LeBron James of the 2012 USA Basketball

LeBron changing agents, leaving CAA to be repped by friend

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Once again, LeBron James is leaning on his childhood friends and moving away from long-time industry professionals to represent him. That hasn’t always led to the best decisions in the past but it is his pattern over the years.

LeBron is letting go of Leon Rose and the power of CAA (Creative Artists Agency) — and with that moving away from power broker William Wesley — to be represented by a new agency formed childhood friend Rich Paul. Liz Mullen of the Sports Business Journal broke the story.

It was CAA that helped bring LeBron, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade together in Miami (the agency represented all of them).

Paul has become an agent, basically starting Rose’s apprentice at CAA but he has learned a lot during the last four years and is leaving the agency to form his own. There is no bad blood, this is just LeBron going where he is more comfortable, according to Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel. And there are not going to be dramatic changes for LeBron, really.

Paul’s first name is one of the initials in LRMR, the marketing firm LeBron formed with Maverick Carter and other friends several years back. (LeBron sold his marketing rights to Fenway Sports Group last year, a deal that in part gave him a piece of English soccer powerhouse Liverpool Football Club.)

LeBron has a lot of people who come at him off the court trying to get a piece of him and his pattern is to lean on the people he has known the longest, people he believes he can trust. Paul is one of them. Paul also is the agent for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Tristan Thompson, Eric Bledsoe and Jonny Flynn and some are expected to follow him to the new agency. Paul is a legitimate agent, not some fly by night guy.

This is not the first agent switch for James, who started in the league with Aaron Goodwin but moved to Rose two years into his NBA career.

What does it mean? In the short term not much, but it could be important down the line. Maybe. But probably not.

LeBron and the Heat aren’t breaking up the band for a couple years, if ever. So long as they are winning rings the core will stay together. About the only thing to watch — Paul will not collect any money on LeBron’s current contract, but if he opts out in 2014 Paul would collect on any new deal.

This might not mean much as and hammering out max contracts for LeBron is not the hard part of being an agent. And so long as the big three of the Heat agree to stay together (and maybe take a little less money to do so) contract negotiations with Miami are not going to be overly complex. It’s not like Paul has to go out and hustle up offers for LeBron. There are no financial negotiations.

But now LeBron is under different management than Bosh and Wade, both of whom are still with CAA. Read into that whatever you want.

LeBron is locked in for two more years in Miami, then his deal has a couple years of player options on it. Both Wade and Bosh have similar deals. Like I said, they are not looking to breakup the band, so those options may be meaningless. We’ll see.

It all could mean nothing, but it’s something to watch.

Miami Heat to retire Shaquille O’Neal’s jersey next season

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Shaquille O’Neal’s No. 34 jersey already hangs in the rafters at Staples Center for the Lakers.  He’s getting a statue there, too.

Next season, he will have his number retired on the other warm southern coast, this time in Miami.

The Heat have announced they will retire Shaq’s No. 32 jersey next season.

“Shaquille O’Neal is one of the truly elite players in the history of the game and one of the greatest players to ever wear a Heat uniform,” team president Pat Riley said in a released statement. “He took us to another level as a basketball franchise while leading us to our first NBA championship. Retiring his number in the rafters, along with Heat greats Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway, is something we are very proud of.”

Riley left out that the Heat also retired Michael Jordan’s 23, and Dan Marino’s 12 also hangs in the rafters of the arena. Neither of those make much sense, but whatever.

Shaq played three-and-a-half seasons in Miami, averaging 19.6 points and 9.1 rebounds a game. Shaq was a three-time All-Star with the Heat and was at the heart of the franchise’s first title, along with Dwyane Wade… and Mark Cuban would tell you the officials. But that’s another discussion. He was also bitter after being traded to Phoenix and slammed Miami management and players on his way out the door.

Time heals all wounds.

Bull for Bull: Pau Gasol to replace Jimmy Butler in All-Star Game

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - FEBRUARY 6:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Chicago Bulls prepares to shoot a free throw against the Minnesota Timberwolves on February 6, 2016 at Target Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
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Jimmy Butler is out of the NBA All-Star Game in Toronto this weekend due to a strained knee. Which suck, because he earned that spot, and while the fans didn’t vote him in the coach’s did.

Butler’s teammate Pau Gasol will replace him.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver gets to make the call on a replacement, and he stayed in Chicago, but he added a front court player to replace a guard. Keeping a Bulls representative might have been part of the thinking. The coaches’ votes on replacement players has been weighed in the past (Gasol may have been high on that list, coaches love him). Also, the East roster has a lot of wings and was light on bigs (Andre Drummond, Paul Millsap and Chris Bosh are the only real bigs), so this gives coach Tyronn Lue some flexibility up front.

The East leading Cleveland Cavaliers remain with just one representative, LeBron James (voted in by the fans).

Gasol is averaging 17 points, 10.9 rebounds, and a couple blocks a game, and is the only thing close to a consistent performer the Bulls have. Besides the injured Butler.

Bulls’ All-Star Jimmy Butler out 3-4 weeks with strained knee

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It was concerning when it happened — Jimmy Butler injured his knee and had to be taken off the court on a stretcher.

But then the reports came back saying the X-rays were negative, this was just a strain. Butler was going to miss some time, but the question was how much?

Turns out, 3-4 weeks — including the All-Star Game, the team announced Tuesday. From the official team press release:

Bulls guard/forward Jimmy Butler was re-examined by Bulls Head Team Physician Brian Cole.  Butler is expected to miss the next three to four weeks with a strained left knee. Butler has begun rehabbing his injury and he will be allowed to engage in all activities as tolerated with the primary goal of maintaining his conditioning over the ensuing weeks.

Butler is the Bulls best player, averaging 22.4 points a game and handling a lot of the shot creation for the team (along with Derrick Rose, who was out Monday injured). The Bulls offense is 1.6 points per 100 possessions better when Butler plays, plus he usually draws the other team’s best wing player as his defensive assignment.

Following an ugly loss to the Hornets Monday night, the Bulls are now 5-12 in their last 17 games. Since Joakim Noah went out for the season with an injured shoulder in particular, their defense has struggled. They still have no offensive identity.  Chicago has fallen to the seven seed in the West, just 1.5 games ahead of Charlotte and falling out of the playoffs completely. This injury is simply going to add to that slide.

The Bulls thought they were the team that could challenge Cleveland for supremacy in the East at the start of the season. Now they may need a late push just to make the playoffs.

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will pick his All-Star Game replacement. In the past, he has picked the player highest in the fan voting not selected as a reserve, in this case that would be Kyrie Irving. But Silver can go any direction he chooses.

Report: George Karl to remain Kings coach following face-to-face meeting with GM

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George Karl isn’t going anywhere as coach of the Sacramento Kings after all.

At least for now.

Marc Stein of ESPN, who had the report that the Kings decided to fire Karl during the All-Star Break — now says the two sides have sat down and hashed things out. For now.

Those first reports went too far down the line, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

First things first, the Kings are a leaky organization right now. Which is never a good sign.

This has become a power struggle in the organization — DeMarcus Cousins has said the Kings’ problems go beyond the players, and he is known not to be a fan of Karl (Rajon Rondo is the coach’s biggest supporter because Karl gives him a green light). Owner Vivek Ranadive remains too impatient, stability is needed.

But there are still big picture questions to be answered.

Ranadive, with Vlade Divac, needs to sit down and set the long-term course for this team, including style of play they want to have, then decide if Karl can be part of that future. Also, if Cousins can be part of that future. If those two can be part of the future together (I’m not sure they can).

There needs to be more meetings with the Kings, and then this summer some significant decisions must be made. But doing it now at the All-Star break isn’t going to change anything. So Karl stays.