Just two weeks ago, all the smart money was on LeBron James staying in Cleveland. He wasn’t going to leave his home, he wasn’t leaving a team on its way to a title.
Now those title hopes have been crushed and everybody seems to think he’s going to Chicago.
That includes three NBA general managers who contacted ESPN’s Chad Ford after Boston finished knocking off the Cavaliers. All three told Ford their information indicates he is gone and headed to the Windy City.
One GM went a bit further in a phone call a few minutes later. “I think the Bulls are really going to go for it. Look for them to offer the Cavs Luol Deng in a sign-and-trade for LeBron. That will allow them to retain most of their cap space. Then they’ll go after Dwyane Wade or Chris Bosh as well.”
Then there is Sonny Vaccaro. Back when LeBron was still a high school phenom, Vaccaro was there and he still calls LeBron a friend. This is one of the most connected men in basketball. He was the king of the shoe deal. For a younger generation, think of Vaccaro as an olden-days William Wesley, with his hands in seemingly everything. Save that Vaccro did not shy away from publicity.
“If he chooses to leave, and I believe he will, he has the pick of the litter of where he can go,” said Vaccarro, who touted the Bulls and Los Angeles Clippers as having top, young talent. “In my opinion, the Bulls are the perfect fit.”
He also buys into the John Calipari rumors, as did one of the general managers, saying he could be the new Bulls coach.
If — and that still remains a huge if — LeBron leaves it will be via a sign and trade, Cleveland needs to get something back.
And Chicago would make a lot of sense. This is a team that could win immediately — they have a legitimate All-Star second option in Derrick Rose, some grit along the front line in Joakim Noah, solid role players like Kirk Hinrich and Taj Gibson, and the cap space to get more guys. There are the little questions like who is the coach, and does LeBron want to have to play in the shadow of the legend of Michael Jordan.
But it seems to be a serious consideration now. Everybody thinks James is on the move.
And to think a few weeks ago you could have gotten 40-1 odds on the
Three Things to Know: All-Star starters named, who should be in reserve?
Still, it was mostly the usual suspects and there were no surprises as the NBA All-Star Game starters were announced. They were picked by a vote of the fans (50 percent), players (25 percent), and selected media members (25 percent). Here’s the list.
Remember it is not East vs. West this year. LeBron and Curry, as the top vote-getters, will be the captains and select teammates in a playground-style draft, first from the starters listed above, then from a pool of reserves selected by the coaches to be announced next Tuesday. LeBron chooses first and what is Curry going to do when LeBron goes with Durant?
Picking those reserves is where someone will get snubbed — there is no way to pick just seven players per conference and not leave out deserving guys. Damian Lillard didn’t deserve to be an All-Star starter no matter what he thinks, but is he even an All-Star this year in the loaded West? There must be two backcourt, three frontcourt, and two wild-card selections for each conference. Here’s who I would pick:
2) The Cleveland Cavaliers win… over the Orlando Magic. By one point. After blowing a 22-point lead. “Right now we’re in Strugglesville,” is how LeBron put the Cavaliers right now. He’s right. Cleveland had lost four in a row and was 2-8 in their last 10 coming into this one, but Thursday night they were facing one of the flat-out worst teams in the NBA in Orlando, so easy win? Nope. It took a couple Isaiah Thomas free throws with 11 seconds left — then Elfrid Payton missing a contested layup with a couple of seconds left — to give the Cavaliers a 104-103 win.
Cleveland was up 22 in this one, but once again their defense isn’t good and when the offense isn’t firing on all cylinders they can be beaten by anyone. The Cavs shot 1-of-17 from three in the second half and were outscored by 16 in the third quarter, blowing another good first half effort.
There were bright spots for the Cavs. Derrick Rose returned to the lineup and after missing two months due to a sprained ankle, and he had nine points in 13 minutes on the court. And Isaiah Thomas had a strong night.
However, the play of the night — and maybe the assist of the season — went to LeBron.
3) James Harden returns, Rockets pick up win over Timberwolves. The Houston Rockets picked up a quality win at home over a Minnesota Timberwolves squad that is playing good basketball — and that’s not really the big news out of this one.
James Harden was back and starting for the Rockets. He missed seven games with a strained hamstring and the Rockets went 4-3 without him, which is not bad but they were not the same dominant team. Harden had 10 points and seven assists in limited minutes, and he understandably showed a little rust. His return this fast is a boost for his MVP chances if he can return to form — he and LeBron have been neck-and-neck as the frontrunners for the award this season, and the injury gave LeBron the chance to take charge of the race, but instead the Cavaliers have stumbled badly of late. Harden has a chance to take hold of this race, something that does matter to him.
Finally having Harden and Chris Paul healthy moved Eric Gordon back to his sixth man role and he thrived, dropping 30.
Gordon would be the frontrunner for Sixth Man of the Year, but he started too many games due to injury (half of them, coming into this game). If Paul and Harden can stay on the court, Gordon could repeat as Sixth Man winner.
Elfrid Payton slams chasedown block on LeBron James (VIDEO)
NBA All-Star voting is over, and now we have the results. The starters are in, and what’s left is for us to wait until they announce the teams after they are picked in double secret ceremony.
Of course, the NBA did release the full voting results via their PR website this week, and as such there are some head scratchers. My boy Patrick Redford over at Deadspin did an excellent job rounding up some of the players who got exactly one (1) vote from other players.
The gag here is that these guys presumably voted for themselves.
players who got exactly one all-star vote that was definitely them voting for themselves:
– Nerlens Noel – Gerald Green – Kentavious Caldwell-Pope – Mario Hezonja – Kosta Koufas – Cam Payne – Langston Galloway – Luke Kennard