The Heat’s Big Three is looking like a Big Three again.
LeBron James has 18 points, two rebounds and two assists. Dwyane Wade, showing a lot more fluidity, has 10 points and four rebounds. And after starting 1-for-8, coincidentally his shooting line in Game 6, Chris Bosh made his next two shots – including a 3-pointer that capped an 11-2 run – to reach seven points and eight rebounds.
And when the Big Three are rolling, you know the Heat are leading – 52-37 over the Pacers at halftime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The Pacers are also doing what they do, relying on their signature balance. Each starter has between four and 10 points, though Roy Hibbert is on the low end thanks in part to his three fouls.
The Pacers doing what they do also entails turning the ball over a lot, though they don’t usually do it as frequently as they have tonight, coughing up 15 (!) already. Turnovers have been Indiana’s Achilles’ heel all series.
Unfortunately for the Pacers, Miami’s biggest weakness – rebounding – has not been an issue for the Heat tonight. Miami outrebounding Indiana, 22-18.
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 James and Thompson share an agent in Paul. LeBron has largely remained silent through this process but if he wants something in the Cleveland organization, he usually gets it. And he wants Thompson back at practices.
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.
Mario Hezonja, the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft, has never lacked for confidence. The Croatian guard made his pro debut in the Magic’s preseason game against the Hornets on Saturday and did this:
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.