The “Birdman” was at shootaround Thursday morning with his teammates.
Chris Andersen, the Nuggets reserve big man, was there after police had come and searched his house that morning, taking a lot of computers and other equipment as part of an investigation by their Internet Crimes Against Children Division. We don’t know much, but we know that Andersen was the focus of the investigation and we are afraid we know what this police division searches for.
Nuggets coach George Karl was asked about it before his team went out and beat the Lakers to force a Game 7 Saturday. From the Associated Press:
“For me right now, I think I’m at a stage where I don’t know enough information,” Nuggets coach George Karl said before Thursday night’s game. “I think we all were advised probably not to talk about it until we know the information. The only thing I will say is I trust Chris. In my years with him, he’s been fantastic. I think he’s really grown as a person. We’re going to support him and stand by him…
“I think enough guys individually have been told what’s going on. I don’t think we have the full information, the full story to analyze or scrutinize,” Karl said. “Like I said before, I trust Bird. I think Bird will figure this out.”
As we might expect, Karl sounds like a guy surprised someone he knew could be involved with such a distasteful crime, so he doesn’t want to believe it. This is the natural reaction, we trust the people we know. Karl’s feelings about it may change as the investigation moves forward and evidence comes to light.
The Birdman has seen his minutes drop this season and Karl took the blame for that, because most of his minutes had gone to Kenneth Faried.
“He’s been dealt a bad hand by me,” Karl said. “For a guy that’s played great basketball for me and the Nuggets over the years, (he’s) kind of been phased out because of the youth movement, and in the middle of the season is not always fair. I personally think Bird is a very good basketball player, can play for many NBA teams. He could play for us someday, if the situation would open itself up again.”
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.