Winderman: March 1 big Monday for some players

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Monday Monday, so good to me,
Monday Monday, it was all I hoped it would be
Oh Monday morning, Monday morning couldn’t guarantee
That Monday evening you would still be here with me.

This year, the Mamas and the Papas will resonate throughout the NBA as much, perhaps even more, than the Moreys and Popovichs.

Monday is March 1, which on the NBA personnel calendar is a date that resonates as significantly as anything this side of the trading deadline.

It also is among the most misunderstood personnel dates.

In order for a player to be playoff-eligible for another team, his current team must request waivers on him by March 1.

Where the confusion enters is that is not the date he must be signed to be playoff eligible.

In fact, as long as a player has waivers requested on him by March 1, he can sign with another team up until before its final regular-season game and be playoff eligible.

For example, Charles Jones was signed by the Rockets on April 22, 1995, the day before Houston’s final game that regular season. He then went on to win a championship ring that postseason with the Rockets.

According to the rule, a team must “request waivers” on a player by the close of March 1 for a player to be playoff eligible for another team. Because the NBA waiver wire is transacted roughly three times a day, usually at 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., it is possible that a player could be placed on waivers March 2 and be playoff eligible, as long as his team sent a message to the league by the close of March 1 that it was waiving that player.

The only exception to the playoff-eligibility rule is if a team’s active list is reduced to eight physically able players during the postseason. Then a player can be added regardless.

What it all means is that the clock is winding down for those seeking playoff landing spots, players such as Wizards guard Mike James, who has been granted a leave by Washington and is awaiting his fate at his Houston home. Generally, as the clock ticks closer to midnight March 1, players are more amenable to giving back a bit more for their freedom.

Similarly, players at the end of contracts on going-nowhere teams are more likely to seek buyouts by March 1, with playoff exposure a significant marketing tool during free agency.

Even the timing of Allen Iverson’s endgame with the 76ers could become a factor. While it, indeed, appears Iverson is poised to call it a career, if he is waived by Monday, it still would leave open the possibility of signing with a contender before that team’s final regular-season game and becoming playoff eligible.

And, yes, a player who has not spent a single minute in the league this year could nonetheless return from Europe by April 13 and still find himself playoff-eligible, even if he doesn’t play a single minute in that regular-season finale.

For now, it’s all about the stroke of midnight Monday.

That’s when we’ll know what song playoff hopefuls will  be singing, if, indeed, “Monday Monday, it was all I hoped it would be.”

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Paul George says OKC feels like “Somewhere I can call home for years”

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All we have heard about all summer is that Paul George is definitely going to the Los Angeles Lakers. Heck, we’ve heard about it earlier than that.

That’s what forced the Indiana Pacers to make the trade to send George to the Oklahoma City Thunder where he is now teammate of both Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony.

But NBA Media Day was on Monday, and with it brought not only first interviews of new players but the platitudes that fans want to hear as well.

Speaking to reporters in Oklahoma City, George said that he thought the Thunder had done much that they had needed to do to show him they were a place that he could stay.

Via USA Today:

“Honestly, I’m happy,” he said. “The only thing I wanted out of Indiana was a chance to win my whole career there…That’s really what I want out of this, out of the league. I’m not looking for money. I’m not looking for stats. I want to win, and (to) be able to win at a high level.

“It’s Year One, and (the Thunder have) proven – and I haven’t even gone through a season yet – and they’ve already proven everything on my check list (that) I can check off. That’s what feels good. That’s what makes me feel like, ‘Hey, this can be a landing spot for me, and somewhere I can call home for years.’”

George also told USA Today that winning was above anything else, including joining his hometown team in the Lakers. We’ve heard this from players before, so take it with a grain of salt, but it does appear that the Thunder have a shot of keeping the former Pacers star if George is to be believed.

Of course, Oklahoma City still has some work to do in terms of winning games. There are some serious doubts about the roster they have now with three high usage players that will struggle to find a way to share the ball efficiently.

The Western Conference got a lot tougher this offseason, and both Anthony and George were a part of that. But the other teams have stiffened and appear to have better roster fit at the moment. Thats before we even get to the 2017 NBA Finals champion Golden State Warriors.

LeBron James says that he is going to be finishing his career in Cleveland. George says that the Thunder have a real shot at keeping him. We will have to play out this season to see if either of those things come true.

LeBron James says he still plans on finishing his career with Cleveland

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There has been significant talk around the NBA about the possibility of LeBron James leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers this summer.

Specifically, there has been in a lot of chatter about James leaving his home state and heading to be in Los Angeles with the Lakers.

But during NBA media day on Monday, LeBron said that he still plans on finishing his career with Cleveland. What wasn’t explicit is whether that means he will take his next contract elsewhere, or if he simply means to return at a later date.

Via Cleveland.com:

“It hasn’t changed,” James said, when asked. He also nodded when asked, directly, if he intended to finish his career in Cleveland.

“And that’s why I sit up here today, still in this uniform, still ready to lead this franchise to a championship, put us in a position where we can be successful.”

“Anytime I’m able to be free agent or my contract ends, I’ll approach that when the summer comes,” he said. “At the end of the day I have a contract and I will fill out that obligation, which I’ve always done.

“And if you guys know me, I don’t know if you know me as much, but I’ve always handled it in the most businesslike way. And I will do that with my team, and we’ll handle that in the summertime, as we always have.”

So you there you have it. He is definitely planning on staying. Although he isn’t going to make that plan until the summer.

Should be an interesting one in Cleveland this year.

LeBron, Gregg Popovich among NBA heavyweights to comment on Trump at Media Day

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Monday was NBA Media Day and it could not get here soon enough. Yes, the offseason has been an incredible one with many players changing places. But the start of football season always means something important for the NBA diehard: basketball is coming.

Media Day comes with new questions for new players, along with hope that franchises will be able to right the wrongs of seasons past. Plus, we get to see new jerseys on stars. Yet as it always seems these days, the story of the afternoon was gathering how players had reacted to Donald Trump’s recent comments.

Specifically, Trump mentioned that he thought that players who knelt for the national anthem in the NFL were “sons of bitches”. Trump also rescinded a potential offer for a visit to the White House for the Golden State Warriors after Stephen Curry said he would vote “no” on going during a team meeting.

NBA reporters could not help but ask about the comments by Trump and the impact it had on the players, coaches, and executives during their first full scale opportunity to see players in a team setting.

Everyone from LeBron James to John Wall and Gregg Popovich had something to say.

We will be entering our first full season of the NBA with Trump and given how the first eight months of his tenure have gone, it will be interesting to see how the most socially conscious league in America responds moving forward.

Cavaliers expect Isaiah Thomas to play in games by January

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) Isaiah Thomas could be running the point for Cleveland by the end of the year.

The All-Star point guard, acquired from Boston this summer in a blockbuster trade, has made progress with his hip injury, and the Cavaliers expect him to be playing games by January.

Thomas has begun running and doing on-court activities as he rehabilitates the injury, which prematurely ended his postseason with the Celtics. Cleveland acquired him in a trade that sent All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving to Boston, its biggest challenger in the East.

Thomas doesn’t need surgery. While the Eastern Conference champions have been encouraged by his recovery, they will not rush him back. While he gets healthy, Derrick Rose, another summer acquisition, will start at point guard.

Thomas averaged 28.9 points last season for the Celtics, who sent him along with forward Jae Crowder, center Ante Zizic and a 2018 first-round draft to Cleveland.

The Cavaliers were concerned with Thomas’ injury, so the Celtics added a second-round pick to complete the deal.

When they introduced Thomas at a news conference, the Cavaliers were vague about a timeline for his return, mainly because they hadn’t yet worked with him. It’s now possible Thomas could be back and playing by Christmas, when the Cavs visit Golden State.

Thomas is only under contract for the upcoming season and has said in the past he wants a maximum contract.

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