The Golden State Warriors have next to zero chance of landing Dwight Howard. They knew it when they asked to meet, Howard knew it. Convincing the Lakers to do a sign-and-trade that makes the Warriors a contender for years to come is next to impossible. But Howard was interested in what Golden State was building and the Warriors wanted the meeting.
Golden State also had a meeting in Los Angeles with Andre Iguodala. It was kind of the same situation — you can see the fit on the court but this would have to be a big sign-and-trade that Denver likely wants no part of. But both sides took the meeting.
What does Golden State get out of all this?
It’s all part of changing the culture.
Golden State was as poorly run a franchise you could find for a couple of decades — they made the playoffs once in the 18 seasons before this last one.
New owners Peter Guber and Joe Lacob set about changing the culture of the franchise. They brought in the highly-respected Jerry West to the front office. They went way out of the box with Mark Jackson as the coach. They have talked about a new arena on the San Francisco waterfront. They wisely want to do everything different than their predecessor.
And that includes spend money — and let fans know they are willing to spend it. That they are willing to go after the best players available.
So even if you have no real shot at Howard or Iguodala, you go in the room and pitch to them how good things are and how they fit in. The fans appreciate it. Future free agents (and their agents) take notice. And you put yourself on a different track.
We’ll see how all this plays out — short-term success could swing on a turn of Stephen Curry’s ankle.
But what they are showing from ownership on down is the kind of long-term change Warriors fans should be excited about.
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.