Report: Mavericks, Rockets to make sure Thunder pay for Harden

8 Comments

When Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti was talking James Harden’s contract recently, he sounded a lot like your boss before he started talking about everyone taking furlough days — “we have some inherent challenges that we face as an organization” and that kind of thing.

Which is because every dollar they can get Harden to give back to the franchise as a hometown discount is two dollars they save as they start to head over the luxury tax threshold.

But Harden wants a max contract and as ESPN’s Marc Stein noted on twitter there are teams ready to give him one next summer as a restricted free agent.

I know at least two teams near OKC (Houston & Dallas) that are huge Harden fans and will have cap space to sign him to loaded offer sheet

Make no mistake, Harden wants to stay in Oklahoma City and chase rings with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook. That is his preference. But this is business and this will be his first big contract (after his rookie deal). This is the contract that not only sets a player up for life (unless he blows the cash), it can set his family up for generations. A max deal is about $58 million over four years. This is not when you hand out your services at a discount.

In a world where Brook Lopez and Roy Hibbert get max deals and Nicolas Batum comes close to one, Harden is a max player. It’s not close. He’s an All-Star and gold medal winner who just turned 23 and is getting better. He doesn’t have to take less than the max.

The Thunder knew this was coming, they have known since before the new CBA was signed the price Harden would command on the open market. They made their deal with Serge Ibaka knowing full well what the future costs of Harden would be. This is not on Harden, this is fully on the Thunder and their ownership. They can make the max offer before the Oct. 31 deadline for a contract extension and avoid the season of drama (they have no plans to trade him), or they can wait until next summer. Their call. The price isn’t changing.

Tyronn Lue says he has secret plan to fix Cavaliers’ defense for playoffs

AP Photo/Phil Long
Leave a comment

Only one team that ranked outside the top 12 in points allowed per possession during the regular season won an NBA title. The 2000-01 Lakers, who were 21st in defensive rating, are the lone outlier.

The Cavaliers rank 22nd in defensive rating this season and have been even worse lately.

But Cleveland coach Tyronn Lue says he has a plan. He just won’t reveal it yet.

Lue, via Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

“We’ve got to hold back. We can’t show our hand early because … these are some good teams and we don’t want them to be able to come into a series and be able to adjust to what we do. We just have to be able to play our normal defense until we get there and then we will see what happens.”

Also:

“I think the rebounding hurt us. Rebounding. But it will be different once some other things happen. … Their two-guards, their threes, they still crashed the boards. But we have something to fix that. Just not right now.”

What precisely those plans are, Lue wouldn’t tell us. And here’s the other part — he’s not exactly sure they’ll work.

“I’m not confident, but we’ve got to” get the defense fixed, Lue said. “We have to.”

The Cavs ranked just 10th in defensive rating last season, among the worst marks for an eventual champion. But they cranked up their defense in the playoffs, especially late. Cleveland held the Raptors 4.8 points per 100 possessions below their regular-season scoring rate and the Warriors 7.8 below theirs.

Lue also unleashed a 3-point-heavy attack in the playoffs last year after sitting on the strategy through the regular season.

So, I have some faith Lue will implement a better defensive gameplan when it counts. It also helps to have LeBron James, who can still play elite defense when not in the slog of a long regular season.

But the Cavaliers’ defensive deficiencies right now are glaring. This roster appears to lack defensive potential, and their many miscues keep them well below whatever that potential is.

The challenge in elevating this defense to championship-caliber will be immense, maybe even unprecedented.

Mavericks’ Salah Mejri dunks while getting shoved in the gut (video)

Leave a comment

The Mavericks built a 13-point lead over the Thunder with 3:30left thanks to plays like this Salah Mejri dunk on Nick Collison.

Unfortunately for Dallas, Russell Westbrook happened.

Willy Hernangomez dunks on Andre Drummond, Pistons’ playoff chances (video)

Leave a comment

Andre Drummond and the Pistons couldn’t slow down anything.

Not Willy Hernangomez. Not the Knicks. Not Detroit’s plummeting playoff hopes.

After a 109-95 loss to the Knicks last night, the Pistons — who’ve lost four straight and seven of eight — are 1.5 games and two teams out of playoff position.

Terrence Ross 360 dunks his way back into Raptors fans’ hearts (video)

Leave a comment

In his first appearance in Toronto since the Raptors traded him to the Magic, Terrence Ross did what he has done best throughout his career: Delight Toronto fans with a dunk.

And of course the fans appreciated it, because their Raptors cruised to a 131-112 win.