The real point of this story is not Caron Butler, but rather what Caron Butler could represent for the Miami Heat.
In speaking with Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports, Butler — the free agent last with the Dallas Mavericks and coming off major knee surgery — said he would consider coming back to play for Miami.
“It’d be interesting,” Butler said in an interview with FOX Sports Florida about the prospect of returning to the Heat.
Asked whether Miami is on his list, Butler eventually said, “Yes.” But he didn’t want to talk too much about the Heat, which is understandable
Butler will have a few teams reach out to him, although it’s hard to envision him landing anywhere but back with Dallas. The NBA champions were better with him on the court last season and if he returns they improve their chances at a repeat. If Mark Cuban wants someone, he usually gets them.
Plus, adding another quality wing player to go behind Dwyane Wade and LeBron James is far from the Heat’s biggest need. That is not where they need to spend their resources (and it will take a few bucks to get Butler).
But for Heat fans there is a larger point — really good free agents are thinking about the Heat. They realize the Heat are a team where they will be in the running for a title, where they can live in a warm weather city and a state with no state tax.
The Heat need to put better role players around their stars (and keep said role players healthy, unlike last season). The likely amnesty clause in the new labor deal — which will have teams releasing overpaid players but some guys who can contribute in a role spot — are the kind of things that matter to the Heat.
Bottom line: at the end of a frenzied free agent period, the Heat will be a better team than last season. That should scare the rest of the league.
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.