Winderman: The negative campaigning to get LeBron may backfire

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Thumbnail image for jamespoint.jpgThis was supposed to be a relatively simple process when it came to recruiting LeBron James:

Sell your wares and build fears about how the Cavaliers simply have not done enough for James for him to remain in Cleveland.

That was the notion back at the start of the season, when the Cavaliers were the target among teams building sufficient salary cap space to make a max-salary run at LeBron.

And then something remarkable happened — there no longer was a single definitive target for the smear campaigns.

It wasn’t as simple as 29 other teams collectively beating down all that Dan Gilbert had thought he had built up in Cleveland.

Instead, the league has found itself with moving targets.

And perhaps that should make the Heat particularly uncomfortable.

Face it, who thought, on June 30, that the Heat would be the team that rival teams would need to knock down in order to build up their hopes for landing James?

Don’t kid yourself, all this hype this past week was not orchestrated by Pat Riley. As a team executive who has spoken publicly only once since May 3, all Riley wanted was to slip into Akron with championship rings on each finger and slip out with someone who just might deliver a few more.

Instead, figure on each northeast Ohio visitor deriding Riley’s vision of three max free agents and 12 minimum-salary teammates.

So how did we get here? How did an entire league move away from the central premise that to win LeBron’s heart would mean souring his love affair with Cleveland?

Here’s how:

— At midseason, after the Knicks opened enough cap space at the trading deadline for a pair of prime free agents, it became all about rival suitors convincing LeBron that New York could offer little in support, that Mike D’Antoni’s offensive bent doesn’t win championships.

— Then the Russian playboy billionaire received his approval for ownership in New Jersey, and the Nets emerged as a force that had to be minimized by rival suitors, with the delayed entry to Brooklyn offered as the warning from competing bidders.

— Just a week ago, when the Bulls agreed to send Kirk Hinrich to the Wizards, Chicago became the LeBron favorite, with the task of James’ suitors to create questions about LeBron playing for a rookie coach, alongside a teammate in Derrick Rose, who, frankly, isn’t much without a ball in his hands.

— And then Dwyane Wade started dreaming, dreaming big, about playing alongside LeBron and Chris Bosh in South Florida. So now the Heat’s lack of a remaining roster is being ridiculed by the others vying for James, this notion of three max players and 12 minimum sidekicks.

Which raises the point: Is it wise to enter this process as a favorite?

Or, more to the point: Does that set you up as the suitor most likely to be knocked down by the other contenders?

Clearly, there is a reason Riley has been the silent man, why we’ve heard more from Gilbert and D’Antoni and, heck, even Gar Foreman during this process.

When teams get in that room with LeBron, will the mode be offense or defense?

Will it be a matter of building up your own assets, or devaluing those of others?

Until this week, the Heat were practically a silent partner in the James derby, a team several lengths back.

But now there is reason to believe that for the Heat to lose, others may have to cast Riley as a loser.

That is not an easy task. And LeBron well could be put off by such antics.

Still, in this race, being the frontrunner only translates into being turned into a doormat. It is a lesson learned by many already.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Emotional DeMarcus Cousins near tears saying goodbye to Sacramento after trade

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Kings’ general manager Vlade Divac took a parting shot at DeMarcus Cousins‘ character when he spoke to the media about the deal.

Cousins could be challenging in the locker room, but he was committed to Sacramento in ways most teams wish their star would be. He was active in the community, did charity work, and was not one of the players that alerted the media and dragged along a video crew when he did. Cousins loves Sacramento.

You can see it as he tears up when saying goodbye to those close to him in this video.

On the court, the trade to New Orleans and the chance to play next to Anthony Davis could be a huge boost for Cousins’ career. We’ll never know what could have been if the Kings knew how to draft or stuck with a system/coach.

But off the court, Sacramento will miss him. And he will miss them.

All-Star game television ratings are best since 2013

Western Conference forward Anthony Davis of the New Orleans Pelicans (23 ) slam dunks during the first half of the NBA All-Star basketball game in New Orleans, Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, Pool)
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NEW YORK (AP) — The NBA All-Star game drew an average audience of 7.8 million viewers, making it the most-viewed All-Star broadcast since 2013.

Turner Sports announced the numbers on Monday. The number of viewers peaked at 8.5 million and the total audience was up 3 percent from last year’s game.

The hype surrounding the game centered on Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook playing on the Western Conference team together. Durant left Oklahoma City last summer to join Golden State, leaving his longtime teammate Westbrook behind with the Thunder. Westbrook did not hide his dissatisfaction with Durant, which ratcheted up the intrigue heading into the game on Sunday.

The two shared the court for just 81 seconds and Oklahoma City posted the highest local market rating with a 10.9.

Report: Timberwolves, Knicks discuss Derrick Rose trade

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 02:  Derrick Rose #25 of the New York Knicks takes a shot as Kris Dunn #3 of the Minnesota Timberwolves defends at Madison Square Garden on December 2, 2016 in New York City.The New York Knicks defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 118-114. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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The Timberwolves — 3.5 games and five teams out of playoff position — have made reaching the postseason this year a priority.

So, within that nonsensical goal apparently comes a nonsensical idea: Trading for Derrick Rose.

Ian Begley of ESPN:

The Minnesota Timberwolves have reached out to the Knicks recently to discuss potential trades for New York point guard Derrick Rose, sources told ESPN.

The Timberwolves, sources say, are among several teams to reach out to the Knicks asking about potential trades for Rose.

Rose, of course, played for Timberwolves president/coach Tom Thibodeau with the Bulls. That makes this report both plausible and something the Knicks would leak to drum up interest.

I can’t imagine a market especially eager to acquire Rose, who will become a free agent next summer. His $21,323,252 salary is difficult to match in trades without sending out too valuable of players. Rose has become a good downhill driver, but the rest of his game is lacking after years of injuries.

The Timberwolves have nearly $13 million of cap space, which could be useful in facilitating a deal. But they also have three intriguing point guards: Ricky Rubio, Kris Dunn and Tyus Jones.

If Minnesota really wants Rose, it could just sign him this summer. His Bird Rights shouldn’t matter much. Who would give the 28-year-old a five-year contract?

Rubio for Rose straight up works financially, for what it’s worth. The Timberwolves shouldn’t do that, but we don’t know enough about Tom Thibodeau running a front office to assume they won’t.

Report: Pelicans trying to trade Terrence Jones

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After their trade today, the Pelicans have the NBA’s most dynamic big-man tandem: Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins.

Davis and Cousins are tall, athletic and skilled in a combination we might have never seen from any power forward-center duo since Charles Barkley-Hakeem Olajuwon. New Orleans’ two could thrive together, and while they develop chemistry, they’ll each likely get minutes without the other.

That doesn’t leave much playing time for someone like Terrence Jones.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Jones settled for a one-year minimum contract after an injury-plagued and inconsistent tenure with the Rockets. His inconsistency remains, but considering his salary, his highs more than justify dealing with the lows. At just 25, Jones could still figure out how to reliably contribute.

Jones’ contract dictates he be rental, which will lower his trade value. But he could help teams trying to win down the stretch — including New Orleans.

Dante Cunningham seems more favored at power forward, and Donatas Motiejunas can fill in. But the Pelicans could still use Jones.

Shopping him might be a favor to the player, but we’ll see whether an actual trade is part of the gesture.