Washington Wizards v Los Angeles Clippers

Nene practiced with Wizards Monday, could return to face Bobcats Wednesday

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When Brazilian center Nene is on the court the Wizards allow just 99 points per 100 possessions. Over the course of the season that would be third best in the NBA, behind only the Pacers and Bulls, but ahead of the Spurs and everyone else. When Nene is sitting — and he has been out since Feb. 23 — the Wizards give up 105.2 points per 100 possessions, which would be 21st in the NBA.

Think Washington needs Nene back?

Nene returned to the Wizards practice Monday following a left knee ligament strain and could play Wednesday in a showdown with the Bobcats that has playoff implications. Friend of this blog J. Michael of CSNWashington.com has the details.

For the first time since he was injured Feb. 23, Nene went full in practice Monday as the Wizards prepare for their biggest game of the season vs. the Charlotte Bobcats. Nene, who had a left knee ligament strain in a game with the Cleveland Cavaliers, had icepacks on both knees as he continued to get up shots after the two-hour session was completed….

Wizards coach Randy Wittman, after Monday’s practice, on Nene’s status for Wednesday: “This is the first time he’s been on the court. You got to see where is body is not from just from injury soreness but his body soreness. He’s missed six, seven weeks. Having a guy like him back, it’s always good to see that.”

The Bobcats are one game back of the Wizards for the six seed in the East — as much as the Pacers have struggled of late teams would rather avoid them in the first round, which is what the seven seed most likely gets. The six seed likely lands the Bulls, no easy task at all, but they still lack the weapons of the Pacers.

With Nene playing regular minutes the Wizards could advance out of the first round, they won’t be the favorite but it is possible. Without him they might win a game. He is that key to what they do, fitting in their defensive system and giving them good play at both ends at key times.

Expect to see Nene Wednesday, then in a limited role until the playoffs start. At that point Wittman would be wise to play him as much as his knees can tolerate.

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.