Raymond Felton's future with the Bobcats as uncertain as ever

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While it’s incredibly clear that guys like LeBron James and Dwyane Wade will be paid top dollar this off-season, establishing the market for the moderately-skilled free agents is a bit more complex. There will certainly be some teams looking to spend their cap room this summer, regardless of whether that’s on James, Joe Johnson, Carlos Boozer, or John Salmons. Then, there are others that would bide their time and wait until 2011 should they strike out on the summer’s big names, wisely opting for a fresh market and a new CBA to dictate their free agent pursuits.

The unpredictability makes it a bit difficult to place which player could end up where, as so much of it depends on who whiffs on which potential signings, and which teams are left holding a bag full of cap space in late July. Obviously that’s where team-specific positional needs really come into play, but we can’t know for sure which teams will be able to offer which players however much money, because we don’t know who will be where when and why.

All of this is to say that even as of June 15th, we know little more about how free agency will play out than we did in the months prior, particularly in regard to how the middle-of-the-pack FAs will make their decisions.

Raymond Felton is such a free agent, and even though he was a part of the first Bobcats team to ever make the playoffs, his future with the team is murky at best. From Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer:

“I’m not going to say it is a better thing (to leave) or it’s not.
But at the same time, whatever is going to be best for me and my
family, that’s what I’m going to have to do,” [Felton said.]

Let me tell right here; Ray has never before said anything
suggesting he’d be just as well off somewhere else. He’s an intensely
loyal person and, perhaps more importantly, he loves living in the
Carolinas. That reinforces what I wrote Sunday: That Felton’s future as
a Bobcat has never been more uncertain.

Even after Felton turned down their best offer last summer, instead
playing on the one-year qualifier, I thought there was an 80-percent
chance Felton would eventually sign a long-term deal here. Now I’d drop
that percentage to 50-50, maybe less. The message I got from that quote
is staying home is no longer so important he’ll compromise to stay.

Felton would be an interesting addition for a number of teams, particularly for his defensive abilities. Still, it would definitely be in the Bobcats’ best interest to hold on to him, particularly since the only alternative would be to throw D.J. Augustin — who regressed some this past season after his somewhat stronger rookie campaign — into the fire. That likely wouldn’t bode well for the ‘Cats on either side of the ball, which would put retaining Felton (or finding a more suitable replacement) high on Charlotte’s to-do list.

If only it were so simple, as this summer’s market, the previous struggles in negotiations between Felton and the Bobcats, and the fact that Ray is now an unrestricted free agent make the situation rather complex.

LeBron James admits Warriors pose one of biggest challenges he’s faced in Finals

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LeBron James is used to being the underdog in the NBA Finals. It started with the first time he got a team there, the 2007 team where after LeBron the two leading scorers were Larry Hughes and Drew Gooden — that team was not really Finals worthy and the Spurs showed that with a sweep.

Entering his seventh straight NBA Finals in 2017, the Cavaliers are again heavy underdogs. When asked about the challenge these Warriors — now with Kevin Durant — pose LeBron was nothing but complimentary, speaking to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“It’s probably up there,” James said after the Cleveland Cavaliers’ practice. “I mean, it’s up there. Obviously, I’ve played against four Hall of Famers as well too, with Manu [Ginobili], Kawhi [Leonard], Tony [Parker] and Timmy D [Tim Duncan] on the same team. And if you add Pop [Gregg Popovich] in there, that’s five Hall of Famers.

“So it’s going to be very challenging. Those guys are going to challenge me. They’re going to challenge our ballclub. This is a high-powered team, and I’ve played against some other [stiff competition]. I’ve played against Ray [Allen], KG [Kevin Garnett], Paul [Pierce], [Rajon] Rondo and Doc [Rivers]. So it’s going to be very challenging not only on me mentally, but on our ballclub and on our franchise.”

The Warriors bring four of the top 15-20 guys in the NBA (depending on where you want to rank Klay Thompson), with two of then in the top five with Durant and Stephen Curry. However, what makes the Warriors more dangerous is the way they buy into the offensive system, move the ball and set screens/move off it, all of which makes them greater than just the sum of their parts. Well, that and the fact they had the second best defense in the NBA this year.

Cleveland, however, is probably the team best suited to beat them. Nobody has a good answer for guarding the 1/3 LeBron/Kyrie Irving pick-and-roll, Kevin Love is one of the best power forwards in the game, they are strong on the glass and can be impressive on defense (the challenge will be doing it consistently this series, they haven’t had to up to this point). Ultimately, LeBron is the great equalizer, he is the best player in the game.

All that said, Las Vegas oddsmakers have Golden State the heavy favorites (those odds are a reflection of what the betting public thinks). If LeBron and the Cavaliers pull this off, it will be one of the biggest upsets in NBA Finals history.

Lonzo Ball will never be as good as this fan-made video of him destroying people in 2K17

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Ultimately, nobody has any idea how good Lonzo Ball will be as an NBA player. Franchise cornerstone? All-Star? Above average starter? Rotation player? He will fall somewhere on the scale, but even for NBA teams it’s a guess as to where. (His dad apparently thinks he will end his career compared to Jordan, I seriously doubt that.)

However good he ends up being, he may never be as good as he looks in this 2K17 fan video made by Shady00018. The Lakers should pray he does: Dropping Stephen Curry on a crossover, dunking over Rudy Gobert, throwing no-look passes like beads at Mardi Gras? It’s impressive, if unrealistic.

Then again, reality Lakers fans don’t always intersect.

 

LeBron James on the Finals: “I feel good about our chances. Very good.”

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If there is one team in the NBA that can knock off the Warriors in a seven-game series, it’s the Cavaliers. They are the best team in the NBA at creating mismatches and isolating them, and in Kyrie Irving and LeBron James they have two of the best isolation scorers in the game. Cleveland is strong on the boards and is capable of impressive defense. Also, they have the best player on the planet.

If nobody else is confident in the Cavaliers chances, he is.

Here is what LeBron James said his confidence level facing the Warriors in a Finals trilogy.

What else is he going to say?

And if anyone should be confident, it’s LeBron. He can change a series.

From the outside, we saw a series last year where everything needed to go right for Cleveland to win — LeBron playing the best ball of his career for the final three games, Kyrie Irving hitting big shots, Draymond Green getting suspended, Andrew Bogut getting injured, Stephen Curry being off (due to injury or fatigue or just a slump). And even then took the Cavaliers seven games and heroics at the last minute. Now the Warriors add Kevin Durant, and it’s hard not to see this ending differently.

However, LeBron James is the one guy who can alter that vision. And he’s confident he can do it, he’s done it before.

Steve Alford: LaVar Ball never meddled with UCLA Basketball

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Is LaVar Ball just a harmless loudmouth, or will he actually undermine the team that drafts his son, highly touted guard Lonzo Ball?

The Lakers, who hold the No. 2 pick, are the most likely team to find out.

President Magic Johnson said LaVar won’t affect whether they draft Lonzo, but coach Luke Walton wants the team to ask UCLA coach Steve Alford about LaVar’s involvement.

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times did just that:

Was LaVar Ball around the team much?

“Zero,” Alford said.

Was he ever at practice?

“Never at practice,” Alford said. “Never at practice; never called me.”

Did he ever try to meddle in your coaching?

“Never,” Alford said.

LaVar has said his other sons, LiAngelo and LaMelo, will play for UCLA. So, Alford has incentive to maintain a productive working relationship with LaVar. The players’ high school coach had a much worse experience dealing with LaVar.

Alford vouching for LaVar means something, but the total picture is more complex.

Still, LaVar would hardly be the first difficult parent of an NBA player. He’s just the most public. Even if he’d try to meddle into the Lakers, they might be willing to handle that to get his talented son.