Are the Bulls now the leaders in the LeBron sweepstakes?

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Thumbnail image for lebron celtics game 5.pngThere are a lot of jittery Cleveland Cavaliers fans right now. And not just because they had four cups at the Cleveland Coffee Company.

Clevelanders woke up this morning to a new landscape. Yesterday morning they were still the most logical place for LeBron James to play — they had shown him a serious commitment to winning, he got more money, he got to stay home and they were as close to getting a championship team together as anyone else.

Today, that is not the case. Chicago suddenly looks much closer to a title, and they have shown a serious commitment to winning.

That is, if the Bulls can land both LeBron and Chris Bosh. They traded Kirk Hinrich and now are right on the edge of being able to add two max contracts to go with Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah. Land two big free agents and Chicago will get penciled in to take on the Lakers in the 2011 NBA finals.

Chicago has done all it could and now is in a great position. Cleveland has done all it could for the past couple years, making big moves to try to bring LeBron a ring. Both front offices have shown what they are willing to do. There are pitches to be made, but the foundations are set.

There are reasons this might not work in Chicago. Maybe Chris Bosh really wants to be option number one, and the thought of playing on a team where the ball will always be in LeBron’s or Rose’s hands has him heading to Miami or New York. Maybe LeBron really wants to play with Wade. Maybe LeBron really always wanted to play in New York, who cares how far the team is from a title.

Let’s hope the “LeBron doesn’t want to play in the shadow of Jordan” argument doesn’t ring true. Because that would be sad and speak of a weak-minded LeBron. You didn’t see Kevin Garnett shying away from the legacy of Larry Bird and Bill Russell – he embraced it and added to it. You don’t see Kobe shying away from the legacy of Magic and Jerry West, he saw it as a challenge. (Of course, Kobe sees everything as a challenge.)

It comes down to this:

Chicago is a place he can win and maybe be the heart of a dynasty.

Cleveland is home.

LeBron will have to choose. After all the fancy dinners and celebrities and long talks with general managers, it comes down to what LeBron really wants in his heart.

And if that truly is titles, Cleveland may no longer be the front-runner.

Report: Timberwolves active in trying to land Paul George or Jimmy Butler

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Minnesota is one of the NBA’s best positioned up-and-coming teams. They have a franchise cornerstone in Karl-Anthony Towns, a quality No. 2 in Andrew Wiggins, maybe like Zach LaVine can blossom into an All-Star, and players such as Gorgui Dieng and Nemanja Bjelica could be part of the picture. Maybe Ricky Rubio, too, although he’s further along his career arc. A lot of people look at this team and think around 2020, when the Warriors fade (or break apart), the Timberwolves can step up to elite.

Tom Thibodeau is apparently not willing to be that patient — he’s looking to get in the Paul George/Jimmy Butler talks, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Thibodeau helped develop Butler in Chicago and they have a great relationship, he certainly makes the Timberwolves better next season. Same with George, although he’s a rental who almost certainly bolts after the coming season

My question to the Timberwolves: Why?

What was wrong with the building trajectory they are on? I get it, they haven’t been to the playoffs since 2004, a ton of money was just sunk into upgrades at the Target Center, and the owner is not getting younger. Those are all non-basketball reasons to screw up what the basketball side is doing right. It’s the mistake of poor franchises to let that happen.

Could the Timberwolves use a point guard of the future, more depth on the wings and better defenders all around? You bet. But they don’t need to rush the development program either. If Minnesota can land Butler only giving up Rubio and a protected future first or something, sure, but the Bulls continue to ask a very high price for a deal.

Outside of personal feelings, why would the Timberwolves do that?

Report: LaMarcus Aldridge unhappy playing for Spurs

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The Spurs trading LaMarcus Aldridge – they’re reportedly shopping him – could open enough cap space to sign Chris Paul.

But that isn’t the only reason San Antonio is trying to move Aldridge.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

According to a person with knowledge of the Spurs forward’s situation, it’s the 31-year-old’s unhappiness in San Antonio that is the driving force behind the Spurs’ trade talks on Thursday. The five-time All-Star, according to the person, is hopeful that San Antonio can find a better fit for his talents.

Rumors about the Spurs trading Aldridge emerged early in the season, as he was reportedly unhappy about Kawhi Leonard getting the spotlight. When Aldridge signed with San Antonio, it seemed Leonard could do the heavy lifting as the team’s best player and Aldridge could get outsized credit as the leading scorer. But Leonard has emerged as the go-to offensive player, pushing Aldridge into a supporting role both in reality and reputation. Gregg Popovich calling out Aldridge publicly during the playoffs surely didn’t improve relations.

Aldridge turns 32 this summer and will likely become a free agent after next season. Wanting to leave the Spurs – held up as the NBA’s best culture – will raise additional red flags.

San Antonio might not get as much as it hopes in a trade for Aldridge. If Chris Paul is coming, the Spurs wouldn’t need as much for Aldridge. But they won’t know about Paul until July.

San Antonio also values building a roster of players who’ve, as Popovich puts it, “gotten over themselves.” If that’s not Aldridge, the Spurs might not want to keep him around.

There are numerous factors to weigh and incomplete information, but this is the twisting road San Antonio is navigating.

Here’s Knicks’ reported asking price from Celtics in Kristaps Porzingis trade

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Knicks president Phil Jackson’s asking price for Kristaps Porzingis is reportedly “massive.”

Just what does that mean?

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News:

According to a Knicks source, Jackson is asking for the third overall pick in Thursday’s draft as well as next year’s Brooklyn pick along with Jaylen Brown and Jae Crowder. This version of the deal would not include Boston taking on Joakim Noah‘s contract.

All the Knicks fans who threatened to relinquish their fandom if the team traded Porzingis – most would love this deal.

Would the Celtics? I doubt it.

The question is whether there’s a middle ground between what New York wants and what Boston would do. It’s possible Jackson won’t budge and is just shopping Porzingis on the off chance someone accepts outlandish requests like these and to teach Porzingis a lesson for skipping his exit meeting.

Report: First-round draft prospect says Phil Jackson fell asleep during his workout

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Like I said, there are better reasons to criticize Phil Jackson than him saying his priority was the Knicks and that he had discussed trading Kristaps Porzingis.

Jay Williams of ESPN:

A top-15 draft pick told me the other day, because we were involved in this out of this conversation about Phil Jackson and the Knicks, and he said, “Phil Jackson was falling in and out of sleep in my workout.”

Yes. “Falling in and out of sleep at my workout.” This is what this guy told me.

Especially given Jackson’s salary and reputation for not being a diligent worker, this story is too good to check out.