There are some players everyone believes in , and other players whose teammates believe in them. And then there are those players who completely believe in themselves – even when others might not.
Third Star: Kobe Bryant (35 points, 8 rebounds)
Arguably, no player believes in himself more than Kobe, who shot 11-for-27 against the Warriors and extended his lead in games with at least that many shots. His teammates shot an even worse percentage than he did Tuesday, and you could use that stat to defend Kobe’s volume or argue Kobe’s teammates suffered because he stagnated the offense. I suspect Kobe wouldn’t be interested in having that discussion. He – and only he – is capable of leading the Lakers to wins, even if he didn’t do that tonight.
Second Star: LeBron James (24 points, 11 assists, 9 rebounds)
The Magic led Miami most of the second quarter, but the Heat’s 27th straight win never seemed seriously in doubt – and it shouldn’t have. As long as they have LeBron, everyone believes the Heat have a chance to win. Once the NBA’s top player turned it on, Orlando was toast.
First Star: John Wall (47 points, 8 assists, 7 rebounds)
Before Wall began his season in January, the Wizards were 1-13 when Nene was also out injured, including suffering the final three losses by 26, 30 and 32 points. It was almost like the Wizards knew they were overmatched. But with Wall, they believe again, and why shouldn’t they believe in someone scoring like this? With Nene out, Wall upped his game in a way the Wizards were either unable or unwilling to do earlier in the season. Only Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant have scored more in a game than Wall this year.
Dion Waiters had the best season of his career last year at age 25 in Miami. The Heat pushed Waiters to get in the best shape of his life (just check out his Instagram), and combine that with the fact that Justise Winslow went down Waiters got the ball in his hands more with a chance to create for himself, and you had a little rush of scoring. He’s still not the most efficient player ever (to be kind), but he’s close to average.
One scout said he would be surprised if the bidding for Waiters soars much above $10 million, if that, because of his small sample size of high-level play this past season. One prominent agent who does not represent Waiters predicted he would get $8 million to $10 million annually.
That number seems about right, if it’s a two-year deal (or a team option on the third year). The league average salary will be around $8.5 million, and that’s where Waiters should fall next year.
Whether Miami has that money to spend comes down to whether they land a big free agent such as Gordon Hayward or Blake Griffin (both max guys). If so, the Heat will not have the money, and what they do have would be more focused on keeping James Johnson. However, if the Heat strike out then Waiters could be back in Miami.
One way or another Waiters is going to get a raise. That doesn’t mean teams are not still leery.
Report: Knicks have “legitimate” interest in re-signing Derrick Rose
Derrick Rose put up decent numbers last year — 18 points per game, PER of 17, true shooting percentage of 53 — but was a mess defensively and does not fit in the triangle offense. He’s a decent point guard now, a replacement level player who can help in the right system.
The New York Knicks have “legitimate” interest in re-signing Derrick Rose, league sources familiar with the matter said….
The Knicks’ interest in the point guard is dependent on several factors, including his health and his asking price. When asked last week about New York potentially re-signing Rose, team president Phil Jackson said “we’re listening.”
Money will be the key — it’s not going to be anywhere near the $21.3 million Rose made last season. No team is going to offer that.
Can the Knicks get him for less than $10 million? Will another team come in and offer $12 million or more for him? The market for point guards this summer is going to be interesting because after the big name on the free-agent market — Chris Paul (we’re not counting Stephen Curry, he’s not leaving) — there are some quality players out there that can help teams such as Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday, George Hill, Patty Mills, Jeff Teague and Shaun Livingston. There aren’t that many teams with money to really spend on free agent point guards, so while a couple (Holiday, maybe Lowry) re-sign with their old teams there are a number of guys who may find the market softer than they expected. Rose is among them.
And that’s where the Knicks come in. Rose is far from a perfect fit, but if the soft market drives his price down closer to the midlevel ($8.4 million) or just above, that may be worth it for the Knicks for a year while they try to develop the rookie.
Report: Russell Westbrook may sign “designated player” extension with Thunder on July 1
Those close to Westbrook fully expect him to take the Thunder’s offer, quite possibly at 12:01 a.m., and stabilize the franchise and present a clear road map. Westbrook signed an extension last summer and invoked the word “loyalty” for a reason. He wanted to make a statement — a public declaration — and take on the burden of leading the franchise forward.
He likes the existing roster and has a close relationship and confidence in Presti and Weaver. He has built a strong bond with head coach Billy Donovan. He knew what he signed for and, with the Thunder coming off a successful first post-Durant season and with pieces in place to improve the team, there are a lot of reasons to commit again.
If Westbrook signs this, the Thunder can get on with the business of improving this roster — which will be next to impossible. The Thunder are capped out and have to re-sign restricted free agent Andre Roberson. Sam Presti is a smart man, but his hands are mostly tied due to some of the big contracts on the roster (ones that would have been no issue if Kevin Durant had stayed). The Thunder will make moves around the edges, but it’s going to take time to do anything substantial.
If Westbrook doesn’t sign this, more than just red flags will go up in OKC — this will be sirens and flashing red lights. The Thunder will be forced to think about trading Westbrook, or finding a way to keep him happy and in house. They will basically be right back to where they were last summer.
If Westbrook signs it — and he likely will, that’s a lot of money to leave on the table — it at least gives the Thunder a clear direction. Which is about all they can hope for this summer.
Bulls: No decision yet on Rajon Rondo’s future with team
CHICAGO (AP) — The Chicago Bulls are not ready to say whether veteran point guard Rajon Rondo will be back for a second season.
Vice president of basketball operations John Paxson says that “is still to be determined.” The Bulls can pay Rondo $13.4 million or buy him out for $3 million by Friday’s deadline.
Paxson spoke Tuesday during a news conference to introduce newcomers Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and rookie Lauri Markkanen, who were acquired from Minnesota for Jimmy Butler on draft night. The Bulls were planning to meet Tuesday with Rondo’s agent Bill Duffy, who represents LaVine.
Paxson also says a buyout on Dwyane Wade after he exercised his $23.8 million option “has not been broached.” Paxson says the Bulls, at least for now, assume Wade will play for Chicago.