On the court, Cleveland is an unmitigated disaster. They’ve won one game since the start of December. They are losing big.
On the accountant’s ledger, the Cavaliers are winning big.
It’s the remnants of the LeBron James era — money committed before he was gone more than covers a post-LeBron payroll, as Jason Lloyd explains at the Beacon Journal.
The Cavs’ standard marketing plan, which forced season ticket holders to renew for this season before last year’s playoffs if they wanted postseason tickets, will ensure owner Dan Gilbert his best year financially despite the woeful product on the floor.
LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal and Zydrunas Ilgauskas combined to make about $50 million last season as the Cavs’ payroll hovered around $100 million the last few years. It is now about half of that.
In addition, Gilbert will not have to pay a luxury tax this season after writing checks totaling more than $40 million in cap penalties the last three years. Instead, he’ll now receive a portion of that money.
Big-money sponsorship deals with the likes of KeyBank, Kia and others were locked in before James departed and the team is in the midst of a $25 million deal with Fox Sports Ohio for television rights.
The Cavaliers consecutive sellout streak just came to an end a couple weeks ago based off old momentum. Payroll is down to $52 million. Those sponsorships will come down but are paying big now.
No doubt Cavs owner Dan Gilbert would trade all the profits back to be title contenders again. (And yes, his accounting is done in Comic Sans.) He may not be the ideal owner but he’s not Donald Sterling. He cares. He may not always be smart about it but he’s not in it just for a profit. He has been willing to spend, on players and on a beautiful new practice facility. That said, you can expect that payroll to stay low for a few seasons as they try to build through the draft and with youth.
The NBA is a business, not going to knock Gilbert for making some money either. So long as much of it gets reinvested in the team.
With time running down in the third quarter, LeBron James went hard to the basket for a layup, and the shot was contested by Jeremy Lamb, who ended up poking LeBron in the eye on the play.
It isn’t intentional, but it looks painful.
That blow could have LeBron sitting out Saturday night when the Cavaliers take on the Washington Wizards in Cleveland. From Joe Varden of the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
LeBron James said he suffered a scratched cornea in his right eye in Friday’s 112-105 win over Charlotte after being examined by a Hornets team physician.
James, who scored 32 points in 40 minutes, could not keep his right eye open during his postgame interview session and said his vision was blurry… Summing it all up, James said “if coach decides to give me a game off (Saturday), it’s not because I’m resting. It’s because I’m banged up.”
He was treated by the Hornets’ team doctor who administered eye drops, but the Cavaliers will make the call closer to game time depending on how LeBron is feeling.
The Cavaliers are 0-6 without LeBron this season. They also have just a one-game lead over the Celtics for the top seed in the Eastern Conference. (Boston beat Phoenix on Friday, despite Devin Booker dropping 70, and they have a key game with the Heat on Sunday.) That said, the Cavaliers are two games up in the loss column on the Celtics, which is a decent lead, but the Cavs need to start winning consistently.
And beating a hot Washington team will not be easy even with LeBron.
Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.
The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”
NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.
Booker himself responded this way.
There was no hesitation. None was expected.
After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.
Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.
Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.
The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.
And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.
Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”
Jerry West said he loved him like a son.
Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”
The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.
Check out the highlights above.