From the Washington Post’s Michael Lee:
After watching Andray Blatche labor through the past nine games and struggle to contribute, Wizards Coach Randy Wittman announced on Tuesday that he would shut down the 6-foot-11 forward until he is in better condition. Blatche missed more than a month with a strained left calf but has averaged just 5.1 points on 37.7 percent shooting and 3.3 rebounds in about 16 minutes since he returned.
“We thought we could maybe try to play him into shape once he got back,” Wittman said. “After looking at it, it’s unfair for me to put him in that position. and I think what we’re going to do, we’re going to probably not play him for a while, get him on a program here, where he can really go after it from a conditioning standpoint to get himself back into shape. It’s not fair for me to do that to the kid.”
Blatche was able to get a massive contract after putting up big scoring and rebounding totals after taking over Antawn Jamison’s starting spot at the end of the 2009-10 season, but that contract has looked worse every day since it was signed. Even when Blatche is “in shape,” he plays horrible defense, has poor shot selection, doesn’t take care of the ball or pass it well, and doesn’t play with a lot of energy. As Lee notes in his column, Blatche still has 3 years and $23 million left on his contract after this season. The Wizards had better hope that this benching helps Blatche, because it’s almost impossible to imagine any other team taking Blatche off the Wizards’ hands any time soon.
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.