Our grades from Thursday night around the NBA, or what you missed while playing Call of Duty Ghosts like everyone else….
Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat. For two straight games now we have had vintage Wade show up, which has to make Heat fans happy. He was attacking J.J. Redick on post ups or blowing past him to get to the rim where he finished well. Wade ended up with 29 points on 13-of-22 shooting, plus 7 assists. He keyed the third quarter run (while LeBron and Chis Bosh rested) that got Miami the win.
Clippers defense. The only reason this grade isn’t lower is because while the 109.1 points per possession surrendered in this game is unimpressive, it is actually better than they had done through their previous five games. Their defensive rotations were terrible and that left driving lanes open for the Heat all game. The Clippers and Doc Rivers have 76 games left to figure out how to play cohesive team defense if they have plans of getting past the first round.
Steve Blake, Los Angeles Lakers. He was 4-of-6 from three, but if you need to see why he is here just follow this link.
Los Angeles Lakers bench. The Lakers got 54 of their 99 points from their bench. Jodie Meeks was 5-of-7 from three on his way to 18 points. Wesley Johnson had 16, and Jordan Farmar had 11. When the bench for the Lakers has stepped up they have two nice wins (the Clippers and now Rockets). At the start of the season I never would have expected to have given the Lakers’ bench this kind of grade.
Ty Lawson, Denver Nuggets. He had 10 of his 25 points in the final quarter to lead the Nuggets to their first win of the season, a 109-107 win over the Hawks. Lawson also pitched in with eight assists, and seven rebounds. You can make a case that the Nuggets bench really should be here, but they don’t get the chance without the big line from Lawson
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.