Though there are a number of competitive teams partaking in this summer’s FIBA World Championships, Spain was understandably considered the best possible candidate to upset the Americans. Those chances have dwindled significantly with Pau Gasol’s announcement that he will miss this summer’s tournament in order to rest for next season. From Janis Carr of the O.C. Register:
Gasol said on his website that he will not help Spain defend its
title because doctors say he needs a rest and “present circumstances
advise against my participation” in the championship that will be held
in Turkey from Aug. 29-Sept. 12.
“This year I have suffered two major muscle injuries, the first in
my career, and I firmly believe it is time to rest,” Gasol said on his
site. “I think the best is to choose an appropriate time to rest first
than your body decides for you at the most inopportune time.”
The Americans are having some personnel issues, with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carmelo Anthony, and now Dwight Howard wavering in their commitment to the program for a variety of reasons. It’s clear that the glitz, glam, exposure, and marketing opportunities of the Olympic Games mean far more to these stars than a comparatively low-profile event like the World Championships. That could open the door for even a Pau-less Spain team to give Team USA some trouble, but a lot of that depends on which other American stars participate.
Regardless, this is a huge blow for Spain. Whereas they were previously seen as a lock for the final round, they’ll now run a gauntlet of teams that could pose a significant threat. Marc Gasol can still give them the force they need in the middle, but Pau’s just on a different level than Marc, talent-wise.
Team USA may be able to compensate for the loss of a LeBron James or a Dwyane Wade with some the incredible depth in the program, but most national teams (Spain included) don’t have that luxury. Marc’s presence will help, but even he isn’t good enough to lock in Spain as the second best team in the tournament. They could get there and probably will, but things just got much more difficult for the Spanish national team.
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.