The Utah Jazz found Wesley Mathews — an undrafted rookie who started 48 games for them last year.
But the Jazz are going to play Raja Bell’s tune next season. So Mathews is off to Portland, where he will be Brandon Roy’s backup. Portland had made an offer to Mathews for the mid-level exception of $5.8 million (with a bonus and a front-loaded deal as poison pills) and Utah has told him they will not match. Mathews was pretty pumped when he talked to FanHouse.
“I’m looking forward to it,” said Matthews, who won’t start at shooting guard for Portland due to Brandon Roy but could unseat Nicolas Batum as the starting small forward. “It’s a great organization. Whether they want me to start or come off the bench, it’s fine with me. I can be a defender for them.”
Mathews has gone from undrafted, to making the Jazz on a one-year, rookie minimum deal ($427,163) to making more than No. 1 overall pick from last year Blake Griffin will make.
Last season Mathews averaged 9.4 points per game in almost 24 minutes of action. He shot 48 percent from the floor and a good 38 percent from three. He was their two-guard, the guy asked to cover Kobe Bryant in the second round of the playoffs. A guy given real responsibility by Jerry Sloan as a rookie.
He will help the Blazers, even if that is a pretty steep contract for a second-year backup wing player.
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.