Soon, the Washington Wizards' dream/nightmare will end

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The horror story of the Wizards’ season hardly needs to be recanted here, but it’s easy to forget just how weird the post-trade deadline saga has been. Andray Blatche came out of nowhere to put up monster numbers, Josh Howard busted his left knee and was lost for the season, Al Thornton missed seven games with a strained hip flexor, Alonzo Gee came and went, Shaun Livingston re-established his career, and now Nick Young is finding new life with his new responsibilities. That’s a pretty eventful stretch for a lottery-bound team, especially one that couldn’t help but stay out of the headlines for months prior as well.

I’m sure many Wiz fans consider the end of the regular season to be a stroke of mercy, even if watching Blatche, Livingston, and Young perform well provides some optimism. That said, every game on the schedule is merely an extension of the horror that was, and the sooner this franchise can get 2009-2010 behind it the better.

Except for Nick Young apparently, who seems to be having a pretty good time. From Michael Lee of the Washington Post:

“It hurts. I was expecting to do big things this year. How this year
went, I’m glad it’s ending this way,” said Young, a third-year guard.
“The last couple of games, I had to take advantage of it. I love this
game of basketball. I really ain’t got the opportunity like I got now.
The more minutes I play, I want to be good out there and hopefully
people see it — other teams, this team — that I belong here.”

Young is averaging 21.6 points in his past five games, forcing
Blatche to call him up a few times. “I’m real proud of him. He found a
switch in his head and he got refocused and hungry and aggressive,”
Blatche said. “He’s playing great and that’s how I want him to play the
rest of the season and the rest of his career.”

Young is finally starting to have fun, and now he doesn’t want it to
stop. “Nah, not the way we’re going right now,” Young said. “We’re
playing good. If we started off like this, I think it would’ve been a
better year.”

The Wizards are, on occasion, an interesting watch, if for no other reason than the three young talents trying to make their way. The sudden playing time and opportunity must be a dream for Blatche, Young, and Livingston, who are all putting up some pretty big numbers. Still, the fact that the sun is setting on a dreary campaign is probably for the best.

LeBron James posts photo with Tristan Thompson, sends message to Cavs

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five
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Tristan Thompson is a man without a contract. By not signing the qualifying offer with the Cleveland Cavaliers he put himself in limbo, the rare NBA holdout. Right now his options are to sign the deal on the table (the Cavs still have the five-year, $80 million offer out there), get the Sixers or Blazers to offer him a max contract (which neither team has shown any interest in doing), or hold out and hope the Cavaliers make a better offer. If he holds out for the entire season he becomes a restricted free agent again next summer — exactly like he is right now.

Without signing the qualifying offer and the threat of leaving, Thompson hurt his leverage.

But he has a little leverage. He and his agent Rich Paul had one other card, and it got played Saturday.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

LeBron James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.

LeBron’s leverage is going to be put to the test. The Cavaliers have let it leak they are not that concerned about LeBron leaving them next summer over this — and they’re right. The damage to LeBron’s brand if he broke the hearts of Cleveland fans again would be crushing, unless he leaves for a very good reason. Overpaying Thompson is not that reason.

However, LeBron’s comment could push the Cavaliers to try to find a compromise.

For the Cavaliers, a lot of how they view all this comes down to their tax bill. The Cavaliers already have $94.9 million in guaranteed salary on the books, putting them $10.2 million over the luxury tax line, at a cost of more than $16.25 million. What this means if (or when) they sign Thompson is his first $10 million in salary would cost them $28.75 million in tax and every dollar above that for the next $5 million costs them $3.75-to-$1. Look at it this way, by my count $14 million this year to Thompson would cost $43.75 million in tax — the total for Thompson at that price is $58 million. While that’s not all on Thompson it’s a lot of cash, and Thompson wants a max deal that starts at more than $16 million a year.

Owner Dan Gilbert is already going to pay the highest tax bill in the NBA this season, but if he balks at those figures it’s hard to blame him.


Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut

Orlando Magic Introduce 2015 NBA Draft Picks
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Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:

Between Hezonja, Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo and Aaron Gordon, the Magic have a nucleus of young players that has the potential to be a lot of fun. Even if they’re still a few years away from contending, they’re definitely going to be a League Pass favorite this year.