Report: If LeBron's friends get jobs with the Heat, the NBA may investigate


Thumbnail image for bosh_wade_james.jpgIn Cleveland, LeBron’s posse had the run of the place. They were VIPs in the arena and in the city. Some of his friends even got jobs within the Cleveland organization.

It is rumored that one of the things that really hurt Chicago in talks with LeBron James was a clear line in the sand from Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf on just that — if we didn’t give Michael Jordan’s friends all jobs, we’re not doing it for you. It may or may not have been a big deal with James himself, but you can bet the friends that have his ear talked to him about it.

In Miami, Wade met with members of LeBron’s inner circle a couple of times, according to a long report on the inner workings of LeBron’s decision by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.

If jobs were promised to LeBron’s friends, the NBA may investigate, he reports.

“The bigger issue is salary-cap circumvention,” one top NBA front-office executive told Yahoo!. “You can’t promise jobs or preferential services outside of a contract or a job for a friend. If that’s part of the deal, it’s a violation.”

It’s also very, very hard to prove. These friends had jobs in the Cleveland organization, or may have other skills the Heat can say are useful to them in whatever capacity. If a person had a job with one NBA team, it will be very hard to legally prove they were hired by the Heat just because of LeBron.

That is just one of the interesting tidbits from Wojnarowski’s opus. It is long, it has a lot of details, and it is worth reading.

It is also worth taking with a grain of salt. While Wojnarowski is as plugged in as any reporter out there, nobody has the entire picture. Nobody has all the people on the inside of the decision talking. The report talks about how LeBron, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh came up with this idea at the Beijing Olympics two years ago, but other people who traveled with the team said that while the three talked they were really in different cliques of the team much of the time. We could try to poke holes in other parts of the story as well, but nobody really knows. Again, just read everything with a critical eye.

Three other things of note. One is saying that current Heat coach Erik Spoelstra has to win a title this season, or he will be gone.

Nevertheless, the pressure on Spoelstra to win a championship in 2011 promises to be immense. To keep his job, he’ll probably have to win it all, especially because Riley has his eye on Doc Rivers to someday coach the Heat. Rivers has one year left on his Celtics contract, and has been heavily affected by the distance between him and his family still living Orlando.

I’m not sure I totally agree — what matters most this first year is that he gets total buy in from all three stars. That he gets them really working together. I can see a scenario where he does that and they still don’t win a title — because Joel Anthony is not a center who can stop Dwight Howard or Andrew Bynum deep in the playoffs, for example. It may take another year to get all the pieces around the big three to make it really work.

Another was just how big an impression Riley made on LeBron. How it was Riley that brought this deal together.

Riley never did pitch James on his own return to coaching, and yet bringing those five championship rings into the meeting were his way of selling James on the fact that Riles’ prints would be all over the team. No other basketball executive in the process could tell James they understood what a title team needed, what it looked like and how they had already done it like Riley could. Riley had such credibility, such presence and he completely captivated James.

That I believe. Riley does carry that aura.

Finally, there was the other reason Chicago fell out of favor — Derrick Rose.

For everything the Bulls tried to sell – from owner Jerry Reinsdorf to GM Gar Forman to coach Tom Thibodeau – there had been one thing that troubled James’ about the Bulls pitch: Derrick Rose(notes) never called and tried to recruit him.

Chicago officials never directly requested Rose to reach out with a call, and the young point guard felt James could’ve always reached out to him had he wanted to discuss the possibility of playing together. James needed to be courted, needed to be wooed and apparently it surprised him there was a star who wasn’t falling over himself to do that.

51 Questions: Is Mike Malone the key to bringing Denver back?

Michael Malone
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PBT is previewing the 2015-16 NBA season by tackling 51 big questions that we can’t wait to see answered once play tips off. We will answer one a day right up to the start of the season Oct. 27. Today’s question:

Is Mike Malone the key to bringing Denver back?

One incident sums up how bad things had gotten in Denver under the Brian Shaw regime — breaking a fourth-quarter huddle in the final game of February, Nuggets players chanted “1-2-3-six weeks!”

The players didn’t like the coach, some of them didn’t like each other, and with six weeks and 24 games left in the season they had checked out. The young players (and some of the veterans) partied so much Shaw canceled shootarounds because guys couldn’t roll in for them in the morning. Shaw had lost the team long before when he’d tried to fit square pegs into the triangle holes of his offense, and it spiraled out of control from there. The culture in Denver was broken.

Mike Malone was brought in to repair that culture.

The Jeff Van Gundy disciple has shown he can do that before. Malone was starting to build something in Sacramento (they started last season 9-6 before DeMarcus Cousins got sick), where he was asked to repair a franchise culture that by the end of the Maloof era was something akin to the Lord of the Flies. Malone also turned out to be the one coach who had gotten through to Cousins. Even with his defensive mindset and Cousins in the paint, Malone had the Kings playing at the eighth-fastest pace in the league in pace, but the Kings’ owner wanted to play faster (and maybe didn’t want to miss out on the chance to hire George Karl), so Malone got sacked.

The question becomes, is Malone alone going to turn things around in Denver and bring them back to relevance?

Not alone, and not just in one season, but he will get them on the right track.

The first step to show management was behind Malone was the trading of Ty Lawson. No doubt when focused Lawson is a quality point guard (as Houston likely benefits from this season), but he was part of the problem in the end in Denver, to the point of picking up two DUIs in six months (he checked into a rehab facility after the second one). He had mentally checked out and his example was an issue the Nuggets needed to change.

That turns the keys for the offense over to rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, who impressed a lot of people at Summer League after bailing on SMU to play in China last season. But he’s still a rookie with a long way to go — as the 15 turnovers in his first two preseason games attest. Things that worked in China and Summer League don’t fly against an NBA defense.

With Mudiay at the point and a team that plays half its games at high altitude, Monroe wants to take advantage of that and get out and run. Expect the Nuggets to get back to their traditional up-tempo games, but with some things Malone loves to run (such as the Rick Adelman corner action).

But for Malone, all things — including good transition basketball — starts with defense. You have to get stops and steals to run well, and the Nuggets were 26th in the league in defensive rating last season (105.5 points allowed per 100 possessions). In the first two Nuggets preseason games, that was the Nuggets focus (with mixed results).

Malone’s challenge starts with getting Kenneth Faried to buy in and play as hard on defense as he does on offense — something Faried has never done. Faried has been a defensive minus since he entered the NBA and that becomes one of Malone’s first major projects (even if it’s just to boost Faried’s trade value). Faried, who clashed with Shaw over his role, has said he’s felt energized under Malone, now the coach just has to steer that energy to the defensive end of the court.

Malone will be searching for the right center to put next to Faried, and I expect that will mean a lot of Jusuf Nurkic (who is young and shows it at times). But also expect to see some small-ball lineups with Faried at the five. Something like Mudiay, Randy Foye, Wilson Chandler, Danilo Gallinari, and Faried. A lineup with some athleticism and shooting that could put up points, but would they get any stops? If Gary Harris slots in for Foye, does that help the defense (Harris is guy Nuggets fans may see more and more of as the season goes on).

The roster is a work in progress, and if you were to bet on the Nuggets doing one thing this season, it should be making trades. Things are going to change.

There are nice pieces on the Nuggets, but not enough of them and with some real questions about how it all fits together. This is not a playoff team this season, not in the West.

But it’s a team that Malone could have playing a lot better late in the season than at the beginning, once some of those questions start to be answered, and the young players gain experience. That should be the goal in Denver. Begin to change the culture, get buy-in on the system, get guys playing hard again rather than dreaming of Cancun vacations by February. Change can be incremental, but Malone will start the change.

Then in a couple of years, you’ve got the team you want.

Well, so long as the Nuggets ownership doesn’t get impatient and decide it needs to change directions again.

Another Pelicans center down: Omer Asik out three weeks

Omer Asik, Paul Millsap, Kyle Korver
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The Pelicans will have to play Anthony Davis at center now.

With backup center Alexis Ajinca already sidelined, starting center Omer Asik suffered his own injury.

Pelicans release:

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that center Omer Asik is expected to miss the next three weeks with a right calf strain. The injury occurred during Wednesday’s practice.

If that three-week timeline is firm, Asik would miss two regular season games – at Warriors and at Trail Blazers.

Davis figured to be the most natural fit at center in Alvin Gentry’s up-tempo scheme. What happens if the Pelicans excel with him there and then stumble once Asik and Ajinca return? Because New Orleans had Bird Rights for Asik and Ajinca, re-signing them made some sense. And once they’re re-signed, Gentry must find a role for them. But that could get harder if it becomes obvious the team is best with Davis at center.

As long as Asik and Ajinca are out, Kendrick Perkins probably moves into the rotation. Jeff Adrien could also see minutes at center. Suddenly, Adrien, on an unguaranteed contract, has a much better chance of making the regular-season roster. Ryan Anderson probably plays more at power forward, too, with Davis logging more time at center.