Chris Paul, Quincy Pondexter

Chris Paul update: Clippers waiting for league, Lakers trying to get back in

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The entire Chris Paul saga reminds me of the NBA lockout, just flipped on its head.

In the lockout, the owners and league made wild demands of the players, and since the owners had the leverage they got most of what they wanted (they got the money, which is what mattered most).

With CP3, the league (which owns the Hornets) shot down the trade to the Lakers and is making outrageous demands of the Clippers to get a deal done.

Except, this time the Clippers have the leverage. They walked away from he bargaining table on Monday and while the league has worked to re-engage them the Clippers are sitting around waiting for the league to come back to them with a more reasonable offer.

But in that interim time, the Los Angeles Lakers have tried to jump back into the fray, reports Marc Stein at ESPN.

ESPN.com learned Tuesday that a Lakers’ deal for Paul has not yet been ruled out, contingent on the fact that they can recruit at least one other team to supply some of the young pieces that the league is demanding. But the Lakers do still have Gasol as a centerpiece, who could either replace Paul as the Hornets’ franchise player or give New Orleans a top-20 player to be dangled in subsequent deals.

The Clippers are doing this on their own terms and picked up Chauncey Billups off waivers, which gave them even more leverage, as Adrian Wojnarowski reports at Yahoo.com.

Clippers officials and NBA executives representing the Hornets have continued to have conversations, but the tone and substance of the talks has dramatically changed with L.A.’s addition of point guard Chauncey, sources said. The Clippers are selling the NBA on the idea that the market for Paul has shrunk and the league’s demands have to be lowered, too….

“They’re scrambling now,” one official said of the NBA. “But it’s still hard to tell if they really want to trade him, or they’re just determined to keep the asking price in a place where they can hold onto him for the next owner. …These guys in New York had no idea how hard this process would be.”

That’s where we sit Tuesday night. Waiting. The Clippers could go into the season with Billups, Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe at point guard — with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and Eric Gordon — and be a likely playoff team in the West. They are not feeling the pressure. The Lakers are trying to find a third team to get some younger pieces, but they are not under great pressure to get a deal done either (they always have Dwight Howard to chase).

In the Clippers case, the league wanted Chris Kaman (an expiring contract) plus Gordon, Bledsoe, Al-Farouq Aminu and Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first-round draft pick (to which the Clippers have the rights). The Clippers were not willing to give up all five things before they got Billups. Now rumors of Trevor Ariza coming to the Clippers and Mo Williams going to the Hornets are out there, Stein reports, but all kinds of ideas have been bounced around. That is different than one getting done.

The league might be willing to keep Paul through the sale of the Hornets. As if that would boost the value of the team (nobody is buying that team thinking Paul is staying). Who knows? It’s hard to see what the league is thinking.

So we wait. Because the Clippers have the leverage.

Watch LeBron James drop 33 on Raptors in Game 6 win

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Friday night was a step forward in maturity for the Cleveland Cavaliers — given the chance to close out a conference finals on the road, in a place they had struggled, the team stepped up and did so convincingly.

They did it following the lead of LeBron James, who attack the basket from the start on his way to a team-high 33 points and 11 assists. LeBron set the tone and the rest of the Cavaliers followed.

Above you can see just how LeBron racked up those points. It’s an impressive display.

Report: In surprise to nobody, Bismack Biyombo will decline option, become free agent

TORONTO, ON - MAY 27:  Bismack Biyombo #8 of the Toronto Raptors reacts after being called for a foul against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first quarter in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre on May 27, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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This is not only expected, but it’s also the move all of us would make. Unless you hate money.

Raptors big man Bismack Biyombo has a player option on his contract for next year, pick it up and he returns to the Raptors at $2.9 million. Or, he can decline the option and become a free agent, where he may make about $17 million a season. So what do you think he’s doing? From Marc Stein of ESPN:

Certainly, the Raptors can’t retain Biyombo’s services, it’s just going to be expensive to do so.

If $15 million (at least) seems a lot for a player who can only impact the defensive end of the floor because of poor hands and a limited offensive game, you would be correct. Welcome to the crazy cap-spike summer the NBA is about to experience. The market will be flooded with cash (at least 20 teams will be able to afford a max player) and players with a valuable skill hitting that market are going to get PAID. Biyombo can block shots and rebound like a beast, and in an increasingly small-ball NBA era those skills have value. Teams will live with having to play 4-on-5 on offense to have those skills on the roster.

The real question is which teams — the Lakers? — and how much of that cap space are they willing to give up for him? It’s going to be an interesting July.

Drake congratulated LeBron James in hallway after game

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Drake is a Toronto native and a huge Raptors’ fan. He’s officially the team’s “global ambassador,” although nobody knows what that actually means.

Drake is also tight with LeBron James.

As LeBron is running down the hall to get to the locker room and celebrate making a sixth straight trip to the Finals Drake stops him to congratulate him. And Drake is one of the handful of guys LeBron will stop and talk to.

Nothing wrong with this, either. Drake has walked a line the whole series — he’s a Raptors fan, he’s trolled LeBron and Kyrie Irving on social media after Toronto wins, but he’s close with Cleveland’s players and has been seen in the Cavaliers locker room plenty the past few seasons.

Some fan bases (we’re looking at you, Philly) would flip out over this kind of divided loyalty, but not Canadians who will just forgive and move on.

LeBron James leads Cavaliers back to Finals doing it his way

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LeBron James is the first NBA star of the social media age, and with that has come a volume of criticism that the greats before him — Bill Russell, Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan — never had to deal with.

Even these playoffs, there have been chattering voices knocking LeBron for how he worked more to set up teammates — particularly Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love — more than seeking out his own shot. Some people have always wanted him to be more Jordan, when he was always more Magic. Or Oscar Robertson.

And this playoff he knew that he could carry his Cavaliers to the NBA Finals through a diluted East, but if he wanted a ring he was going to need those other players to be confident, ready, and believing in the team.

You could see that all come together for LeBron James in Game 6. He attacked early and set a tone, then got everyone involved on his way to 33 points and 11 assists in what became a 113-87 win sending Cleveland back to the NBA Finals.

“I just had to bring my game,” James said in his on-court postgame interview on ESPN. “I had to bring my game, I had to be in attack mode from the beginning, trust my shot, and once my shot start going I can get my teammates involved and they was able to carry me down the stretch.”

LeBron James was getting to the rim with those attacks, check out his shot chart:

LeBron shot chart

LeBron also keyed the fourth-quarter 22-7 run that put away the game.

“There is only one LeBron James, and he makes a difference on any team he plays on, and he’s proven that,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said postgame. “It’s six Finals (in a row for LeBron), to compare him to our team — and I love our players, I wouldn’t trade any of our players — but you put him on any team and he’s a difference maker.”

LeBron’s critics will not be silenced. The man has made six straight finals, a feat not accomplished by anyone since a few legendary Celtics of the 1950s-60s (Bill Russell’s teams). It speaks to LeBron’s focus, skill, durability, and ability to lead teams.

Critics will point to LeBron being 2-4 in the Finals. That misses the point — making it to six straight is an amazing accomplishment, and LeBron did it his way. Not trying to be MJ or Magic or Oscar, just being LeBron James.

We should savor watching this guy play while we still can.