Please welcome the flood of LeBron speculation

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Thumbnail image for nba_james1_250.jpgThere have been discussions of it for years. It’s slowly been increasing; a major article here, a random rumor there. But now, with July and the free agency period just four months away, we’ve finally come to it.

Everyone and their momma has an idea on what LeBron’s going to do.

Now, to be clear, I think fan speculation is great. I’ve waxed on elsewhere about the opportunity that the Nets offer him (a blank slate in a new part of the biggest city with a ‘pick-your-coach-and roster’ in short). And I think for people to say “Don’t talk about it because we don’t know” is ridiculous. It’s fun for the fans, and there’s simply no way to avoid talk about arguably the biggest free agent signing in the history of sports. So it’s going to be talked about.

That said, you also need to steel yourself against the now increasing flood of reports of sources claiming to know exactly what LeBron will do.

First we had Roland Lazenby’s talk of LeBron headed to Hollywood. Now we have the New York Post speculating that LeBron is considering a three-year deal instead of a long-term one, and they go on to speculate that New Jersey is clearly out of contention, given their uncertain status. This despite the fact that all prior legal hurdles have been cleared for the arena in Brooklyn, the high likelihood of the new owner being approved, and the massive ability for the Nets to improve quickly, which quite frankly, dwarfs that of the Knicks. But there I go again, speculating.

Speculation is fine, if baseless. What’s important is to remember that no one knows what LeBron’s going to do.  There is no inside track. It’s too big of a decision, from a management team that knows the best thing about the decision is the increased attention it garners his brand. He very well could sign a three-year deal as the Post suggests, giving him the power to do all of this over again in three years. Or he could realize that this is an enormous opportunity given the fact that the league’s CBA will be restructured next year and could leave him with a significantly smaller contract in three years.

Tracy McGrady, who I jokingly referred to as ‘delusional‘ (boy did that piss off some Knicks fans) a few days ago, actually had the best perspective on this. No one knows, not even James’ inner circle.

It’s fun to think about, to talk about, to debate. But keep a guarded eye up in regards to ‘inside reports.’

Magic Johnson: “The only player that we… would probably not move is Brandon Ingram”

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The Lakers’ Brandon Ingram had flashes, but he largely struggled through his rookie season. He averaged 9.4 points per game, shot 40 percent from the floor, he had a true shooting percentage of 47.4 and a PER of 8.5, and he finished with the fifth worst “value over replacement player” number in the NBA. Watch him play, and he looked better than those numbers — he did better with the “eye test” — showing some tenacity, and his offense improved toward the end of the season. Still, his rookie season tempered expectations somewhat.

Except amongst the Lakers’ front office.

They have been high on him all the way through, higher than D'Angelo Russell, and that’s what Lakers president Magic Johnson said on ESPN Radio in Los Angeles.

“I would say probably the only player that we would say, hey, we would probably not move is Brandon Ingram,” Johnson, the Lakers president of basketball operations said Thursday in a radio interview with ESPN Los Angeles. “I think that we’re excited about Brandon, his length, his size, his agility, his athleticism. And then when you think about, you know, he was a baby coming in, in his first year last season and we see that he really has a high ceiling and we’re excited about what he can possibly turn into.”

First off, no this doesn’t mean if the Lakers draft Lonzo Ball No. 2 (as expected) they will look to trade Russell. Expect them to see if those two can play together. It means the Lakers think just one of the guys on the roster is a potential key piece of a contender. Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle and on down the line may fit into the rotation, but they are not seen as cornerstone pieces that can’t be moved.

Is Ingram really a cornerstone? The jury is still out, but does anyone feel as confident he will be a star as they did a season ago when he was drafted?

Ingram certainly needs to get stronger, something the team and he have worked on (and will focus on this summer). He also was young coming into the league, and with his style of game it was going to take him a little time to find how he fit in the NBA. He wasn’t going to come in and just overwhelm opponents with athleticism, it was going to be a process for him. Like nearly every rookie, his shooting needs to be more consistent.

The questions are how high is his ceiling, and can the Lakers develop him?

This summer and into next season those will come into focus more, but the early returns don’t have some of us as optimistic as Magic.

Josh McRoberts opting into final year of Heat contract

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Heat power forward Josh McRoberts has missed 165 games over the last three years due to injury.

So, the 30-year-old sure isn’t turning down a guaranteed $6,021,175 salary.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

Any long shot chance of Josh McRoberts voiding his Heat contract was eliminated Tuesday when agent Mike Conley told The Miami Herald that McRoberts will exercise his opt-in and return to the Heat for $6.021 million next season.

Miami will have major cap space this summer with Chris Bosh coming off the books. At this point, McRoberts’ salary is just an impediment to even more room to add an impact player.

The Heat could again try trading McRoberts, but they’ll likely have to attach a positive asset just to dump him. They could also waive and stretch him.

But if his salary doesn’t come between Miami and a big-time free agent this summer, perhaps McRoberts returns for one last chance at helping the Heat on the floor with his passing and outside shooting.

Mike Brown thinks it’s “cute” Tyronn Lue thinks Celtics’ sets harder to defend than Warriors

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Celtics’ coach Brad Steven is already one of the best in the NBA. His out of time out plays are brilliant, and his Boston team’s flow of ball and player movement is among the best in the league.

It’s those things that were giving the Cavaliers trouble in the first half of Game 4 Tuesday, and ultimately prompted this comment from Tyronn Lue.

“We’re just focused on Boston. The stuff they’re running, it’s harder to defend than Golden State’s [offense] for me.”

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle asked Mike Brown about that.

You can certainly make the case that the Celtics have a wider variety in their offense, and that with Isaiah Thomas out the rather balanced, anyone can score nature of the Celtics is challenging to defend for a team with inconsistent help defense like the Cavaliers.

But Boston is running these sets with Marcus Smart and Jaylen Brown and Kelly Olynyk. Golden State will use ball and player movement to create space for Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Which is to say, Golden State is tougher to defend because the space they need to make you pay is much smaller. And even if you do everything right the Warriors may just score anyway.

I get what Lue was trying to say, but don’t give the Warriors more motivation.

Magic sending Raptors draft pick as compensation for hiring Jeff Weltman

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The Raptors promoted Jeff Weltman, still working under Masai Ujiri, to general manager last year.

That paid off for Toronto when the Magic hired Weltman as their new president.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Magic have their own and the Lakers’ second-round picks next year. Even the lower of those two selections could be somewhat valuable.

In other words, Weltman’s already-difficult job is getting even harder simply by Orlando hiring him.