J.R. Smith confirms he is close to deal with Knicks

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UPDATE 7:03 pm: Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld spoke with J.R. Smith himself and tweeted this:

I just spoke to J.R. Smith. He confirmed that he’s nearing a deal with the New York Knicks.

This echoes what we have been hearing all day, that it is just a matter of hammering out the contract details and Smith will be a Knick. The question for Mike D’Antoni is do you start him or keep Landry Fields as the starter and make Smith a deadly sixth man?

2:17 pm: This comes out of the New York media, so it should be consumed with a few grains of salt. That said, this is the outcome we all have been expecting.

J.R. Smith has chosen the Knicks and is close to a deal with them, reports Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

Smith’s agent, Leon Rose, met with Garden Chairman James Dolan following Wednesday’s Knicks’ win over Sacramento to finalize a contract. It is believed that Smith, who has also attracted the interest of the Clippers, will receive the Knicks’ $2.5 million exception. Rose also represents Carmelo Anthony, who has lobbied the club to add Smith, an explosive scorer who can also be erratic at times. He has averaged 12.5 points per game over seven NBA seasons.

This deal is not finalized, but it is close. And it is a great pickup for the Knicks, who beat out the Clippers (and Chris Paul’s recruiting efforts) for Smith’s services as he returns from a season in China.

The Knicks were considered the favorite because they could plug him into the starting lineup and give him big minutes — plus they could give him more money. It’s always about the money. New York can offer a pro-rated share of their $2.5 million mini-midlevel exception, plus they can give him a player option for a second year at that price. The best the Clippers can offer is the pro-rated share of the veteran’s minimum for only this season.

If and when Smith signs on the dotted line, Linsanity will have the ultimate test and opportunity. Anthony and Smith are unrepentant gunners who can fill it up but need to follow Jeremy Lin’s lead, stay within the offense and pick their spots. Run in transition, move off the ball, don’t just wait for a chance to go iso. With a starting five that includes Amare Stoudemire, ‘Melo, Smith and Tyson Chandler around Lin, the Knicks look like the third best team in the East. If D’Antoni and Lin can keep their gunners in line.

Akron store already selling “Stay Home 23” shirts, hats as LeBron decision looms

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We’ve seen this movie before.

There is all sorts of buzz around the league that LeBron James has one foot out the door in Cleveland. While people around LeBron denied he the rumor he is “100 percent” leaving, good luck finding any league source who thinks he is staying put next summer. Nothing is set in stone, his options — including staying — remain open, but we’ve all been down this road before.

The hometown fans are going to do their part to urge LeBron to stay.

Fan sentiment has some pull with LeBron (he came back to win the city a title). However, what matters more is a sense of a plan to keep the Cavaliers as title contenders for the coming years — and that is more than just Dan Gilbert paying the tax. The Cavs did nothing this summer that got them closer to beating Golden State, and while they swung for the fences with Paul George, what they really needed was wing defenders and athletes, and they didn’t get those either. Luc Mbah a Moute signed a one-year deal for the minimum somewhere else. Instead, Cleveland overpaid Kyle Korver.

Despite all that, the Cavs remain the team to beat in the East. If Cleveland gets to the Finals — LeBron’s eighth in a row — and they win or make it close, he may see staying as his best option. A season can be a lifetime in the NBA in terms of shifting attitudes. Still, I wouldn’t bet the rent on it.

Marshall Plumlee gets camp invite, partially guaranteed contract from Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers have 14 fully guaranteed contracts on their roster, plus a partial guarantee for DeAndre Liggins (who likely is on the roster opening day). They also are pretty much set at center with DeAndre Jordan and Willie Reed (plus when they go small they can play Blake Griffin there, something I wish they’d do a little more).

That said, Doc Rivers — just a coach now — needs bodies for camp, so in comes former Duke star and Knick Marshall Plumlee, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Plumlee played in 21 games for the Knicks last season, logging a total of 190 minutes. He bounced between New York and the D-League Westchester Knicks, when down he averaged 12.3 points and 9.8 rebounds a game.

He’s not making the Clippers’ squad (barring injury), but he could show well and get noticed by other teams. Over the course of a season, there will be a need for bigs as guys go down injured, Plumlee is getting a chance to show how his game has developed. And he makes some money in the process.

Kawhi Leonard is smiling, and that confuses Manu Ginobili (PHOTO)

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Much like Kevin Durant, it appears that Kawhi Leonard is having a great summer.

In fact, this appears to be the Summer of Kawhi Smiling. Which, according to one of his longtime teammates, is a bit confusing.

When the Spurs posted a photo of Leonard with a big old grin on his face to their Twitter feed recently, San Antonio legend Manu Ginobili responded asking the team whether something was up.

Specifically, Ginobili said that he had seen more photos of Leonard smiling in the past two days then he had in six seasons as a teammate.

Via Twitter:

You can leave an anonymous tip about why Kawhi Leonard is smiling so much by contacting the produce manager at your local H-E-B.

Kobe is the Lakers’ all-time leader in steals (and other trivia rookies don’t know)

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“He played 20 years … I mean, yeah I guess.”

That’s what Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball had to say in this video after learning that Kobe Bryant was the all-time leader in steals for his franchise. You have to hand it to him, it is a little surprising. Even more surprising is that Bryant has 220 more than Magic Johnson at No. 2.

In a video posted to YouTube by Complex on Saturday, rookies tried to answer questions similar to the one Ball pondered over, like what team drafted their head coach, who the NBA all-time leading scorer is, and what day the first game of the season starts on.

A lot of the responses were pretty funny, including the guys getting wrong what year Adam Silver became NBA commissioner. Poor David Stern has already been forgotten about!

Meanwhile, Ball looked the sharpest. He’s going to come in handy when the Lakers play pub trivia.