ProBasketballTalk's free agent roundup: Let the party begin

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Free agency is underway — although it has unofficially been underway for weeks through back channels. Everyone has been talking to everyone. So, consider midnight the end of the NBA’s “we’re looking the other way at all the tampering” season.

And the start of the real free agent craziness.

Below is a roundup of where things stand right before all sane people go to bed.

* LeBron James is in an undisclosed location in Akron (as if everyone in Akron doesn’t actually know where he is). Dwyane Wade is in Chicago. Chris Bosh is in Chicago, too. Coincidence?  All three are ready to receive visitors, starting at midnight. Or Thursday morning in LeBron’s case. No real news here, just thought you’d want to know where they are camping out.

* Wade did get a call just after midnight from Pat Riley asking him to
remain with the Heat. Which he is likely to do anyway. So maybe they
also talked about recruiting. Or the oil spill in the Gulf. Or how Drake is overrated. Who knows?

* The Hawks wasted no time in offering Joe Johnson a six-year, $124.5 million max deal. Pretty soon he’ll take it, he wanted to stay home and would have done so for less. The Knicks had a 2:45 hour meeting with Johnson and offered him the max, but they can only offer five years and about $27 million less. And rumor is he only would consider New York if LeBron went, Johnson doesn’t want to be the No. 1 guy anywhere (more comfortable in the 1a or 2 role), particularly in New York.

The Hawks wanted a deal that would handcuff the franchise in three or four years. Apparently.

* The Knicks also are expected to meet tonight with Mike Miller while in Los Angeles.

* The Cavaliers are meeting with seemingly everyone and anyone: Brendan Haywood, Ray Allen, John Salmons and Mike Miller.

* Dirk Nowitzki may be a free agent but he flew all the way from Germany to meet face-to-face tonight with the Mavericks to hammer out a longer term deal. He is going nowhere but Dallas.

* Rudy Gay officially got a qualifying offer, so the Grizzlies can match any deal he is given. Line the one Minnesota is rumored to be offering not long after midnight tonight.

* Boston is expected to sit down with Paul Pierce, who opted out of his $21.5 million owed next year, and figure out a new deal. With Doc Rivers coming back for one more run, you can bet the two sides find a way to bring Pierce — the talisman for the Celtics — back.

* Maybe the biggest surprise of the day was Memphis not extending a qualifying offer to Ronnie Brewer — a young (25) player on the rise and a hard-nosed defender that the Grizzlies gave up a first round draft pick before. They let him walk for nothing. It saves $3.8 million but they get no players in return for him. Penny wise and pound foolish.

* Also, San Antonio’s Richard Jefferson entered the free agent market. Shockingly. He opted out of a $15.2 million deal for next season, under the theory that he could recoup that money with more money over the next four years or so. It makes sense if somebody gave him $10 million a year for four years. But he is more likely to get three years at $6 million. And then he doesn’t look as smart.

Of course, Baron Davis did the same thing a few years back and got a huge contract from the Clippers. (Which they now regret.) Time will tell, sometimes general managers do the craziest things, but it looks like Jefferson cost himself a lot of money.

Cavaliers, Warriors sweeps mean time to rest, get mental breather

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Durant can take some pressure off that tender left calf. LeBron James has extra time to recoup after barely leaving the floor in the first round.

Golden State coach Steve Kerr scheduled some medical appointments as he deals with debilitating symptoms still affecting him nearly two years after complications from a pair of back surgeries.

The two star-studded teams expected by many to face off once more in the NBA Finals each swept through their respective first-round playoff series in four games, leaving ample time for the Cavaliers and Warriors to rest up, heal up and prepare for the next opponent.

“It gives me a mental break. As far as physically, I am who I am,” James said. “I’ve played so many games over the years, the best break for me is probably when I’m done.”

Of course guys like James and Draymond Green are already eager to get back on the court.

Cleveland now knows its next opponent is Toronto, while the Warriors were still waiting out the Clippers-Jazz series.

“Definitely have gotten antsy to play,” Green said Friday. “But you see that break and you’re excited about it, just to get that time to rest and get everybody back as close to 100 (percent) as possible for the next round. At the same time you do get antsy to get back on the floor and back in the rhythm of things. I think it’s been a good week for us to sweep and get this time off.”

Durant, still receiving treatment on his left leg and knee, spent Thursday at a San Francisco Giants baseball game. Cavs coach Tyronn Lue threw a huge watch party Thursday night so players and members of the organization could see the Raptors close out the Bucks in six games.

Golden State scrimmaged Friday to stay sharp, while Cleveland players have competed in such ways as racing on cardiovascular machines in the weight room to stay fresh and motivated.

James led the league in minutes during the regular season then played nearly 44 per game in the first-round sweep of Indiana – familiar territory after the Cavs also swept Detroit in the first round last season, then followed by eliminating Atlanta in the minimum four games.

“I’m ready to get this thing going, but obviously I’m not going to rush the process,” James said. “… But, yeah, I don’t like the way I feel when we’re not playing.”

In 2015, when the Warriors captured their first championship in 40 years, Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving suffered a freak Game 1 injury when he fractured his left kneecap, and Kevin Love was already lost to a dislocated left shoulder.

Last June, Stephen Curry had returned from a knee injury but never fully got healthy and the thought was the Warriors wore down after chasing and breaking the Chicago Bulls’ regular-season wins record with 73 victories.

“If you could sweep every series that would be perfect,” Durant said, “because you just want to play well and then you’ll worry about the rest afterward. That’s the situation we’re in. We’ve got a lot of guys banged up, so it’s good to have a few days to get your bodies right and your mind right and just get back to the drawing board in terms of individual work, team work.”

In the Warriors’ case, it also has meant more time working with Mike Brown as acting head coach while Kerr is away. The reigning NBA Coach of the Year missed Games 3 and 4 at Portland because he was in such discomfort, having dealt with headaches, neck pain and nausea that recently became worse.

While Spurs coach Gregg Popovich is most known for sitting several star players at once without regard to anything but his team’s best interest, others have caught on and replicated the strategy of spelling players in order to pace for the long haul.

In March 2015, the Warriors lost at Denver with Curry watching – along with Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala and Andrew Bogut – in the first game of a back-to-back. Oh, did Kerr take heat for it, even personally answering a few emails. And the Warriors reached out to other upset fans and sent along care packages.

“As a coach your responsibility is to keep your players healthy and there are times when guys need a night off,” Kerr said.

In December, Cleveland caused an uproar by resting James, Love and Irving in a loss at Memphis. Lue then sat several starters for the final game of the regular season against Toronto, and the teams will meet again in the Eastern Conference semifinals starting Monday.

Now, the Cleveland coach insists, James can handle the heavy minutes when it matters most.

“His body can take it,” Lue said, “so I’m not worried about what outside people say.”

AP Sports Writer Tom Withers in Cleveland contributed to this report.

 

Chris Paul told Paul Pierce: “You’re not ending your career in Utah”

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When the Clippers lose their final game this season — maybe Sunday, maybe not for weeks — the Hall of Fame career of Paul Pierce will come to an end.

It’s not why Doc Rivers was leaning so heavily on Pierce Friday night, that’s more desperation on a shorthanded (and not that deep to start with) lineup. The Clippers got away with 20+ minutes of Pierce on Friday and still got the win.

He even served as an inspiration for Chris Paul, as CP3 said in his postgame press conference.

The best part of that video? DeAndre Jordan‘s reaction.

You can be sure Utah Jazz fans will take this comment as a slight and let CP3 hear about it next season. As for the Jazz players, they are heading into Game 7, how much more motivation do they need.

John Wall’s chasedown block of Dennis Schroder, layup saved game for Wizards (VIDEO)

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Washington had been up 22 points in the third quarter and seemed to be cruising to a win in Atlanta, and with it a trip to the second round… but it would not be that easy. The Hawks made their push back, knocking down threes and chipping away at the Wizards lead until it was all the way down to 93-90, a one possession game.

Then John Wall took over.

It started with the big play you see above — a chasedown block on Dennis Schroder, which turned into a Wall layup on the other end.

That play changed the momentum. Washington closed the game on a 22-9 run where Wall scored the final 13 points on his way to 42 for the night on just 25 shots. The end result was a 115-99 Wizards win to close the Hawks out 4-2.

Steve Ballmer loses control after Austin Rivers three, creates another meme

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Clippers’ owner Steve Ballmer has been a meme machine this series. First, there was the sad face after the Clippers Game 5 loss at home.

Then Friday, there was his reaction to an Austin Rivers three.

Ballmer’s reactions may be the best part of the Game 7 between these teams Sunday.