San Antonio Spurs v Miami Heat - Game 7

With season on line, LeBron comes up with huge performance (VIDEO)


LeBron James has more than his share of detractors (call them haters, if you wish). With them has come some a different level of scrutiny — I can’t remember a star player who had his legacy defined and redefined so many times during his playing career. With Michael Jordan we waited until he retired (all three times). We didn’t try to define Magic Johnson’s legacy at age 28. Same with Allen Iverson or so many others. It felt like with those guys we sat back and tried to enjoy greatness as we saw it rather than pick it apart and define it over and over as we went along.

With LeBron it seems the national temperature on him changes game to game almost.

But in the biggest game of the 2013 season — Game 7 of the NBA Finals — he came up huge. All series long the Spurs had packed the paint on him, tried to lure him into shooting jump shots, shooting threes, and when he missed them he looked passive. They did that again in Game 7 and the Spurs strategy worked — LeBron was just 3-of-3 shooting in the paint. But he has spent a lot of time working on and improving his jump shot and it showed in Game 7 — he was 5-of-10 from three, 4-of-10 from the midrange. The shots fell and that let him drive and kick out to other shooters at times.

The result was a monster 37 point, 12 rebound game with strong defense at the other end. Basketball’s best player stepped up on the biggest stage and you can see that in the video above.

LeBron James posts photo with Tristan Thompson, sends message to Cavs

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five
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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.

Get it done!!!! Straight up. #MissMyBrother @realtristan13

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

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.


Hezonja throws down one-handed dunk in preseason debut

Orlando Magic Introduce 2015 NBA Draft Picks
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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.