What we could see before the trade deadline?

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Thumbnail image for NBA_mcgrady.jpgA lot of the big shoes dropped yesterday — Antawn Jamison going to Cleveland was the size 16 shoe of those moves — but there are still some trades hanging in the balance. What could happen?

The Knicks could get Tracy McGrady. The Rockets and Kings have a deal that sends McGrady, hard-working Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey to the Kings for sharp-shooter (at least before this season) Kevin Martin, Sergio Rodriguez, Hilton Armstrong and the ugly contract that is Kenny Thomas.

But that is not what McGrady’s agent, Arn Tellum, had in mind. He was picturing the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, and that could still happen. That two team deal could expand to bring in a third team deal that includes the Knicks. The scenario would likely involve Rodriguez and McGrady going to New York, and Jared Jeffries heading out. However, who would get him and who else would be involved is still being negotiated.

If the three team deal does not work, the two-team deal will go forward.

The Heat could get Amar’e Stoudemire. The trade to get Jamison in Cleveland was as much — or more — about making LeBron James happy and getting him to re-sign as it was about winning a title this year (although they could get both).

Miami has one of those frustrated free-agent-to-be stars in Dwyane Wade, and keeping him happy is why they may make a move. Stoudemire, with his tremendous athleticism and versatile offensive game, would be a good fit and add an offensive spark to the Heat. But, the nagging question is what Miami would give up. Second year forward Michael Beasley has been mentioned, but the deal is going to need a lot more than that.

There have been rumors that the Heat don’t want to make a big move, that the interest in Amar’e was simply to placate Wade. The Heat may be focused more on the free agent class this summer to bring help to Wade than right now. Stoudemire said he doesn’t think he’s going anywhere. But, stranger things have happened. Like Ray Romano having a hit show.

The Heat could trade Dorell Wright. This would be all about the cash — right now the Heat are just a hair over the luxury tax threshold. If they don’t go big with Stoudemire, they may want to go small and trade Dorell Wright and his $2.75 million expiring contract just to save the tax money.

Possible trading partners (those under the tax or with a trade exception they would use) are the Grizzlies, Wizards (after all their recent moves), the Nets and the Clippers. Those teams may want more than just Wright to make this happen (a second round draft pick, for example).

The Bulls could trade Tyrus Thomas/Kirk Hinrich. Chicago is still looking for anyone who wants Tyrus Thomas, in part for cap reasons and in part because he and Coach Vinny just don’t get along. They will listen to offers if a team wants to take on a very talented, not always so focused forward.

The Bulls showcased Kirk Hinrich last night, giving him 40 minutes on the court, and he had 10 points on 5 of 14 shooting. Since Chicago moved John Salmons, they may not be as inclined to find a deal, however Hinrich is owed $17 million over the next two seasons, and that is a lot of money. One possible rumored destination was the Lakers, but the defending champions said they likely would not be making any moves.

Nate Robinson deal finalized. While the news the Knicks and Celtics were close to a deal to send Nate Robinson to the Celtics to backup Rajon Rondo are true, the deal has yet to be finalized and get a thumbs up from the league office. We will see what the final details of this deal look like.

Indiana tries to trade Troy Murphy. It’s the hottest thing in the NBA — doesn’t everybody want a stretch four? Doesn’t everyone just like to say stretch four? Murphy is probably the best available at the deadline, and Indiana would love to be involved in talks where they are not just being used as leverage.

Golden State could trade Corey Maggette. Anywhere. Golden State would love to unload Corey Maggette’s deal, which goes three seasons after this one, starting at $9.6 million and climbing to $10.9 million. Maggettee is the perfect scorer/sixth man, and gets to the line with the best of them, but plays poor team defense and is not a good passer. Which is to say he is overpaid. Golden State is going to have a hard time moving this contract, but they will try.

The Spurs could move Antonio McDyess. Frankly, what the Spurs would like to do is move Richard Jefferson’s deal, but if all the other GMs are sober today nobody is taking that deal on. A lesser option being thrown around is to move Antonio McDyess. That would not be a surprise.

Charlotte could trade DJ Augustin. The Bobcats are shopping around second year point guard DJ Augustin. The former University of Texas player is still on his rookie deal, which is affordable, if someone is looking for a backup point guard. The Bobcats want a power forward in return.

Memphis could add depth. The Grizzlies like their team and will not be making major tweaks that could change future prospects, but they would like a little more depth. Discussion of all reasonably priced bench players welcome.

LeBron James first player to reach six straight finals in 50 years

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It speaks to an incredible level of talent — talent that was honed in countless hours in the gym.

It speaks to an amazing durability.

It speaks to leadership.

LeBron James has a long resume of accomplishments — two titles, four MVPs, and he hasn’t missed an All-Star Game or an All-NBA team for a decade — but he reached one of his more impressive milestones in leading the Cavaliers past the Raptors to the NBA Finals on Friday night.

LeBron has reached six straight NBA Finals.

He’s the first player to do so in 50 years.

The last guys to do this were Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, Bob Cousy and other members of the 1950s-60s Celtics dynasty. Nobody since has done it — not Magic, Bird, Jordan, Wilt or the rest.

Yes, it helps cement LeBron’s legacy as one of the all-time greats, but more than that it’s something we need to step back and appreciate. These were all LeBron-led teams — he has been the leader on and off the court, setting the tone. That requires incredible talent and skill on the court, plus knowing how to make those guys better not just drag them along on your coat tails. It also takes incredible physical durability. It’s an amazing accomplishment.

“There’s only one LeBron James,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said after his team was eliminated by James and company. “He makes a difference on whatever team he plays on.”

I can feel the typing in the comment section already: “But he’s 2-4 in the Finals, Jordan was 6-0” or “But he’s done it in a weak East” or “He keeps just jumping teams to where he has the most help.” It’s all just sad. Because LeBron James is the first NBA superstar of the social media age he faces a volume of criticism that past stars did not. It’s not that LeBron hasn’t brought some criticism on himself, but there is a need to tear him down that the mythologized Jordan never dealt with. We savored Jordan at the time; LeBron has never gotten that. Jordan took 13 NBA teams to the playoffs, six made the Finals; LeBron has taken 11 and seven are in the Finals. The thing is, it’s difficult to compare across eras in the NBA:

All of this is not to say LeBron’s record is better than Jordan’s, you and your buddies can debate that while sitting on bar stools until last call, but LeBron has been on an epic run through the peak of his career the likes we haven’t seen in a long time. If you’re a fan of the game, you should appreciate that, not try to tear it down (as if Jordan’s legacy somehow needs protecting).

What LeBron has done is a stunning accomplishment. If you’re in the same sentence with the legendary Russell Celtics teams, you’re doing something right.

Warriors/Thunder Game 6: Four things to watch as Oklahoma City tries to close out series

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - MAY 24:  Stephen Curry #30 and Draymond Green #23 of the Golden State Warriors react in the third quarter against the Oklahoma City Thunder in game four of the Western Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Chesapeake Energy Arena on May 24, 2016 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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For the Thunder, it is a chance for validation and an opportunity to get the ring Kevin Durant (and Russell Westbrook, and the rest of them) crave. For the Warriors, it is their biggest test of the last two seasons. Game 6 is Saturday night in Oklahoma City, here are four things to watch.

1) Dion Waiters and Andre Roberson need to play better for the Thunder. After a couple of series where Waiters suddenly has been reborn as a quality NBA player who is the third playmaker the Thunder need, and after Andre Roberson dropped a career playoff high of 17 points the game before, both were MIA in Game 5. Roberson was 2-of-5 shooting and had as many points as fouls (six). Waiters didn’t hit a shot all night. This was tied to the Thunder returning to the bad habits of too much Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant taking on the world and OKC not enough ball movement in the halfcourt. The Scott Brooks Thunder of the past few seasons showed up in Game 5, if the Thunder fall back to those bad habits again, they will lose again.

I expect the Thunder to treat this like their Game 7 and play much better. They will have a real sense of urgency; their defense will again be energized. The question becomes can the Warriors match it?

2) Can Andrew Bogut keep the Thunder from scoring in the paint?
In Game 5, the Thunder were 8-of-18 shooting in the restricted area, and 7-of-19 in the rest of the paint. That’s not going to get it done. A lot of that was the impact Bogut had in the paint — plus he got help, the Warriors switched pick-and-rolls more, they packed the paint more and took away driving lanes. It all worked, in part because Bogut and Draymond Green played with much better energy than in previous games. Steve Kerr said he didn’t play Bogut as many minutes in the first four games due to foul trouble, he has to trust the veteran to play through fouls in this game. The Warriors have simply been better with him on the court this series and they need close to 30 minutes from him this game.

Tied to Bogut’s play…

3) Golden State defense needs to show up on the road. As noted above, the Warriors went back to a more traditional defense in Game 5 — they started guarding Roberson (rather than having a big “guard” and ignore him to protect the paint), they switched, they stayed home in the paint, and they just trusted each other and played their system better. It was a marked improvement. However, they did it at home — now they need to do it on the road, where Green, in particular, has been more prone to mistakes and frustration.

One key here worth emphasizing is the Warriors got back to switching most pick-and-rolls — that’s what they did all season, that’s part of why the “death lineup” is so successful defensively, yet in this series they increasingly went away from it (in part because of how they guarded Roberson). Switching is part of who the Warriors are, and while it will create some mismatches teams don’t want to stray too far from their core identity.

4) Stephen Curry needs to be MVP level Curry. Draymond Green needs to be his All-NBA self.
I’m not saying the same thing about Durant and Westbrook because I have no doubt they will show up with urgency in their games Saturday night. However, Curry and Draymond have been shadows of themselves in the two previous games in Oklahoma City, and if that happens again only one team is flying back to the Bay Area postgame.

Curry finished his drives a little better in Game 5, and at moments he blew by bigs switched onto him off of picks, something we have seen far less of this series than during the season. Green played well defensively in Game 5, he hit the boards hard, but he made some head-scratching offensive decisions. If the Warriors are going to force a Game 7, those two guys have to be elite in this game. The Warriors best players must lead. It’s that simple.

Watch LeBron James drop 33 on Raptors in Game 6 win

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Friday night was a step forward in maturity for the Cleveland Cavaliers — given the chance to close out a conference finals on the road, in a place they had struggled, the team stepped up and did so convincingly.

They did it following the lead of LeBron James, who attack the basket from the start on his way to a team-high 33 points and 11 assists. LeBron set the tone and the rest of the Cavaliers followed.

Above you can see just how LeBron racked up those points. It’s an impressive display.

Report: In surprise to nobody, Bismack Biyombo will decline option, become free agent

TORONTO, ON - MAY 27:  Bismack Biyombo #8 of the Toronto Raptors reacts after being called for a foul against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first quarter in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre on May 27, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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This is not only expected, but it’s also the move all of us would make. Unless you hate money.

Raptors big man Bismack Biyombo has a player option on his contract for next year, pick it up and he returns to the Raptors at $2.9 million. Or, he can decline the option and become a free agent, where he may make about $17 million a season. So what do you think he’s doing? From Marc Stein of ESPN:

Certainly, the Raptors can’t retain Biyombo’s services, it’s just going to be expensive to do so.

If $15 million (at least) seems a lot for a player who can only impact the defensive end of the floor because of poor hands and a limited offensive game, you would be correct. Welcome to the crazy cap-spike summer the NBA is about to experience. The market will be flooded with cash (at least 20 teams will be able to afford a max player) and players with a valuable skill hitting that market are going to get PAID. Biyombo can block shots and rebound like a beast, and in an increasingly small-ball NBA era those skills have value. Teams will live with having to play 4-on-5 on offense to have those skills on the roster.

The real question is which teams — the Lakers? — and how much of that cap space are they willing to give up for him? It’s going to be an interesting July.