Report: Tim Duncan faces June 24 deadline to opt in to final year of contract

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Most contract options must be decided by June 30, but teams and players can negotiate earlier dates. For example, Carmelo Anthony faces a June 23 deadline to exercise his early termination option (which he says he’ll do).

Another player with an earlier-than-usual option date: Tim Duncan.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

San Antonio Spurs star Tim Duncan has until June 24 to notify the team whether he intends to pick up his $10.3 million player option for next season, according to sources familiar with the terms of the contract.

The date still can be moved closer to July 1, sources said, if both parties agree to do so

sources say the Spurs, to this point, are quietly operating under the assumption that Duncan and Popovich will indeed be back next season

The reliable ShamSports.com lists Duncan’s 2014-15 option at $10 million, but as the site accurately notes, the NBA prohibits option-year salaries from decreasing from the prior season. Duncan made $10,361,446 this season.

The NBA ratified Duncan’s contract, anyway. Maybe the league has to just let that stand, or maybe it can force the Spurs to raise Duncan’s option-year salary to equal his 2013-14 salary. It’s unclear.

Anyway, I doubt less than $400,000 makes a difference.

At or near $10 million is a pretty fair salary for Duncan at this point, and he if wants to return, he could just opt in. Or maybe he’d opt out to re-sign for less, giving San Antonio room to sign an impact free agent.

However, this option has little to do with whether Duncan returns. He could easily opt in and then retire later in the offseason, walking away from his guaranteed salary. The option, related to retirement, matters only if Duncan decides to extend the Spurs the courtesy of informing them on his future before opting in. Opting out would give him no more or less flexibility to retire.

Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili are under contract through next season. (As are Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Tiago Splitter, Marco Belinelli and Cory Joseph). I suspect everyone will come back for one more run.

Duncan could either opt in or opt out, but if he does the latter, plenty of doors remain open for him to return. It’s just one step in the process.

Are Bulls and Dwyane Wade moving toward a buyout?

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About a month ago, the Bulls said they hadn’t discussed a buyout with Dwyane Wade.

Have the two sides progressed since?

Nick Friedell of ESPN:

Dwyane Wade isn’t long for the organization’s future and is expected to reach a buyout agreement at some point in the next few months.

Expected by whom?

People with direct knowledge of momentum toward a buyout?

Or everyone who can see that a 35-year-old earning $23.8 million fits poorly on a rebuilding team?

For the Bulls to now drop their biggest name and a large expiring contract that could prove useful in trades should require Wade surrendering a large portion of his salary. He doesn’t sound like someone inclined to do that yet.

A few months is a long time. As long as Wade gets bought out by March 1, he could join another team’s playoff roster. It’d surprise nobody if he gets bought out after the February trade deadline, which we already knew. I don’t see strong indication of something more imminent.

LeBron James’ camp already shooting down leaving-Cavaliers rumor

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LeBron James has done a terrible job shooting down rumors about him leaving the Cavaliers

Except this one from Chris Sheridan, who cited a source saying LeBron would “100 percent” leave Cleveland next summer due to a rift with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Sheridan’s source saying LeBron is leaving doesn’t make that true. But other anonymous sources denying it doesn’t make the denials true, either.

New Orleans Saints fire Pelicans’ team physician

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The Pelicans have been crushed by injuries the last few years.

Why? That’s an incredibly complex question.

But the New Orleans Saints – who share an owner (Tom Benson), a front-office leader (Mickey Loomis) and other staff with the Pelicans – have found culprits for their own injury woes.

Mike Triplett of ESPN:

The Saints have fired team orthopedists Deryk Jones and Misty Suri, per source, after it was discovered that CB Delvin Breaux has a fractured fibula and will require surgery expected to sidelined him for 4-6 weeks. Breaux was originally diagnosed with a contusion

Suri is a Pelicans team physician.

Scott Kushner of The Advocate:

Fairly or not, Suri – after the Saints deemed him unacceptable – will be in the crosshairs if he keeps his job with the the Pelicans and their injury woes continue.

Rumor: LeBron James ‘100 percent’ leaving Cavaliers next summer

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Chris Sheridan was ahead of the crowd in 2014, reporting LeBron James would likely leave the Heat for the Cavaliers – which obviously happened.

But Sheridan called it a “90 percent chance,” a small – but large enough – hedge. He also said LeBron would announce the decision on LeBron’s personal website. Of course, LeBron revealed his choice in a Sports Illustrated essay.

So, maybe Sheridan knows what he’s talking about. Maybe he doesn’t.

But the longtime NBA writer just fanned the flames of the already hot LeBron-leaving-Cleveland rumors.

Sheridan:

Of course, the denials came quickly.

There have already been plenty of warning signs about LeBron’s relationship with Cavs owner Dan Gilbert, which didn’t restart in a great place.

It’s entirely believable LeBron would leave Cleveland, in large part due to Gilbert.

But it’s also fun to speculate about that salacious storyline.

Maybe Sheridan or his source got carried away for that very reason. Or maybe they know something.

Neither possibility should be discounted.