This was a tough night to narrow the list to three, some guys with huge games miss the cut — Russell Westbrook with 36 points and a near triple-double, Nikola Vucevic with 21 points and 21 boards for the Magic. But there was a key theme to go with for the night — current or former All-Stars who led they team to a win.
Third Star: Chris Kaman (26 points, 11 rebounds)
Remember, he was a 2010 All-Star — and on Sunday night he played like it. Dallas ran away from Portland in the Rose Garden in the first half behind 14 points from Kaman — he single handedly outscored the Blazers when he left the game in the first 14-11. He has had an up and down (with a lot more down) season in Dallas and this was clear and away his best game in a Dallas uniform.
Second Star: Chris Paul(24 points, 12 assists)
The Lakers hung around much of the game playing like the desperate team they are, but the Clippers got the win because Chris Paul figured out how to start shredding the Lakers defense and they couldn’t stop him. He would come off the high pick and had space to make decisions — knock down the midrange, drive into the lane for a floater or a dish, the Lakers just gave him space and CP3 uses that room better than anyone in the NBA. It was another masterful performance.
First Star: Carmelo Anthony(36 points, 12 rebounds)
It wasn’t just the 12 rebounds — it was that nine of them were offensive rebounds. Second chances were key to the Knicks and ‘Melo was a big part of it. More than once in the fourth quarter he would drive baseline, get to the rim, miss a contested shot but get his own board and put it back in. Anthony was at the hard of the Knicks fourth-quarter push — they had led by a dozen earlier but when the Thunder came back at home and took a fourth quarter lead, you wondered if the Knicks could match the run. They did with an 11-2 run of their own that included a whole lot of Carmelo. And offensive rebounds.
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.