Consider this our version of the equal time rule.
Thursday we told you the Brooklyn Nets planned to go hard at Kevin Durant in 2016 when he can become a free agent. They will not be alone — it is likely the Knicks, Lakers and a host of other teams that could have cap space that year will be lined up at Durant’s door.
That doesn’t mean he’s leaving. Every time he speaks publicly he sounds like a guy who likes it in Oklahoma City and doesn’t want to bolt.
Like what he said on Spike Lee’s new SiriusXM NBA Radio show “Spike Lee’s Best Seat in the House”
“I love playing there. The city fits me. I’m one of those guys that just likes to chill. That’s exactly how the town is. The people are supportive. The fans are there all the time at the games. Every game feels like it’s a sellout. They just support us so much.”
Two points here.
First, it is impossible to say what Durant will be thinking in 2016 — Durant doesn’t know what he will be thinking in 2016. He gets max money anywhere, he’s the level of international star who doesn’t get a big boost in endorsement deals in a big city because everyone is knocking on his door already. He can base his choice on where he wants to live and where he can win titles, with the latter part of that holding a lot of sway.
If I were to bet I would bet he stays put in Oklahoma City. If they have Russell Westbrook under contract, Serge Ibaka under contract and some good role players around them this is a core that can compete for a title. They’ve been to one Finals and they are contenders this season. If they remain contenders, Oklahoma City can offer the most money guaranteed, and he likes living there, why is it again he’s going to bolt?
But we’ll see in a couple years.
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.