When the Nets announced a relocation to the Prudential Center, it was largely seen as an addition by subtraction. You subtract the IZOD Center and you add an arena that isn’t referred to as something resembling a trash compactor. But other than that, there wasn’t much to get excited about in a relocation to the good city of Newark.
Or, so we thought.
Shaquille O’Neal, who you may remember from such films as “Kobe, Tell Me How Continued Relevance Tastes” and “I’ve Been Known To Do Things When Mad, Like Bring Little To Nothing To A Team’s Championship Contention” told the New York Post that he would consider the Nets a possible target for his free agent relocation this summer.
Not exactly the big name free agent the Nets are hoping for.
Still, one of Shaq’s reasons for considering the future-Brooklyn squad is their current residency in Newark, which Shaq calls his hometown. So Newark’s got that going for them. And hey, Shaq thinks so much of Brick City that he thinks the Nets shouldn’t even bother relocating to Brooklyn.
While the lunacy of that statement is for another time, you’ve got to wonder if the Nets will have any interest in the big man at all. They have one of the best centers in the league in Brook Lopez. Shaq has never been, nor will ever be, a bench player. Which would mean a move to power forward for Lopez, and that’s not ideal.
Shaq is one of the best players of all time, but sometimes you can not go home again.
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.
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.
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.