Luke Walton spent summer strengthening back, but he doesn't sound confident

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lwalton.jpgLuke Walton played just 29 games last season because of his back. After his father’s revelations earlier this season about how his back problems left him almost incapacitated for a couple of years until a new back surgery remedied the issue, it’s hard not to draw parallels.

Luke spent the summer working on strengthening his back, but I would say this quote from him in a new interview with Mike Trudell at did not exactly sound confident.

My back feels great right now. It’s a lot stronger. I’m feeling confident in it and am excited to test it out. That being said, at the same time I’m a little nervous, just because I know how much of a grind the season and training camp can be. I dedicated the whole summer to making it strong enough to last, and that’s what I’m hoping for. If it doesn’t, I’m in a pretty bad spot. But I’ve put together a great team of people to work with, with our strength coach with the Lakers (Chip Schaefer), a back specialist for some exercises, a Pilates teacher and a yoga teacher. I’ve just been mixing and matching all of those people every single day for the past two months to get this as strong as I can.

The Lakers could really use Walton — off the bench he keeps the triangle offense flowing. The Lakers bench players tend to freelance out of the offense a lot more when Walton is sitting (or lying down, such as the case may be) but when he is in and gets the ball in the high post you see cutting and motion off the ball.

The Lakers could use that. I wouldn’t say need, but they could use that. And anybody who makes the beauty of the triangle offense come out is someone we fans should be rooting to see.

LeBron James posts photo with Tristan Thompson, sends message to Cavs

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five
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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.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

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.


Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut

Orlando Magic Introduce 2015 NBA Draft Picks
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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.