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.

Report: Clippers’ management remains committed to re-signing Blake Griffin

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Maybe Friday night in Utah, maybe not for a few weeks, but the Clippers season is going to end before they reach the conference finals, and with Blake Griffin sidelined by injury. It’s an all-too-familiar scene. It will be six seasons of the Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Griffin experience in Los Angeles, and they will not have gotten out of the second round (unless you think they can come back on the Jazz from down 3-2, then beat the Warriors).

That has come with a lot of talk about the Clippers breaking up the core. Jordan remains under contract, Paul would be too hard to replace, and that leads to a lot of speculation — inside and outside the league — that Griffin could be on the move this summer, when he becomes a free agent.

That’s not what the Clippers want, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in a video essay.

Management remains committed to signing him to a long-term deal this summer, league sources tell me.

Doc Rivers has said he wants to bring back this core. Multiple times. His argument is that this is a 50+ win team that is one of the better teams in the NBA, why would you take a big step back rather than look for the tweaks that get the team to a title?

Steve Ballmer has the checkbook deep enough to pay both Paul and Griffin max money (although keeping fellow free agent J.J. Redick as well would be difficult). The Clippers will have one of the highest payrolls in the NBA, and is this team worth that? Especially in a conference where the Mount Everest of Golden State is not going anywhere for a few years, not to mention the Spurs and Rockets will remain good, Utah is on the rise, and so are teams like the Wolves. The Clippers will be a good team that needs a lot of breaks to go their way to really contend — how much would Ballmer pay for that?

The Clippers need to do some soul searching this offseason.

Just don’t be shocked if the result of that is them running this team back again.

Playing through sore knee, Jimmy Butler says “I’m good,” will go in Game 6

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At this point in the season, everyone is banged up. It’s just a matter of degree.

But with Rajon Rondo listed as out for Game 6, the Bulls’ need a big game from Jimmy Butler if they are going to extend this series to a Game 7. And he is not near 100 percent.

In Game 4, Butler banged knees with a Celtic and it impacted him during Game 5, as Vincent Goodwill detailed at CSNChicago.com.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn’t even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn’t elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

“I’m good. Everyone’s a little nicked up; I’ll be all right,” Butler said in the locker room.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune added this detail.

Boston has done a good job of limiting the number of times Isaiah Thomas is exposed on defense, having to cover Wade or Butler. Essentially, the Celtics switch in sort of a matchup zone to keep IT covering a shooter on the wing, even if his man goes up and sets the pick. Zone’s can be exposed (there’s a reason they’re more a change-of-pace rather than a basic set defense in the NBA), but it involves getting into the middle, getting into the paint. Which comes back to driving the ball and pushing off, things that Butler is struggling to do at his usual level.

There are a lot of other factors favoring Boston in Game 6, but if Chicago is going to force a Game 7 Sunday they need Butler to be an All-NBA level player.

Knicks’ Joakim Noah has expected shoulder surgery to repair rotator cuff

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NEW YORK (AP) — Knicks center Joakim Noah has had right shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff, a procedure that could sideline him until training camp.

The Knicks say Noah had the surgery Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed by Dr. David Altchek.

The team didn’t give a timetable for Noah’s recovery, but coach Jeff Hornacek said late in the season that if Noah had the operation, the recovery time could be five months.

Noah had an injury-plagued season that ended early when he was suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. There are still 12 games remaining on the penalty that he will have to serve next season when healthy.

Noah had surgery on his other shoulder last season, limiting him to 29 games in his final season in Chicago before signing a four-year, $72 million deal with New York.

PBT Extra: Pacers offseason moves start with Paul George

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Larry Bird, when not delivering All-Star Game bids, should be spending his time lighting candles and praying in churches all over Indianapolis that Paul George makes an All-NBA team.

If PG13 makes the cut, Bird’s job this summer becomes more clear: Offer George the designated player max extension, get him to sign the deal, then get back to building a contender around him.

If George doesn’t make the cut, things get much tougher for Bird. I discuss all of it in this new PBT Extra.