Our nightly recap of every game around the NBA. We catch you up on what you missed while you were watching the election results roll in….
Nuggets 109, Pistons 97: Denver got its first win in its home opener with a balanced attack — Andre Iguodala had 17 points (9 in the fourth quarter and he took charge when Detroit made a late run) plus 10 rebounds, while Ty Lawson and Kenneth Faried each had 15. Plus, we had a JaVale McGee sighting, he had 16 points off the bench. Denver also dominated in the paint, winning the rebounding battle 52-35 and they outscored Detroit in the paint by 12.
For a team that a lot of people were high on coming into the season, Denver still looked sluggish. Their pick-and-roll defense is spotty (at best). They need to find a way to drain the three ball consistently — they hit 4 of their first 6 to help take an early lead but were 6-of-24 the rest of the way. Still, it’s a win and they will take it. As for Detroit, the got 17 from Rodney Stuckey who played better, and Greg Monroe had 27. But aside that… it’s shaping up to be a long season in the Motor City.
Bulls 99, Magic 93: We need to give new Magic coach Jacque Vaughn credit — he is getting a team not deep with talent to compete night in and night out. The Magic were without Jameer Nelson, Hedo Turkoglu and Al Harrington for this one, but they came in 2-0 and didn’t make it easy on the Bulls. It took a 12-2 Chicago run at the start of the fourth quarter to give the Bulls a lead that they never gave up.
Late in the game with the game still within 5 at points, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau went with his best defensive lineup and hoped it could get enough offense. Jimmy Butler hit some shots then Taj Gibson stepped up with the huge and-1 dunk to make it six-point lead with :39 seconds left and that was all she wrote. Luol Deng led the way for Chicago with 23 points and 8 rebounds, while Joakim Noah finished with 20, nine boards and five blocks. On the Orlando side, Aaron Afflalo had 28 points and E’Twaun Moore added 17.
LeBron James posts photo with Tristan Thompson, sends message to Cavs
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’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.
Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut
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.