camp

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Cleveland Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving will take his shiny, new contract extension to Las Vegas where he will join 18 other NBA players as members of this summer’s U.S. national team roster.

Irving will join a litany of point guards—Chicago’s Derrick Rose, Portland’s Damian Lillard, and Golden State’s Steph Curry—as some of the hand-picked talents to potentially represent the country in the World Cup of Basketball in Spain in late August.

The Americans previously announced a 28-player pool in January, though it was planned that mainstays LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Chris Paul would sit out this summer and perhaps come back at the 2016 Summer Games. USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said the roster could be trimmed to 15 after the camp in Las Vegas that begins July 28, with the final 12 selected soon thereafter.

Kevin Durant, Kevin Love, James Harden and Anthony Davis were four holdovers from London Olympic Games. The rest of the roster includes Rose, Lillard, Curry, Klay Thompson, Blake Griffin, Paul George, Damian Lillard, Gordon Hayward, DeMarcus Cousins, Bradley Beal, Andre Drummond, Kenneth Faried and Kyle Korver.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein considers Irving, who has missed 34 games due to injury over the last two seasons, to have a “strong claim” on the final roster.

(Photo: Scott Sargent/WFNY)

Dion Waiters is tremendous fun on Twitter

Dion Waiters, oft-criticized Cleveland Cavaliers guard, is on Twitter. A lot. He’ll stay up late at night retweeting his fans and admirers, sharing photoshops and pictures of them wearing his gear.

Over the past few days since LeBron James’ announcement, Waiters has been particularly excitable on Twitter. Below are a collection of some of my recent favorites. Here he is, a 22-year-old shooting down trade rumors and cementing his spot in the team’s starting lineup all in front of his 100K-plus followers. He’s a fan favorite for a reason.

LeBron did attempt to recruit players to Cleveland prior to The Decision

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So, remember all of that “LeBron didn’t try to recruit” talk that swirled shortly after July 8, 2010? Turns out that may have been rooted entirely in inaccuracies.

In a story from Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelburne (who is quietly becoming one of the best NBA reporters in the world), James attempted to recruit Ray Allen, Chris Bosh, Trevor Ariza and Dwyane Wade as potential members of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Sure, they wanted to play with him. Who wouldn’t? But not in Cleveland. James was the one with a connection to the place, not them. If he wanted to win, he would have to sever those ties and go somewhere where other stars would join him.

The entire story is a must-read and features former Cavs guard Damon Jones who remains close to James, as well as current Cavs center Anderson Varejao. Every sentence is reported. You see just how important relationships are to the four-time MVP.

The waters continue to clear up. Some of it may already under the bridge, meaning little outside of the loose ends that get tied tight. Much of it, however, exists ahead.

Chris Trotman/Getty Images For Nike

 

You Guys are the Best: While We’re Waiting

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Man, did I pick one hell of a week to go on vacation… Anything happen while I was out? Oh, you don’t say…

Many of the takes on LeBron James returning to Cleveland appear to be rooted in storybook-like happiness. Josh Levin over at Slate referred to The Decision 2.0 as the antithesis of the first one—this time, things were heartfelt and, well…right. “We evaluate athletes as much on their self-presentations as their statistics,” he writes. “We want star players to say the right thing, and we want them to say it in the exact right way.” The way that The Return unfolded—rumors and cupcakes and flight-tracking notwithstanding—was perfect. The Decision, the first one with Jim Gray and the Boys and Girls Club, was a product of James’ management team and ESPN collaborating to ultimately provide one of the biggest debacles in live sports television. This time around, he did it his way.

Two of the best pieces I’ve read to this point on the very matter come from Cleveland-native Joe Posnanski over at ProBasketballTalk

There is something about the city that gets inside you and never lets go, something about what it feels like the first day you can see grass poking through the snow after a long winter, something about Cleveland blue skies, something about the way the streets intersect and the many accents you cross, something about the way the restaurants and bars are given first names like “Eddie’s” and “Corky and Lenny’s,” something about the sports mix of hope and gloom that swirls like gin and tonic. [...]

Of course I’m happy he’s coming back to Cleveland. I’m happy because he instantly makes the Cavaliers a serious playoff contender in the weak Eastern Conference and good things can and should build from there. I’m happy because my hometown gets a win, something Cleveland doesn’t get enough of. I’m happy because NBA fans — not just Cleveland fans — are in love with this story; I received countless texts and emails from people saying, essentially: “I love LeBron James now.”

I’m happy because as a sportswriter this is an incredible story, perhaps even unprecedented, a superstar at the height of his game coming back home to try and win a championship for a city that hasn’t had one in a half century. There will probably be movies about it. This says so much about the man LeBron James has become that he could see the opportunity in Cleveland for him to do something singular. This sentence in his essay speaks to how LeBron thinks now:

“My goal is still to win as many titles as possible, no question. But what’s most important for me is bringing one trophy back to Northeast Ohio.”

It is almost enough to make a Clevelander cry.

But more than anything, I’m happy because James is happy. “The more time passed,” he wrote, “the more it felt right. This is what makes me happy.” People will talk about hard feelings and who forgave who, they will talk about Miami’s missteps that might have caused this, they will form theories about it all. But maybe, just maybe, it came down to this. LeBron James is from Northeast Ohio. And he is one of us.

… and Jay Caspian Kang over at the always-spectacular New Yorker.

The sportswriting scolds of America have had their Red Weddings over the past ten years at the hands of the quants, the über-scolds, and the sort of writer who feeds sports (and everything else) through the postmodern machinery of his or her liberal-arts education. (As someone near the last of these camps, I would like to say that I miss the old scolds. Vive le Mushnick!) And so, while I’m sure there will be some column space filled about how Cleveland fans should not “accept” LeBron back and some catastrophic metaphors/cosplay-narratives about jilted girlfriends and dignity, the overwhelming mood among basketball fans waiting for LeBron’s announcement felt both anxious and celebratory. Fans of the underdog couldn’t help but root for Cleveland, a city that hasn’t won a championship since 1964. Lovers of family, small towns, and happy endings must have teared up a bit at the thought of the embattled hero, still stinging from a humiliating defeat at the hands of the San Antonio Spurs, limping back home.

Conversely, there’s this from CBSSports.com’s Matt Moore, who attempts to pin all of the unfortunate things that have happened to the Cavaliers on majority owner Dan Gilbert where the role of the unfortunate—as if decades of losing is anything but—is played by the general manager of the Houston Rockets, Daryl Morey.

He took shortcut after shortcut trying to get back to the playoffs. There was no patience, no rebuilding plan. Drafting Dion Waiters, trying to nab a transcendent surprise talent. Signing Jarrett Jack. Keeping Anderson Varejao. The Cavs spurned a methodical, well-planned rebuild in favor of a win-now-at-all-costs approach. And it was catastrophic. In a system like the NFL, where the worst team gets the No. 1 overall pick and so on, the Cavaliers would have been stuck in neutral, trying to find their way out of mud Gilbert put them in.

I understand the basis for Moore’s thoughts—I’ll be the first to admit that winning three NBA Lotteries in four years is teetering on absurd. But to pin all of the bad on the shoulders of Gilbert borders on confirmation bias. Yes, Gilbert penned a letter following James’ departure; yes, he wanted to get back into the playoffs as soon as possible. But it was Chris Grant who drafted Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett, and signed Jarrett Jack and Andrew Bynum. But it was also Grant who, with the backing of Gilbert’s wallet, traded Mo Williams for the pick that ultimately became Kyrie Irving. It was also Grant who, with the backing of Gilbert’s wallet, traded John Leuer for what will be a first-round draft pick from the Memphis Grizzlies. (These two moves were mysteriously omitted from the owner-versus-GM referendum.)

Dan Gilbert is far from the Patron Saint of the NBA. He’s vocal. He can be overbearing. He may not deserve anything. But you can’t have it both ways.

***

Media-curious fans will find this interesting: A day-by-day diary of life at The Plain Dealer, wherein graphics people were constantly wrestling with the what-to-do decisions that came with a will-he-or-wont-he rumor mill in addition to how they came up with the “HOME” cover.

***

Catapult that commentary, kids. It’s time for this week’s edition of #ActualSportswriting

Nothing to see here” by David Fleming (ESPN The Magazine): “On the far left side of the locker room, in front of his stall, Michael Sam wrapped himself in a towel, grabbed some shampoo and walked across the room that during OTAs can reach nearly twice its normal capacity. Then he arrived at a pattern of tiny gray-and-blue linoleum tile, thereby breaking the ultimate taboo in men’s team sports: an openly gay man showering with his NFL teammates.”

The Rio the World Cup didn’t show” by Wright Thompson (ESPNFC): “On the surface, there has been no unrest or unhappiness during the World Cup, but beneath there’s been a hidden battle to make sure nothing got in the way of the party Brazil was throwing for the world. There was an alleged shootout in a favela between drug traffickers and the Brazilian army a few hours after the Brazil match on Tuesday. Did you read about it? Did you see it on the news? Today, maybe there will be a big protest — one is scheduled for the afternoon — or maybe it won’t escalate beyond a few hundred marchers because movement leaders are sitting in jail cells.” 

Adam Wainwright, the Elite Bridesmaid” by Shane Ryan (Grantland): “It’s a thing of absolute beauty, slow and wonderful, breaking nine inches to the left (fourth-best among starters) and nine inches down (seventh-best).”

Inviting the Nightmare (Donte Stallworth seeks redemption)” by Robert Klemko (MMQB): “Stallworth took the podium in an amphitheater at the Bertram Hotel four times last week, flanked each time by the president of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. He delivered the talk he’d rehearsed in the hotel room. It has been nearly a year since he was last on a roster (Washington cut him last August), and he’s five years removed from March 14, 2009, the morning that delivered him here.”

 

***

First off: I could really link to every entry in Wright Thompson’s “blog” that ESPN FC has been publishing during the World Cup. The work that those guys allocated toward this event was second to none. Between Wright, Chris Jones, Pablo S. Torre and a handful of others, they wrote in a way where one didn’t have to be a soccer fan to fully enjoy the time, effort and care put into their words. If you haven’t read their stuff, go do it—you’re only cheating yourself. The fact that they considered his work a “blog” should only stand to raise the bar for everyone else who does the same.

Secondly: This.

I’ve been a longstanding member of #TeamUncensored. It always strikes me as odd when reporters choose to self-edit quotes, especially in instant mediums like Twitter et al., when disseminating such to readers. We have a long-standing policy of being “Family Friendly” here at WFNY, which I still stand by in many regards, but I also couldn’t agree more with Richard in this instance—that lede would simply have not been the same had “shit” been supplanted with any other form of the word. (Especially “poop.” Who says that?)

There’s a chasm between egregious and effective. Any ill-constructed, lazy sentence is, in many instances, worse than one that is carefully crafted with some form of word choice that could be considered “swearing.” Kudos to Jay Lovinger, assuming he was the one to push Wright’s words through the flimsy, arbitrary filter that I can only hope is evaporating with every piece of quality work that requires it.

***

And finally, a big thank you from me to all of you—for sticking with us through the last four-plus years of miserable sports, where posts that discussed the doldrums were not only more frequent, but received way more attention. It’s beginning to look like those days are slowly coming to an end. It’s Cleveland, so sure—there will be some downs with our ups. But with the Browns appearing to be on the rise, the Indians heading into the break at .500 and the Cavaliers having one of the biggest off seasons in all of professional sports, the Waiting looks like it’s starting to pay some dividends.

Cheers, kids.

Swisher Best 140711

How the CBA incentivizes LeBron to opt out next summer

lebron james cavsWhen news emerged of LeBron James’ contract details, most of Northeast Ohio was likely surprised and caught off guard. “He just committed to a long-term future in Cleveland, why only two years? Why an opt-out?” The clear-cut answer lies within the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, signed back in 2011.

LeBron is dead-on with his Cavaliers contract. If he truly wants to maximize his earnings – and as the best player in the league, he certainly deserves to – then he absolutely set up the right deal and his management team did a great job. Let’s start with the basics, all found via the fantastic Larry Coon CBA FAQ website.

Cleveland signed LeBron to the maximum possible salary for two years with a one-year opt out. They signed him as a free agent to their available cap space from the Miami Heat, meaning they signed him without owning his Bird rights. This is important when it comes to future raises.

Max deals signed without Bird rights carry only 4.5% annual raises from the first year’s salary. When signed with Bird rights, the annual raise is much higher at 7.5% (and contracts can include a fifth year, hence why players turn down money when signing away from their team). However, as a free agent, LeBron would guarantee himself at least a 105% increase on his previous year’s salary. Huh? Check out the math below.

lebron opt out info

By opting out, LeBron guarantees a minimum 5% raise, not the set 4.5% raise for max deals signed without Bird rights. The added 0.5% of his salary guarantees him of at least $100K more for the 2015-16 season. But that’s not the only reason why this is advantageous for LeBron. He’s thinking bigger.

The NBA salary cap actually increased by 7.5% this summer to approximately $63.065 million for the 2014-15 season. If the cap increases by more than just 5% for next year, LeBron would be advised to re-work his deal in summer 2015 and make more money with a new maximum contract based on that year’s cap number.

It is expected that the cap number will increase to at least $67 million next season and perhaps skyrocket even further. With the NBA’s new TV deal taking place for the 2016-17 season, the cap could go over $80 million in summer 2016. If the year-over-year cap increase is larger than 7.5% (LeBron’s annual raise with a new max with Bird rights), then again LeBron would be advised to re-work another deal.

So yes, it makes a ton of sense for LeBron James to go year-to-year for now1. It’s not necessarily an indictment on the Cavaliers by any means. It does mean that the circus of LeBron’s future will continue to be a topic and the Cavs will spend more money on his salary than if he had signed for the long term. But this is a pretty clear business decision.

William Perlman/The Star-Ledger

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Footnotes:

  1. It’s possible the cap’s growth will stall somewhat after summer 2016 and thus, LeBron might finally sign a long-term deal. []